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  • 19 Mar 2018 5:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        Recalling those “When I was your age…” legends about blinding snowstorms and waist-high drifts, the 2018 Dion Nationals in Woodford, Vermont lent credibility to what we had assumed were tall tales invented around a roaring fireplace.  Blessed with 44” of snow (and still actively falling), the challenging routes recalled WMAC days of legend with everyone racing in train formation to break the path, taking turns at point. 
        But what a journey to get there!  December brought three feet of promising “base” and in a burst of early season enthusiasm Nationals mastermind Tim Van Orden committed to a race directing ultra—spearheading six separate events over the span of two days:  Saturday’s 5k, 10K and Kids’ Kilo and Sunday’s Team Relay, Half and Full Marathon.  Not to mention course previews, separate awards ceremonies and get togethers.  To heighten the challenge he designed five separate courses.  As the countdown relentlessly continued, he found himself putting in first 40, then 60 and ultimately 100 hour weeks.  And as the snow fell and melted, reconfiguring the trails, he designed multiple courses depending seemingly on the time of day and the weather predictions.  He has enough trail designs in reserve to host a race-of-the week!
        As the February thaw gradually released its hold, winter dominated once more, frosting Prospect Mountain with an incredible amount of powder, enough to last well through April.  To achieve his goal to make “absolutely the most beautiful snowshoe course ever,” he carved narrow, twisty singletrack through the Black Forest-like landscape.  And naturally the majority of the narrow route was inaccessible to motorized devices, leaving Tim tunneling through in fisherman-style waders, achieving lactate threshold with every step.  Through it all, he remained relentlessly smiling despite repeatedly setting multiple SKTs (Slowest Known Times) for his routes.  And then there was the no small matter of making the site approachable.  Visit Tim’s Facebook page and you can view the cavern-like parking area, the porta-potties barricaded by snow and the daunting roof clearing operations.
        Normally in back-to-back events there are two, or at most, three choices.  But here we were confronted with the same dilemma faced by Willy Wonka’s Veruca “I want it all…I want it now.”  Saturday’s options were clear-cut for those pursuing Nationals status, but Sunday’s were murky:  an intense 2.5 mile relay loop or a half or a full.  While the first appears a no-brainer, after trying to get my sore body parts in gear Sunday morning, I was actually looking forward to the more leisurely paced half with no worries about letting teammates down.
        I should, however, have stated my plan more concisely.  I had started many races with twelve year-old Solitaire Niles, now in her first year of serious snowshoeing.  Because she knew I was targeting the half, she assumed I would be, like her, a 5K candidate.  She was on the verge of bagging it, but fortunately managed to hook up with Theresa Apple who finished ahead of her last week.  It was inspiring to see her cross the finish line, smiling from the accomplishment and praising the beauty of the final mile.  She had gained so much confidence from overcoming her doubts and forging ahead. 
        We all should have had those doubts as we lined up for the 10 K Championship, undoubtedly one of the most challenging and scenic 10Ks ever.  While there were some wide XC ski trails, they mostly seemed to be going up. Most memorable was the out of control, arm-flailing ziggurat-style descent from the top of the mountain.  We enjoyed multiple wild rides down the extremely narrow single track, bordered by waist-high snow.  It took some getting used to as your eyes were automatically pulled to either side when they really needed to be focused on foot placement.  I’m not sure if this was an optical illusion because of the tunnel-like path and the extreme whiteness, but it took a while to become acclimated to the different perspective.  At one point I stepped off to the side to allow a faster runner to pass and plunged waist-deep toward a hidden stream.  At another, while careening around a corner, the backs of my snowshoes locked and I was unable to move.  Luckily, after some frantic jiggling, all was well and I avoided having someone else crash into me.  Not sure exactly what happened, but I suspect a partially buried twig was to blame.  By that time all the twisting had begun to take a toll on my back—rather like I had pushed my body into an endless clothes dryer cycle. 
        The following day, I felt less pressure at the half marathon since I had no expectations, especially on such a difficult course.  Mercifully, Tim was not able to completely clear the marathon course, so we were treated to multiple loops of the 5K route.  Everyone breathed an audible sigh of relief. If I had had to attack two loops of the previous day’s 10K I never would have made it. 
        I know some dread multiple loops, feeling it lends itself to a “Where have I come from?  Where am I going?” mentality.  In a taxing event, however, I savor the reassurance that comes from the familiar: recognizing the route, spotting certain landmarks once more, and finally thinking “This is the last time I will have to pass this bridge or tunnel.”  At one open area we were treated to an expansive vista and while pausing to savor it, I spotted a tall white house, way down in the valley below that I knew marked the lowermost trail.  I must admit that was a bit discouraging, but it was still satisfying to focus on where I eventually had to travel.  While I realize that the 10K was way more technical, I wonder if part of that difficulty came from the fact that we had no concrete idea exactly how much more was left.  There is a lot to be said for mental preparedness.
        I know some folks plan special birthday weekends centered around their favorite sport, but I was doubly lucky in that Nationals Sunday fell on my birthday without any preplanning on my part.  I was amazed at how quickly word got around and by my second loop I was serenaded by aid station volunteers and bystanders alike.  I was especially touched that my buddy Solitaire and her Mom and Dad made a special trip out just to cheer me on.  Better than champagne, Jen Ferriss de-iced my frozen water bottle and presented me with a squeezy applesauce to fuel my final loop. 
        And that is the best thing about doing something like this—the warm fuzzies from old and new friends and the “we are all in this together” feeling of belonging and accomplishment.  I hope that next year, free from Nationals requirements, we will have the opportunity to tackle the half or the full without having to compete the day before as well!

        By laura clark

  • 07 Mar 2018 2:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Have you ever gone skiing on a frigid Northeast winter day, popped some toe warmers on your ski sock underfoot, put on your boots, and headed out on the mountain, confident your feet will stay warm after hours riding a chilly lift? Many of us have, with nary a thought as to just how these products work and whether or not we need to worry about them. These packets contain iron powder, activated charcoal, and vermiculite, and they create warmth by a process called oxidation, whereby oxygen in the surrounding air reacts with this iron powder to create heat, with temperatures up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit reported. This heat can last up to 6-8 hours, plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors!
    When one looks at the instructions on the back of the packet, it clearly states that one should not put the warmer in direct contact with the skin and remove them immediately if they become too hot. It doesn’t state, however, that one should not wear these in shoes that are ventilated, like running shoes or cycling shoes, which allow oxygen to continue to interact with the iron powder, creating dangerous levels of heat! Unfortunately, this is what happened to an elite runner at an 8K snowshoe race in Wilton, NY, in mid-February. The use of toe warmers by this woman led to second degree burns on the bottoms of both of her feet, requiring a visit to the local emergency room, and many weeks of pain and crutches afterwards!

    In fact, online research shows that second degree burns have been reported by other winter athletes, both cyclists and winter runners. In fact, when one goes to the home page of a very popular brand, Little Hotties, there is a Precautions page which clearly states,”Little Hotties Warmers should not be used under the following conditions: do not apply directly to the skin, do not use in shoes during vigorous activities, such as running, do not use in shoes that have air ventilation holes, do not use in oxygen-rich environments.”

    So what does one do if the toes are cold heading out for a winter run or snowshoe run? You are better off wearing a wicking sock liner and a good pair of wool socks, then changing out of them into fresh wool socks when the run is over. If you do wear toe warmers, put them on top of your foot (on top of the wool sock) rather than under the ball of the foot. If you begin to feel any discomfort or excess heat, stop and remove them right away.

    The toe warmers work best in a stiff, solid encased boot, like a ski boot, or heavy winter boots used in ice-fishing, etc. Don’t go and throw them all away after reading this, but be judicious in choosing when to use them!

    Happy Trails!

  • 06 Mar 2018 2:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        Four of us--Jessica and Brian Northan, Matt Miczek and I--regarded this doubleheader weekend (3/3-3/4) as a prime opportunity to test how we would persevere on back-to-back shifts of Nationals snowshoe races.  Rather like those Regents practice exams your teachers would throw at you in June in anticipation of school glory.  While that didn’t always work, sparking more anxiety than deep-seated confidence, the four of us were still willing to take a practice run.  Jessica and Brian impressively tagged a few extra hours of low-impact cross training by utilizing the free Garnet Hill ski pass all registrants got with their entry fee.  The rest of us were simply too tired.
        Saturday’s race at Garnet Hill presented the 10kers with a three loop challenge and others with a 3.5K or 7K option.  Since this was possibly Garnet’s first time on the snowshoe circuit most of us had no idea what to expect and indeed many of us had never visited this cross-country ski area.  I say possibly because I have vague memories of Tony Mangano organizing a race there in the mid-90’s utilizing newly opened wooded trails, but I could be mistaken.  That’s one of the shortfalls of having been at this for so long, way before internet documentation. 
        At any rate, we were presented with the usual advantages/disadvantages of any loop course.  First, you could only get lost once.  Which in this case wouldn’t have happened anyway as the course was that well-marked.  This format also enables you to regard the first go-through as a test case, scouting out places to speed up and sections that would require a more judicious approach.  So, theoretically, the final round could be your fastest.  I had a less ambitious goal: not to get lapped by the mid-packers.  And, to complete my victory I only got lapped once by Brian and Tim Van Orden.  Truthfully, Tim lapped me twice, once going and once after winning, when he ran the route backwards.  But that doesn’t count, at least not in my personal rule book.   
        The course, a wide corduroyed groomed trail, furnished a scenic view of the Adirondack Forest, freshly dressed in newly fallen snow.  As with most cross-country venues, there were plenty of ups and downs to keep the skiers happy, as well as a deceptive uphill near the end of the loop that never seemed to end.  But after the first go-round, you almost looked forward to tackling it as a hopeful sign that yet another loop would soon be completed.                 

    It was touch and go with snow cover up until the big storm the day before.  But this is March after all and the next day mild temperatures prevailed, softening some spring-runoff sections and causing some of us to post hole. I found that rather odd, as even the haphazard collection of trails out my back door has homemade admonitions warning those without skis or snowshoes to stick to the non-groomed sections to avoid this very factor.  I had never seen snowshoes post holing before! The folks at Garnet Hill were gracious and most enthusiastic about hosting more races in the future.  It will be exciting to have more opportunities to venture farther into those tempting woods!
        On Sunday, we traveled to Capital Hills Golf Course, the new home of the Capital Region Northern Alliance (CRNA) whose mission it is to promote the Nordic sports of cross country skiing, biathlon, orienteering and snowshoeing.  Previously, they had hosted snowshoeing events for us at Hilltop Orchards.  What you may not know about this group is that they have also dedicated themselves to training Paralympic athletes, including many veterans who sacrificed their health in defense of their country.  Some of these very same athletes will be competing in the Paralympics in Korea next week. Active in their group is our own Curt Schreiner, Olympic Biathlete, who participates every year in our Camp Saratoga Trail Race series along with his family members.
        Despite the recent snow, just two days later, much had melted, leaving us with sloppy conditions that still managed to hold up nicely. We traced a challenging circle up, over, around and through the golf course’s hills with views of happy kids on sleds to cheer us on.  Afterwards, we enjoyed hot chocolate and shared stories. 
        And what about our intrepid future half marathoners?  The Northans won first place beers and a large dose of future Nationals confidence.  As for Matt and I, while we initially felt pretty good, we struggled during the final mile and as a result hatched a workable half marathon plan:  we would hike all inclines and save our energy for the flats and downhills.  Hope that works!

    By laura clark

  • 28 Feb 2018 6:43 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As a runner, you understand the importance of making sure drivers can see you when you go out for a run near traffic. You must do everything that you can to make sure you stand out so you will be noticed by drivers as you are running near vehicles or alongside traffic. Making sure you are visible to drivers is essential to ensuring your safety. There are several different things you can to do be proactive and to make sure you are noticed by drivers. Here are some of the leading tips for staying visible when you are out running:

    Dress to be Seen - Making sure you wear fluorescent colors that stand out and won't just blend in with the landscaping will help you be noticed. Black, green, brown, and blue just blend into your surroundings. Wearing hot pink, lime green, bright yellow, hot pink, or orange will help you stand out. Wearing a fluorescent jersey, vest, or jacket is the key to staying safe

    Run Toward Traffic - Never run with traffic because you cannot see what is happening behind you. Instead, follow traffic laws and run toward traffic. This way, if you do see a vehicle coming toward you there is an ample opportunity for you to jump out of the way.

    Run on The Sidewalk - When it is permitted, you should run on the sidewalk. This keeps you farther from the vehicles and keeps you safer. Use the sidewalk as a buffer between you and vehicles.

    Run with A Running Buddy - It is much safer to run with someone. After all, two people are much easier to see than just one person. With both of you wearing fluorescent clothes, you will get much more attention. Also, if you have a medical emergency you have a friend who can call for help. It is always better to have someone along.

    When Out After Dark - If you are running before dawn or after dark, make sure you are visible and stand out. Get reflective tape to place on your clothing, particularly across your back and your chest. Put some on your shoes as well. Wear reflective bands on your ankles and wrists. A brightly colored safety vest with reflectors on it could be helpful. Running with a flashlight in front of you pointed down will help you stand out. A flashing LED light can be worn on a string around your neck or pinned on your clothing for additional attention.

    Obey Traffic Laws - You must know the traffic laws and obey them. That means you should not run too close to parked cars or zip in and out of traffic. Don't jaywalk and always obey all the traffic signals. Be responsible for your own safety.

    Always Stay Alert - Watch for any vehicles, and this will help you be much more noticed. Watching your surroundings and doing what you can to stay visible so you are less likely to be struck by a vehicle.

    Choose Well-Lit Areas - If you are out running while it is dark, choose areas where there is proper lighting. You shouldn't run through communities where you aren't familiar with the streets. The lighting enables drivers to see you and you to see your surroundings as well.

    Watch Out for Vehicles - You want to keep a distance between you and vehicles when you are running. Consider the distance to be a safety barrier. By staying alert so you can get out of the way if you need to, you are protecting yourself. Don't run too close to cars or in between vehicles because you are putting yourself in the driver's blind spot and increasing your chances of being hit. Running too close to parked vehicles can cause you to be doored.

    Never let your guard down and always assume that drivers won't notice you. If you enjoy running, you are well aware of the importance of being proactive about your own safety. Improving your visibility is detrimental to your safety. By dressing in bright colors, adhering to traffic laws, running with a buddy, and by staying alert, you can significantly decrease your chances of being in an accident. Stay alert of your surroundings, so you can stay away from cars that could cause you harm. By staying visible, you can significantly decrease the likelihood of a driver not seeing you and you being hit by a vehicle while you are out for a run. With the proper safety precautions, you can enjoy many more years of running free from accidents.

    This article was provided by, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only.

  • 28 Feb 2018 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Not all ultrarunners are humans. Meet Gobi, a sturdy, sandy-colored mutt with Chihuahua-style ears, a flagship tail and the focused stare of a runner determined to put in the miles however difficult they might prove. Incredibly, this resolute dog materialized somewhere in the middle of China’s Gobi Desert, scanned the competitors in a 155 mile stage ultra and selected Australian runner Dion Leonard as his companion for the next 80 odd miles of adventure.

    At first, I thought that as an enterprising stray he simply showed up for a free handout. Perhaps, but that cannot be the entire story. Running 80 miles is not exactly an easy meal ticket and most likely would barely replace the incurred calorie deficit. Moreover, competitors were required to pack their own food, so any sharing would become a considered sacrifice. And even if he thrived on the adventure component, hanging out with the tent crew would have been a far easier solution. My theory is that as a would-be therapy dog, Gobi scanned the available runners and instinctively selected Dion Leonard, a distrustful, habitual loner with a troubled past.

    Leonard, a practiced competitor, was in the race for the win, a last-chance opportunity to prove to the world that he could still be competitive. Early-on he makes it clear that, “I’m not here for fun.” For him, fun and competing were mutually exclusive. Enter Gobi, who paced Leonard to a second-place finish and a new perspective on life. Inspired by Gobi’s therapy dog appeal, Leonard began interacting with his fellow athletes and even risked his standings to carry the canine across tough stretches.

    Even though Gobi had no idea what a therapy dog was, she fit the profile. As Leonard states, “The race across the Gobi Desert was different…The experience had changed my life. So it was only right that in return I should do everything I could to help change Gobi’s.” And so begins the second part of their journey: Leonard’s struggle to bring Gobi home to Edinburgh with him. The journey would make an incredible movie plot, but it is totally factual, involving fundraising, immigration laws, media sites, kidnapping and the amazing warmth of a group of Chinese friends who devoted days to searching for the missing dog who had captured the hearts of the planet.

    There is an adult version of Finding Gobi, a kids ‘version, and, you guessed it; Twentieth Century Fox has now bought the movie rights. So now it is up to you. Confronted by the chicken and egg dilemma, is it best to read the book prior to seeing the movie, or view the film before reading the details in the book? As for me, I have read the book and can’t wait to see the movie!

    by laura clark

  • 28 Feb 2018 2:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As the ARE’s Brave the Blizzard update puts it, “We have been trying to put on a snowshoe race in a blizzard for 14 years now. We're 0% on that. 50% on having snow. 100% on fun.”  And so it goes….

    But if you have to run a snowshoe race on mud, this is the place to do it, offering a mix of terrain every bit as challenging as on snowshoes.  In fact, two years ago when BTB was also a non-snowshoe event in Tawesentha Park, I ran the 5.5 miler in 1:05.  This year I clocked in at 1:18, with the intervening snowshoe year a solid 1:34.  This year at Camp Saratoga, in an 8K (4.97 miles), in 15” of snow, I managed 1:21.What do all these statistics mean?  I wish I knew. Perhaps it means either that in the course of two years I lost 13 minutes of speed or that the first Tawesentha was significantly easier than the third.  It also might mean that snowshoes make things considerably easier, at least for me. I would appreciate any and all interpretations you have to offer.

    At any rate, this year’s BTB might go down in history as the only trail race that was actually tougher than a snowshoe race in deep snow.  In 2016 I smugly wore my faithful Ice Spikes and proceeded slippage-free.  This year was the first time ever that my Ice Spikes came up short, and not in length.  The unavoidable remnants of snow were slushy and sticky and clumped to my soles like snowballs, which, of course, they were.  Around me, others were reaching similar conclusions.  Jamie Howard soon jettisoned his microspikes and after his first fall, wished he had gone with his screws.  He felt much better afterwards (mentally, not physically) when I enlightened him with my experience.

    About the only person satisfied with his choice of footwear was Matt Miczek, who wore his brand-new Asics Gel Fuji Runnegade 2. (Disclaimer: This is by no means a product endorsement, but notice how I went to such great pains to get the spelling correct).  He wore these sneakers stark naked (the sneakers, not him) with no traction devices whatsoever.  Matt ran ahead of me throughout the race and while I couldn’t see him, the Asics’ geometrically laid-out triangle pattern was clearly visible, crisp and not listing from side to side like my feet seemed to be doing.  Eventually, I gave up thinking and just followed in his unfaltering footsteps.
    The 2018 trail was also different from the 2016 trail in that instead of ice sheets which perform well with traction, the course was basically some snow with soggy grass plastered with mud.  Think of those greasy, slicked-down Elvis hair styles.  Except for the very steep climbs, where the terrain quit fooling around and dished out pure mud.                     

    Either way, mud or snow, there is literally no way to train properly for this race unless you set your treadmill at a 70 degree angle sloping to the left.  And who runs like that?  This sloping occurs twice on the golf course area.  Going out it is merely amusing, but on the downhill return it is a different matter entirely.  As I write this I am icing (brrr!) my ankle, sore from twisting my right foot inward. 
    The only consolation was that we weren’t the only ones having difficulty.  After the award pies and cookies were distributed and all the pancakes were consumed, the ambulance decided it was time to make a retreat.  Except it couldn’t .  Mired in mud, it threatened to become a permanent part of the landscape.  Fueled by all those pancakes, some macho runners managed to push it back on the road, only to find themselves wishing for yet another pair of clean clothes.  Lucky thing there were no actual emergencies.

    And so the curtain closes on yet another Brave the Mud.  Tune in next year for a possible blizzard—one can only hope!

    By laura clark

  • 22 Feb 2018 1:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        This weekend I learned that I am not as tough as I thought I was.  I also learned that cavemen are much stronger than their already brawny appearance might suggest.  Last year I handily survived the Caveman 6K and figured this year I should up the ante to the 15K,   especially with the Nationals Half-Marathon looming ever closer on the horizon.
        Make no mistake; I am not new to extreme events, having survived the Peak Snowshoe Marathon ( three times.  Peak is nothing to take lightly.  It is home to the 100 mile Winter Snowshoe Ultra not to mention the Winter Death Race.  Located near Killington, the course consists of 6.5 mile loops with 1200 feet of elevation gain per loop.  Nothing to sneer at, but still I found it mentally “easy”  as half of each loop was an uphill slog, topped off with a steep, but totally runnable descent.  I convinced myself that I was only really putting my nose to the grindstone for half of each loop.  It worked.
        It does not, however, work for the Stone Bridge Caveman Extreme 15K Snowshoe Race, which features seven major climbs, each punctuated by a fast downhill drop.  At Peak, I was at no time tempted to utter Raven’s Nevermore.  Upon stumbling down the final descent at Stone Bridge, I was more than eager to join forces with said Raven.  Shortly afterward, I adjusted my attitude and waffled, “Well, if there is a foot of snow, why not?”  As with childbirth, the pain is quickly forgotten in the glow of accomplishment.  Just so you know, I have three children.
        Stone Bridge is a traditional family-owned business that centers around the Stone Bridge Cave, the largest natural cave in the Northeast.  Summer-use cabins, hiking/skiing/snowshoeing trails and guided cave excursions complete the picture.  Owner Greg Beckler is proud to show off his site, telling us all, “Welcome to my backyard.”  Despite the warm spell, all the main trails boasted ideal snow conditions.  Still, I was a trifle worried at registration when I received my own personalized copy of the green 15K trail map.  The same thing happened to me at the first Moreau Trail Race where I spent considerable time investigation alternate routes.
        And sure enough, at the first intersection, I chose to head straight ahead instead of turning left as the blue bib (6K) folks were doing.  I even paused, considering, but then spotted a green ribbon just ahead that I assumed justified my choice.  But not for long.  I soon discovered I was ahead of most of the Green Team.  Lance spotted me, gave me a penalty lap and said I was good to go after that.  I figure that I maybe lost a few hundred meters in the process, but as I wasn’t a winner, what did it matter?  Besides, I could just see Lance calculating how much longer the finish line would have to stay open…
        The course was a series of intersections, rather like the Camp Saratoga route, but with the added complexity of interweaving blue and green paths.  Despite my mishap, it was extremely well marked with blue and green arrows, ribbon and spray paint.  Another helpful feature was that each participant sported either a bright green or bright blue bib.  So if you saw someone twisting ahead, you could take a mental snapshot of what lay in store.  This happened to me a few times. At one point, Karen Provencher hailed me and I was cheered, projecting I wasn’t that far behind her.  A clear example of muddled thinking at its best.  Try as I might I never did figure out where she was when our paths crossed.  At another point, I spotted a lady far ahead climbing a ledge and wondered where she had come from.  Not anywhere nearby, I soon learned.  It was a dizzying kaleidoscope of runners, all following green and blue trails from highly individual angles.  Next year I intend to study the map, matching the trail names to their sections so that I will have a better idea of where I am in the grand scheme of intersecting lines.  That is, if I can bear to view the section from 10-13K which more closely resembles mapped elevation lines rather than a real trail.
        It seemed as if I were the only 15Ker toting water, unless there were some hidden fanny packs.  I was glad I did, but with three blue coolers placed at key intersections, there was plenty of refreshment both coming and going. But with the monochromatic color scheme, it was again dizzying trying to figure out if the current cooler was a new one or an old friend viewed from a different perspective.  Fortunately, there were kilometer markers to help you keep track.  If you had just passed 5K and all of a sudden discovered yourself at 11K you knew something was wrong, or else perhaps you had just blanked out from the stress of climbing.
       And speaking about climbs, the final ascent/descent was totally insane.  With little snow cover to speak of, I found myself grateful that I had chosen not to wear my Nationals-earmarked racing Dions.  But still, about halfway up I had cause to worry when I spotted a serious sign that proclaimed: “Experts only.  Do not ascend after 2PM. Headlamps mandatory. Far from lodge.” There I was, exhausted, minus the required headlamp.  I knew this should have been the final climb as I had passed the 13K marker.  Still, if I was far from the lodge, was I embarking on a time-warped 13K? 
       Then, summit at last, and a glorious downhill to look forward to.  Except it was more of a downhill slog if that is possible, with little snow cover and twigs weaving in and out of my Dions threatening to trip me up.  More like one of those Hug a Tree trail descents where I was tempted more than once to simply remove my snowshoes for safety’s sake.  The only things holding me back were that (a) I was not coordinated enough at this point to risk bending down and (b) I didn’t want to invalidate my snowshoe race standing.  Greg met me at the bottom, obviously concerned, and provided me with a thoughtful snowmobile escort.  I, for my part, tried not to throw up from the gas fumes. 
        Knowing what to expect, I know next year I can acquit myself better…or perhaps just run two 6K loops.  Anything to avoid that final descent.  On the plus side, I feel totally ready for the Nationals Half Marathon.  How much more difficult could that be?

    By laura clark

  • 18 Feb 2018 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Whew!  Two races in two weeks.  Almost (but not quite) as crazy as Tim Van Orden’s Nationals with six races in two days.  For those of you who were wondering why I chose to subject myself to this, the scheduling of Camp Saratoga is dependent upon the full moon.  This has nothing to do with Shades of Grey or a healthy fear of vampires but the necessity of avoiding a conflict with Wilton Wildlife’s backup Candlelight Ski & Snowshoe date.  And while life was intense for a while, it meant that I only had to endure two weeks of race box household clutter.  And now I am DONE!  And at liberty to enjoy everyone else’s races. While such a schedule precluded long pre-half-marathon training runs, leading up to Camp, I logged 25 miles on snowshoes in five days.  So that must count for something.                        

          At this time of year I am always jealous of road race directors.  Barring an earthquake or a mudslide, they always have a road.  Yes, I have a trail, but it is totally dependent on whatever snow and ice Mother Nature dishes up. At Winterfest, unfortunately, it was more about the ice.  For the four days leading up to the event, I waffled between traction and snowshoes.  For much of that time it was teetering on the edge, with some sections deep enough for snowshoes and others begging for heavy-duty traction.  I was concerned about runner safety, but at the same time I didn’t want anyone to have regrets.  By Saturday, however, the ice got thicker and the snow got thinner so the choice was clear.                               

          On the final decision day, Don Proulx and I added final touches, all the while thinking. “What would Hilary do?”  We marked with an eye toward any place she might again make a wrong turn and this year no one added bonus miles. Wish she had made it for the final test. Even more remarkable, everyone was super careful and no one went down on the ice.  Shaun Donegan took a chance with lightweight track spikes, overtaking Tim VanOrden who opted for heavier ice gear.  Or perhaps it was just the fact Shaun was unencumbered by heavy clothes, running only in shorts and shoes while Tim dressed more conventionally.
        Speculation ran high before the following Saturday’s Camp Saratoga event, as folks occupied their pre-race time guessing what Shaun would wear.  I thought shorts and knee socks, but he surprised us all by wearing a singlet.  Guess that hindered him a bit because this time he finished a mere two seconds ahead of Tim.  Times were slow as we had about 15” of snow, much of it heavy, causing snowshoes to gasp for purchase. 
        This year we had a completely revamped course as the ice the previous week had me shuddering at the final steep hill to the finish.  A few, including me, were sad about the demise of the steep hill past the dining hall, but most were relieved.  On the plus side, the route designed by Matt Miczek, who is also a Wilton Trail Steward, showcased different sections of Camp, most especially, the historic fire tower, constructed in 1924 and originally erected in Luther Forest.  To save it from disrepair, it was moved to Camp to honor Luther’s son, Tommy who was the founder of the Camp Saratoga Boy Scout Camp.  Interestingly, its first observer was Noah LaCasse, an Adirondack guide who was with then Vice President Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Marcy when they learned of President McKinley’s death.  Small world! 
        You can tell Matt is a computer guy just by glancing at the map and perusing the two pages of color highlighted written instructions.  Those of you who enthusiastically struggled to follow John Orsini’s original Mudslinger map will know what I am talking about.  But after five days and twenty-five miles of marking and the efforts of Jan Mares (on skis!), Michael Della Rocco and Brian Teague, no one took a wrong turn.  We are lucky to have such dedicated volunteers.  Even when struck down by the flu Friday, Matt said, “I just have to see the doctor and then I will put out the cones in the afternoon.”  A ridiculous, die-hard statement, but very touching.
        While we all returned intact, Peggy McKeown did so less successfully.  Apparently her toe warmers burnt holes through her socks and she experienced 2nd degree chemical burns.  While the warning label that no one reads advises not to use while hiking or running, apparently if you are going to do so, it is best to remove them at the first sign of trouble.  How many of us, like Peggy, would be so focused on our race that we would just grit our teeth and carry on?  Or it could be that Peggy is simply so fast that she generates more heat than someone like me. Dr. Maureen performed emergency first aid and stayed with Peggy at Wilton Emergency Medical while Wilton Wildlife volunteer Jean Hoins and runner Martin O’Toole shuffled Peggy’s belongings and car to the hospital where Peggy’s sister took over.  Dr. Maureen is going to do some research and write an article so we will have a better idea what we are facing for the sake of warm piggies.
             On a more humorous note, Theresa Apple, the lady who sends those weekly email updates, decided to adopt a pseudonym and ran as Snow Fahl.  After the race, when Theresa checked her Snow Fahl results, she noticed Lisa Winters finished directly behind her. When Theresa mentioned that to Peggy Huckel, Lisa Winters, heard her and piped up, “I’m Lisa Winters!”  Peggy rejoined with, “You have to sign your real name on the race waiver.”  Lisa replied, “But that is my real name.”

           One thing both races have in common is the pot luck spread supervised by Peggy and Patricia Keefe and the vast array of raffle prizes of the new as well as the gently used variety.  I overheard someone comment that next year she would save stuff she doesn’t want and make a contribution.  But the best reward of all is the opportunity to share a winter day outdoors with old and new friends. 

    Think Snow!
    By laura clark

  • 05 Feb 2018 1:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        There is so much more complexity to a race than the act of putting one foot in front of the other.  Just ask the mascot rooster of Cock-A-Doodle-Shoe Snowshoe Race in Saranac, New York.  Winter is generally a slow time of year for him no matter what the circumstances, but this year with the out-of-category Arctic air, his harem was totally uninterested in his personal agenda. So he had a lot of time on his hands to plan and plot, which led to some elaborate logistics for his namesake event.
        Instead of heading directly to Plumadore Road and the smallish trailhead parking lot, we were diverted to the staging area at Dannemora Community Center and bused in waves according to our 5K or 10K start times. Most of us didn’t realize it until the drive to the center, but the town is home to the infamous Dannemora Prison, where in 2015 two dangerous convicts escaped and set off a three-week $80,000 manhunt.  Sensibly, they escaped in June and not in winter.  They wouldn’t have lasted three days in January!  At first glance, the prison which dominated the rather bleak landscape looked more like a turreted castle and a much better residence than the surrounding wooden homes.  But then we were confronted with the prison yard.  Incredibly, it abutted directly onto the road and was ringed by serious guard towers.  I was thinking they were probably leftover vestiges from another era, but no.  Jessica Northan spotted a guard in one of them, hauling something up on a rope—maybe his lunch?  Makes you wonder who is actually the prisoner.

        And speaking of lunchtime, while the 5k went off at 10:30, the 10K was scheduled for High Noon.  OK, so maybe it warmed up a degree or two by then, but really what is the difference between a few subzero degrees?  At our arrival time, the temperature in town hovered at -14 and didn’t “warm up” until the drive home when it smugly checked in at 6 degrees.  We had competed at Gore’s 2PM start a few weeks earlier, and that was doable, allowing for a proper lunch. Granted, Race Director Jeremy Drowne did a remarkable job of supplying the holding tank cafeteria with all the food options one could possibly desire, but the stomach timing just seemed off.  I reasoned that noon isn’t that far away from 11AM, the Winterfest start, but knew I was in trouble when upon arrival at the race site, Jen Ferriss started complaining that she was hungry.  Luckily, I had the foresight to stash a molasses cookie in my backpack before I left the cafeteria, so I was slightly better off.
        We rode to and fro on a sleek, silver-toned Veterans’ transport bus piloted by a driver who must have served in Patton’s Third Army Tank division as he thoroughly enjoyed hitting every bump, some of which sent us flying to the roof.  No one wanted to wait around in the cold so there was standing room only, which spawned a game of Telephone, as Jessica passed word down the line to make sure her husband Brian had made the bus and Ezra Hulbert passed word up to tell his Dad he had made it.
        And that brings ups to other unsung heroes of the day: our steadfast vehicles.  While most autos were enjoying a lazy Sunday in a cozy garage, ours were yet again heroically pushing though miles of sub-zero travel, where wipers froze to dashboards, fluid froze in squirters. Even my car Sir Thomas took a hit to his heating system when the fan refused to work, nearly freezing out the passengers in the back seat.  I am awarding my snowshoe Championship medal to Sir Thomas….
        Matt Miczek and I drove together and since this was his first Cockadoodle I tried to brief him on course highlights.  I remembered to warn him about the steep uphill followed by the treacherous downhill, but other than that I failed miserably.  Despite having run the route multiple times, I commented that the course was mostly flat.  And in a sense it was as it only contained one steep up and down, but the final two miles at least were a relentless gradual uphill –not anything to raise a blip on the elevation graph, but enough, especially at the end, to ensure a struggle.

         Matt and I ran parallel races, despite the fact that we were nowhere near each other.  After a two week bout with the flu he tried to uphold his Adirondack Sports & Fitness cover picture status by finishing ahead of Jen Ferriss, but he finally succumbed.  Meanwhile, farther back I settled in with Kari Sharry behind me.  If she hadn’t been right there I would eventually have slacked off.  Ahead of me, I noticed that Denise Dion had slowed down.  Puzzled, I eventually spotted a water stop off to the left.  I almost didn’t stop, thinking that the last thing I needed was a frozen hunk of ice, but I was pleasantly surprised to taste warm water.  Imagine!  Those heroic volunteers had managed to provide warm drinks!  This was all the more appreciated since it was pointless to carry water as it would have frozen after the first sip.
        When we came to the ribboned intersection near the end, Denise ducked under the ropes, heeding Jeremy’s pre-race instructions to follow the arrows.  But apparently it was the wrong arrow.  My slower group behind her encountered a runner approaching the arrow from the other side and he told us we had to first run a loop to the left.  So we reeled Denise back in and trudged onward.  By this time my toe warmer had scrunched up underneath my foot, making every step feel like I was running uphill on sticks. I reminded myself it wasn’t like I had torn a muscle or pulled a ligament and that the pain would be over shortly, but I had difficulty believing myself. 

        Finally, Matt and I arrived at our destination left with one nagging thought: How would we ever manage at Nationals with a 10K the first day and a half marathon the second?!
        Stay tuned….

        By laura clark

  • 10 Jan 2018 2:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Magic Mountain…The Road Less Traveled

        A sign bearing this iconic line from Robert Frost’s poem greeted us as we turned onto the road leading to Magic Mountain.  And with a -18 degree wake-up call, it certainly did seem as if we were on the road less traveled.  Jen Ferriss, Maureen Roberts, Karen Provencher and I scanned Bromley and Stratton for signs of life and spotted just one skier seemingly stuck somewhere halfway.  And no wonder—it was -26 at the top and that is not counting the self-produced wind chill from the ride downhill. 
        In an effort to simplify and avoid wasting brain cells on unnecessary activity, as urged by Steve Magness in Peak Performance, I have assembled a standard racing kit, one which has proven to be totally irrelevant in our current Arctic situation.  Who would have thought I would have needed three jackets, two pairs of pants, three shirts, two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves?  And that was just for the car ride.  Granted, my heating fan took this day to protest, but who could blame it as it was 50 degrees colder here than in Juneau, Alaska!  Many of us ladies solved the progressively larger three jacket puzzle by pre-empting those owned by spouses or teenage sons. 
        The reason for the Christmas Story waddling penguin look was that Magic Mountain was only the stopping point.  The real race began in Lowell Lake State Park where we were deposited by shuttle and then instructed to hike in to the race site.  There was some grumbling among the troops, just because of the projected temperatures, but RD Mike Owens’ promise of a heated tent, akin to the confidence ribbons on a long trail race, gave us enough assurance to brave the Arctic.  I think we were all picturing a huge tent with blowers.  What we got was a small heated popup perched on the side of the trail, fittingly belonging to the Eskimo brand of outdoor gear.  But really, it wasn’t needed.  The sun was warm, the wind was silent and all was right with the world.


    While we were waiting for the second group of passengers to appear, we joked that this was like one of the storied WMAC snowshoe races of yore.  Just a fishing shed off in the distance, teasingly resembling an outhouse and a picnic table covered with snow to deposit the precautionary layers we were now shedding.  We joked about the “good old days” when on frigid days Edward Alibozek would conduct registration from his car and the bib you were handed was supposed to last the entire race season, unless of course you brought an old favorite from home.  Those were the days of barrel heaters when Rich Busa got so close he once burned his Dions and then tried to get a free replacement pair claiming they were defective!
        But who knows?  In just a few years, this race might go down in “good old days lore,” with its pristine singletrack through the woods reminiscent of the old Woodford’s turn around the lake.  We began in a South Pond-style conga line, all enjoying the deep snow until we separated into packs.  With the exception of a few newbies, we all knew each other and scrambled to get into proper alignment. And just like the good old days a big part of this race was the low key socializing as we sat around in the ski lodge’s Black Line Tavern drinking our free beer. The beer was so tasty that we stopped off at the local store to bring the experience home.


    Normally after a race I heat up some tomato soup flavored with beer and the last-minute addition of cheddar and toasted pumpernickel bread—easy to prepare and filling to eat.  And the beer I chose to purchase for the occasion?  Farmhouse Ale Bam Biere, named in honor of the crafter’s tenacious Jack Russell, who when hit by a car, got up and persevered.  According to the brewer. “This beer is brewed for those of us who knocked down, have picked up, dusted off and carried on undaunted.”  As we all did today.

    By laura clark

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