|Photo - Scott Mason|
I convinced Kevin Tilton to go down to the race this past weekend in Allenstown, NH (a town I still needed to bag). I had never even been in Allenstown to my knowledge, let alone to Bear Brook State Park, which I've heard a lot about. I was excited to run a course I hadn't seen before. That's few and far between these days with snowshoeing. Kevin picked me up in Madison on our way down and we headed down 28 all the way to the race and arrived in plenty of time to preview some of the course. I had a feeling there would be some stiff competition there, as race director Ryan Welts posted a $100 prize to first male and female. Kevin continued to sandbag and tell me that he'd be 6 minutes behind me, etc. and made it sound like the money was mine...I wasn't so sure. With no good long runs (distance-wise) and very little runs where I wasn't completely sore from head to toe lately, I wasn't very confident in my fitness or body holding up over 10K to be honest. The last 3 races I've run, I've had my hamstring seize up on me VERY early on. And those races were shorter than this. I was just hoping to run with KT and whoever else may show up and try to hang on without having to DNF to be honest.
The weather was amazing and had warmed up substantially by race time. Just before the warmup I spotted Mark Miller (BAA) from a distance and immediately knew I'd be running for 2nd or 3rd. I've never beaten Mark except in a snowshoe race, but that race had a crazy climb that I'm convinced is the only reason I was able to hold him off (at Mt. Greylock a few years ago). I happened to have been used to those climbs on snowshoes that season and Mark was killing all the rest of that course so I was thankful the hill was there, but today would be different as there really wasn't that much climbing and certainly no substantial 'climbing' to be had. Kevin and I did a short loop over the first and last part of the course. I made note of the last part, which is about a mile of mostly down and switchback to the finish. I envisioned trying to stay with either KT or Mark on this part (if I was lucky). When we got back and quickly changed for the race, I noticed Greg Hammett as well and I immediately now thought just a podium spot (if I could hold off KT) would be the goal. I had absolutely zero faith or notion that I'd even be seeing Greg or Mark by a quarter of the way through the race. Before heading over to the start, Bob Dion luckily noticed that I had a couple of BROKEN ice cleats. Yes, broken. I didn't even know (and I was warming up on them). Being the awesome guy that he is, he quickly switched them out for me and I was off to battle with some new cleats.
When I got down to the line, I saw Jim Pawlicki as well. I was surprised, but he was actually supposed to be at Sidehiller I think, so he was due to show at a NH race at some point. DD was also there and is always in the hunt, as he's in probably the best snowshoe shape (and general shape) I've seen him in in the last few years. That was a solid 6 + anyone else who may be able to muscle out a 10K. 10K is very different than the 5k - 4 Milers I'm used to in snowshoeing. It evens out the playing field a little bit and doesn't favor the faster guys as much sometimes... but this course had one thing going for it (that was in my favor I think) and that was that it seemed like the single track was FAST. It was well packed, but admittedly very narrow most of the way. As long as you could stay in the single track, you were fine. I'd say the course may have been 90% or so single track (give or take). The only concern I had was that it ended and finished essentially on single track (the beginning more of a concern than the end). I didn't want to get caught behind guys immediately, even if they were faster than me.
|Photo - Joe Viger|
The first mile was a mix of twisting and turning, up and down single track (now that I think of it, the entire thing was!)... I kept looking back as I would hit a switchback or turn where I could glance over to see the yellow BAA singlet of Mark and Greg tight on his heels. Somewhere early in the first mile, I passed Scott Mason who told me 'nice lead'. I was shocked, but that quickly turned to 'they'll catch me soon enough'. On and on I pushed, thinking maybe I was going too hard?... I wasn't sure. I hit the first mile somewhere in 7:18. I kept it going until I got to the snowmobile trail section before this big open meadow. I felt super slow on the snowmobile trails because they were softer and slower than the single track believe it or not. I wanted off and back onto the single track in a bad way. That first snowmobile section felt LONG.
My second mile was 6:46, which is solid for those conditions. When I hit 2 miles I glanced back on the long straight meadow section and could see Mark and Greg back quite a ways. I was very surprised and thought I must just be going too damn hard for a 10K. I tried to ease back a bit, but now kept trying to do some quick math, wondering if I could hold off that much of a lead if I blew up a little. I also had no idea what type of climbing or course conditions lay ahead. When I got back onto the single track, my pace seemed to get easier as the snow stiffened up and made for easier racing.
The third mile seemed like a lot of single track and I could no longer see anyone behind me. I kept pushing ahead but tried to calm down a bit and just keep running. The thought of just trying to not run too much slower than what I thought everyone else was doing, kept running through my head. Thinking that if I lost just a little bit per mile the rest of the way, I could still hold off maybe. I hit a couple of ups where the snow was a bit loose or soft and wet, and seized up a bit. The whole time, thinking that I was going to get caught at some point...it was just a matter of time. Third mile clicked through in 7:33.
|Photo - Scott Mason|
The fourth mile I think consisted of a longer snowmobile section that had a nice climb to it. It wasn't crazy long or steep, but enough to really slow you down. I kept looking back but didn't see anyone. At the top of the snowmobile section, you dip onto some single track that has probably the steepest slope to any on the course. Talk about seizing up. I got to the top and remember hopping over a log and almost stopping in my tracks. I was gassed here, but luckily the conditions of the snow and the climbing got better quickly, and soon I was back on some manageable single track where I could start picking up the pace again. I distinctly remember at 4.7 miles (on my Garmin) looking at my watch and looking back on a VERY long straight section of snowmobile trail (as I weaved back and forth across the trail looking for the most solid snow I could find)...I looked down and saw 4.7, looked back and saw no one. Looked ahead and saw a photographer standing in the trail, right before a left hand turn. I asked him as I passed, if anyone was back. He said no. That was the first time all day I actually thought I could hold off for the win. I remember smiling and thinking that I was actually going to hold off. I figured with 1.5 miles left (IF the course was a full 10K) was no big deal because I knew most of the last mile was downhill on switchbacks, which I knew I wouldn't lose that much time on, even if I was blowing up. Fourth mile was 7:50 with the climb and looser conditions...still solid.
|Photo - Joe Viger|
I hit the last junction with the switchbacks and knew I had the race won. I didn't kill that last section, but did keep looking over and up the trail on the turns, to see if anyone was making a last section charge. I passed by Scott Mason and Joe Viger who were both there taking pictures in their own private photog-war... I zig-zagged all the way down to the finish and popped out on the last short trail section (which was so beat up and loose that I was glad I wasn't racing anyone there). Fifth mile was 7:05 and my last almost full mile was 7:25. My Garmin was a bit short on the course, clocking in at 5.92 miles.
|Photo - Joe Viger|
|Photo - Scott Mason|
Top 10 Overall (BAA in Yellow):
|1||Jim Johnson||35||Madison NH||BAA||43:22||6:59|
|2||Kevin Tilton||31||North Conway NH||Central Mass Striders/INOV8||46:24||7:28|
|3||James Pawlicki||38||Lynn MA||Central Mass Striders||46:29||7:29|
|4||Greg Hammett||35||Chesterfield NH||Central Mass Striders||46:30||7:29|
|5||Dave Dunham||48||Bradford MA||Central Mass Striders||47:27||7:39|
|6||Mark Miller||32||Parts Unknown NH||BAA||48:22||7:47|
|7||Danny Ferreira||30||Concord NH||acidotic RACING||49:35||7:59|
|8||Anthony Parillo||28||Sherborn MA||51:11||8:15|
|9||Phil Erwin||45||Ridge NY||acidotic RACING||51:17||8:16|
|10||Chris Dunn||44||Strafford NH||acidotic RACING||51:25||8:17|
90 Total Finishers.
I cooled down on a park road that actually crossed over into Deerfield (although I already had Deerfield bagged) and back, with JP, KT, and DD. I bonked on the way back and settled for some soup to bring me back to life before the awards and raffle.
For the effort, I got $100 of dirty cash out of Ryan's shirt pocket. I also got a bag of cookie and brownie crumbs in the raffle, and a sweet trophy for the overall win in the series.
Joe Viger photo set HERE
Scott Mason photo set HERE