Saturday, February 1, 2014

February 1 (Saturday) - Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race

Gianina Lindsey - All Photos
February 1 (Saturday) - Well, against better judgement I got up at the crack of dawn and headed down to Hollis, NH (2+ hour ride) for the Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race (results), which served as the 3rd race (after a re-scheduling) in the Granite State Snowshoe Race.  I say 'against better judgement' because late yesterday after trying for 7 hours to find a suitable 'snowshoeable' course to use, RD Mike Amarello made an announcement on Facebook about sub-par conditions and a directive for 'lowered expectations' for Saturday's race.  I was admittedly very nervous about the conditions, knowing that most of the week the conditions down south had deteriorated.  But now, being the night before the race, it was announced that it was still on, so I reluctantly got my stuff together and headed down.  I was nervous about my equipment. I didn't want to break a snowshoe or a cleat (or two) by running over exposed ground, rocks, roots, etc.

As I weaved my way down 25 towards 93, it didn't take too long to go from amazing snow here in the valley to thin snow and a massive amount of bare ground, right around Moultonborough and Center Harbor.  As I headed down 93, much of the same.  Logs of bare ground and the woods were really thin.  My expectations for Beaver Brook were not looking good.  However by the time I got into Hollis and near the race course, it didn't look too too bad.  It was still probably not even half what we have here, but still there was seemingly enough coverage, especially in the fields which was a big surprise.

I pulled into the parking lot and saw Dave Dunham's car and immediately saw NH Runner of the Year for 2013, Nacho Hernando (Concord, NH by way of Madrid, Spain), looking to do his first snowshoe race.  Well let me tell you, there was not a faster race out there than this one, so he picked a good one.  He's young, quick, and the course is incredibly short and easy.  Chris Dunn immediately told me that the course was an out and back.  Just like in 2010 (when the infamous snowshoe photo of the century was taken).  This year's course (because of where it started) was probably 10-15 seconds or so shorter than that year at the most.  Only the very start was slightly different and the rest was identical.

I threw on some Kahtoola Micro Spikes and Dunham and I headed out for our warmup on the straight out and back course.  We added on a bit at one of the intersections to get at least 3 miles in (with my strides).  The course was only 1.2 (on my Garmin) to the turn around, so 2.4-ish long total.  I whipped on my Dion 121's and did a bunch more running around and some strides before getting onto the line for the final words of wisdom from Mike Amarello, and then the start.

The race went off and immediately half the field targeted a small 5 foot wide section of relatively packed trail to run on, even though it wasn't the most direct path to the turn at the end of the field onto the main ski trail.  In the first few steps, I fell behind somehow and had to muscle my way around a surging Chris Dunn, who begun to toss his weight around and throw elbows (visual evidence below).

Chris Dunn knocking my hat crooked after an elbow to the side...whatever it takes!

I eventually was able to get around Chris and push out to the front before the turn onto the main trail.  From there, it was downhill and flat out to the turn around.  The trail was packed and icy with some very thin to bare spots only in a few sections with heavy tree cover.  The rest of the course was 'shoeable' but it was almost like running on the roads...very fast indeed.

I felt fairly good and clicked through the first mile on my Garmin in 5:42.  That's pretty good for a snowshoe race for sure.  It included the obvious super fast conditions but also the nice downhill that you have to come UP on the way back.  The entire way out, Nacho was lingering right behind me. I wasn't shaking him because there really was no place to pull away from a guy like that... He is a quick road and XC guy.  If I had some deep snow or a good climb, I may have been able to pull away a bit just from the sheer fact that this was his first snowshoe race and maybe my experience would benefit me in that case, but it was so fast that I couldn't make any sort of decisive moves until possibly on the way back.  My plan was to try to stay ahead of him until the climb up on the way back and then maybe try to grind it out there.  I hit the turn around in 6:46 and I was only a few ticks up on Nacho.  I had a feeling he may get me on the way back before the hill, so I tried to keep pushing to get there before I got passed.  Eventually the climbing started and I looked back one more time to see that he had fallen back a bit.  The more climbing went passed, the larger the gap became and by the time I took the last turn onto the field, I had a good enough lead that I could finally relax. 7:36 on the way back (up).  I was relieved, as I really did anticipate yet another 2nd place in a series race this year.  But I led from start to finish (like old times) and felt pretty strong. I think my fitness is starting to come along. Am I ready for a 5k or 10 mile road race?  Heck no.  But I am starting to think I am getting stronger for the first time in a long while...which is a good thing when it's only February.

The Garmin data:

All in all it was an OK course all things considered. I thought it was going to be a LOT worse.  Mike did a good job with what he had to work with, considering the normal course was just too thin and bare in spots.  It definitely catered to the guys with wheels (yet somehow I managed to hang on).  People who may like a long, tough uphill grind, mountain climbs, and deep, messy snow, would have not enjoyed this course (Dave Dunham).  For me, it may be the only 'W' I get all year, so I'll take it.  Hopefully Horsehill gets some additional snow this week to make that a feasible race as well.  It's a good course when the conditions are right.

Top 10 Overall (CMS in Blue)

114:22Jim Johnson     CMS                 36Madison NH       
214:45Nacho Hernando                      20Concord NH       
315:53Ryan Welts      ACIDOTIC RACING     33Northboro NH     
415:57Dunham Dave     CMS                 49Bradford MA      
515:59Phil Erwin      ACIDOTIC RACING     46Wading River NY  
616:51Chris Dunn      ACIDOTIC RACING     45Strafford NH     
717:16Marek Telus                         38Hopkinton NH     
817:19Tom Hooper                          35Lee NH           
917:19Scott Mitchell  ACIDOTIC RACING     44Greenlande NH    
1017:21Justin Beaudry  LAZY LIGHTNING      32New Boston NH    

75 Total Finishers.

After the race, DD and I did another cooldown on the course again.  Nacho flew past us on his cooldown like we were standing still.  After a couple of cups of Mike Amarello's famous Kale Soup, I hit the road for my 3 hour ride home.  I got stuck in Meredith, NH from Harts Turkey Farm to the turn onto Rt. 25 (about a 1.5 mile stretch).  It took me 30 minutes to go that far due to the New England Pond Hockey Classic going on (plus about 5000 drunk snowmobilers and ice fishermen cutting back and forth across the road continuously).  Good times.


  1. Hey Jim...nice job! That was a quick, tough race (not what I expected for my first snowshoe race but a solid workout nontheless). It was good to catch up. See you at Horse Hill on Saturday!


  2. Hey Mark, thanks man. Yeah, that was not a usual SS race for sure... Horsehill will be quite the opposite I can assure you. Climbs, deep snow (on it's way)... and will be longer. You'll enjoy it! Good to see you. Sorry I didn't chat longer. Will catch up on Saturday! JJ