TRAVERSE CITY — The races will go on — that much is certain.
What Joel Gaff doesn’t know is what condition the trails in the Pere Marquette Forest will be in when the Traverse City Trail Running Festival takes place on Friday and Saturday, starting at Timber Ridge Resort.
An extra-long winter has allowed snow to stick around on the trail system. But with a spate of warmer weather this week, Gaff, co-director of the race, is playing the waiting game to see how things will stand by the time the festival gets going at 6:15 p.m. on Friday with a free kids race. A 10K relay also is Friday, with Saturday’s events including an 11K, as well as a 25K and 50K.
“Our preparations are going well. We’re just waiting for Mother Nature to turn the heat up a bit and melt some of that snow off there,” said Gaff Jr. “It’s looking like it’s better for skiing right now than running, but we’ve got a warm week ahead of us so we’re literally gauging it day-by-day to know if we’ll have to adjust the course, if we do.
“With three or four days of 50 (degrees) and a day of rain in there a lot could change, but that being said I know the snow up there on the VASA has been packed for three months and groomed every day so it’s not going to go anywhere too fast.”
As of now, Gaff is anticipating the race route will need to be altered a bit. That also was the case last year in the inaugural festival when a late storm forced organizers to make changes on the fly.
“Last minute we said ‘we’re going to do it on the road’ and everybody said, ‘no, no, we want to be on the trails,’” said Gaff. “We said, ‘alright’ and everybody loved it, so we learned our lesson last year and we will be running on the trails no matter what.”