Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 8 (Saturday) - Granite State Snowshoe Championships

Top 3 from the NH State Championship - Tivo, JJ, Nacho - Photo courtesy of Joe Viger


March 8 (Saturday) - It was time for the 2014 Granite State Snowshoe Championships down in Allenstown, NH.  I have been nursing a pulled/aggravated calf and hamstring on my right side.  I had been running since Nationals last week, albeit not much each day... trying to recover.  Friday afternoon I had met Kevin at the Jr. High for a run on the snowmobile trails heading towards the mineral site.  My calf went on me about 5.5 into the 6 mile run.  It was a real bummer.  So heading into the race on Saturday, I was really skeptical about my ability to even finish the race. I wanted to go however, as they do the awards for the overall Granite State Snowshoe Series after the final race.  So I headed down in the a.m. (90 minute drive) to Allenstown, NH and Bear Brook State Park.   I had won last years Granite State Snowshoe Championship 10K down at Bear Brook as well, but this year the course was different (and started/finished in a different spot).  It was still (advertised as) a "10K" but as we would find out later, that was a bit on the conservative side.  The snow cover was still good despite having seemingly half the amount of snow that we had up here in the valley.

After registering and talking to some folks, I started to get ready to go out for a warmup w/ DD when I inadvertently locked my keys in the car.   Frantically I started to think about busting out the window to get my gear, bib, etc.  All I had on was my warmups... my snowshoes, racing shoes, racing clothes, bib, etc. were all sitting snuggly now behind locked doors.  Bill Morse and Jim Pawlicki and others tried to talk me about of busting the window and they mentioned they could call AAA for me after the race.  People started offering me shoes and gear to wear and Jim went over and got me another number to use.  I was still tempted to bust out the window, rather than race with other peoples shoes and gear on, and then have to wait potentially hours AFTER the race to get a tow truck out there.  I decided to walk over to the table to get a hammer or one of the sweet axes they had as prizes, and go back and break the window.  As I walked past the registration table, Karen Dunn reminded me that Scott Mason was a locksmith.  I figured it was worth a shot, so I jogged down to his car and asked him to have a peek at the situation.  Scott immediately whipped out a slim jim and walked over to my car to take a look.  About 2 minutes later I was in my car.  Somewhere after that 5 minutes between I asked Scott to get into my car and when I was on my way, he somehow was unable to get out into his desired location on the course to get his action shots (video of the mysterious circumstances of how he missed flagging and didn't have ample time to get into shooting position).  I will say that after he let me in, I had plenty of time to do a warmup of 2 entire (slow) miles with Tim VanOrden out on the roads, get back to my car and change into racing clothes, shoes, and get my snowshoes on.  Then I had more time to do some strides, relieve myself in the woods, and then get over to the start to hear all the pre-race instructions.  Meanwhile, somewhere, somehow Scott was wondering around apparently lost and unable to follow Ryan's excessive flagging that was all over the course. ;)

As the race went off, I immediately calmed down and had my hamstring/calf on my mind...so I did not get out to my usual faster start.  I settled down and took it generally easy for the first little spin around the field before the course went off into the woods.  The course was a mixture of single track and wide access road and snowmobile trails.  It had ample areas to pass, get into position, etc.  Nacho Hernando (8th overall at Nationals last weekend) shot out to an early (big) lead.  He pulled away from me so quick and so early, almost immediately I decided I was running for 2nd place.

At some point around 2 miles or so, the mixture of snowmobile trail and single track (which was packed down pretty good) seemed to slow Nacho down a little and I started to gain on him a bit on a long uphill stretch on snowmobile trail.  The previous few ups and downs was aggravating my calf.  I felt it popping and some pain during the downhills.  The uphills were a non-issue.  I started gaining on him very slightly on the uphill.  When the course would flatten or drop a little, he would pull away again.  But I would gain slightly again on the ups.  At 2.5 miles, I had all of the sudden caught right up to him.  I decided to just keep pushing, so I went right around him on the double-wide trail.  He immediately tucked in behind me, adjusted his pace, and started running on my heels.  I figured I would drop him because of the way I caught him over the course of a half mile... but he adjusted his pace and upped the tempo to stay right with me.

The course immediately took a sharp left into single track.  He was right on my tail, with no daylight and I could just about feel his breath on my neck.  The single track was very windy and up and down continuously.  He stayed right on my heels.  On the downhills I was holding back as to not blow out my calf.  He had to hold back as well as to not crash into me.  I felt like I was slowing him down the whole time, but he didn't want to pass.  This continued for 2 miles.  He shadowed me, which made me want to push extra hard on the small ups and downs.  He killed me on this type of stuff last week so I was shocked he was still behind me this late in the race.  There were a couple of spots that had passing lanes tracked out in the snow.  I figured for sure he'd blow past me on one of those but he remained behind me, just lurking. I continued to push, thinking that maybe on the flats and ups I could eventually lose him...

Photo courtesy of Richie Blake
At about 4.5 miles the course crosses over a snowmobile trail and goes from single track right back into single track across the trail.  Right after this, the last big climb started.  As I got to the climb I noticed almost immediately that Nacho had fallen back a little bit, for the first time. By the time I got halfway up the steep, rocky climb, I turned again and I couldn't even see him anymore.  I continued to push up and got up and over the summit.  I took one brief, inadvertent detour at the top (Nacho did too) but quickly found the trail again and started the descent, with the win now actually in the back of my mind. I continued to think that he'd be within striking distance again if he outran me on the downhills.  But the more the downhill passed, the more confident I grew that I'd maybe be able to steal one.  Eventually I hit the bottom and then hopped back out on the initial groomed trail that led back to the start/finish area.  6.1 came and went on my watch.  In the end I came through with the win and 6.39 on the Garmin, which usually is short on single track in the woods like that.  So it could have been closer to 6.5 after talking with Ryan (who seemed to know exactly how long the course was AFTER the race ;) )... Nacho came in a couple minutes back and it was obvious he had calf issues.  His calves had seized up on him on that climb.  He's raced a lot in the last few weeks and it was bound to catch up w/ him.  He's a great competitor and he fought hard in the middle of the race when a lot of guys would probably just let someone go.

After the race, Nacho and I joined Danny Ferreira for a 2 mile cooldown on the roads (in which I bonked hard on the way back).  10.5 miles for the day, no broken windows, no pulled hamstring or calf, a series win, and an unexpected individual race win against some good competition.  I'll take it.

Garmin Data


Top 10 Overall + CMS in Blue.  Full Results Here.

PLACENAMEAGECITYSTATETIMEPACECLUB
1Jim Johnson36MadisonNH00:48:2800:07:48Central Mass Striders
2Nacho Hernando20ConcordNH00:50:5100:08:11Sweetie Pies
3Tim Van Orden45BenningtonVT00:52:5800:08:32Central Mass Striders
4Dave Dunham49BradfordMA00:53:1700:08:35Central Mass Striders
5James Pawlicki39LynnMA00:53:2900:08:37Central Mass Striders
6Ryan Welts33northwoodNH00:54:1300:08:44acidotic RACING
7Danny Ferreira31ConcordNH00:56:4800:09:09Gate City Striders
8Phil Erwin46Wading RiverNY00:57:4100:09:17acidotic RACING
9Kenneth Wiley31ClaremontNH00:58:4500:09:28acidotic RACING
10Marek Telus38hopkintonNH00:59:0500:09:31acidotic RACING

80 Total Finishers.

After the race, the award ceremony for both the race and the series was held, with myself, Dave Dunham, and Ryan Welts getting the top 3 overall spots in the Granite State Snowshoe Series, and myself, Nacho, and Tivo getting the top 3 spots in the championship race.  For the series win, we got some sweet custom NH snowshoe medals and for the race win, I got a nice axe (which can be seen in the photo at the top).

Ryan Welts, JJ, DD - Top 3 in the 2014 Granite State Snowshoe Series

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