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Saturday, July 11, 1998 -- Kanawha State Forest
Rattlesnake Trail Ultra Run (50K)

[Pictures] [Results]

The fourth annual Rattlesnake Trail 50K was held on July 11, 1998. The race turned out be a perfect day for a number of runners, where plenty of course and personal records were shattered. The biggest question early in the race was who was the guy in the lead. It seems that Howard Nippert from Blacksburg, VA in his first ultra had taken the race by storm by shattering the course record by nine minutes finishing in 3:30:37. Howard took the lead early and never relinquished it even though Andy Jones and Courtney Campbell closed the gap on several occasions changing second and third places in different sections of the course. Howard's situation is similar to the stories about Courtney Campbell as told by David Horton several years ago at the MMTR 50 Miler. It was known that Howard is a 2:18 marathoner and had finished eighth in the Olympic Trials. He was an unknown factor as to his trail ability and to see if he could make that push beyond the marathon distance in his first ultra. Andy Jones, Cincinnati, OH (Canada) finished second (3:35:15) which also surpassed the course record of 3:39:06 set by Courtney Campbell, Berryville, VA who finished third (3:43:07). Local runner, Glen Baldwin Charleston, WV finished fourth overall (3:52:16) to take the male masters title and has been challenging other local roadrunners to see if they can measure up in a trail ultra.

The female champion, Anong Pustow from Lexington, KY made a strong late race bid for the lead and continued on a steady pace finishing in 4:49:13 followed a close second by Audrey Bostain (4:54:22) who both eclipsed the course record previously held by Joni Adams. The female masters champion, Cindy Sanchas (4:57:21), from Pittsburgh, PA ran a strong race finishing in 4:47:21 also faster than the course record of 5:00:48. The third place female finisher was Susan Verona, WV (5:12:39).

The oldest finishers in the race were Dick Good (6:30:26), MD and Richard Cozart (7:56:00), FL who are both 68. A conscious decision was made to discontinue the youngest finisher award to keep people from pushing young runners into situations that could put them in peril due to lack of experience, maturity or the knowledge that they are in trouble on the trail. We believe that the sport of trail ultra-running needs to be approached with serious intent, but should be fun.

The Rattlesnake Trail 50K is held each year in Kanawha State Forest near Charleston, West Virginia. This year the weather leading up to the race had been particularly hot and muggy. At the trail brief the weather seemed to change for the better and at the start of the race the humidity was down and temperatures moderated in the upper fifties and almost seemed cool. The heat held off during most of the race until the later portions of the day. The course is primarily forest trails and limited use dirt roads with some connector sections. There is a total of 5000 feet of vertical climb on the single loop trail over a series of nine climbs. The trails tend to be rocky and what makes this particular race difficult is that the more technical trail sections occur late in the race.

Approximately one month before the start of the RTR 50K a series of storms swept through the forest leaving numerous paths of wind and tornado damage on the course and a tremendous amount of trees down on almost every trail. The superintendent for Kanawha State Forest, Ed Boyd and his new assistant, John Hendley along with Dave Toler led a supreme effort in getting the trails cleared in time for both the RTR 50K and a mountain bike race in a matter of weeks. While marking the course during the days before the race co-race director, Dennis Hamrick came face to face with a black bear on an aptly named trail of Black Bear Mountain Bike Trail. It seems that the runners flushed the bear out of the woods and near an aid station during the race, too bad we didn't get him signed up for a full tour. Not too many snakes were seen but the bugs, especially the "no see-ems" and deer flies were plentiful.

Additional race coverage was covered by a new service for running and riding activities in West Virginia and can be found at www.iPlayOutside.com for results and info. Don Parks (5:53:16) from WVOutside participated in the race and also had ample opportunity to see additional forest trails since he had to explore the bottom of Wildcat Ridge that resulted in ten climbs instead of nine after missing a turn late in the race. I would like to encourage everyone to check out their quality web site.

It seems several people missed a couple of turns in the race and by their own admission could not see how they did once they returned to the turn on the trail. The best quote was from Andy Jones who was running in second at the time he missed the turn that would take him down the last major descent and continued on an uphill path stated "...he was not mad that he missed the turn, but ran a hill that I didn't have to run." It seems that Mark Godale (5:45:10) is probably not satisfied with his published time for the 50K. If he had only run 50K he would of had a top ten finish before he took the several scenic routes in the race and ending up running about 36+ miles. Dink Taylor (3:53:14) managed to kill the first snake of this race, although it was with his vehicle the evening before which was close to the start-finish line. The copperhead was in an area where the runners first run in a bunch at the start so we moved the snake and Dink figured that we would put it in strategic location instead of the rubber snake but we forgot about it. Bill Gentry (4:54:23) was once again camped on the start finish line, we decided that we had better wake him up and have him move in case a late arrival decided to run him over like some of the late night visitors that we've had in the past. One of the hardest things for a race director is to tell someone that they missed a turn that results in them having to re-climb a mountain to get back on course and it even more difficult for an aid station VOLUNTEER to relay the same information. So I appreciate the positive attitude in such situations as displayed by Dawn-Marie Campo (6:40:59) and others in similar situations that they have to backtrack in certain sections.

The finishers award was a handcrafted sculpture of a rattlesnake make from local coal by Coal Creations in Beckley, WV. The winners awards were cut glass pieces from Touch of Glass in Hurricane, WV. Other awards were given such as the special help the race receives each year from John Sheets (5:43:46) who has supported and promoted the race everywhere he goes. If you have ran with him at MMTR 50 Miler, Bull Run 50 or Uwharrie you can rest assured that you may call him strange but never a stranger. We gave a special award to co-race director Dennis Hamrick for his effort in making sure that the aid stations volunteers were recruited and in place for the race. It is easy to design and acquire awards, t-shirts, mark the course but as any race director can tell you the well being and the success of any race is in the aid stations. It is always special for other ultra-runners, friends and family with out-of-state runners to volunteer to work aid stations and other activities that provide invaluable help on the course such as Dawn O'Keefe (Greater Pittsburgh Ultra-runners) and her group along with Shelby (grandmother Marge Burley 6:59:30) provided. We have advertised this race as an event put on for ultra-runners by ultra-runners and this award speaks for itself. One of the problems that we had at this event is that our radio group did not make it to the event for unknown reasons, but the work of several volunteers including runners such as June Hicks for the first portion of the course and Rob & Pam Apple (8:05:11) who provided course sweep for us. It is a pleasure to see that Joe Morgovich (6:45:14) is finally reaching the end of the trail of his famous tiger shirt and will be retiring it and I'm sure that his family will be glad it finally gets washed.

As both a runner and race director is important to listen to the pre-race instructions and not try to outsmart yourself on the course. Another point to remember is that no matter how well a course is marked, people can and do miss turns and can get lost in the boonies.

You can contact me at mjjones@1800sungate.com or mjjones_ultrapolecat@msn.com or Dennis Hamrick at dhamrick@rp-agro.com for future information or comments to improve our race. Thanks to all of the ultra-runners who participated in our event and we hope that you can return next year, our tentative race date for the fifth Rattlesnake Trail 50K will be on Saturday July 10, 1999.

Mickey Joe Jones
Co-Race Director