by Laura Clark
Whew! Two races in two weeks. Almost (but not quite) as crazy as Tim Van Orden’s Nationals with six races in two days. For those of you who were wondering why I chose to subject myself to this, the scheduling of Camp Saratoga is dependent upon the full moon. This has nothing to do with Shades of Grey or a healthy fear of vampires but the necessity of avoiding a conflict with Wilton Wildlife’s backup Candlelight Ski & Snowshoe date. And while life was intense for a while, it meant that I only had to endure two weeks of race box household clutter. And now I am DONE! And at liberty to enjoy everyone else’s races. While such a schedule precluded long pre-half-marathon training runs, leading up to Camp, I logged 25 miles on snowshoes in five days. So that must count for something.
At this time of year I am always jealous of road race directors. Barring an earthquake or a mudslide, they always have a road. Yes, I have a trail, but it is totally dependent on whatever snow and ice Mother Nature dishes up. At Winterfest, unfortunately, it was more about the ice. For the four days leading up to the event, I waffled between traction and snowshoes. For much of that time it was teetering on the edge, with some sections deep enough for snowshoes and others begging for heavy-duty traction. I was concerned about runner safety, but at the same time I didn’t want anyone to have regrets. By Saturday, however, the ice got thicker and the snow got thinner so the choice was clear.
On the final decision day, Don Proulx and I added final touches, all the while thinking. “What would Hilary do?” We marked with an eye toward any place she might again make a wrong turn and this year no one added bonus miles. Wish she had made it for the final test. Even more remarkable, everyone was super careful and no one went down on the ice. Shaun Donegan took a chance with lightweight track spikes, overtaking Tim VanOrden who opted for heavier ice gear. Or perhaps it was just the fact Shaun was unencumbered by heavy clothes, running only in shorts and shoes while Tim dressed more conventionally.
Speculation ran high before the following Saturday’s Camp Saratoga event, as folks occupied their pre-race time guessing what Shaun would wear. I thought shorts and knee socks, but he surprised us all by wearing a singlet. Guess that hindered him a bit because this time he finished a mere two seconds ahead of Tim. Times were slow as we had about 15” of snow, much of it heavy, causing snowshoes to gasp for purchase.
This year we had a completely revamped course as the ice the previous year had me shuddering at the final steep hill to the finish. A few, including me, were sad about the demise of the steep hill past the dining hall, but most were relieved. On the plus side, the route designed by Matt Miczek, who is also a Wilton Trail Steward, showcased different sections of Camp, most especially, the historic fire tower, constructed in 1924 and originally erected in Luther Forest. To save it from disrepair, it was moved to Camp to honor Luther’s son, Tommy who was the founder of the Camp Saratoga Boy Scout Camp. Interestingly, its first observer was Noah LaCasse, an Adirondack guide who was with then Vice President Teddy Roosevelt on Mt. Marcy when they learned of President McKinley’s death. Small world!
You can tell Matt is a computer guy just by glancing at the map and perusing the two pages of color highlighted written instructions. Those of you who enthusiastically struggled to follow John Orsini’s original Mudslinger map will know what I am talking about. But after five days and twenty-five miles of marking and the efforts of Jan Mares (on skis!), Michael Della Rocco and Brian Teague, no one took a wrong turn. We are lucky to have such dedicated volunteers. Even when struck down by the flu on Friday, Matt said, “I just have to see the doctor and then I will put out the cones in the afternoon.” A ridiculous, die-hard statement, but very touching.
While we all returned intact, Peggy McKeown did so less successfully. Apparently her toe warmers burnt holes through her socks and she experienced 2nd degree chemical burns. While the warning label that no one reads advises not to use while hiking or running, apparently if you are going to do so, it is best to remove them at the first sign of trouble. How many of us, like Peggy, would be so focused on our race that we would just grit our teeth and carry on? Or it could be that Peggy is simply so fast that she generates more heat than someone like me. Dr. Maureen performed emergency first aid and stayed with Peggy at Wilton Emergency Medical while Wilton Wildlife volunteer Jean Hoins and runner Martin O’Toole shuttled Peggy’s belongings and car to the hospital where Peggy’s sister took over. Dr. Maureen is going to do some research and write an article so we will have a better idea what we are facing for the sake of warm piggies.
On a more humorous note, Theresa Apple, the lady who sends those weekly email updates, decided to adopt a pseudonym and ran as Snow Fahl. After the race, when Theresa checked her Snow Fahl results, she noticed Lisa Winters finished directly behind her. When Theresa mentioned that to Peggy Huckel, Lisa Winters, heard her and piped up, “I’m Lisa Winters!” Peggy rejoined with, “You have to sign your real name on the race waiver.” Lisa replied, “But that is my real name.”
One thing both races have in common is the pot luck spread supervised by Peggy and Patricia Keefe and the vast array of raffle prizes of the new as well as the gently used variety. I overheard someone comment that next year she would save stuff she doesn’t want and make a contribution. But the best reward of all is the opportunity to share a winter day outdoors with old and new friends.
– Laura Clark is an avid snowshoer, trail runner, XC skier, race director, and 2017 World Snowshoe Federation Championship 70-99 Female Age Group winner. As you might guess from this article, she directs both the Saratoga snowshoe races and thanks to an incredibly dedicated group of helpers runs both races as well!