Northeast Snowshoe Championship – 10th place in 54:36

After having to worry about it for two months, I found I could just go out and run. I did find that focusing on pointing my toe in helped a lot, though it made my knee now in. There is definitely muscle imbalance somewhere causing these issues, since they weren’t there before the injury. I guess it’s more of a symptom of the real cause, and itself the cause of the hamstring issues.

So, I was bit surprised to find myself healthy for this race. I did do a lot of foam rolling on my calves in the week prior, and my training load was still greatly reduced, but come race day, I felt good!

I didn’t look at the course map beforehand, but I knew the relevant stats: roughly 10k of “rustic” singletrack, with 1300ft of elevation gain thrown in to keep things interesting. What I did know is that I’d need to go out hard in order to have a chance to stay near the front of the pack.

 

Before the race:
My day started rather stressfully. I was supposed to volunteer at the race, so I had to leave a bit earlier, around 6:15. I got on the road, and about half an hour in, realized I’d forgotten my wallet. Since I hadn’t yet registered for the race, that was a problem. I was not dealing with the stress well (I seldom do when there is nobody around), but I turned around and drove back home to grab my wallet. I got there about an hour before the race start, but to late to be any help volunteering.

I took some time deciding what I was going to wear, and getting dressed and geared up. Luckily, I hadn’t forgotten anything else, though I had a brief scare with my inhaler.

I decided, somehow, that it would be a better idea to not warm up much, since I was still not doing much training. The brain does odd things under stress. I jogged the 3/4 of a mile to the race start as a warmup, strapped on my snowshoes, and chatted with some of my neighbors. I lined up at the front this time, next to eventual first and second-place finishers, Jim Johnson and Kevin Tilton. I honestly didn’t know many of the guys who belonged in front of me aside from those two and Ethan Nedeau, so I just focused on getting a clean start, and I’d let people pass me whenever they needed to. I’d rather be in front and stepping aside constantly, than be in back and having to wait for a good time to attempt a pass.

I learned afterward from Jim Johnson that there were quite a few fast guys that probably should have been in front of me:

The pre-registration list for this event looked pretty solid with a lot of good road and trail guys throwing their names in the hat for this one.  The race also served as a stop on the LevelRenner All Terrain Series, so it was a who’s who of guys all seeking the All Terrain crown for 2015…  I noticed Scott Leslie (CMS) and Alex Hall (Whirlaway) warming up, along with Chad Carr and a few others that gave me reason to believe this would be a very good race. (From JJ’s blog post on the race; a good read from the front-of-pack perspective.)

 

The race:
I’m not sure if the start caught anyone by surprise, but I got out fast with only a couple guys, although the chopped up snow caused some unbalanced steps and we threw a few unintentional elbows just trying to stay balanced on our feet.

Somehow I managed to get out cleanly in 5th place. I knew that it wouldn’t last, but I always feel great in the beginning of races, and this one was short and tough enough I figured I might have a chance if I put a little effort in the bank, and tried to hold on. This photo was taken by Joe Viger shortly after the race started, but race winner Jim Johnson is already laying the hammer down.

Jim Johnson leads the pack, with Kevin Tilton (2nd) just behind. I'm wearing the orange shades in 5th, trying to pretend like I belong there. Joe Viger photo.
Jim Johnson leads the pack, with Kevin Tilton (2nd) just behind. I’m wearing the orange shades in 5th, trying to pretend like I belong there. Joe Viger photo, click to go to his page.

I stayed in 5th for maybe 3/4 of a mile to a mile (I wasn’t paying attention, just running hard by feel) until my legs started to get heavy. Damnit, I should have warmed up. Ethan Nedeau and Todd Callaghan passed me in a pair, approximately around the 1-mile mark. A few minutes later, Alex Hall and one other (probably James Pawlicki, judging by the results) passed me in the second mile, along with one more a bit later. I was already starting to hurt in the second mile, especially in my lower legs, so I dialed back the intensity a little, and power-hiked a few of the hills.

Miles 2-3 hurt the worst, but from mile 3 to 4.5 was mostly downhill so I was able to pick it up again. A guy in red (Chad Carr) was hanging a bit too close. My quads were weak on the uphills, so I focused on trying to lose him on the downhills. It worked, as he’d get close to me on the ups, but I would hammer the downs and gain a bit of space.

Immediately after passing photographer Joe Viger (for the second time; he moved further down the course) on a downhill, I caught a snowshoe on edge of a hard piece of snow and flew through the air, coming down hard on my left knee and face. I staggered to my feet as quickly as I could and took off again. Luckily I had made a bit of time on the downhill, so guy-in-red didn’t pass me. The cool thing about falling is that it gives you a little dose of adrenaline, which never hurts in a race like this! My legs suddenly felt a bit better, and I was able to actually run a few of the later climbs.

Joe Viger's second photo, right before I fell.
Joe Viger’s second photo, right before I fell. Click to go to Joe’s page.

This was a mind-strangling section, as we took a right to make a sort of double-loop, eventually coming back up a hill staring at the racers coming down who were about to make that right. Then we made a right to start the second loop. One of those situations where you know you’re going the right way, but some part of your brain still gets nervous.

Right as I rounded the turn to start that climb up to face the other racers, some helpful aR volunteers told me I was in 10th overall. Cool. I came into the race hoping for top 15, but when I saw who showed up for both men and women, I figured I’d settle for top-20. (Lots of really FAST people in this race. 2:30 marathoners 3:08 50k’ers, and female National Snowshoe Champions and World Mountain Running Champion.)

Mile 4.5 started the last climb of the race. Just for kicks, because that’s how it’s done at an acidotic RACING event, this was the steepest climb of the race, with 310ft of climb in less than half a mile. “Rustic.” None of that groomed stuff here! I had to hike the first and steepest part of that climb, but was able to run the last bit of it when I heard guy-in-red behind me.

As I rounded a corner onto the coolest part of the race, I got to look out on the whole Lakes Region. No surprise to me, there was Scott Mason, ready to take my mug shot. Scott always finds the best locations. The photography is as good as anyones, but his locations are second-to-none. Also to no surprise, he somehow made me look like a badass runner, despite the fact that I was breathing like an asthmatic 3-legged dog running an 800m race.

Northeast Snowshoe Championship, photo by Scott Mason.
Northeast Snowshoe Championship, photo by Scott Mason.

I bombed down the final mile of downhill at sub-7 pace, determined not to get thrown out of the top-ten. Coming down off Scott’s perch, with .9 to go, I started to get some major cramping under my right ribs. Crap. I knew from experience this could either have a negligible impact, or slow me to a walk. I glanced back, but couldn’t see guy-in-red. I slowed my effort about 10%, but thanks to the downhill, I was able to keep a solid pace.

My rib-cramp was hurting bad, but it didn’t get worse, so I kept my effort steady. I thought for sure it was going to slow me to a walk, and I’d get passed, but somehow, I lucked out. I crossed the line in 54:36 for 10th place, with nothing left for a finishing spring, but kept a steady 6:50 pace on the flat ground, so I think I gauged my pacing well for this race.

 

After the race:
Ethan Nedeau had made it into 3rd place after he passed me, doing aR proud! Kasie Enman (2011 World Mountain Running Champion and former National Snowshoe Champion) barely held off Amber Ferreira (former National Snowshoe Champion) for the women’s win, which for once occurred behind me! I was happy to hold off Kasie, as she crushed me at the Sleepy Hollow Mountain Race and the Mt. Washington Road Race last year. Hopefully that’s a sign of improving fitness on my part.

I spent a few minutes hanging at the finish line chatting, and congratulating other runners, then I jogged the .8mi back to the carriage house with snowshoes in hand. I was feeling pretty good now that I’d stopped running, and I contemplated going for a longer cool-down. However I still felt like I needed to be careful and nurse the hamstring, so I went inside and changed.

I was really happy and pleasantly surprised by how this race went. I wasn’t expecting a good result going in, and once I heard about the caliber of the field, I definitely wasn’t expecting it.

I’ll save the injury talk for another post, but I am feeling about 85% better than I was before the Kingman Farm Moonlight race two weekends ago, and that I’m incredibly happy for.

 

Now, here’s the course map and elevation profile, along with my splits.

Course map with my splits.
Course map with my splits.
Course elevation profile, with average pace and elevation "corrected" pace.
Course elevation profile, with average pace and elevation “corrected” pace.