Stryders have been packing their bags for camp for quite a while; this year some have asked me how long it has been. Good luck with that as I try to avoid anything requiring numerical memory. I recall story lines however. I remember when I was still my nine president and Kevin Joyce proposed the idea at our traditional March election, this time at the Parting Glass. It was noisy, fun and difficult to hear what anyone was saying so the details are pretty much lost. The timing was fortuitous as I had been hoping Saratoga could host its own version of Tawesentha. Kevin and I (mostly Kevin, as I assumed the sidekick role) wheeled the 5K course and then the original 5 mile snowshoe route. Kevin, being a computer geek, blessedly did all the calculations. Are we detecting a pattern here?
After Kevin moved, Couch Couch, our chief Statistician, took a more active role and gradually nudged the operation from a laura-style, happy-go-lucky event to a structured series with actual award categories beyond dollar store raffles and white elephants. We added Iron Man and Iron Woman and Age Graded awards, then branched out into Continual Improvement categories, followed by Ben & Jerry’s family awards and this year the course record award. Can you imagine me sweating over the calculations required to pull that one off every year? About the only item that didn’t make the cut was the Series #1 award for a runner who beat their previous year’s #5 time. This was designed to foil the clever thinkers who deliberately weighted their continual improvement bid with a casual first race. The enticement failed to snag us. Apparently the lure of a streak beats the proximity of an early reward. It is much more satisfying to post a string of decreasing finishes than track one glorious moment followed by four rather disappointing ones.
And for those who have doggedly stuck with this rambling recollection, or for those who have skipped ahead, the answer is 15 years! To put it another way, we have run through three successive age group rankings, plowed through layers of goose poop and consumed the equivalent of at least half a watermelon each. Athletes like Brian Halligan who started as youngsters are now off to college and some of the older crowd are now enjoying life in retirement.
And now for some highlights…What do runners like to talk about most—besides injuries? Food! 9 Miles East was a welcome guest, selling salads and pizza so we wouldn’t have to cook when we got home, or more likely, resort to junk food. The third topic would be the weather. This year had plenty of it. While we escaped the thunderstorms, we experienced four increasingly hot and humid Mondays. Continual improvement candidates rapidly dropped from a high of 37 to a persistent two, Matthew Miczek and Pamela DelSignore, who were able to hold it together through the final Monday’s cooler weather option.
I achieved Continual Improvement once and it was the toughest thing I had ever done. The weekly stress alone was wearing and planning weekend racing around Monday’s truth or consequences was daunting. And while I still make the attempt, I breathe an invisible sign of relief when I achieve elimination status. This year I held on for all of two Mondays. By the third Monday I had an actual plan: I would follow Noah Ballesteros and his Dad, Alex, who were comfortably faster than me, while successively decreasing the distance between our finish times. This, of course, hinged on whether the two could string together a consistent series. They did. I did not.
Noah wisely insisted on starting the third event farther up to keep from getting boxed in. I declined, figuring I could catch up later. You can guess what happened. Matt took another old-fashioned approach, relying not on GPS but on course familiarity. After ten years at camp he had figured out what time he needed at each of the mile markers. He cut it close with only a 28 second difference between his second and fifth races—Matt’s calculations, not mine! I would prefer to view it not as “cutting close” but rather strategically rationing his seconds for the maximum achievable result.
Anne Marie Przywara, Results Scribe, as usual found herself surrounded by a crowd of young helpers eager to call off lucky raffle numbers. This year we had a return of the traditional grout tube, a final basement holdover from the Silks race when everyone walked away with boxes of the stuff. While this was my last offering, I was pleased to note that the following week another tube make its way to the table. The tradition continues! St. Peter’s Keys race relics made an appearance as well as a colorful selection of Firecracker4 tees. The final week was reserved for the valuable stuff—IRunLocal gift cards and free entries to a dozen area races.
This year will go down as the Year of the Bees. And I sincerely hope we never have another one. After fourteen years of standing on the sidelines, the ground bees decided to script themselves into the program for races #4 & #5. The first time wasn’t so bad, with just a few tentative swipes. But by the following week they had obviously studied the situation and put us on their race calendar despite the late hour. They figured out it would be more advantageous to let the faster humans go and attack the mid-packers. And that they did with a vengeance that called for more than toothpaste (good for beestings) and anti-itch cream. Fortunately, Jen Ferriss came equipped with Benadryl capsules that Alex (10 stings) and Jamie Howard (5) sorely needed.
Local naturalists said this year presented an unusual situation: the combination of initial drought followed by high temperatures had encouraged the hornets to nest earlier than normal. Next year, Benadryl will definitely have a place in my race director’s kit. I might even take it to Camp Saratoga Snowshoe on February 18! You can never be too careful when you go to camp!
By laura clark