Maybe the North Country Men’s Club canoe racers are showing their age, or maybe it was the heat, but the 2001 edition of the Adirondack Canoe Classic was a grueling affair.
Consider these events: After grinding through the first day’s 35 miles of lakes and portages in about seven hot hours, Billy decided to take a nap at the NCMC’s Lake Eaton campsite at 7:30 p.m.! Even more remarkable, Tom thought it was such a good idea that he, too, entered his tent, resolving to take a short doze while waiting for Jan to arrive from Connecticut. He was awakened at 11 p.m. out of a deep sleep by pit crew chief Dan Corcoran, who was the only person not snoring when Jan arrived on the scene. She drove through the campground twice before Dan alertly figured that NCMC reinforcements had arrived.
Furthermore, Tom could barely quaff a single Bud at the end of the second and third day of racing, and had to sit down in a shady spot just to collect his senses.
It was a hot affair, with the temperature above 80 each day. Normal highs for this weekend in September in the Adirondacks are below 70, which is just about perfect for paddling. This weekend, however, it reached 84 on Sunday, September 9, the race’s last day. The previous high for that date in Saranac Lake’s weather history was only 81.
As a result, Jan reported that paddlers were croaking for water as they passed below a bridge full of spectators about three hours into the last day of racing. Both Jack and Tom easily consumed the three quarts of water each of them had in their boat each day, and they also grabbed every cup or bottle of water that was offered to them along the way by race volunteers. Jack’s red Colby hat turned white from the salt stains left by his prodigious sweat.
On the other hand, three days of brilliant sunshine and calm conditions in the Adirondacks are something to be prized. It is wonderful camping weather, and all the peaks stand out against blue sky and blue lakes. The NCMC will take it over cold rain.
They’ve Got the Big Race Wired
For those readers who have chuckled at some of the NCMC mishaps reported in the past concerning the “90-Miler,” you will be surprised to learn that the NCMC has got the race pretty much down to a science by now.
For the second year in a row, Tom flew from Connecticut to Buffalo to ride with his fellow founders to Old Forge, the race’s start. This foregoes both the need for him to drive to Saranac Lake and take the shuttle bus to Old Forge, and the need to drive home alone to Connecticut following the race.
Jay picked up Tom at the airport and brought him back to the Tillotson residence where Jay resumed packing for the trip and Tom had the opportunity to meet the NCMC’s youngest member, Isaac “The I-Man” Tillotson.
Without going into great detail, Tom wound up a couple of hours later at Jack’s house with Jack, Jay, Billy and Dan, who were to travel together in the Webster minivan to Old Forge. Dan, who has completed three 90-Milers, including the 2000 race with Spence, decided not to take up the paddle in 2001, but rather to serve as manager of the NCMC pit crew.
Pizza was picked up en route to Old Forge and there was a spirited discussion initiated by Jack as they sped along the New York State Thruway. There were some vehement exchanges during the debate, but that is all the Editor can report on the matter. After all, these NCMC reports are now posted on the Internet, and there needs to be more discretion. Jack is a publicly elected official, and Jay, Dan and Bill are members of Buffalo’s bravest. It wouldn’t do to have some of their private opinions out there, although Jay may have already expressed his own on NPR.
The NCMC pulled into Old Forge after 11 p.m. to see a deer walking down Main Street. They picked up their boat numbers and retired to their motel, where Jack once again failed to coax Jay and Bill into drinking more than would be prudent before a 35-mile paddle. They’re just too wise to his tricks.
Dan Feels Good
The next morning, they went to their favorite diner for breakfast and still made it the start line with plenty of time to spare, in part because Dan’s presence meant they would not have to find the gear truck and throw their packs on it.
There were no capsizes at the start of the race, and everyone proceeded up the Fulton Chain of lakes. One change in the race this year was that Day One ended at Blue Mountain Lake rather than Forked Lake. The change was made to preclude the need to call the race off early on Day One because of high winds and waves on Raquette Lake, which happens about one year out of three. Although it was still listed as a 35-mile paddle, it seemed to be a longer route than the traditional one, and the paddlers’ times were a bit longer.
The beauty of the old route, which took racers the length of Raquette Lake into Forked Lake, was that you could always hope that the first day’s racing might be cut short, sparing the racer of 10 miles of pain. The new route ends any hope of a short day. The beauty of the new route, however, is Blue Mountain, which looms above the racers as they head for the finish line on Blue Mountain Lake.
At the end of this year’s Day One, Dan greeted the NCMC racers at the finish line and offered a choice of Bud or Canadian beer for the thirsty racers. A fatigued and spent Jack told Dan he was curious to see whether Dan would enjoy his pit crew role more than actually paddling the race, as he had done to the previous year. “I feel great! How do you feel?” a relaxed and rested Dan said, satisfying Jack’s curiosity immediately. “I kinda feel like taking a paddle. How about you?” Dan added.
After Day One, the group retreated to Lake Eaton to swim and have dinner with a contingent of Buffalo firefighters. The aforementioned naps were taken. In addition to Jan, Vanessa arrived late Friday with the I-Man and Dan’s daughter, Kim.
They Beat Somebody
Saturday was another hot day on the water, with the NCMC paddling the length of Long Lake (it’s long) into the Raquette river. After the portage around Raquette Falls, the paddlers navigated the endless oxbows of the river to the finish line, 33 miles from the start.
From there it was off to the great campsite established by the pit crew at Fish Creek campground. Here, Jay made wonderful pasta, Mary, Dylan, Kate and Sam arrived from Buffalo, and some Scotch Old Fashioneds were concocted. Dylan and Kate were “lost briefly,” if only in the minds of Jack and Bill, in a canoe.
The last day of the race is a “short” 22 miles that can be paddled in four hours. Jack and Tom had once nice stretch in which they passed one of the rival boats in their class. They were able to do this because they rode the wake of a fast boat for several miles. The two paddlers in the fast boat even slowed at one point so Jack and Tom could continue to reap the benefit of their wake and catch their competitors. The boat they caught and passed ended up losing to the NCMCers by a mere four seconds over the three days of racing: 16 hours, 21 minutes and 48 seconds to 16 hours, 21 minutes and 52 seconds. The NCMC offers its sincere condolences to those losers!
Will Jay or Won’t Jay?
Mike and Annie Maghran were at the finish line on Lake Flower with the rest of the NCMC and Buffalo contingent. (Just as the town of Lake Placid is on Mirror Lake, the town of Saranac Lake is on Lake Flower. Go figure).
The race was the eighth in a row for Jay, although it is not know if he has worn his shocking pink gloves in every 90-miler. It was also the eighth race for Jack, who started racing in 1993, but missed the 1996 event. It was the seventh Classic for Tom, who missed the race in 1994 in a vain attempt to save New York from the evil Republicans, and in 1996, when Jack couldn’t do the race and Tom had enough brains not to compete in the solo class. And it was the fifth Classic for Billy. Jay may have said that 2001 would be his last race, but he may also have said that before. If Jay actually means it this time, Billy can race with Spence, or perhaps wait a few years for the I-Man to come of racing age. As for Dan, the Editor’s guess is that, since he felt as good after Day Three as he did after Day One, he will rule the pit crew once again next year.
Gallery: 90-Miler 2001