Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble

L-R: Tim Cox (CMS/Acidotic), Kevin Tilton (CMS/Inov-8), Ben Nephew (CMS/Inov-8), Matt Westerlund (front),  Jim Johnson (CMS/Inov-8) (back), Jim Pawlicki (CMS), Bob Jackman (TNT), Steve Wolfe (Acidotic).

Saturday I was back up in Tilton-country (East Madison, NH) for the Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble (results)  which was race #3 in the 2010 Granite State Snowshoe Series.
 This was my 2nd snowshoe race ever, last year,  and the course & conditions were just as good if not better this year.  The weather was slightly warmer than last year (I spotted a sign in Rochester, NH  on the way up that indicated it was only 8 degrees)  but still pretty cold.  The sun was shining bright and the snow was deep!  I headed up solo and let Kristin sleep in.  I rolled into the parking lot of King Pine Ski Area at about 9:30am (2 hours ahead of race time).  Chris Dunn and crew were already out and about and I spotted Tim Lindsey (acidotic) in the parking lot and chatted a bit before going in to register for the race.  To add further pressure, Chris gave me bib #1 because I had won this race last year.  That's a lot to live up to, especially with the field that was beginning to assemble as the hours before the race ticked by.  Steve Wolfe (acidotic) came walking in and not too soon after, Jim Pawlicki (CMS) came in with Krissy K. in tow.  The TNT folk, including Bob Jackman (would have been 1st or 2nd last year if he hadn't missed the turn up Pooh Hill) and Scott Mason also pulled in, and Tim Cox (acidotic / CMS) was milling around with gads of other acidotic racing team members.  As if it wasn't already loaded enough, Ben Nephew (CMS) came walking in, and not too long after, Kevin Tilton made his way down to the start (after getting caught in the horrendous backroad traffic between Madison and Conway). It was too bad that Dave Dunham (CMS) was home nursing a bad back and Geoff Cunningham (acidotic) had to work...otherwise the top 10 could have been the most competitive field assembled this year for sure.

After warming up a bit over the start and end of the course with Kevin and Ben, we made our way over to the start for some last second words of wisdom from Chris Dunn before the go command was given.
My strategy today was to just go out and run my own race.  I didn't want to sit on anyone and wait, as any one of 5 or so guys today can outkick anyone else.  This course has a lot of very wide, groomed trails that are almost like snowshoe racing roads.  The first part of the race, last mile +,  and a lot of the middle of the course is like this.  It's probably as close to a road race as snowshoeing gets, but it does have a bunch of steep sections and some very deep, virgin tracks that are new to the course this year (since they took the 'hill' out of Pooh Hill).

I led right away and felt pretty strong and comfortable as the course winds up groomed, wide trails along the road.  We then hooked left and plummeted down a wicked hill to the lake shore below.  There was a double-track here but still groomed.  We crossed a portion of the lake and over a foot bridge that led to the first single-track section where the snow turned to very deep powder.  It had been blazed by maybe 1 or 2 snowshoers earlier (obviously laying out flags) but that was it.  The course was very well marked, with many flags and painted arrows and signs.  I continued to push on up some steep single-track sections and windy trails that led eventually up to the groomed ski trails that seemed like you were running down a dirt road in the woods.  These sections were really fast and I tried to work these sections extra hard, to make sure I could maintain my lead.  I kept looking back at opportune moments and thought I had seen Kevin Tilton back in second.  As I hit the section of groom trail near the road, I looked back and thought I was starting to get caught but wasn't sure.

Photo above by Dan Houde (Director of Marketing at King Pine)

The groomed trail (road) starts to climb up a bit and level out and then climb again over and over during this stretch.  This is around where the Pooh Hill climb was last year.  This year, we just blow past that turn and continue up the road.  I could still see 2nd place about 100 or so meters back (maybe a little more) during this section, which is very straight forward.  At the end of that section, the course hooks right and gets very sloppy.  We ran up and around the perimeter of a field, in a deep powdery mess.  It was blazed by maybe one set of snowshoes and it was a stark contrast to the stretch of course I had just run.  I toughed through this section and back onto a trail for a bit before hitting another windy section of powdery open field.  At this point, I could see for certain, who was in 2nd.  It was Ben Nephew, who seemed to be running me down.  This part was a little deceiving, as you wind up and down and then left to right, all on this field, so you can see people to your left and they appear closer than they actually are.

After the open field area, I dumped back onto the groomed trail there was some up and down before a nice downhill section that wound down and around to the lake.  This is a very cool section of the course, as you run across the actual lake (that has had snow built up across it like a big groomed bridge) and up to the last little loop before the finish.  I came up and past a group of volunteers and worked the last loop on the groomed trail that includes a wicked uphill climb about 400 meters from the finish that is enough to really change the pace of the race to an almost crawl.  As I crested the hill, I had just about a 200 meter or so run to the finish and came across in 34:02 (6:50 pace) for 8k.  Last year, I was 44:04 (8:10 pace) for the 8.5k version of the course which featured 'the hill'.  Funny how taking that hill out makes ALL the difference in the world. I have to say, hill or no hill, I think this is my favorite snowshoe course for sure...

Krissy K took some great photos but unfortunately missed the top 3 at the finish....

Top 10 Overall (CMS in Blue)

1Jim Johnson       Salem NH        CMS POLAR BEARS        34:02
2Ben Nephew        Mansfield MA    CMS POLAR BEARS        34:49
3Robert Jackman  Warwick RI    TUESDAY NIGHT TURTLES35:43
4Kevin Tilton      North Conway NH CMS POLAR BEARS        36:57
5James Pawlicki    Beverly MA      CMS POLAR BEARS        36:59
6Matthew WesterlundLacona NY                          37:11
7Tim Cox           Northwood NH    ACIDOTIC RACING (CMS)38:00
8Steve Wolfe     Merrimack NH  ACIDOTIC RACING      38:08
9Danny Ferreira  Concord NH    ACIDOTIC RACING      39:58
10David Principe  Cranston RI  TUESDAY NIGHT TURTLES40:31

82 Total Finishers.

L-R: Ben Nephew (CMS/Inov-8), Jim Johnson (CMS/Inov-8), Bob Jackman (TNT)

L-R: Jim Johnson (CMS/Inov-8), Kevin Tilton (CMS/Inov-8), Ben Nephew (CMS/Inov-8)

Last couple of notes... Scott Mason scored a sweet pair of Katoolah snowshoes in the raffle and there will be a Boston Globe article coming out on Thursday in which the above 3 suspects plus Bob Jackman will be highlighted.  Keep an eye out.

Now onto an early bedtime and another 6 hours on the road tomorrow to journey out to Pittsfield, MA for another WMAC/Dion series race (Curly's Record Run).

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