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  • 28 Feb 2018 2:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Not all ultrarunners are humans. Meet Gobi, a sturdy, sandy-colored mutt with Chihuahua-style ears, a flagship tail and the focused stare of a runner determined to put in the miles however difficult they might prove. Incredibly, this resolute dog materialized somewhere in the middle of China’s Gobi Desert, scanned the competitors in a 155 mile stage ultra and selected Australian runner Dion Leonard as his companion for the next 80 odd miles of adventure.

    At first, I thought that as an enterprising stray he simply showed up for a free handout. Perhaps, but that cannot be the entire story. Running 80 miles is not exactly an easy meal ticket and most likely would barely replace the incurred calorie deficit. Moreover, competitors were required to pack their own food, so any sharing would become a considered sacrifice. And even if he thrived on the adventure component, hanging out with the tent crew would have been a far easier solution. My theory is that as a would-be therapy dog, Gobi scanned the available runners and instinctively selected Dion Leonard, a distrustful, habitual loner with a troubled past.

    Leonard, a practiced competitor, was in the race for the win, a last-chance opportunity to prove to the world that he could still be competitive. Early-on he makes it clear that, “I’m not here for fun.” For him, fun and competing were mutually exclusive. Enter Gobi, who paced Leonard to a second-place finish and a new perspective on life. Inspired by Gobi’s therapy dog appeal, Leonard began interacting with his fellow athletes and even risked his standings to carry the canine across tough stretches.

    Even though Gobi had no idea what a therapy dog was, she fit the profile. As Leonard states, “The race across the Gobi Desert was different…The experience had changed my life. So it was only right that in return I should do everything I could to help change Gobi’s.” And so begins the second part of their journey: Leonard’s struggle to bring Gobi home to Edinburgh with him. The journey would make an incredible movie plot, but it is totally factual, involving fundraising, immigration laws, media sites, kidnapping and the amazing warmth of a group of Chinese friends who devoted days to searching for the missing dog who had captured the hearts of the planet.

    There is an adult version of Finding Gobi, a kids ‘version, and, you guessed it; Twentieth Century Fox has now bought the movie rights. So now it is up to you. Confronted by the chicken and egg dilemma, is it best to read the book prior to seeing the movie, or view the film before reading the details in the book? As for me, I have read the book and can’t wait to see the movie!

    by laura clark

  • 28 Feb 2018 2:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As the ARE’s Brave the Blizzard update puts it, “We have been trying to put on a snowshoe race in a blizzard for 14 years now. We're 0% on that. 50% on having snow. 100% on fun.”  And so it goes….

    But if you have to run a snowshoe race on mud, this is the place to do it, offering a mix of terrain every bit as challenging as on snowshoes.  In fact, two years ago when BTB was also a non-snowshoe event in Tawesentha Park, I ran the 5.5 miler in 1:05.  This year I clocked in at 1:18, with the intervening snowshoe year a solid 1:34.  This year at Camp Saratoga, in an 8K (4.97 miles), in 15” of snow, I managed 1:21.What do all these statistics mean?  I wish I knew. Perhaps it means either that in the course of two years I lost 13 minutes of speed or that the first Tawesentha was significantly easier than the third.  It also might mean that snowshoes make things considerably easier, at least for me. I would appreciate any and all interpretations you have to offer.

    At any rate, this year’s BTB might go down in history as the only trail race that was actually tougher than a snowshoe race in deep snow.  In 2016 I smugly wore my faithful Ice Spikes and proceeded slippage-free.  This year was the first time ever that my Ice Spikes came up short, and not in length.  The unavoidable remnants of snow were slushy and sticky and clumped to my soles like snowballs, which, of course, they were.  Around me, others were reaching similar conclusions.  Jamie Howard soon jettisoned his microspikes and after his first fall, wished he had gone with his screws.  He felt much better afterwards (mentally, not physically) when I enlightened him with my experience.

    About the only person satisfied with his choice of footwear was Matt Miczek, who wore his brand-new Asics Gel Fuji Runnegade 2. (Disclaimer: This is by no means a product endorsement, but notice how I went to such great pains to get the spelling correct).  He wore these sneakers stark naked (the sneakers, not him) with no traction devices whatsoever.  Matt ran ahead of me throughout the race and while I couldn’t see him, the Asics’ geometrically laid-out triangle pattern was clearly visible, crisp and not listing from side to side like my feet seemed to be doing.  Eventually, I gave up thinking and just followed in his unfaltering footsteps.
    The 2018 trail was also different from the 2016 trail in that instead of ice sheets which perform well with traction, the course was basically some snow with soggy grass plastered with mud.  Think of those greasy, slicked-down Elvis hair styles.  Except for the very steep climbs, where the terrain quit fooling around and dished out pure mud.                     

    Either way, mud or snow, there is literally no way to train properly for this race unless you set your treadmill at a 70 degree angle sloping to the left.  And who runs like that?  This sloping occurs twice on the golf course area.  Going out it is merely amusing, but on the downhill return it is a different matter entirely.  As I write this I am icing (brrr!) my ankle, sore from twisting my right foot inward. 
    The only consolation was that we weren’t the only ones having difficulty.  After the award pies and cookies were distributed and all the pancakes were consumed, the ambulance decided it was time to make a retreat.  Except it couldn’t .  Mired in mud, it threatened to become a permanent part of the landscape.  Fueled by all those pancakes, some macho runners managed to push it back on the road, only to find themselves wishing for yet another pair of clean clothes.  Lucky thing there were no actual emergencies.

    And so the curtain closes on yet another Brave the Mud.  Tune in next year for a possible blizzard—one can only hope!

    By laura clark

  • 22 Feb 2018 1:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        This weekend I learned that I am not as tough as I thought I was.  I also learned that cavemen are much stronger than their already brawny appearance might suggest.  Last year I handily survived the Caveman 6K and figured this year I should up the ante to the 15K,   especially with the Nationals Half-Marathon looming ever closer on the horizon.
        Make no mistake; I am not new to extreme events, having survived the Peak Snowshoe Marathon (www.peak.com) three times.  Peak is nothing to take lightly.  It is home to the 100 mile Winter Snowshoe Ultra not to mention the Winter Death Race.  Located near Killington, the course consists of 6.5 mile loops with 1200 feet of elevation gain per loop.  Nothing to sneer at, but still I found it mentally “easy”  as half of each loop was an uphill slog, topped off with a steep, but totally runnable descent.  I convinced myself that I was only really putting my nose to the grindstone for half of each loop.  It worked.
        It does not, however, work for the Stone Bridge Caveman Extreme 15K Snowshoe Race, which features seven major climbs, each punctuated by a fast downhill drop.  At Peak, I was at no time tempted to utter Raven’s Nevermore.  Upon stumbling down the final descent at Stone Bridge, I was more than eager to join forces with said Raven.  Shortly afterward, I adjusted my attitude and waffled, “Well, if there is a foot of snow, why not?”  As with childbirth, the pain is quickly forgotten in the glow of accomplishment.  Just so you know, I have three children.
        Stone Bridge is a traditional family-owned business that centers around the Stone Bridge Cave, the largest natural cave in the Northeast.  Summer-use cabins, hiking/skiing/snowshoeing trails and guided cave excursions complete the picture.  Owner Greg Beckler is proud to show off his site, telling us all, “Welcome to my backyard.”  Despite the warm spell, all the main trails boasted ideal snow conditions.  Still, I was a trifle worried at registration when I received my own personalized copy of the green 15K trail map.  The same thing happened to me at the first Moreau Trail Race where I spent considerable time investigation alternate routes.
        And sure enough, at the first intersection, I chose to head straight ahead instead of turning left as the blue bib (6K) folks were doing.  I even paused, considering, but then spotted a green ribbon just ahead that I assumed justified my choice.  But not for long.  I soon discovered I was ahead of most of the Green Team.  Lance spotted me, gave me a penalty lap and said I was good to go after that.  I figure that I maybe lost a few hundred meters in the process, but as I wasn’t a winner, what did it matter?  Besides, I could just see Lance calculating how much longer the finish line would have to stay open…
        The course was a series of intersections, rather like the Camp Saratoga route, but with the added complexity of interweaving blue and green paths.  Despite my mishap, it was extremely well marked with blue and green arrows, ribbon and spray paint.  Another helpful feature was that each participant sported either a bright green or bright blue bib.  So if you saw someone twisting ahead, you could take a mental snapshot of what lay in store.  This happened to me a few times. At one point, Karen Provencher hailed me and I was cheered, projecting I wasn’t that far behind her.  A clear example of muddled thinking at its best.  Try as I might I never did figure out where she was when our paths crossed.  At another point, I spotted a lady far ahead climbing a ledge and wondered where she had come from.  Not anywhere nearby, I soon learned.  It was a dizzying kaleidoscope of runners, all following green and blue trails from highly individual angles.  Next year I intend to study the map, matching the trail names to their sections so that I will have a better idea of where I am in the grand scheme of intersecting lines.  That is, if I can bear to view the section from 10-13K which more closely resembles mapped elevation lines rather than a real trail.
        It seemed as if I were the only 15Ker toting water, unless there were some hidden fanny packs.  I was glad I did, but with three blue coolers placed at key intersections, there was plenty of refreshment both coming and going. But with the monochromatic color scheme, it was again dizzying trying to figure out if the current cooler was a new one or an old friend viewed from a different perspective.  Fortunately, there were kilometer markers to help you keep track.  If you had just passed 5K and all of a sudden discovered yourself at 11K you knew something was wrong, or else perhaps you had just blanked out from the stress of climbing.
       And speaking about climbs, the final ascent/descent was totally insane.  With little snow cover to speak of, I found myself grateful that I had chosen not to wear my Nationals-earmarked racing Dions.  But still, about halfway up I had cause to worry when I spotted a serious sign that proclaimed: “Experts only.  Do not ascend after 2PM. Headlamps mandatory. Far from lodge.” There I was, exhausted, minus the required headlamp.  I knew this should have been the final climb as I had passed the 13K marker.  Still, if I was far from the lodge, was I embarking on a time-warped 13K? 
       Then, summit at last, and a glorious downhill to look forward to.  Except it was more of a downhill slog if that is possible, with little snow cover and twigs weaving in and out of my Dions threatening to trip me up.  More like one of those Hug a Tree trail descents where I was tempted more than once to simply remove my snowshoes for safety’s sake.  The only things holding me back were that (a) I was not coordinated enough at this point to risk bending down and (b) I didn’t want to invalidate my snowshoe race standing.  Greg met me at the bottom, obviously concerned, and provided me with a thoughtful snowmobile escort.  I, for my part, tried not to throw up from the gas fumes. 
        Knowing what to expect, I know next year I can acquit myself better…or perhaps just run two 6K loops.  Anything to avoid that final descent.  On the plus side, I feel totally ready for the Nationals Half Marathon.  How much more difficult could that be?

    By laura clark

  • 18 Feb 2018 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Whew!  Two races in two weeks.  Almost (but not quite) as crazy as Tim Van Orden’s Nationals with six races in two days.  For those of you who were wondering why I chose to subject myself to this, the scheduling of Camp Saratoga is dependent upon the full moon.  This has nothing to do with Shades of Grey or a healthy fear of vampires but the necessity of avoiding a conflict with Wilton Wildlife’s backup Candlelight Ski & Snowshoe date.  And while life was intense for a while, it meant that I only had to endure two weeks of race box household clutter.  And now I am DONE!  And at liberty to enjoy everyone else’s races. While such a schedule precluded long pre-half-marathon training runs, leading up to Camp, I logged 25 miles on snowshoes in five days.  So that must count for something.                        

          At this time of year I am always jealous of road race directors.  Barring an earthquake or a mudslide, they always have a road.  Yes, I have a trail, but it is totally dependent on whatever snow and ice Mother Nature dishes up. At Winterfest, unfortunately, it was more about the ice.  For the four days leading up to the event, I waffled between traction and snowshoes.  For much of that time it was teetering on the edge, with some sections deep enough for snowshoes and others begging for heavy-duty traction.  I was concerned about runner safety, but at the same time I didn’t want anyone to have regrets.  By Saturday, however, the ice got thicker and the snow got thinner so the choice was clear.                               

          On the final decision day, Don Proulx and I added final touches, all the while thinking. “What would Hilary do?”  We marked with an eye toward any place she might again make a wrong turn and this year no one added bonus miles. Wish she had made it for the final test. Even more remarkable, everyone was super careful and no one went down on the ice.  Shaun Donegan took a chance with lightweight track spikes, overtaking Tim VanOrden who opted for heavier ice gear.  Or perhaps it was just the fact Shaun was unencumbered by heavy clothes, running only in shorts and shoes while Tim dressed more conventionally.
        Speculation ran high before the following Saturday’s Camp Saratoga event, as folks occupied their pre-race time guessing what Shaun would wear.  I thought shorts and knee socks, but he surprised us all by wearing a singlet.  Guess that hindered him a bit because this time he finished a mere two seconds ahead of Tim.  Times were slow as we had about 15” of snow, much of it heavy, causing snowshoes to gasp for purchase. 
        This year we had a completely revamped course as the ice the previous week had me shuddering at the final steep hill to the finish.  A few, including me, were sad about the demise of the steep hill past the dining hall, but most were relieved.  On the plus side, the route designed by Matt Miczek, who is also a Wilton Trail Steward, showcased different sections of Camp, most especially, the historic fire tower, constructed in 1924 and originally erected in Luther Forest.  To save it from disrepair, it was moved to Camp to honor Luther’s son, Tommy who was the founder of the Camp Saratoga Boy Scout Camp.  Interestingly, its first observer was Noah LaCasse, an Adirondack guide who was with then Vice President Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Marcy when they learned of President McKinley’s death.  Small world! 
        You can tell Matt is a computer guy just by glancing at the map and perusing the two pages of color highlighted written instructions.  Those of you who enthusiastically struggled to follow John Orsini’s original Mudslinger map will know what I am talking about.  But after five days and twenty-five miles of marking and the efforts of Jan Mares (on skis!), Michael Della Rocco and Brian Teague, no one took a wrong turn.  We are lucky to have such dedicated volunteers.  Even when struck down by the flu Friday, Matt said, “I just have to see the doctor and then I will put out the cones in the afternoon.”  A ridiculous, die-hard statement, but very touching.
        While we all returned intact, Peggy McKeown did so less successfully.  Apparently her toe warmers burnt holes through her socks and she experienced 2nd degree chemical burns.  While the warning label that no one reads advises not to use while hiking or running, apparently if you are going to do so, it is best to remove them at the first sign of trouble.  How many of us, like Peggy, would be so focused on our race that we would just grit our teeth and carry on?  Or it could be that Peggy is simply so fast that she generates more heat than someone like me. Dr. Maureen performed emergency first aid and stayed with Peggy at Wilton Emergency Medical while Wilton Wildlife volunteer Jean Hoins and runner Martin O’Toole shuffled Peggy’s belongings and car to the hospital where Peggy’s sister took over.  Dr. Maureen is going to do some research and write an article so we will have a better idea what we are facing for the sake of warm piggies.
             On a more humorous note, Theresa Apple, the lady who sends those weekly email updates, decided to adopt a pseudonym and ran as Snow Fahl.  After the race, when Theresa checked her Snow Fahl results, she noticed Lisa Winters finished directly behind her. When Theresa mentioned that to Peggy Huckel, Lisa Winters, heard her and piped up, “I’m Lisa Winters!”  Peggy rejoined with, “You have to sign your real name on the race waiver.”  Lisa replied, “But that is my real name.”

           One thing both races have in common is the pot luck spread supervised by Peggy and Patricia Keefe and the vast array of raffle prizes of the new as well as the gently used variety.  I overheard someone comment that next year she would save stuff she doesn’t want and make a contribution.  But the best reward of all is the opportunity to share a winter day outdoors with old and new friends. 

    Think Snow!
    By laura clark


  • 05 Feb 2018 1:40 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        There is so much more complexity to a race than the act of putting one foot in front of the other.  Just ask the mascot rooster of Cock-A-Doodle-Shoe Snowshoe Race in Saranac, New York.  Winter is generally a slow time of year for him no matter what the circumstances, but this year with the out-of-category Arctic air, his harem was totally uninterested in his personal agenda. So he had a lot of time on his hands to plan and plot, which led to some elaborate logistics for his namesake event.
        Instead of heading directly to Plumadore Road and the smallish trailhead parking lot, we were diverted to the staging area at Dannemora Community Center and bused in waves according to our 5K or 10K start times. Most of us didn’t realize it until the drive to the center, but the town is home to the infamous Dannemora Prison, where in 2015 two dangerous convicts escaped and set off a three-week $80,000 manhunt.  Sensibly, they escaped in June and not in winter.  They wouldn’t have lasted three days in January!  At first glance, the prison which dominated the rather bleak landscape looked more like a turreted castle and a much better residence than the surrounding wooden homes.  But then we were confronted with the prison yard.  Incredibly, it abutted directly onto the road and was ringed by serious guard towers.  I was thinking they were probably leftover vestiges from another era, but no.  Jessica Northan spotted a guard in one of them, hauling something up on a rope—maybe his lunch?  Makes you wonder who is actually the prisoner.


        And speaking of lunchtime, while the 5k went off at 10:30, the 10K was scheduled for High Noon.  OK, so maybe it warmed up a degree or two by then, but really what is the difference between a few subzero degrees?  At our arrival time, the temperature in town hovered at -14 and didn’t “warm up” until the drive home when it smugly checked in at 6 degrees.  We had competed at Gore’s 2PM start a few weeks earlier, and that was doable, allowing for a proper lunch. Granted, Race Director Jeremy Drowne did a remarkable job of supplying the holding tank cafeteria with all the food options one could possibly desire, but the stomach timing just seemed off.  I reasoned that noon isn’t that far away from 11AM, the Winterfest start, but knew I was in trouble when upon arrival at the race site, Jen Ferriss started complaining that she was hungry.  Luckily, I had the foresight to stash a molasses cookie in my backpack before I left the cafeteria, so I was slightly better off.
        We rode to and fro on a sleek, silver-toned Veterans’ transport bus piloted by a driver who must have served in Patton’s Third Army Tank division as he thoroughly enjoyed hitting every bump, some of which sent us flying to the roof.  No one wanted to wait around in the cold so there was standing room only, which spawned a game of Telephone, as Jessica passed word down the line to make sure her husband Brian had made the bus and Ezra Hulbert passed word up to tell his Dad he had made it.
        And that brings ups to other unsung heroes of the day: our steadfast vehicles.  While most autos were enjoying a lazy Sunday in a cozy garage, ours were yet again heroically pushing though miles of sub-zero travel, where wipers froze to dashboards, fluid froze in squirters. Even my car Sir Thomas took a hit to his heating system when the fan refused to work, nearly freezing out the passengers in the back seat.  I am awarding my snowshoe Championship medal to Sir Thomas….
        Matt Miczek and I drove together and since this was his first Cockadoodle I tried to brief him on course highlights.  I remembered to warn him about the steep uphill followed by the treacherous downhill, but other than that I failed miserably.  Despite having run the route multiple times, I commented that the course was mostly flat.  And in a sense it was as it only contained one steep up and down, but the final two miles at least were a relentless gradual uphill –not anything to raise a blip on the elevation graph, but enough, especially at the end, to ensure a struggle.


         Matt and I ran parallel races, despite the fact that we were nowhere near each other.  After a two week bout with the flu he tried to uphold his Adirondack Sports & Fitness cover picture status by finishing ahead of Jen Ferriss, but he finally succumbed.  Meanwhile, farther back I settled in with Kari Sharry behind me.  If she hadn’t been right there I would eventually have slacked off.  Ahead of me, I noticed that Denise Dion had slowed down.  Puzzled, I eventually spotted a water stop off to the left.  I almost didn’t stop, thinking that the last thing I needed was a frozen hunk of ice, but I was pleasantly surprised to taste warm water.  Imagine!  Those heroic volunteers had managed to provide warm drinks!  This was all the more appreciated since it was pointless to carry water as it would have frozen after the first sip.
        When we came to the ribboned intersection near the end, Denise ducked under the ropes, heeding Jeremy’s pre-race instructions to follow the arrows.  But apparently it was the wrong arrow.  My slower group behind her encountered a runner approaching the arrow from the other side and he told us we had to first run a loop to the left.  So we reeled Denise back in and trudged onward.  By this time my toe warmer had scrunched up underneath my foot, making every step feel like I was running uphill on sticks. I reminded myself it wasn’t like I had torn a muscle or pulled a ligament and that the pain would be over shortly, but I had difficulty believing myself. 


        Finally, Matt and I arrived at our destination left with one nagging thought: How would we ever manage at Nationals with a 10K the first day and a half marathon the second?!
        Stay tuned….

        By laura clark


  • 10 Jan 2018 2:55 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Magic Mountain…The Road Less Traveled

        A sign bearing this iconic line from Robert Frost’s poem greeted us as we turned onto the road leading to Magic Mountain.  And with a -18 degree wake-up call, it certainly did seem as if we were on the road less traveled.  Jen Ferriss, Maureen Roberts, Karen Provencher and I scanned Bromley and Stratton for signs of life and spotted just one skier seemingly stuck somewhere halfway.  And no wonder—it was -26 at the top and that is not counting the self-produced wind chill from the ride downhill. 
        In an effort to simplify and avoid wasting brain cells on unnecessary activity, as urged by Steve Magness in Peak Performance, I have assembled a standard racing kit, one which has proven to be totally irrelevant in our current Arctic situation.  Who would have thought I would have needed three jackets, two pairs of pants, three shirts, two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves?  And that was just for the car ride.  Granted, my heating fan took this day to protest, but who could blame it as it was 50 degrees colder here than in Juneau, Alaska!  Many of us ladies solved the progressively larger three jacket puzzle by pre-empting those owned by spouses or teenage sons. 
        The reason for the Christmas Story waddling penguin look was that Magic Mountain was only the stopping point.  The real race began in Lowell Lake State Park where we were deposited by shuttle and then instructed to hike in to the race site.  There was some grumbling among the troops, just because of the projected temperatures, but RD Mike Owens’ promise of a heated tent, akin to the confidence ribbons on a long trail race, gave us enough assurance to brave the Arctic.  I think we were all picturing a huge tent with blowers.  What we got was a small heated popup perched on the side of the trail, fittingly belonging to the Eskimo brand of outdoor gear.  But really, it wasn’t needed.  The sun was warm, the wind was silent and all was right with the world.

       

    While we were waiting for the second group of passengers to appear, we joked that this was like one of the storied WMAC snowshoe races of yore.  Just a fishing shed off in the distance, teasingly resembling an outhouse and a picnic table covered with snow to deposit the precautionary layers we were now shedding.  We joked about the “good old days” when on frigid days Edward Alibozek would conduct registration from his car and the bib you were handed was supposed to last the entire race season, unless of course you brought an old favorite from home.  Those were the days of barrel heaters when Rich Busa got so close he once burned his Dions and then tried to get a free replacement pair claiming they were defective!
        But who knows?  In just a few years, this race might go down in “good old days lore,” with its pristine singletrack through the woods reminiscent of the old Woodford’s turn around the lake.  We began in a South Pond-style conga line, all enjoying the deep snow until we separated into packs.  With the exception of a few newbies, we all knew each other and scrambled to get into proper alignment. And just like the good old days a big part of this race was the low key socializing as we sat around in the ski lodge’s Black Line Tavern drinking our free beer. The beer was so tasty that we stopped off at the local store to bring the experience home.

       

    Normally after a race I heat up some tomato soup flavored with beer and the last-minute addition of cheddar and toasted pumpernickel bread—easy to prepare and filling to eat.  And the beer I chose to purchase for the occasion?  Farmhouse Ale Bam Biere, named in honor of the crafter’s tenacious Jack Russell, who when hit by a car, got up and persevered.  According to the brewer. “This beer is brewed for those of us who knocked down, have picked up, dusted off and carried on undaunted.”  As we all did today.

    By laura clark

  • 29 Nov 2017 1:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Running the Long Path: A 350-Mile Journey of Discovery in New York’s Hudson Valley, by Kenneth A. Posner.
        "There lies before me a long brown path, leading wherever I choose.”
            Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

        With the recent publicity concerning Karl Meltzer’s successful attempt to surpass Jennifer Pharr Davis’ supported through-hike record on the Appalachian Trail, FTK (Fastest Known Time) adventures have penetrated couch potato consciousness.  But as Kenneth Posner, Shawangunk Ridge Trail and Rock the Ridge race director demonstrates, FTKs do not have to be dramatic, time-consuming events reserved for ultrarunning heroes.  In his journey of discovery along the relatively obscure 350-mile Long Path from NYC to Albany, he proves that such goals are well within the reach of average mortals.
        While there is the predictable emphasis on planning, pacing, nutrition and the myriad  details you would expect from such an account, certain aspects stand out.  While countless explorers label their expedition a “voyage of discovery,” Posner’s truly is.  He is not navigating a well-trodden Appalachian Trail System, but a hit-or-miss, often mischievous, scantily marked route, whose navigation brooks no daydreaming.  Despite the fact he has done his homework, downloaded the requisite maps and consulted with the handful of previous through-hikers, a surprise awaits around almost every bend.                                  And there were a lot of them.  Each chapter, introduced with its own section map accented with start/finish times, represents a day’s travel, and I use that concept loosely as a single day often comes perilously close to the twenty-four hour mark. While Posner encountered few hikers, the trail itself was an odd mix of urban and wild, skirting cornfields, superhighways, cemeteries, abandoned industrial enterprises as well as the notoriously untamed Catskills, home of Manitou’s Revenge and Rip Van Winkle’s twenty year nap.
        Like Posner, I was surprised to learn that I, too, had run sections of the Long Path well before I had even known it existed.  I have survived the Escarpment Trail Race and gazed wistfully at Vroman’s Nose near my husband’s home town of Cobleskill, not even realizing there was a trail to the top.  Most recently, I ran the Thatcher Park Trail Marathon for perhaps the fourth time and was thrilled to discover actual Long Path markers.  Who knew?
        I hate to admit it, with the “So many books, so little time” phrase repeating in my brain, but this is a volume that should be read more than once.  The first, impatiently, to discover how the drama plays out; and the second thoughtfully, for the sheer lyricism of the prose and the complexity of the cultural, historical and philosophical reflections on the region.  Walt Whitman, John Burroughs, General Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt, the Hudson River painters, are very much a presence.  At first, I was amazed that Posner should, after putting in at least 12+ hour days, have the mind power left to appreciate not only the physical forms the land presents but also contemplate those who had gone before.  Then I realized that (DUH!) he did not write the book as he was hiking but enhanced his basic homework with some hefty after-the-fact research. 
        In a sense, then, Posner has also structured his journey twice: once to experience it and again to take it in more deeply.  And this is what we should be doing with our outdoor adventures.  The journey does not end at the finish line but continues with lessons learned and appreciation gained.  In that way a single experience can continue to grow as you contemplate your accomplishment.  And so Walt Whitman’s long brown path continues indefinitely, wherever you happen to take it.

    Reviewed by laura clark

       



  • 20 Sep 2017 10:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

         Apparently, the key to Race Director recognition is: speak softly but carry a big clipboard.  Couch Couch, our race results guru, bought into this theory and got mistaken for me at every Camp gathering despite the fact that he obviously looked nothing like me.  But then what do happy-go-lucky campers know?  So to test this theory I checked out the Jailhouse Rock 5K.  There he was again, clipboard in hand, fielding questions that had nothing to do with his job as course marshal coordinator.  Jen Ferriss, the real race director, was dancing to the Elvis beat, having a great time.  So for both of us the decoy worked!  “All” we had to do was organize the pre-race logistics and then we could coast.
        What I really like about Camp, though, is that the Stryders have been doing it for so long that it magically just happens. Not really, but I like to think that at the start of each summer Tom Law and Pete Finley will set up the flags and Dave Peterson and Will pick them back up.  Ann Marie and her contingent of kid groupies record the times and pick the raffle winners, Steve Mastitis is Watermelon Man, Amy Ballesteros cuts the cake, Joe Favatt takes out the garbage and remembers the grout.*
        Except when a vacation interferes.  For Camp #4 neither Dave nor Will showed and we realized after most folks had left that there was no one to take down the flags.  So John took the shorter section and Matt Miczek and I teamed up for the longer half.  But we forgot that the closer to September you get, the darker it becomes.  Especially in the woods away from mall and highway lights.  Blue marking flags don’t exactly stand out in a rapidly darkening woods.  Our hunt and pick system took a lot longer than expected and John became concerned and doubled back on the road to find us.  Another time Joe missed garbage pickup and the rest of us juggled leaky garbage  --  we later learned that he lines his trunk with an easily hosed-off tarp.  Dwight Eisenhower, from his Normandy Invasion vantage point, famously commented, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning indispensable.”  Latterly, a do or die approach.  Give me a clipboard any day.
        Another thing you can never plan for is nature.  While Eisenhower had the “luxury” of delaying his invasion and praying for more favorable conditions we were committed to every other Monday.  This year we dodged the plague of ground bees, most of the geese, potential thunderstorms and our usual hot and humid weather.  But for the first time, Camp Saratoga #2 was visited by a kaleidoscope of Karner Blue butterflies hovering above the sandy area by the finish line.  This was indeed puzzling as they were far removed from the carefully planted field of blue lupines which they are supposed to prefer.  I tried rerouting the finish, only to discover yet more tourists.  Fortunately, as the sun lost its intensity, the sunbathing ceased and the Karners presumably headed back to their roosting spots. 
        Most inspirational runner this year was Peggy McKeown  who, had we double-dipped, would have won both top female and age-graded awards, with her time surpassing Dana Bush’s long-standing age-graded record.  For Continual Improvement we began with a robust 40 which dwindled to 20, then 8, then a last-man standing 2 ultimate survivors.  The hypothetical Spirit Award went to the Ballesteros family who showed up for the final race wearing custom-made tie-died tees, with their dog sporting a dashing bandanna.  What better way to celebrate Eclipse Day than at Camp, with an eclipse-themed cake, IRunLocal gift card prizes, Ben & Jerrys ice cream cone coupons, free local race entries and 9 MilesEast pizza and salads.  Summer went by way too quickly!

    *Camp is famously not hesitant to solicit all manner of free stuff.  The grout was a handout from an original Silks & Satins sponsor who contributed way too much of the stuff.  Like the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which was forced upon the US Armed Services abroad, it worked its way down the path of least resistance and became a staple item in our raffle prize repertoire
     

        Happy Trails!
        laura


  • 01 Aug 2017 6:48 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        I must admit my initial difficulty in dealing with the title of this book.  Outside of exceptions like Terry Fox, the cancer amputee who ran across Canada to raise money for research, a trek that ultimately cost him his life, I was reluctant to string together the words “brave” and “athlete” in the same sentence.  Admittedly, I was conditioned in this response by my husband, a Distinguished Flying Cross combat veteran who, while he enjoyed his 90 Mile Adirondack Kayak Race every year, insisted that unlike other competitors, he had nothing to prove.  His outlook equated bravery with life threatening risk-taking.
        True confession: I was stumped at how to approach this book review, at least until the Saratoga Springs Public Library (NY) decided to enroll its supervisors in Dr. Brene Brown’s Brave Leadership Curriculum.  Apparently, brave is an up and coming buzzword for courageous innovation, one that makes complete sense now that I have had time for further reflection.  We are no longer called to trek West on a wagon train, to trap enough meat to get us through the winter or to face down a marauding bear.  Instead, our pursuits have gravitated toward the mental frontier, where bravery has less to do with physical risk-taking.  So I get it.  We need to rise above our paperwork and expand our definitions. 
        My only other hang up, no doubt attributed to my Catholic schoolgirl upbringing, had to do with the authors’ use of crude language.  I am not above an occasional well-placed curse word, but as a general practice, it strikes me as an intellectual cop out. At the very least use your online Thesaurus!  But again, Dr. Brown came to the rescue with an occasional bit of colorful language in a business presentation, no less.  So why not?  And to their credit, once they demonstrated they could swear with the best of them, the authors settled down to a well-placed dirty word or two, which actually enhanced the irreverent tone of their prose.
        So who are these authors and why should we pay attention?  Dr. Simon Marshall is a sports psychology expert who trains the brains of elite athletes and Lesley Paterson is his wife and a three-time world triathlete and coach.  Their road to success is not paved with training tables or stop watches but rather with a Braveheart approach that eschews vague “positive self-talk”  and nebulous visualization exercises, approaches that I admit I seldom have the patience for, or if I do guiltily make the attempt, promptly fall asleep.                     
         Taking Dr. Tim Noakes groundbreaking Central Governor theory one step further, the duo divides the brain into three competitive sections.  There is the primitive Chimp brain, a bully concerned only with basic survival instincts, the Professor brain, a pillar of reason and logic and the Computer brain that operates your system—once your Chimp and your Professor stop arguing.  Our task then is not to Peter Pan the issue by thinking happy thoughts but to recognize when your Chimp is overriding your Professor and take the specific practical steps outlined by the authors to gain control.
        How many of these scenarios describe your fuzzy thinking?  I don’t handle pressure well; I feel fat; I don’t like leaving my comfort zone; I don’t cope well with injury…and the list goes on.  Talent and training being equal, these are the factors that hold you back when others seem more badass (There!  I did it!) than you.  And you are not left in the dark merely to speculate at redeeming steps.  Each chapter is balanced with practical worksheets—not the multiple guess variety, but serious, uncomfortable, soul-searching quests to set you on the right path. 
        While I am a fairly rigid person who starts at the prologue and plunges through to the credits, I soon realized that this may not be the most practical approach.  The prologue, yes, but then I suggest surveying the hang-ups and picking one or two primary ones to focus on.  The process demands reading, writing, thinking, competing and then re-reading.  There is that much information to absorb. 
        Luckily, though, the authors’ irreverent style combined with their unique ability to hit the nail on the head, make re-reading a pleasure.  Enjoy these memorable moments:  Reflecting on the Chimp brain “For all it knows, trying to PR at the Turkey Trot 10K is akin to going over the top of a trench in WW1.” Or, on reducing muscle tension:  “Most athletes prefer PMR (progressive muscular relaxation) over other methods because you actually do something rather than just lie there and conjure up swirly-whirly thoughts.”  You get the picture.
        So read, reflect, then go out and run and then come back to evaluate the interaction between your Chimp, your Professor and your Computer.  No more frustration at your seeming inability to suck it up—you will now have the tools to unlock the correct pathways.  Finally, as a librarian and firm believer in Andrew Carnegie free access, I do recommend that you purchase this book as it is one you will return to again and again.  Besides, there are all those worksheets to fill out and you wouldn’t want to deface public property, right?

        Reviewed by laura  clark







       



  • 27 Jun 2017 10:09 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        Members of the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club always knew Mt. Greylock was magical, with its mist-enshrouded War Memorial crowning the top and its winter-white hump inspiring Herman Melville’s Moby Dick .  But this year provided firm confirmation:  Harry Potter & Company chose Greylock Glen as a rendezvous for their first MAGICon.  Planning had apparently begun after J.K. Rowling announced that Ilvermorny, the North American School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was hidden on Mt. Greylock.  According to Rowling’s Pottermore website, “It is concealed from non-magic gaze by a variety of powerful enchantments, which sometimes manifest in a wreath of misty cloud.”
        And most of us had no idea.  We thought we were just making our annual Father’s Day pilgrimage to Lady Greylock to run either 13.5 or 3.5 miles over the historic training ground of World War II’s 10th Mountain Division.  Those guys were tough—a hike up and an arrow straight ski down the Thunderbolt.  We are not so tough.  We used to run down the Thunderbolt but now have opted for a still challenging, but more circuitous route.  Which is fine by me.
        When we arrived at the Glen, there were four people setting up what looked like vendors’ booths.  I was mildly curious, but not really.  Actually, I was more impressed that the town had spruced the place up, added some wheelchair accessible paths and mowed the grass.  Before a long race, one tends to get tunnel vison and mine was narrowly focused on the uphill journey ahead.  And the weather.  Thunderstorms were predicted which shouldn’t have been a big surprise given that out of the thirty-one days in May it had rained twenty-one, turning the Glen into soggy Brigadoon.       
        But magically, it didn’t rain.  The sun appeared and melted the mists to produce a 90 degree/90 percent humidity day.  Clothing choices were hastily readjusted and in the melee my friend Barbara Sorrell realized just as the race had started that she had left her number in the car.  She dashed up to the race officials and they granted her an invisibility bib so she could be legal.  I tried to keep up with her as she had swept 30 miles of the notoriously rocky Manitou’s Revenge course the day before, but was soon left behind.  Apparently, her easy is not my easy.
        The 3.5 mile uphill to the tower took forever.  It was originally beaten down by those who were not concerned with the forgiving nature of switchbacks, and aside from maybe three sharp turns, was relentless.  As always, the brooding mist swirled on top, adding to the otherworldly experience. However, the usual swarm of black flies had vanished.  Perhaps with all the wizards down below, they had let down their guard against Muggles. And it seemed to me that the steep downhill was more forgiving this year, with parts apparently covered in pine chips.  I think this only happened to me as others noted it seemed the same as usual.  But, again, soloing in my own age group, added just for me I might mention, I needed all the help I could get.
        I was also amazed there wasn’t as much mud as there could have been, considering the fact that it had rained yet again the previous evening.  But this was more than made up for by the slippery wooden bridges and the autumn-like cover of browned leaves camouflaging slippery rocks.  Around that time I happened to glance at my race bib, curious as to what number I had drawn.  Despite reading it upside down several times it was unmistakably 311.  My birthday is 3/11 and I must confess that number had served Jeff and I well as a phone code. bike lock combo, or any type of password we might need to share.  SHHH!!  I took it as part of the magic, a sign that Jeff was tuned in and running with me.
                       Soon afterwards, came what I term the Sound of Music section.  The mists parted, the sun shone, the wildflowers bloomed and tall grasses flowed like so much green ocean.  I was running downhill along smooth single track on top of the world, mountain views in the distance, gazing with the wonderment the Israelites must have felt as the Red Sea parted before them.  Except there was no Pharaoh behind me.  In fact, there was no one behind me at all.  I was DFL, but oddly not minding it at all.
        Finally, the Parking Lot 1 Mile Sign.  Which apparently had nothing to do with my parking lot. A mile later I encountered the unmanned water drop, supposedly at 12.2.  Oh well, the rest was pleasant enough and easy trails.  As I crossed the final bridge, I knew I had been out too long.  It was guarded by robed wizards and clearly part of an alternate universe.  I had difficulty locating the exact finish as there was a band playing, giant bubbles and a serious quiddach competition.  But no, there were the WMACER Club members, lounging under the tent, nursing their beers. 
        Once I re-oriented, it was as if I had stumbled into a big-time marathon finish, with refreshments, vendor’s booths, kids’ games…I was really tempted to buy a magic wand for future races, or maybe to induce some snow this winter, but I was too tired to walk back to the car and retrieve my money. I could have used that wand too, as my sneakers smelled strongly of swamp and it took an evening’s downpour before they became acceptable housemates once more.
        I wonder what Melville and Hawthorne (who also wrote about Geylock) would have thought?  Not to mention all those soldierly ghosts?  I am guessing they would have been pleased that Lady Greylock has acquired a 21st century literary connection.  They would have felt right at home.

        By laura clark




copyright Saratoga Stryders, 2016
The Saratoga Stryders, a 501(c)(3) affiliate chapter of the Road Runners Club of America. P.O. Box 1467, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

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