Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble

This weekend was race #1 in the Granite State Snowshoe Series put on by Acidotic racing . The Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble (results and writeup) in East Madison, NH was the scene of the crime this time around. The race was held at the King Pine ski area (technically across the street) around Purity Lake (The race actually runs through 2 towns - Eaton and (East) Madison (neither of which I've run in...crossing 2 more NH towns off the list). The course was described by Acidotic as:

'a mixture of groomed nordic, ungroomed snowshoe, and backcountry bushwhack singletrack.... the Pooh Hill Trail plays a prominent role in the course design. Expect a roughly 1/3 of a mile climb to just below the summit of Toll Hill and a bushwhack descent. Brook crossings and log hurdles are just some of the unique features of this course.'

This is also one of the coolest courses I've run on. It was just a blast... The race is actually between 8.5 and 9k and there is a lot of groomed trail running which makes a lot of this course pretty fast...Then they throw in Pooh Hill and it just immediately sucks the life right out of you (as seen in the quick video further below graciously taken by Kevin Tilton at the top). Paul Kirsch (White Mountain Milers and race director extraordinaire) graciously explained the course to me beforehand, as he had run over it earlier in the morning with regular running shoes on. This actually helped me tremendously, as it allowed me to not only follow the flags on the course, but also his footprints in the snow....a huge plus.

The conditions were fantastic. 5 degrees and sunny over this course made it as ideal as possible. The course rolls a bit at first over wide groomed trails before it hooks down and across a section of Purity Lake, over a small wooden foot bridge and up into single track for a bit. The single track is up and down pretty good at close to 2k before it dumps out onto an unplowed access road that is also groomed for skiing. That goes up to about the 4k mark before it makes its way right and up the Pooh Hill trail, which is a single track/backcountry bushwack that reduces pretty much anyone's pace down to an erratic, on and off walk/powerhike.

The course then winds down Pooh Hill in an out of control, winding bushwack back to the road. This area of the course proved to be slightly confusing for many, including the 2nd place runner who actually missed the turn completely and kept going. He realized he had missed the turn too late, when he went from the 4k mark to the 6k mark in relatively short time. He continued on until he got to the first person out on the course after the hill, which was the lovely and talented Kristin, taking pictures (hence the shots of him in the photo gallery, before I came by). As he ran by her, he stopped and told her what had happened. He then stayed there and waited until I went by before taking off his snowshoes and trotting back to the finish on the roads.

As I came off out of the Pooh Hill trail and back onto the road (passing people on the way up), I saw one woman go right past the trail, and she didn't turn back until I mentioned that the course went up that way. I had actually missed the turn myself as well at first, continued on for a few strides before realizing the course went up that way. This apparently happened to some others who were confused at that section. Fortunately, for most who studied the map beforehand, people were looking for that right. The rest of the course was marked beautifully and there was no other issues to speak of... I am looking forward to this race again next year already.

After getting back out on the groomed access road, it was all mostly open and smooth sailing from there over the last 3k. There was a couple sections of up and down (one near the very end of the race, just after the 8k mark, that is borderline cruel) and one section of the course that goes straight across frozen Purity Lake. I went out fairly conservative at the beginning of the race because I knew Pooh Hill was coming (even though when Kevin, Steve, and I warmed up, we only did the first 1k of the course, so I didn't actually see Pooh Hill before I got to it in the race).... Even in 'saving' a little for the hill, once I got to it, it didn't matter at all. It kicked me in the arse anyways. Once I got down off of the Pooh Hill trail, I essentially mailed it in and ran relatively comfortable the rest of the way...I periodically looked behind me to make sure I was going to stay up front and really enjoyed the last 3k of this beautiful course.  I won in a time of 44:04, which is approximately 8:10 pace.  

If you don't like horror films, don't watch the video below....

Video: 'Double J Suckin' Wind up Pooh Hill' by Kevin Tilton:

The transcript:

JJ: I walked like the whole thing...
KT: 'laughing'
Jim Dunn: that's the whole idea
JJ: I had a huge lead...I don't know anymore...
KT: 'laughing''re probably still gonna have a huge lead
Jim Dunn: if you're walkin' then the people behind you are walkin...

All in all, it was really cool to see Scott Mason and one of his Tuesday Night Turtles teammates Bob Jackman (the fellow who missed Pooh Hill) make the 3 hour drive up from Rhode Island, and MVS/adidas teammate Crystal Anthony and her roommate also make the trip up to give snowshoe racing a whirl. This would be Scott and Crystal's first ever snowshoe race, and Scott's first race of any kind in 2 and 1/2 years.

I had a blast running this race, even though I was forced to powerhike most of Pooh Hill. This Granite State series is going to be a fun time this season for sure... Chris Dunn and the Acidotic crew (including Steve Wolfe, pictured to the left with me at the beginning of the race) did a really good job putting this race on and fielding 16 total competitors in a field of 73 finishers. Steve (last season's 2nd place overall series finisher) finished a strong 2nd place at Pooh Hill, giving him a very good chance of working towards an overall title this season.

After the race, Chris raffled off some awesome gear and beer. First place prize was a pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes, which I gladly accepted. These will come in handy this winter for sure... I also got a Redhook T and a 6 pack of Redhook Long Hammer IPA, who supplied multiple cases of beer that made for a fun post-race raffle.

Kristin braved the single digit temps and got some real good shots (343 in all) with a new lens, that can be seen on our Smugmug page.

Next up will be a double bill this coming weekend, as dd and I head West...


  1. Great stuff!

    Congratulations on your first of what should be many snowshoe wins.

  2. Nice! Particularly the score of the IPA.

  3. Jim, nice write up as always. Course description was dead on.Congrat's on your first snowshoe win as well!
    Please thank Kristen for her continued efforts in documenting this great sport, she takes fabulous pictures and I really appreciate it.

  4. nice post and thanks for sharing....

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