September 2017 - TRAIL RUNNING & WALKING
A Kaleidoscope of Fall Trail Races
By Laura Clark
Remember playing with a kaleidoscope when you were a kid? The shifting display of colors and patterns teased countless hours of wonderment. You had control of the turning mechanism, but still there was no way to predict the outcome. This autumn’s offering of trail races is like that glimpse into a magical world where brilliant leaves and twisty trail generate both focus and wonderment.
First on the docket is the second annual “Course/Curse the Wall” 5K & 9K Trail Run held on Sunday, September 17 at Lapland Lake Nordic Ski Center in Northville. As with all XC ski routes, you can expect rolling hills and flats, interspersed with some moderately steep inclines. One particular slope, affectionately nicknamed “The Wall,” occurs just 1K before the finish, so save some energy to surmount it! There is a round-about option for the vertically challenged, but in the tradition of obstacle races, it requires added distance. This year a shorter 1K sampler version has been added as a noncompetitive, less extreme experience. Competition is intense for hand-painted Trophy Rock turtles and ladybugs and past winners are required to carry their pet rock with them. Registration includes T-shirt, BBQ and live music. (runreg.com)
For a kaleidoscope of shifting trails be sure to check out the seventh annual Moreau Lake 15K & 5K Trail Run also on Sunday, September 17 at Moreau Lake State Park. Billed as “Toughest 15K trail run in New York,” this year’s edition includes a shorter 5K. While the route is well-marked, if you are not paying attention it is easy to gain few bonus miles. I have learned it is best to download a color map for speedy consultation. Also, don’t step on the red newts – there is an ongoing contest to see whoever can spot the most! See the July issue for more details. (greenleafracing.com)
The following week on Sunday, September 24, treat your tired legs to the Muddy Sneaker 5K Trail Run, at Indian Meadows Park in Glenville. According to race director Allison Reinhardt of the Glenville YMCA, the course is a nice mix, weighing in on the flattish side. “There is a gorgeous section that takes runners by a little brook, beautiful woods and through open fields that will make you remember your high school cross country running days.” This is a quintessential family event, welcoming to walkers and runners alike, ending with a bounce house for the real kids, and a free sundae courtesy of Stewart’s Shops for all young at heart. (zippyreg.com)
Gore Mountain’s Leaf Cruncher 5K Trail Run/Walk on Saturday, September 30, long a staple in the trail running community, is known for its eclectic mix of award categories and generous fall-themed raffle prizes including lift tickets, mums, school supplies, Barkeater Chocolates and outdoor gear. “Everyone’s a winner” certainly does apply as runners can choose to barrel through the rolling, cross-country trail or take their time treasure-hunting for Halloween goodies redeemable for extra prizes. As such, this makes for a great family outing! Afterwards, your race bib will earn you a free ride aboard the Northwoods Gondola where you will be treated to an impressive array of fall colors from a totally different angle. (goremountain.com)
Envious of folks who have maintained a longtime streak in a particular event? Well, the first annual Amy’s Adventure: 8K Trail Race for the Lake on Saturday, October 14 is your opportunity for a streak of your own. The race showcases Amy’s Park, a stunning mix of ponds, marshes and forests in the uplands of Bolton Landing, with proceeds benefitting Lake George Land Conservancy. According to race director Michele DeRossi you can expect five miles of rugged trail, expertly designed by land steward Alex Novick and Under Armour “running ambassador” Regina Baker. Top three in each age group receive handmade wooden medals from Adirondack Etching. Register early as the first 50 will receive a free Under Armour race shirt, with the option to purchase additional shirts onsite. Afterwards, join the party at Bolton Landing Brewing Company. (lglc.org)
Get into the Halloween spirit on Sunday, October 22 at the Wandering Witch 5K and 10K Trail Races held at Christ the King Conference Center in Greenwich. Rolling trails are fairly wide and are intersected by an open jaunt around the barnyard where sheep dogs herd their charges. As the race benefits the Greenwich School running programs, you can expect to see tweens and teens showing off their stuff. The atmosphere is casual and enjoyment of the fall countryside is key. At the finish, homemade soups and treats await. Register early as festive witch T-shirts are limited to the first 50 entries. (active.com)
Another first-time streak opportunity is the first annual Brookhaven Oktoberfest 5K Trail Race on Saturday, October 28 at the Brookhaven Golf Course in Porter Corners (ten miles north of Saratoga Springs). In winter, Brookhaven is appreciated by a growing cadre of dedicated cross-country skiers for its reliable snow and groomed trails, when the rest of Saratoga County may be depressingly brown. All proceeds will go to expand and improve Nordic skiing at Brookhaven, which currently offers free classic ski trails. They are looking to bring high school and citizen ski races in the upcoming year and upgrade their grooming equipment. According to race director Chris Yarsevich, “The course is a mix of cart paths through the golf course, double track trails in the woods, and a fast finish on a paved road. There are two decent hills, but the trails are not too rooty or technical, producing a good beginner’s trail race.” Afterwards, there’s a kids 1K fun run and the town of Greenfield’s Oktoberfest party with food and family entertainment. (skireg.com)
For me, the quintessential autumn experience is the 13th annual Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon and Squirrelly Six Trail Races on Sunday, October 29 at Thacher State Park near Albany. Begin on the stunning Indian Ladder Trail where runners frequently forget they are racing and cannot resist the urge to pause and take selfies. In fact, a glance at the website reveals that the two most frequently used words are “beautiful” and “food” – a combo that appeals to every runner’s basic instincts. There are costumed characters offering treats along the way, a full buffet afterwards and yummy frosted age group cookies. And, of course plenty of bananas and nuts. Beware the chain saw guy ready to jump out at you when you least expect it. If you have pre-registered, be on the lookout for your own tombstone! With over half the participants dressing up, this event has been recognized by Runners’ World as the “Best costume trail race in America” and also recently ranked one of the ‘Top 50 theme races’ in the country. Adirondack Sports readers can save $5 with code “ADKSP917” until Sept. 30. (hairygorillahalf.com)
The Saratoga Cross Country Classic 5K Race is also on Sunday, October 29, at the Saratoga Spa State Park. It will veer slightly from the iconic route due to Peerless Pool upgrades, but it will be on similar quality XC running trails. Craig Evans has taken over directorship duties from Pat Glover, who rescued the event when sponsorship was lost after 2011. Watching the Kids’ 2K and 3K Developmental Runs is an inspirational experience, where literally hundreds of new recruits take to the trails. Monetary prizes are awarded to the top two USATF Adirondack clubs with most members finishing and the top three youth clubs. The Saratoga XC Classic is the final event in the inaugural USATF-Adirondack Trail Running Series. But as Craig states, “The one message I would like to get across is for people who have never run this race to not be intimidated by the fact that is XC/trail racing.” The trails are mostly wide with a minimum of technical difficulty as compared to other events in the series. (saratogaxcclassic.com)
Your final local opportunity to experience fall colors is fittingly, at the Saratoga Stryders’ “Fall Back” 5-Mile Trail Race on Sunday, November 5, the morning after the clocks revert to winter time, giving all racers the added bonus of an extra hour’s sleep. A far cry from the mild XC nature of the Classic, this race showcases mostly singletrack, but non-technical trails through forests, near wetlands, and areas of the park you may never have seen before, with a tour around the Geyser Island Spouter, and a dash up the quad-busting staircase behind SPAC. There is a pleasant grassland/path break roughly halfway through for you to catch your breath and regroup for the final push – just be prepared to duck as it circles around the new Disc Golf course. (saratogastryders.org)
Soon glittery, rainbow fairy snowflakes will fall and your autumn familiarity with these trails will ease the transition to snowshoeing and Nordic skiing through an icy kaleidoscope of winter colors!
Laura Clark is (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.