by Laura Clark

For many of you this title makes little sense. What is I Love Woodford?  And how can Gore Mountain transplant itself to Woodford, VT?  And why would it want to?  For the answer we must reverse our snowshoes and travel back in time…beyond Dion, beyond Atlas, and all the way back to clunky Redfeather, our first loaner snowshoe company.  So much for the good ‘ole days.  Redfeather’s resembled what today would pass for hiking snowshoes. Atlas was an improvement but so wide that Dr. Maureen Roberts resorted to reinforcing her calves with surgical tape…but we didn’t know any better and we were all on equal footing.

the penultimate I Love Woodford in 2009

Once upon a time, Woodford was our first race of the snowshoe season, occurring on the Saturday after Christmas and before New Year’s.  This was not the Prospect Mountain Woodford, but was located just up the road from the ski center, and approached with trepidation by all but the studliest vehicles.  The snowmobile parking lot was up a steep, icy hill and volunteer crews were spontaneously drafted to push struggling vehicles.  It was this very hill that inspired my husband, Jeff, to upgrade to studded tires.

Woodford’s icy parking!

The parking lot was presided over by Jack Quinn of the Battenkill Runners and his simmering pot of corn chowder.  And with no outbuildings, you really needed that chowder.  At one memorable event, the ice was so thick that Jack prudently negotiated the lot on ice skates!  The up and down roughly three mile course was located across the road and it required either a steep adventurous hike or risking the downhill slide from the parking lot to get to the lineup.  Afterwards, all were able to select a loaf of Vermont bread.

Sadly, that race is no more, though it is often cited as one of our favorites.  After three years, it looks as if Gore Mountain has become our early season warmup.  And it is well suited to that designation as it is short enough (5K) with an even shorter sampler so as not to produce severe first-event anxiety.  An excellent opportunity to check gear and revise Christmas lists.  Plus, as long as the weather is cold enough, we have guaranteed snowmaking on the cross country course.  This year, with the colder weather we were able to enjoy the woods loop as well.

Gore 2018 start

The 5K racers navigated the loop three times, while the samplers tackled two rounds.  Some folks get bored on repetitive loops, but I view it as a reprieve from getting lost….although with me, you never know.  Plus, I enjoy the different strategy that a loop course requires.  The first go-around is my investigative run, slightly slower than race pace, when I make note of places where I can push and those where I need to take it easier to conserve energy.  I like to try to get faster for each loop.  Of course, I never really know as digging out my watch from under my gloves would be a big time waster, but perceived effort works—plus that makes it seem more like play.

I imagined that I was on a TV-style championship course, racing by crowds of spectators.  In reality, those spectators were grooming personnel most likely groaning at our disregard of their carefully laid ski tracks and anticipating a late night patching up the damage after we had left.  While there were two killer hills, the toughest part of the course was steeling yourself to continue on past the start line for another round when you could see folks veering off to the right and on to the finish.

Smiles all around – must be before the race!

Once indoors, the overall winners could choose from a great gear selection from the Gore ski shop, while raffle winners, which meant everyone, received hats, scarves, farm fresh eggs, Adirondack Life Magazines or Adirondack Calendars and North Creek bucks.  We felt welcomed and exhilarated to have begun the new snowshoe season in good style.

And so much for tapering before an event.  Many of the Stryders decided to participate in our morning Jingle Bell Run before heading out to the 2PM start at Gore.  Jen Ferriss was motivated by getting in a long run, which truthfully seemed a better idea the night before than the next day.  But then there was the fact that this was also the occasion of our Grand Prix award ceremony—and it was impossible to pass up a home baked must-be-present-to-win pie.  Surprisingly, Matt Miczek, Jen Ferriss and I managed to post a faster time than last year.  Could this be our new training strategy?  Stay tuned…there are some doubles coming up in the weeks ahead.

—  Laura Clark is an avid snowshoer, trail runner, XC skier, race director, 2017 World Snowshoe Federation Championship 70-99 Female Age Group winner, and 2018 National Championship Half Marathon 70-99 Female Age Group winner.