Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hallockville Orchard Snowshoe Race

Race #12 of the calendar year, snowshoe race # 11 of the 2009-2010 winter season, and 2nd race of the weekend brought me 120 mile out west once again to West Hawley, MA.  Hallockville Orchard (results) would be my 7th WMAC race this year (out of the 12 they have had so far in the series).  The usual points series has been decided by a 'Best 6' format and I
had 5 firsts and 1 3rd (Sidehiller) leading up to this week.  Even though I raced yesterday, I decided to head out west with Steve Wolfe, to try to get one more 'W' if possible, to try to secure the series.  Out of the 12 WMAC races this year so far, I've won 6, Fyffe has 1, Tilton has 1, Ferenc has 1, Rusiecki has 1, Joslyn has 1, and VanOrden has 1.  With only 4 to go now, there won't be an opportunity for anyone else to go and win a total of 6.  This was easier said than done however, as Tim has been running his backside off all season and is in great shape.  I was a little hesitant on trying to race this today, but Wolfie talked me into it last night and offered to drive, so I couldn't pass it up.

Steve and I headed out at 6:30 and arrived in the parking lot of Dubuque State Forest in just under 2 hrs (with a stop). The parking lot quickly filled up with the usuals and one thing was evident...there was more snow here than practically anywhere I've seen all year.  There was snow 'feet' deep off of the roads and trails.  A huge change from yesterday and even the last few weeks.   After registering at the 'indoor' facilities, Steve and I got ready to go out for our warmup over the course (now running fairly close to the race, only 30 minutes out).  We were joined by Matt Westerlund, who is always dangerous and in contention for the 'W' and at the last minute, Tivo, who strolled up into the parking lot relatively early for him (he's usually pulling in 15 minutes before the race).  We did a couple miles on the very fast snowmobile roads (groomed access road that would be 90% of the course).

As the race got under way, there was a pack of me, Wolfe, TiVo, Matt, Ross Krause, and one other guy for the first 200 meters or so.  I moved up and around to the front and that was essentially it.  I ran strong but comfortable...thinking about maybe a 10k pace or so, for this 3.8 out and back course.  The course was groomed and solid from all the snowmobile activity and it made for a perfect opportunity to just hammer a steady pace without much getting in the way.  I could hear footfalls behind me (Tivo) for the first mile or so (it is 1.6 or so miles up to the orchard on the road, then a large loop around the perimeter of the orchard, and then back down the same route on the way to the finish).  Unlike my usual race antics, I never looked back while on the way out.  After I couldn't hear the steps anymore, I just kept pluggin' away.

When I hit the left hand turn onto the orchard, I looked to my left and down the hill for the first time and saw Tivo, but I had a good distance on him.  I couldn't see anyone else behind him.  The section up across the orchard was brutal.  It was DEEP, soft powdery snow initially (over a foot deep, that had only been 'blazed' by what looked like 1 pair of snowshoes).  It was very slow going through here.   As I crested the hill on the field and it began to level off a bit, the snow wasn't as soft, but still nearly as deep...I was post-holing with every other step.  I had to go across a couple of intersections where the trails stretch across the fields, and the snow was very deep and sloppy through there...a foot+ of powder all over the place.  After circling around about half of the orchard, it fortunately dumps onto a groomed extension of the road and you come back down the other side to the main road and then it is back to the finish.  At this point, I couldn't see Tivo behind me anymore and knew I had to hang on for 1.6 or so miles back to the finish.

I had heard someone say before the start that it seemed like it was 'uphill in both directions'.  Well, turned out to be very true.  For some reason, it felt like that for most of the way out and back.  I kept waiting for some good downhills on the way back, but they just weren't there until the very end (last 200 meters or so is downhill).  I just tried to keep up an honest pace as I made my way back against a lot of snowshoe traffic still heading out to the orchard.  I took the occasional peek behind, but was alone on the way back and felt 100x better than I did yesterday at Merrimack.  About a quarter mile or so from the finish, 4 or 5 snowmobiles came whizzing by me and I got to inhale some nice exhaust for a little bit before coming down across the line for my 6th WMAC win of the season.  Tivo came in not too far back, in 2nd (his 2nd 2nd of the weekend).

Top 10 Overall (CMS in blue)

1Jim Johnson3222:24
2Tim Van Orden 4124:02
3Ross Krause3024:31
4Matt Westerlund3724:49
5Steve Wolfe4525:09
6John Agosto4526:25
7Paul Bazanchuk5527:13
8Eric Wight5027:24
9Domingo Elias3727:35
10Rich Teal3228:01

85 Total Finishers.

Scott Livingston took some good photos of the race as did as Chelynn Tetreault.

After the race, Steve, Tim, Ross, and I headed back out and did the course again, and looped around the orchard twice to retrieve all the flags, ribbons, and cones on our way back.  That is TWO flag duties I pulled this weekend!  That is tiring after a race!!!  Good thing the post-race festivities included homemade Chili and hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire in the 'indoor facility' :).  Good times....glad to be back in real snow for a change...

Paul B. practicing his victory celebration.

1 comment:

  1. Is that snow? I haven't seen any for so long I barely recognized it. Congrats on winning the WMAC series Jim.