Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brave the Blizzard Snowshoe Race

... In continuing with the weekend's snowshoe antics, here's part two... Brave the Blizzard Snowshoe Race - Guilderland, NY (results).  Photos by Sarah Banta Dzikowicz

As Saturday came to a close, DD and I headed straight over to the course in Guilderland, NY to preview it before going over to the hotel in Albany.  The plan was to check it out and make
our own determination as to whether it would be worth trying to snowshoe it, before checking into the hotel and staying overnight.  The drive over to the course was pretty depressing.  There was hardly any snow anywhere.  As far as you could see along the highway and in the woods and in the neighborhoods, there was no snow to be seen.  As we pulled up to the light off of the main road to the entrance to Guilderland Elementary School, there was nothing around but bare ground...As we took the right into the parking lot and came around the corner, we saw the most snow we had seen since getting into NY.  There was a decent amount in the parking lot, but as we came around the side of the building, where the field was, it was clear there wasn't much snow to deal with out on the course.  There was just enough snow on the field to be able to call running on it a 'snowshoe race'.  It was less than an inch of granular/slushy snow that would reveal bare grass underneath if you just bent down to scoop up a snowball's worth of snow.
Not exactly what we were hoping for, but better than actually expected.  As we looked up the hill that led into the woods, we noticed nothing but bare ground, leaves, dirt, roots, and rocks. No snow at all.  We headed over and up to discover that at the top, and in the woods, there actually was snow on the trail.  Not much, but it was there.  As we looked down and out over the bushwhack, we determined that it would be no worse tomorrow and that they would surely have the race.  We figured they'd just make you go up and over the bare ground on the hill and the rest would hopefully be ok.  We headed back to the car and shot over to the hotel (10 min. down the road).  After checking in, it was Jacuzzi time and then off to dinner at the 99s.  Once dinner was done, and a quick phone call to Mr. Tilton to ask about the Feel Good race, Dave and I were back to the hotel for some shuteye.

In the morning, DD and I shot over to the race and were there just ahead of TiVo who had some pep in his step and was looking forward to the fast, flat course.  I knew it was going to be a track meet of sorts and Tim is dangerous on flatter, faster courses for sure.  I swapped out my new deep cleats for some extra standard (worn out) cleats that DD had brought, which would prevent me from completely destroying my new deep cleats in 1/2 inches of snow and ice.  After DD and I came back from the warmup, Tim came running across the parking lot and informed me that there were some 'really fast guys here'.  He proceeded to tell me that Justin Bishop was there and that he was a sub 25 min 5-mile guy, etc.  Great I thought...that's all  I needed... flat, fast trail race essentially, with Tim and another speed demon all ready to roll.  I threw on the Dion's and headed over to the field for some last minute strides.

As we lined up on the line, Tim pointed out Justin Bishop to me and I had my sights set on trying to stay with him if he darted out.  I wasn't sure who else would be gunning for him, but I knew Tim wouldn't be too far behind if not in front.  As the go command was given, I found myself frozen and unresponsive.  I wasn't really paying attention and was spacing out when everyone took off.  I ended up in probably 10th place at the start and had to cut over in front of a couple people to get through a clearing and pull up around DD and TiVo around the first corner.  Justin, as anticipated, took off and I found myself immediately struggling to keep up.  He's a big strong guy and just looks so smooth and fluid out there (even on snowshoes) was very deceiving.  As we hit the bushwhack that winds up and into the woods from the field, Justin was in front and I was right behind, with Tim right behind me.  After that, I wasn't sure but was only focusing on Justin and Tim. The single track bushwhack was shallow snow (essentially a dusting on top of leaves) that wound up a hill that didn't really even have a trail on it.  Hence, you were whipping little saplings and stepping over little downed trees, etc.  When we dumped out onto the actual trail, it was solid icey snow that wasn't giving at all.  It was like running on rocks.  Pretty soon, the trail dumps out onto almost a rail-trail sort of single track that is out in the open and straight ahead with a couple of bridges on it.  This section had about 150 meters or so of just exposed dirt/gravel and rocks.  No snow or ice at all, so the Dion's were taking a beating.  Once off of that, it was back onto some pretty OK trails with enough snow on them to certainly classify as a snowshoe race.  It got better the deeper into the woods you went, and there was a decent stretch of dirt road that was completely caked in with snow.  All along, it was hard and fast as I kept close behind Justin.

About a mile or so in, I started to lose touch just a bit and fell back a few strides as Justin powered on over the very fast course.  It felt like a fast trail race and much faster than the year before (where we couldn't imagine it being any faster of a race).  It was about this time, I realized that we had dropped Tim back a ways.  I couldn't hear his footfalls any longer and kept him in check constantly, as I tried to stay within striking distance of Justin.  Justin wasn't making any noise, wasn't breathing hard, and just appeared to be in complete control with his head down and powerful stride pushing up and over a few of the small climbs in the race.  As we circled around and started to head back, we got into some single track along the power lines and I started to notice that Justin was slowing up a bit.  As this was happening, TiVo was starting to gain on us.  I started to get really nervous and started motivating Justin a bit by letting him know that Tim was starting to pick us up.  As we headed back into the woods, Tim was almost back with us.  The trail was single track still and I kept giving Justin the heads up that Tim was on his way.  I started to think that this was going to become a 3 way sprint when we hit the last field.  Justin started to breathe a lot harder and was making a little bit of noise as if the pace was starting to get to him.  He had been doing all the work, which is quite hard in snowshoe racing.  At around this time, I also started to remember where we were (from last year) and knew it was getting close to go time.  Just as I was about to try to think about making a move, we went up and over a small foot bridge and he moved aside, waving me on and indicating that he was in the hurt box.  I gave him some words of encouragement and told him to join me in the final push up to the line.  As I went by, Tim caught up to Justin but stayed behind him.  I put maybe 10 or so seconds on them in the final push up through a single track trail that went up and over the hill and down to the field.  As I hit the field, I knew I just had to keep up the same pace and I'd be fine.  In the end, I came across the line for my second straight win at this race (making it only the 2nd race I've ever won more than just once...Savoy being the other).  Justin was only 9 seconds back and TiVo only 13 seconds back.  It was a good thing I made that move when I did.  It is the second time this year that Tim has almost snuck one out from under me!!!

Top 10 Overall (CMS in Blue)

PlaceFirst NameLast NameTeamAgeTimePace
1JimJohnsonCMS Polar Bears3224:4406:41
3TimVanOrdenCMS Polar Bears4124:5706:45
4DaveDunhamCMS Polar Bears4526:5807:17

134 Total Finishers.

TiVo's Garmin Data

Now on to Pooh Hill up in Madison, NH this coming weekend to run w/ my teammate Kevin Tilton and some other top snowshoers including Geoff Cunningham (2008 GSSS Champion).  Should be FAST.   Sunday will draw me back out to Pittsfield State Forest for Curly's Record Run.  Good Stuff.... now if I can just recover from the track workout last night!!!!


  1. Nice work! Love the photos, btw. Talk about getting "spiked" - must hurt to get a snowshoe in shin!


  2. thanks Scotty! You know, I've never gotten spiked or even had any problems with hitting myself in the shins or anything (yet)... It looks a lot more dangerous than it really is :)