Sunday, January 25, 2009

Second Snowshoe Race: The "Evil" Feel Good Farm 7.2K

photos by Steve Wolfe

Yesterday I participated in my second snowshoe race, "The Feel Good Farm" 7.2K snowshoe race in Lyndeborough, NH at the Feel Good Farm (this place even has its own theme song!). I wasn't sure that the race would "feel" as good as the farm's name "advertised". Do check out there web site. This seems like an awesome place to return to.

Like last week's race, this one was organized by Michael Amarello and 3C Race Productions. Last week's race was a stroll in the park compared to what was in store for the small number of participants at this race. As I drove up to Lyndeborough, I noticed it was a beautiful place as well as being quite hilly. I also noticed that all of the other participants looked like hard-core athletes. I saw in the distance the hill we had to run up two times. I was not happy!

The start was open enough for a couple of racers to be next to each other but at the first corner it turned into a single track race. I was amazed at how fast eventual winner, Jim Johnson took off. Then three racers followed in pursuit. I was next when I hit the single track, but I noticed one thing (one horrible thing) my body was completely out of balance. My left hip seemed to be a couple of inches rotated in front of my right hip. My shoulder followed suit. As I pushed the pace, I was often thrown to the right side and I ended up off balance, out of kilter, and had to throw my arm out to try to stabilize myself. I also realized that I had one or two guys behind me so I was trying to go fast and not slow them down. I was sucking wind but trying to be competitive. We approached a tree down over the trail and had to straddle over it and then again over another tree. Soon after that second tree, I couldn't hold my balance any more and I fell down. This allowed the two racers to go by me. I bet they were happy and probably chuckling a bit.

I slowed the pace down a bit because I was not comfortable running so off-kilter. I also had a knot in my left hamstring, the whole "meat" of the muscle was tight, tight, tight and just knotted up more as I extended that leg. I fell a couple more times, sometimes my legs got tangled up, sometimes my balance was so bad I fell to the side of the course. I was starting to get very nervous about what I was doing out there but the worst was yet to come Steve Wolfe's pictures show how horribly off-balance I felt and it felt worse than it looks.

We then hit the hill! The hill just kept going up, turning and going up again. I even fell a couple times going up. I had to walk! Looking behind me, near the top I saw two racers catching up. The downhills did not seem as severe as the uphills but I found myself holding back due to my balance and stride issues. By holding back I noticed my snowshoes had little grip and on each step my snowshoes would slide in the slushy snow.

This is called walking up a big hill. (video by Steve Wolfe)

Here is race leader Jim Johnson showing how it should be done.

We had to cross a small stream. The way I kept falling, I was very nervous because I didn't want to fall in the water as we "S" curved it through the stream. I made it but was starting to think about making this into a one-lap race. Also on the downhills, one competitor, Scott Mason, went by me. He was flying down the downhills in a controlled abandon and putting a lot of distance between us. I wish my body would move smoothly like that again. It looked like he was having tons more fun then I was.

I started telling myself not to quit. I knew my awkward stride was not good for me today. I knew I was not moving like I should, but you can't just stop and stretch in the middle of a race! I knew that it could be dangerous for me to lose my balance and run into a tree, but I hate quitting something I have started. So I swallowed my pride and set some goals. I had fallen 7 times the first loop. Goal number one was to fall a fewer number of times on the second loop. I also decided that I would "run" as much as I could up that hill and get some good lung work in. Maybe I could even try to catch Scott, who was already long out of sight. As I hit the start of the second loop, I said to race director Michael Amarello that this was "evil". I said the "evil" word twice, but I was referring to the course. In the write up of the race, Michael mentions that I called "him" evil at this point. For the record, I was calling the course "evil", but on reflection, I would like to call him "evil" too. So whatever he heard me say, it was accurate!

I plugged away on the second loop. I hit the hill and tried running up it-even though it was a slow run. I eventually saw Scott appearing ahead of me. I kept at it and eventually passed him, but I was winded and had to walk a bit again. On the downhills he passed me and with his very loose stride put additional distance between us. He told me after the race, he went downhill like he does when he goes mountain biking. I went downhill like an old lady.

Here is a video of me nearing the finish and snowshoeing in a sloppy manner.

Here is a video Steve took from the summit of the race.

I was more than happy to finish this race. It was an accomplishment, even though I finished 9th out of the 12 finishers. I only fell 5 times the second loop! I know I can do so much better than this, as this race was more a battle against my body than a battle against the course (well that was there too!). Scott's downhill running ability enabled him to beat me as the first in the 50+ age category by 44 seconds. I am 0 for 2 since turning 50! Here are the results of the race:

1 30:57 Jim Johnson 31 M Salem NH
2 34:57 Robert Jackman 26 M Warwick RI
3 35:48 Tim Cox 35 M Northwood NH
4 36:27 Dan Verrington 46 M Bradford MA
5 39:09 Ben Keefe 28 M Providence RI
6 39:33 Ron Bedard 44 M Westminster MA
7 42:57 Austin Stonebraker 29 M Dover NH
8 47:55 Scott Mason 51 M Warwick RI
9 48:39 Jim Hansen 50 M Nashua NH
10 49:36 Joe Merriam 49 M Franklin NH
11 50:28 Brian Gallagher 59 M Rochester NH
12 1:08:46 Diane Levesque 55 F Rochester NH

Here is an animoto video I made using some of the fantastic photos taken by Steve Wolfe of the race.

I am not sure what I cam going to do next week. There is another "more difficult" snowshoe race on Saturday and the Freeze Your Buns 5K on Sunday. I would like to do both, but will need to get my hamstring loose to be able to do that.

I have been extremely happy with my work on my posture since the beginning of the New Year when I found that holding my knee close to my chest and pushing out as hard as I can helps realign my pelvis a bit. In fact for all of January I have probably felt the best ever in many years. But this only extends to sitting and standing. I have not had the hip flexor-psoas issues that sometimes hits my left side for days or weeks at a time. When I feel a tightness in my front left hip. I do the "knee push" on both sides. I can't tell how it works or even what is the exact way my pelvis should react when "pushing". All that I know is that shortly after doing this, I get relief from the "impending" tightnesses. I am thrilled with this. However, at first my right hamstring was reacting to this. I was struggling through my Tuesday night track workouts. Now it is the left hamstring. I have been spot checking muscle tightnesses rather than being consistant with one type of stretching.

I think my body may be telling me it is time to find a gentle type of yoga stretching routine, now that it seems I have more control over my hips and sacrum. I think a full body workout may help with the new tightnesses I am experiencing.

Anyhow I really enjoyed talking with the two guys who owned or worked the Feel Good Farm. They knew a lot of information about athletics and in a brief 15 minute of so converstation we touched on Alberto Salazar, Lynne Swann,and Mikael Barisnikov as well as the martial arts and ballet (not going there!) while talking about imbalances, older bodies, and recovering form. I was shown a squat stretch, not as deep as the indiginous squat I wrote about here. I may get back to trying that to work on realignment issues.


MooseMan said...

I consider being called 'evil' a major compliment --- even if it was originally directed only at the race course! My next 2 snowshoe events - Horse Hill and Joppa Hill are no where near as evil...

Steve W said...

You're a bigger man then I for signing up for this one, Jim! I was winded just walking up to the summit.
Please consider Cobble Mt next Saturday, it will be a totally different experience. Some bushwhack, yes, lots of hills but also lots of perfectly groomed xc ski trails (which are fast) and also lots of competition. Let me know if you decide to go.

Jim Hansen said...

Wow, nice job at Derry today, Steve! 14th overall and first in your age group! That's quite a run!

I'll let you know Tuesday what I plan to do about Saturday's race.

Great pictures you took of the race too!

And "Moose" Thanks for the humbling and "evil" race yesterday. It is always better once they are done!

Scott Mason said...

Hi Jim, if that was a flat course on Saturday, you would have kicked my butt. I guess it was a matter of strength versus reckless abandon, you killed me on the uphill. I was somewhat surprised at my descent, thinking i was going to do a face plant somewhere along the way.

Nice blog.

Jim Hansen said...

I can tell you what a face plant feels like! It is not fun. Didn't you hear me hitting the ground after you sprinted by?

I saw a bit of your site and photography. It is good stuff! I'll have to check out the old running photos later. I like the old Falmouth Road Race photos (my home town-first did the race in 1975)

You were a lot faster than me, back in our younger days!

Hope to see you at future races!

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...


Great job on Saturday. I like you hit the ground a couple of times in the race I did Sunday. Anyway, the race at Cobble Mtn has a very steep climb so don't let Steve W. fool you into thinking it's a fast course. In fact last year coming down off the mtn the bush whacking consisted of steep down hills with loads of turns. The footing at each turn was ice covered and just after the turn there were trees. FUN!!! This year I doubt there will be any ice. Trees yes, ice no.

Hope to see you up there on Saturday. It will be a good time, because Chris Dunn puts on a great family event.

Jim Hansen said...

Oh, I would like to do Cobble Hill. My hamstring is really sore. I went to the rtack last night and after a warmup, couldn't make it 200 yard in the intervals without it siezing up. Hopefully it will calm down and if it does, I'll be seeing you there.

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...


Every time I go to the track my hammy acts up. So I don't go to the track any more. Problem solved. See you Saturday!!!