The NCMC Names a Director Sportif
As planning for the 2006 Adirondack Canoe Classic began, two serious issues emerged for the North Country Men’s Club. First, a paddler had to be found to fill out the four-man crew. Jack, Bill, and Tom, with a cumulative 2,700 miles of Classic racing among them, were set to go. Andy Webster, however, who was a member of the crew in 2005 after Bill somehow talked his nephew into racing, was unable to return. Something about having a child, apparently. New babies are certainly a much better excuse for not racing than, for example, having to “coach” soccer, but it did leave the NCMC in a bind.
Tom mulled the notion of inviting John Conroy, but the other issue of consequence was making it difficult to resolve the question of an invitation. That other issue was the all-important matter of a pit crew to support the racers. Pit crew duties have largely been the responsibility in recent years of Jan. She joins the racers in Old Forge the night before the race begins, and subsequently ferries their gear along the course, buys beer, sets up and takes down camp, makes coffee, drops the racers at the start line of each of three days of racing, and picks the racers up at the end of each day’s competition. Unfortunately for the NCMC, Jan was refusing her pit crew assignment in 2006. Her conflict was that she was going to pit crew for Matt Conroy at an Ironman competition in Madison, Wisconsin on the same weekend as the “90-Miler,” as the Adirondack Canoe Classic is known.
He did mention the race to John, however, and John expressed a willingness to do it even though he was warned about what the lack of a pit crew would mean; driving to Saranac Lake the day before the race started, getting shuttled in a van down to Old Forge, packing up gear and getting it on the gear truck in the hectic morning minutes before the race started on Friday, getting shuttled to camp after the first day of racing and hauling one’s gear to an empty campsite, and getting up Saturday morning to pack up camp and get shuttled to the start, etc. And perhaps doing all that in bad weather. The good news was that relief would probably come on Saturday with the expected arrival of Mary from Buffalo. The racers would then have transportation after their day of racing on Saturday, and would spend Saturday night at the Semlers’ Adirondack retreat in Saranac Inn. John was warned, of course, about the race itself; 15 or 16 hours of steady paddling over three days to cover the 90 miles of the course.
Not only did John say he would do the race, but he also mentioned that Bob Goger had expressed a willingness to serve as pit crew. Kasey Goger had wondered whether Bob could provide any reasonable facsimile of the support the racers were accustomed to receiving from Janet, but Tom figured that just having a driver was a bonus, so he quickly sent the following message to Bob:
I heard a rumor that you raised the possibility of providing logistical support for the North Country Men’s Club at this year’s 90-Miler, September 8-10. I hope it wasn’t the beer talking. If this rumor has substance, and you are available, it would make a SIGNIFICANT difference in the NCMC’s performance, as we would otherwise be without the assistance of any roadies.
The main requirement is that you have a driver’s license, but I can provide a description of the various levels of pit crew work that are available, ranging up to the full monty of Director Sportif. I think you would have some nice bike riding opportunities along the way and, of course, unrestricted access to the coolers. You would also become a candidate for the Unsung Hero Medal, which is awarded each year to the UH who does the most selfless and useful work in (on?) behalf of the NCMC. Jan has had a lock on the award like Lance has had a lock on the Tour, so it would be nice to see a fresh face at the award ceremony. Plus, as a non-paddler, you will not be subject to any drug testing, so bring along the testosterone patches, etc.
It wasn’t the beer talking, and Bob was in as Director Sportif. All he needed was a little advice from Jan, who offered the following:
From: Janet Conroy
Subject: Re: 90-Miler
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2006
1. Make sure that when the team wants to put the boat in the hotel room to work on it the night before the race, that it’s not YOUR hotel room.
2. When someone starts looking around for a poor sap to drive BACK to Old Forge at the end of Day One to pick up a vehicle for which they have already very likely lost the keys for, look very busy doing something else.
3. Don’t throw a full nalgene water bottle off the Route 3 bridge into a racer’s canoe. (Fortunately, they missed.)
I could go on…
You are in charge of setting up/breaking down camp, keeping the beer and food flowing, and getting Jack to the start on time so Tom doesn’t go crazy. I know that these are tasks for which you are well suited (except for maybe the “on time” part). There are some spots at which you can see the guys and take photos, etc., along the way; i’ll try to mark them on a map. But it’s pretty easy–you’ll be driving along a lonely stretch of Adirondack highway and suddenly you’ll see hundreds of cars–you’ll get the picture.
It is a great time. Have fun. I hope you get some riding in. I had told Tom that I would try to give you a call tonite when you’d most likely be packing, but he was a little doubtful about the packing part…
Incidentally, a couple of days before the race Jack, who had registered the NCMC for the race, casually mentioned to Tom that in fact there was no shuttle service to be offered at the race this year; no shuttle from Saranac Lake, no gear truck, and no ride to camp after a hard day of racing.
The participation of John and Bob in the 90-Miler prompted the following NCMC press release:
Saranac Inn, N.Y.—Tom Conroy, who will be competing in his 10th 90-Miler in 2006, will alternate in the bow and No. 2 seat with rookie John Conroy, of Holliston, Mass., the North Country Men’s Club announced today. John Conroy’s race credentials include participation in a couple of one-day Charles River spring classics. Adirondack Canoe Classic veterans Jack Semler, of Clarence, N.Y., and Bill Webster, of Buffalo, N.Y., will round out the crew.
The NCMC race committee also announced that the team for the first time will have a Director Sportif. The position will be filled by Bob Goger of Montclair, N.J. Mainly a cyclist, Goger has recreational paddling and outdoor motivational training in his background and will serve as a trainer-nutritionist-psychologist and team driver. He is also an experienced camp cook. He has been on a number of summer and winter NCMC expeditions and is familiar with the psychological makeup of the race team and has a reputation as a consensus builder. He replaces pit crew chief Jan Conroy, who could not return to the race this year because she has pit crew responsibility for Matt Conroy of the NCMC at an Ironman competition in Madison, Wis. The team will also bring its own four-man hull to the race. Last year the NCMC rented a Minnesota 4 from race organizer Brian McDonnell, but subsequently purchased a Minnesota 3 with a fourth seat added. The Minnesota 3 is 20 feet long, compared to the 23-foot Minnesota 4, making it a more versatile hull for the NCMC when it is not being raced. The club, after all, is not made of money. The NCMC in 2006 faces the daunting task of matching the 2005 squad’s third-place finish in C-4 in the 90-Miler. Not only will their 20-foot boat be slightly slower, but McDonnnell has announced that there will be 14 boats entered in the C-4 category, up from nine in 2005. The 24th edition of the three-day Adirondack Canoe Classic will begin in Old Forge, N.Y. on September 8 and finish in Saranac Lake, N.Y. on September 10.
The Race Its Own Self
As for the actual race, things went pretty well. Bob, John and Tom traveled together from Albany, New York to Old Forge to meet Jack and Bill. John quickly got the hang of it during the race, paddling like hell all day long without stopping. At one point, with some bickering going on, he suggested everyone, “Shut up!”, which was a useful instruction. He also never had to pee. Remarkable!
Bob did a great job as Director Sportif. On Day One, he ingratiated himself with some strangers and finagled access to a dock in Blue Mountain Lake not far from the finish line of Day One. The NCMC was ambivalently chasing another boat down Blue Mountain Lake as they paddled toward the finish, but had resigned themselves to being able to overtake their competitors due to the proximity of the finish line. They went by the aforementioned dock, however, and there was Bob, who bellowed, “Are you going to let those guys beat you??” Surprised and awakened, the NCMC immediately began to haul ass and passed the boat in question.
The only real irritant during the three days of racing was the friction produced by butts grinding on the closed cell foam pads that covered the two middle can seats in their boat. Tommy couldn’t take it anymore after the first two days of racing, and moved to the tractor seat of the bow for the last day of paddling.
Bob made sure the NCMC was properly recognized by race czar Brian McDonnell upon crossing the finish line at Lake Flower. The Conroys, for example, were hailed for their support of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kudos to Bob for serving as pit crew, supported by Mary, who met them in the middle of the race and hosted them at Kimpton Road for Saturday night, following the second day of racing.
Gallery: 90-Miler 2006