Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 7 (Saturday) - NH and Northeast Snowshoe Championship

Joe Viger photo.

March 7 (Saturday) - 2.5 warmup + 6.2 mile race + 2.4 mile cooldown = 11.1 miles total.

Saturday morning I made my way over to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH for the NH and Northeast Snowshoe Championships (results).  This was the last race in the 2015 Granite State Snowshoe Series.  Although this was my 7th completion of the series in a row (2009-2015) it is the 5th time I've done the NH State Championship individual race.  It didn't exist in the first year of the series and I skipped this particular race in 2011 because of Snowshoe Nationals happening on the same weekend.  But I've won the race each of the other times (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014).  In 2010 it was a tie for 1st w/ KT up at Great Glen.   Each year, the championship race is 10K.  The last couple years, the race has been down in Allenstown, NH.  It was a nice bonus to have this race be so close to home this year and hopefully there will be more races at Castle in the Clouds in the future.  It's only about 21 miles from my house (probably half that distance as the crow flies).

The pre-registration list for this event looked pretty solid with a lot of good road and trail guys throwing their names in the hat for this one.  The race also served as a stop on the LevelRenner All Terrain Series, so it was a who's who of guys all seeking the All Terrain crown for 2015.  Leading up to this one, my hamstring has been pretty sore and I had to scale back a little on some days to try to rest up and make sure I wouldn't have a problem with this up and down course. The course consisted of basically 100% single track (despite I think being described as 80:20).  The beginning and end may have been technically double track but essentially the entire race was a single track trail packed down a couple days ahead of time.  The elevation profile showed around 1300 feet of gain and I only quickly glanced at it, but it 'looked' like it was basically all up for half of it and then all down for the second half.  So the longer distance + all single track + one big long climb = not exactly a race in my wheelhouse...but I wasn't about to skip out on this one.

I warmed up around the castle grounds w/ Chris Mahoney and Todd Callaghan (just two of a slew of CMS guys all lining up for this one).  Then I threw on my snowshoes for one last stretch of running before the race began.   I noticed Scott Leslie (CMS) and Alex Hall (Whirlaway) warming up, along with Chad Carr and a few others that gave me reason to believe this would be a very good race.  The person I was most concerned with burying me was Kevin Tilton (CMS) who has been running basically almost entirely on snowshoes this winter and who has logged plenty of miles up and down mountains in the snow since the start of the year.  He was setting himself up perfectly for this one.  I on the other hand, was coming off of some great months of treadmill running at 0% incline.  Not exactly what it takes to do well at this type of racing, but then again this really isn't what I've been focusing on.  I still kept thinking that the work I had put in was certainly going to still keep me in the mix though.  My plan was to get out to my normal start and not screw around.  I've done this enough times to know about the single track race strategy and sitting behind people has burned me in the past.  I don't want to monkey around with having to sit behind someone in a field of this caliber.  I wanted to get out front right away, then, if someone (Kevin) wanted to pass me later on, I'd let that happen...but until then, I wanted to be out and on my way without anyone else dictating my pace, especially early in the race.

As the command was given for the last time this year, I was out to the front (basically unopposed for the 20 yard sprint into the trail) and hit the single track into the woods with Kevin a little bit behind and then the train immediately stretched out.  The trail was a little rough in spots early, but it seemed to get a little better as the race stretched out in the first mile.  I had to tell myself about a half mile or so in, to calm down a bit...I was reminding myself that it was a 10k and there was some climbing to be had.  I was almost sure that Kevin was going to eat me up on the climb and it was only a matter of time.  To be honest, I don't mind when that happens.  It's almost the only time in a race where I don't care when someone goes past me.  He excels at steep, hard climbing and the worse the conditions and footing, the better for him.  I go in the opposite direction.  I'm not exactly a slouch when it comes to climbing, but it isn't my strong point.  I had almost no doubt he'd go by me by 2 miles or so...if not, definitely by the top.  I've run with him enough to know he thrives in those conditions and my expectations are realistic in those moments of a race...

Joe Viger photo.
Joe Viger photo.
I continued to press on and the climb didn't seem that bad. I kept thinking it would get worse but it really never did.   There were occasional steep parts but then they'd morph into a flat or slight downhill and I was able to recover and stretch out.  Kevin kept catching me on the steep climbs and would go from appearing like he was dropping back, to getting right up almost within talking distance at times.  I occasionally looked back on the turns to try to assess the damage behind.  I could see Chris Mahoney early on, in third...but by a mile or so, it looked like Kevin was going to be the only one I was going to really worry about unless something happened with my calf or hamstring.  Kevin's bright orange top assured me that I would always be able to quickly determine where he was with barely a glance.  There was one or two moments where I was sure he'd be rolling up on me and I was prepared to move the hell out of the way when that happened.  I could hear him clearing his throat, which is usually the kiss of death for me on a climb.  That tells me he's now close enough to strike.  I just kept pushing and the goal became to try to beat him to the top or at least, if he passed me, to stay within striking distance for the descent.

The trail was narrow and dicey in spots, but fairly runnable just about the entire way.  There were a couple of tricky turns here and there but for the most part, it wasn't anything that was impacting my progress.  I think the race, conditions-wise, was timed perfectly.  Another week and it would have been a true nightmare on the trails.  As I came up to the 3 mile mark (on my watch) I saw Dave Dunham out on the trail at what appeared to be the top of the course.  I had heard just before the race that it was almost 4 miles or so of climb, so I thought there was still more to go.  When I went by DD I had only 10 seconds on Kevin.  Dave had told Kevin as he passed about the time gap.  That was still way too close for comfort.  Only one stumble and he's got me.  I started to work the downhill a bit and as more and more time went by, I started to think that this was all the climb.  I got my second wind and opened it up a little bit more on the way down.

Photo by DD.  KT in the background around Mile 3.

As I continued to drop down, I seemingly opened a little more up on my lead and after a while, I couldn't see Kevin behind any longer except on the long straightaway sections.  I was just hoping to be able to hold off for the entire 6+ miles.  Somewhere around 4.25 or so, I took a header right into the snow on the way down a steep drop.  I had stepped off the trail just slightly and sunk straight down.  I immediately pounced up and continued to roll, as now I thought for sure I was going to be caught because of that mistake.  Before long, I opened up into the start/finish area and saw and heard all the people at the finish.  I glanced at my watch and saw it was only reading around 4.5 miles or so. I thought to myself quickly that the course was going to be way short but I was glad I was done...then I realized that the course looped away from the finish and back into the woods for one more smaller loop.  I immediately went from excitement to dread again.  I popped back into the woods and noticed that I was starting to climb again....a LOT.  I did not remember this on the course map or elevation profile but then again, like always, I never study it close enough.  I started to rig up on the last climb pretty fierce.  It was probably the steepest climb of the day and switched back and forth through the trees.  I felt myself almost starting to walk.  Near the top of the first steep climb up, I peeked back and saw Kevin's orange top (with Kevin in it) climbing up behind me.  I immediately thought again that he'd catch me.  I was thinking what a shame that would be to get caught 5+ miles in.  Once the trail flattened out a bit, I stretched out the legs but then it climbed again.  This time though, I felt my next gear kick in and I blasted up that last climb and started to drop a little afterwards which gave me that added boost after that bad patch.

Scott Mason photo.
Scott Mason photo. 
Somewhere after that, and after some quick ups and downs, I popped out onto a nice corner ledge and saw Scott Mason perched up there taking pictures.  He told me about the nice downhill that was about to start, and that's all I needed to stretch it out again.  I was starting to finally now think that if I just worked the downhill enough, I'd be able to win this one.  I dropped down a couple of switchbacks and hit the low spot on the course where I saw Don Fredrikson on the side of the trail taking some photos.  He promptly told me that it was 'all downhill from here', although right after I passed him, I started to climb up a little again, but it was negligible.  After a small little stretch of up and down, left and right, I popped out finally back to the start/finish area and this time, I could make my way for home.

Scott Mason photo.

50 feet from the finish, my right calf cramped up fierce.  I timed it just right.  I had no issues throughout the race other than not being in climbing shape.  But just before the line, my calf rigged up.  I hobbled across in 45:15.  I ended up finishing only 44 seconds up on Kevin, who seemed to pop around the corner as soon as I turned around at the finish.  Chris Mahoney (CMS) was overtaken along the way by Ethan Nedeau (aR).  Chris had a great few races in the series this year and he'll no doubt have a great year this year with his racing... hopefully he decides to tackle the snowshoe series next year.

After the race, I cooled down with a large group of guys around the castle grounds and up to the castle, which is all boarded up for the winter.  I promptly bonked on the way down and stumbled into the after party on fumes.

Joe Viger photo...

This wrapped up my 7th straight series title and capped off a rather bittersweet winter.  I wasn't too excited about snowshoe racing this year for some reason (midlife crisis?). The racing was fun as it always is, but the snowshoe running for training just wasn't there and wasn't appealing to me this year. I have been daydreaming about the roads all winter and have been just staying indoors or on the roads this year for training... but I couldn't drag myself away from the Granite State Series.  I will probably stubbornly do this series every year until I get banned from it for some reason. :)

Top 3 from the final race. Ethan Nedeau, JJ, and Kevin L. Tilton.  Scott Mason photo.

Top 20 Overall (plus CMS in blue):

1  45:157:25Jim Johnson       CMS                   37Madison NH      
2  45:597:33Kevin Tilton      CMS                   33North Conway NH 
3  48:518:01Ethan Nadeau      ACIDOTIC RACING       42Everett MA      
4  50:038:13Chris Mahoney     CMS                   37Westford MA     
5  51:578:31Todd Callaghan    CMS                   45Beverly MA      
6  52:228:35Damon Gannon                            46Topsham ME      
7  52:428:39Alex Hall         WHIRLAWAY             27Hanover NH      
8  53:038:42David Martino                           22Laconia NH      
9  53:088:43James Pawlicki    CMS                   40Lynn MA         
10  54:368:58Josh Fields       ACIDOTIC RACING       26Claremont NH    
11  54:499:00Chad Carr         CAMBRIDGE RUNNING CLUB39Cambridge MA    
12  55:189:04Scott Leslie      CMS                   33Rutland MA      
13  55:489:09Jonathan Miller                         45Sanbornville NH 
14  56:429:18Kasie Enman       GMAA                  35Huntington VT   
15  56:539:20Amber Ferreira    ACIDOTIC RACING       32Concord NH      
16  56:559:20Danny Ferreira    ACIDOTIC RACING       32Concord NH      
17  57:299:26Derek Burton      SWEETIE PIES          22Sanbornton NH   
18  57:499:29Leslie O'Dell     CMS                   38Albany NH       
19  57:519:29Daniel Verrington CMS                   52Bradford MA     
20  58:229:35Chuck Hazzard     TRAIL MONSTER RUNNING 54Freeport ME 
251:01:230:04Sam Wood          CMS                   28Laconia NH 
301:03:360:26Jennifer Brooks   CMS                   35Gloucester MA 
631:19:343:03Jim Grady         CMS                   53Auburn MA 
681:22:463:35David Lapierre    CMS                   50Chelmsford MA   

131 Total Finishers.

Strava Data:

Some Photosets:

Gianina Lindsey (snapacidotic)
Scott Mason
Joe Viger

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