Nov 16, 2009

Race Report: Team Slug Russell B Cheney 50K

This race report is a little late, a full 6 weeks after the event. My memory of what happened has started to fade already, and it's high-time I got this thing written or else there will be nothing to write.

(if you can't see the video, please click here)

This was my second Team Slug event, and I'm really glad I came. Got up at 3:30am, was the first customer at my bagel shop, and hit the turnpike two hours before dawn.

When I pulled into the swamps of Delaware, Race Director John was the only one there and for a few minutes it looked like this might be a solo race. I didn't say anything, but recognized something in John that was different than when I saw him previously - he seemed a little melancholy - I didn't think much of it and we hung out until, finally, a couple more people arrived. Three or four of us lined up and got started, and three others showed up 20 minutes after we started and they went ahead, too.

As far as the race itself, there isn't much to say. Weather was perfect, but I was unusually slow due to the Vermont 50 fiasco only 6 days prior. I went at a decent pace for the first 4 or 5 laps, but really slowed down in the second half as my tired legs started complaining. I walked entire laps.

I took the opportunity to experiment with using only perpetuem to fuel my run, but by lap 6 I had really bonked and was craving some real food. John makes no promises to bring food for the runners at his races, but I was really glad that he had a small spread, paid for out of his own pocket, of some junk food to keep us going.

The winner, who was one of the guys who started late, came in just shy of 5 hours (he was given no credit for his late start.) 3 hours later I had my first DFL (dead-last) - winning the "Crazy Horse Award" in Team Slug vernacular - in 7:55.

The wonderful thing about these Team Slug events are that they consider the last-place person just as important as the first, and everyone - all the runners including the winner, family of runners, and the race director - hung out, had a good time, waiting for the last place person - me in this case - to come in. When so many events are wrapping up by the time a guy like me comes in, it's really nice to see that kind of support from a group of guys who accept no money, just come for the fun of it.

That evening, when I got home, I saw this post on team slug's Facebook. John had something on his mind all day, which explained why I thought he was a little quiet in the morning.

On October 3rd, 2009, TSI Co-Founder and Lifetime President "The Hitman" announced the "Death of Team Slug." TSI was exactly twenty years old. The Slug-Dream began in the Spring of 1989 in the seething swamps of Southeastern Virginia near Virginia Beach. TSI was founded by Running Man and Hitman, in honor of T.J.Key and his former Flatlanders Running Club based out of San Diego. In the early years, as in the latter, TSI attracted few participants; often starting fields of 10-15 ultra-runners. The course would usually be lined with strategically placed pint bottles of ginger brandy, coconut-covered marshmallows for markings, and not start until the early evening/dusk hours. The park closed at dark, and the Slugs would be "out there" into the wee hours, not only running, but evading Ranger Rick along the way.

The Slugs, and their shenanigans thrived throughout the mid '90's sprouting informal clubs in PA with Peanut Petley, MD/DC with James Moore and Dan Grayson; teaming with the Runner's From Hell, and Claude Sinclair, in South Carolina, and the grandest club of all based out of Gulf Breeze, FL. The Florida-band of gypsies was led by one Pavvy "The Big Brown Pony" Polur, and survived for years underground; passing itself off as a UF0 Search and Rescue Team. Pavvy's 42-Mile Boggy Bayou Swamp Stomp was never more than a whisper, but has since become ultra-legend. Then in early 2002, the Running Man mysteriously disappeared into the hills of North Georgia, apparently detained along with an eighteen year old female accomplice, on an Indian Reservation for possession of several dozen gallons of illicit fire-water (corn liquor). He hasn't been seen or heard from since.

Sponsoring an average of three non-events per year, the Slugs saw many hundreds of ultra-runners finish a Slug Run ... earning the World-Famous Black, 100% Cotton, Team Slug T-Shirt (Made in USA). TSI was friendly for first-time ultra-runners; with no time limits and no fees. If you didn't quit, you'd be given the opportunity to finish. And finish they did. Over the past twenty years the sport of ultra-running has gone mainstream ... Entry fees for ultras now cost hundreds of dollars, and 100-Mile Runs fill up on-line in minutes. Yet, Team Slug has not changed ... No Entry Fee, No Time Limit, and The Same Olde Black T-Shirt ...

Though Team Slug is now Officially Defunct, the Slugs will continue to occasionally gather, and run. The Slug shirt will infrequently appear at obscure ultra/marathon events around the country, and memories of past events will linger in the hearts of those many hundreds of Slugs who've "earned" that shirt. The Slugs lined up for the very last time this morning, Seven-Strong, just like the old days. Ironically enough, The All-Nighter and Sluggette, were there to "toe the line." Slugs we've come full circle ...What a Wonderful Twenty Years it has been ... It is Done ... THANKS for ALL ...

Apparently, I was the last person to finish an official Team Slug event. If there was ever a time to DFL an event, that was it. That last paragraph "the Slugs will continue to occasionally gather, and run" suggested that this won't be the last time I see John and company, but I really didn't know what he had in mind.

However, the next morning, I saw this:

Fattest Butt 50K set for Jan 2, 2010 (Mourning the Death of Team Slug --- Please be Respectful, and Bring a Black T-Shirt) Multiple Loops through frozen tundra of Central Delaware, well into the heart of winter. If you come bring cold weather gear, 300 feet of rappelling rope, and some emergency alcohol (should you become lost/disoriented in the forest). No Aid, No Fees, No Whining, No Kyle Busch fans, etc,etc,etc...

A week later, a "new" team slug shirt was announced, to be distributed at the FB50K

So it's hard to say what will really become of TSI. My worst fear, that it will fade into oblivion, is hopefully inaccurate. Perhaps John will morph it into something else. Perhaps runs will happen several times per year, completely unofficially, under no banner - "team slug" or otherwise. I don't know - but just to be safe, if you've never done a Team Slug event, you might want to make sure you get to Fattest Butt - it may just be your last chance to participate in something really special.

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