Sunday, February 21, 2010

Horse Hill and Kingman Farm Snowshoe Races

(photos Steve Wolfe)

Yesterday, I got back to racing. My last race of any kind was the Beaver Brook snowshoe race on January 2. Now that I can run on my achilles, it felt fantastic getting into a race, well actually two races in one day. After the snow on Tuesday, I took my snowshoes out for a 5 mile workout at Mine Falls Park on Wednesday, just to make sure it wouldn't hurt my achilles. Things went great so I signed up for the Horse Hill Snowshoe race the next morning and went back to Mine Falls for another workout that afternoon. In 24 hours the trails had degraded and I didn't even put my snowshoes on. That led to reading repeated online updates on whether there would be snow to race on for the Horse Hill race Saturday and the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snow shoe race later that night.

Yes, we were told, there would be snow. Both race directors changed courses and worked hard to find the most snow-filled passages through the woods. Too bad for anyone that doubted that there would be enough snow for the races. Both races ended up being fun snowshoeing events.

The first race was the Horse Hill Snowshoe (results) race in Merrimack put on by Mike at  3C Race Productions. I wasn't sure of my fitness and what the course would bring, but I was thrilled to be at the starting line. The lead pack went out hard and fast and I fell in at the rear of a second pack as we hit the single track. The course only had a few patches without snow, but they were only for a step or two as it wound its way through the woods. There were a lot of ups and downs and corners and minor hills (that still felt pretty major). I started to pass a few people and amazed myself that I could get a quick burst of sprinting in to make a pass. I passed the lead woman snowshoer and started hanging on to the back of a racer named Chris Jasparro. He kept a steady pace and was catching up to the racers ahead of us. I seemed to keep this postition for a long time, until I started losing form (I had no idea when the finish would happen). I passed another racer at the bottom of a hill, but lost contact with Chris. Eventually I was caught and passed by the lead woman, Ann Rasmussen. I didn't maintain contact and she got a few seconds ahead and then she pulled away more. I was tired and was happy when I recognized I was nearing the finish. I thought the course was fantastic and fun and a great reintroduction into racing. My left glutes were really sore, but I noted throughout the race how much better my balance and stride was than in the past.

I went home and noted that the Kingman Farm Moonlight race was still on despite the warm temperatures, but in limited fashion. This was the one race I was looking forward to since I heard about it last year. Racing at night through the woods with a headlamp on just sounded like a challenging and unique experience. I had ordered a Petzl Headlamp and was pleased to see that I chose a good brand as the company was one of the sponsors of the race. I sat down to watch some Olympics and promptly fell asleep, waking up at 4:00 and having to hurry to make the 6:00 start in Madbury.

About 2/3 of the field did not choose to show up and run (they were given the option of getting their entry fee back or using it for a race next year). Again, too bad, because they missed a fun race. At the start we were told that places would not count and there would be no awards (everyone would have a chance to win the many awards). The option of using Yaktrax pulled over running shoes was also given and it seemed a bunch of fast snowshoers immediately chose this option. I was in it for the snowshoing.

At the start the Yaktraxers took off in a fast sprint. I fell to the back of this pack with my snowshoes on and tried to figure out how this running at night thing worked. It was hard to see what I was running on. it was either white (snow) or brown (not snow), but fortunately it was mostly white. There were a few rocks painted orange and who knows what else underfoot. Not knowing the trail it was all a mystery to me. As the pack pulled ahead, I realized I had two choices: look at what is underfoot or look ahead to see where the course might be going. I had one guy about 50 feet ahead and I tried to watch him. He had refective stripes on the back of his shirt, which was very helpful. I could see him turn here and there, but eventually he got too far ahead. I started catching a guy on snowshoes, but he was more difficuly to see as he did not have reflective gear on. Eventually I caught him, right before the open field. I had to navigate that without anyone in clear visual sight. Finding the orange flags was difficult, but I stayed on course. Getting back into the woods let me know the finish was coming, but I didn't know how soon. I wanted to go fast as I still had a racer behind me, but I didn't want to trip or take a wrong corner. Eventually the finish appeared. What great fun this race was! I may be wrong, but I looked around at everyone's feet at the finish line and I only saw one person with snowshoes on when I had finished. Everyone else ahead of me ran with the Yaktrax, but they all would have proabaly beat me with snowshoes on anyhow. (results)

I was pleased to be able to run not one, but two races. My left glutes were sore before the second race, but it mostly went away as soon as I started running. Today, I will admit to being extremely stiff, but I am recovering quite well and my body does not feel out of alignement!

We retreated to the town hall and had some soup, rolls, and brownies! It was nice to be indoors. Then they began handing out all sorts of prizes. I think everyone took home something. How great is that! I won a six-pack of beer, but traded it for a nice Ambler hat. Great, I needed a new hat! After everyone won something, they put all the numbers back in the hat and pulled again for three more prizes. I didn't win the snowshoes, but I did win the Nathan Sports Blizzard winter hydration system. Scott Graham tells me the Yaktrax are good for running on snowy or icy roads. I may have to get a pair for next year, and get some more outdoor runs in with my new hat and hydration system. Chris Dunn put on a great race and I am sure that next year it will be even harder to get into as I am sure many races put off their entry unril next year. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of running at night through the woods.

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