December 2017 - SNOWSHOE RUNNING
Dashing Through the Snow! - The Long and Short of It
By Laura Clark
Last season, one of the original Western Mass Athletic Club snowshoers, Bob Worsham reflected, “I miss the longer races we used to have.” Well, Bob, this is your year, as we look forward to offerings ranging from 5Ks, 10Ks and 15Ks, all the way up through the half and full marathon – with a team relay thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, though, the first two races on tap are all 5Ks, designed for an early season introduction, and an opportunity to practice clothing choices and strategy.
But why wait for the snow to fall? The season is but a brief shining moment and conditioning is crucial. Aaron Robertson, who came out of seemingly nowhere – Rouses Point, to be exact – to win Snowshoe Nationals a few years back, attributes his success to superman hip flexors developed from single leg stationary bike pedaling drills. Saratoga Stryders member, Maureen Roberts, who doubles as our doctor on-call, has already begun her single leg squats and walking lunges hefting ten-pound handweights. I swear by my twice-weekly lunchtime stair running sessions to develop high knee lift and climbing power.
It also helps to cultivate a shrug-your-shoulders “whatever” attitude. Snow can be fickle and courses are sometimes altered to accommodate that fact; some are approached as mud excursions, others are rescheduled and occasionally even relocated. Updates from race directors are posted weekly on dionwmacsnowshoe.com and on Facebook (search: Dion WMAC Snowshoe Series) to include other regional events. Most races will have a limited supply of Dion Snowshoe rentals, so email the race director if you need to reserve a pair.
The season begins with a pre-holiday race, the Gore Ski Bowl 5K on December 16 in North Creek. (upperhudsontrails.org) With manmade snow, there will be plenty of white stuff on the Nordic trails at the Ski Bowl. The race begins at 2pm to allow for morning cross-country skiing. Last year, we circled the ski bowl area, but a trip into the woods is in the offing if the snow cooperates.
This year, the Cock-A-Doodle-Shoe race on January 14 at New Land Trust in Saranac is the WSSF (World Snowshoe Federation) North American Snowshoe Championship, with separate 10K adult and 5K junior races. Bear in mind that the town of Saranac (Clinton County) is different than the village of Saranac Lake (Franklin County). It is tough facing a championship so early in the season, but the wooded trails are level, punctuated by some rollers to keep you honest. At least you won’t be climbing a mountain! The Kid’s Snowshoe Scramble half-miler, one of the few snowshoe races designed specifically for youngsters, will start first. Expect a family-friendly event with an international and collegiate crowd and fabulous raffle prizes. (cockadoodleshoe.com)
Sometimes just getting to the race is part of the adventure, as with the Winter Magic 3.5-Miler on January 7, and Hoot Toot & Whistle 5K on January 20. (dionwmacsnowshoe.com) Remote events, located where it actually pays to read the directions ahead of time. Both races feature bussing to the start, where narrow trailheads preclude parking access. For the first, you will need to time your registration at home base at the Black Line Tavern at Magic Mountain Ski Area for the trek to Lowell Lake State Park, near Londonderry, Vt. before the last bus leaves at 10:45am. Ditto for Hoot Toot & Whistle, headquartered at the Readsboro School in southern Vermont, where registration ends at 10am, before the ride to the start. Expect no-frills conditions at both race sites, and be prepared to store dry clothes in a waterproof bag. Lowell Lake will introduce you to some real Vermont hills, while Hoot Toot is relentlessly rolling as it traces the path of the Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington narrow-gauge railbed.
In the Saratoga region, plan on the “twins” – Winterfest 5K at the Saratoga Spa State Park on February 4, followed by the Camp Saratoga 8K on February 10 at Wilton Wildlife Preserve. The Winterfest is a great introductory course, with some hills and a mix of wide and single track, while Camp Saratoga is more a difficult tour of groomed and natural trails. This year, we hope to reroute a bit to utilize some newer trails and restore the route to its advertised 8K length. And if you missed Camp Saratoga last year, know that the facilities now boast heated bathrooms! Both are famous for their bounteous potluck lunches afterwards. Pre-registrants enjoy a significant discount if they register for both events. (saratogastryders.org)
Near Albany, Capital Hills Golf Course is the new home of Capital Region Nordic Alliance, so you can expect some rolling hills typical of a cross country experience at the Capital Hills 5K on February 11 (capitalregionnordicalliance.org).
Many of the WMAC Series races present both shorter and longer options: Western Mass Snowshoe Scramble 5K and 10K on January 27 at Mt. Tom Reservation in Holyoke, Mass; Stone Bridge Caveman 5K, 10K and 15K Extreme Caveman on February 17 in Pottersville; and Brave the Blizzard 5K and 5.5-Miler on February 24 in Tawasentha Park in Guilderland. The Scramble features a rolling 5K on scenic Mt. Tom trails, with the 10K folks either on a separate course or circling two loops depending on snow conditions. Afterwards, bring a dish to share at the potluck. (dionwmacsnowshoe.com)
Outside of the series, but in the lake effected, snowy southern Adirondacks, the Oak Runner 5K and 10K will be held January 21 at Oak Mountain Ski Center in Speculator. (oakmountainski.com) Also on January 21, the Komen New England Snowshoe for the Cure – Vermont, will return to the Nordic trails of Stratton Mountain’s Sun Bowl area. It will feature a 3K snowshoe race, 3K and 5K snowshoe walk and kids’ snowshoe dash. Demo shoes will be available from event partner, Tubbs Snowshoes, while supplies last. komennewengland.org)
One year after hosting the 2017 World Snowshoe Championships, Saranac Lake will leverage their international experience to host a new snowshoe weekend, the Adirondack Snowshoe Fest, set for February 24-25. Organizers are planning a series of races for all skill levels plus entertainment. Included in the mix will be a 15K, 10K, Shoe-be-doo 5K, guided snowshoe tour, and awards at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center and Paul Smith’s College VIC. (saranaclake.com)
Whatever option you choose at Stone Bridge, you can expect a scenic, challenging course on a mix of single track and wider trails. Last year was the Bridge’s debut year and I was really grateful to take advantage of race director Lance Decker’s enthusiastic offer to lead expeditions on non-racing weekends. My knowledge of the course helped me to squeak past several competitors because I knew the end was near! Keep this in mind if we have a no-snow weekend, because chances are good there will be snow in Pottersville, in the south central Adirondacks. Afterwards, enjoy the outdoor fire pit and leave time for the short hike to the ice-encrusted cave, guarded by the giant caveman! (stonebridgeandcaves.com)
At the Brave the Blizzard, celebrating his third year at Tawasentha Park, Frosty the Snowman has hopefully found his permanent home in this hilly venue. Like the Scramble, Winterfest and Camp races, Albany Running Exchange typically holds a trail race if conditions are not suitable for shoeing. If that is the case this year, donning spikes will help you dig into those steep, muddy hills. Afterwards, receive a high-five from the snowman himself, and get warm in the hut where all manner of pancakes await. (areep.com)
Garnet Hill Snowshoe 10K on March 3 in North River (just north of Gore) has hosted snowshoe races in the very distant past, and is now ready to get back into the action. Their trails are a continuous up and down “over the mountain and through the woods” experience. We will have a beautiful lodge to recover in and contemplate a run on their exciting cross country ski trails. (garnet-hill.com) This race, as well as Woodford Whiteout 10K at Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt. on February 25, will have you ready to tackle the Nationals 10K challenge. Woodford, of course, will go one further being a literal dress-rehearsal for nationals. Take this opportunity to scope out the route and plan your race strategy as you will be competing against mountain runners from all over the US!
And now, drumroll please… the US Snowshoe National Championships return once more to snowy Prospect Mountain the weekend of March 10-11. Saturday features the junior 5K, separate men’s and women’s 10K, kids’ 1K and a citizens’ 5K. Expect big climbs on the 10K; this is a mountain, after all. Award ceremonies and dinner follow at 6pm. On tap for Sunday is the Team Relay, a Half Marathon, and a Full Marathon! A 7K loop, different from the 10K course, will be run three times for the half and six for the full – with an eight-hour cutoff. According to race director Tim Van Orden, “the marathon loop with be a lot like the North American Championship course – rolling, with small climbs and lots of Nordic trail.” (snowshoeracing.com) Think snow!!!
Laura Clark (email@example.com) 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.