Thursday, February 3, 2011


Images in this post by Joe Viger and Krissy K.

This past weekend I ran another double-header with races up in Center Sandwich, NH and out in Pittsfield, MA.  The first of the two is the only race that is part of both the WMAC/Dion series and the Granite State Snowshoe series.  It is also a USSSA Northeast National Championship Qualifier.

Saturday: Sidehiller Snowshoe Race (results)

I headed up to my 3rd Sidehiller Snowshoe race on Saturday morning with a friend of mine from Wakefield.  He wanted to go snowshoeing somewhere and I was going up there to race, so I convinced him to give snowshoe racing a go. Sidehiller would be a pretty good introduction for him, as the race is hardly a 'tough' race as far as climbing goes, but the conditions would be another story.

My teammate Kevin Tilton has run this race 6 times and has won 5 in a row.  3 years ago (2009 race) he passed me after I led for about 80-90% of the race and went on to beat me by 14 seconds.  Last year (2010) I took a nasty spill about 200 meters into the race and just never got back into the mix up front and came in 3rd (17 seconds back of the win). It was my 2nd worst finish of the year behind Nationals. I won every other race that year.  This year, having lost this race twice by under 20 seconds each time, I was looking to try to steal one and figured I just needed to run my race and not try to let anyone else dictate the pace.  Looking back, I'm not sure that was a good idea and I may have been better off sitting and waiting.  The course was back to it's original form this year after having to be modified last year because of the lack of snow.  This meant that we cross the road and climb up the only real substantial climb on the course and then cross over a few fields in between single track sections.  This is the part of the race that killed me last year and it would end up doing so again this time around.

After warming up with Charlie T and Kevin on the roads through Center Sandwich, Kevin and I gave a brief interview to NH Chronicle, who was there spotlighting the race.  Then we were off to the starting line, where a lot of fast guys were ready for battle.  I was impressed to see the amount of talent toeing the line this year.  This race usually is loaded, but this year it was full of great runners.  Hyannis marathon champ (at 2:22) Judson Cake (Acidotic) was there, as was Wes Dinnan, Ryan Kelly (Acidotic), Charlie Thierrault (Acidotic), Bob Jackman (TNT), Danny Ferreira (Acidotic), Scott McGrath (CMS - in his debut) and Jim Pawlicki (CMS).

As the race begun, I got right out and just clicked into my routine.  I guess I start fast, but it doesn't really seem that way to me.  I usually feel pretty good at that pace and always seem to think it is slowing the field down, but before I know it, I usually build up a decent lead at the beginning.  Past history at this race indicates that I will lose that lead somewhere just before the road on the way back though.  I think Wes Dinnan was in close chase for a while at the beginning and Kevin seemed to be taking his time and easing into the race.  He's got a lot of confidence on this course and in general, so he runs his smart races and doesn't worry about the pace too early on in the race.

As I hit the climb after crossing the road, I was able to get into a good rhythm up the single track, which was packed down relatively well.  The climb didn't seem as bad as I remember and I was able to run the entire thing without issue.  Once near the top, I peered back to see Kevin now in 2nd and getting a little closer with each step.  I continued on, trying to maintain a distance and was hoping to be able to hold the lead as I crossed the fields.  Once I hit the fields, I began to punch through quite a bit in the crusty, deep snow, but it wasn't as bad as 3 years ago.  I began to notice my pace slow considerably and my heart rate skyrocket.  Each glance back showed Kevin getting closer and closer.  I knew at that point I was screwed. All the training I do on the roads does NOT prepare you for running across open fields in loose or unpredictable crusty snow.  This race was proving that.

I hit the woods on the backside of the fields and back into single track where I was able to hold my own...but once we ducked back out onto the fields for the way back, my pace came to a grinding hault and I had all I could do to get to the next batch of single track before Kevin passed me.  I was able to make it back into the woods just before he did and tried to open it up on the downhills and single track, but he was still catching me.  At this point, I subconsciously gave up.  I do this a lot in races and this time was no exception.  I gave into the fact that he was catching me and probably would go by me so I just let it happen and didn't fight.  I didn't think about the fact that I was still winning or that I was in good shape or that I have been winning races all season or that I was able to beat this same field a week ago.  I just thought about how strong Kevin is on this course, how many times he's won, and that he was catching me so I best let him go by, and that's exactly what I did.  I moved aside and he eventually went by me in what I swear is the same exact spot he did in 2009.  I then got about 6 seconds behind him within a minute or so and that is where I stayed.  I didn't try to surge on the downhills, I didn't try to catch up to him on the road, I didn't try to close the gap on the last section of fairgrounds.  I just settled for 2nd and watched him win the race over the last 5 minutes.  I wasn't maxed out, wasn't sprinting or surging, wasn't racing like I should, I was just going through the motions and was thinking the race was over before it finished.  It didn't enter into my thoughts that Kevin may be tired or that he may be going all out. I just thought, well, we'll go 1-2 and I'm the 2nd best today and that's it....and that was it.  I came through in 2nd place, only 6 seconds back of Kevin who just outraced me plain and simple.  Racing is a lot more than running faster than the other's having more heart, more desire, and more balls.  And he had more of all 3 of those last things....which translate into a faster time, plain and simple.  The way I laid down at the end, I didn't even deserve to finish second to be honest.

Top 10 (Plus CMS in Blue)

Place First Last Age City ST MM SS
1 Kevin Tilton 29 Conway NH 31 47
2 Jim Johnson 33 Salem NH 31 53
3 Judson Cake 33 Bar Harbor ME 32 44
4 Wesley Dinnan 23 Newmarket NH 33 22
5 Ryan Kelly 29 Concord NH 33 59
6 Dave Dunham 46 Bradford MA 34 14
7 Charles Thierrault 25 Bristol NH 34 41
8 Robert Jackman 28 Warwick RI 34 42
9 Danny Ferreira 28 Concord NH 34 48
10 Scott McGrath 24 Amesbury MA 35 27
11 James  Pawlicki 36 Beverly MA 35 41

108 Finishers.

CMS did quite well as a team, although we usually don't have a full 'team' at most of these races.  We are usually good for 2-4 guys, but rarely have 5 at any one snowshoe race.  Hopefully that will change the more guys realize there is more to winter than Fudgcicle 5ks and running around in circles indoors.  It's good to see guys like Wes and Scott show up at these races now. Judson is a veteran of the snowshoe scene and has been in races as far back as 2003 or so (from what I've seen), but it's great to see the newer quicker road guys giving this a go.  The NH Chronicle episode is set to be broadcast on the 17th of Feb.

I pulled my tail out from between my legs and tried to clear my mind of what happened and got ready for Curly's on Sunday... that report to follow...

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