News

  • 03 Jan 2017 4:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Cresting Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn is a new interest in Greek heroes.  Sparked by Rick Riordan’s middle-grade Percy Jackson series two offerings for adults have recently made their debut.  As a matter of pride for all of us, they are written by ultrarunners accustomed to striving beyond their limits.  Christopher McDougall of Born to Run fame has penned Natural Born Heroes, based on the Island of Crete, where mythology was born.  Dean Karnazes, in The Road to Sparta, separates Pheidippides the man from Pheidippies the myth.

               

    Natural Born Heroes, Penguin Random House, 2015.

    Greek mythology, World War II resistance, parkour devotees, natural diets, reflexive combat – this book has everything except perhaps a dash of romance.  But believe me, you won’t miss it.  In his usual meticulously researched, jumping from here-to-there style, you feel as if you are partaking in McDougall’s journey of discovery.  For he is not merely an observer.  His research takes him out of the library foraging for weeds with a Brooklyn ballerina, scrambling through alleyways and over rooftops with a London parkour group and exploring natural combat techniques like Wing Chun.

    As runners, we consider ourselves fit.  Granted, we could probably chase down a Central Park purse snatcher, but could we vault over a fence in pursuit or use our body’s momentum to effectively bring down an active shooter?  Instinctively, we guiltily recognize our dilemma; hence, the popularity of Mudder Grunters, Spartan Races and November Projects.

    Did you know that the entire course of World War II was altered by an island of natural born heroes?  When Hitler had decided to use Crete as a supply staging area for his Russian invasion, an artist, a shepherd and a poet did the unthinkable:  kidnap the German commander.  Besides providing considerable embarrassment for the Germans, this effectively delayed the launch of the Stalingrad campaign, guaranteeing their unwinnable encounter with the icy Russian winter.  It also tied up thousands of German troops in a disastrous search and rescue mission.  How did these ordinary civilians, with no specific (to our way of thinking) military training rise to the occasion?

    Accompany Christopher McDougall on his odyssey as he traces the kidnappers’ route from one invisibly concealed cave to another.  And, along the way, discover how you can become your own hero.

     

    The Road to Sparta.  Rodale, 2016

                Now in his fifties, approaching the halfway point where looking back is often as important as moving forward, Dean Karnazes decides to reconnect with his Greek heritage.  In typical fashion for him – if you can run a marathon, why not run 50 on 50 consecutive days—he decides to visit his relatives while tracing Pheidippides’ route.

                After all, what’s one more marathon?  Quite a lot, it turns out.  As a high-ranking hemerodromoi, a messenger with ambassadorial duties, Pheidippides’ final 24.85 miles was merely the culmination of a 36 hour ultra. First he ran from Athens to Sparta to enlist that city state’s aid against the barbaric Persians, then onto the final marathon to tell Athenians that the battle was won.  So Pheidippides was an ultrarunner, not “just “a marathoner.

                While McDougall was able to consult well-documented maps and interview World War II survivors, Karnazes’ hero lived thousands of years ago and traversed rough terrain, much of which is now obscured by modern highways.  Eventually, Karnazes was forced to admit that a real-life recreation of Pheidippides’ ancient route was a physical impossibility.  Reluctantly, he settled for the 153 mile Spartahlon.

                Still, Karnazes echoes in spirit the path of the ancient hemerodromoi, fueling solely on foods available at that time – fruits, olives, dried meats, pasteli, a mixture of ground sesame seeds and honey.  No gels, no sports drinks. He also became an ambassador of sorts, signing autographs, speaking before townspeople, all while attempting to complete this grueling event in under 36 hours.  Perhaps as a result of the unaccustomed diet or the extra duties as assigned, he even experienced an out-of-body sensation, much as Pheidippides might have.

                Join Karnazes on his journey and discover the facts behind the myth of Pheidippides’ultrarun.  And the next time you do a marathon, it may not seem quite as long.

    by Laura Clark

  • 18 Sep 2016 9:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Tao of Running: Your Journey to Mindful and Passionate Running, by Gary Dudney.  Meyer & Meyer Sport, 2016.
        The keys to The Tao of Running are contained in the subtitle: journey, mindful and passionate.  Journey reflects the process, not the mechanical act; mindful denotes awareness; passionate gives joy and purpose.  For Gary Dudney, a long-time contributor to publications such as UltraRunner and Runner’s World, and 100 mile specialist in his own right, the act of running is so much more than the coveted belt buckle.  When all is said and done, what we remember are the experiences along the way and not the hardware.
        Runners often comment upon the letdown after completing a milestone event, one for which they trained hard and long.  Why should that be?  After all, you have achieved your goal and should feel more than a fleeting sense of satisfaction.  According to Dudney, what you are grieving is the loss of the journey leading to that result.  All the miles, all the friendships solidified, all the planning is so much more than the final outcome.  And if you fall short, which is at times inevitable, you can still cherish the process which has strengthened your body and expanded your mind.   
        Mindful is rapidly becoming an overused buzzword in today’s society.  No activity is safe from mindfulness. There is mindful eating, mindful investing, and our library even offers a class in mindful meditation.  I ask you—why wouldn’t meditation be mindful?  Dudney’s “mindful” has to do with being in the moment, experiencing every nuance of your run rather than counting steps, lampposts or miles.
        This is what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discussed in his book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience, or what we would today refer to as being “in the zone.”  Think Joan Benoit Samuelson cruising through the tunnel to victory in the first women’s Olympic Marathon or the Tarahumara floating effortlessly across the desert landscape. Rather than imposing your agenda on the trail, you become part of it.  You move in harmony with nature and everything becomes astoundingly easy.  Dudney describes this same sensation when he lost his “self” during the Little Bighorn Race.  I too, have abandoned my ego during a muddy winter effort, where otherwise sketchy terrain became pure joy.  Such experiences are fleeting and memorable, cherished always.
        Dudney’s plea for passionate running taps into why you are out there in the first place: to discover a better version of yourself, free from the constraints of work, family and daily obligations.  On a long run especially, everyday cares slough off your workday persona
    and you are free to simply be present in the moment.  This is the essence of why we run.  So many times we are tempted to quit a hard interval workout or a tough 100 miler.  But barring serious injury, a person with true passion will press onward, knowing that things might turn around.  Even if initial goals fall by the wayside, there is still the journey to consider.

        Reviewed by laura clark





  • 07 Sep 2016 3:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We all know how difficult it is to taper before a main event.  During intense training we fantasize about extra free time to nap, read or watch a movie.  But once those delicious possibilities finally open up, we fret, finding it disconcerting to break ingrained routine.  But before Thatcher Park 50K I experienced no such qualms.  I did not stubbornly barrel straight on toward Neverland; I did not mathematically calculate a 30% weekly mileage reduction plan; I did not increase my pasta intake.  Instead, I skidded to a complete stop.  I had been on the lottery list for an apparently high-demand, aging population medical procedure and my number had been called – three days before my 50K.  To add insult to injury the prep was the opposite of carbo-loading, or any kind of eating for that matter, demanding a totally empty stomach.

    I did however, manage to fine tune some pre-event practice.  After arriving at my last two races literally minutes before the starting gun, I was determined to do better.  Sir Thomas, four wheels planted determinedly on the driveway, stood ready for escort service.  We opened the door, turned the key and it remained frozen in place.  So we piled into my daughter’s car.  She had a flat.  I ran back inside to call our family mechanic for EMS instructions while Jacky dealt with the tire.                                                  

    Both vehicles once more operational, we chose Sir Thomas.  Jacky drove while I consulted my pre-op instructions, only to discover that my surgeon, who double-dipped home bases had thoughtfully included boarding instructions for Burnt Hills and not Saratoga. Inside the complex, we followed the signs to the Saratoga Day Surgery Center only to be told we needed the side entrance.  Once there, we were told that we were in the correct location but that we had to go back where we came from for registration.  Hope these weren’t the folks marking our local trails!  So, yet another last-minute entrance.  But not to worry, the surgeon was late! 

    With these mishaps out of the way, I did make it to the Thatcher Park registration area with plenty of time to spare.  Curiously, I had rabbit-holed into a playback of last year.  My drop bag spot was waiting for me, along with the same folks who had staked out similar claims last year.  After the crowd sorted themselves out, I found myself once again on the 10K loop with Barbara Sorrell and Phyllis Fox.  After the 10K Phyllis went on to her volunteered duties while Barbara and I soldiered on. 

    But there was one crucial difference.  Not having any idea how I would feel, I had decided that the half would be a doable goal.  It was actually quite liberating, out for a day in the woods with a come-as-it-may attitude.  Barbara and I blazed blithely through the forest, always in sight of the beckoning party streamers: orange for the 5K. yellow for the 10K, yellow/pink for the half and 10K overlapping sections, pink for the half and full and a tantalizing pink/blue for the 50K baby loop.  We only took one wrong turn early on when Phyllis tucked in behind a high school boys’ cross-country team who were following their own agenda.  We embraced the opportunity to practice our stop/drop & roll technique, affording me a double elbow which surprisingly never hurt.

    Despite the 90 degree temperatures, it was a tiptoe through the tulips type day, one which encouraged me to continue on. I should have heeded the warning signs when, near the Hairy Gorilla finish, I stopped to pick up the bananas near the rest rooms, only to discover they were early-fall large yellow leaves.  I totally lost it the second time up the 7/20 Mile Hill.  My back hurt from my fall and I simply ran out of energy.  Still, I could run the downhills just fine so I persisted.  And there was no closure at 20 miles, only 13.1 or 26.2 or 50K.  I reassured Barbara that I was just fine and sent her on her way and leapfrogged a 50K finisher on the blue/pink trail, Ray Lee guided me through the bell lap, and Barbara was there to carry my stuff back to the car – just as she did last year.

    I was pleased as I had lasted longer than I had expected, but with my first half cutoff of slightly over three hours, it would have taken a fortuitous alignment of the planets to have gotten me up to baby loop cutoff even on a good day.  Should I just admit defeat or register for the 50K next year?  Still, after checking my race log, I realized that my time on a much hotter day, with a lack of pre-fueling, was 15 minutes faster than last year.  On further investigation, I discovered that last year’s October Nipmuck Marathon was 4 minutes faster than last year’s August Thatcher.  And Nipmuck plays out on trickier, hillier terrain.  So perhaps there is hope after all for a 2017 50K!

        By laura clark

  • 02 Sep 2016 4:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

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

  • 26 Aug 2016 2:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    What could be more natural than gambling at Saratoga Casino’s Monday Night Mile?  At the Harness Track’s Dark Monday we bet not on the horses, who were enjoying their runner’s day off, but on ourselves.  Normally before a local race, we can check out the competition and have a fairly good idea where we will place.  Not so at this venue,

        For the Harness Track mile is not a normal track mile.  Granted, there is the audience-filled grandstand, the laps around the field and the timing clock.  But there the similarity ends.  For the track is slanted inward and composed of crushed stone.  Spikes are a bad idea; trail shoes are ideal, but perhaps not as speedy as racing flats.  Your choice.  There are no Once a Runner calculated quarters as this is a half mile track.  You launch from behind a moveable starting gate, with no real idea when the truck’s gate will pull aside and when the race will actually begin.  Go too fast and you will bonk into the truck’s moveable arms; too slow and you will be left behind before you start.

        Like all professional miles, this one is run in heats.  Theoretically, all the 10 minute candidates begin first, followed in descending numeracy through 5. But nothing is ever so simple and here is where the gambling begins.  We are talking about a workday summer evening.  So unless you are a teacher, a full-time parent or stay-at-home pajama employee, it is quite possible that you may miss your heat.  But not to worry!  You can always jump in and join someone else’s heat.  Easy for the speedy milers, but pity the poor 10 minute person being passed multiple times in a faster group.

        This is where the confessional comes into its own.  Do I deliberately run with a slower group so I will look so much better?  Do I go by my wishy mile time and embarrass myself?  Do I hesitate at the edge of the winner’s circle where such decisions are made and jump in with a group that “looks right?” This is what I did.  I recognized a lady I had beaten at Race the Train and joined her 9 minute group, thinking I would shine.  Wrong.  She passed me.  One more variable to consider—she was better at short and cool.  I was better at long and hot.

        I had plenty of time to ponder my strategy as I arrived super early for any heat.  This was to make up for the fact that last week I had appeared a full five (!) minutes before Train was scheduled to depart for North Creek where the competition began.  I sprinted to the registration table and the volunteers applauded as they handed me my packet.  This gave me an advantage as I felt as though I had actually won.  Fortunately, Train beat me even at being late as he was 15 minutes later.

        My smugness at being early for the mile was soon replaced by embarrassment as I discovered that I had failed to pre-register. Naturally, I left all my money in the car as I figured I wouldn’t need it.  Finish Right Director Glen Wolin graciously said I could register first and then retrieve my money, so that’s what I did.  Is this what happens when you reach rock bottom in your age group?

        I placed in the middle of my 9 minute, which proved I was right where I needed to be.  I’ll have to try and remember that for next year and save myself unnecessary dithering.  Not only that, I secured a bronze horseshoe!  I remember seeing the first place lady in the 10 minute heat but I have no idea where the silver winner placed herself.  Neither was in my heat, so I was racing against invisible forces.  The amazing thing is that if you look at the age group results, we finished within seconds of each other, making it appear as if we had a tough sprint to the finish.  In reality, my sprint involved passing a gentleman almost in the chute and not the ladies I was actually trying to beat, had I even known who they were!

        Confused?  So am I, but that is all part of the fun in this unique event.

    By laura clark
  • 09 Aug 2016 3:05 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    It’s not a run club or a boot camp, but the people who train with us accidentally become runners. Brogan Graham

        For athletes not excited about snow, winter is rife with choices, none of them particularly inspiring.  Fork over the big bucks for a boring gym membership, explore paint ball options, or settle down with your remote.  One October evening Brogan Graham and Bojan Mandaric, former collegiate rowers, met at a Boston bar and concocted one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” plans:  They would work out every November morning with stadium steps, hills, river runs, whatever the city could dish out.

        This being the Facebook era, folks began showing up at the November Project workouts.  A casual flip through the pages of the book gives the impression that this is mostly an upwardly mobile younger crowd, or tribe, as participants prefer to be called.  But all are welcome and greeted with the mandatory hug – from three year-old Tommy Fisher whose San Francisco tribe outfitted as dragons to celebrate his birthday, to sight-impaired Ashley Brow, to your 78 year-old grandmother.  All you need for this free group is a commitment to show up at 6:30 in the morning.  Everyone does the same workout, but at their own pace.  And everyone is working equally hard.

        As the Boston movement gained momentum, workouts became more complex and, for the tribe leaders, became more like an unpaid part-time, then full-time job.  Currently, there are 27 city tribes spanning the country and tentatively stretching across oceans.  These urban athletes are totally committed to their cities, exploring possibilities and previously “undiscovered” areas.

        Mirroring the grassroots movement itself, the book’s layout is spontaneous, dizzying and distracting.  The boxed asides, haphazardly placed photos and hash tagged quotes lead you from the sensible to the absurd.  It is all about fun, neon, spray-painted tees, friendliness and community service and awareness.  So much so that one snowy Boston morning members were told to show up with shovels.  The workout consisted of unburying neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways.  Weather is not an excuse but an opportunity.

        The closest thing we have in the Capital Region is the Albany Running Exchange which was formed on the SUNY campus by young college students who wanted to run but not in the traditional collegiate competitive setting.  Like the November Project, it has expanded to include all ages, with free weekly trail races designed to explore our more countrified environment and random meet-and-greet events hosted by the runners themselves.

        For Brogan and Bojan, the November Project has taken on a life of its own and they have transitioned to making its development and coordination their full time job.  How fortunate to have your passion become your livelihood!  I hope there will come a time when the Project will expand beyond major cities, but for now, whenever you visit a big city, make it a point to check out their November Project.

        Reviewed by laura clark
  • 04 Aug 2016 2:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Year 2016 did not disappoint.  After an unusually hot and dry summer, one where we did not have to include rain dates in our outdoor theater and fairgoing plans, the skies opened up directly over Thatcher Park and unleashed a storm of Biblical proportions.  I have learned by this time that even when heading to a race in the middle of a hurricane, (Yes, I have done this), the venue usually Brigadoons into a magical time warp where rain mists over and rainbows appear. But not today. 

    We mulled around, some folks huddled conveniently in the rest station, others poking gutter-like waterfalls from the ARE tent, and most under the pavilion.  I experimented with all three locations and found one too smelly, one too iffy and the third too claustrophobic. Finally, with a resigned, “It isn’t going to get any better,” Mike Kelly prodded us out from our shelters.  We began almost immediately.  Good call, I thought, “Why wait around?”  But no.  After our Light Brigade charge we were halted at the real start line.  Not that it mattered.  We were already soaked.

    It was amusing to evaluate the different styles of dress.  Some folks, like me, optimistically wore a rain jacket, thinking it might help, or at the very least could be removed once the Indian Ladder sun logo reasserted itself.  Others were pretty much exposed, figuring that wet clothes would simply slow them down.  Most of us dutifully wore wicking gear which proved to be an exercise in futility as dry was not an option.  Those who miraculously made it to the start with semi-dry shoes soon got over that warm fuzzy feeling as we were greeted by a wall-to-wall morass that could not be straddled, circled or otherwise jumped over. 

    Baptism complete, our adventure was underway.  Like all Tough Mudders worth their entry fee, we were presented with slippery roots, treacherous rocks, and bottomless muddy pits.  Although we had gotten over getting our shoes wet, we still found a certain security in skirting as many puddles as possible.  What could be underneath all that mud?  A slippery rock? A half-drowned rattler? Perhaps even an alligator?  However, avoidance didn’t necessarily work out for the best as the ribbons of saturated dirt surrounding the puddles were poised to collapse at the slightest disturbance.  And why bother?  Half the trails were ankle-deep tributaries flowing into  the puddle collection points.

    One recurring feature was nature’s version of a Walmart Slip ‘n Slide apparatus.  Early on, the lady ahead of me hydroplaned through a gully where a thin layer of water was artfully concealed beneath a growth of sturdy grass.  The slickest slides were linked to the most beautiful feature of the Park, the limestone Escarpment.  Guess what happens when limestone mixes with clay and water?  And guess where most of that mixing took place?  Yup.  Right on the steep downhills that punctuate the latter third of the course.  The narrow, slightly sloping trail by the roadside became a slick, whitish chute where progress was incrementally measured tree-to-tree. 

    The funnest thing about this day was that pace didn’t really matter; only survival counted.  The route proved a constant surprise  as the unexpected greeted you at every turn, leveling the playing field for course veterans and newbies alike—with a “little bit of luck” thrown in for good measure.  Early on, I decided to yield to the day while looking forward to the future.  I pretended I was snowshoeing—another sport where footfalls are constantly in flux and balance matters.  Finding the stance similar, I powered on to Christmas in July.
     
    Upon finishing, I laughed when I spotted the Stewarts ice cream cart.  Ice cream?  On such a rainy day?  Definitely Yes!!!

        By laura clark

  • 24 Jul 2016 3:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Let me win.  But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. Special Olympics Athlete Oath

        From all sorts of name variants:  Satins, Silks and Stars, Silks and Stars, Silks and Satins 5K, and finally Silks and Satins Jeff Clark Memorial 5K Run, we have gone from a plucky attempt to a well-established Spa City event with over 1,000 preregistered runners.  Sponsors like Price Chopper have been with us since the beginning; others like Fleet Feet Sports who supplied the classy Brooks tech tees, are more recent.  Some volunteers have been with us since its inception and, like corporate players in a conference room, insist on having their customary course marshal posting. Others like Hannah Wood, who just moved to the area last week (!), are new.  But all are dedicated to the Special Olympics cause and the Saratoga Health, History and Horses concept. 
        Twenty years ago a group of Saratoga Stryders thought it a shame that there was no major footrace in downtown Saratoga and decided to remedy that situation.  Dan Kumlander, Bill and Cathy Taylor and Jeff Clark plotted a 5K route that would showcase the flat track area at the start of Saratoga’s unique tourist season.  Appropriately, the route begins at Fasig-Tipton, flies by the Oklahoma Training Track with its view of galloping horses, and then winds around over 40 intersections highlighting residential areas, formerly viewed only as potential trackside parking places. 
        Jeff Clark’s connection with Saratoga horses extend well beyond Silk’s 20 years however.  His grandfather, John Porter, bred and drove harness track horses and in fact won the first race held at the Saratoga Harness Track.  Jeff would spend his summers helping at the farm, and his dad, Jack Clark, a professor at SUNY Cobleskill, also trained horses while his sister, Mary, raised colts to finance her college education.  So it was natural that he should look to these equine athletes for inspiration.
        In the search for the third part of the athletic equation, the cause of the Special Olympians seemed a natural fit.  Jeff had always appreciated the fact that New York Special Olympics funneled all fundraising proceeds back to the athletes themselves and not into fancy corporate perks. 
        In October 2013, Jeff, a non-smoker, became ill with Agent Orange-related lung cancer and succumbed in May 2014, yet another long-term Vietnam War victim.  After his death, our friend Maryanne McNamara, who often drove him to chemo appoints, told me he said, “You know, I’ve lived a good life and I feel satisfied if this is my time to go.  I just feel bad about leaving Laura.”  His optimism, ever-present smile and genuine desire to help others succeed impacted our community in so many ways.  He was, in fact a winner, and oh so brave in the attempt.
        While he was sick, his good friend Peter Goutos, now of Firecracker4 Productions and current Silks Race Director along with his partner, Bob Vanderminden, took up the reins.  With Jeff’s passing Peter honored his friend by dedicating the event in his honor.  Last year, in fact, was the first time I had ever run the race, having previously spent all my time behind the scenes.  Peter insisted I abandon my post and honor Jeff by following along with the crowd.  It was wonderful to feel the support and see everyone enjoying the day.
        This year, my son-in-law Darren Suarez and grandchild Emilia ran alongside.  Daughter #1, Julie, along with Granddaughter #1, Elena, were already committed to working the Food Bank Farm.  Jeff would have been proud. I made it to the start line with seconds to spare, pinning my bib as I ran, looking for all the world like one of those folks who arrive minutes before and not at 5 o’clock in the morning!  There was one thing missing.  Before any race, Jeff would always shout, “Shoelace check!”  Sounds silly, loosens the tension, but has a practical purpose.  Without the shoelace check call, Emilia headed down East Street with two sets of wandering laces, which we naturally had to pause to re-tie.  I know Jeff was up there shaking his head and laughing!

        By laura clark

  • 12 Jul 2016 8:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Reviewed by laura clark

    I well remember my first pair of yellow canvas and blue swooshed Nike Waffle Trainers.  I had just started running and was recovering from a stress fracture brought on by my thin-soled Adidas.  I recall that the skimpy track model was the only one that fit me in that era when sports revolved around men.  Being ignorant and without the instant feedback from Runner’s World and Dr. Google, I had no idea that track shoes were not suitable for pavement. Since I was living in Germany at the time Adidas was the only option, so I went the mail order route.  I recall my excitement when I opened the box.  The shoes were stylish, ballet-slipper pointed and cushioned!  On trips stateside I stocked up and even owned a pair of the famous blues which Phil Knight initiated in his successful attempt to tap into the leisure wear (and leisure suit!) market.

    We all know the story of Bill Bowerman, his wife’s waffle iron and his protégé, Pre, especially in this Olympic year with the Trials at Oregon.  Along with most, I assumed that Nike evolved magically from the sheer force of Bowerman’s tireless work ethic.  But in reality, it was Phil Knight and his band of unconventional misfits who championed Bowerman’s innovations.  Back then Phil and his believers were the equivalent of the early Silicon Valley nonconformists, working out of garages and warehouses, wearing jeans and tee shirts with nary a suit amongst them.  

    Phil and his intrepid troupe battled foreign governments, banks and the United States Treasury, always living with the dark cloud of foreclosure looming overhead.  They instituted many now readily-assumed modern day business practices, branching out from shoes to Nike brand innovation with a complete line of running and leisure apparel.  They took sport from the province of a few gifted individuals to a worldwide culture.  They were in it not for the money but for the realization of their vision.  They were the original Shoe Dogs, obsessed with the transformative power of thinking outside the box.

    Best of all, Phil Knight’s journey is written by Phil Knight himself.  Not Phil Knight with someone else, not as told to someone else.  Knight is lucid, sincere and insightful and often irreverent as he looks back with no small sense of wonder at all he and his fellow travelers have accomplished on an initial shoestring budget.

  • 20 Jun 2016 3:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Laura Clark

    That’s a pretty clever title and I couldn’t resist it, but for me, this year, Southern Nipmuck did not “go south” as the expression goes but rather remained exactly where it was supposed to be.  With Sir Thomas handling the motoring duties and Jen Ferriss riding shotgun, I did not detour through UCONN and their world-famous dairy bar (a pity) and did not discover myself encamped in someone’s driveway instead of at the correct trailhead.  I did not have to be rescued by Nipmuck Dave who patrols the local roads rounding up folks confounded by confused GPS signals and IPhones that go on vacation once they cross Nipmuck boundaries.  In other words, the drive out was fairly ho-hum and begged overridden by an exciting race.

    This year, the day was not rainy and cloudy and either because of that factor or an enthusiastic PR person, there were actually lines at the registration table which did not dissipate until shortly before takeoff.  Plus, this being my sophomore year, I at least had an idea of what to expect.  We all know that one trail’s 14 miles can be totally different from the next and that, as in life itself, a freshman is at a distinct disadvantage.  If we could have spun the wheel of fortune to a perfect weather pattern, this would have been it.  The day started out coolish, warmed up during the humid first miles and then relented and fanned us with a cooling wind.


    Some of us weren’t as lucky.  Around the 2 mile mark, well into the humid rainforest section, Mary became entangled in a twisty root and fell.  Hard.  It was one of those cases where the phrase, “Do not move the victim,” comes to mind.  This called for more than the typical human crutch approach.  By the time I arrived, about 10 runners were perched on various slippery roots, in shock and totally grateful it wasn’t their accident.  Jen and I had recently completed a CPR course, but since Mary was screaming, she was obviously breathing.  But one of the things they repeated over and over and over is that one person needs to be in charge and tell the others what to do, especially repeating the phrase, “You, call 911!”  By the time I had arrived Jen had become that person, had called 911 with a miraculously functioning IPhone, and was trying to explain to the EMS squad the difference between a trail and a road.  I know I would not have succeeded as I do not give, let alone follow, directions. 

    With matters in hand, most of us resumed our journey, albeit at a much slower pace through the maze.  Having shared transportation, Jen and I were stuck in the tandem position, so I figured she would continue, meet me at the pass and we would finish together.  Just like the good ‘ol days (for me, not her).  When Jen first started running, I was faster, then she was faster on the roads, then on the trails.  Now I can sometimes pass her snowshoeing, on a lucky day, when the course is truly miserable. (I like tuff courses).  You get the picture.  I form the transitional group, where beginners latch on and eventually peel off. 


     If you have ever run this course, you already know what happened: we missed each other on the two-way loop near the turnaround.  We kept getting messages:  “Jen is looking for you.”  “Laura is just a bit ahead.”  But no actual contact until the road section.  By that point Jen had decided to run the entire course and I was running out of steam.  My lack of energy annoyed me as I didn’t remember feeling as tired for the final miles last year. Later on, that made me happy, as it turned out I was around 13 minutes faster.  Could age 69 possibly be a faster number than 68?  Not likely.  But I think what happened was that with the higher registration I always had someone to run with and push me.

    Despite the bad luck accidents, the course is no Escarpment or 7 Sisters and was actually quite runnable.  What I enjoyed the most was the variety: wide dirt forest trails, pine forested paths by the river, grasslands, and Yes! even the roads were enjoyable.  They were country lanes, not highways, with interesting houses, outbuildings, garden tours and even a few vocal turkeys.  I loved the grassland tunnel lined by wild roses and the perfumed scent that lingered afterwards.  It couldn’t have been more perfect and we were all privileged to share in this experience. 

    It will be a signature race for Jen and I for many years to come.  One of our post-race traditions is to seek out obscure liquor stores and purchase beer not sold in New York State.  We hit pay dirt this time with Lawson beer, brewed locally.  We might even return early next year for a practice South Nipmuck run!

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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