MORE GORE! Tuesday Night Citizens Ski/Snowshoe Races at Gore Nordic

by Laura Clark

NOTE: Gore Nordic is holding a series of Citizens Races for  XC skiing and snowshoeing on Tuesday nights from Jan 15 through Feb 19. While these races are not part of our 2018-19 points series, they are apparently good low-key weeknight fun. More information can be found here.

Have you ever dreamed about running the VT 100, the ultra where horses and humans share the trail, but figure you could never stay awake all night?  Are your weekends consumed with carpooling your kids to sporting events and birthday parties?  Are you just getting started and reluctant to head off into the wilds on a course you are not sure you can even complete?  Then the Tuesday evening Ski/Snowshoe Series at Gore’s North Creek Ski Bowl is just what you have been waiting for.  And, yes, you heard me correctly.  Track and skate skiers and snowshoe runners and walkers compete on the same lit, professionally groomed stadium course, complete with  a single track line,  ample corduroy gliding areas, with the inside lane reserved for the snowshoers.  Participants can trace the circuit up to four times, yielding a maximum distance of three miles.  Obviously, skiers finish the route way before the snowshoers and they are welcome to get in a few bonus miles while the rest of us complete the journey.  Registration begins at 5:30 PM and with a 6:00 PM start.  Admission is $10 per night, with no charge for season pass holders.

Saratoga Stryder Matt Miczek made it for the first event and I joined him for the second.  There were fourteen participants, with the  majority being skiers.  Needless to say, I felt rather intimidated and a bit concerned that I would be run over.  The mass start was exciting but it only took about 10 seconds for the skiers to outdistance  us.  I did have one moment of glory when I passed some track skiers going uphill, but obviously I didn’t stand a chance.  Like all cross-country ski courses, the route was mostly uphill or down to supply momentum.  I counted three longer steep hills, but none were overly intimidating.  It was exhilarating to play hooky and escape normal weekday night chores.  The route was romantically lit (good date night material), we had just been blessed with two feet of fresh powder and the moon was two days past its prime.  One of those picture-postcard evenings.

But what stood out to me was the casual atmosphere and the enthusiasm of the staff.  They seemed to know everyone by first names and were genuinely glad to greet newcomers.  The event reminded me of some of our earliest snowshoe races when everyone was simply glad to be there and enjoying the outdoors, even down to the part where we patiently waited while the start was delayed to accommodate a latecomer.  Try and find that consideration in a mega-race!

Afterwards, the North Creek food truck offered dinner and beverages and we gathered around hoping we would win a raffle prize.  There were farm fresh eggs from Cobble Hill Farm, wool scarves knitted by an employee, hats from the ski shop, Adirondack calendars and gift certificates.  Each time you participate you are given a slip of paper for the raffle, and after the drawing all slips are retained for the final big bash on February 19.  What a deal!  My only regret is that I didn’t participate in the first race on January 15.

See you there!

—  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.

Sometime the Pre-Race is Almost as Good as the Race

by Snow Fahl

For anyone with a sense of humor, Bob Dion’s pre-race directions are a highlight of any snowshoe race.  He didn’t fail us at the Hoot Toot and Whistle on Saturday.  As the name implies, it is run on an old rail trail, adjacent to the West Branch of the Deerfield River, a lovely run through the trees with the river in sight next to you.   Tranquil it may be, but if you listen to Bob, there are numerous ways you can muck it up.

As we all stood at the starting line (after a benign ride in a school bus—nothing like the bus trips in years past) Bob observed that the course runs along the river, with a lot of crossings of feeder brooks for us to negotiate.  He points down the hill to the substantial looking river and intones, “See that? That’s your first water crossing…….”

OK, on to the more serious updates about the course ahead:

“There are a lot of brook crossings, as I said.  Usually you can figure it out, but sometimes we put pink flags or ribbons to tell you that there is only one way across a part.  If you don’t see them, get across any way you can. Hop, jump, run over someone’s back. Whatever it takes.”

After the above “water crossing directions” Tim Van Orden pointed out that one such crossing involved a single piece of wood across the brook.  He implored us all to be civil and patient in our attempts to cross.  This was a veiled request not to barrel up the trail, bottlenecking at the crossing, and to avoid human carnage.   Once the race started, we quickly crossed 3 ‘water hazards’, each time hearing racers saying, “this must be the brook he was talking about”, before we actually arrived at the true ‘water hazard.’  Now you could hear people’s fun comments….”Oh, so THIS is the crossing he was talking about. I thought it was the last one…’’ etc.

Back to Bob:

“The route is marked with flags, yellow pie plates, and sometimes, pink ribbons.  If you start to see a lot of pink ribbon, well that means things are really bad.”

“This is an old rail trail, but it’s not like the rail trails you are familiar with. It has trees growing in the middle of it. Pay attention.”

Completely deadpan delivery.  “At one point you will go off of the rail trail immediately climb about 8 feet. Then you will drop down a very steep 8 feet.  Then you will go up 8 feet again.  All in about ……. 8 feet”

On running back after the finish, via the paved road: “If you choose to run back from the finish line to the school, take off your snowshoes. I know that seems obvious, but every year I see people running back in their snowshoes. Usually ones that they’ve rented from me…….”

On opportunities for a snowshoe ultramarathon and possible international incident: “This trail, the Catamount Trail goes all the way to Canada. It’s well marked, but if you miss the flags at the turn around, you better be prepared with some documentation when you reach the Border.  And find an alternate route back home.”

Those are just a few of RD Bob’s very helpful pre-race instructions.

The Eagle Has Landed… Welcome To Our First Triple-Header

by Laura Clark

It was inevitable…this weekend we have progressed from double headers to triple plays…wonder what took us so long?  That is the good news—depending upon how obsessive you are.  The bad news is that no one succeeded in reaching this goal.  We were defeated, not by wimpiness, but by work schedules (Friday evening’s Nor’easter) and by a real Nor’easter on Sunday which made driving to Cockadoodle an epic battle.

The only event in this trifecta that most of us succeeded in attending was Bob Dion’s Hoot Toot & Whistle 3.5 miler in Readsboro, VT.  A mostly flat, but bumpy, route along a 350 mile rail trail, the name commemorates the nickname for the short line Hoot, Toot & Whistle Railroad which traversed the length of Vermont beginning at the southern Readsboro station.  Bob always jokes that if we miss the turnaround we will get to run all the way into Canada on the Catamount Rail Trail.  So far no one has taken him up on the offer.

Despite early week worries, the snow came through and deposited just enough so we could all enjoy the route without cringing at potential snowshoe damage.  This event attracts a goodly amount of hikers, more than normal, and it was great to see all of us out there. Bob claimed that overall winner Tim Van Orden had an advantage as he helped mark the course the day before and constructed numerous plank bridges across the streams. For most of us, all that work would have precluded a less than stellar race, but for Tim, after spending a full year constructing the Nationals course, it was simply a warmup.  Tim shared with me the secret of his success, which sounded like David and Megan Roche’s advice from The Happy Runner. He remains competitive into his fifties because he saves his hard efforts for weekend races and runs mostly easy during the week.

Post-race chatter centered on Cockadoodle Shoe Snowshoe in Saranac Lake the following day. Those who had room reservations were cancelling, and even Jim Tucker, Dean of Fun at Paul Smith’s College, was reluctant to travel there with his team—and they live in the same town!  Would the dirt road leading to the Land Trust be plowed?  I hardly thought that would have been a priority with the DPW during a blizzard, but apparently Race Director Jeremy Drowne had the necessary pull…I was sad I couldn’t be there, especially since this was one of the few events we have that offers tee shirts, but if I’d tried I would still be driving and not snugly at home writing.

Finally, what does all this have to do with eagles?  Sometimes the drive home can be just as exciting as the event itself and this is what happened to the Saratoga Springs carpool.  We have frequently spotted eagles along one particular backroads river stretch, but this time we scored three!  Apparently, they were as concerned about empty larders before the upcoming storm as were the humans who completely emptied Wegmans of their extensive stock of chips and dip.  For those of you who have never gotten lost in a Wegmans, know that it is more like a Museum of Food than an actual grocery store.  They have unlimited supplies of the ordinary stuff and every exotic delicacy you have never heard of.

OK—getting back to the eagles—not only did we see three but one of them, with the storm just hours away, figured time was running out and decided that my car, Sir Thomas, was a close-enough approximation of a fish.  He bore down at full speed for the windshield, talons extended, wings spread.  I ducked.  Luckily, he veered off at the last minute. I learned later that these talons could easily crush a human hand.  The thought of a windshield body slam and a gripping talon reaching in to secure prey is the stuff of Alfred Hitchcock….It was awesome!

—  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.


…. and it will definitely be on snowshoes! RD Laura Clark reports the Saratoga Spa State Park has a good based of hard-packed snow with 6-8″ of softer powder that fell during this week’s storm. Registration/check-in at the park administration building from 9:30-10:45; race begins at 11 AM. Full race info can be found here.

If you’re looking for other snowshoe racing options this weekend, Friday night brings the 2nd Nor’Easter Night 5k at Viking Nordic in Londonderry VT (9 PM start.) Saturday morning sees another running of the Super Frosty Loomis 5k/10k races out near Ithaca in central NY (10 AM start) and the morning Little Rodent 4mi/afternoon Cast a Shadow 6hr races (10:30 AM/1 PM starts) near Rochester NY. And Sunday has at least two options to the west of our region – the Oak Runner 5k/10k races at Oak Mountain Ski Center in Speculator, NY and the Selkirk Shores 5k at Selkirk Shores State Park in Pulaski, NY.