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Saturday, December 19, 1998 -- Kanawha State Forest
Snowflake 50K Ultra Run
Story contributed by Mickey Jones, Race Director

[Coverage/Recap w/Pics] [Results] Pictures: [Set #1] [Set #2] [Set #3]

Yen Nguyen enjoys a long run in the hills (a.k.a. mountains) of WV
The first Snowflake 50K was held in Kanawha State Forest near Charleston, West Virginia on December 19th, 1998. This was a low key event designed to give runners a last chance attempt for 1998 to complete at least a marathon distance event in all fifty states since there was a date conflict with the Almost Heaven Marathon and the only marathon in Delaware. The run saw twenty-eight runners from six different states start the race. There were a couple of reasons, besides the holidays, to keep it low key including checking the interest in a winter 50K and see what logistical problems it would present. The trail run will be held next year on December 18, 1999. The eventual winner of the race was Duane Dombeck in a time of 4:09:25, Duane is a local runner participating in his first ultra and trail event who was overheard commenting on the course as challenging. The female winner of the race was Yen Nguyen from Texas who persevered to a 7:01:40 finish. Yen has instructed the race director that he needs a vocabulary lesson in the description of the course (i.e. hills vs. mountains) to a flat lander. The big story of the race and the driving reason for putting on the event was the story of Rick Worley (6:49:13) of Kingwood, Texas.

Rick Worley completes more than just another ultra
In 1998, Rick Worley has completed marathons in ALL fifty states plus DC, ALL ten provinces of Canada, ALL three territories of Canada and one in Mexico which is an athletic accomplishment as well as a logistical challenge in itself. Rick has run these races as a means of generating support for the Cal Farley Boys Ranch scholarship fund. During this endeavor, Rick has maintained demanding job responsibilities near his home in Houston, Texas. We presented Rick with a special glass and marble award that was a token of our respect and admiration for his accomplishments that culminated at the Snowflake 50K in West Virginia. When we presented Rick with the award, we also set a world record in that it is the first time that we witnessed a Texan speechless, I guess we truly witnessed the realization of a dream come true at that point.

Runners wait for daylight in the forest before getting started
The course was a double loop consisting of trails and dirt roads, which was truly considered to be a runner's course in that the downhills were long and gentle and the climbs were brief. There were a total of six climbs on the course for a total of approximately 3,100 feet. We had our usual fully stocked aid stations at two intermediate points on the course along with two unmanned water stops in addition to all the amenities at the half-way point. For those of you familiar with the Rattlesnake Trail 50K, this course was much easier and friendly. The weather was ideal for running at the start of the race with the skies partly cloudy and the temperature in the forties. We had to hold the start for fifteen minutes waiting on sufficient light since we were near the shortest day of the year. The course conditions were varied and for the most part in good shape. It started to rain at the tail end of the race and presented no major problems. We had hoped for some snow and there was a little left in isolated spots from a dusting in the hills a few days earlier. The finishers' award was a snowflake ornament with the race logo and a long sleeve Henley style shirt with the West Virginia Trail Ultrarunners and race logo embroidered on it.

Aaron Kaylor chases the leaders as the sun rises
Shortly after the start on the road and the first climbing on the trail the early lead was held by Paul "P.K." Coon (4:53:54). P.K. held on to the lead during the early phase of the first loop. Maybe this was because he marked the course or knew that his Mom's soup was waiting at the finish line. The runners were greeted with a picturesque sunrise when crossing the top of the first hill (or mountain to the flat landers). Bill Gentry (4:46:29) of Virginia who passed P.K. took the lead a little later and the competitive juices were flowing from their old college days at Wesleyan and Glenville, respectively. Bill has been a good friend of our group and it was nice to see him in good form. As their early enthusiasm waned, Aaron Kaylor (4:20:34) of Victor, WV took the lead while still in the first loop and would eventually finish second overall. Aaron was running in his first ultra and trail event also. The eventual winner, Duane Dombeck took the lead in the first loop just past the eleven-mile mark and continued to steadily gap the field throughout the race.

Duane Dombek warms by the fire after winning his first ultra
We gave the usual warnings about hunters, rednecks and banjo music and we thought one of the runners had taken the warning to heart since he was wearing one of the blaze orange vests that we offered to anyone. It seems that John Teague (6:07:13) of NC may have been wearing the vest for other reasons since his friend Jeff McGonnel (5:40:23) pointed out that John had become lost on prior occasions. Jeff would leave reward posters for him and the blaze orange vest would be easily spotted by would be rescuers and it seems that we had a few show up at the finish line claiming a finders fee. We did have a couple of boys pull up to one location near the start of the race and inquired as to the quality of hunting in that area. We told them that quarry would be moving slowly later in the day and would probably want to be put out of their misery, but most of them would be kind of tough.

WVOutside's Lew McGrath feels the pain of 30+ miles
The people from WVOutside participated in the race and Dave took several pictures that can be viewed on their website along with the results. They have a great website that can be accessed at and promotes the outdoor activities in West Virginia. It seems that two of the staffers from WVOutside decided to run the race, Don Parks (5:07:12) and Lew McGrath (5:06:17) had a close competition the entire run with both of them swapping positions on several occasions. Lew managed to hold off Don in the final section of the trail but seemed to be a little worse for wear when they got done.

As usual there are a lot of individual stories that we could tell (or we don't even know) that all go into making a race a special occasion. Our special thanks go to Rob Apple (7:01:42), who completed his 213th ultra, while being our course sweep that insured that everyone either finished or was accounted for. Nobody got lost that admitted to it and we appreciate the help in marking the course, especially like when Dennis Hamrick (6:45:33) and I ran and marked in the dark of night. Dennis is the co-race director for this event and his help is always appreciated.

The great work of many volunteers made the worst climbs a little easier for Jerry Jenkins' and all the runners
As always the success of a race hinges on the willingness of volunteers to staff the course. Steve Childress, a local mountain bike enthusiast and John Sheets, a local run talker were the heart of the interim aid stations. This was the first time that John, a local ultrarunner, had worked as a volunteer and he found out it was a lot of fun just talking with everyone coming through. John typically supports and runs in our races and this year, has had a knee problem that he was trying to rest. The day after the race, John, Vic Ware (5:55:33) and Glen Jarrell were in the process of cleaning up the course and removing the ribbons when John blew out his knee running. We wish him a speedy recovery. The halfway point and finish line aid station was at shelter number five, which is the only shelter with a fireplace and a heated restroom nearby. The fire was kept going by Dave Toler and the soup and other staples were kept on hand by Steve Snodgrass along with finish line assistance from Josh Jones, who made sure that Rick was given the finish line ribbon as a souvenir. The race brought out some local high school and college talent that ran the first loop of the course and seemed to enjoy participating in the trail event. Thanks go the State of West Virginia, Kanawha State Forest, Ed Boyd, Superintendent and John Henley, Assistant Superintendent for help in making arrangements for the use and support of the forest.

Once again thanks to the participants, volunteers and especially our families for allowing the first Snowflake 50K to be a success and fun event. I can be reached by e-mail at concerning future events and results.