Saturday, January 9, 2010

Turner Trail 5 Mile Snowshoe

(L-R: JJ, DD, TiVo, Wolfey, and The Mahoni)

Saturday was race #2 in the WMAC/Dion Snowshoe Series for 2010 and it put the 'Western Mass' in WMAC for sure.  It was way out in Pittsfield State Forest in Pittsfield, MA (which is essentially another state as far as I'm concerned).  The Turner Trail 5 mile Snowshoe Race (results) turned out to be one COLD, tough
day for sure.

If the ride wasn't long and arduous enough, the temperature was being difficult as well.  DD and I headed out at 5:40am from Salem, NH and picked up acidotic Racing's Steve Wolfe, one of the top masters/open snowshoers in NE, on the way.  We rolled into the parking lot at about 8:40ish (after DD got his car stuck in the snow for 10 or so minutes...long story) and it was apparent that it was not going to be pleasant to spend even 10 seconds outside without a facemask and many extra layers.  The temp was around 12 degrees or so (maybe even colder in the shade).  After registering and a not-so-quick change of clothes, DD, Wolfey, and I headed up the auto road to the point in the race where the last downhill starts (single track all the way back).  This allowed us to preview the last couple miles, which was new this year.  The 2010 version of the course does the 2009 course in reverse, but adds a mile or so, and comes back down on single track rather than the road.  On our way back down the single track, we ran into Tim VanOrden (CMS/RunningRaw) who was coming up.  He mentioned that the Williams College boys had shown up, and right away I thought 'ok, there goes at least first and second place, as Corey Watts (Williams) had won the race last year and Tivo was in great shape).  Regardless, I knew even if they weren't there, that my hands would be full, with a pretty intense 2 mile initial climb up single track switchbacks.  Knowing that guys like DD, Tim Mahoney (CMS), and Matt Westerlund (NY) were already there, it was going to be a very competitive top 10 for sure.  We got back down the bottom, changed yet again, layered-up (I had 3 layers on, including a double-layered dryfit) and decided not to go with the mask for the race. We made our way over to the starting area for some last minute warmup 'strides' and tried to stay warm as we waited for some last minute registrants to find their way to the line.

As the race went off, Corey seemed to go flying out for only a few strides and then seemed to put the breaks on as we hit the first hill, only 10-15 seconds into the race.  I reluctantly took the lead from there and was off blazing the trail.  There was some slow rolling uphill for the first couple minutes, on wide track before the trail switched over to single track, powder for the next 3+ miles.  The first 2 miles of the race was all up single track switchback (I am still waiting to see TiVo's Garmin data that will show the elevation gain) that allowed you to constantly look down to see where everyone was, just about every minute or so.  The further up I went, it looked like I was putting more and more distance on Corey who I could see clearly through the very snowy woods (due to his red hat and orange shirt).  I could also see TiVo right behind him and eventually noticed DD not too far back in 4th.   As I made my way closer and closer to the top, the snow got deeper and more powdery. The trail was blazed but the winds had blown more snow onto the tracks and it was pretty difficult footing at times.  About 13-15 minutes in, I wasn't sure if I was getting reeled in or not.  It seemed like they were still pretty close at times, and then other times on the switchback, I couldn't see anyone.  I wasn't sure, but I did know that I was starting to hurt pretty bad.  I was sucking wind pretty good, but continued to push on, as I hit 16+ minutes, I knew that there couldn't be too much more climb.

I'm not sure how long it took to reach the top, but after the major ascent was done, there was a mile or so of moderately rolly, twisty single track that was DEEP.  This is where there was the majority of the trail that was close to disappearing due to windblown snow.  At one point, at the very top, there was an opening and a field where the snow was 12+ inches deep on the trail section!  I was post-holing pretty good here and really wished either someone was ahead of me, blazing the trail, or that the snow was a little heavier and packed down...regardless, I was really laboring over this section because it was taking up a lot of energy to maintain balance and push through the powder.  There was a slight rolling downhill single track after that, that was ok footing, and then it opened up onto the auto road for a few seconds, before turning down the last section of downhill that we had previewed earlier in the day.  All the while, on the single track mile or so at the top, I was peering behind me to see if I could see anyone gaining, and could not.  Even on the longer, straighter sections, where I had the best view of what was coming, I didn't see anyone within striking distance.  I knew that if I could just get to the last downhill, without anyone chasing, I would be able to hold it off (unless I wiped out or had a blow out). I clicked my split at the beginning of the last section, at DD's request earlier, and would compare my last descent times to that of his and Wolfey's after the race.

I opened up my stride and pushed down the last 1.5 or so miles or downhill single track that ran along a rift between the side of the mountain and the auto road.  I knew that if I just opened it up and cruised hard down the hill, I didn't have to kill myself and just keep on my feet.  Had I been racing someone close on this section, it would have been a much harder effort.  I continued to bound down the trail, with a peek back every minute or so to see if I could see anyone coming.  The last thing I wanted was a good descender like TiVo or Corey to come sneaking up on me.  As I came up within view of the parking lot, I breathed a sigh of relief and came down across the line in 45:10 (5 minutes slower than DD and I had initially thought it might take us). It was a very tough course for sure, but probably my favorite so far.  It was like 3 races in one.... It had an absolutely intense climb for over 2 miles, then a VERY tough slog that was up and down, back and forth, at the top...and then a wicked downhill stretch to the finish.

Corey came in next, as I expected, and surprisingly, DD was right behind him in 3rd.  I was kind of expecting TiVo to hang on closer by the descent, and then maybe outduel DD on the way down, but TiVo was pushed back to a solid 4th place, outgunning solid races by Matt Westerlund and Tim Mahoney, who are both having a great season so far. Wolfey had another top 10 finish, rolling in in 7th place, edging out WMAC snowshoe legend Ken Clark.  Abby Mahoney won yet ANOTHER race and was first woman / 11th overall.

For my efforts, I received probably the strangest prize I've ever gotten.  I had to Google this when I got home because I wasn't quite sure what this was or why it does what it does.  It is the Airvantage vest and you can read about it here.  It's pretty sweet.  You just quickly inflate it with your breath and it conforms to your body and insulates you with your own 'hot air'.  God knows I got enough of that to go around!  It is too bad I didn't know what it was when I got it, otherwise I would have worn it on the warmdown.

After another super slow change of clothes in close to single-digit temps, I headed out for a warmdown with DD, Tim Mahoney, Abby Mahoney, Matt Westerlund, Steve Wolfe, and TiVo.  I was draggin' serious arse on the warmdown and had pretty bad stomach issues.  We ran on the snowpacked roads and I needed to make an emergency pitstop at the White Wolf before heading back.  My legs were pretty much dead and my back was stiffening up pretty bad.  It was a relief to get back to the car, change one last time, grab a cup of hot chocolate and some sugar cookies, and then hit the road for the next few hours home.

Results (Top 11 of 77 Total Finishers):

PlaceFirst NameLast NameAgeClubDurationPace
4TIMVan Orden41CMS48:209:40

Photo Sets (and all photos contained in this blog entry except the team photo above) courtesy of Berkshire Sports:

Next up is a weekend double out at Greylock (Saturday) and Albany, NY (Sunday) w/ DD.  We did this last year and this year should be even more fun!!!  It doesn't get any more interesting and exciting, than 8+ hours in the car w/ DD!!


  1. Whoa! 8 hours in the car with DD. I need my reality youtoober rant in that regard. Early MW predictions. Bitchin' about post race quotes by the losers. CO versus NE. Bring it.

    Nice job in the race. The last shot of you is good, despite the frozen snot, slurp. Really, it "is good. Nice race - impressive. I am not a snowshoer, but I guess there is a tough element to take the lead and expend "break the trail energy" (but, crap, everyone thinks you are going to win now, right?) versus hold back and go with the broken trail. Seriously - that has to be tough (I get some of that from your post).

    Back okay? Sound like things started to go a bit south in the cool down (but you recover well in the week?)

  2. Update:

    TiVo's Garmin data (Thanks Tim!):

    Distance: 5.19 mi

    Elevation Gain:1,170 ft
    Elevation Loss:1,121 ft
    Min Elevation:1,294 ft
    Max Elevation:2,174 ft

  3. GZ...perfect discussion...CO vs NE. DD would be the man to chime in about that and possibly do a rant.

    Thanks. I've been extremely lucky w/ snowshoe the past two seasons already and have had good races in just about all of them. There are more and more good guys out there coming to do them now and I'll have my fair share of defeats including this coming week's Greylock Glen race, in which I was 3rd last year (my worst place at a SS race so far). It's tough no matter what place you are in, but leading and breaking ground or running over previously blazed trail that has filled back in with loose powder can be tough for sure. I need to work on the little things that are really big things, like crunches/situps, etc. to strengthen my core and back. I'd rather lay down and watch the Celtics it gets tough :).

  4. Nice job Jim. Sounds like a bear of a course. One tip of advice on the snot build-up, blow it into your hat and the problem is gone.
    See you at Pooh Hill (minus the hill).

  5. The short story about my car getting stuck.....

    I was in the "White Wolf" (porta-john) and jj decided it would be funny to drive off in my car. He drove it up the snowmobile trail instead of the road and got it stuck. Good thing Ken Clark and his group from CT were there to help us push out.

  6. again...not sure what dd's talking about....must be a little dementia setting in....

  7. I'm not naming names but let's just say the driver's initials rhymes with gay-gay.
    I think I threw my back out pushing the Civic out of the 'yet to be plowed' parking lot. That's the only thing that explains my poor performance..the ONLY thing. Really.