CHASING SUNBEAMS AT BROOKHAVEN
by Laura Clark
photos courtesy of Rebecca Sewell
If you are always comfortable, it is not special. – Gary Cantrell
The above quote comes from Gary Cantrell’s latest column in the December/January issue of Ultrarunning magazine. If you are not familiar with Gary, know that under his pseudonym Lazarus Lake, he is the director of one of the toughest races on the planet, the Barkley Marathons, inspired by James Earl Ray’s attempted escape from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary into Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee. In 35 years there have been 15 finishers of the 100 mile course. Laz also directs Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra, a last person standing event which sometimes goes into four days of 4.167 mile loops, which must be completed every hour. For Laz Lake, comfort is all relative.
There has been a lot written about the effects of COVID restrictions on the human psyche, and I thought of this when I read Cantrell’s essay, “Misery.” No one would have wished this, in the same way that no one really wants to run through an ice storm, but admittedly there is a certain satisfaction in glimpsing the almost-end. These past two years, trail and snowshoe races have carried on, albeit in modified format. Road races not so much. Even overlooking the fact that there are generally more folks participating in road races, and hence more exposure, perhaps trail runners are more willing to accept misery and do not need as much coddling. Last year we reverted back to the “good old days” fondly recalled by runners of a certain age—no fancy gear, no wicking tees, no indoor plumbing. All of our events were strictly outdoors with folks basing out of their cars. And it worked. We were afforded a training goal, got to see our buddies at the appropriate 6 foot spacing and most importantly, felt just a little bit normal.
Now, with the first two snowshoe races of the 2021-2022 Dion WMAC Snowshoe Series in the books, we have fallen into the lap of luxury. Gore Mountain Resort offered up their ski lodge, complete with fireplace for our comfort, and Brookhaven Golf Course based from their wood-paneled restaurant and full-service bar (need I say more?) Bob Underwood of Underdog Race timing got to finally take off his jacket and register us indoors and afterwards proudly displayed the race results on his flat screen. We got to hang out with friends and enjoy a hot drink and a meal together. And Cantrell was so right—we appreciated these amenities so much more after not having had them for such a long time.
And after what seemed like weeks of overcast weather we finally saw the sun. Kudos to the Brookhaven staff who managed to eke out a course with a bare minimum of available snow. While snow cover in the woods was scant, we did get a grand tour of the golf course with no need to hunt for hidden flags—all we had to do was follow the corduroy “yellow brick road” for a carefree tour on glistening snow. Hopefully, for their next event on February 5 we will be back into the woods.
And now it seems fitting to join Gary Cantrell in redefining misery, especially after my following day’s two-hour snowshoe slog with freezing rain encasing my jacket: “Misery is a life without discomfort.” It is a life without pushing outside the comfort zone to see what we are truly capable of. So whatever the weather or the circumstances, get out there and invest in future good vibes – like we shared at Brookhaven.
— 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