by Laura Clark
A sign bearing this iconic line from Robert Frost’s poem greeted us as we turned onto the road leading to Magic Mountain. And with a -18 degree wake-up call, it certainly did seem as if we were on the road less traveled. Jen Ferriss, Maureen Roberts, Karen Provencher and I scanned Bromley and Stratton for signs of life and spotted just one skier seemingly stuck somewhere halfway. And no wonder—it was -26 at the top and that is not counting the self-produced wind chill from the ride downhill.
In an effort to simplify and avoid wasting brain cells on unnecessary activity, as urged by Steve Magness in Peak Performance, I have assembled a standard racing kit, one which has proven to be totally irrelevant in our current Arctic situation. Who would have thought I would have needed three jackets, two pairs of pants, three shirts, two pairs of socks and two pairs of gloves? And that was just for the car ride. Granted, my heating fan took this day to protest, but who could blame it as it was 50 degrees colder here than in Juneau, Alaska! Many of us ladies solved the progressively larger three jacket puzzle by pre-empting those owned by spouses or teenage sons.
The reason for the Christmas Story waddling penguin look was that Magic Mountain was only the stopping point. The real race began in Lowell Lake State Park where we were deposited by shuttle and then instructed to hike in to the race site. There was some grumbling among the troops, just because of the projected temperatures, but RD Mike Owens’ promise of a heated tent, akin to the confidence ribbons on a long trail race, gave us enough assurance to brave the Arctic. I think we were all picturing a huge tent with blowers. What we got was a small heated popup perched on the side of the trail, fittingly belonging to the Eskimo brand of outdoor gear. But really, it wasn’t needed. The sun was warm, the wind was silent and all was right with the world.
While we were waiting for the second group of passengers to appear, we joked that this was like one of the storied WMAC snowshoe races of yore. Just a fishing shed off in the distance, teasingly resembling an outhouse and a picnic table covered with snow to deposit the precautionary layers we were now shedding. We joked about the “good old days” when on frigid days Edward Alibozek would conduct registration from his car and the bib you were handed was supposed to last the entire race season, unless of course you brought an old favorite from home. Those were the days of barrel heaters when Rich Busa got so close he once burned his Dions and then tried to get a free replacement pair claiming they were defective!
But who knows? In just a few years, this race might go down in “good old days lore,” with its pristine singletrack through the woods reminiscent of the old Woodford’s turn around the lake. We began in a South Pond-style conga line, all enjoying the deep snow until we separated into packs. With the exception of a few newbies, we all knew each other and scrambled to get into proper alignment. And just like the good old days a big part of this race was the low key socializing as we sat around in the ski lodge’s Black Line Tavern drinking our free beer. The beer was so tasty that we stopped off at the local store to bring the experience home.
Normally after a race I heat up some tomato soup flavored with beer and the last-minute addition of cheddar and toasted pumpernickel bread—easy to prepare and filling to eat. And the beer I chose to purchase for the occasion? Farmhouse Ale Bam Biere, named in honor of the crafter’s tenacious Jack Russell, who when hit by a car, got up and persevered. According to the brewer. “This beer is brewed for those of us who knocked down, have picked up, dusted off and carried on undaunted.” As we all did today.
– Laura Clark is an avid snowshoer, trail runner, XC skier, race director, and 2017 World Snowshoe Federation Championship 70-99 Female Age Group winner.