December 2018 - SNOWSHOE RACING
Something for Everybody!
By Laura Clark
While it is nearly impossible to please all of the people all of the time, the 2018-19 Dion WMAC Snowshoe Series comes pretty darn close. Whether you prefer a clearly-defined ski area, the wooded trails of state parks and preserves, reconverted rail trails or extreme challenges, there will be an event to your liking. And those featuring more bang for your buck invariably offer a shorter companion version, so as to include everyone in your carpool.
For me, the best thing about snowshoe racing is snubbing your nose at icy roads and enjoying nature with a bunch of like-minded friends. You will encounter national class runners, competitive locals and first-timers, all with the single goal of enjoying the day. Events are casual with some featuring raffles and pot lucks, and a few offering T-shirts and age-group awards. Gone is the single-minded focus on minutes-per-mile, replaced by a more realistic expectation based on snow/trail conditions.
If you are a first-timer, know that snowshoeing is quite strenuous and only the folks who expect to win will be running the entire time. A limited number of Dion Snowshoe rentals are available, just be sure to sign up ahead. And check the website (dionwmacsnowshoe.com) as well as the individual race site – or the series Facebook page – before heading out, as conditions vary from one region to another. Races may get cancelled, relocated or reconformed into trail (mud) races as condition warrant, so flexibility is key!
Ski areas begin the season with North Creek’s Gore Mountain 5K on Saturday, December 15, featuring guaranteed snow from its snowmaking system. The past two years we stuck closely to the high school racing Nordic ski route, so expect the ups and downs that make such a course exciting. If natural snow is in the offing, Gore Nordic Center director Paul Allison, also plans to incorporate the area’s wooded paths. Note that the race begins at 2pm and registration includes a Nordic ticket, so bring your skis. If you’d prefer a shorter distance, register for the fun 2.5K recreational event with no timing. Gore is the perfect opportunity to test your gear and write your Christmas list to Santa! (skireg.com)
“Take the road less traveled” at Winter Magic 5K+ on Sunday, January 13, where you can experience the down-home feel of the laid-back Magic Mountain Resort in Londonderry, Vt., and finish up with a craft beer from Black Line Tavern. Entry is $20 day-of only. Mike Owens of MORunning Systems promises a few steep hills to vary last year’s 3.5-mile route. You’ll know you’re in Vermont once you sample their UnTapped pure Vermont maple syrup energy gels. Last year I grabbed a few extra and enjoyed a Laura Ingalls Wilder maple sugar snow break on some of my training runs! (facebook.com)
At the opposite end of the season is the Garnet Hill Lodge 5K & 10K on Saturday, March 2 in North River. Debuting last year, manager Dwayne Spitzer designed a tough 5K loop course which surveyed woods and rustic cabins. I elected for the 10K, which I found liberating since after the initial loop I knew exactly what to expect, and how many hills stood between me and the finish. There’s a great mix of single and double track trails and after the races stay to enjoy some great food and drink! (garnet-hill.com)
Last year, race director Tim VanOrden staged the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon National Championship races at Prospect Mountain Ski Area, in snowy Woodford, Vt., and now he has an unlimited number of possible permutations to choose from. Check soon for race updates. (dionwmacsnowshoe.com)
Most of the series venues are associated with park, preserve, land trust or rail trails, with some laying claim to multiple titles. The lone rail trail designee is Bob Dion’s own Hoot Toot & Whistle 5K on Saturday, January 19, which follows the old narrow-gauge Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington Railroad route to Readsboro, Vt. Then, return another day for a longer exploration as this is a part of the 300-mile-long Catamount Trail cross country ski trail. The route we cover is surprisingly hilly for a rail route, with uphills too short to hike, and cumulatively too tiring to run. (dionwmacsnowshoe.com)
The Churney Gurney 4.5-Miler is on Saturday, January 12 at Gurney Lane Recreation Area’s mountain bike trails in Queensbury. Bob Underwood of Underdog Race Timing will carve out a hilly, twisty route similar to this past summer’s Churney Gurney trail run. A new snowshoe race venue this year, you can expect a seamless experience from the town of Queensbury. Following, there will be fat tire mountain bike races, as well as fat tire rides and demos – presented by Grey Ghost Bicycles. Come run, then try some fat tire riding or racing. (runreg.com & bikereg.com)
The Cock-A-Doodle-Shoe 5K & 10K is on Saturday, January 20 at New Land Trust in Saranac (near Plattsburgh, NOT Saranac Lake). After hosting the North American Snowshoe Championships last year, Jeremy Drowne is relaxing the format with an old-fashioned, low-cost, low-frills race. Note that there is no online registration, just mail-in and day-of. Shirts are a hot item, so register early to ensure availability. Snowshoers will enjoy a winter wonderland of forested trails, some hilly, some flat, with plenty of open fields as well. This event is notable in that it is one of the few that features a Kid’s Snowshoe Scramble Half-Miler. (cockadoodleshoe.com)
Saratoga Springs hosts the Saratoga Winterfest 5K on Sunday, February 3 at the Saratoga Spa State Park. The Winterfest route loosely follows the famed cross country running course, adding an additional hill and woodsy section. On Saturday, February 9, the Camp Saratoga 8K at Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park is more difficult. It will follow last year’s new route and showcase park areas off the beaten path.
Both events are known for their bountiful pot lucks and social hours, and race funds benefit the host parks. After an absence of several years, T-shirts are again offered. Give a fun twist to your pre-race preparations and join Pam DelSignore’s snowshoe yoga warmup. As race director for both events, I invite you to join me for the 20th annual Winterfest. The races each benefit their host parks. (saratogastryders.org)
Two of the toughest challenges occur in February. First up is the Stone Bridge Caveman 6K & Extreme Caveman 15K on Saturday, February 16 at Natural Stone Bridge and Caves in Pottersville. The 15K features plenty of steep, uphill climbing and sharp descents as well as a twisty, overlapping route with single and double tracks that require strict attention to trail markers. 6K runners will enjoy views of Trout Brook, the southern Adirondacks from the top of Catamount, and dark hemlock forest groves. Starting at 990 feet elevation, the race climbs up to 1,445 feet just before the halfway mark, and then back down with several flats. Afterwards, plan to warm up by the open fire pit and explore the iced wonderland of the Stone Bridge arch, the largest cave entrance in the East. (stonebridgeandcaves.com)
Also in February, Albany Running Exchange’s Frosty will be taking over Tawasentha Park in Guilderland for his annual Brave the Blizzard 5K & 5.5-Miler on Sunday, February 24. Expect hills, slippery slopes, cheering volunteers, and all the pancakes you can eat at the 15th annual event. Awards include baked goods so you may even score an age-group cookie. (zippyreg.com)
A new kid on the block is Andy Weinberg’s Frigus 5K, 15K & Marathon on Saturday, February 23 in Mendon, Vt., based out of the Cortina Inn. The 5K will be a single loop, the 15K a single loop with 1,500 feet of elevation gain, and those braving the marathon will be confronted with multiple loops of 1,500 feet elevation gain per loop. All events launch at 8am and there is a generous cutoff of 5pm, meaning 5K and 15K participants have ample opportunity to complete their journey, and marathoners may want to pack a headlamp for their final loop. Race entry includes a pasta dinner as well as a unique gift and finisher medal. I have run several of Andy’s other events near Killington and have appreciated the fun, supportive atmosphere. (endurancesociety.org)
At the end of the Dion WMAC Snowshoe Series, finishing points will be totaled and overall male and female winners will receive a top-of-the-line pair of Dion Snowshoe. But the real reward is spending time outdoors with new friends and acquiring an intimate acquaintance with multiple trail systems worthy of return trips!
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.