Race You to the Finish

Come see the Finger Lakes best kept secret! The Mendon Ponds Park Winterfest is a free event that aims to get people excited about winter activities that are both educational and fun. Snowshoe racing is one of those events and is gaining popularity. More and more runners have tried snowshoeing as a way to train during the winter months, while enjoying the winter environment.

The Winter Empire State Games (ESG) in Lake Placid and the USSSA National Championships in snowshoe racing are two major events in the snowshoeing world. Winterfest has two snowshoe races of its own to test and prepare runners for Nationals, the grandest of races.

Mort Nace and Tim Ratowski co-direct snowshoe races during Winterfest. Snowshoe races are held on January 21, a day prior to Winterfest because of crowd concerns, while a smaller race is held during the festivities.

The 10K race is for the open (ages 20-39) and masters (ages 40 and up) categories. Juniors, participants under the age of 19, run a shorter distance of 5K. All finishers of this race will qualify for the Winter Empire State Games in Lake Placid. The 10K/5K will take place on trails, mostly groomed double tracks with some sections of unbroken single track. The change in race distances from previous years is because of stated track length at Nationals. As the 10K/5K race is a qualifying race, runners must run a track of equal length to that of the track at Nationals. To qualify for Nationals, which will be held on Bolton Mountain, Vermont, in March 2006, participants must be in the top five or 10 runners in their five-year age group and be a member of the USSSA. Although many runners who participate in this race are serious about qualifying, inexperienced runners are welcome to participate. There are no limits on speed in this race or the other.

The Empire State Games sprint qualifying snowshoe race, which occurs on January 22, might draw interest from a Winterfest novice who is willing to give the sport a try. The race takes place on a 300-meter oval track, with distances of 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters and 1,500 meters.

Nace and Ratowski direct two other races in the Finger Lakes region separate from Winterfest. These are the Frozen Assets 5K Snowshoe Race, which will take place on January 7, and the Cast A Shadow Six Hour Snowshoe Race and Relay, which will occur on February 4. The Finger Lakes Running Club also holds its own race in the Finger Lakes National Forest in late January, with a race distance of almost eight miles. Get out there, strap on some snowshoes and breathe that crisp winter air. Who knows, we may see you at the next qualifying race.

by Deirdre Byrne

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