Monday, February 28, 2011

Moody Spring Snowshoe Race

This past weekend saw my last snowshoe double of the year.  It was a mix of good times and bad.

Because it is fresh in my mind, I wrote the Sunday writeup first. I'm doing this out of order, but here's the Moody Spring race report...

Sunday: Moody Springs Snowshoe Race (results) - West Hawley, MA

3 miles worth of ridiculous conditions is all it took to sink my weekend.  I have to say before all the comments come raining down in disagreement, etc., that this is a reaction to what I consider fun and interesting (and then what I don't), therefor there is no way this is a topic for 'debate' as far as I'm concerned. I know what I like and don't like when it comes to racing.  Pretty simple.  Whether others feel differently is fine, but considering this is my reaction and description of my own personal experience with the race, I feel I should be honest and forthcoming with the information as I see it.  Again, I am not setting this up as a topic of debate.  Discussion, maybe, but there is no debating personal taste or what one finds enjoyable, fun, and safe as far as I can tell.

First and foremost, I have to say that my experience w/ the WMAC since my first race back in 2008 has been nothing short of fantastic. The organization, race directors, members, races, locations, and everything else about it is just awesome. Great folks, great times, memorable experiences.  They put on or support/include fantastic trail and snowshoe races in 5 states and I've done a WMAC race in all 5 of those states.  Most recently, there was Sunday's race out at Moody Spring in West Hawley, MA.  Race director Ed Alibozek is one of my favorite RD's and one of the nicest men you'll ever meet.  He's always got a smile on his face, always got positive energy, and is one of the most selfless people you'll ever come across.  The same holds true for the Herders (Brad and Beth), who are just fantastic folks to interact with and run with.  It is the people involved with the WMAC that make the usually 2-3+ hour drives worthwhile for me.

That said, I am the kind of guy I guess that doesn't particularly like what some experienced snowshoers call 'old time snowshoeing' or 'old school' or 'classic' or whatever (I'm finding out that this race was one of those 'old time' races).  I guess I love snowshoe 'running', when it is mostly made up of just that...running.  My preference (again, so no room for real hot debate here) is the faster courses with packed trail, groomed trail, ice, etc.  I've never been one for deep, untracked powder. In fact I really hate it and consider it to be the furthest thing from fun I can think of when trying to 'run' a race.  I've always been a little weak at climbing steep hills, mountains, etc.  It is my weakest part of races, but I do them because I find the challenge and experience very difficult.  It is something I want to get better at, so I continue to do it, even when there are others like a Kevin Tilton or Dave Dunham who are just naturally way better than I at climbing, and really take it to me on those hills.  But when conditions make it so that the running stops being fun and safe (at least for me), that's when I start to get turned off a little bit.  There have been a lot of WMAC races this year that have featured some very deep powder, virtually untracked trails, and sections of ups/downs/and flats that were borderline un-runnable ( because of the trail conditions) for the lead runners (which I still usually am).  Fortunately I missed a lot of those races and was thankful because I just don't enjoy them.  Simple as that.  It's not that I don't enjoy when I don't win races...on the contrary...I absolutely loved Northfield on Saturday and didn't win it.  I had a blast at Granite State Champs last year and tied.  I had a great time at Madbury this year and got 2nd.  It's that I don't enjoy the whole notion of having a section of course (or entire race) where everyone is in a line of essentially walking or powerhiking/falling down right behind each other.  To me, that's just not what I enjoy.  I'm not calling it anything other than what it is though.  It's still snowshoe racing.  I get it.  But it's not the 'kind' of snowshoe racing I remotely even enjoy to be completely honest.   It's the same sport as a race like Horsehill, where the entire race was runnable at under 7 minute pace. I get that.  But I also have my preferences, as do the folks who like the slower, longer, tougher climb types of races vs the faster, flatter, shorter races (which I simply enjoy more).  I like being able to run a race without an external factor like over the top snow conditions, making it essentially a contest of 'who is going to wreck themselves the least'.  If I had run my tail off  yesterday and got 10th, but I didn't fall 20 times, pull my hamstring, and continuously have to pick myself up off the ground every 2 minutes, I would have been fine with it.  But Moody Spring was just one of those days I didn't enjoy because of the middle 3 miles.  Not only did it not suite my strengths or likes, but it ended up getting me injured which is not what I expect from these events.  Again it has nothing at all to do with the people involved or anything else other than my ability to run in conditions like that and my preference of race course.

The race went off and I did my usual thing of going out and running my own race, but I wasn't killing it, knowing that it was 5.6 miles, there was a lot of fresh snow, and RD Ed had told us right before the start to 'pay attention to the way out because you drop a lot and have to come back up to finish'.  I kept that in the back of my mind and didn't waste too too much energy on the first section.

By about 1.5 miles in I had good lead over a VERY good field of runners and it would have just kept building if my type of course lay ahead, but alas it did not.  I hit the single track section of essentially a deep snow walk (for the first person in the lead).  There was one set of prints in the snow and they were from Ed flagging the course.  His walking stride did not match my running stride and therefor it was not possible for me to run without constantly falling down or having to walk.  So what happened next? Of course the entire field catches up and is able to match my new steps enough to run me down.  Not my favorite situation but again, I get it. I understand that this too is snowshoe racing.  I led for a bit before pulling over and letting Brian Rusiecki (a far superior trail/ultra runner than I) go by me.  Right behind Brian was Chris Hayhurst and then Chris Taft and Tim Mahoney.

I popped right back behind Brian though and he graciously started breaking trail.  He had fallen a couple times behind me before I let him around, so I knew he was having an equally tough time.  He didn't mind taking the lead so I let him go on by and then got in his tracks for a while.  But then we hit some climbing (aka powerhiking / face planting) and I pulled over again and let Tim Mahoney, Chris Taft, and Chris Hayhurst by.  I was about at the point where I was tempted to take my snowshoes off and call it a day.  I was falling on my face non stop.  It must be my stride or something, but I was just going down at a much higher rate than the other guys around me, even in their footsteps.   I would see all of them wipe out multiple times as well, but I was just having the worst time of my snowshoe career out there and it was getting progressively worse with my calf now starting to get tight.  As I continued to fall down, my hands and arms (with only one thin layer) were getting constantly soaked and cold as I drove them deep into the snow each time.  Soon my fingers (smallest two on my left hand specifically) were numb and killing me.  My elbows and forearms were tingling and starting to bother me.  I was blowing into my hand as I was trying to stay on my feet and just push forward, but it was not getting any better.

Dave Dunham and Tim VanOrden started to catch me and were pretty soon right behind me as I kept falling down.  Then, somewhere around maybe 3.5 miles or so, I stepped in a huge hole, tried to pop out, and pulled my hamstring.  That was it.  I was screaming in pain with every other step.  I managed to get to the road section in 5th place and started to run as hard as I could (after wiping out right before the groomed snowmobile section started) with my hamstring and calf just completely wrecked.  I was yelling all sorts of expletives by this point and feel bad about that, but it was just so frustrating for me.  If I wasn't falling down constantly, I wouldn't have been 'frustrated', just disappointed that I couldn't keep up with the guys up front.  But the constant falling down I cannot tolerate.  I was able to catch Tim Mahoney and Chris Taft (barely) on the last section, but there just wasn't enough race left to catch Brian and Chris Hayhurst, who were running VERY strong and fast on the last section and powered their way to a virtual tie.  I was able to squeak out a third place and was very lucky to even have finished the race on two feet to be honest.

I immediately went over to the registration area and inside where I sat in front of the fireplace, shivering and soaked and really concerned about my hamstring.  I think I made the mistake of standing in front of the fireplace too long and not changing out of my wet clothes fast enough.  I stood/sat in front for over an hour, drying off and warming up.  Ross Krauss and Ed had given me some jackets and both were very helpful, getting me my stuff, helping me get warm, etc.  I think London Niles' dad was also helping me get my shoes off.  Again, a example of great, helpful folks who really care.  I was very grateful to have all of them there helping me.

Once I got warm enough, I changed, gathered my things, and headed back to the car where I continued to work on my hamstring as I gave Dave and Tim a ride back to the hotel, about 40 minutes away.  From there, it was a 2 hour ride home on Route 2, which is like a sedative.  I was falling asleep the whole way and was very thankful to have gotten home in one piece.

As I type this now (Monday afternoon), my fingers and arms are still numb. They were so bad last night (12 hours after the race) that Kristin had helped me get ready to go to the hospital, as I thought I might have something seriously wrong.  It was getting progressively worse.  This morning it is slightly better, but I still have two arms and some fingers that feel like they are constantly asleep.

Now I look towards potentially missing a race this weekend but I'm not sure.  I am going to try out some easy running this week (short days) and see where I'm at before making a decision.  My WMAC season is over as far as snowshoeing goes.  I was going to try to go for one more race on Saturday (because I'm still seeking a 6th win) but I am going to pass.  Congrats to Tivo for winning the 2011 WMAC series...he ran awesome this year and is in great shape for Nationals.  I hope I can be 100% by then.

Below are from the set of photos from Bob Birkby (who was there to hear my in-race rant firsthand).  I feel bad about the attitude I displayed after wiping out here and my barrage of comments and explatives I let out as I spit snow out of my mouth, but my frustrations had boiled over.  He was there just in time to see this beautiful display of 'racing'.  Note, this isn't even a deep snow section. This is right before the groomed trail near the last 1.5 miles.  I was actually wiping out in GOOD sections of this course.  The first photo is the face of a guy who has a busted hammy and 1.5 miles of snowshoe racing left.  The second photo is a classic shot of the view I had for most of the race.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Training 02-21 to 2-27

Wrap Up: 71.5 miles for the week with 2 races.  The week turned into a disaster quickly in just one day.  1 great race and 1 race that may go down as my least favorite and it wasn't due to anyone involved (the people and venue were fantastic), just my liking/disliking of the conditions it was run over.  The course itself was beautiful and the race was memorable, but just not fun for me. Plain and simple. Even if I had been able to run a little better it still would have been a one and done for me. I certainly wasn't looking to fall flat on my face on upwards of a dozen + times and tweak my hamstring to the point where it was difficult to drive the 2 + hours home.  More to come on my feelings on this race and the race on Saturday.  Really disappointed with the end to the week as you can tell.  Now my plans for racing this coming week may be sunk.

02-27 - Sunday: 8.6 miles (roads, snowshoe). W.Hawley/Plainfield, MA - 3 mile w/up (roads) w/ Paul Bazanchuck, DD, Tim Mahoney + 5.6 mile race - 3rd OA - 57:12. No cooldown.  Pulled hamstring from ridiculous snow conditions that just ruined my taste for snowshoeing at this point.  More to come on this, but for now, I can barely bend my leg.  Nice.  Just what I was looking for from a nice weekend out west.

02-26 - Saturday: 11 miles (roads, snowshoe).  Northfield, MA.  3 mile w/up (roads and then snowshoes) with Nick Wheeler and CMS /Acidotic crew + race (5.5 miles) - Northeast Snowshoe Federation Championship - Northfield Mt / Northfield, MA.  2nd OA - 45:53 + 2.5 mile c/down (roads) w/ Nick, TNT, CMS crews.

02-25 - Friday: 6 miles (roads). Easy run before the weekend's races. [42:45]

02-24 - Thursday: 12 miles (roads).  Headlamp run w/ Chris Mahoney and Dan Vassallo in Methuen, Haverhill, MA.  From Whirlaway.  Really nice loop that Chris showed us over in a pretty quiet section of northwest Haverhill.  Enjoyable run and one of my new goto 12 mile loops for sure... [1:19:55]

02-23 - Wednesday: 13.4 miles (roads). Headlamp run w/ Mike Quintal in Wakefield, MA.  4 bangs around the Q. [1:27:31].  Icy in some spots but mostly dry roads and sidewalks.

02-22 - Tuesday: 10.5 miles (roads).  Headlamp run w/ Dave Quintal from his palatial estate in North Salem, NH. [1:09:15].

02-21 - Monday: 10 miles (snowshoes).  Good run at the river.  I tried to do the River Trail in Andover, MA earlier in the year and didn't make it because of the ridiculous conditions.  Today was much better.  For the most part, the entire thing was packed /crusty snow where folks have been walking/snowshoeing/skiing all winter.  There is a trail cut out in the snow but it is in pretty bad shape.  There were postholes the whole time and for the most part they've frozen, making it sometimes unstable and unpredictable in spots.  There are also a couple of new blowdowns and some other areas where the trail has been cut different than where it normally goes in the spring/summer/fall months.  There were also a couple of other areas where there was little or no trail blazed at all so I would cut my own, where I know the normal trail usually goes.  The ridges before and after the powerlines was an example...not many people had been through there recently. I did wipe out once on the powerlines and I saw 5 dogs, 2 were leashed (which is a better percentage than usual).  The 2 dogs that were leashed were with the same owner, so that really should only count as one!  [1:27:21]

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Kingman Farm Snowshoe Race

Sorry for the once again late post.  I am working on this past weekend's postings but here is the last post from last week's snowshoe racing....

The second race of this past Saturday's 'double' was the night race at Kingman Farm in Madbury, NH.  The Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe race (results) was the 2nd to last race in the Granite State Snowshoe Series and it is definitely a unique event.  The fact that this race starts at 6pm in the pitch dark makes it a snowshoe race like no other.  Headlamps would naturally be required for this one.  I decided to head up and give this one a go, and I would be backing out of the Sunday race instead.  Two races in one day would be enough for me this weekend and I shot out the door after sneaking in a couple hours of sleep between Beaver Brook and this race.

After making a stop in Newington to pickup a new headlamp, I arrived in the parking lot just after the Tiltons and headed over to the registration to meet up with DD. We all decided to head out and do the course over once before the race as a warmup.  I'm glad we did, as it would give us a clear (daytime) view of the layout of the 3.5 mile course, the snow conditions, and the climbs (and descents) we would have to make.  The course was mostly packed pretty well and almost all double wide trail for the first mile or so.  The middle of the course was made up of a large field where the trail would turn to essentially single track cut into the deep snow, and it weaved like a serpent, back and forth over a couple of small hills and across the field in a couple different directions.  Once you were off the field, you crossed a dirt road and started the ascent up the switchback climb that was all single track.  The climb went up and over the hill, back down a little bit, and then cut back up and over again to the top, giving you a false sense of getting to the top before you'd actually have to climb one more time.  Once at the top of the second climb, it was all downhill from there.  It was also entirely single track except for the last 30 or 40 yards or so.  The conditions seemed like it could be fast and we headed back to the town hall for a quick change and then over to the line.

My plan in the race was to go out behind Kevin and let him dictate the pace for as long as possible until I felt good enough to make any moves.  Kevin shot out pretty hard and I immediately settled in behind and held back from my usual start and let him lead.  We got out to a pretty good lead through the double-wide trails as our headlamps were the only light shining on the dark course.  Both of us were constantly scanning for the next set of flags in the darkness.  I would occasionally peek behind me to see how far back the next headlamp was, but you obviously couldn't make out who it actually was.  I stuck right on Kevin's heels and didn't give up any distance as we weaved in and out of trails and ducked under trees.

By a mile and a half, we started the climb up to the field, where the snow conditions went from super fast packed ice to some rough but solid snow.  We hit the field and were still right together as we weaved back and forth with just the moon above us giving a little bit of light.  There was no other lights around and eventually the trail on the field cut back towards where we came in.  At that point, we could see all the lights coming out of the woods, where everyone was starting to hit the trails behind us.  I peered back a few times on the turns and noticed a lone light not too far back 20-30 seconds or so.  It was impossible to see whether it was getting closer, but I focused on keeping right on Kevin's heels until we eventually made our way over to one of the tractor storage buildings that was at the beginning of the trail that would climb up to the only significant hill on the course.

As we hit the woods again, Kevin picked it up and I reacted.  We hit the single track and started the switchback climb.  Fortunately for me the climb wasn't too bad and I was feeling great.  I felt like I had completely recovered from the first 2 miles of the race, once we left the field.  When Kevin and I crested the top of the hill, we both hit the descent hard but it was short lived, as there is one more climb back up to the other side of the hill and across before starting the final drop to the finish.  Near the top of this last climb, I wiped out briefly but bounced right back and caught back up to Kevin before making the final descent.  I started to worry about the finish, as the entire way down was winding single track.  There would be no place to pass.  We both made our way down to the bottom in record time and the last bit of trail was simply single track with zero place to go around in any sort of effective running fashion.  To the  immediate left and right of the trail was deep ,unpacked snow which would just swallow you up and most certainly end your race.  I stayed right behind Kevin and had nothing to do but run for 2nd.  I couldn't possibly yell for him to give me room, as we were both now sprinting for the line.  The last turn on to a doublewide trail is a 90 degree stop and start turn and the short distance to the finish all but guarantees that whoever hits that turn first, will come out on top and that's exactly what happened. Kevin and I just rolled down and finished 1-2, with only 2 seconds separating us.

It was a great race and very fun to be able to run that fast on snowshoes in the dark....the headlamps make it way more exciting, as you really cannot tell where you are going until you are right about to turn.  Kevin ran a very smart and tactical race and I didn't make a move early enough.  Looking back, I should have maybe tried to run my race from the start, but that could have backfired for all I know.  I could have gone out too fast and paid the price later, having many go past me later in the race.  Who knows.  I am happy to have run really strong and to have felt great the whole time.  I was never hurting in this one and am satisfied with the run.  Unfortunately Ryan Kelly, who was that 3rd place headlamp we saw on the field, took a wrong turn later on, as did a bunch of other good masters runners, and most of them ended up having to do an additional climb to get back on course.

Again, CMS had a full team as the necessary 5 guys toed the line...Good stuff!

Top 10 Overall (Plus CMS in blue):

Place Name Age City/State Team Time
1 Kevin Tilton         29 North Conway NH CMS POLAR BEARS       22:51
2 Jim Johnson          33 Salem NH        CMS POLAR BEARS       22:53
3 Danny Ferreia        28 Concord NH      ACIDOTIC RACING       25:35
4 Dave Dunham          46 Bradford MA     CMS POLAR BEARS       25:41
5 Robert Jackman       28 Warwick RI      TUESDAY NIGHT TURTLES 25:46
6 Ryan Welts           30 Glastonbury CT  ACIDOTIC RACING       25:49
7 Ryan Kelly           29 Concord NH      ACIDOTIC RACING       25:57
8 Geoff Cunningham     33 Greenland NH    ACIDOTIC RACING       26:07
9 Reeder Fahnestock    31 Exeter NH       ACIDOTIC RACING       27:36
10 Christoph O'Donnell  32 Cambridge MA  TEAM PSYCHO           28:00
59 Jim Jenkins          56 Worcester MA    CMS POLAR BEARS       40:25
78 George Boudreau      41 Ware MA      CMS POLAR BEARS       50:18

87 Total Finishers.

Cool video (that by now you most likely have already seen)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race

This past Saturday was the first race of my Saturday double-header.  It was also originally going to be race 1 of 3 for the weekend, but I just wasn't feeling it mentally when I showed up to Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH for the Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race (results), so I decided right before the race that I'd only be doing 2 races this weekend and it would be a toss up between the night race in Madbury, and the WMAC race out in West Hawley, MA on Sunday.  But first, I needed to try to take care of business in Hollis, where I'd have my hands full with the usual slew of good, fast GSSS guys + Ben Nephew (CMS/Inov-8) who pulled in right before I was going out on my warmup.

I took in some intel from Steve Wolfe about the course (which he laid out).  The course was all new this year, with mostly single track/double wide trails that would be a stark contrast to last year's straight out and back track meet.  This year, the trails were narrow, winding, icy, and unstable. You had to stay right the middle of the trail or you were punching through.  I made the mistake of going for the warmup in regular trail shoes and not my Dions, which was a nightmare.  I was all over the place and postholing most of the way.  On the downs, I would have to go off the trail a bit and punch through the snow so I would at least stay on my feet (as the single track trail was solid ice).  The first of two decent climbs in the course was on a wide snowmobile trail/road but didn't last too long. The second climb was single track, straight up.  In the middle of the two, there was a ridge that was on the side of an easy 100 foot drop straight down, and it was all ice.  Pretty dangerous section for sure.  I was glad I got to see the course and knew what I was in for beforehand. I headed back to change into the Dion 121s and was over to the line to do some strides.

As the race began, I shot out pretty hard, so I could get to the single track first (which was probably 100 meters down the wide trail at the beginning of the race).  I hit the single track and attempted to stay right in the middle of the trail, as to not sink down and wipe out on the sides.  I noticed the world of difference between having trail shoes and snowshoes on, right away.  The snowshoes were doing their job and keeping me on top of the snow for the most part.  I had a little more freedom to move from side to side with the snowshoes on.  For the first half mile or so, I could see Ben Nephew behind me, not too far back.  I kept plugging on, knowing that he and Ryan Kelly would be battling and it could be a matter of time before one or both of them was pulling up behind me if I wasn't focused.

The windy single track section over the first half of the course was really difficult in spots, to run fast without grabbing onto small trees to whip yourself back down onto the trail.  It was also easy for me to blow right past a turn, which I did quickly on a couple of occasions.  During this section (that had a lot of downhill), I was able to put some distance on everyone during this section and couldn't seen anyone back when I'd peer through the woods.  This would change when I got back out onto the flat, long snowmobile stretch in the middle of the race, before the first major climb.

Once I got out onto that long straight section, I looked back right before it hooked right and went up the hill and I saw Ryan Kelley not too far back.  He was definitely catching me and I had a moment of imagining a 2nd or 3rd place finish when it was all said and done.  I hit the climb and worked it OK but didn't feel like I was killing it.  I felt decent, but as soon as I hit the top, the trail cut up to the right and got pretty sloppy and unstable.  I wiped out once right after the top of the climb and then stumbled all over the place during that section.  I was thinking for sure that it was going to be the same for everyone though and just tried to get through it as best I could.

After the initial climb and unstable singletrack and a small open clearing section, the trail cut back in and went along that ridge I mentioned earlier.  I ran this part a little on the cautious side and then bombed the downhill.  On the last downhill section, right before the last singletrack section of climb, I crossed up my stride, stepped on my own snowshoes, and went face down into the snow.  My hands punched through up to my elbows.  For a brief moment I was stunned and then just had to let out a small chuckle as I thought to myself 'this is snowshoeing for ya'....  I got back up and started from a standstill, up the last significant climb on the course.  The whole time I was just waiting for Ryan to start running me down and kept looking back as I'd take turns.   Eventually I could see some of the buildings and knew I was close.  I came out onto the last straightaway section and powered my way up to the finish in 20:21.  For a small moment before the last section, I thought to myself that I could maybe break 20, but it wasn't to be. This course turned out to be about 3.3 miles, so I was happy with the time for sure, and also with the ability to hold off Ryan and Ben.

Top 10 (plus CMS) in blue.

Place Name Age City/State Team Time Pace
1 Jim Johnson     33 Salem NH        CMS POLAR BEARS         20:21 6:33
2 Ryan Kelly      29 Concord NH      ACIDOTIC RACING         21:18 6:51
3 Ben Nephew      35 Mansfield MA    CMS POLAR BEARS         21:51 7:02
4 Ryan Welts      30 Glastonbury CT  ACIDOTIC RACING         23:01 7:24
5 Danny Ferreira  28 Concord NH      ACIDOTIC RACING         23:14 7:29
6 David Principe  44 Cranston RI     TUESDAY NIGHT TURTLES   23:41 7:37
7 John Pajer      48 Leister MA      CMS POLAR BEARS         23:44 7:38
8 Steve Wolfe     46 Merrimack NH    ACIDOTIC RACING         24:29 7:53
9 Robert Jackman  28 Warwick RI      TUESDAY NIGHT TURTLES   24:32 7:53
10 Michael Wade    42 Nashua NH   GATE CITY STRIDERS      25:20 8:09
28 Jim Grady          49 Auburn MA     CMS POLAR BEARS 30:13  9:43
29 Sean Blood         40 Worcester MA  CMS POLAR BEARS 30:14  9:44
58 Jim Jenkins        56 Worcester MA  CMS POLAR BEARS 36:40 11:48
78 George Boudreau Jr 41 Weare MA      CMS POLAR BEARS 43:06 13:52

On another good note, I was pleased to see a HUGE CMS contingent at the race (considering we basically never have a full 'team' at these races)....There were 7 of us there, which was plenty to get a score for the Northeast Snowshoe Federation Standings.

After the race, I cooled down with Danny, Amber, and Ryan over the course again and then headed back for the awards and then I hit the road to go home and try to get some rest before the Madbury race, which I was still kind of on the fence about.

Additional Photos by Gianina Lindsey 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Half at the Hamptons Video

Video I shot today of the Half at the Hamptons (half marathon) up at Hampton Beach, NH.
My apologies for the windy audio...this was shot w/ my camera phone.

Training 02-14 to 2-20

Wrap Up: 81 miles for the week and 2 really good, fun races (writeups to come).   Very busy day on Saturday and with a morning race and then a race on Saturday night, I think it would have been foolish of me to drive 6 total hours out to another snowshoe race today (Sunday).  I would have liked to triple, but in reality, I would have gotten nothing out of another 3.8 mile race on tired legs.  I felt great during and after the race on Saturday night and would have been able to blast today most likely, but I need to think about the big picture and right now, it's not a 3-4 mile snowshoe race 3 hours from here unfortunately.  Going to the half marathon today is really now getting me thinking seriously about road racing and trails again.  I have just about had it with the snow this year and it was good to be around the roads again today and watching the fast guys rip it up (Dan Vassallo dropping a 1:08 in blustery cold winds, all alone, and my teammate Mike Quintal PR'ing while running essentially alone in second place for the entire race).... I am looking forward to some road racing in the upcoming month(s) and still have a race or two left on the snow I think (including Nationals).  I'm playing it by ear and may be doing some snowshoeing this coming weekend, but I'm not sure just yet.

02-20 - Sunday: 10 miles (roads) - easy running around Hampton, North Hampton, NH while watching the Half at the Hamptons. I drove up to the race and parked at the North Hampton State Park and ran to the 3, 5, and 13.1 mile marks of the race, shooting some video (which I will post sometime tonight), and cooling down with Dan Vassallo and Mike Quintal after the race.  Did some pickups with Dan over the last couple miles.  Took it easy today and let my body recover from the snowshoe double yesterday and 18+ total miles out running in the snow and cold.  [1:15:00]

02-19 - Saturday: 18.3 miles (snow and roads) - Snowshoe double.  AM: 3.5 mile w/up (shoes) over the Beaver Brook snowshoe course in Hollis, NH.  VERY icey and dangerous snow conditions.  Jogged and had to walk some of the icey downs and along the ridge line.  Then threw on the snowshoes for some strides before the race [32:00]  + Race: Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race (3.3 miles) - 1st OA [20:21] + cooldown 2.5 miles on snowshoes over most of the course with Danny Ferreira, Ryan Kelly, and Amber Ferreira [20:00].  PM: Then went home, slept for about 90 minutes, got up and drove up to Madbury, NH for the Kingman Farm Snowshoe race. Warmup over the course (on snowshoes) with Kevin Tilton and Dave Dunham [30:00] + Race: Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race - 2nd OA [22:53] (lost by 2 seconds and ran right behind Kevin for the entire race. No room to pass at the end.) + cooldown on roads (2 miles) w/ David Principe, Bob Jackman, Dave Dunham, Kevin Tilton, and Ryan Welts [16:00]. Technically 6 runs today.  Good day but legs are pretty beat.  I think I'm out for tomorrow.  In the grand scheme of things, I don't need to drive 3 hours out and 3 hours back just to shoehorn another race in. I wish it was closer, but it's just too far for my 3rd race of the weekend.  I can technically do it, as I felt great after tonights race (and during) but I'd rather stay local, do a nice run and maybe watch a local race here.  We'll see...then again I may sleep in!

02-18 - Friday: 8.4 miles (roads) - Salem, Methuen, Haverhill (solo). Very nice warm day. Ran later in the day and took it pretty easy as my legs have been beat from the steady mileage this winter and no real rest.  My house up Scotland Hill, down Shady Hill, over and up to Reservoir Hill, and back down. [56:35].

02-17 - Thursday: 10.4 miles (roads) - Methuen, Salem (solo). Awesome day. Bright sunshine, warm temps, overall enjoyable run despite my calf muscles being very sore and my legs feeling sort of heavy all week.  [1:08:04].  Watch for Kevin Tilton's domination of the Sidehiller Snowshoe Race tonight on WMUR's NH Chronicle at 7:30pm.  Speaking of snowshoe racing, check out this vintage pic for all those who think it's a 'new' sport...

02-16 - Wednesday: 14 miles (roads) - Methuen, Haverhill w/ Chris Mahoney from Whirlaway.  Saw Craig Fram Sr. on the way back.  Ran the first 4 solo and then 10 loop w/ Chris.  [1:36:45]. Watch NH Chronicle tomorrow night at 7:30pm.  They are spotlighting the Sidehiller Snowshoe race and interviewed Kevin Tilton, myself, and many others.  Kevin wiped the snow with me in the race, but the segment should still be worth watching...

02-15 - Tuesday: 10 miles (roads) - Lawrence (industrial park) w/ Mike Quintal.  Loops of the GTD workout area and the some (until Mike's Garmin told us we had run 10).  [1:06:55].  Very cold and windy.

02-14 - Monday: 10 miles (roads) - Salem, Methuen, Haverhill - out and back 8.2 + add on.  Started out nice and easy and started moving pretty good at the end.  Shoulders starting to open up on the sides of the road finally. Weather was great (52 degrees). [1:06:28].

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Horsehill 7K and the Bear Paw Classic

This past weekend was my 4th weekend of the year in which I doubled, but the 3rd overall snowshoe-double of the year.  This weekend I again turned my focus on the Granite State Snowshoe Series in NH and ran 2 races that were each about 40 miles or so from my house.  A lot easier on the gas tank for sure, as the WMAC races are usually at least 2-3 hours away from me.

Saturday - I headed back over to Merrimack, NH and the Horsehill Nature Preserve for the Horsehill Snowshoe Race (results) put on by Mike Amarello and his 3CRaceProductions crew.  It's the third year in a row I've done this race and this would be another opportunity I'd have at 'three-peating' (winning this race all three years I've run it).  Two years ago, the snow conditions were good and the race was a good mix of singletrack and packed snowmobile trails.  Last year, it was a similar course w/ some modifications due to the lack of snow in the area and in the reserve.   This year, there was certainly plenty of snow but the course was further modified to make it 4.56 miles of great single track and wide packed trails.

I got to the race nice and early (but it was a rather late 11:30am start) to make sure I got a parking spot in the rather small lot at the reserve. Not too soon after I arrived, did I spot the usual GSSS competitors rolling in that included a car full of TNT runners as well as the usual acidotic guys who are always up front.  Judson Cake had driven something like a gazillion hours from Bar Harbor, ME to run this race, as well as Ryan Kelly who was 'relatively' fresh after ONLY swimming the morning of and not actually doing any ski races (like he did right before Exeter).  Tim Cox was also in the house, as well as DD who rolled in just after I got there. It was looking like a great crew of competitors and the conditions were looking to be super fast.  I warmed up over the entire course w/ DD and we both just wore our regular trail shoes with some assistance (I threw on my Yaktrax and DD had his crampons).  We didn't punch through once, as the entire course (with the exception of one small bushwhack section that was added for flavor) was super packed, icey, and fast!  We completed the course in about 45 minutes and got back just in time to change, strap on the Dions, and get over to the start for some last minute strides and snowshoe running before the race began.

As the gun went off, Judson Cake moved out and dove into an all out sprint or close to it (see the progression of this trackmeet in the photoset here).  I matched him stride for stride along the wide access road that goes into the reserve.  It was pretty packed and fast, and allowed for us to pretty much go as hard as we wanted to for the 300 meters or so before you hit the first single track section to the left.  As Judson and I were both sprinting side by side, I began to wonder if he was really going for it today and wanted to hit the single track first to dictate the pace of the race.  It was going to be interesting if that was the case, as I haven't had that happen to me yet at a race this year. Sure, I've been passed, but that's later in the race...This time, he was going for the lead early, and it was something I wasn't anticipating ahead of time.  I matched the strides up the first little incline and just as I could see the turn onto the single track, I felt him let up just a little bit.  He was going to let me duck into the single track first and I was very appreciative of that.  I knew he could absolutely pass me anywhere else on the course, but he was going to let me lead early on the single track and see what would happen, so I gladly ducked in just ahead and wound down to the first real climb up the steep, wide section of trail that you'd later be bombing down when running back to the finish.  By the time I got to the top of that climb and to the first intersection that goes down to the switchbacks, I had put a little bit of a lead on him and was surprised at how early it actually was...but looking back on it now, I know that if that climb wasn't there so early in the race, it would have been a different story.

I flew down the twisty single track and switchback section and continued to put a little distance on the field.  The course constantly cuts back and forth, crosses other trails, and has small ups and downs that really keep you from settling into any sort of good pace.  It was really fast as far as conditions go, but constant terrain change was making it very interesting and fun for sure.

By the time I got out onto the open powerline section, I had a sizable lead and could no longer see anyone behind me when I would occasionally glance back.  I was having zero problems with footing and was running a near flawless race as far as snowshoeing goes.  I felt pretty strong and hit the bushwhack section that was put in for no reason other than to make it interesting.  You are on a nice, packed snowmobile trail and then they cut you to the right suddenly, onto essentially uncharted trail that was only shoed by one person (presumably Wolfey) when flagging the course.   You could have easily just continued straight on the snowmobile course, but the detour was put there and it definitely slowed everything to a crawl.  I hit this section and started to punch through everywhere.  It was very slow but not very long. It probably took a minute and a half or so to run the whole thing.  It dumps back onto snowmobile trail again, only about 30-40 yards down from where you turned off.  As I moved back onto the snowmobile trail, I turned to my left and saw Judson just about to turn onto the addon section.  I knew I had maybe a minute or so on him if I was lucky.  But right after that section the course turns and heads up the steepest climb of the race.  Two pretty good challenges, one right after the other.

As I started the climb up the steep (but wide) trail I began to really feel it for the first time all day.  The footing was pretty good, but I was laboring.  Near the top, I had to powerhike a little, as the grade suddenly turned to 45% or more.  It was just shy of being too steep to actually go up without worrying about slipping back down.  Once at the top of that climb, there are some more double-wide sections for a bit before you hit the last section of single-track switchback to the top.  I hit the single-track section and started the winding switchbacks up the side of the last hill and could now look back and occasionally see the runners behind me.  It took a bit, but I saw Judson on one of the turns and knew roughly how far ahead I was.  I then noticed on one of the last turns, that Ryan Kelly was actually ahead of him and I had missed him as I was looking back through the woods on the switchback sections.

Eventually I crested the top of the hill and hit the last intersection that turned back onto the last part of the course which is all essentially downhill.  There is one great, fast descent down the first hill you actually come up at the beginning.  Then, it is double track and wider all the way to the finish.  I came down through in 30:47 and felt nice and strong for most of the way.  Ryan ran very well, edging out Judson for 2nd place and Judson was not too far behind in 3rd.  Tim Cox ran a great race despite having major technical problems with his snowshoes, which certainly cost him a lot of time.  He was the latest victim of the velcro getting snow packed and the straps essentially became unusable when he had to stop for an adjustment.  Also, the cleats sliced right through one of his bindings, basically making his foot almost detached from the snowshoe.  After seeing his shoes after the race, I can't believe he was able to finish.  DD rounded out the top 5 in a very competitive field.

Top 10 (CMS in Blue)

1Jim Johnson        33Salem NH       CMS       30:477:05
2Ryan Kelly         29Concord NH     ACIDOTIC       32:167:25
3Judson Cake        33Bar Harbor ME  ACIDOTIC       32:457:32
4Tim Cox            37Northwood NH   ACIDOTIC/CMS       33:367:44
5Dave Dunham        46Bradford MA    CMS       34:137:52
6Ryan Welts         30Glastonbury CT ACIDOTIC       34:478:00
7David Principe Sr  44Cranston RI    TNT 35:458:13
8Steve Wolfe        46Merrimack NH   ACIDOTIC       36:018:17
9Chris Dunn         42Strafford NH   ACIDOTIC       36:158:20
10Amber Ferreira    28 Concord NH ACIDOTIC      36:358:25

88 Total Finishers.

After the race I (along with a few others) was interviewed by New Hampshire Public Radio.  I'm not sure when it will air, but the guy said he would let the RD or someone know beforehand.

For the win, I got my pick from of a bunch of swag that Mike had on the table.  There was a book, 2 different 3C hats, a subscription to Trail Runner Magazine, a couple of water bottles, and a pair of Microspikes.  Now, obviously the best thing there was the Microspikes, but they were a small. Also, I already have 2 pairs of these (I used to have 3 actually).  So, I let Amber take those and I was to pick from the rest of the table.  I already had the book (won it at another 3C race), I already had both of the hats (actually have 2 of each of them already), and I already have a subscription to Trail Runner, so it was the 3C water bottle I took.  I've been holding out on taking that in the past because I have 16 million water bottles at home, but now I have a 3C one :).  Also, I won a sweet Horsehill pint glass (I already have a couple, but you can never have too many of those).  I then got another one in the raffle.  That, plus the t-shirt (longsleeve) and the free entry for winning the GSSS series last year, made it a worthwhile day for sure.  Fun event, well organized, great course, well marked, and looking forward to next year already.

Photoset by Gianina Lindsey (and photos used here by Gianina and Bob Jackman).

Sunday - On Sunday I headed north a bit to Northwood, NH for the Bear Paw Classic (results) held up at Coe Brown Northwood Academy.  The race was put on by Madison Dunn as a class project and held in the woods just behind the track.  The course was a great mix of athletic field, double track, single track, and snowmobile trail.  You also had a couple of different snow conditions to deal with, as some of the single track and snowmobile trail were hardpacked and fast, and most of the fields and double wide trails were all loose sugary snow, which made for a very tough slog.

After warming up w/ DD over the first part of the course, which started on the field and wound around a large loop of semi-loose sugary snow covering a narrow forest road, I got my snowshoes on and headed over to the starting area again for some strides.  I was feeling OK and not really nervous or concerned about being tired as much as I was nervous for having some company for the whole race (as Tivo is experiencing some career-best fitness right now).  

After some words of wisdom from Chris and Madison, we were off.  I went out to the front in far less chaotic fashion than I did at Horsehill, and settled into a nice and steady rhythm with Tivo right behind. He let me lead the first part and I wasn't going to go crazy here.  The snow was very loose but not deep. It was loose enough to make it slow and a tough grind, but not loose enough to completely drain your energy for the remainder of the course.  After completing the first loop, you come back out onto the field and past the start for the first time.  The climb up to the field is a short but steep climb up and this is about where I put just a little bit of distance on Tim.  He stayed right on my heels for most of the first loop and as I came up through the field area, I started to hear his footfalls get quieter as he was now 20-30 or so feet back.

On the second loop through, the course makes its way to the right at the split (instead of the loop back to the field) and it turns into single track.  To my absolute delight, the single track was lightning fast.  It was packed solid and not one loose bit of snow to be found.  It was tight and narrow, but solid enough to completely rock on.  I was essentially going at road 5k pace on this section and was putting distance on Tim, as I would look back and barely see his bright orange vest on some of the turns.  This section had very little uphill spots and a lot of down.  It eventually makes its way down and out to a snowmobile trail that was nicely groomed and ran along some powerlines that featured the only substantial climbing of the day.

As I hit the climbs along the powerlines, I would occasionally glance back and make out Tim's orange vest and knew I had put some good distance on him in the single track. My plan was just that, as I know he can outclimb me on the hills for sure.  He's a much stronger climber and I wanted to have a sizable lead by this point in the course, but really didn't think I'd actually have one.  On each crest of the climb (there were 3 or 4 separate climbs that made up this stretch of course), I'd look back and see that Tim was gaining just a little each time.  Fortunately for me, the snow was packed solid from the snowmobiles (one of which passed me halfway up) and the climb wasn't super steep, so there would be no reason for me to do any powerhiking on this course.  I got to the top and the course ducked back into a very short single track section before coming back out to the intersection that begins the last loop back through the sugary loose snow and back up to the finish area.

On this last loop, I just tried to not lose enough time to get passed. I felt like I was really dogging it on this last section.  It was very slow moving and there was no stretches at all where you could actually get up a good rhythm.  It was all loose and heavy snow that just slowed the pace down by an enormous margin compared to the rest of the course.  Fortunately it is not too long of a loop and I was able to pop back up into the field and try to power towards the line for my second win of the weekend.

As I approached the finish line I noticed that there wasn't a soul around.  There were a couple of women behind the concession stand, watching their kids play in the snow, but there was no timing people or race officials or announcers or fans or television crews or photographers or fanfare of any kind.... there was just me and the finish line and the clock.  I came through and stopped my watch and stood there for a little bit.  Then Mike Amarello appeared from a door on the side of the concession stand and my only thought was that he was taking care of his business in there (nature calls) and wasn't expecting me to finish in that short amount of time he was in the john.  He looked shocked when he saw me and came running up and wrote down my time and was now ready for Tivo to come running across the line.  Tim came through in a solid time and was approaching 2 minutes up on DD who came through in 3rd for a clean CMS sweep of the podium spots.

Top 10 (CMS in Blue)

1Jim Johnson     33Salem NH          CMS 25:49
2Tim Van Orden   42Bennington VT     CMS27:16
3Dave Dunham     46Bradford MA       CMS  29:02
4Ryan Welts      30Glastonbury CT    ACIDOTIC     30:37
5Chris Dunn      42Strafford NH      ACIDOTIC     31:28
6Steve Wolfe     46Merrimack NH      ACIDOTIC     31:31
7Eddie Habeck    33Williamstown VT                      33:20
8Chris Benson    41Rochester NH      ACIDOTIC     34:29
9Daniel Dion     25Dover NH                             34:37
10Kristina Folcik 33Glastonbury CT SHENIPSIT STRIDERS 34:43

45 Total Finishers.

For my victory, I got a cool hand painted wooden plaque and a loaf of bread that Madison made.  I actually took two, as DD left before getting his 3rd place loaf.  That's what you get for screwing out of there early, before the awards!

Photoset and photos used in this entry by Karen Dunn.

Cool video of the start:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Training 02-07 to 2-13

Wrap Up: 74 miles for the week with 2 good races in the GSSS series.  No long run, but 2 good solid snowshoe races in there will help.  Mile temps this week will hopefully help me get some better mileage in.  Write ups for the races coming soon.  Special shout-out to Nick Wheeler who (to my knowledge) made his snowshoe racing debut up in Pownal, ME on Sunday. Looks like Nick had a solid race over Judson Cake who is having a good season so far.

02-13 - Sunday: 9.3 miles (snowshoes and roads) - Northwood, NH - 3.5 warmup over snowshoe course (but on shoes) then roads w/ DD then strides w/ snowshoes before race, over first part of the course +  3.8 mile snowshoe race - Bear Paw Classic (1st OA - 30:49) + 2 mile cooldown with DD on roads.

02-12 - Saturday: 13 miles (snowshoes and yaktrax) - Merrimack, NH.  4.56 mile warmup over the Horsehill Snowshoe course with DD in yaktrax (packed snow, super stiff and fast course) [45:00].  Then about a half mile in snowshoes up and down the beginning with strides and a little addon before the race + snowshoe race (4.56 miles) Horsehill Snowshoe Race - 1st OA [30:47] + 3.5 cooldown over course with Amber Ferreira and Ryan Kelly on snowshoes [29:00].

02-11 - Friday: 8.1 miles (roads) - Salem, Methuen, Haverhill.  Solo jaunt over usual out and back course.  Was going to double and do a later 4 or 5 but decided it really wouldn't I have 2 races this weekend and I wasn't feeling too fresh this week.  Decided that only the 1 run would do for today.

02-10 - Thursday: 12 miles (roads) - Methuen, Haverhill - from Whirlaway with Mike Quintal, Craig Fram, Brandon Newbould, John Gorman, Paul Doe. 8 miles w/ the crew and then Craig, Mike and I did another 4. [1:29:20].  Good run.  Got the 'other side of the story' from Craig on essentially all the tales Dunham has told me over the years... Also good chatting with Brandon.  He's nowhere nears as crazy as Bob Wiles keeps telling me he is.

02-09 - Wednesday: 10.4 miles (icey roads/sidewalks) - 3 lake bangs with Mike Quintal around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield, MA. Very icey conditions.  Fell on my knee and side right before the end of the first loop.  Mike and I eased into the run and then found ourselves in a full on tempo over the last 2.5 miles or so as we blazed past runners racing in the 52 week series put on by Mystic Runners. [1:11:29]

02-08 - Tuesday: 10 miles (icey roads) - 2x 5 mile runs, both in 33:00.  Had to drop my car off at the dealership, run home, then run back later to pick it up. 5 miles each way.  Weather was OK for the first run home, but complete sh*te for the way back to the dealership. Snow was coming down hard and sideways right into my grill the entire way.  The roads were also slick and icing over pretty good.  Side note, some good video by Mike G. from the Boston Prep 16 miler (video here) in Derry, NH a couple weeks ago.

02-07 - Monday: 11.2 miles (snowshoe and roads) - first 3 miles at the river.  Horrible decision.  While the trail was cut very nicely and it 'looked' packed down, that was NOT the case.  There has been someone in there cutting a nice trail with snowshoes and skis probably daily, but the warm weather over the past two days has killed the top 6-7 inches of snow and running on it is just not possible to do safely.  I was punching through with every step and practically falling on my face continuously for almost 27 minutes.  The top layer was crusty and beneath, was 6 or so inches of heavy wet snow, which made picking the shoes up very difficult with each step.  It would have taken me hours to do the entire thing in this condition and it would have wrecked me for days (it actually made the conditions at nationals last year seem easy).  I turned around and headed back after only about a mile and a half in.  [26:40].  Hooked up with Chris Mahoney for an additional 8.2 miles in Methuen (over the Whirlaway 10k course + addon) [1:00:00]