How Far Can You Stretch It?
The truth can be stretched, taffy can definitely be stretched and dollars used to be stretched, but snow? I guess if you think of melting snow, that is another form of stretching, but not a deliberate expansion. But what do you do if you are stuck with directing a snowshoe race on limited snow? For Winterfest, the answer was easy: order some icefall and cover with a burst of below-freezing temperatures.
While coverage was minimal for both Winterfest 5K and Camp Saratoga 8K in Saratoga Springs, it was rock-hard and not going anywhere. In the photos below Winterfest is on the left and Camp is on the right. You can see that while Winterfest managed to hold out, Camp offered more ice. In fact, the day before Camp Matt Miczek and I ditched the bridge, deeming it too hazardous to support a fast finish and scuttled the steep downhill start, which was worse than any airport’s icy runway. At first glance, it seemed as if Winterfest, which traditionally is a questionable snow day, was the better deal. Not only did we have stretchy, icy snow, but we had a beautiful not too hot, not too cold sunny day. (The picture on the left was taken the day before).
You can see from all the pockmarks that wearing snowshoes, and not spikes was the better choice. Besides providing a better grip on icy inclines, Dions would glide right over all those holes waiting to capture an unwary ankle. You would think that would be obvious. But after explaining all that to one runner to no avail, she turned, fell and went back to the car for snowshoes!
While Winterfest was doable, I was concerned about the icy conditions at Camp. I told everyone to regard the first mile on the course as a warm-up, insisting that the race truly began upon reaching the less-trafficked trails at Mile 2. But then the snow squalls hit. I had always thought that squalls were brief, intense bouts of heavy snow accompanied by gusty winds—but 6 inches of white stuff? That was deep enough to cover the ice and add traction, not to mention cover the outdoor registration table! My only worry was that the spring pond, which had materialized the day before in the middle of a field, would be hidden and not quite frozen, but fortunately it held up admirably.
One of the beauties of a trail race is that most of the time you are alone in the woods with nature. In smaller events, with not so many folks to alarm the wildlife, that often makes for some four-legged or feathered spectators. Winterfest featured a porcupine chowing down on pine branches and at Camp Matt and I spotted an owl and later on Matt even spied an eagle soaring overhead. It is nice to know that we can co-exist peacefully!
by Laura Clark