The club for runners in Saratoga Springs, NY


  • 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!
  • 20 Jun 2016 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you take just one thing from this book it should be Jason Koop’s insistence that “Ultramarathons are not simply long marathons” and that you can’t expect to succeed by simply running more. There is a world of difference between a marathon’s Mile 26 and a 50K’s Mile 31, much more than is encompassed in that telling five mile differential.  Koop, the director of coaching with Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs, who has crafted incisive programs for elite ultrarunners as Dakota Jones and Kaci Lickteig, now shares his knowledge with ordinary folks like us.

    Unlike other self-help books of this nature, there are no intimidating training tables (although there are enough graphs and charts to challenge any GPS), no complex timed refueling strategies or endless lists of possible supplies.  Instead, you are in charge of your own program, which is liberating for someone like me who resents “do it my way or die” pronouncements.  Still, initially this sounds rather odd, since Koop after all, earns his living as a coach.  But if you consider the many hours an ultrarunner spends alone on the trail, relying solely on his abilities, this makes complete sense.                                                         

    First things first, Koop recommends selecting a race and a goal that speaks to you.  So often these goals take the “success by lack of failure” route.  Because so many things can head south during an ultra’s lengthier time span, not sitting down at rest stops, not becoming dehydrated, not succumbing to the dreaded blister are worthy achievements.  In what other sport could that be a cause for celebration!                 

    Once you own your goals, examine the data to determine your event’s specific challenges, whether it be hills, altitude or weather conditions.  Then, instead of taking an “If it’s Monday it must be hills” approach, periodize your most race-specific training closer to the event itself.  Koop does outline many skills like tempo and interval training that need to be tackled, but you are in charge of the when and the where.

    This insistence on owning your event goes hand-in-hand with Koop’s race day ADAPT strategy: Accept, Diagnose, Analyze, Plan, Take Action.  Accept the situation you must deal with whether it be a scary thunderstorm or a missed trail marker, really sucks. Then diagnose or identify the precise problem. Analyze by creating a mental inventory of what you have on hand to deal with the issue.  Sort of like Gary Paulsen’s hero in Hatchet turning his pockets inside out to discover exactly what he has available to survive the plane wreck until rescued.  Then make your plan and execute it.  While this may or may not lead to the perfect scenario, it will put a positive spin on things, put you once more in charge and make the remaining hours doable. Come to think of it, this is a perfect response to anything unreasonable life dishes out, and I have been using it regularly in all types of situations.  It is liberating and beats down the worry and stress.

    To conclude, Koop includes a coaching guide for ten of America’s best-known ultras, and while you may never run Badwater or Vermont 100, if you follow the principles Koop outlines and you will not only run your ultra, but own it as well.

    Reviewed by Laura Clark

  • 08 May 2016 11:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The answer is when it is Prospect Mountain Uphill Road Race.  There is always a comfortable crowd, not too big but not too small either, as well as a loyal contingent of regulars and New England Mountain aficionados.  And while there is a road, there is no traffic congestion, with the only cars being race-related vehicles.  The scenery, when it chooses to emerge from the fog, is more spectacular than that of many a trail race.  Once I saw a mountain lion perched on a rocky crag; once an audience of us watched a porcupine climbing a tree in search of tender new leaves.  Both encounters reminded me that I was far from the mall.             

    Most telling, this year the date was bumped forward a bit to allow Dan Olden, holder of one of the few 27 year-old streaks, to participate, since the customary day before Mother’s Day was either his daughter’s graduation or wedding.  (Sorry Dan—I forget which).  But then this is an account, not a news report.  The point being, this is something that might likely occur for a laid-back trail race but not for a die-hard road event.  Kind of nice that family values and consideration still matter.
    And the powers above tend to agree. ATRA, American Trail Running Association, also includes road mountain running in its trail community since, according to its founder, Nancy Hobbs, running uphill hill is a big component of trail running.  It is the “trail experience” that is the defining criteria.  So while all of us knowingly participated in a road race, some of us were just as certain we were tracing an upwards trail.  And we were both correct.
    It was nice to be based again at the newly refurbished Forum, a much easier walk to the base of the mountain.  There were a lot less cars parked along the road, as it seemed most folks felt the same way.  Plus, I didn’t have to get lost again trying to find that darn hotel!  That is one of the things that attracts me to uphill road races: there are no intersections, no opportunities for failure.  Just head straight up the road, with only one hill to conquer.  Remembering past years, this time I started farther back and gradually gained momentum, which is quite a feat going uphill!  I achieved my goal of not dying before the finish line and charging the final miles.  As a nice bonus I took roughly a minute off last year’s time. 
    I attribute this to our stair running club at work.  At lunchtime, a group of us hit the stairs for a half hour workout about twice a week.  It really has made a difference.  I mostly stick with Trevor Oakley, who is a biker but had never run before.  But now he is considering it!  Anyway, over the last half, I envisioned him in his usual position one or two flights ahead of me and I guess it helped.
    I consider the downhill jaunt part of the total experience and usually round up a group of like-minded individuals.  This year it somehow didn’t occur to me and since it was such a once-in-a-lifetime bluebird sky day, many paused longer at the top. Initially, I ran down with Gary Rockwell from MA, whom I had known from the Mt. Greylock races, but then he peeled off at the first parking lot.  For a while I ran alone.  Usually I enjoy pounding the descent, but it was such a beautiful day, I took the tourist option, enjoying all the viewing stands.  Eventually I was joined by Matt Miczek, who had just summited his first Prospect.  We made it back in time to wash up and scrape the chili pot. 
    I followed up with a Sunday shake-out run that should have been an hour, but stretched out to 2:40 as I got lost on the same miserable white trail behind my house that had defeated me the previous two Sundays.  By cutting across someone’s lawn and back to GO! I finally figured out where I had gone wrong.  It took a lot of nerve to do this as there is a reason this person plucked down his Better Homes & Gardens house in the middle of the woods, carving out a swimming pool and golf course complete with sprinklers.  Fortunately, he wasn’t home.  The following day, after chasing toddlers for five hours, I sucked it up and joined Trevor on the stairs.  Surprisingly, my legs felt OK, but my turnover was really forced.  And end of the mission a Fitbit check revealed we had unknowingly tied our all-time record of 88 flights in 30 minutes.  I am so ready for another Prospect!  Or maybe a nice hot soak in the tub…

    by Laura Clark

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

    Reviewed by laura clark

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

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

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

     By laura clark

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

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

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

    Reviewed by laura clark

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