Saturday, February 14, 2009

Horse Hill 7K Snowshoe Race

photos by Steve Wolfe

Today I did my third ever snowshoe race and all three races have been my only my only time on snowshoes this year. The race was in Merrimack, NH at the Horse Hill Nature Preserve and was again put on by Michael Amarello and 3C Race Productions. All three of the races that I have done this year on snowshoes were well produced and different in race design and difficulty to make snowshoe racing fun and complex enough to be a great winter sport. I am happy to have these races put on so close to my home as well as them being cheap and easy to enter.

I had some idea of the course because I did a couple of snowshoe workouts on these trails last year with Steve Wolfe and Bill Morse. I knew there were hills and dodgy trail, but I knew it wasn't going to be as bad as the Feel Good Farms race in Lyndeborough, NH. I haven't been getting many running miles in lately (10-20 miles a week) due to my hip imbalances and a hamstring problem that disappeared suddenly after two weeks where I really couldn't run. But I have been dieting and eating healthy so I felt pretty good and lighter in weight than I have been before the race. The trails and weather seemed perfect and the only thing that was bothersome was that some snowshoers that had previewed the course said the downhills looked icy and treacherous. I wasn't too happy with that report since I had such difficulties going downhill at the Feel Good Farms race (well I had difficulties on the flats and uphills there too!).

I was happy to see two first time snowshoe racers show up from the Gate City Striders (besides Steve Wolfe and myself). There was Tom Kolb, who most of the younger Striders probably don't realize was one of the best masters runners that the Striders have had in years, and Michael Wade (who I was hoping had some big heavy- maybe wooden-snowshoes to run in because it has been a year or two since I have placed ahead of him in a race).

The start was narrow but the snowshoers had pretty much seeded themselves accurately. I could seen Jim Johnson ahead (briefly going for another win) and Steve Wolfe a bit ahead with a couple other racers. This is Steve's hometown course and I was hoping and expecting him to put up a good fight for second place. I was in a pack with a handfull of racers and I was happy enough to see Mike Wade striding out ahead. I didn't know if he would crash and burn later because he didn't really have the racing snowshoes that the other competitors had, but Mike is tough and fit so I was interested to see what would happen with him.

My group started going single file. I was heavily winded (something that I notice happens at the start of these races) and I wasn't sure if I was going too fast or not fast enough. Scotty Graham (my 50+ competition) was a bit ahead of me in the group so I figured I should settle into my pace. On the uphills some of the guys walked. I jogged at the same pace because it was hard to pass going up. I was tentative around corners as I didn't want to crash but the course was varied and fun and well groomed. On a flat section I looked down at my watch and fell. I was quickly up but one of the two Dungeon Rock Racers I had just passed a bit earlier got by me again.

I was not wearing a hat which worked out well but my upper body was overdressed (two shirts and a vest). I was heating up a bit too much and took my gloves off. Somewhere along the way I passed the racer ahead of me. I think I did better on the uphills (which is funny as I am not an uphill runner). I was slower on the downhills however (when running I love downhills). On the last steep downhills I was too tentative and Dan Cooper went flying by me. I am not sure if he was the guy I was trading places with earlier or just someone who finished fast and passed me and the two Dungeon Rock Racing guys that finished behind me.

I could see Scotty Graham ahead of me most of the race and I almost caught him on the uphills but I was in no way ready to compete with him and wasn't thinking of doing so- but I wouldn't mind if I gave him a bit of a worry if he looked back at the swithbacks! He was the 50+ top dog and the results say he was only 21 seconds ahead but it could just as easily have been a half mile. 21 seconds is a lot of time in a snowshoe race! But I am improving as he beat me by 23 seconds at the Beaver Brook race. At this rate oif progression I may place ahead of him after 11 more races!

I enjoyed this race more than the first two races. Beaver Brook was flatter and fast but this had a more challenging and varied terrain plus it was fun running in a line of snowshoers throughout the race. My hip wasn't jamming up today and I felt looser than in the first two races but I was still very much imbalanced between my left and right sides, but it is something I am working on with some deep hip stretches I am making up that I have never seen anywhere else but they seem to get at tightnesses is my lower back and sacrum with the muscles or ligaments that seem so tight back there.

Mike Wade turned out to be a brilliant snowshoer as he finished fourth overall in his first race. Steve Wolfe finished 2nd and Tom Kolb had the gnarliest spit and sweat covered face at the end of his race!

Results are here:

The top 15 and a few others are listed here:
1 30:41 Jim Johnson 31
2 36:03 Steve Wolfe 44
3 36:51 Chris Dunn 40
4 38:11 Michael Wade 40
5 39:03 Reeder Fahnestock 29
6 39:21 Patrick Smith 46
7 39:48 Scott Graham 50
8 39:52 Jay Myers 38
9 40:04 Dan Cooper 36
10 40:09 Jim Hansen 50
11 40:21 Ted Hall 35
12 40:24 Austin Stonebraker 29
13 41:06 Sal Genovese 43
14 41:22 Jay Curry 37
15 41:42 John Skewes 51
19 42:25 Liz Hall 35 F
20 42:47 Bill Morse 57
27 47:50 Tom Kolb 53

50 snowshoers finished the race


Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...


Great job yesterday. I don't think it will take you another 11 races to get me, I think you're just 1 good reckless abandon down hill run away from getting me. Keep up the super work.

Jim Hansen said...

Great race by you- you were strong up there! I suppose I should train a bit for these races or at least practice going downhill!

Texas Snowshoer said...

Snowshoed over New Years for the first time and think I would like to race. Want to buy some shoes, but have no knowledge. I am trail runner and former marathoner. Be happy to talk off line to avoid boring others. Any beta appreciated.

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Texas Snowshoer,
I have done three races on my Tubbs 10K Snowshoes this year (which when I got them about 10 years ago were the state of the art for running snowshoes). I don't know why I waited 10 years to race. It is a blast and definitely would be something you enjoy as as a marathoner and trail runner. I will tell you that the serious guys around here are all wearing these ultralight Dion Snowshoes.
I know I would like a pair of them someday. They have interchangeable cleats for different conditions and they look fast and less cumbersome than other snowshoes. Some of the other guy's blogs on the side of my blog race in them. You can post on here if you like. Some of the other guys may join in and give you some pointers too.

Steve W said...

Jim, NEXT year we'll get you training early and often. Scotty needs some serious competition otherwise he just doesn't try :-)

Texas Snowshoer - Jim's right: Dion's are the way to go. Vast majority have Dion's, made in VT and the owner races with us. Can't go wrong.

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

Steve, What do you mean I just don't try? Have you ever seen what I look like at the end of a race. Why do you think I fall so often? Just wait until Kingman Farm, when that gun goes off....I'll watch you run away from me like always...DAM. Maybe you're right, I should try harder.