Monday, March 7, 2011

Northeast Snowshoe Federation Championship

Late Race Writeup: Abridged Version...Once again late w/ a race writeup but I'll sneak this one in because it was a good race (before my bad one) last weekend on Saturday.  The first ever Northeast Snowshoe Federation Championships (results) were held at Northfield Mountain last Saturday and it would be the first race of my last double-weekend.  All the big guns and then some, showed up to this race.  The Northeast Snowshoe Federation was organized to form a cumulative competition for the Northeast Snowshoe Cup, which consists of races from the WMAC/Dion Snowshoe Series out in Western, MA, The Granite State Snowshoe Series out of New Hampshire, put on by acidoticRacing, and the Empire State Snowshoe Series out in New York.

I shot out to Northfield that morning (solo) and was the first to arrive on the scene, just ahead of race director Dave Dunham. Dave pulled in and headed out to mark the last bit of the 5.5 mile mountain course.  More and more folks started to pile in, including Judson Cake and Nick Wheeler (adidas NE) who was going to run in his second snowshoe race.  Nick was pretty excited about it and that's a great thing to see.  Good solid road guys are starting to catch on (with Judson and Nick as perfect examples).  I let Nick borrow a pair of my Dions, as he doesn't have shoes just yet.  As more quick guys like Ben Nephew, Kevin Tilton, Tim Mahoney, and other CMS, acidotic, and TNT runners showed up, we all headed out for a warmup on the roads at the base of the mountain before heading back over for a quick change and last minute snowshoe running over the first and last parts of the course.

We all lined up at the base of the mountain, facing one small loop around a groomed xc ski trail on the field in front of the ski center.  The commands were given and the race was underway.  I went out really easy, hoping that Kevin or Nick or Judson or Ben or SOMEONE would lead the charge, but nobody wanted any part of it.  I felt like I was jogging but was in the lead and Nick was right behind me, not wanting to dictate pace, as it was only his 2nd snowshoe race and he knew the mountain was ahead.  After one loop around the field, Nick and I built up a small lead as we headed up into the single track in the woods.  I asked Nick just before the single track if he wanted the lead.  He declined, saying he was fine.  I told him that if he felt like I was holding him up, to let me know and I'd step aside.  He agreed but said he was content where he was.  So on we pushed, as the single track weaved up and through the woods, steadily climbing, but nothing too crazy at first.  The trail was tight and there were TONS of hanging trees in the way, that was just constantly whacking you in the face.  I would duck under as many as I could, but it was tough to avoid them all, especially at a good clip.  The trail was packed down nicely and the conditions (aside from the climbing) were fast.  Nick stayed behind me for a bit and then started to fall back just a little as the climbing increased.  I looked back occasionally to gauge, and noticed him back a ways, and then nobody else.

Eventually, the single track dumps out onto a long, straight, steep climb that I recognized all too well from the Mountain Series race in May.  You can see for a quarter mile up this thing as it makes its way up towards the summit.  Halfway up, as I continued to run without the need to powerhike (because of the conditions), I looked back and noticed Kevin Tilton's orange vest now right behind Nick.  Soon after, I peered back again and saw Kevin had gone around Nick.  I knew the inevitable was coming.  I just continued to climb, knowing it was only a matter of time before Kevin was up on me.  At the top of that section, it dips into the woods for a bit, then comes back out onto another good, wide, groomed/packed trail up around the backside of the summit.   Kevin was running me down here.  I made it to the top and could see Nick back a ways in 3rd and nobody else.  I dipped back into the woods for the first major descent.

I felt like I was running pretty quick on the downs, but the nature of the winding single track was tough to really motor without stepping off trail, so I had to back off a little bit.  I hit the bottom and ran the 'flat' section pretty hard, but by the time I reached the next climb back up to almost the summit again, Kevin and Nick were now right behind me.  I quickly went from thinking I could sneak a win to thinking about 3rd place or worse.  I hit the climb before they completely caught me and managed to almost hold Kevin off, but about a minute or so before the top, I let him go by.  He tried to get me to stay in front but I knew I'd be holding him back.  I let him go, ducked in behind, and stayed pretty close to him up to the top. Nick had dropped back again and out of sight on the climb.

Kevin and I hit the second major downhill and we were rockin'.  Near the bottom, I wiped out pretty hard once again (I seem to do this just about every time I'm running behind someone late in a race).  I popped right up and caught back up to Kevin.  I looked behind a bunch and had some strange feeling that we weren't running fast enough to stay in front of Nick and I warned Kevin about this even though I couldn't see Nick coming.  Once we hit the bottom, Nick appeared from literally out of nowhere (he must have killed the downhill much faster than Kevin and I) and now it was a 3 man race.  There was one small climb left after a section of winding, 'flat' section and I asked Nick if he wanted by and he declined.  He was sitting back and waiting for the end kick (as was I).  But we had one more climb.  This time, Kevin opened up a few second lead and I pushed up ahead of Nick, who fell back just a little again on the climb.   As we finished the climb and dropped back down for a small section of single track ups and downs before the finish, Kevin was about 4-5 seconds up on us and Nick was right behind me.  As we could see the ski lodge through the trees, I told Nick once more to go around and he said 'go get him!' to me, so I took that to mean that we both should put one more kick in to try to run down Kevin.  I got a little closer to Kevin just before the pop out onto the last xc ski trail to the finish (about maybe a 200M sprint to the finish).  I was about 4 seconds back of Kevin here and that's where it would stay over the last 200.  Nick got right behind me and went wide to see about going around, but we both ran about the same speed over the last stretch, all out, and finished 4 and 5 seconds behind Kevin respectively, for a crazy fast battle.

The field was incredibly deep for a snowshoe race as you can see by the top 20 below.

Photos by Scott Mason - View his Gallery Here.

Top 20 (plus CMS in blue):

Place First Last Age Team Time
1 Kevin Tilton 29 CMS/INOV-8 45:49
2 Jim Johnson 33 CMS/INOV-8 45:53
3 Nicholas Wheeler 25 45:54
4 Ryan Kelly 29 Acidotic 47:52
5 Judson Cake 33 Acidotic 48:44
6 Geoff Cunningham 33 Acidotic 49:42
7 Ben Nephew 35 CMS/INOV-8 49:53
8 Tim Mahoney 31 CMS 49:59
9 Charles Therriault 25 Acidotic 50:00
10 Tim Van Orden 42 CMS 50:03
11 Danny Ferreira 28 Acidotic 50:07
12 Dave Dunham 46 CMS 50:38
13 Ross Krause 31 53:15
14 Robert Jackman 28 TNT 53:33
15 Amber Ferreira 28 Acidotic 53:59
16 Chris Dunn 42 Acidotic 54:02
17 Ryan Welts 30 Acidotic 55:14
18 David Principe Sr. 44 TNT 56:02
19 Steve Dowsett 22 56:09
20 Tim Cox 37 Acidotic 56:16
23 John Pajer 48 CMS 53:43
24 Abby Mahoney 32 CMS/INOV-8 56:59

85 Total Finishers.

After the race, a big group of us did a nice cooldown over the same roads again and then back inside for some grub and chit chat before everyone made their way home.  I decided to stay and follow Tivo and DD back to their hotel in Deerfield, MA, so I could run in the Moody Spring snowshoe race the next day in W.Hawley.  That would end up being a mistake (as you've read from my previous race report, which was done out of order), but the night was fun, hanging with the elder statesmen.

I am making one prediction about this Northfield race however.  Mark my words, this will be the only time I will ever be in front of Nick Wheeler in race results ;).

One last note, Josh Ferenc sent me the below advice for Northfield.  I followed these instructions but it didn't really help me.

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