Snowshoe Race Report: Hoot Toot & Whistle

Race report from Laura Clark at the Hoot Toot & Whistle 5K snowshoe race which took place on January 19, 2019. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. Are you interested in snowshoe racing? Check out our snowshoe calendar of events with over 100 races to choose from.

The Eagle Has Landed……Welcome to Our First Ever Snowshoe Race Triple-Header!

It was inevitable…this weekend we have progressed from double headers to triple plays…wonder what took us so long? That is the good news—depending upon how obsessive you are. The bad news is that no one succeeded in reaching this goal. We were defeated, not by wimpiness, but by work schedules (Friday evening’s Nor’easter) and by a real Nor’easter on Sunday which made driving to the Cock-a-doodle Snowshoe Race an epic battle against the elements.

The only event in this trifecta that most of us succeeded in attending was Bob Dion’s Hoot Toot & Whistle 3+ mile snowshoe race in Readsboro, VT. A mostly flat, but bumpy, route along a 350 mile rail trail, the name commemorates the nickname for the short line Hoot, Toot & Whistle Railroad which traversed the length of Vermont beginning at the southern Readsboro station. Bob always jokes that if we miss the turnaround we will get to run all the way into Canada on the Catamount Trail. So far no one has taken him up on the offer.

The author ripping up freshies in her Dion Snowshoes.

Despite early week worries, the snow came through and deposited just enough so we could all enjoy the route without cringing at potential snowshoe damage. This event attracts a goodly amount of hikers, more than normal, and it was great to see all of us out there. Overall winner was Tim Van Orden. Bob claimed that he had an advantage as he helped mark the course the day before and constructed numerous plank bridges across the streams. For most of us, all that work would have precluded a less than stellar race, but for Tim, after spending a full year constructing the Nationals course, it was simply a warmup. Tim shared with me the secret of his success, which sounded like David and Megan Roche’s advice from The Happy Runner book. He remains competitive into his fifties because he saves his hard efforts for weekend races and runs mostly easy during the week.

Post-race chatter centered on Cock-a-doodle Snowshoe Race in Saranac Lake the following day. Those who had room reservations were cancelling, and even Jim Tucker, Dean of Fun at Paul Smith’s College, was reluctant to travel there with his team—and they live in the same town! Would the dirt road leading to the Land Trust be plowed? I hardly thought that would have been a priority with the DPW (Department of Public Works) during a blizzard, but apparently Race Director Jeremy Drowne had the necessary pull…I was sad I couldn’t be there, especially since this was one of the few events we have that offers tee shirts, but really I would still be driving and not snugly at home writing.

Race winner Tim Van Orden.

Finally, what does all this have to do with eagles? Sometimes the drive home can be just as exciting as the event itself and this is what happened to the Saratoga Springs carpool. We have frequently spotted eagles along one particular back roads river stretch, but this time we scored three! Apparently, they were as concerned about empty larders before the upcoming storm as were the humans who completely emptied Wegmans of their extensive stock of chips and dip. For those of you who have never gotten lost in a Wegmans, know that it is more like a Museum of Food than an actual grocery store. They have unlimited supplies of the ordinary stuff and every exotic delicacy you have never heard of.

OK—getting back to the eagles—not only did we see three but one of them, with the storm just hours away, figured time was running out and decided that my car, Sir Thomas, was a close-enough approximation of a fish. He bore down at full speed for the windshield, talons extended, wings spread. I ducked. Luckily, he veered off at the last minute. I learned later that these talons could easily crush a human hand. The thought of a windshield body slam and a gripping talon reaching in to secure prey is the stuff of Alfred Hitchcock…It was awesome!

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