June 2017 - TRAIL RUNNING & DUATHLON
A Potpourri of Trail Races
Plus, Obstacles and Paddle or Bike Duathlons
By Laura Clark
Ever take a whack at a birthday piñata not sure just what would fall on top of your head – hard candy, confetti, Star Wars figurines…? Well, this summer’s trail selection is rather like that. Race directors are getting inventive and the usual lineups just don’t apply. Trail events have expanded from singletrack to obstacle to mountain to water and all manner of combos. So strike out and choose your own uniquely designed adventure!
Retro – Looking for a retro race featuring popsicle stick timing and 1960s pricing? Then join the Saratoga Stryders every other Monday evening at the Camp Saratoga 5K Trail Race Series on June 26, July 10, July 24, August 7 and August 21 at Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park. A mere $5 will get you a challenging trail featuring a wooded hills and singletrack, dollar store raffle prizes, watermelon and ice pops. Those who complete all five races have their shot at ironman, ironwoman, age-graded or continual improvement awards. Families with the most runners including grandparents, cousins and aunts, get Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cone coupons. As race director, I am proud of the growing contingent of kids who participate along with their adults.
We try to include a bit of fun for everyone, featuring convenient carryout service by 9 Miles East Farm, and on July 10 hosts iRun Local and Salomon provide loaner shoes to test run. Giving back to the community, on the first three dates you can donate gently used T-shirts and sneakers to the Backstretch Worker’s Free Store. A portion of race proceeds are donated to the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park. (saratogastryders.org)
Traditional – As far as trail events go, you can’t get more established than Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club’s 23rd annual Indian Ladder 15K and 3.5-Mile Trail Races and One-Mile Kids’ Run at Thacher Park, near Voorheesville. The race is Sunday, July 23 under new race director, Mark Vermilyea, who intends to keep things pretty much the same. Both the 15K and the 3.5-Miler launch simultaneously. Take time to scuff your feet along the initial thyme field and breathe deeply. And remember to enjoy the stunning overlook views, or at least return there for your cooldown, if you are too intimidated by the narrow trail to risk the upward glance.
While the 3.5-miler is the flatter option, the 15K features plenty of steep hills, which can get muddy if it’s a wet week. In fact, Mark boasts that the T-shirt will be sunshine yellow in anticipation of a bright day as opposed to the downpour we slogged through last year! Afterwards, enjoy trading war stories while savoring refreshing Stewart’s ice cream. (hmrrc.com)
Obstacles – Obstacle races are no longer the new kid on the block and have developed a loyal following of folks who seek to spice up their runs and challenge all body parts.
In yet another example of a ski area reinventing itself during the “off-season,” Schenectady’s Maple Ski Ridge presents the sixth annual Run the Ridge 5K Mud Run with fun, challenging obstacles on Saturday, July 15. It promises a wave start, plenty of muddy, hilly trails, and at least 25 natural and manmade obstacles. This is not a ho-hum event, since each year tasks are redesigned and reconfigured to continually challenge previous participants. Like Grover in his classic Sesame Street “Over, Under, Around and Through” skit, athletes will exhaust themselves jumping over tires, ducking under ropes, and dashing through fire.
Fittingly, all will be awarded a souvenir dog tag and the first 100 registrants also score a T-shirt, draw string bag, and Fandana head/neckwear. Race director Karen Doyle is especially proud of the affordable 2K Family Fun Run. To keep young kids entertained, there will be a bounce house for non-muddied small fry and a few small features to make them feel in the loop. Fittingly, proceeds benefit Special Olympics New York, a group who confront challenges as a normal part of their day. (runtheridge.net)
Muddy up your vacation with a stay at Sunny Hill Resort in Greenville, in the scenic northern Catskills. While residency is not required, it would make for an enhanced Sunday, July 30 race day weekend at the 5.5-mile and 5K family Viking Obstacle Race. This is an Obstacle Course Racing World Championship qualifier and as such you will be inspired by elite athletes competing on the same route you will be tackling. Except that after three tries at rope climbing, log balancing, moat hopping, regular folks face a 25 burpee penalty to continue, while elites must “do or die.”
There is also a team option where members are permitted to help one another. And new this year is a Viking Double category, where athletes tackle two laps, and must complete all obstacles. Definitely intense, but you can purchase a day pass for dress rehearsal on this permanent course or plan a practice weekend as a Sunny Hill guest. And, since the course doesn’t change, participate during multiple years and record your progress. Use discount code ASF17 for 10% off registration. (sunnyhill.com)
Duos – Taking a cue from road duathlons, the following four events venture out of the box by combining trails and either mountain biking or kayaking.
Leading the quartet is the Battle of the Boquet 5K Trail Run/Walk and 2.5 Kayak Race on Saturday, July 8 in Willsboro. The event commemorates the War of 1812 battle where the Americans, determined to protect their town – and perhaps more importantly, their distillery – marched along the Boquet River to confront the British flotilla as it paddled upstream.
You can run only or do the run/paddle duathlon. Runners will trace the path of these patriots, and those opting for a full round will jump into their kayaks, transforming into British invaders as they head back into town. This is a rare combo where you get to reenact both sides of the invasion utilizing two entirely different skill sets. The horse trails alongside the river are extremely flat and race director Justin Drinkwine has rental kayaks available on a first-come, first-served basis. (adirondackcoastevents.com)
Contemplating a budget-friendly weekend staycation? Then put the inaugural Churney Gurney 5-Mile Trail Run on Saturday, August 5 and the fourth annual Churney Gurney Mountain Bike Races on Sunday, August 6 on your schedule. Based from Queensbury’s Gurney Lane Recreation Area (near exit 19), with its rolling trails, Saturday features a brand new 5-mile trail running race, which was added to make it a two-day festival. Sunday’s races for all categories are part of the NYS Mountain Bike Series, plus there are fun kids’ races.
Both days feature mountain bike demos, with Saturday also offering family games and contests, and scheduled group rides. This weekend serves as the main fundraiser for Camp Under the Woods, founded by local athletes Heidi and Bob Underwood, to provide a true outdoor experience for children on the autism spectrum. (churnneygurney.com)
On Saturday, August 19 head to West Mountain’s “Over the Top” 10K Mountain Bike and 5K Trail Run Duathlon, commencing on trails at the “plateau” top of the mountain. Race director Regina Baker has designed a course that “twists and turns through double and singletrack trails of varying difficulty, and rewards racers with expansive views of the Hudson Valley and southern Adirondacks.
Not adept at both sports? Then find a friend and compete as a team. Post-race, enjoy included BBQ lunch and craft beer tastings from Lake George Beer Hub, while you hold your breath to see if you have won a prize, which include season passes, midweek passes, gift cards and tubing tickets. (westmtn.net)
Ultra fans head to ADK 80K Trail Run Race and Relay on Saturday, August 26 and Mountain Bike Race and Relay on Sunday, August 27 at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid. It’s “incredibly laid back,” according to ultrarunner Jen Ferriss. “The course is hard and solitary experience.” Solo runners choose between 80K or 50K on a 20K figure-eight formatted loop, which takes you through the race village twice per lap – making it ideal for first-time ultra runners! Or, you can join a two- or four-person relay team.
On Sunday, mountain bike, cyclocross and fat bike riders have their own categories, with either a 40K and 80K solo or two- to four-person team options. Best of all, there are no time cutoffs for the 50K run or relays, or the 40K bike or relays, other than the overall finish – perfect for someone like me who is perennially haunted by looming midway cutoffs or for folks out to have an enjoyable day in the woods. (adk80k.com)
These events are proof that boring is out and challenging is in. See you out there!
Laura Clark (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Saratoga Springs is an avid trail runner, ultramarathoner, snowshoer and cross-country skier. She is a children’s librarian at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.