Saturday, February 20, 2010

Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe


Saturday was race # 6 (officially) in the Granite State Snowshoe Series for 2010.  Originally slated for last week, but postponed because of a lack of snow, the Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race (results) in Merrimack, NH went
off without a hitch in spring-like temperatures and bright sunshine.  The crew at 3CRaceProductions and Mike Amarello in particular, went above and beyond to make this race happen.  Mike is really passionate about the sport and puts on great events with great consideration for the quality of the course and the safety of his competitors.  They were forced to push this race out one more week, and we were blessed with some good snowfall midweek, that was enough to last through until today.  Tomorrow, it may be a different story.  With the dismantling of the 2010 NH season due to horrendous conditions on the trails, it was a breath of fresh air to have this race today, although I wish I felt better during it.  Also, thanks to Steve Wolfe for posting up-to-the-minute updates on his blog about the course conditions....

As I was driving up Amherst Rd. in Merrimack, NH this morning, I noticed much more white stuff on the sides of the road, in front lawns, and most importantly in the woods, than I had anywhere else on the entire 40 minute ride up and over to the race.  I pulled into the parking lot at Horse Hill and got one of the last 2 spots left in the small lot at the trailhead.  I noticed Wolfey's car (although he was out on the course setting up) and Scott Mason with a couple of Turtles in tow.  Couple those folks with the likes of John Pajer (CMS) and a couple other top masters runners, and it was shaping up to be quite the battle.  After registering, I joined Steve and we both strapped on the Katoolah Microspikes and headed out to do the course.  I was absolutely SHOCKED at how much snow was on the course and most importantly, how good the snow actually was.  It wasn't the Brave the Blizzard type snow, which was essentially a flurry's worth of snow on top of leaves and a few patches of 1mm thick ice.  This was good, wet snow that was pretty deep in sections.  There was more than enough snow on most of the single track sections, plenty of snow on the wider access road sections, and only a couple spots of bare ground that you could almost just jump over.  In fact, I don't think there was any spot where I actually had to take more than 2 steps off of good snow.  Mike and Steve had to switch a few trails around and take out the hill climb, but the rest of the course made up for it.  There were no real flat sections at all.  It was up and down the whole time.  One of the sections had to be re-routed to get around a bare spot along the power lines, and it was DEEP snow.  There was also another section near the end, that was an 'add-on' loop, which also had some very deep snow.  The rest of the course was nicely packed down by snowmobiles (some having been in there this week) and under that, was some nice ice.  On top, was a couple inches of slushy wet snow, that made the conditions pretty ideal.

After the warmup over the course that is around 7k in length, I threw on the Dion's and went with the old pair of standard cleats I had in my car (swapping out the ice-cleat in case the conditions weren't as good as they appeared on Katoolahs).   One of the fronts was so loose and was barely hanging on by a couple of loose rivets, I figured they'd bust off fairly early in the race, and I could just survive on the decking and whatever was left of the cleat.  I also did something I've never done before....I did NOT race in my trusty 3 year old Nike Pegasus trainers.  Instead, I went with the Inov-8 f-lite 305 PK GTX , which are the same weight (if not a tad lighter) and are Gore-Tex, which was a nice change (not having soaking wet feet after the race). I think I've got a new shoe to 'shoe' in.  Up until this point, I've never snowshoed in another running shoe before.  After last minute preparations, I joined up with the near 50 or so other brave souls and headed over to the line.



The start is immediately uphill, along an access road for 200 meters or so before veering off to the left for single track.  This section was a little thin, but still better than a couple of races I've run in this year.  From there, it was just a whole bunch of twisty, hilly single track, out onto access road, back onto single track, across small footbridges, and in and out of out-and-back loops.  The course was very well marked, and laid out pretty good.  It didn't loop back on itself all that much and I only saw the 2nd place back behind me, one time on the way back, near the end.  Leading up to that point, I wasn't feeling good at all.  In fact, for some reason, I just never felt good from the moment the race started.  I was winded immediately, and uncomfortable for whatever reason, with my pace, that really wasn't even that fast, relatively speaking.  I felt very slow and was laboring way harder than I should have been.  All the while, thanking god that some of the other speedier, younger guys were sitting this one out.  I was just sucking wind and praying I could hold off.  I was enjoying the course and the fact that I was actually running a snowshoe race again, but was really not having a good run.  When I saw the chase pack heading down the last loop (as I was coming back against traffic), it seemed like they were running twice as fast (maybe it was because I was going uphill and they were heading down, but it just seemed like night and day).  In the end, I held on for first place, with a slew of 6 or so guys not too far behind, in a great race for 2nd place.  It was tight the whole way.  I was just happy to be back on the snow, even if on such a mild day.  A rather unexpected treat, considering the recent temps and lack of significant snowfall.

Top 10 Overall (CMS in blue)

PlaceTimePaceNameTeamAgeCity/State
127:076:15Jim Johnson        CMS POLAR BEARS         32Salem NH        
229:216:45David Principe Sr  Tuesday Night Turtles   43Cranston RI     
329:246:46Sean Snow          GRANITE STATE RT        43Dunbarton NH    
429:326:48John Rymes                                 39Chichester NH   
529:336:48John Pajer         CMS POLAR BEARS         47Leicester MA    
629:426:50Steve Wolfe        ACIDOTIC RACING         45Merrimack NH    
730:267Sam Wallis         TEAM PEACHY PEACH       18Allston MA      
831:357:16Phil Erwin         Blazing Turtles         42New Durham NH   
933:017:36Luke Fernandez     THURSDAY NIGHT THUNDER  23Kennebunkport ME
1033:227:41Chris Jasparro     TUESDAY NIGHT TURTLES   42Bristol RI   

46 total finishers.



Video by 3C.

After the race, Wolfey and I threw the microspikes back on and went back out over the course to retrieve the flags and signs.  This was NO easy task.  Mike must have used what seemed to be a couple thousand flags to mark this course (which I usually appreciate as a runner)...but picking them up is terrible.  I don't envy the guys who usually go out and cleanup after a race...  By the end, my back was toast, and both Steve and I were bonking pretty good.


Photos courtesy of Steve Wolfe.

In somewhat related snowshoe news, the World Snowshoe Invite is next weekend, out in Vancouver, B.C. Dunham and I were talking about going earlier in the season, but with the ticket prices (because of the Olympics) the way they were, and the schedule (DH Jones on same weekend), it wasn't feasible...however, some big names from all over the world (hence the name) are coming out for this one, including the one and only Jonathan Wyatt (7 time World Mountain Running Champion, 2 time Olympian - 5000M and marathon, 2:13 marathoner, Mt Washington course record holder and 2x winner).  Tim VanOrden interviewed him back a couple years ago, when he went back to Mt. Washington (see the video here), and he seemed to be an incredibly nice and humble guy.  I found this interview with him this week, while he's out in Vancouver preparing for his 3rd snowshoe race, at this coming weekend's World Snowshoe Invite.


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