Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Greylock Glen Snowshoe Race

L-R: Dave Dunham, Jim Johnson, Tim Mahoney, Tim VanOrden

The first snowshoe double weekend of the year kicked off this past Saturday morning with a trip out west w/ DD for both WMAC races.  441 miles later, I was back home with two more WMAC wins under my belt in some pretty tough races (both condition-wise and competition-wise).  Here's part 1...

On Saturday
morning, I picked up DD and we headed out west to Adams, MA where the Greylock Glen Snowshoe race (results) was being held.  Rumor had it (after talking w/ head-Keenyan Justin Fyffe earlier in the week) that Mark Miller (BAA) was heading down to give snowshoe racing a go, with fellow Keenyan (and my CMS teammate Greg Hammett).  I knew if Hammett and Miller showed up, coupled with Tim VanOrden and the rest of the CMS regulars, it was going to be pretty solid up front.  I have never beaten Mark in any foot race and probably will never beat him in any road/track/mountain race, but since snowshoe racing has become possibly one of my strongest events, I figured this may be as close as I'd get.  I was still banking on a 2nd place or maybe a 3rd if Greg Hammett was ready to go (that boy has been tearing it up on the track this winter with Mile/800 doubles all over the place).  Our ride out was a typical one...full of profanity-laden tirades from dd, inappropriate and awkward age-related jokes from me (directed at dd), and a central and western Mass geography lesson that kept me from going mad on route 2.

As we hit the Glen, Tim Mahoney (CMS) was already there unpacking and we noticed that due to construction, the race had to be moved a bit further up the street to where the race came out previously (before cutting across the street and going back down to the gazebo area).  This year the course wouldn't go across the street (the street was bare) and would start and finish in the field above the gazebo area (and on the other side of the road).  I headed over to Bob Dion's truck to swap out my bindings, which I had noticed were ripped the night before the race.  As Bob was taking the deep cleats off the bindings, he noted that the middle claw on both were gone!  It made me wonder when these actually broke off...whether they were gone before or after Turner Trail?  This made me realize that I must check my shoes before/after every race and not just assume the cleats are all there.  He swapped out my bindings and cleats and I was as good as new.  Shortly before going out for a warmup on the roads, Greg and Mark pulled in and we all went out for a 3 mile warmup around the roads at the base of Greylock.

After we got back to the cars, it was a quick change and then we headed up to the line to strap on the shoes and do some last minute strides along the start/finish trail.  I was giving Mark a bunch of pointers / advice but then realized that he had already done a couple of 2 hour snowshoe runs in the past, so I knew he'd be ok.  My game plan was to go out with him for as long as I could and then see what happened on the climb/downhill.  I knew he had won the Northfield Mountain race in the past and he's got mid-low 14:00 5k speed and a 4:02 mile to his credit...My only hope would be the climb and maybe more trail/mountain/snowshoe experience that would help me stay with him and make up for the major difference in speed and overall talent.

As the command was given, we were off and the pace was pretty decent.  Mark let me go out ahead and tucked right behind me.  As we wound down across the first bridge (with NO snow on it and some boards missing) I continued to lead as the course zig-zagged up and and down, left and right, leading up to the first little steep climb.  The course was well groomed by a snowmobile or two by this point and the footing was pretty good.  I peeked back to see Mark right there, with Greg not too far behind that...exactly what I was expecting to see.  As I reached the top of the first small climb that leads deeper into the woods, Mark caught up to me and went past.  I was glad to relinquish the lead and have him dictate the pace from this point on.  I stayed right on his heels and Greg remained a few ticks back behind me.  Mark was weaving all over the single track trail and the pace remained quick.  At one spot at a small 4 way intersection, he started to head left and I immediately yelled 'straight Mark!' and he corrected and went straight across.  Not too long after that, we hit a section that widened up a bit and I commented to him that the real climb was up ahead.  Shortly after that, he seemed to slow up just a bit and I found myself right up along side him, which was not good, considering the single track ahead.  I decided that he may want me to take it again for a bit, so I went around and got in front again.  Greg was still not too far behind at this point and all 3 of us trekked on up to the major climb that was ahead.

As I hit the climb, which starts out as a back and forth switchback followed by a well groomed (but steep) snowmobile trail, I had a decent amount of space on Mark and I was hoping it would grow by the time I hit the top of the hill, but just kept thinking of his Northfield win and his raw leg speed/strength and it kept me nervous but motivated to keep plugging.  I never stopped to walk (as I had done last year) and just kept pedaling up the hill.  As I reached the top of the climb, I peeked back and really couldn't see anyone back there and started to rock down the very steep and long straight down a very nicely groomed snowmobile road.  This is where I was sure Mark would catch his breath and run me down so I opened up my stride and really pushed down hard.  On the way down, I would occasionally peek back to see who may be coming but couldn't see anyone.  I started to think that if I could at least run strong over the next mile or so, I may be able to squeak this one out.

At the bottom of the hill, the road empties out onto an open field and the course hooks to the left.  As I followed the flags that headed back into the woods, I saw one of the Williams College guys coming out of the woods in the wrong direction.  He mentioned to me that he was going the wrong way and it actually made me second guess my own race direction for a few seconds as I slowed down to figure it out.  I instinctively pushed on the same course I was going (remembering it from last year) and soon after heading back into the woods, saw the 2 mile mark (or maybe 2.5....not sure which).  I knew that was right and kept pushing on, all the while, peeking back to try to figure out where everybody else was.  I kept expecting to see Mark on his way to running me down and figured he may have taken the climb really easy and would rock the rest....then I started to think that Greg would have done the same and started to run really nervous because I was feeling it pretty good at this point.  The course is pretty fast from that point on...it has some ups and some steep downs, but the groomed trail provided an easier effort to bang away the last mile or so.  As I came down within view of the last bridge (and a couple of people taking photos), I briefly missed the left turn and had to shuffle back to get back on course and wind down to the bridge.  From there, I looked up and didn't see anyone and that was really the first time I was thinking I had this one won.  After the bridge, there is a pretty steep uphill to the finishing field, but when I hit that climb, I got nervous again, because I didn't remember it and wasn't sure where I was in relation to the finish.  As I reached the top, I saw a few folks standing there and heard people cheering and knew I was close.  I saw the finish area finally, and took one last peek behind and knew I could relax.  Mark came cruising in, in second place, just ahead of Greg Hammett.  Tim VanOrden ran a very strong race for 4th place overall, and Dave Dunham wound out the top 5, in 5th (which almost turned into 6th because of a last second wrong turn near the end).  Tim Mahoney came in in 7th overall, giving CMS 5 in the top 7.

After the race, the Tims, Greg, Mark, Dave, and Paul B joined me for a cool down back out on the roads.  TiMo, Greg, Mark, and I all added on over some snowmobile trails for close to 40 minutes of cooldown.  Mark took a couple of graceful spills and it was fun chatting about his first experience with the snowshoe racing.  Hopefully he'll be back for more!  As we hit the road back to the cars, we were all bonking pretty good and it felt great getting back to grab some grub before hitting the road.  Before heading out of the parking lot, Dave and I chatted with Ed and a few others about the Albany race on Sunday and the consensus  was that there was no snow and there would be only a trail race instead of the planned Brave the Blizzard Snowshoe race.  Dave and I both didn't want to go all the way out there and stay overnight to run in a trail race and decided to call the race director to see if the race was still on (as the website hadn't been updated to reflect the conditions since Thursday).  Dave caught the RD while he was actually out walking the course and he was still kind of on the fence about the race but kept saying that it was too dangerous to be a trail race, and that 'as of now' it was going to still be a snowshoe race.  That was good enough for us to head out and continue west, to the Albany area to 'brave the blizzard'.

Race Photos above courtesy of John Marran and the Herders.  The full photo set can be seen HERE.

Top 10 Overall (CMS in Blue)

PlaceFirst NameLast NameAgeClubTimePace
1JIMJOHNSON32CMS Polar Bears0:25:316:42
3GREGHAMMETT32CMS Polar Bears0:26:457:02
4TIMVANORDEN41CMS Polar Bears0:27:027:06
5DAVEDUNHAM45CMS Polar Bears0:27:487:18
7TIMMAHONEY30CMS Polar Bears0:28:187:26

122 Total Finishers.

Tivo's Garmin Data on the Race

Video of the start and finish of Greylock Glen Snowshoe Race courtesy of Brad Herder.

In between the two races, and on the way out to Albany, NY, Dave and I drove over to Berlin Mountain to do a hike up/snowshoe down.  We did something similar last year up Mount Brody.  This year, the hike up wasn't as long, but it certainly felt steeper.  Berlin is the 6th highest peak in Massachusetts and it was a straight shot up what looked to be a ski-lift line starting from a small parking lot that I had to 4-wheel up to in my Xterra, as nothing was plowed.  About 1 minute into the hike up (in Kahtoola Microspikes) I was out of talking range with DD.  About 5 minutes in, I could barely see him.  He rocks on these climbs.  I was hurting bad and my back was starting to rig up.  On the way up, we stopped to talk to another hiker, and to put on the snowshoes for the last part of the trek up.  Once we reached the top (Dave about 5 minutes ahead of me), we took a couple of quick pictures, and then it was back down in the Dions for what turned out to be a half run/slide on the snowshoes and a half tumble down on the hind quarters.  At one point, Dave and I were both in free-fall down the mountain, in an uncontrollable slide.  It was fun, but tiring and I was glad to eventually make it back to the car.

Part 2 coming.... Brave the Blizzard....

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