The club for runners in Saratoga Springs, NY


  • 26 Apr 2016 8:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Seemingly in another lifetime ago, the quest to break the four-minute mile was considered impossible.  Now, somewhat routinely, this feat is achieved by high school track stars.  And we wonder why we ever thought the four minute barrier was the stuff of dreams.  
        Now the two-hour marathon is the new pie-in-the-sky goal. But as journalist Ed Caesar points out, there is a reason why this new quest seems so drawn out. Because of the longer distance involved,  a super elite marathoner will most likely have only two goal marathons per year, occurring at regularly scheduled events, regardless of weather predictions.  Milers can push themselves to the limit more often.  
        In his book, Two Hours, Ed Caesar examines the ramifications of this reality in the context of the great Kenyan runner, Geoffrey Mutai. And while he openly discusses the drug issue in Kenya, a land formerly considered relatively “clean,” since this book’s 2015 publication date, the full extent of Kenyan athletes’ involvement has deepened.  Perhaps the question should be: Is a drug-free two-hour marathon even possible?
        Which leads to another question.  Track meets do not require year-long planning, but marathons do.  If a leading contender is indisposed on that particular day of the year, he might have to content himself with a less fortuitous course.  Should a record-breaking attempt be staged, perhaps by big-name shoe sponsors, to provide every possible terrain advantage?  Or would that in itself be another form of cheating?
        One thing is certain, once the wall is broached, the two-hour mark will mentally seem “easy” and more will inevitably follow.  Leading to the next impossible goal….

    Reviewed by laura clark

  • 06 Mar 2016 8:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This has been a difficult winter, with series race directors struggling to locate adequate snow.  Hilltop Orchard has now been delayed twice, Woodford opted for the relay course instead of the treacherous mountain climb and Curly’s relocated to Woodford State Park.  Now it was my turn to lose sleep—not once, but twice. On consecutive weekends.  I could only take comfort in the fact that this was not a vendetta against my particular corner of the world but against the entire Northeast region.  Kind of levels the playing field. 
        With the lurching, drunken attitude displayed by Mother Nature, there were major changes to be made every time I explored the courses. After record rainfall and Jen Ferriss’ photo of a raging Geyser Creek, I briefly considered billing Winterfest as a run/swim biathlon.  The following day’s deep freeze caused me to jettison Ferndell Hill as you would have needed an ice pick to make it to the top.  Come race day, however, it was totally clear.  One day I was advising spikes; the next just a sturdy pair of trail shoes.                              The following week at Camp I outlined an ice free-route, only to revise when we (finally!) got a few inches of snow. There was a silver lining to all this, however.  Still plagued by some lingering ice patches, I finally had the motivation to do something I have wanted to do for many years – reroute the course to take a turn around the Cornell Hill Fire Tower.  Erected in 1924 in Luther Forest, it had fallen into disrepair and was recently refurbished and reassembled at Camp, the premise being now you could ascend a Fire Tower without having to actually climb a mountain.  In our case, however, our view was contingent upon having completed over four miles of snowshoeing to get there.  The founder of our snowshoe series, Edward Alibozek, always liked it when our courses included a history lesson, so score one for Eddie!
        While the erratic winter has been blamed on Global Warming, I would prefer the term Climate Change.  Each day our local Saratogian newspaper spotlights notable happenings from 100 years ago.  On February 14, 1916 the local reporter wrote, “After unseasonably mild weather for most of December and January, frigid temperatures arrived in Saratoga County…”  Lows of – 40 were reported.  And I’m pretty certain they hadn’t invented wind chill yet!  So nothing that has happened this winter hasn’t happened before.  I would call that reassuring… lending hope for the 2017 series.
        Still, combined subzero temperatures and insane wind chill at Camp on the day before Valentine’s Day caused multiple worries.  I fretted that the chronoprinters would fail, that the drinks would freeze before the woodstove kicked in, that the volunteers would succumb to frostbite. As Jen and I completed what would be the first of many Camp tours, I found myself wishing that Jeff were still with us to lend his advice.  Jen pointed at her hand-me-down snowshoes, still marked with the initials JC, and said,” But he is right here with us.”
    Thankfully, none of this happened, although Jim Griffith reported for course marshal duties wearing sneakers and no gloves.  It’s not like he didn’t know better.  He had all the gear, having spent a tour at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Ultimate volunteers, Alice and Don Zeiger, who have served as road crossing guards for all thirteen snowshoe races as well as for our Summer Trail Series, set the standard, braving that wind-swept road waiting for the last runner to cross.  They are in their eighties.  That fact alone made me feel somewhat guilty, but they were able to take turns warming up in their friendly, heated car.
        Finally, sweeps Jen Ferriss and Pamela DelSignore emerged from the woods led by Chloe, our WMAC Newfoundland mascot.  At ten years old, and a veteran of two leg surgeries, she handily negotiated the tricky 4.5 mile route, turning back multiple times, concerned that the sweeps weren’t keeping up.  Some of us were hoping for a rescue keg, but camp is an alcohol-free zone.
        Unfortunately, one loyal sidekick will no longer be among us.  Fierce Annie was minding her own business in a downtown parking lot when a truck rammed into her backside.  So I arrived at both races incognito, escorted by New Car, minus stickers and merit badges.  Concerned friends, inquired not as to New Car’s pedigree, but instead wanted to make more direct contact, asking, “What’s his name?”  I was touched.  Initially, there were many suggestions.  I rejected Annie II as sequels can be unreliable.  LAnnie was considered as well as Trixie, a variant on Matrix and a heroine of my oldest daughter’s favorite Trixie Belden series.

         But the color black suggests a certain dignity and impenetrable nature, so I ultimately went with my daughter Jacky’s suggestion.  She had been doing research on Jeff’s family history and had discovered a 12th century Sir Thomas from Kent, England.  Coincidently, Jeff’s middle name is Thomas.  I thought it was time for another man in my life.  Sir Thomas and I are still getting acquainted, but he seems to be adapting to his new role.  Like Hudson, the dignified, stiff upper lipped butler in Upstairs, Downstairs, Sir Thomas keeps me reined in, on track and on time.
        So when you next see me at a race, come on over and make the acquaintance of Sir Thomas.  His manners are impeccable.

     By laura clark

  • 06 Mar 2016 8:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Frosty the snowman knew the sun was hot that day
    So he said, “Let's run and have some fun before I melt away.”
    Down to the village with a broomstick in his hand
    Running here and there all around the square
    Saying “Catch me if you can.”
        Frosty was the only thing remotely snowy at this year’s Brave the Blizzard.  Even so, he put his game face on and managed to make the best of a less than ideal situation.  Before he melted away, he discovered the joys of constructing sand castles in the playground, emerging from his new experience satisfied, but slightly discolored. Then, trying to enhance an awkward, snowless start, he culled lingering patches of snow to toss into the air over the snowshoe-less participants…
        Sir Thomas escorted Shaun Donegan and me to Tawasentha Park, the new venue.  Turned out he was the lucky car to be in as Shaun and I both placed first overall in the 5.5 miler.  Which definitely bodes well for future trips.  In fact, I may have hopeful candidates clamoring for his services!                                        
    Brave the Blizzard has traveled all over the Capital Region in a mostly unsuccessful search for snow. First Pinebush, Then Guilderland Elementary and now Tawasentha Park.  I was excited to revisit Tawasentha, the site of Bob Oates’ August Monday Night Trail Series where my cross country daughter, Jill, prepped for the fall season, trying to pretend that she had been training throughout the entire summer.  Each week the course of indeterminate distance varied slightly but always featured the infamous roped water crossing, a vengeful swarm of ground bees and panicked deer or two.  Might as well have been August all over again, with trampled fields and slick mud.  This suspicion was confirmed when one participant arrived on his bike exclaiming, “This is the first time I ever rode my bike to a snowshoe race!”             Not only were we showcased a new venue, but we had a new race director, Claire Watts,
    and a new distance—a 5K or a 5.5 mile option.  Before, BTB ranged from 5K to about 4 miles, but only those equipped with a GPS had any real clue. As with most other ARE productions, we were officially timed for participating in an event we weren’t actually running---in this case, the Fort Bragg 10 Miler.  Some of us even had other names, but I was just plain old Bib #7, leftover from some highly ranked person who never showed.  I wasn’t sure if this was lucky, with #7 having all sorts of rabbit’s foot connotations, but I was a willing believer. 
    Again, typical of ARE, both options begin together and then branch off, with the first few miles being a rather tame version of what was in store for the longer distance folks.  In the beginning, we mostly traveled across a golf course setting, which should have been easy except that Alice-like we were traversing on a slant over grass anchored to unstable muddy ground.  The real fun began as the 5.5 milers took the fork less traveled.  It was as if we had crossed some invisible boundary and the terrain transformed into a steep, muddy challenge.  Luckily, Sir Thomas got us to the park in record time so Shaun, with energy to spare, had a chance to survey the route.  We had both brought multiple pairs of options, except that Shaun, being a guy, fit all of his into his backpack, while mine sprawled all over the back seat of the car.  Shaun recommended spikes and we turned out to be among the few entrants not wearing naked trail shoes.  This was one of the best moves we could have made as the mud was as slippery as ice and well-suited to icespikes. But what made it so much fun was the fact that you could skate along the surface with no danger of shoe-sucking mud.  In fact, this was as close as we could get to a snowshoe feel without actual snow.
    Heading back over the bridge and into the barn I was feeling strong.  Josh was there to greet the returning runners and he shouted, “Laura, if you’ve never won a race before, this is your day.  Naturally, I sped up even though I was pretty sure there were no other women behind me.  In fact, I was fairly positive I was the only woman, but after an hour or so of running, what did I know?  It was a thrill to cross the finish, although, with the concurrent start of the 5K and 5.5 miler no one really knew I was the winner.  At the awards, I whispered to Claire not to mention that I was the only woman.  She agreed, but in a later email said she would have commented that “I was the only woman BRAVE enough to take on the 5.5 mile course.”  I liked her perspective a lot better than mine!
    And now the rest of the story… This was a victory despite two rookie mistakes.  Not only did I neglect to pack a sorely needed pair of dry socks, but I failed to look at my shoes before I put them on my feet.  My toe plates were scuffed into oblivion, my soles resembled a peeling onion and the side panel was literally hanging on by a thread.  I had been wondering why my feet seemed to be so cold whenever I wore my spikes but credited it to the fact that I could not wear thick socks with these smaller-sized shoes.  Not so.  They were in fact more like Born to Run sandals.  I was just grateful Coach Couch wasn’t there to critique my gear choice!
    By laura clark

  • 06 Mar 2016 8:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    by Debbie Clarke Moderow
    For runners, braving the elements comes as part of the territory. Training and adequate preparation are a given. With the exception of relay races or team competitions, we accept the loneliness of the long distance runner.  But even within team boundaries, much of the training is a solo event.  Ultra athletes often have meticulous planning charts to include crews and pacers, but still the onus is primarily on them to pull through.   
        Dogsled competition takes this to an entirely different level.  After reading Debbie Moderow’s account of procuring an uncountable number of dog booties, lead ropes, batteries, etc. I will no longer grumble about packing my gym bag with gear to accommodate several possible weather scenarios.  Ultra runners who send their nutrition and clothes ahead to several way stations will think that planning trivial compared to the sledder who must feed not only herself but fourteen other dogs.  It almost seems a relief to get to the start line!
        I am fascinated by the Iditarod and have read many different accounts and even attended talks by those who have actually succeeded in the ultimate adventure.  Always, there is a telling picture of the musher and his champion lead dog.  What is missing is more of a sense of the entire team, of what it takes to care for, motivate and enjoy the doggie moments.  And this is where Moderow’s account shines.  While her husband and children are also Iditarod racers, it is Moderow who is the kennel master.
        In sharing her journey we not only experience the expected tricky terrain, but we gain another perspective on the “Last Great Race on Earth,” one where the musher’s primary focus is on the dogs and the experience and on each member of the team.  We learn that line positions are fluid, according to skill, energy and group dynamics.  While it is a given that each and every musher care for their dogs physical needs first, Moderow also takes emotional needs into account, amusing checkpoint personnel when she ceremoniously unfurls Juliet’s private sleeping bag.  Imagine—a sled dog who gets cold at night!
        Her experience lends fuel to the adage, “It is the journey, not the destination.”

    Reviewed by laura clark
  • 13 Feb 2016 6:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     …we once more enthusiastically bounded off on the Hoosac/Wilmington narrow gauge rail trail delighted to be mounting Dions and not Yaks in this Year of El Nino, 2016.  The more than adequate snow coverage was delightful but did make it appear as if we were running on a totally different trail than during a snow year.  Somehow, there seemed to be fewer rollers, mostly because there was less accumulated snow.  Passing on the narrow trail was no longer problematic as the surface area was much wider due to the lack of snowbanks.  It was a good day for the speedsters; less so for those who rely on guts and leg strength. 
        The normally hair-raising car ride past the windmill mountains was tame, too, as the absence of layered ice produced a complacent, Ho-Hum trip.  That was probably just as well for me as I left my house, eager to get to Kohl’s and pick up the rest of my carpool, only to realize I had forgotten to pick up Jen Ferriss, just a mile past my house! I was not going to tell her, but embarrassingly she noticed Annie speeding by. Although due to my forgetfulness, Annie had not of prayer of beating Laurel Shortell’s Sam into the parking lot, she did manage to secure the last available spot in prime school territory. 
        I thought we had plenty of time and was taken by surprise when Bob Dion issued a bus-boarding call.  Turned out he was having the same kind of day I was as he thought his race began at the usual 10 and instead of 10:30.  In my hurry to get ready, I forgot to secure my gators, which caused the excess material to flap against the snow, leading me to trip repeatedly as if I had been at the tail end of a marathon effort.  Actually, this had never been a problem before so how should I have known?  I spent frustrating minutes trying to get in the flow, but every time I succeeded I stumbled.  The stress eventually proved too much for my front strap, as it scraped against the snow and loosened. 
        After I had fixed that, I thought I was home free.  Until I fell.  Hard. On my good knee.  Luckily, Richard Godin was behind me and scraped me up and surprisingly, everything seemed to work OK.  Gentleman that he is, he stayed behind to make sure I could still function and then politely passed me.  Surprisingly, my knee felt fine the next day and I ran three hours.  Monday, it was still fine and I was able to enter our inaugural Lunchtime Library Stair Climb workout.  Which was a good thing as it was my idea.
        The race seemed fairly long for a three mile effort, but then again I wasn’t having my best day.  Later on, though, and much to my relief, I learned that the course had reconfigured to something closer to 3.5 miles.  The Saratoga Stryders carpooled a large contingent, with five of us winning railroad spikes.  Jen Ferriss broke her bad luck record, probably handing it to me, and joyfully spiked.  So too did Maureen Roberts, Michael DellaRocco and Karen Provencher.  Steve Mitchell, at 74 years young, had the biggest success story, picking it up during the last mile of track and overtaking Laurel Shortell.  Watch out for Steve as he is seriously training for Ironman Lake Placid and will be even tougher to beat as the season progresses.  My 60 year age group has spiraled out of my league, with Karen Provencher and Kathleen Furlani leading the pack.  I figure in two years, I will turn 70 and have a year to collect hardware before Kathleen catches up.  Notably, and apropos of nothing, two of the spikers, Jen and Kathleen were wearing white.  I am so jealous!  I so much admire folks who can wear snow white without griming it after a hard effort.
        …With a Hoot, a Toot and a Whistle, onward to more snowy white, and not just in clothing selection.

    By laura clark

  • 07 Feb 2016 8:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The Bacon Hill Bonanza 5k and 10k Road Race, Walk and Kid’s Fun Run will be held Saturday, April 9. 
    This has become a popular race for Stryders because of its homemade pies for age group winners and its beautiful scenery.  Stryders also get a $2 discount when they pre-register.  The discount code is: Stryder16.
    Chip timing will be provided by Green Leaf Racing, LLC.  On-line registration is available at
    For more information, go to:  The race can also be found on Facebook. 
    The 5k course is flat and fast.  The 10k course features rolling hills and is challenging. It takes runners through a working dairy farm off River Road.
    All of the events, which will be staged from historic Bacon Hill Reformed Church, north of Schuylerville, will raise money for steeple repairs, with a portion also designated for Hudson Crossing Park, a bi-county park on the Hudson River just south of the church.
  • 28 Jan 2016 6:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As it stands now, Winterfest on Feb 7 will be a trail race, spikes, yaks, etc mandatory.  If  you do the course this weekend and shake your head in disbelief, know that I have planned at least 3 reroutings to avoid the ice sheets.  Who knows, it could snow. Or rain.  Or a tornado could transport us out West.  Stay tuned.

  • 23 Jan 2016 9:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
        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
  • 20 Jan 2016 6:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    In typical Star Wars fashion, Racing the Rain is the prequel to John Parker’s 1970’s cult classic, Once a Runner and his much later follow-up, Again to Carthage.  All trace the fortunes of a fictional Quenton Cassidy one of the south Florida running heroes of the Frank Shorter era.  Having lived there myself for a brief period of time, it is a mystery to me how such great runners could emerge from the sticky, humid swamps, but then I guess if you could deal with those conditions, you could deal with almost anything.
        Once a Runner leaves you almost as breathless as Cassidy as you experience the beyond-arduous workouts he endured in his quest for the Olympics.  As a miler, he covers as much weekly distance as today’s typical ultra runner.  The follow-up, Again to Carthage, discovers a considerably older, corporate version of Cassidy as he attempts a “what-if" comeback bid for another Olympics.  Disappointingly, the sequel, while true to form in its race sequences, seems to lack the spirit of the original.
        Not so for the prequel which profiles Cassidy and his friends growing up wild and independent, exploring their South Florida landscape---the way kids used to be allowed to do before today’s current helicopter parents arrived on the scene.  Cassidy is fortunate in his friendship with his mentor Trapper Nelson, a real-life character who made his living off the land.  Trapper not only taught young Cassidy survival skills and values but reached back through his past to hook his young friend up with some top-level coaches.  Cassidy, in turn, must decide whether to attend the all-important state meet or support his friend when things get tough.  
        Once more, Parker is back on track, capturing the intensity of training and racing as well as illustrating the mental toughness and personal fortitude that complement the true hero in this coming-of-age novel.
    Reviewed by laura clark
  • 15 Jan 2016 7:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Snowshoeing 101
        What makes snowshoeing so appealing is that there are no special skill sets or expensive lessons involved.  If you can walk on land, you can hike on snowshoes.  If you can run, then you can certainly run on snowshoes.  Just be aware you will expend considerably more energy (and calories!) than you would on dry land, and that would be in proportion to how deep the snow happens to be.
        Getting down to the basics:
    What to Wear on Your Body:
        If you are active outdoors in the winter you already have most of your gear.  Even if it is not snowing, you’re going to fall down and get wet.  This means really good wicking stuff.  And wear less of it.  After that first plunge into the woods, which I liken to jumping into Jones Beach waves in early June, you will get really hot really fast and it is no fun getting overheated.  On the coldest sub-zero days I will wear a tight-fitting race tee, a thick polar tech long-sleeved shirt from Target, a windbreaker, lined tights, a neck gaiters and a beanie. Arm warmers are handy as they can be pulled down for ventilation and leg warmers will provide extra protection when your tights get wet.  Some folks will wear a pair of tights under waterproof pants but personally I feel like the proverbial roly-poly kid in a snowsuit when I dress like that.  My hands are treated to hand warmers, gloves and a lightweight mitten shell, but that’s just me as I have poor circulation.  But even if you don’t, hand warmers provide a nice glowy feeling while hanging around at the start line giving you the confidence to dress lightly.

    What to Wear on Your Feet:
        As far as footwear goes, boots are OK for hikers but awkward for runners.  “Ye Good Olde Days” were truly laughable, as we experimented with plastic bag booties over sneakers and argued over which store produced a more durable product.  Tinkering led to the sleeker duct tape approach which is still in use today.  Finally, figuring we could always learn something new, we took a hint from mountain biker Maureen Roberts and bought bike booties to fit over our sneakers, establishing a new gold standard for toasty piggies.   Now, of course, shoe companies have all manner of winterized models complete with gaiters. If your feet are always cold, the first line of defense is the Toe Warmer, followed by thick smart wools and neoprene socks.  In a light bulb moment, I finally realized that a larger winter-dedicated sneaker size would be appropriate.  On the cheap, you can re-purpose a sneaker with worn-down tread as your snowshoes will be providing the traction.

    What to Wear on Your Sneakers:
        If you intend to race, according to United States Snowshoe guidelines, snowshoes must display a minimum of 120 square inches of functional surface area.  Whatever that means.  Before you unearth your slide rule, know that all snowshoes meet that requirement.  The main purpose is to prevent folks from insisting that yaktrax are really snowshoes in disguise.  Starting out, you need one versatile model, so I suggest a pair of Dion racers, even if you do not intend to race.  ( They are nimble, lightweight and come with interchangeable small and large cleats for a variety of conditions.  Designed by the “Father of New England Trail Running,” they are made for athletes by a seasoned athlete.  Back to “Ye Good Olde Days,” before Bob came along we wrapped our shins with surgical tape hoping to offset the banging from poorly secured, overly wide offerings.  Even if you have no desire to run, I would suggest visiting for a listing of local races supported by Dion.  Hikers are welcome and most longer races have shorter options to accommodate beginners.  Sign yourself up for a pair of $5 rentals and in the bargain you will get expert advice.  Also, plan on arriving early to check out what folks are wearing.

    What to Take:
        Bring a complete set of dry clothes and change immediately after you finish.  By the time you find your car and get your snowshoes off you will be chilled.  Most likely, you will be changing in your car whether you are at a race or hiking at a trailhead.  Water is problematic since it ends up getting frozen.  To supplement occasional sno-cone snatches, snowshoer and hiker Jen Ferriss suggests eschewing water and using an electrolyte mix to lower freezing temperature.  Secure your bottle underneath your clothes and turn it upside down so that the bottom, which now has the spout, will freeze last and sip often to keep up the flow. Similarly, if I am racing and know I will need a lift halfway through, I hide a few shot bloks in my gloves.  No need to stop and fumble with clothes and they are already warm enough to chew without breaking a tooth.

    What to Do:
        Relax and have fun!  If you are racing, toss any miles/minute preconceptions.  Do not feel embarrassed to walk.  Unlike road races, snowshoe events have a way of evening out the odds. Only the winners run the whole thing; most conserve energy by hiking the hills.  If you opt to go with the first pack, you will often find yourself struggling along in train formation, helping to break trail  Many middle-of-the-packers actually end up doing their race at a seemingly faster pace than the leaders struggling through snow drifts.  Even if you do not care about your place, don’t assume that since you are new you should start at the very back.  Passing on a narrow trail involves plowing into sometimes knee-deep snow and overtaking the person ahead who is on an easier path.  I’ve discovered that passing on a downhill stretch where the curve follows the direction of the trail is the easiest route.  But think carefully about energy expenditure.  If you are patient, the pack will loosen and then folks will readily move aside for you.

    To Trail or Not to Trail:
        Snowshoeing also offers an unparalleled opportunity to step off the beaten trail and explore the woods.  Landscape that would be difficult to negotiate in the fall is now smoothed out and frozen.  You will be surprised at many hidden places, formerly accessible only to animals, are waiting for you.  And best of all, you can explore without fear of getting lost as all you have to do is trace your snowprints back.

        Most of all, you will discover a sport where everyone from National Class racer to  mid-packer to hiker is encouraging and friendly, just happy to be outdoors enjoying a Winter Wonderland.

    By laura clark

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