Two Years in the VHTRC

By John Dodds

It's hard to believe that it's been exactly two years since I mailed in my first dues check to the VHTRC and then headed out to Massanutten for my first VHTRC training run. Despite that experience, I have continued to maintain my membership. The others I ran with that day were training for the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 Mile Run. Those in the know simply call it MMT. I can still recall the question of the day: "Where'd Mike go?" Last Saturday I again joined some VHTRC members out at Massanutten who were likewise training for MMT. And the question of the day: "Where'd Mike go?" Different Mike as we'll see later.

I'd like to mention a few features of the VHTRC that will entice more people to join the club. But maybe this is just wishful thinking.

But first, I'd like to use this forum to mention that several people still owe me several pairs of gloves. In reverse alphabetical order, they are Marcia Peters, Scott Mills, and Amy "Where Did We Park the Car?" Bloom. With all these missing gloves, I'm starting to get an OJ complex.

OK, back to the VHTRC.

Dues. What do we get for our $10 annual dues? Frankly, not much. You don't have to pay dues to log on to the web site and get all the news (as well as read all the extremely well written articles submitted by some really cool people). And you don't have to pay dues to go on the training runs. We get a couple things: (1) the magazine "Footnotes" from the Road Runners Club of America (not a lot about trail running in there so this is not a real big benefit) and (2) access to private information about other VHTRC members (home address, home telephone number, bank account balances, prior convictions, sexual preferences, etc.).

So why join? I encourage people to join because the VHTRC needs money. We don't care if you actually "do" anything with the club, just send the money. I would hasten to point out that the recent campaign finance reform law signed by the President does not affect how we can solicit or accept dues. The club will take hard money, soft money, checks, postal orders, stolen refund checks from utility companies to the elderly, etc.; they'll even take counterfeit money if it's really, really good.

Frankly, it's wrong to think that you need material benefits from paying dues. Even the official VHTRC web site recognizes you get squat for your money-that's why you see this on the web site: "Most important, membership lets you "belong" to the best trail running club in northern Virginia!" I know some of you might read that and say, "Gimme a break." And there are probably some with brains the size of a walnut who can't send in a dues check fast enough. But after a couple years being a member, you realize that whoever wrote that had it all wrong-it's not the best here in northern Virginia; it's the best in the ol' USA. We can debate what the best trail race is in the East, what 50-miler is better than another 50-miler, but there is not a lot of doubt about the best trail running club.

Elections. I know we have officers, and I assumed they were elected. And re-elected from time to time. Of course, I was raised in a democratic society and hold certain truths to be self-evident. But I was wrong. We have a Prez for Life-Chris Scott. And, according to the web site, a President Until He Gets It Right-Joe Clapper. I think Joe's term is longer than Chris'. In the two years as a member, I somehow have not been getting the election notices, and I'm slowly coming to the realization that maybe we don't have elections.

Elections are probably not a good idea. Having an election would mean that you aren't really thrilled with the current officers and that you are "ready for a change." I haven't heard any complaints about the current officers, except from them about us. And for those wanting to have an election, they'd have to come up with a "slate" of officers. Then we'd have all kinds of bickering and infighting. Of course, we have all that now, but having elections would put all that on a more legitimate basis.

Meetings. I have to admit that I do read the RRCA "Footnotes" when it comes. I like the Miss Road Manners column. Recently, someone wrote in saying there were a "few female runners" who were concerned about "inappropriate and harassing comments" from a "few male runners" on "long marathon training runs." It was signed "Anonymous" from Virginia. I would hazard a guess that it was not a female member of the VHTRC because we male runners are not like that. The dead giveaway though is that we don't go on puny "marathon training runs" so you know it's a bunch of roadrunners. But I liked Miss Road Manners' suggestion better: "Plan a club meeting where a discussion of running etiquette gets top billing. That will set the stage for a smooth segue into using common sense when making comments, whether directed at Mars or Venus." Being a quiet person, I almost laughed out loud at this suggestion. What is a meeting? Do running clubs actually have those things? Let's take an example. Let's say a woman asks you why men pee while they're running and leave little zigzag trails. I'm not going to mention any names, but can you imagine what would happen if I went to Anstr and said, "Deb made a personal and inappropriate comment about a certain bodily function, and I would like to address this at the next monthly meeting; could you put it on the agenda?" I can guarantee that Anstr would take swift action, and I would have a VHTRC dues refund check in my mailbox the next day.

Training runs. Although membership is not required for a training run, a lot of people on these runs are VHTRC members. These are probably the best part of the club, in my opinion. Like last Saturday. Five of us started out at the MMT E trailhead to run about the first third of MMT. Mike Bur who put this together, led most of the way. He got out of our sight from time to time. For example when the rest of us (Amy Bloom, Steve Platt, and Brian McNeill) got the right-hand turn on the downhill section of the Shawl Gap trail, we stopped. Where'd Mike go? There was the pile of stones (this is called a "cairn" and can indicate a trail junction) and the bright yellow arrow painted on another rock pointing to the right. Since Mike had not been on this trail before (of course, this was why we were here), my guess (being the experienced trail runner that I am) is that he missed all this, went straight, and was well on his way down the mountain. Steve volunteered to go after him. They soon came back together. I mention this not to hold Mike up to public ridicule (okay, maybe a little). It's just to show you that you have to pay attention and be observant. I speak from experience because 2 years ago, I myself blew right past that same junction. I can tell you it's a long walk back up.

Planting aid is another thing to plan for. Before the run, I volunteered to plant aid at Veach Gap and suggested to Mike that he plant aid at Habron Gap while making the shuttle to drop a car at Camp Roosevelt. I put stuff at Veach Gap and went to the start and waited. And waited. Steve and Amy showed up at the start time of 9 a.m. Mike and Brian arrived just before 10. Seems they got lost trying to make the turn onto Rt. 675 near Luray. By the time they found their way, there was no time to plant aid at Habron Gap. Which is why we filled up our Camelbaks from a hose at a cabin near Habron Gap. Thanks, Mike and Brian.

The best part of the run? The veritable feast Brian had in the trunk of his car at Camp Roosevelt-turkey sandwiches, chips, soda, fruit, candy. We sat at a picnic table in the pitch dark wolfing down the food. A fitting end to a perfect day-if running all day at Massanutten is your idea of fun. Those are what being a part of the VHTRC is all about.

Races. I still think BRR50 is the best trail race (Laurel Highlands and Superior 100 would be close seconds if the aid were better, but then again, who wants to be spoiled?) I would rave about the Women's Trail Half Marathon, but I'm discriminated against and can't run that race. And I can't say or write enough (although I've tried) about the MMT 100 Sufferfest. All brought to you by the VHTRC.

People. They say a part of you comes from the people you're around. Which, frankly, is pretty depressing when you're a member of the VHTRC. For example, after a long run I drink Yoo Hoo (Gary Knipling) and like to go out for Buffalo wings (James Moore). These are not exactly desirable personality traits that I've acquired. We trailrunners are a great source of information that we gladly share even if not asked. And we are not shy to give advice-"If I were you…"-advice which we have absolutely no intention of following if applied to ourselves. We like to tell (and hear) stories, the more misery in them the better. Isn't it more fun to hear about someone who had constant diarrhea and lost so much weight and was DQ'ed at the mile 75 medical check than hear about how someone ran a sub-20 hour 100-miler? There are all kinds of things I know about and talk about now that I didn't have a clue about two years ago. Unfortunately, I can't turn back the clock.

Web site. I've saved the best for last. We all know that the RRCA has voted the web site one of the three best web sites in the US for the past several years. But they just look at appearances. What they should really look at is how many people log on to the web site. Or better yet, how many people actually rely on the web site. A better indicator is how many people get frustrated and pissed off when the web guy goes on vacation and doesn't keep the site up to date every several days like he usually does.

When I first joined the VHTRC, I was pretty naïve and assumed only VHTRC members logged on to the web site. Until I was on a bus after a race in another state and mentioned that I would never camp out again based on my experience before the Vermont 100. This perfect stranger then said, "So you're the guy." He said he had read my race report on the web site. I didn't know I had such a wide reading audience. Which is why I'm pretty circumspect now in what I say (or divulge).

Finally, where else but in the VHTRC can you write a piece of such artistic eloquence like this and then end it with a dorky saying like-

Happy Trails!

John finishes a 100 mile trail race -- MMT

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
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