Considering the amount of snow we've received so far this winter the conditions looked great. There had been enough traffic on the course to define the route without it becoming too hard packed or any wider than single-track. Snowshoe racing is the most fun when it's on narrow trails, otherwise it's just hard work. When the trails are narrow and you've got deep powder on either side you really have to race strategically, think carefully about when to pass, when to surge and when to relax. Of course, there really isn't any relaxing in snowshoe racing, it's all hard work. In Jeff's race report he talks about trying to find the sweet spot between redlining and falling off the pack.
Ryan and I finished the course marking around 9 and had plenty of time to get everything else set up. It wasn't long before our dedicated crew of volunteers showed up, undeterred by the frigid temperatures, and all of a sudden we were ready for a race. It has been great to see how Trail Monster Running has grown over the last few years, I'm lucky to be part of such a dedicated group of runners and to know that I can count on my fellow team mates to come out and help make our events successful.
One of the great things about having so many competent volunteers, not to mention the fact that Ryan is the race director for the snowshoe races, is that I actually had time to relax before the race, and get out for an easy warm-up run with Emma. The warm-up was much needed since I had been outside for nearly three hours, and even though it had warmed up into the 20's I was feeling a bit chilled. When I got back from my warm-up I had a few last minute things to attend to and I actually forgot to pin my number on. At least the volunteers at the finish line know who I am.
Due to the lack of snow recently there hasn't been much time for snowmobiles to get out and pack the trails, and even though we prefer to run on narrower trails it's nice to have a wider area to start. We lined up on a section of snowmobile trail about 5 feet wide, and with a few more runners than last year I knew that it was going to be a crazy start so I positioned myself in the second row behind Judson Cake and Matt Lunt. All around me were my bad ass training buddies, Andy, Jeremy, Chuck, Jeff, Jamie... this was going to be a fun race, but these guys were going to make sure I worked hard.
|photo by Kate Hanscom|
Judson, Matt and Jeremy were out of sight, but I was starting to close the gap on Andy. I could also hear someone right on my heels and I soon learned that it was Chuck, we exchanged a few words and I announced when we had reached the highest point on the course, about halfway through the Krista's loop (just past 1 mile into the race). I was right on Andy's heels and I had been thinking about passing him but this was one of the most difficult places on the course to overtake another runner. Passing meant stepping off the beaten path into 7" of unpacked powder, not at all easy to accelerate through. I have seen failed attempts at passing in snowshoe races, it can be pretty ugly if you get it wrong. I needed to make a move soon because Chuck was close behind and I knew he wouldn't be afraid to make a bold maneuver now that we were on a downhill stretch. The trail twisted back and forth between trees and buried rocks, there was a lot more than just powdery snow to contend with when you tried to plan a pass. When I saw a slight clearing up ahead I knew that was my best chance to go for it. I called out "On your left Andy" and took a few giant strides to surge past. The downslope helped carry me forward and I managed to get around Andy and back onto the trail just before a large pine tree that could have ended my race had my timing been off.
I knew it was going to be hard work trying to stay ahead of Andy, but I figured that running single track is one of my strengths so I really pushed the pace throughout the rest of Krista's to try and get some distance between us. Once on the Tote Road I eased up a little, the next half mile or so was flat and pretty straight which makes it a lot easier to catch and pass people so I kept an ear out for the sounds of anyone coming up behind.
By the time we hit the Boundary Trail, just after 2 miles, I could tell that someone was closing in on me but I didn't dare look back to see who it was. We were now on a long downhill stretch and the last thing I wanted to do was take my eyes off the trail. I thought this downhill stretch might be another opportunity to put some distance between myself and whoever was right behind, but that didn't happen. On the big steep, icy drop on the back side of the mountain I opted to stay left and cross the rock wall that paralleled the trail in the interest of avoiding the ice at the bottom. I heard Chuck say something about my choice of route and I could tell there was someone else right there with him. This turned out to be a waste of time and energy and my chasers almost caught me.
Knowing that there was about 1 mile left in the race I worked hard to make up for my mistake. There was one last climb ahead and this was where I got passed by Stephen Wells at last year's race. I was determined not to let that happen again. I scrambled up the hill as fast as I could manage, and as soon as the ground leveled out I really put the hammer down. There was heavy breathing behind me but it started to fade, or perhaps was being drowned out by my own gasps for air.
After a few little ups and downs the course comes back to the Northern Loop trail where the race started and we returned to packed snow for the last 1/3 mile. The trail remained flat to the finish so I put on an early sprint and hoped I could maintain it to the end. There was no way I could hear anyone coming up on me over the sounds of my own footfalls and breathing, and if anyone had come up I don't think I could have managed to give anything more. Luckily it was enough and I managed to hold off the chasing pack by about 30 seconds. I didn't even have a chance to catch my breath before a steady stream of Trail Monsters came in. A good day for the team.
splits: 10:05, 9:15, 8:57, 7:35 (pace for 0.62 miles)
distance: 3.62 miles
conditions: packed powder, mostly single track, still a bit soft
weather: mid 20's, sunny
gear: Inov-8 F-lite 300, Atlas Run snowshoes, sock liners, wool socks, tights, long sleeve top, short sleeve top, gloves, mittens, hat