Sunday, January 18, 2009

Snowshoe Weekend

This weekend was jammed packed with blistering cold racing and hiking out in western Mass and New York. I headed out at 6am with Dave Dunham from Ward Hill where it was somewhere around 3 degrees F. It didn't get much if any better than that. The plan was to race a double (two WMAC Dion Snowshoe Racing Series races), do a snowshoe hike up to another fire tower Dave needed, stay out in Albany, and hit 2 towns and 1 more fire tower out in western Mass that he still needed. For those counting, thats 2 snowshoe races (basically 2 x 4 milers), 2 hikes, 2 firetowers, and 2 more towns to cross off dd's Mass townbagging list. All in 2 days and all in 2 degree weather.

After about a 2 hr 45 minute ride out west to Adams, MA we arrived at the base of Mt. Greylock around 8:45 am and were signed up, bundled up, and ready to warmup around 9:10. As we started the warmup, we noticed how loaded this race would soon become, with the cars pulling in driven by the likes of Justin Fyffe, Ben Nephew, Tim Mahoney, Tim VanOrden, etc. With a couple miles to talk it over, dd filled me in on race strategy, the course as he remembered, and a continuous reminder of how 'f'ing cold it was'. The image below shows the starting/finishing/registration area in true WMAC style. Hot Chocolate, cookies, and Tivo's raw food discussion were essentially the after party festivities.

As race # 3 in the WMAC Dion Snowshoe Racing Series was underway (entitled: Greylock Glen (results)), the pack quickly took shape in the form of trail monster Ben Nephew (CMS - Inov-8), Justin Fyffe (CMS), myself, Matt Cartier, Dave Dunham, Tim Mahoney, and Tim VanOrden all filing in. It remained close to that order until we hit the single track and Justin Fyffe (in his first ever snowshoe race) went wide around Ben and never looked back. Ben and I stayed close and put a little distance on the pack through the single track UNTIL we started to hit the climb (which was about a mile's worth of twisting and turning up hill on single track). This is where I completely lost it. I slowed to just about a walk and kept looking behind me the entire time. Soon I could see dd and others coming up on me, and was losing Ben. It wasn't long before dd was right up behind me (you couldn't miss him in his bright yellow Atlas body suit). I pulled over to the side, stopped completely, and let him go by up the trail. I then settled back in for just a bit before again pulling off to let Matt Cartier go by as well. He gave me a couple words of encouragement as he went by and then I hopped back on the trail in front of oncoming CMS teammate Tim Mahoney and continued the ascent. At the top, the trail dumps out onto a wide snowmobile trail and began to descend. I soon found myself catching back up with Matt and we were both coming up on dd, who at one point I had actually been out of site of after he blew past me. Towards the bottom of the climb down, Matt waved me past and eventually I went. Soon after I got Dave back, asked him how far we had to go as I went by, and started to rock (pictured over to the left...looking back at Matt and dd - courtesy of the WMAC) At the 3 mile marker, I was very close to catching Ben Nephew again and at about 3.5 I was right behind him and we were both closing in on Justin Fyffe who had begun to slow slightly over the last part of the course. Just as I thought I might get Ben, there was a relatively short but steep climb near the end of the race that was just bad enough to knock me out of any hopes of a 2nd place finish. I kicked it in to finish in 3rd place, 4 seconds back of Ben and 14 seconds back of Justin Fyffe who hung on for the win in his first snowshoe race.

It was a CMS sweep on the day, as CMS put 6 in the top 7 and 7 in the top 10. Abby Woods once again won the women's race by finishing an overall 9th place (just beating out Paul Bazanchuk right at the line). Ken Clark, who also doubled this weekend, finished behind Tim VanOrden, in 8th place.

Pictured to the left are 2nd place finisher Ben Nephew (CMS - Inov-8), Justin Fyffe (CMS), and Double J (CMS).

The cooldown consisted of another few miles with dd, myself, and Justin who admitted to some beer drinking the night before, but it didn't affect his race in the slightest. As we talked about the race, my focus wandered a bit (perhaps due to brain freeze beginning to set in) and I found myself up in the air and then down flat on my head. I had slipped and fallen on packed snow over ice and come down head first. It didn't turn out to be as bad as I had initially thought, and after the shock went away, I was back on my feet and soon found myself again listening to dd's stories about how awesome he is.

Results (top 10) from Greylock Glen - Adams, MA - 1/17/09 - 3.9 Mile
CMS in blue.

Place
Name
Age
Time
1
Justin Fyffe
28
29:37
2
Ben Nephew
33
29:47
3
Jim Johnson
31
29:51
4
Matt Cartier
33
30:14
5
Dave Dunham
44
30:18
6
Tim Mahoney
29
31:31
7
Tim Van Orden
40
31:48
8
Ken Clark
46
33:25
9
Abby Woods
30
33:41
10
Paul Bazanchuk
54
33:42


...74 Total Finishers.

Full Results - courtesy of the WMAC
Race Photos - courtesy of Berkshire Sports

The view of Mt. Greylock from the bottom was fantastic. I took a very small amount of photos (seen here at Smugmug) of the beginning area of the course and a couple of people hanging out but nothing crazy. As Kristin didn't make the trip I was limited to the number of photos I have, but did manage to take out the zoom lens and snap some shots of an ice covered summit of Greylock (pictured to the left).

From there, it was down the road just a bit, to the old Brodie Mountain Ski Area (Snowy Owl) where dd and I would start a very tough (for me at least) post-race snowshoe hike straight up the ski trails to the firetower on top. From here, dd's writeup of events will most surely differ from mine...but rest assured, you are hearing it AS IT HAPPENED from this humble narrator. I will be the first to admit I had a tough time hiking up. I lagged a bit and at certain points found myself even out of conversation range with Dave as we shoed up the slopes that had only been travelled by what looked to be either coyotes or deer this winter, and not much else. At around 58 minutes or so, we reached the firetower, went up the extremely icey stairs, and grabbed some cool video and still images of the surrounding mountains of MA and NY. The trip down only took about 28 minutes as we shot straight down a more direct route along the lift line.

I did take some shots up on top which can be seen here (Smugmug).

Once again we were back down and finding ourselves back to fumbling through the mountains of gear we had both brought to ration out some dry clothes for the 2nd part of the road trip out west to Albany NY, where we were staying Saturday night in anticipation of doing the first double of the season. My back at this point was KILLING me. Lugging a backpack straight up ski slopes with camera equipment, water, extra clothes, etc. was a little too much for me right after a race. Couple that with deep snow snowshoeing for over a mile uphill and it started to take its toll. I wasn't sure how much longer I was going to be able to be on my feet but the promise of a whirlpool at the hotel made the horizon a little brighter. We arrived at the hotel in late afternoon, right across the street from the campus of the University of Albany, where I had run many times in both cross country and track while at UMass Lowell. It was also the location of my only sub 25 performance, at the 1998 NECC XC Conference Championships in which I won the race and Lowell took 2nd place as a team. Good memories for sure.

Three trips each for dd and myself up and down to the car to get all our gear, we finally had all our stuff up in the room and out of the sub zero temperatures outside. After some half-hearted reorganization and more stories of how awesome dd is from dd's point of view, we got ready and headed out to grab some grub down the road. After returning from dinner we got our stuff together and headed down to the pool for a soak, at which time we tried to make another one of Dave's coaching video blog entries... Depending on the perspective, it could have gone horribly wrong, but dd might try to use it anyway... it will be interesting to see. (Photo to the left of your's truly heading down Brodie Mtn. Obviously happy because I'm moving in the direction that is easiest for me :) )...

As we returned upstairs, we 'assumed' that the heat worked in the room, but we were pretty much dead wrong. I spent the next 9 hours freezing my a$$ off. I threw a bunch of layers on, all the blankets I had, and laid there shivering all night long. Besides my trip to Flagstaff last April, I don't think I've ever spent a night this cold in my life. I've never been winter camping yet, but I cannot imagine it being much worse. Again, this is where dd's point of view and mine may differ. He claims he was fine and in fact he says it was very comfortable in there....he claims he keeps his house at 65. The thermostat on the wall said 65 + or - all night but I know it wasn't right. I couldn't wait for the morning so I could get up and either take a hot shower to defrost, or get back in my car and crank the heat.

The trip over to the race in Guilderland, NY from the hotel took only a few minutes. DD and I arrived at the start of the Brave the Blizzard snowshoe (website) (results) race at around 9am or so. This race was race #4 in the WMAC Dion Snowshoe Series and is put on by the Albany Running Exchange. It was hailed as the 'Largest Snowshoe Race Ever in the Northeast' but dd pointed out a couple others in past years that had a few more people finish...overall though, this relatively flat 3.9 mile course had 173 finishers total, which is a very impressive turnout. This race was held over trails in the back of a school which also served as an actual indoor facility (almost unheard of) that we could use to keep our gear warm and out of the elements. It was also nice to use an indoor bathroom :). I got a few pictures of the start/finish area and inside (viewed here on my Smugmug page).

The race itself went out across a couple of fields behind the school where it was pretty deep powder that made it VERY slow going and tough for the first 300 meters or so. There was no path created yet across this stuff, so I was blazing the way from the gun because nobody really wanted to get up and take the lead. I moved from side to side a couple times hoping the couple guys behind me from the Albany Running Exchange would come up and take it, but in the end, I got no takers. My initial race plan was to let race director and last year's winner Josh Merlis take the lead and sit on him as long as I could... However, after the first 300 or so meters played out, I did what I didn't want to do, and got to the first hill and up into the single track trail in first place. From here, I didn't look back (well, I did, but figuratively speaking...). The trail was choppy for a good part of the way and I was slipping all over the place for a good part of this section with my standard cleats (I would buy the Dion Deep Cleats after the race was over)... I just couldn't get great traction, but it didn't stop me from crankin' right along at a pretty relaxed pace. At about 1 and 1/2 in or so I couldn't see 2nd place behind me anymore and knew if I just kept moving along I'd be alright. I felt my left shoe coming slightly loose which was scary, but it never did losen up any more than that. The course has some slight constant rolls but no real major hills. Some parts are steep but very short, so there fortunately wasn't any part of this race that was going to suck the life out of me like Greylock did the day before. At maybe 2 and 1/2 miles you start to come back along the same way you went out and I started to pass by people who were still working the first part of the course....many of them yelled to me that I was going the wrong way...I explained to only a few (when I could muster the breath) that I was leading and this was where the course went over the last part of the race... At about 3 miles, back on the single track, there was a fallen tree across the trail that you could go under if you stayed far right...I 'thought' I was far enough over and ran full speed by it, only to realize on impact that I wasn't even close. I got the trunk of the tree full on in the left shoulder which almost knocked me clear down to the ground....I stayed on my feet (barely) and plugged on (now having a bruised and stiff left shoulder to show for it). At maybe 3 and 1/2 miles in I could hear the music playing at the finish line and knew I was close. I 'think' it was Train in Vain from the Clash... I ended up finishing the 3.9 mile course in 27:17 (7:00 pace) and just about 2 minutes ahead of Joe Hayter (Albany Running Exchange) from Schenectady, NY. (Photo above, courtesy of ARE and Paul Partridge)

Results (top 10) from Brave the Blizzard - Guilderland, NY - 1/18/09 - 3.9 Mile
CMS in blue.

Place
Name
Age
City
State
Time
Pace
1
Jim Johnson
31
Salem
NH
27:17
7:00
2
Joseph Hayter
28
Schenectady
NY
29:14
7:30
3
Josh Merlis
27
Albany
NY
29:53
7:40
4
David Dunham
44
Ward Hill
MA
30:39
7:52
5
Ken Clark
46
Somers
CT
31:32
8:06
6
Brian Northan
33
Guilderland
NY
31:46
8:09
7
Andrew McCarthy
25
Albany
NY
32:49
8:25
8
Andrew Rickert
29
Delmar
NY
32:59
8:28
9
Leslie Dillon
25
Troy
NY
33:15
8:32
10
Edward Alibozek
46
Suffield
CT
34:13
8:47


173 Total Finishers...

Full Results - courtesy of the Albany Running Exchange
Race Photos - courtesy of the Albany Running Exchange

Video Below courtesy of the Albany Running Exchange




After the race, a light cooldown, small awards ceremony (indoors thank god), and a collection of post-race rants by dd, we hopped back in the car and blew town... Contemplating for about an hour as we drove East, we decided that the weather was good enough to shoot up to 2 of the last remaining few western MA towns dd had not run in yet and bag another firetower. We drove up to the border between Pelham MA and Belchertown MA, along a road at the base of Lincoln, Mt. in Pelham, MA. We strapped on the Katoolah's and ran up a trail from the road that got us to the top in only about 10 minutes or so. We climbed up another tower but this time couldn't get up inside, as the cab on top was closed. DD got some photos (including this one of both of us) and I got some video of the surrounding area, including 7 Sisters and UMass Amherst before heading back down. We ran down the auto road and back to the car and over the border into Belchertown for a 3 mile (24 minute) shakeout that crosses two more towns off Dave's list.

From there, it was once again change into what was left of dry clothes and head on home...We pulled into Ward Hill, MA at about 5:30pm to drop dd off and I was home about 10 minutes later. After about 30 minutes of unloading all the crap from my car, I was finally back home and able to lay down in a room that was over 60 degrees.

All in all it was a real fun weekend with my first double (back to back) of the year. I have a bunch of video clips I'm going to splice together for another episode of DoubleJRunning's award winning viral video series. I will work on that sometime today and get it up as soon as possible. No race footage obviously, but I believe there will be some race videos surface from some people at Greylock and definitely from the Albany Running Exchange, who put videos together of all their races. More to come on that.

This wraps up a good week for me of about 85 miles and I am now looking forward to this coming weekend's tempo effort at the Boston Prep 16 miler in Derry, NH.

5 comments:

  1. So let me get this straight: you didn't think doing a snowshoe race double was ENOUGH for one weekend? You guys are nuts. Nice job though!

    DD likes to talk about himself? Wow, I learn something new all the time...
    :-)

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  2. Youse east coastahs are wicked snowshoe crazy.

    Seriously ... damn, that is quite a weekend. I feel like an f'ing wuss.

    Solid week.

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  3. Awesome account of the weekend! You must be sore.

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  4. Jim is such a major pu$$y, he won't even double up with snowshoe races again next weekend. Something about a 16 mile road race.

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  5. nice post and thanks for sharing....

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    Britney
    Entertainment at one stop

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