Winning the Snowshoe Lottery: Saratoga Winterfest 5K & Camp Saratoga 5 Miler
This year both Winterfest and Camp Saratoga pulled winning numbers in the annual winter weather lottery. The 2019 weather or not pattern seemed to alternate between days of heavy snow and bitter cold punctuated by periods of sleet (not so bad) and rain (definitely discouraging). In a “seemed like a good idea at the time” move, I agreed to direct two snowshoe races in the space of two weeks. This shortened the clutter backlog in my house, focused my thinking and did a lot to pile up the miles for a potential snowshoe marathon, but what it ultimately did was invite all those cold germs to take hold.
The biggest component of directing a snowshoe race is providing a varied, interesting course with adequate snow coverage. What this really means is that the course you envision when you survey the route in the fall is not necessarily what you end up with. Serendipitously, both winter adaptations seemed somewhat improved. For the first time in recent memory, perhaps in honor of the 20th Winterfest, we had an abundance of snow. After a snowfall that blessed us with almost two feet, topped off by discouraging downpours, Matt Miczek and I set out to survey the course. The quad had transformed itself into a skating rink and we were seriously considering offering an alternative Skateathlon. As far as I could Google, it would have been a first.
We had never had so much snow before race day and were totally surprised to discover that Saratoga Spa Park workers, in desperation, had blocked our path with a mountain of snow transforming the route into an ice-climbing experience, necessitating yet another course change. That first day it took us three hours to slog through snow drifts and hang orange flagging over a measly three miles. Never, ever, will I direct a snowshoe 10-miler!
The next day, due to the Arctic temperatures and fiercely blowing winds, our route through the fields was effectively erased. Luckily, some more snow moved in so we were at least able to recover the quad. The Catch-22 was that neither Matt nor I had a GPS so the course length was anybody’s guess. Different map explorations suggested 2.6, 2.8, 3.0 with Google Maps awarding us 3.3 miles. A winner! After the race, we took a survey of GPS owners and the consensus seemed to be around 3.3, with participants enthusiastic about the new route. At least until next year’s weather dictates otherwise.
How many of you spotted the Turkey Season homemade sign after the first uphill? Probably not Tim Van Orden, overall winner and runner-up Shaun Donegan or female winner Katya Harte and amazing sixty-one year-old runner-up Peggy McKeown. I have no idea where that sign came from but it will be interesting to see how long it sticks around. We even had a man in serious Spartathlon training pulling his young daughter on a sled!
My reputation for not cancelling and wearing rose-colored glasses got the better of me the following week at Camp as potential snowshoers found it difficult to believe that after yet another downpour we still had decent snow coverage. Matt and I spent the week rerouting and this time Jennifer Ferriss came along to Facebook proof of my eternal optimism with her IPhone. I wished I had had a camera the following day to document that the arrow sign she had posted was pointed directly into a mini-lake. By race day, however, it had reverted back to its customary skating rink format.
This time around we had to contend with serious wind storms and spent much of our days picking up debris. At one point we were greeted by a beautiful young pine arching over the trail and festooned it with orange ribbons so folks wouldn’t run into it. By race day, however, a sturdy mature version had taken the fall directly behind and folks were convinced that we somehow knew the larger version was about to topple and had marked the first as a warning. Snowshoe hurdling (an actual sport in Canada) at its most exciting!
By this point the days kind of blended into each other. I donned the same clothes each morning and the one thing I was looking forward to after the race was washing my socks, which I had worn for five days in a row! We lost track of our total mileage but I did calculate that between Friday and Saturday race day Matt and I had logged a total of 20 miles on snowshoes. We were all set for Stone Bridge Cave 15K the following week!
By laura clark