On Sunday, on a whim, I raced the Granite State Snowshoe Championship, and managed third overall.
Pre-Race: I knew I would go to the race to cheer and perhaps take photos, but I didn’t make my final decision about racing until the morning of the race. I stayed overnight with some teammates in another teammate’s condo we borrowed for the occasion, and had a great time catching up. It was hard being away from the MUTS racing scene last year, and it was nice being back!
The morning of the race dawned a bit chilly. -21ºF windchill to be precise. Luckily Chris Dunn gave us an 11am start, which gave it time to warm up a bit. It also provided plenty of time to foam roll and stretch, take my time eating, etc.
I registered day-of, which is really rare for me, and chilled inside for awhile catching up with old friends and teammates I hadn’t seen in awhile. 30 minutes prior to the race, I went out for a short 1.5mi warmup, and then tightened my shoes a bit more for the start.
The Race: At the start, I went out hard with Tim Van Orden, Ed Sheldon and teammate Phil Erwin. All three guys are fast, Tim and Phil were on the masters and 50-59 age-group podiums at the World Champs this year, and Ed has been killing it in the series (and ended up winning the series standings).
I kept on their tails, maybe 5-10 seconds back, for the first half mile or so, then slowly let them pull away as I dialed in my effort level (to inevitable death minus 1%). After a mile or so, Phil started drifting back to me. He just got back from Georgia picking up the most ADORABLE puppy (pic at the bottom). No way I’d be racing, but it’s what he does!
I passed him but could not gain any ground on Tim and Ed. I was able to keep them in sight until somewhere between 2.5-3 miles. The turns were tight and the hills were frequent, so this wasn’t a HUGE gap… (yet), but it made racing hard a bit more difficult. Every now and then I could hear someone behind me, but only rarely caught a glimpse. I was racing alone for the rest of the race.
I was cursing the course-designers name as we kept climbing…and climbing…and climbing. Then there’d be a little downhill just to tease me… followed by more climbing. Oddly enough, my legs still felt good, which is a first for me at this kind of effort level going up hills like that. Near the top of the climb, however, I caught closer glimpses of the guy behind me, and though he was a few switchbacks back and it was hard to tell, it seemed he was closing the gap. Time to drop what was left of the hammer.
Just before mile 3, we started going downhill! Ah, bliss… except all of a sudden my snowshoe had loosened up. I didn’t want to stop even long enough to just look at it, so I kept trying to catch a glimpse, which is hard when you’re running fast downhill! Luckily it didn’t seem to be getting worse, so I kept the pedal down to 5:30-ish pace down the 3/4mi downhill.
We had a few more rollers to do, and I hammered the first one, getting my heart rate up to 193, but I didn’t have much left on the second. It was about this time (mi 3.5-4.0) I started feeling some effects of the cold on my asthma. I wasn’t cramping, and it wasn’t too bad yet, but I was certainly glad this was 5.5 miles instead of 10k!
After the second steep roller, there was a moderate uphill section followed by a sharp hairpin turn accompanied by Chris Dunn shoutin… I mean encouraging you, and then a sweet, sweet downhill to the finish. This was the first time I thought I’d finish without dying, and as I’d gained a bit of ground on the last hill, and the first time I thought I might be able to retain third until the finish. I hammered down the hill as fast as I could, asking Tim how much longer and receiving the sweet, sweet answer of “200 to go.”
I crossed the finish line in 38:50 for 3rd place. My lungs were on fire, and I was actually sweaty despite the frigid temperature. I cheered on a few people behind me, then jogged in to change shoes for a cool down. When I say jogged, I mean limped. My calves had all of a sudden completely seized up. I stretched for a few seconds, changed shoes and went out for 1.5mi cool down before I couldn’t walk at all. That cool down was the most literal one of my life. I FROZE. Tights and a windbreaker works great at race effort… but for an 11:00/mi shuffle, not so much!
After: I was happy with how this race went. I went in with only two solid snowshoe runs this winter, both pretty slow, and no snowshoe races. I also ran a normal week’s schedule, with 90 minutes the prior day. This was my first race since October, and my first run at a high effort level. My asthma didn’t like the cold, and I wheezed and coughed the whole night. My nose was a disaster. But I woke up Monday morning feeling much better, but like I’d just run a marathon.
Chris’s courses HURT. But they’re oh-so-good. This was incredibly picturesque, and the hills were very well-placed, despite how I cursed them. Waterville Valley was a fantastic place to host the Championship, and I suspect it’ll be held there in the future. I had a great time catching up with friends and teammates in the MUTS community. I’ve been absent from the scene far too long!
Here’s a quick run-down of my week:
Tuesday: 5mi with a thousand of geese yelling at me
Wednesday: 4mi shuffle. Had some bad ankle/posterior tib pain and had to abort the workout.
Thursday: 10mi with 15 1min on/off intervals
Friday: Last alpine ski day with the kids at my school
Saturday: Easy 10mi
Sunday: Granite State Snowshoe Champs