Most snowshoe races are bare-boned events. Registration often takes place at a table set up in the middle of the woods. This race was different. Registration was in a very large, heated cabin. It was awesome to be able to stay warm before and after the race and to have a place to store your gear. Registration went smoothly and I began preparing myself for the race.
The race started on groomed cross-country trails and after a short descent began a long gradual uphill. I expected the groomed trails to be much firmer than they were but I suspect the 1.5 feet of new powder that fell a few days earlier made for the spongy trail conditions. After the long uphill there was a long descent and I started passing several runners. It was difficult to get any real traction in the spongy, uneven snow but I was feeling pretty good at this time.
The feeling didn’t last for long as the next 1.5 kilometers were a series of uphills followed by a flat section followed by more uphills. In fact, there was so much elevation gain that I was beginning to think this was The Hill, Cobble Mountain, but it wasn't. This was just a warm up for the real McCoy. At 2 kilometers the course turned left into the woods for a twisting single-track bushwhack through knee deep powder. Although the snow was very soft it wasn't that bad because the terrain was mostly flat. After the single-track, it was back onto the groomed cross-country trail.
At 3 km the course turned again for more single track running in the woods. It didn’t take long for it to hit me; this was the climb up Cobble Mountain! It was on this long, steep, twisting climb that I really began to struggle. It was impossible for me to run up this mountain. The best I could do was to power hike it. The climb was so steep, and the snow so soft, that the runners before me left indentations in the snow that resembled steps. By placing my snowshoes in these “steps” I was able to make the climb a little easier.
I kept glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone was behind me. There was a string of runners to my rear but each time I looked back they did not appear to be gaining any ground on me. I really wanted to get off this mountain but each time I looked up all I could see was the sky and more trees. Would this monster ever end? I’m not sure how long, or how high this climb was but I know I was on the side of this mountain for at least 5-7 minutes. Finally, I reached the top and the RDs dad was there to offer some encouragement.
The descent down Cobble Mountain was insane! It was very steep, the snow was very deep, and the single-track snaked its way to the bottom. On the steepest sections I leaned back on my snowshoes and actually skied down the trail! Although this made for a very fast descent I had no control over my direction. This was dangerous since the trail had many sharp turns. I had to be very careful to stay in the blazed trail because one step outside the single track would surely have resulted in me being swallowed up waist deep in the powder. This was my favorite part of the race ;-)
At the bottom of Cobble Mountain was the 4 km mark and the course turned back onto the groomed cross-country trail. The trail was shaded here and the snow was much firmer. I started to recover a bit and I picked up my pace on a very long downhill section. I don't remember much about the race between kilometers 4 and 5. I guess I just zoned out. With about 1/4 mile to go there was one last hill to climb. I tried to run it but could only made it about halfway before I had to walk. After cresting the hill I ran down to an open field and could see the finish line about 200 yards away. The snow was very soft in the field but I sprinted as fast as I could to the finish crossing the line in 51:31. I felt like I was going to vomit. I wouldn’t think that was possible from running a 14 minute pace!
Race Director, Chris J. Dunn did a great job of marking the course, recruiting awesome volunteers and obtaining numerous sponsors. The post race raffle included a pair of Kahtoola snowshoes, 12 packs of Red Hook beer, 22 oz bottles of Double Black stout, YakTraxs, hats, a subscription to Trail Runner magazine and lots of other swag. Several members of Dungeon Rock Racing walked away with 12 packs of Red Hook, bottles of DB stout and Art was the lucky winner of the Kahtoola snowshoes!
After the race, I met Jim Johnson, aka Double J Running, the winner of the first two Granite State Series races and a top finisher in several WMAC/Dion races as well this year. He is one of the best shoers in New England. Jim is a very cool guy, friendly, easy to talk with, and not a hint of cockiness. I wish him well at next weekend’s races.
Although team DRR was missing their top guns, Crystal Anthony and Chris Smith, we managed to get two shoers on the podium. Patrick Smith was first Master’s and Mike Doyle placed third in the Masters division. Mike ran a great race and I believe this is only his first snowshoe race! Patrick also won the Master’s Division at the Pooh Hill race. Congratulations to both of them. Once again DRR placed second in the team division behind Acidotic Racing. Acidotic combined speed up front (six finishers in the top ten) and team turnout (21 total racers) to take the title.
Acidotic may have the finished with the most points, but DRR has more beer! (Photo courtesy of Patrick Smith)
Here are a few things I learned from my first snowshoe race.
1. As hard as you think racing is snowshoes would be; it’s even harder than that.
2. Mankind (that includes you ladies) was not meant to run in snowshoes.
3. Uphills are my enemy.
4. Mountains are my mortal enemy.
5. Snowshoes make bad skis.
6. Snowshoe racing is fun, I think…maybe.
Next up: Frosty’s Dash for a Cure 5k.
Until next time…..