Chad Denning Wins Wakely Dam Ultra

On a sweltering Sunday, Chad Denning won the Wakely Dam Ultra in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.  With a time of 5:06, he finished nine minutes ahead of second  place Nick Kirk.  Christopher Bunyan came third in 5:47.  Temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity.

Christine Bush was the women’s winner in 7:56.  Lisa Ryan came second in 8:28.

Starting from a trail head in Piseco, NY, the race covers 32.6 miles of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail.  The finish is at Wakely Dam on Cedar River Flow.  While the the last few miles of the race is on a dirt road, the remainder is singletrack or doubletrack.  Mazes of tree roots and mud bogs that will suck the shoes off a runner’s feet are just some of the features of this race.  Although the trail lacks the huge climbs and dramatic views afforded further north in the High Peaks region, this is one of the wildest, most remote sections of the Adirondack Park.

Wakely Dam is unique in the northeast because there’s no aid:  neither feed stations nor medical assistance is available.  With no road crossings and few intersections with other trails, it’s logistically impossible to provide aid for racers.  As the race web site notes, once a runner starts, there are only three ways off the trail: finishing the event, running back to the start, or by being rescued.  Those who run bring everything they think they’ll need with them.

Race director Kimberlee Gardner said that after a wet spring, trail conditions were dry for the race.  Heavy spring rains washed out a bridge over West Canada Creek.  The DEC put a rope across the creek to assist travelers.

The race was originally a low-key run initiated in 2001 by then race director Jim Houghtaling.  From a small group running for fun, the event gradually became a race.  The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) caps the number of entrants at 60 to minimize impact on the trail.

Full results are available on the Wakely Dam website.

cedar river flow, finish of the wakely dam ultra

Cedar River Flow, near Wakely Dam and the race finish.