April 2019 - RUNNING & WALKING
banner photo // 2018 Prospect Mountain Road Race – Larry Mancini and Jill Pederson rounding the last turn at the top with Lake George in the background.
There’s Only One Hill - Prospect Celebrates Its 30th Year!
By Laura Clark
True, there is only one hill, a phrase coined by former race director Dave Harrington, but it is formidable – 5.67 miles straight up with an accompanying 1,601 feet of elevation gain. And every last decimal place is crucial.
At the Prospect Mountain Road Race on Saturday, May 11, you get the best of both worlds; a road race with no traffic congestion, offering spectacular views of Lake George! You are alone with nature, the only spectators being birds, and the occasional porcupine. Those of us desiring the full experience elect to run back down again, pausing at the scenic outlooks, with bonus points for a long run. The Catch-22 is that jogging back in sweaty clothes is not pleasant. Since I am not breaking any records, I always tie a thin jacket around my waist. Those gunning for it can stash extra gear in the race van. Either way, there are always cars heading down afterwards, so if you tire, you can stick out your thumb with confidence.
Thirty years ago, Don McCabe, a BOCES instructor, thought it would be fun to run up the mountain. He convinced a few hardy soles to join him and soon enough the idea evolved from a “seemed like a good idea at the time” dare to a viable event. Dave and Dot Harrington – responsible for the quirky mile-marker signage – and Barb Bartawitz were the race directors for many years, with Martha’s Ice Cream a major sponsor – free cones! When the owner’s daughter died, the Michele Lafontaine SUNY Adirondack nursing scholarship fund was created as a beneficiary. Son Rob, of Rob and Deb’s Ice Cream, continues the tradition. Today, the race also benefits Under the Woods Foundation.
The adage “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes,” holds as co-race directors Jill Pederson and Christine Cifone-Clohosey boast, “Never has it been cancelled because of weather and no one has ever been left at the top.”
Prospect is part of the Northeast Uphill Mountain Series (northeastuphillmountainseries.blogspot.com) giving us the opportunity to hone in on some useful techniques from folks who regularly run uphill for fun. Oddly enough, the American Trail Running Association includes anything uphill in its mission statement, whether road or trail. According to its founder Nancy Hobbs, “It’s the ascending and significant elevation gain that can make a road run a mountain run… the uphill effort creates challenge unlike that of the gently rolling terrain so often found in a road race where PRs are more important than the experience of being outdoors.” (trailrunner.com).
From Brian Teague’s elevation and pace charts on the Adirondack Runners club website, you can see that not all mountain miles are created equal. In fact, the first-mile is rather benign. All complacency vanishes, however, the minute you hit the one-mile marker and tackle a 600-foot gain. The third-mile brings a break as you gear yourself up for the final push to the summit. If this is your first attempt, don’t get fooled as I did by the multiple parking areas clustered around the peak. Just before the first lot there is a sign that proclaims “Parking 1000 meters ahead.” Unfortunately, this is not “The End” but only the beginning of the end, with the steepest haul yet to come. At this point, I like to migrate over to the lane divider line and pretend that my swinging arms are hauling me up and over the precipice. Sounds weird, but it seems to work for me!
Other more skilled climbers like Adirondack Runner Will McGivney have more elaborate strategies. For the first mile he wisely dials into 90% effort. and pushes mile two at 95%. A similar pace on the easier mile three grants some recovery. For miles four and five, he pushes at 100%. “I don’t push my effort level to the maximum until I see the summit towers… after the parking lot it is all out to the finish, effort at 110%.” While there are timers at every mile, Will prefers to use the four parking lots up top to focus on short term goals for the final break to the finish.
The Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway does not open to traffic until late May so you are welcome anytime to practice. Just be prepared for the run back down! Additionally, the Adirondack Runners will host a practice run Saturday, April 27 at 8am (adirondackrunners.org).
Currently, there are three “last men standing” poised to defend their 30th consecutive year: Brian Teague, Dan Olden and Larry Mancini. Mark Schachner is runner-up, with only three misses. They have done this for 29 years, regardless of illness, injury, weddings and graduations. Illustrating the down-home friendliness of the event, two years ago the customary day before Mother’s Day timeframe was bumped forward to permit Dan to attend his granddaughter’s graduation! You can see how important their streak is to all of us.
Keeping focused on this goal is so much more than a daily running streak (Dan had one of those, too) where as little as a half-mile would qualify as maintenance. Booking to the summit is a formidable task and Dan comments on the love/hate relationship, “Every year we wonder if this is the year that it stops. Mentally I keep saying at some point Brian, Larry and myself will someday end up with a cane crossing the finish line together!” There are no females who vie for such longevity but, SURPRISE! Brian informed me that Candi Schermerhorn and I are the proud owners of a 23-year streak. I have repeated at Prospect since we moved here because I simply enjoy the challenge, but now I too feel the tug of future commitment. Good thing that the event welcomes both runners and walkers!
Even if mountain running will never be your forte, do jumpstart your spring season at Prospect. Afterwards you will shrug off at any hills that come your way during your “normal” races. Register at active.com.
For Extra Inspiration
Running Beyond: Epic Ultra, Trail and Skyrunning Races by Ian Corless (White Lion,
2019) – the perfect coffee table experience.
Sky Runner: Finding Strength, Happiness and Balance in Your Running by Emelie Forsberg (Blue Star Press, 1918).
Training for the Uphill Athlete by Kilian Jornet (Patagonia, 2019) – Jack Daniels (the author, not the drink) for the uphillers.
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.