Brave the Blizzard Race Results & Photos

On Saturday 2/24,  37 runners toed the starting line at the AREEP’s annual Brave the Blizzard races in Guilderland’s Tawasentha Park. Both the 5k and 5.5mi courses featured an abundance of slush, slop, mud, and cold puddles. Fred Brooks & Megan Boyak were the first 5k finishers, and Tim Van Orden & Madeleine Fischer took the top places in the 5.5mi. As always, runners were treated to a post-race pancake feast.

Thanks goes out as always to the ever upbeat ARE Event Productions staff and their small army of volunteers for a fun event despite the treacherous, messy conditions.

Race results can be found here.

Race photos can be found on the Albany Running Exchange Facebook page.

And once again, Laura Clark has given us a report on her experience slipping, sliding, and sloshing though the mud and slush.

Definitely EXTREME!

by Laura Clark

This weekend I learned that I am not as tuff as I thought I was. I also learned that cavemen are much stronger than their already brawny appearance might suggest.  Last year I handily survived the Caveman 6K and figured this year I should up the ante to the 15K,   especially with the Nationals Half-Marathon looming ever closer on the horizon.

Make no mistake; I am not new to extreme events, having survived the Peak Snowshoe Marathon (www.peak.com) three times. Peak is nothing to take lightly.  It is home to the 100 mile Winter Snowshoe Ultra not to mention the Winter Death Race.  Located near Killington, the course consists of 6.5 mile loops with 1200 feet of elevation gain per loop.  Nothing to sneer at, but still I found it mentally “easy”  as half of each loop was an uphill slog, topped off with a steep, but totally runnable descent.  I convinced myself that I was only really putting my nose to the grindstone for half of each loop.  It worked.

It does not, however, work for the Stone Bridge Caveman Extreme 15K Snowshoe Race, which features seven major climbs, each punctuated by a fast downhill drop.  At Peak, I was at no time tempted to utter Raven’s Nevermore. Upon stumbling down the final descent at Stone Bridge, I was more than eager to join forces with said Raven.  Shortly afterward, I adjusted my attitude and waffled, “Well, if there is a foot of snow, why not?”  As with childbirth, the pain is quickly forgotten in the glow of accomplishment.  Just so you know, I have three children.

Stone Bridge is a traditional family-owned business that centers around the Stone Bridge Cave, the largest natural cave in the Northeast.  Summer-use cabins, hiking/skiing/snowshoeing trails and guided cave excursions complete the picture.  Owner Greg Beckler is proud to show off his site, telling us all, “Welcome to my backyard.”  Despite the warm spell, all the main trails boasted ideal snow conditions.  Still, I was a trifle worried at registration when I received my own personalized copy of the green 15K trail map.  The same thing happened to me at the first Moreau Trail Race where I spent considerable time investigation alternate routes.

And sure enough, at the first intersection, I chose to head straight ahead instead of turning left as the blue bib (6K) folks were doing.  I even paused, considering, but then spotted a green ribbon just ahead that I assumed justified my choice.  But not for long.  I soon discovered I was ahead of most of the Green Team.  Lance spotted me, gave me a penalty lap and said I was good to go after that.  I figure that I maybe lost a few hundred meters in the process, but as I wasn’t a winner, what did it matter?  Besides, I could just see Lance calculating how much longer the finish line would have to stay open…

The course was a series of intersections, rather like the Camp Saratoga route, but with the added complexity of interweaving blue and green paths.  Despite my mishap, it was extremely well marked with blue and green arrows, ribbon and spray paint.  Another helpful feature was that each participant sported either a bright green or bright blue bib.  So if you saw someone twisting ahead, you could take a mental snapshot of what lay in store.  This happened to me a few times. At one point, Karen Provencher hailed me and I was cheered, projecting I wasn’t that far behind her.  A clear example of muddled thinking at its best.  Try as I might I never did figure out where she was when our paths crossed.  At another point, I spotted a lady far ahead climbing a ledge and wondered where she had come from.  Not anywhere nearby, I soon learned.  It was a dizzying kaleidoscope of runners, all following green and blue trails from highly individual angles.  Next year I intend to study the map, matching the trail names to their sections so that I will have a better idea of where I am in the grand scheme of intersecting lines.  That is, if I can bear to view the section from 10-13K which more closely resembles mapped elevation lines rather than a real trail.

It seemed as if I were the only 15Ker toting water, unless there were some hidden fanny packs.  I was glad I did, but with three blue coolers placed at key intersections, there was plenty of refreshment both coming and going. But with the monochromatic color scheme, it was again dizzying trying to figure out if the current cooler was a new one or an old friend viewed from a different perspective.  Fortunately, there were kilometer markers to help you keep track.  If you had just passed 5K and all of a sudden discovered yourself at 11K you knew something was wrong, or else perhaps you had just blanked out from the stress of climbing.

And speaking about climbs, the final ascent/descent was totally insane. With little snow cover to speak of, I found myself grateful that I had chosen not to wear my Nationals-earmarked racing Dions.  But still, about halfway up I had cause to worry when I spotted a serious sign that proclaimed: “Experts only.  Do not ascend after 2PM. Headlamps mandatory. Far from lodge.” There I was, exhausted, minus the required headlamp.  I knew this should have been the final climb as I had passed the 13K marker.  Still, if I was far from the lodge, was I embarking on a time-warped 13K?

Then, summit at last, and a glorious downhill to look forward to. Except it was more of a downhill slog if that is possible, with little snow cover and twigs weaving in and out of my Dions threatening to trip me up.  More like one of those Hug a Tree trail descents where I was tempted more than once to simply remove my snowshoes for safety’s sake.  The only things holding me back were that (a) I was not coordinated enough at this point to risk bending down and (b) I didn’t want to invalidate my snowshoe race standing.  Greg met me at the bottom, obviously concerned, and provided me with a thoughtful snowmobile escort.  I, for my part, tried not to throw up from the gas fumes.

Knowing what to expect, I know next year I can acquit myself better…or perhaps just run two 6K loops.  Anything to avoid that final descent.  On the plus side, I feel totally ready for the Nationals Half Marathon.  How much more difficult could that be?

—  Laura Clark is an avid snowshoer, trail runner, XC skier, race director, and 2017 World Snowshoe Federation Championship 70-99 Female Age Group winner. And yes, she did just ask how much more difficult the Nationals half marathon can be. Stay tuned for the answer…

STONE BRIDGE CAVEMAN 6k/15k RESULTS & PHOTOS

On Saturday Feb. 17, 40 sensible snowshoers tackled the challenging 6k course at Natural Stone Bridge & Caves Park in Pottersville, NY, with Christopher O’Sullivan and Karen McGlade capturing the 1st place finishes. At the same time, 21 brave (or foolish!) snowshoers took on the challenge of the 15k EXTREME (caps courtesy of the RD, not me!) course – and survived, with Sam Peckham and Jamie Woolsey claiming the top spots. Having run the tough 6k course last year, I have no doubt that the EXTREME finishers more than earned their bragging rights.

Many thanks to Greg Beckler and his crew of helpers for another great event, and especially for the trail passes provided to all pre-registered runners. This private park is a little-known gem of the southern Adirondacks that deserves a lot more attention than it gets.

Race results can be found here.

The folks at Natural Stone Bridge and Caves Park have made photos and videos available – check out our photos page or following the links below.

prerace photos
start photos
finish photos
start video
trail cam video

And finally, we have Laura Clark’s Stone Bridge Caveman story to complete the coverage of the race.

THE LATEST ON NATIONALS THIS WEEKEND (3/9 through 3/11)

UPDATED 3/9:

Important update: The course preview for Friday, March 9, 2018 has been canceled. Race is still on; packet pickup is still 1-3:30pm at Race headquarters (423 Main st., Bennington).

We’ve had back to back intense and amazing snow events here on Prospect mt… which has given us some (40 inches worth) of incredible Utah powder. Given the vast quantity of snow, it’s taking a little longer than we had initially expected to wrap up course markings and the like (check this out on Facebook).

Thanks for your patience! It’s going to be a GREAT race!

Best,
Tim

EARLIER UPDATES:

Hard to believe the season is almost over, but we are only a few days away from the 2018 National Championships, returning this year to Prospect Mountain Nordic in Woodford VT. Here is the latest from RD Tim Van Orden:

Hello snowshoers,

With the looming snowstorm, coming on Wednesday and Thursday, this year’s U.S. National Snowshoe Championships in Woodford, VT, will be epic! There’s already 12 to 24 inches of snow at Prospect, and another 12 inches predicted before the race.

I’ve cut a lot of new single track, and the new course is amazing! Stunning scenery, and abundant fluff.

* Canadian athletes – You no longer need to join the US Snowshoe Association in order to compete. I got the rules changed. But you do need to be a member of Snowshoe Canada. So, I encourage you to head south and participate in the event.

If you haven’t yet booked a room –

The Paradise Inn is our host hotel for the event, and is giving a $10 discount to anyone who mentions they are here for the snowshoe race.

Also, The Four Chimney Inn is supporting our race, and we’d love it if you’d support them. Both options are close to the opening reception and downtown Bennington.

Can’t wait to see you at the races!

For more info, and to see the latest event schedule go to – www.ussnowshoechampionships.com

To see recent pictures of the conditions, go to – www.facebook.com/events/188985095173566/

All my best

Tim Van Orden

Race Director

The National Championships rotate around the country on a 4 year cycle, so it won’t be until 2022 that they’re in the Northeast again. Final series points will be awarded for the 5k and 10k races on Saturday, and Sunday features relays and the Half Marathon and Marathon Championship races. We hope everyone will come on over and join the fun, even if only to cheer on snowshoers of all abilities (from the best in the country to the very back of the pack like me) as they tackle the challenging courses Tim has put together for this epic event.