KEENE VALLEY - A pair of Olympic biathletes took the top spots in the men's and women's fields in Saturday's 11.5-mile Great Adirondack Trail Run.
Lake Placid's Lowell Bailey finished first overall with a time of one hour, 40 minutes and 27 seconds, while Susan Dunklee of Vermont topped the women's field in 1:59:57. Aaron Newell took second in 1:44:57 and past winner George Adams came in third with a time of 1:55:40.
"It was funny because (race director) Jan (Wellford) asked me at the start, 'Are you going to race?' I said, 'Well, yeah, of course,'" Bailey said. "I think there was some speculation that all of us were going to come out and do an easy training, but I think anytime we have a race number, any biathlete is going to do whatever race it is."
There are two runs that are part of the event: the 11.5-mile strenuous run up the back side of Hopkins Mountain and down to Keene Valley and a 3.5-mile "fun run" that travels from Baxter Mountain Tavern to Keene Valley. The event is organized by The Moutaineer gear store in Keene Valley.
Patrick Quinn, 15, took first in the fun run with a time of 28:05. He was followed by 38-year-old Aisha Young (28:46), 16-year-old Forest Ledger (28:46) and 16-year-old Lucy Hochschartner, who finished in 30:14.
"In the fun run, it's always exciting because it's usually the younger athletes who turn in the fastest performances, and I think if I went out and ran it myself right now, I wouldn't be faster than a lot of these kids because it's a treacherous course," Wellford said. "It's really difficult, and for some reason, the younger athletes just have no fear and they fly downhill off the top of Baxter."
Another challenge in this race were the wet trails. Last week's rain cause some areas to be pretty muddy. Runners also had to wade through some swampy sections.
"It was a little wet because it's been raining for 48 hours, so there were areas ... that were swampy," Dunklee said, "but it makes it a little more adventurous."
The U.S. biathlon team is currently training in Lake Placid, and Dunklee and Bailey were two of several biathletes taking place in the race. Annelies Cook, an Olympic biathlete from Saranac Lake, also competed. She took 10th overall and second among women with a time of 2:04:11. She is a veteran of the race, having won it in the past.
"Every year there's Olympic-level talent here," Wellford said. "This is the first time that we've had actual Olympians, at least that I know of. But every year, we have some top cross country skiers who always make it exciting. So you know, I guess personally to have people like Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee, big names in biathlon, that was neat for me."
There was also a picnic, live music and an awards ceremony at the Keene Valley Country Club after the race. This was the 10th annual Great Adirondack Trail Run, and Mountaineer owner Vinny McClelland said things have worked out according to plan.
"We tried to create a celebration of spring and a vehicle that you could get some exercise and get the community together and drink beer and listen to good music and support these two little river associations," he said. "The challenge has been keeping it under control because it's become very popular."
The 11.5-run was limited to 60 participants and filled up in 22 minutes this year. McClelland said he keeps the numbers down to keep the race manageable and community oriented.
The event is also a fundraiser for the AuSable and Boquet River associations
"The river associations have always been near and dear to my heart. They're two very small, grassroots outfits," McClelland said. "They do an absolutely wonderful job, and clearly, as we go forward, the challenges of protecting these rivers will become greater and greater."