After last year’s winter wonderland it is easy to forget that winter and snow aren’t always natural playmates. Christmas came and went and I reassured myself with memories of past season’s late starts. Remember the year that Jack Quinn’s day-after-Christmas Woodford kept getting postponed until it finally appeared sometime in March? Or the second week in January when snow finally hit South Pond, giving the select few who braved the storm the infamous train plow run? Or Ed Alibozek’s early January North Pond Race when he begged folks not to come because conditions were so marginal? I remember one year when snow didn’t actually arrive until Curly’s. So we are still ahead of the historical game with a mid-January start.
Incredibly, there were three races scheduled for January 17: Greenwood Gallop, Cock-a-Doodle-Do in Saranac and the Central Mass Striders event in Moore Park. Theresa Apple did an excellent job filling in for Ed and keeping us all informed of these options. In fact, perhaps too well as Jeff Clark clicked one of the links she provided and registered on line for Saranac instead of Greenwood which he actually ran. Difficult to be in two places at once! I, on the other hand, made out like a bandit as Tim Van Orden not only let other snowshoe race directors race for free but also took $15 off admission to his March 12 NE Region Championship for anyone who showed up at Greenwood. But being a race director, I again got in for free! Hopefully, there will be a lot more RDs next year with this enticement.
Annie proudly chauffeured Jen Ferriss, Karen Provencher and I to Mt. Prospect as Karen, after last year’s scary trip past Mt. Prospect on our way to Hoot /N Toot, refused to drive that route without adequate snow tires. Annie, fully armored and studded, was a natural choice. I was getting all sorts of flack about leaving too early that morning, but even after enduring the ribbing, and despite the fact that Annie entered the parking lot just as Bob Dion was posting his race sign, she still failed to beat Laurel Shortell’s Sam to the choicest spot.
Because of the underlying ice, Tim had shortened the route to two 2.5K loops of the relay course. Tim always surprises us with his innovations. Last year it was the array of colored flags keeping us on track for the over-under-around and through route. This year he did the same thing with a fleet of college party red plastic drinking cups. He swears this was because the flags were having a tough time penetrating the ice, but I think he was hoping someone would take the hint and buy him a beer. I remembered how tough one loop of the relay course was during Nationals and was wondering if I could hold out for two. While pretty much everyone except the winners hike at least part of the mountain, the relay doesn’t allow for that luxury. There were ups that were not up enough to hike in good conscience, but to make up for it, two magical downhill segments fortuitously appeared without any seriously steep payback.
Before the start, I was a portrait of indecision, hovering between short and long cleats. While Bob said short cleats were better since the snow was not deep, Tim insisted that longer ones would fit the bill with their better grip. In the end, I decided to go with Tim as he designed the course, but until I got the hang of it, I felt as if I were running on stilts. Rebounding, I passed Laurel briefly on the downhill approaching the false finish but was not able to hold onto it, mirroring Annie’s second-place attempt in our own personal race-within-a race.
Afterwards, it was great to catch up with old friends, some of whom we see only during snowshoe season. While we were enjoying indoor facilities, basking in the warmth of the fireplace and sipping hot drinks, one cross-country skier overheard us and said she, too prefers less posh surroundings. We looked at her blankly, thinking of outdoor registrations, his and her snowbanks and in-car changing stations. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.
Tim helped us make lemonade from lemons, or in this case, snow from ice and we were all relieved that the 21st season was finally underway. Tim Catalano, author of Running the Edge, writes in Running Times that “We don’t have the power to change an experience—an experience is what it is. But we do have the power to change how we experience that experience. …you can focus on all the good stuff, and it turns out to be a pretty amazing day. And the thing is, it’s the same damn day.”
By laura clark