A Last Chance Double Header

by Laura Clark

Four of us –Jessica and Brian Northan, Matt Miczek and I regarded this doubleheader weekend (3/3-3/4) as a prime opportunity to test how we would persevere on back-to-back shifts of Nationals snowshoe races. Rather like those Regents practice exams your teachers would throw at you in June in anticipation of school glory.  While that didn’t always work, sparking more anxiety than deep-seated confidence, the four of us were still willing to take a practice run.  Jessica and Brian impressively tagged a few extra hours of low-impact cross training by utilizing the free Garnet Hill ski pass all registrants got with their entry fee.  The rest of us were simply too tired.

Saturday’s race at Garnet Hill presented the 10kers with a three loop challenge and others with a 3.5K or 7K option.  Since this was possibly Garnet’s first time on the snowshoe circuit most of us had no idea what to expect and indeed many of us had never visited this cross-country ski area.  I say possibly because I have vague memories of Tony Mangano organizing a race there in the mid-90’s utilizing newly opened wooded trails, but I could be mistaken.  That’s one of the shortfalls of having been at this for so long, way before internet documentation.

At any rate, we were presented with the usual advantages/disadvantages of any loop course.  First, you could only get lost once.  Which in this case wouldn’t have happened anyway as the course was that well-marked.  This format also enables you to regard the first go-through as a test case, scouting out places to speed up and sections that would require a more judicious approach.  So, theoretically, the final round could be your fastest.  I had a less ambitious goal: not to get lapped by the mid-packers.  And, to complete my victory I only got lapped once by Brian and Tim Van Orden.  Truthfully, Tim lapped me twice, once going and once after winning, when he ran the route backwards.  But that doesn’t count, at least not in my personal rule book.

The course, a wide corduroyed groomed trail, furnished a scenic view of the Adirondack Forest, freshly dressed in newly fallen snow.  As with most cross-country venues, there were plenty of ups and downs to keep the skiers happy, as well as a deceptive uphill near the end of the loop that never seemed to end.  But after the first go-round, you almost looked forward to tackling it as a hopeful sign that yet another loop would soon be completed.

It was touch and go with snow cover up until the big storm the day before.  But this is March after all and the next day mild temperatures prevailed, softening some spring-runoff sections and causing some of us to post hole. I found that rather odd, as even the haphazard collection of trails out my back door has homemade admonitions warning those without skis or snowshoes to stick to the non-groomed sections to avoid this very factor.  I had never seen snowshoes post holing before! The folks at Garnet Hill were gracious and most enthusiastic about hosting more races in the future.  It will be exciting to have more opportunities to venture farther into those tempting woods!

On Sunday, we traveled to Capital Hills Golf Course, the new venue of the Capital Region Northern Alliance (CRNA) whose mission it is to promote the Nordic sports of cross country skiing, biathlon, orienteering and snowshoeing.  Previously, they had hosted snowshoeing events for us at Hilltop Orchards and Pine Ridge XC.  What you may not know about this group is that they have also dedicated themselves to training Paralympic athletes, including many veterans who sacrificed their health in defense of their country.  Some of these very same athletes are be competing in the Paralympics in Korea. Active in their group is our own Curt Schreiner, Olympic Biathlete, who participates every year in our Camp Saratoga Trail Race series along with his family members.

Despite the recent snow, just two days later, much had melted, leaving us with sloppy conditions that still managed to hold up nicely. We traced a challenging circle up, over, around and through the golf course’s hills with views of happy kids on sleds to cheer us on.  Afterwards, we enjoyed hot chocolate and shared stories.

And what about our intrepid future half marathoners?  The Northans won first place beers and a large dose of future Nationals confidence.  As for Matt and I, while we initially felt pretty good, we struggled during the final mile and as a result hatched a workable half marathon plan:  we would hike all inclines and save our energy for the flats and downhills.  Hope that works!

—  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 since Nationals were last weekend she now has the answer to the question of just how much more difficult the Nationals half marathon could be. Stay tuned…


Our final weekend of the 2017-18 series saw another doubleheader. On Saturday 3/3 a small group of snowshoers ran and hiked the inaugural Garnet Hill snowshoe races in North River, NY (not far from our series opener at the Gore Ski Bowl!) Warm temperatures and rain prior to race day forced the Garnet Hill staff to reorganize the course, with most runners doing the full distance consisting of three 3.5mi loops and a few choosing the “fun run” one loop option. Tim Van Orden and Jessica Northan took top the top places, and our thanks go out to the Garnet Hill staff for a enjoyable and well-organized race.

Full Garnet Hill results can be found here.

Sunday 3/4 brought a return to Capital Hills Nordic in Albany, this time with no rain and a good deal more snow, though there were still bare spots and some stretches of very cold watery slush to wade through. Slightly more than twice as many runners as the February race enjoyed a very similar course, with the duo of Brian and Jessica Northan once again finishing first. Many thanks to the Capital Region Nordic Alliance for all their hard work setting up the course and giving us a final opportunity to play in the snow prior to Nationals!

Full Capital Hills #2 results can be found here.

For a more detailed and personal view of the weekend, check out the race reports by Laura Clark.

COMING UP: we’ll announce the series champions and the three winners of the Dion raffle! And then – coverage of Nationals!

Brave the Mud

by Laura Clark

As the ARE’s Brave the Blizzard update puts it, “We have been trying to put on a snowshoe race in a blizzard for 14 years now. We’re 0% on that. 50% on having snow. 100% on fun.”  And so it goes….

But if you have to run a snowshoe race on mud, this is the place to do it, offering a mix of terrain every bit as challenging as on snowshoes. In fact, two years ago when BTB was also a non-snowshoe event in Tawesentha Park, I ran the 5.5 miler in 1:05.  This year I clocked in at 1:18, with the intervening snowshoe year a solid 1:34.  This year at Camp Saratoga, in an 8K (4.97 miles), in 15” of snow, I managed 1:21.What do all these statistics mean?  I wish I knew. Perhaps it means either that in the course of two years I lost 13 minutes of speed or that the first Tawesentha was significantly easier than the third.  It also might mean that snowshoes make things considerably easier, at least for me. I would appreciate any and all interpretations you have to offer.

At any rate, this year’s BTB might go down in history as the only trail race that was actually tougher than a snowshoe race in deep snow. In 2016 I smugly wore my faithful Ice Spikes and proceeded slippage-free.  This year was the first time ever that my Ice Spikes came up short, and not in length.  The unavoidable remnants of snow were slushy and sticky and clumped to my soles like snowballs, which, of course, they were.  Around me, others were reaching similar conclusions.  Jamie Howard  jettisoned his microspikes early on and after his first fall (of several) wished he had gone with his screw shoes.  He felt much better afterwards (mentally, not physically) when I enlightened him with my experience.

About the only person satisfied with his choice of footwear was Matt Miczek, who wore his brand-new Asics Gel Fuji Runnegade 2. (Disclaimer: This is by no means a product endorsement, but notice how I went to such great pains to get the spelling correct). He wore these sneakers stark naked (the sneakers, not him) with no traction devices whatsoever.  Matt ran ahead of me throughout the race and while I couldn’t see him, the Asics’ geometrically laid-out triangle pattern was clearly visible, crisp and not listing from side to side like my feet seemed to be doing.  Eventually, I gave up thinking and just followed in his unfaltering footsteps.

The 2018 trail was also different from the 2016 trail in that instead of ice sheets which perform well with traction, the course was basically some snow with soggy grass plastered with mud. Think of those greasy, slicked-down Elvis hair styles.  Except for the very steep climbs, where the terrain quit fooling around and dished out pure mud.                                                   Either way, mud or snow, there is literally no way to train properly for this race unless you set your treadmill at a 70 degree angle sloping to the left.  And who runs like that?  This sloping occurs twice on the golf course area.  Going out it is merely amusing, but on the downhill return it is a different matter entirely.  As I write this I am icing (brrr!) my ankle, sore from twisting my right foot inward.

The only consolation was that we weren’t the only ones having difficulty. After the award pies and cookies were distributed and all the pancakes were consumed, the ambulance decided it was time to make a retreat.  Except it couldn’t .  Mired in mud, it threatened to become a permanent part of the landscape.  Fueled by all those pancakes, some macho runners managed to push it back on the road, only to find themselves wishing for yet another pair of clean clothes.  Lucky thing there were no actual emergencies.

And so the curtain closes on yet another Brave the Mud. Tune in next year for a possible blizzard—one can only hope!

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


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.