The club for runners in Saratoga Springs, NY


  • 20 Feb 2019 6:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Stone Bridge Caveman 6K and 15K Snowshoe Race
        …where two rights definitely do make a wrong

        This bit of wisdom could apply either to our attention span when dealing with the convoluted path of the Stone Bridge Caveman 6K and 15K or to Jen Ferriss’ bleary-eyed packing skills.  Also a cautionary tale about why it is best to purchase a fleet of shoes of varying color patterns, even if your favorite color choice is red…
        Upon pulling into the Caveman parking lot, we proceeded to test the weather and sort out our gear choices.  Jen kicked off her boots and optimistically reached into her bag to retrieve her sneakers.  Only to discover not a matching set, but two delegates from two separate red combinations, both favoring right-footedness.  Since the shoes were styled differently, we had hoped that perhaps one might, for a brief moment in time, adapt to a left-footed role.  Sigh…Neither model was ready to surrender their right-footed leanings.  Luckily, since she was set for a 10 mile XC ski trip the following day, Jen had already opted for the 6K.  Which as far as 5K or 6K distances go, was still plenty challenging.  Especially with two right feet fighting over the steep downhill lead.

    The Stoneman Caves venue, owned by outdoor enthusiast Greg Beckler features 14 miles of challenging trails, some groomed for skiing; some single track and so steep they would be impossible to ski.  Winter snowshoers are treated to breathtaking views.  But as with most things worth attempting, there is a Catch-22 involved.  Halfway up the mountain you are greeted by a sign warning: “Far from Lodge.  If you reach this point after 2PM, TURN BACK.  Pack headlamps!”  I reached that point at 1:40 PM.  WHEW!  That wasn’t much wiggle room, but I figured I would be faster than a bigfoot hiker, especially with the freefall that I knew awaited me.  At one point, saplings provided no backup and I actually did fall square on my butt.  Seizing the opportunity and grateful that I wasn’t forced into a deliberate slide, I seized the opportunity.  Too bad there were some barely hidden rocks in the way.  Ouch!
        While Greg has installed a Disc Golf route along some of the tamer sections, the 15K course reminded me more of an Orienteering experience in that folks pop up unexpectedly, headed in all different directions, each on their own personal mission.  This is difficult to explain but if you spy someone ahead of you ziggurating up a mountain, you know you will be doing that eventually, but not immediately.  At one point a runner sped downhill past me on a different trail and when I glanced up, I noticed that that particular route bore a sign with the magic words, “To the Finish.”  Considerably cheered, I soldiered on uphill, convinced that I would soon be joining him.  I don’t know why I thought that as he was noticeably younger and faster than I, but then thinking is not necessarily anyone’s strong point mid-race.  
        Despite the potential for confusion, I did not get lost!  Both versions were well-marked with color coded flags, ribbons and arrowed pie plates.  I must admit, though, that I was a bit disconcerted when I spotted Jules Seltzer, who was entered in the 6K, motoring down the trail as I was headed up.  And not a pie plate in sight.  From a race director’s standpoint, multiple markings would just have been confusing in this case and I knew all the intersections would be well-defined.  Still, this is not a journey where you can assuage your various body parts with thoughts of what to eat for supper.  It simply required too much concentration.  And that, ultimately, was part of the fun.
        Our other carpool mate for this trip was Kim Lengyel, who is contemplating training for her first half marathon.  Not wanting to keep us waiting, she had politely signed up for the 6K, but secretly harbored 15K ambitions.  We convinced her to go for it.  After all, I had earmarked the 15K, knowing that everyone would be waiting for me.  Except, of course, it was my car, giving me ultimate authority.  Still, I was admittedly selfish, and likely to remain that way.  We convinced Kim she could definitely tackle the 15K since she is an experienced hiker, which is what most of us would be doing at some point.  Plus, she would not be hampered two right feet as Jen was.
        After her race, Jen was left massaging her sore feet by the blazing fire pit.  Once Kim had finished, the two of them hiked off to explore the cave portion of the property, with its spectacular ice formations, while I changed and recovered.  Eventually, Greg hopes to add year-round lodging and event hosting to the mix.  For now, visit  Or, if you are interested in more extensive visuals, to view the trails where Ben Stiller’s Golden Globe Escape from Dannemora was filmed.  If you are interested in the prison itself, attend our Cock-a-doodle Shoe snowshoe race next year at Saranac Land Trust and afterwards take a spin through town to shudder at the forbidding prison.
    By laura clark

  • 20 Feb 2019 1:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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

  • 28 Jan 2019 4:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    More Gore!  Tuesday Night Ski Bowl Citizens’ Races

        Have you ever dreamed about running the VT 100, the ultra where horses and humans share the trail, but figure you could never stay awake all night?  Are your weekends consumed with carpooling your kids to sporting events and birthday parties?  Are you just getting started and reluctant to head off into the wilds on a course you are not sure you can even complete?  Then the Tuesday evening (Jan15-Feb 19) Ski/Snowshoe Series at Gore’s North Creek Ski Bowl is just what you have been waiting for.  And, yes, you heard me correctly.  Track and skate skiers and snowshoe runners and walkers compete on the same lit, professionally groomed stadium course, complete with  a single track line,  ample corduroy gliding areas, with the inside lane reserved for the snowshoers.  Participants can trace the circuit up to four times, yielding a maximum distance of three miles.  Obviously, skiers finish the route way before the snowshoers and they are welcome to get in a few bonus miles while the rest of us complete the journey.  Registration begins at 5:30 PM and with a 6:00 PM start.  Admission is $10 per night, with no charge for season pass holders.  
        Saratoga Stryder Matt Miczek made it for the first event and I joined him for the second.  There were fourteen participants, with the  majority being skiers.  Needless to say, I felt rather intimidated and a bit concerned that I would be run over.  The mass start was exciting but it only took about 10 seconds for the skiers to outdistance  us.  I did have one moment of glory when I passed some track skiers going uphill, but obviously I didn’t stand a chance.  Like all cross-country ski courses, the route was mostly uphill or down to supply momentum.  I counted three longer steep hills, but none were overly intimidating.  It was exhilarating to play hooky and escape normal weekday night chores.  The route was romantically lit (good date night material), we had just been blessed with two feet of fresh powder and the moon was two days past its prime.  One of those picture-postcard evenings.
        But what stood out to me was the casual atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the staff.  They seemed to know everyone by first names and were genuinely glad to greet newcomers.  The event reminded me of some of our earliest snowshoe races when everyone was simply glad to be there and enjoying the outdoors, even down to the part where we patiently waited while the start was delayed to accommodate a latecomer.  Try and find that consideration in a mega-race!
        Afterwards, the North Creek food truck offered dinner and beverages and we gathered around hoping we would win a raffle prize.  There were farm fresh eggs from Cobble Hill Farm, wool scarves knitted by an employee, hats from the ski shop, Adirondack calendars and gift certificates.  Each time you participate you are given a slip of paper for the raffle, and after the drawing all slips are retained for the final big bash on February 19.  What a deal!  My only regret is that I didn’t participate in the first race on January 15.
    See you there!
    Laura Clark

  • 21 Jan 2019 3:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Eagle Has Landed…
        Welcome to Our First Ever Triple-Header

        It was inevitable…this weekend we have progressed from double headers to triple plays…wonder what took us so long?  That is the good news—depending upon how obsessive you are.  The bad news is that no one succeeded in reaching this goal.  We were defeated, not by wimpiness, but by work schedules (Friday evening’s Nor’easter) and by a real Nor’easter on Sunday which made driving to Cockadoodle an epic battle.
        The only event in this trifecta that most of us succeeded in attending was Bob Dion’s Hoot Toot & Whistle 3.5 miler in Readsboro, VT.  A mostly flat, but bumpy, route along a 350 mile rail trail, the name commemorates the nickname for the short line Hoot, Toot & Whistle Railroad which traversed the length of Vermont beginning at the southern Readsboro station.  Bob always jokes that if we miss the turnaround we will get to run all the way into Canada on the Catamount Rail Trail.  So far no one has taken him up on the offer.
        Despite early week worries, the snow came through and deposited just enough so we could all enjoy the route without cringing at potential snowshoe damage.  This event attracts a goodly amount of hikers, more than normal, and it was great to see all of us out there. Overall winner was Tim Van Orden.  Bob claimed that he had an advantage as he helped mark the course the day before and constructed numerous plank bridges across the streams. For most of us, all that work would have precluded a less than stellar race, but for Tim, after spending a full year constructing the Nationals course, it was simply a warmup.  Tim shared with me the secret of his success, which sounded like David and Megan Roche’s advice from The Happy Runner.  He remains competitive into his fifties because he saves his hard efforts for weekend races and runs mostly easy during the week.  
    Post-race chatter centered on Cockadoodle Shoe Snowshoe in Saranac Lake the following day. Those who had room reservations were cancelling, and even Jim Tucker, Dean of Fun at Paul Smith’s College,  was reluctant to travel there with his team—and they live in the same town!  Would the dirt road leading to the Land Trust be plowed?  I hardly thought that would have been a priority with the DPW during a blizzard, but apparently Race Director Jeremy Drowne had the necessary pull…I was sad I couldn’t be there, especially since this was one of the few events we have that offers tee shirts, but really I would still be driving and not snugly at home writing.
        Finally, what does all this have to do with eagles?  Sometimes the drive home can be just as exciting as the event itself and this is what happened to the Saratoga Springs carpool.  We have frequently spotted eagles along one particular backroads river stretch, but this time we scored three!  Apparently, they were as concerned about empty larders before the upcoming storm as were the humans who completely emptied Wegmans of their extensive stock of chips and dip.  For those of you who have never gotten lost in a Wegmans, know that it is more like a Museum of Food than an actual grocery store.  They have unlimited supplies of the ordinary stuff and every exotic delicacy you have never heard of.
        OK—getting back to the eagles—not only did we see three but one of them, with the storm just hours away, figured time was running out and decided that my car, Sir Thomas, was a close-enough approximation of a fish.  He bore down at full speed for the windshield, talons extended, wings spread.  I ducked.  Luckily, he veered off at the last minute. I learned later that these talons could easily crush a human hand.  The thought of a windshield body slam and a gripping talon reaching in to secure prey is the stuff of Alfred Hitchcock….It was awesome!

    By laura clark

  • 16 Jan 2019 10:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Happy Runner, by David and Megan Roche, MD.  Human Kinetics, 2019.

        Every runner has the same finish line:  death.

        You have seen photos of exuberant runners crossing under the finish line banner, broad smile, arms raised in victory.  But what about those same runners captured mid-race, trudging upwards, that much closer to the next thunderstorm?  Probably not so much.  Except for stature, we resemble Grumpy attacking yet another day at the mines.  In fact, that standard Grumpy photo could be one of the top reasons for running avoidance.  It simply doesn’t look like fun.
        Enter David Roche, a Western States champion, and his wife Megan, the 2016 USATF Woman’s Ultra Trail Runner of the Year, and their smiley-faced book, The Happy Runner.  SWAP Team coaches (Some Work, All Play), they work their way back from everyone’s ultimate finish line, encouraging their athletes to take the longer view.  Rather than focusing entirely on a definitive goal event, they operate more on a multi-year approach, where process and satisfaction are the ultimate rewards.  
        How many times have you achieved a race breakthrough, an amazing course grade or a community award, only to experience a vague sense of unease and a compulsive urge to set your sights even higher?  Rather than savoring the moment which was supposed to bring ultimate satisfaction, you acknowledge it with a fleeting nod and are off on the treadmill once again.  The authors’ outlook reminded me of mindful running with a bonus factor.  And that extra can be summed up in one word: gratitude for the space you are in.  One of our first Northeast Snowshoe race directors, known for his difficult romps up and down Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts, always reminded us to take a moment at the top to savor the view.  Sure enough, midway, he kept his famous grin intact.  And while this book is directed towards runners, it applies to anyone who has a tendency to let life’s “challenges” “overwhelm the enjoyment of life itself.    
        The text is a delight, with smoothly flowing prose and a knack for startling phrases (“Every runner has the same finish line: death”) and frequently humorous clips (“People talk about time being short, but it really isn’t in the moment. If you want proof, go get your car registered at the DMV”).  To underscore their philosophy, the Roches cite examples of breakthroughs experienced by some of the famous and the ordinary athletes they coach.  While these are necessarily shortened versions, if you are interested in immersing yourself in a more detailed journey, I urge you to read Emelie Forsberg’s book, Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness and Balance in Your Running.  While she doesn’t coach Emelie, Megan commented that their viewpoint and even some of their workouts are similar!
        The only roadblock I encountered is the fact that the book is written jointly.  While the authors explain upfront that David will report Megan’s experiences and Megan will do the same for David, there also seems to be a middle narrator whose role isn’t as clearly defined.  At first I got distracted trying to figure out who was doing the commentary, but after a while decided it didn’t really matter and just chalked it up to a husband/wife “we.”

        I progressed through warm fuzzies and wagging dog tails (courtesy of their designated companion, Addie dog) until the final third of the book which delved into, of all things: the dreaded training plans.  At my stage in life I figured not much besides a new body would be of any help.  I was resigned to tiptoeing through the tulips, enjoying the experience, but that was about it.  According to the Roches, what I need return spring to my step is to incorporate short strides into the final third of my easier runs.  They promise that improving speed will make every pace feel easier. One week in and quantitative measurements are not possible, but I must say that my recommended easy runs are fraught with more purpose and a deeper feeling of accomplishment.  The verdict is still out, but the mental lift without the wear and tear of a lengthier speed session is a definite winner.
        With a mix of unconditional self-acceptance and self-belief, anything is possible.  And while you may not actualize your dream goal, you will get farther than you would have thought possible!
        Reviewed by laura clark

  • 15 Jan 2019 6:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Churney Gurney & Magic: First 2019 Doubleheader

        It takes approximately 10,000,000 snowflakes to make an average-sized snowman; it is safe to say there is not one standing snowman in the Albany/Saratoga region.  What a treat for us to travel to foreign lands this past weekend and remind ourselves that snow does exist!
        Our last event was December 15 at Gore and for those of us currently living in this snow desert, it was a stretch to contemplate a double-header after a month away.  Even though I thought I had my gear close at hand, somehow in the interim items had scattered and I had forgotten the usual drill.  To add to the confusion, the temps registered really, really cold so we had to reach back all the way to last winter.  For you ladies out there, I have a short commercial break:  Athleta Primaloft Ridge Tights are the way to go. At $98 they are pricey but they are so worth it!  Not only did they keep me warm on top of Magic Mountain but they repelled water so well that I felt no need to change my bottoms for the drive home.  This was a first for me.  Sorry guys, but you have all those heavy muscles to power you through.
        Back to the races…this was the first time for Churney Gurney’s reincarnation as a snowshoe event and Bob Underwood was so excited to showcase his mountain bike venue with at least 4 miles of snowy trails.  Alas!  While the midweek rain had erased much of the snow, some fat bikers decided it would be a good idea to go out in it anyway.  It couldn’t have been much fun and all they managed to do was to create deep ruts that the scarce snow couldn’t mask.  Luckily, Bob knew the trails intimately and was able to cobble together a fun 2.8 mile course, covered in what ski slopes would have euphemistically dubbed “frozen granular.”  Luckily, we weren’t skiing.  Those of us who sported the new Dion ice cleats were grateful!
        By the time we finished, the fat bikers were assembling for their Saturday events and we were invited to take a test spin on the demo bikes.  Some of us seized on the offer, but I was a coward.  It is one thing to fall in soft snow; quite another to tumble on the hard stuff. And while falling is all part of the learning curve, I think falling on ice would have been too much learning for one day.  
        On Sunday our carpool arose at 0’dark thirty for the trek to Magic Mountain.  This event is turning out to be a moveable feast.  Last year we explored Lowell Lake Park and the previous year we were treated to isolated trails bounded by two porta potties and a hiking lean-to.  This year we got to explore the mountain itself, where Mike Owens, Chief Magician, works out.  Because of the many ski events in progress we claimed the 9AM slot, an hour earlier than last year.  True to its name, Magic was just on the edge of last week’s Big Snow, with at least 16” of powder.  Flanked by the big-establishment resorts of Bromley and Stratton, Magic retains an old-timey feel with a cadre of loyal skiers.  Known for its challenging terrain, a full 26 percent of its trails are Double Black Diamond.  
        Our route consisted of the uphill used by the skin skiers, followed by a sharp descent.  There were a few stretches of level ground.  One was a teaser halfway up the mountain and the other was a stretch on top where we got to look both ways and scurry across one of the downhills before the skiers bombed down. This was actually the only time I have ever seen Tim Van Orden flying out of control.  He was hurdling along on his second loop, while I was probing my first after a near disaster moments earlier. As he careened around a corner I heard screams below me from the two ladies slightly ahead.  I am pretty sure they opted out of the second loop.  One of the neat things about a two loop course, though, was that by the second time around there were more toeholds grooved into the steep uphill and I knew where on the downhill portions I could let go and where I would be courting another disaster.  Mike hints that next year he might offer a different venue.  Looks like he is trying to beat out Josh Merlis and his endless search for the perfect spot to hold Brave the Blizzard.
        What stands out about this weekend for me, though, was the enthusiasm both race directors had for their respective routes and how eager they were to insure that all of us had a good time on the course and meet some new friends.  Reminds me of what my husband Jeff used to say every year when we directed our Winterfest and Camp Saratoga Snowshoe Races, “It’s like having a party for one hundred of my closest friends.”

    See you next weekend!

  • 08 Dec 2018 6:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook, by Heather Mayer Irvine.  Rodale, 2018.

        The third title in the Runner’s World Cookbook series, this compilation, by former Food and Nutrition Editor Heather Mayer Irvine, is as readily recognizable as its popular cousins, Meals on the Run and Runner’s World Cookbook.  Large format, stunning photographs, and an extensive recipe key—with the standard vegan, gluten-free, allergen-free, low-calorie indicators as well as the more unusual pre-run, recovery and fast symbols at the bottom of each offering.  The last label gave me a double-take.  I am not that fast.  Does that mean those recipes are off limits?  Or does partaking promise a faster leg turnover?  But no, what it simply indicates is that preparation requires thirty minutes or less, leaving open the intriguing possibility of a cooking/healthy eating PR.
        Another unique feature is a nutrition/serving breakdown for each offering, allowing you to conveniently dispense with supermarket labels and speed your grocery shopping. But most of all, these recipes are just delicious and many can be made with whatever veggies you have on hand.  Moreover, they represent an eclectic variety of tastes and food philosophies as Irvine combed not only the Rodale kitchen repertoire but favorite standbys of elite runners, chefs and dietitians.  With selections like butternut squash quinoa bowl, Thai carrot soup and desserts prominently featuring chocolate, who can resist?

    Reviewed by laura clark

  • 21 Nov 2018 7:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Racing Heart: A Runner’s Journey of Love, Loss and Perseverance, by Kate Mihevc Edwards.  2018.

        We have all experienced downtime due to injuries and have dreaded the resulting grieving cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventual acceptance.  Six weeks cross-training can seem like six years, when even the sight of someone running in a downpour ignites inordinate envy.  The most telling loss, however, is the loss of community, the feeling of being anchorless with life stuck in a holding pattern.
        Now imagine that this condition unforeseeably becomes permanent.  That is exactly what happened to Kate Mihevc Edwards, who, like us, had used her running to escape from stress and put her life back into perspective.  In high school Kate ran to cope with an alcoholic mother and as a bonus discovered something she was good at.  Running helped her cope with a boring first job and eventually led to her career as a physical therapist.  Whenever she moved, she found a home within a circle of new running friends.  
        Life was good.  Until that very act of running betrayed her as she tired for no apparent reason.  After an agonizing process replete with hope and then further setbacks, she was ultimately diagnosed with ARVC, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy and was confronted with a life-altering choice:  either continue running which defined her and  face an early death or restructure her goals and live to see her son grow to adulthood.
        As Kate articulately documents her ensuing struggle to let go of stress and perfectionism, it is impossible not to put ourselves in her place.  Personally, I wonder how she can continue to work so intensively with athletes, teach college endurances classes and lecture throughout the country, but for her it gives a measure of release and continued access to the running community.  
        This is a painful book to read.  In the back of our minds “what if’s” always lurk.  Personally, I have been brought up short by injury-induced arthritis of the knee and have coped by trading trails for roads.  But I am still running, not permanently relegated to the sidelines.  Nevertheless, lurking in the background for all of us is the looming specter of old age.  I have already jettisoned 50 milers and now find myself working the rear.  Eight years from now, into my eighties, will I still be able to get out there?  If not, I hope I can accept the situation as Kate has, always striving to discover another facet of myself.
        Still, as Kate ultimately comments, “Maybe when I am an old lady, and have lived a full life, I will put a magnet on my ICD, lace up my running shoes one last time, and run out the door.”  Once a runner…..

    Reviewed by laura clark

  • 03 Oct 2018 4:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I first met Jennifer Pharr Davis, her husband, Brew, and baby girl, Charley, when I had the good fortune to host them during their Becoming Odyssa Saratoga Springs book tour, which recounts Jennifer’s first Appalachian Trail thru-hike where she adopted the trail name Odyssa.  She has since written Called Again, an account of her record-breaking FKT (fastest known time), Families on Foot, numerous guide books and now, The Pursuit of Endurance.  One might expect that with all of her adventures, founding her own Blue Ridge Hiking Company and raising two small children, she would be justifiably forgiven for turning out several of those “written by Jennifer Pharr Davis with”…. fill in the name of a well-known author.
        But this is not the case.  Her observations are honestly hers: thoroughly researched, sincere and seamlessly executed.  She comes across as one of us, an everyday person striving to do her best, make sense of her accomplishments, and deal with the “what-ifs” that go hand-in- hand with even the most extraordinary exploits.
        In The Pursuit of Endurance Jennifer probes the psyches of many of the great Appalachian Trail heroes like Warren Doyle, David Horton, Heather Anderson and Scott Jurek.  Throughout, the acronym HYOH, or “Hike Your Own Hike” applies.  Jennifer acknowledges that there are many ways any one individual can enjoy hiking and speed is a goal only if you choose to make it so.  As Owen Allen reflects on his 1960 record hike, “I’m glad I did it, but I don’t ever want to do it that way again!”  And now in this current phase of her life, Jennifer is almost content to focus on her growing family, her hiking company and her writing and speaking commitments.
       She was however, left with a desire to explore “…what it is that allows someone to continue through insufferable pain and push through staggering odds.”  While Jennifer’s husband, Brew, continues to follow all the latest FKT attempts, she claims she is done with that, preferring to follow parallel paths.
        What is truly humbling is how much all the FKT record holders are willing to help their “rivals.”  Warren Doyle and David Horton offered advice and showed up on the trail at crucial points to crew for Jennifer.  And while mentoring is a given in all sports, how many mentors would cheerfully help you break their record?  And for that matter, how many have at one time held FTKs on the Appalachian trail?  This exclusive group is a small band of brothers, always ready for new members.
        I was impressed by how much research went into this project.  Whenever possible, Jennifer not only flew cross country to hike with these record holders, but she also stayed in their homes and explored their towns, all to get a sense of what made each person tick.  She discovered that what drew everyone, including herself, to this sport was the fact that being amateur, underground and somewhat disorganized, it was open to everyone.  The sense that, as Jennifer so aptly puts it, “physical and mental barriers are your greatest adversaries.”
        And so what did Jennifer learn and what can we take away from the experience of these extraordinary athletes?  Jennifer learned that with all the possibilities of defining a record attempt: northbound or southbound, summer or winter, assisted or unassisted, male or female, etc. what truly matters is the effort of each individual participant. As a seventy-one year-old runner this is a lesson I embrace.  While I regret that I am no longer as fast as I once was, I have learned that if I focus on the joy of being in the woods and mentally lighten my body, I can still achieve that glorious feeling that I am skimming over rocks and flying over the terrain—whatever my pace might happen to be.  And that delight is truly all that matters

    Reviewed by laura clark

  • 25 Jul 2018 7:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

        Even if you have been hiking for years and have acquired considerable gear and trail savvy, hiking with kids is an entirely different ball game.  Here to guide you through the process with an endless array of tips, tools and techniques are Jennifer Pharr Davis, the former record holder of the fastest thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail and her husband Brew, her crew and a hiker and ultramarathoner in his own right.  Their insights were shaped by their preschooler Charley, photogenically featured throughout, and now their young son Gus.     
        But this is not just a book for parents of the younger set since, as founder of the Blue Ridge Hiking Company, Jennifer has led many school groups and as a high school teacher, Brew is totally familiar with the teen mindset.  Even with such credentials, the couple emphasizes that the mainstay of their game plan is to remain flexible and expect the unexpected, planning your adventure around the youngest hiker.  “Hike your own hike,” emphasizes that the “best” hiker is not necessarily the fastest, but the group who gets the most enjoyment out of their foray.  It is not imperative to reach the top of the mountain, but it is important to have fun on the way.
        To this end, the book is chock full of games to play along the way (remember those car games we played before electronics took over?).  Older kids can sketch, collect materials for an art project and help identify birdsongs, cloud formations, tree bark and leaves, etc.  To lighten your backpack, the book is repleat with iphone apps that not only help with identification but can pinpoint invasive species sightings. 
        For older kids, the authors encourage you to give them ownership of the process by helping choose the route, packing their own pack, helping prepare the food and participating in camp chores along the way.  As my husband and I discovered after several whiney journeys it helps if each kid can bring a special friend along.  I just wish we had this book so it didn’t take us so painfully long to hit upon that solution!  And something we didn’t have back in the dark ages—geocaching and letterboxing---can keep a group enthusiastically moving along.
        The couple also urges families with special needs children to modify their hikes and equipment to take these requirements into account.  Hiking stimulates cognitive function, vocabulary, motor skills and has a calming effect on those with ADHD. 

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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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