Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 Exeter Hullabaloo Snowshoe Race

There are a lot of things I enjoy about snowshoe racing:
- getting outdoors running through the woods in the middle of winter-it is beautiful!
- every course and every day is completely different with snow amounts and types of snow
- it is slower paced than regular running (good for me as I still haven't recovered my stride after hip surgery)
- it is much more intense and difficult than regular running
- when you are racing in a paceline on singletrack, you are forced to keep your pace
- winding up and down hills and around trees on courses through the woods can be exhilarating
- it reminds me of road racing in the 1970s and triathlons in the 1980s, being in on a developing sport long before the masses figure out that they are missing out on along with all the camaraderie with the other racers who know they are on to a very good thing!
-there are all these great photographers that show up at many races and take pictures to show how awesome snowshoe racing is and how wonky my stride is! Thanks Scott Mason, Joe Viger, and Gianani Lindsey.

This weeks snowshoe race was the 4 mile Exeter Hullaballoo (great name-results).This was my first time doing this race and I had another challenging blast of a time! I started this one a little too far back in the pack and after the start I tried to maneuver around slower racers as there was two lines of singletrack to race on. I didn't improve my position enough and shortly ended up in the singletrack section in a long paceline. I was fourth from the front, but there were no opportunities to pass for the first mile of racing. I felt comfortable and in control all throughout this time which made the running very enjoyable (and true to my desire to run and not really race this year) I was OK with that. The old me, however, was a little dissatisfied that the lead runner being a bit too slow and that a large gap was developing from other racers ahead of us. Eventually, I passed some racers and the lead position stepped aside so I could run ahead. Of course, eventually a few others followed behind me and that put me in the position of setting the pace.

Photos of the race by Scott Mason
This was a twisty-turny singletrack course (which course isn't?) and with the ups and downs, I had a hard time gauging if I was too slow for those behind me. Usually when I offered for someone to go ahead if they liked. They deferred. I caught up to two other races and kept pace behind them for a good portion of the race (never catching them however). A few racers did go by and we caught a few that had gone out too fast. I was getting tired as I had started a new diet over the week (no sugars, startch, bread) and just an egg for breakfast, some veggies and small amount of meat for lunch and dinner with only nuts for snacks. I lost almost 10 pounds since the race last week. I expected to be a little low on energy and I was, but pretty soon the finish line showed up and I had completed another race on very limited run training. I had one other 5 mile treadmill run this week. Any running leaves me limping for a day or so, so I am basically ElliptiGO powered in these races! I still have less than 100 total running miles since last May!

Like all snowshoe races, I feel wonderful and exhausted when done!

Even the guys up front have trouble staying on their feet!

Now here are a few things I don't like about snowshoe racing.
- it is hard work! usually during every race I question what in the world I am doing out there?
- because of my stride, my snowshoe can hit into my ankles. Both of my ankles were very bloody and sore after last weeks race. I made them even worse after this race. I will have to rig up some sort of protection around my ankles for the next two race (both 10ks). I saw some people doing this last race.
- tripping and falling (see photo above)
- my stride...my left tibia still rotates out- I can't change that- and it constantly throws off my stride-this is magnified on snowshoes... I can't keep a straight line going at times and I am constantly trying to keep upright and on the tracks-this takes a lot of energy-every stumble and mistep slows me down.

Here are some photos from Gianina Lindsey of SNAPacidotic that shows my dilemma real well. My wonky left side throws me sideways and off the singletrack where I end up working hard to get myself running on the course instead.

This Saturday I am racing in the 2014 Dion Snowshoes National Snowshoe Championships in Bennington, Vermont. I am racing for Acidotic Racing in the age group competition and on a Master's team. I am very nervous about this race as the longest I have run since May is a 5 mile treadmill run last week. I will be racing a 10k on the snow in the mountains! I am there to be part of and enjoy the milieu and mix and expect to be far back in the pack of racers, but it should be fun! Then the next week will be my last snowshoe race of the year at the Granite State Snowshoe Series Championships. Currently I am in third place in the 50-60 year old age group. I started the season not even sure my hip would allow me to race at all and I am ending the season (still with a sore hip) at the National Championship race and placing in my age group (more for consistency) in the race series. I may be slow, but I have enjoyed my winter.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race

The problem with the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe race was not the race itself, it was getting there and then getting home. This Acidotic Racing Team race is held at 6 pm so that you can run through the woods in the dark. We had plenty of new fresh snow this week, but before heading out for the hour long drive to Madbury, NH, it started snowing again. The ride to the race wasn't that bad although the roads started getting snowy the last bit of the drive. I arrived to the race on time and with two training runs on the treadmill this week, a one miler and a two miler. That would be my total run training in over the past three weeks (except for racing). If I was to finish the 4 1/2 mile race, it would be due to all of my ElliptiGO training.

I saw it mentioned that at the National Championship race in Vermont in two weeks, using longer cleats on the snowshoes would be recommended, so I ordered some new cleats from Dion Snowshoes and got them on time for this race. It only took minutes to replace the old cleats with the new ones.

The snow was falling down nicely as we headed into the woods for the start of the race. I turned my headlight on (which I hadn't used since doing this race in 2010. I settled in the back part of the starting line and waited for the race to start. If you want to see how much fun it is to run on the snow at night check out this video of the race start by Gianina Lindsey.

The course was dark and the trail was perfect. I started making my way slowly forward to find a good group of athletes to run with. I eventually found myself at the tail end of a small paceline and the pacing was perfect. Once everyone got sorted out, we hit some farmland where the course turned to singletrack. My group of four stayed together and every once in awhile we would pass another racer. I was enjoying the pace and the lack of hills. It was like we were running through a Robert Frost poem with the snow falling and headlights glowing all around like moving stars. I noticed after about a mile that one of my shoes was loose as the laces had come untied. I tried to ignore it as well as to keep my shoe on my foot. The muscles in my lower back and hips were extremely tight from shoveling snow the previous day and that threw off the alignment of my hips. I ran awkwardly most of the race. The single track pathway was also too narrow for my clumsy stride and I kept bouncing off the sides of the path and every once in awhile taking a misstep and lurching into the deeper snow. I stuck with my group however as we navigated through the fields and back into the woods. Two people dropped back from our group and so now I was just following behind one female racer in front of me. I felt good that I was passing people and never had anyone pass me. I however was not feeling good about my loose shoe and had to stop and tie it back on. I dropped behind and had to chase a bit to catch back up with the racer in front. Then we hit the hills. Somewhere on the meandering way up, I passed her and was on my own for a bit. It was harder on the twists and turns to keep a steady pace, but eventually I made it over the top and started heading down. Somewhere along the way another racer caught up to me and his headlight was much brighter than mine so I had to watch my shadow racing ahead of me. I asked him if he wanted to take the lead and he said, "Thanks, It is hard to see around your broad shoulders." I think that was a polite way of saying I was overweight!

I found it harder to navigate the downhills and stumbled a bit here and there. I didn't have good control of my stride and did not want to crash into a tree. Eventually some more racers caught up and I was leading a pack. At one dip on the course I crashed to my knees. I offered to let the other guys ahead, but before they could answer I was up and running in the lead again, for another 50 yards. Then I stumbled and crashed again. This time I let four guys pass me. I still had two on my tail. I could tell we were getting off the hills and back to the forest path and I could see racer's headlight below and people cheering. Unfortunately, I listened to one of the guys behind me. He said, "One mile to go." this deflated me for a second so I replied, " Go ahead." They did and it seemed like in less than a minute we were out of the hills and heading for the finish up ahead. Never listen to the guy behind you.

It was a great race and course and running at night is always a thrill. The drive home was was slow on snowy, slushy, and slippery roads, but I made it home safe. It is always a thrill to challenge myself with these snowshoe races, even if I am limping on my bad hip for a day or two afterwards. The longer cleats for my snowshoe worked great. Usually, my left snowshoe slips off to the left as I run with my weird left leg, but I was more stable on the snow with these cleats. Here are the results for the race. I just made it into the top half of the field. Snowshoe racing reminds me of road racing in the 1970s and triathlons in the 1980s. Everyone is pioneering and enjoying a new sport that the masses haven't figured out yet! They are missing out on a ton of fun!

Here is a small album of photos from Scott Mason.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2014 Horse Hill Snowshoe Race

photos courtesy of Gianina Lindsey

Last weekend I raced in the Horse Hill Snowshoe race in Merrimack, NH. I am not exactly sure "race" is the correct word as I am transitioning to a different mode of thinking towards races. The previous week I was going to race the Beaver Brook Snowshoe race in nearby Hollis, NH, but because the way the time of the race was listed on a website, I showed up an hour late to the race and only got to watch the second half of the racers complete the course. I saw exhausted snowshoers sprinting in to the finish and you know what? I didn't care about their times or even who was ahead of who. It just looked fun and invigorating. I took a lesson from this and realized that I am not a racer anymore or in shape to be one. I just want to be in the milieu of a race and experience just what my body can do at this time, without comparing myself to others or to me in the past.

With that said, I got to the race on time. I started in the back part of the pack and went out to enjoy what I could of the race. I have been averaging about an hour a day on my EllipiGO, but had only run one 3 mile treadmill workout since my last snowshoe race two weeks earlier. After a short bit of running the race hit a section of single-track and stayed that way until we approached the finish on the return trip. The course also went up and then around and back and forth again through all kinds of winding paths and in between trees. It was a beautiful course, but it was far from easy. I found myself at the back of a pack of about ten racers and stayed that way for over a mile. It was hard going, but I wasn't pushing so hard that I was at my limits. In fact, it was quite enjoyable. The old me kept wanting to sprint off the path and around the other racers, but I knew that would be how I could get into trouble for my fitness. Eventually people in the pack started slowing too much and some racers got ahead and I had to try to pass others. Soon I found myself leading a smaller pack. I did not enjoy this as much as I didn't want to slow anyone down and forced the pace when I could. The race was really a twisty affair and many times things hidden under the snow caused other racers to trip. At one point I tripped over a rock and then let two guys get ahead of me. I could tell my muscles were really tired nearing the end, but my ELliptiGO fitness carried me through. Nearing the finish, there was a pretty steep downhill in the woods and I let two more guys go ahead as I didn't trust my hip in that section. Overall I got a great workout, survived another race (results) on limited run training (the race was 4.1 miles which makes it my longest run since May last year), and learned to just be one of the guys in the pack enjoyed the great outdoors rather than trying to be part of the competitive race. This week I have the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race in Madbury, NH to race (or enjoy). I last did this one in 2010 when I did both Horse Hill and Kingman Farms in the same day. Time to find my headlamp for this evening race.

2009 Horse Hill Farms Snowshoe Race
2010 Horse Hill Farms Snowshoe Race

Level Renner recap of the race up front

Level Renner video of the Horse Hill Snowshoe race:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

2014 New Balance Games Grand Prix in Boston

Had a great time with my daughter watching the champion track athletes compete at the 2014 New Balance Grand Prix at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston. Lots of crazy things happened. Cam Levins, a favorite in the men's 3000m lost a shoe, Galen Rupp dropped out of the mile after setting two American records recently, and Jenny Simpson threw in a big last lap going for the American record in the women's two mile except it was not the last lap. She really had two to go and stopped before realizing she had to get running again to finish the race. Despite these unfortunate mishaps, there was a world record in the men's 4 x 800m relay, although Nick Symmonds' team was not involved and Mary Cain set another World's Junior record. This time in the 1000m. Here are some videos I took of some of the races. I need to get a better camera than my Flipcam.

Men's 4 x 800m world record had an outstanding finish!

Mary Cain winning the women's 1000m

Mary Cain after the race:

Men's Mile Galen Rupp drops out:

Women's 2 mile Jenny Simpson misjudges the finish

Men's 3000m last lap

Women's 2000m Kim Conley destroys the field

Saturday, February 1, 2014

1982 Commonwealth Games Marathon video

Here is a recently uploaded video of the second half of one of the greatest marathons ever run. This race was just a few months after the Salazar/ Beardsley Duel in the Sun. Start at about 57 minutes if you want to watch the duel and race to the finish.

From the Youtube video:

The race that stopped the Nation ... October 8, 1982 ... Robert De Castella was the favourite to win the marathon at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. At the start of the race, Tanzanians Gidamis Shahanga and Juma Ikangaa raced to the lead and were 50m ahead of the pack after five minutes. After the 20 km mark, this gap had widened to several hundred meters. By the 23 km mark, Ikangaa had taken the lead from his compatriot, with de Castella in the main pack some 250m behind, but closing. de Castella passed the now tiring Shahanga at the 38 km mark, and in the next kilometre drew level with Ikangaa then took the lead. However Ikangaa was not done yet, and re-took the lead slightly. The duel continued for the remainder of the race. Eventually de Castella pulled away, and won by 80m in a time of 2:09:18, 12 seconds ahead of Ikangaa. Briton Mike Gratton finished 3rd in 2hrs 12min, 6sec, and Shahanga faded to finish 6th. The race finished on the streets of Brisbane, not in the main stadium.
This video shows the race coverage from the 60 minute mark.
Deek's Golden Day recent article and video where Rob De Castella recalls his famous sprint down Brisbane's iconic riverside road.

From a letsrun thread on the race video:

 I still think the most interesting and captivating time of the marathon peaked in 1984 at LA and this was part of it.Yes the competition and depth is far behind modern times with all the 2:04 marathoners on the flat courses but you the 1984 LA Marathon was the last time the marathon in the Olympics was a major media focus. 
You had stars like Salazar, Deke,and Seko in a showdown and darkhorses like Lopes, Rod Dixon, Shahanga, Ikaanga. (However most experts favored Lopes right before the games after his 27:17 10,000 that June).
This race in hot conditions on a hilly course was the fastest marathon ever run (after Salazar's 1981 World Best was found to be run on a short course).
At the time Salazar was considered the top marathoner then Deke and Igaanga have this race. A year later they all had a big showdown in Rotterdam which Deke won and outkicked Lopes and Salazar finished in 5th place. Add Seko to the mix and Rod Dixon and you have the most entertaining and exciting era of marathoning. And then Steve Jones breaks out a year later.
The marathoners of today are so much better its no comparison. But it was a more interesting time when you had top contenders from about 9 different nations, all established names with major wins racing for the Olympic tital.
By 1992 the Olympic Marathon started being relegated to not the major focus for top marathoners.
Imagine this race with two of the top marathons ever run at the time was in the freaking Commonwealth Games. Deke and Ikaanga destroyed themselves for a race that paid zero money. And their efforts along with Salazar, Rodgers, and Shorter started the competition amongst the major city marathons that brought the money out for the next generation. Without them there wouldn't have been the financial incentive that created the depth of talent today.