Saturday, February 8, 2014

February 8 (Saturday) - Horse Hill Snowshoe Race

February 8 (Saturday) - Horse Hill Snowshoe Race.  10.7 miles total.  3.6+ w/up + 4 race + 3.1 c/dwn.

Woke up early and hit the bricks pre-6am so I could take my time getting down to Merrimack, NH for the 2014 Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race (results) which served again as a race in the Granite State Snowshoe Series. I have run this race (and won) 4 times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013...not going in 2012). In going down there just about every February, I knew the parking lot was pretty small so I decided to get a head start, grab some breakfast on the way down, and get there in plenty of time to get a spot.  My plan worked as I rolled into the parking lot at the Horse Hill Nature Preserve nice and early and was the first one there besides RD Mike Amarello and Alec Wolfe (timer).

As everyone showed up, I got ready and headed out for a warmup on the roads with Dave Dunham (who got me sick this week), Kevin Tilton (who refused to carpool with me), Dave Lapierre, and Scott McGrath (who is training in secret now).  It was looking like a good field for sure when we got back, as Brandon Newbould, Tim Mallard, and Nacho Hernando were all in the parking lot getting ready.  I threw on the Dions and headed out for a little more warming up on the course.  As I was checking out the first half mile or so, I saw Ben Nephew and Chad Carr along with a slew of others who would all be in contention for the top 10.  The field was stacked but the course was looking like it was going to be a little bit of a grind.  The course was entirely 'single track' in the sense that that was all that was tracked out.  The rest of it was loose, deep snow.  There would be little room to pass without a lot of effort.  I figured the course would have a few sections at least, of a groomed, open spot to make a move...but that would never come.  The beginning and the end (in the photos below) were the best spots to make a pass and you can tell by the pictures, it wasn't ideal.

My only lead of the day...
My only lead of the day...
As the race began, I was hesitant on taking the lead but it was obvious one again that no one likes to go out front early, especially on a course where you may be dealing with some loose single track conditions that would take a tougher toll on a leader.  I reluctantly found myself out front in a relatively slow (seemingly) pace.  I hit the familiar left turn into the woods from the beginning section of the course, and was immediately followed by the train of Nacho, Scott, and Brandon.  Once we hit the steepest hill on the course (which you'd go up and come back down later), Nacho shot wide around me and blasted out to the lead.  He opened up a decent lead on me but by the time we crested the hill and started to wind down the single track switchbacks and twists and turns of the mountain bike trails, I caught back up to Nacho.  Scott started to fade back just a bit and then before I knew it, Brandon made his way up on my heels.  He clipped me once and I knew he was ready to rock around me, but it was tough.  There really was no good place to make a move during that section of the course.  As I continued to ride right behind Nacho I started to feel like the pace was slowing.  We seemed to be losing the lead a bit and I was nervous that Scott would catch back up.  Behind him I noticed Kevin was lingering so I wanted to make sure we kept up the pace.  I was about to say something to Nacho a couple times about picking the pace up a bit to try to light a fire (rather than burn cycles trying to pass him).  Before I had a chance to say something, Brandon plowed around us in the deep snow and made a strong move and passed both of us in the same move.  Soon after that, he started to pull away just a bit and put distance on Nacho and I.  I continued to try to stay on Nacho's heels through the twisty turns and the ups and downs of the single track.  At some point, Nacho and I started to spread out and Brandon worked on his lead.  But amazingly just as it seemed like we were going to be spread out and finish 1-2-3 in the current order, Brandon had a couple of miscues with the turns and actually stumbled/stopped a couple times and yelled back to us about which way the course was supposed to go.  It allowed both Nacho and I to catch back up twice.  This proved to be the difference maker for Nacho.  As mile 3 came and went, I dropped back about 5-7 seconds of those two as they battled.  On the final climb back up, Brandon looked to be pulling away just a bit, with Nacho close behind and I was falling off the pace and now focused on trying to hold onto 3rd.  As we crested up and over the top of the course, I really thought I was running hard but I started to lose sight of the two in front of me to my amazement.  They were battling for sure.  I hammered the downhill and turned the corner back onto the start/finish stretch and couldn't even see either of them anymore.  The last time I had seen them (a minute or two back) Brandon still had a lead.  By the time I passed by a spectating Nate Jenkins on the side of the course, I found out that Nacho had blasted past Brandon and won the race... handing Brandon his first ever snowshoe race loss and my first ever defeat at Horse Hill.  I hung on for 3rd place in a deep field and felt good about the effort.  My calf twinged a bit (as it has been) for some reason right away and periodically throughout the race, but it wasn't anything that affected my race.  I think I just have a deep knot in there I need to take care of.

Photos courtesy of Gianina Lindsey

Top 10 Plus CMS In Blue:

1 33:03  8:53Nacho Hernando       SWEETIE PIES             20Concord NH         
2 33:15  8:57Brandon Newbould     WHIRLAWAY                32Nottingham NH      
3 33:35  9:02Jim Johnson          CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS    36Madison NH         
4 34:37  9:19Scott McGrath        WHIRLAWAY                27Andover MA         
5 35:16  9:29Kevin Tilton         CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS    32North Conway NH    
6 35:18  9:30Ben Nephew           CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS    38Mansfield MA       
7 35:23  9:31Chad Carr            CAMBRIDGE RUNNING CLUB   38Cambridge MA       
8 35:58  9:40Joseph Degutis       CAMBRIDGE RUNNING CLUB   36Brookline MA       
9 36:04  9:42Dave Dunham          CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS    49Bradford MA        
10 36:10  9:44Ryan Welts          ACIDOTIC RACING         33Northwood NH 
25 46:11 12:25Melissa Donais   **   CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS   30North Andover MA 
28 46:44 12:34David Lapierre      CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS   49Chelmsford MA 
100 1:32:35 24:54George Boudreau Jr CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS  44Dudley MA

** Melissa Top Woman Overall.

101 Total Finishers.

Garmin Data Below:

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