Wakely Dam 55K Ultra

by David Roy

Wakely Dam 55K is a low key, old school ultra. Its length is the distance is between 2 trailheads on the Northville Lake Placid Trail with: no road access, no support, no cell service, and no dropping out. Either you make it, or you don’t. (The Wakely Dam crew will wait for everyone to finish). I hiked the whole 132 mile Northville Lake Placid Trail 45 years ago and was excited to do this. It wasn’t even on my radar until Bill Hoffman brought it to my attention. 2001 was the first “official” run with 9 finishers. It’s one of those races you have to be damn lucky to get in because it is limited to something under 100 people and this year it sold out in under 5 minutes.

The Friday athlete check-in, race director’s briefing and pre-race meal was more like a family reunion. It seemed like everyone knew each other and had run the race multiple times. I’ve been battling plantar fasciitis for 6 months now and was really undertrained, but didn’t want to give up my spot, since there is a waitlist.

If you need transportation to the start, you can show up at 4a.m. at the Piseco Airport and take the bus to the start. The race finishes back at the airport. The trail is very scenic, but it was really apparent that it has deteriorated since I first hiked it. It was built in 1922. Many of the footbridges have rotted away and the trail erosion is extreme in places, making those areas fairly technical running. This is the first race I’ve been to where deerfly patches are handed if you want one. The race director hiked it the day before and his patch was covered with deerflies. I had one on my hat, but we had perfect weather conditions with no heat, gnats, black flies, or deerflies.

It took me an hour longer to finish than I planned. I started to favor my right foot after only 9 miles and by the end, my opposite quad was telling me it had been doing all the work on the downhills. At one point a runner who passed me told me he was the sweeper. That was a little concerning, but I knew there was a 79 year old person I had passed who was going for the record of “oldest person to complete the race.” (He started at 4 a.m.). As it turned out, I was in the first 2/3 of the finishers. It is easy to lose perspective and start doubting yourself, especially when you are alone on the trail for so long with no cell reception, but that’s also the attraction of trail running for me.

Notes from website:

Friday July 29th

4:00 p.m. - Athlete check-in and packet-pickup at the Piseco Airport. If you are unable to be present on Friday, your race packet will be waiting for you at the start line.

4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - Pre-race pasta (included with registration, families too) meal begins.

5:30 p.m. - Course updates with RD’s

Saturday July 30th

4:00 a.m. - Coffee with be provided. Bring your own travel mug to enjoy during bus ride. If you place it in your race bag, the WDU crew will ensure that you will be able to pick it up after you finish.

4:45 a.m. - Bus arrives at The Piseco Airport 

5:00 a.m. - Bus departs from The Piseco Airport

Each participant is required to check-in race morning!

6:15 a.m. - Last minute direction from RD’s and photo.

6:30 a.m. - RACE STARTS!

Finish Line-The Wakely Dam Crew will be waiting for each and every runner to cross the finish line. Feel free to stay and enjoy the post-race food and festivities for all runners and families/guests. Please note however, we will begin breaking down the finish line area (10 1/2 hours past race time) at 5:00 p.m.

Ed. Note: David mentioned that Bill Hoffman’s articles motivated him to run the race.  Click here for Bill’s articles.



David has been running since his years at Cornell University. He is a 4th generation dairy farmer from Schohaire, NY.  He recently retired from his career in the agri-seed industry as the director of Research and Operation for Growmark FS. In his retirement he maintains a small farm, raising mainly sheep and goats; caring for his vegetable garden and orchard; and pursuing his love of running.  He recently became the director of the Forest Run for the Landis Arboretum. (Click on Dave's picture for his Pace Setter articles.)

Loading Conversation

Partner Clubs

Partner clubs offer group runs and local races to the Capital Region running community

Create Account

Log In Your Account