Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 7 (Saturday) - Horsehill Snowshoe Race

February 7 (Saturday) - 3.6 miles (snowshoes) warmup + 3.5 miles (snowshoe race) + 3.2 miles (roads) cooldown = 10.3 miles total on the day.  I headed down to Merrimack, NH for my 6th Horse Hill Snowshoe Race (results).  I won this race 4 times previously (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013) and was 3rd last year in a very deep and talented field.  I skipped the race in 2012 as I was hurt and the weather was really awful (freezing rain, etc).  The course has changed slightly over the years as there is always some varying snow cover but the last couple years have been really good.  Mike Amarello does a great job putting this event on right in his backyard (literally).  Last year's race featured almost entirely single track and this year's course was basically the same with a slightly modified loop.

Near the end on the FAST section of trail.
The turnout was pretty good (just shy of 100 people) on a relatively 'warm' day.  Last year it was so cold that today's teens felt balmy.  I did the course ahead of time with Chris Mahoney for a warmup.  Chris was there for his second ever snowshoe race.  His first was some years ago over at Feelgood Farm and that would have been enough to make anyone do a 'one and done'.  But he mulled it over for about 4 years or so and decided to give it another go.   I wanted to inspect the course and know what I was getting into. I think it was worth it to do a 41+ minute warmup on the course so I knew what to expect.

There were some other folks there as well that were looking to run 'quick' on the mash potato single track.   Chad Carr and Eric Narcisi were both hungry for a podium spot so I knew it would probably be a train of at least 4 if not more for a lot of the single track.

As the gun went off, I settled right into the front but didn't want to go crazy. I had made the decision to ease into this one and not go all 'Judson Cake' at the beginning (eluding to the first 200 meter all-out battle we had with each other at this race back a bunch of years ago).  I made it to the turn into single track, slightly ahead of the train of 2-5 or so.  By the time the first real hill was reached, I had a decent pad on the field and just continued to push. I kept it safe on the single track but knew that if I just continued to push as I was doing, I wouldn't lose anything on the field.  The miles clicked by VERY slowly.  The course has a lot of ups and downs and is all single track.  Even the more open 'double track' trails and small snowmobile sections had only a thin tracked out path to run in.  The sides of the track were high in spots because the snow was deep.

At one of the junctions were you go past where you come out, I took a wrong turn for a few seconds and quickly realized I was going the wrong way.  I saw the flags on the left and knew I had made a mistake.  I turned and went back before I spent any real time on the wrong trail.  By the time I reached the left hand turn onto the real ugly single track (that only Mike Amarello had tracked out before the race), I had a really good lead. I couldn't really see anyone behind me.  But the further up you climb, the race starts to switch back on itself and you get a really good occasional view of others through the woods.  I started to see how the race was playing out behind me.  I saw that Chris was in second and the places were beginning to spread apart a little bit.  Damon Gannon (3rd last week at Beaver Brook) was in second for a while initially and then Chris and Chad had gone around him at some point near the rough single track start and now things were beginning to play out.

It seemed like an eternity on that really slow single track climb and the mile splits were incredibly slow.  I hit the trail that we loop back on (and the junction I had mistakenly taken initially) and I realized that the once the field had gone through there, the snow was now really loose and eaten up.  The way back was really slick.  I kept slipping and sliding on the corners and slopes and I face-planted once on the last climb.  Finally I made it up and over the top, peeked behind again to see what the situation was, and knew at that point on the final way down that last steep hill, that I was probably in good shape.  I passed by Chris Dunn about a quarter mile from the finish and then took that last turn out onto the main trail and back to the finish.  I came through in 32:11 and was nearly 3 minutes up on 2nd place.  Chris was 2nd and Chad and Damon broke up the CMS sweep by pulling away from Eric down the stretch.

I cooled down with the same crew on the snowy roads around Merrimack.  It felt great to get my second win this season on the snow (third win in total in NH on the calendar year) and win my 5th race here at Horse Hill in 6 tries.

Now on to the second race in the weekend doubleheader... The Moose Mountain Run-Around in Brookfield, NH (was rescheduled) tomorrow.

Top 10 (CMS in blue):

132:11 8:40Jim Johnson        CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS  37Madison NH       
235:08 9:27Chris Mahoney      CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS  37Westford MA      
335:44 9:37Chad Carr          CAMBRIDGE RUNNING CLUB 39Cambridge MA     
437:2910:05Damon Gannon                              46Topsham ME       
538:3810:23Eric Narcisi       CENTRAL MASS STRIDERS  35North Andover MA 
640:2310:52Marek Telus        ACIDOTIC RACING        38Hopkinton NH     
740:2710:53Jeffrey Litchfield ACIDOTIC RACING        55Concord NH       
840:4910:59Derek Burton       THE SWEETIE PIES       22Sanbornton NH    
941:1611:06Leslie O'Dell      ACIDOTIC RACING        38Albany NH        
1042:5611:33David LoutzenheiserCAMBRIDGE RUNNING CLUB 48Cambridge MA     

96 Total Finishers

Strava Data:

After the race, it was off to do some sledding in Conway with Tabby Rose, Morgan Sage, and Kris.  Morgan didn't really do any sledding as she's still kinda everything... but Tabby and I did rip about 12-15 runs on both the snowtube and her plastic sled.  Exhausting having to hoof her back up the hill each time in deep snow, but definitely fun.

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