Thursday, January 21, 2016

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Race

Thursday's front page of the Conway Daily Sun

Saturday was my 6th time racing the Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Race (results) in North Conway.  It is usually one of the first races I do in the calendar year and this year it was my first race since the WMM Half back in October.  I haven't been exactly killing it with training but I've run Whitaker in far worse shape in the past, so I wasn't about to miss this one if I could help it...being only 15 minutes down the road.  Like usual, it was the kickoff to the Granite State Snowshoe Series.

The temps were unseasonably warm for Whitaker (in the high 20s) and it was snowing out pretty good which is always really cool for a snowshoe event.  I had the kids and Kristin in tow for this one and it was cool for them to be there to see their first snowshoe race.  Kristin hasn't been to a snowshoe race in ages... I think the last time she was at a race, Sidehiller was still a thing.

I warmed up with Chris Mahoney who was at Whitaker for the first time to give it a go. We checked out the first mile + of the course and went up the 'big' climb so he could scope it out and know what to expect.  We caught up with Andy Drummond who was on his way up the climb with Squall.  I got in about 2.5 miles of warmup all on the snowshoes.  It was my first time in the Dions since last March.  That may not have been a great idea in hindsight.

I figured before the gun went off I'd have my hands full with Chris who's been running well this year and who is always a threat in any race from the 100 meters up to his trail marathon prowess.  Eric Narcisi is also running and training well and I figured possibly that would be the top 3 but in virtually any order.  Andy Drummond would have been my pick for the wildcard to take one of the top spots.

The race went off and my plan was to run more controlled than I did last year when I was chasing Nacho.  I had gone out way too hard and paid for it later.  This year I wanted to scale it back a bit and run hard but controlled until I got up the top of the first climb.    I got out well and kept it relatively calm to the hill and then pushed up the long climb without redlining.  I managed to put a little distance on Eric and Chris who were still within striking distance at the base but by the top I was moving ahead more and more and feeling like I was keeping the effort nice and even.

There's a little break of downhill on single track before pushing back up the second set of hills in the second mile and I had a decent lead.  I hit the second set of hills which are the same hills that are in the Whitaker Trail Series 5k that is run weekly on Tuesday nights in the Summer, so I know them well.  They are a kick in the pants, especially on snowshoes.  The break you have between the first long climb and the second set of smaller hills is too short to really recover all the way.  By the time I was at the top of the second climb, I was feeling a little burn but still feeling like I could keep up the effort from there and be alright.

The next bit of the course is another section down and over to the powerlines, that I'm familiar wth in the summer trail series.  At that point it changes a little bit and heads down the powerlines to a small looped single track section that was in decent shape.  I could see Eric and Chris back a ways on the long straight powerline section but once I got into the single track, I was alone again and out of view until I popped back out and looped around a small out and back section on the powerline trail.  There, I saw Eric pop out across the trail as I was about to head back into the woods on the other side.  He yelled over something corny like 'Your the winner Jimmy' or some random sandbagging jibberish...I took that as confirmation that he was just trying to hold off Chris who had yet to pop out of the woods, for 2nd place.

I pushed on the last mile or so over the lower, flatter trails that we typically run in the summer series and had no thoughts at all about being caught.  I wasn't laboring at all cardio-wise and felt really good about the effort. Eventually I pushed out into the last loop around the ball field and to the finish in 26:29.  Kristin was busy with the kids in the car and they missed the finish unfortunately.

Eric came through about 90 seconds or so back for second place and a strong showing in the first race of the season.  I have a feeling Eric is going to take a win or two this year on the circuit when he stops sandbagging...  Chris wasn't too far back in 3rd.  I was surprised to see Andy standing there when I finished.  He had a mechanical about 2 minutes in and blew a shoe in the first quarter mile or so.  Good thing he didn't drive too far to get there.

A snowshoe cooldown of sorts was had with Chris and the Narcisi brothers, over a couple miles of the course in the reverse direction.

LevelRenner recap here.

Race splits: 6:51 / 7:07 / 6:24 / 6:06 for last .9.

For the win I got a $40 gift cert to Moat Mountain, a nice pullover fleece, and some baked goods that barely survived the trip home with my wife and 2 daughters all having a legit sweet tooth.

Snow conditions and slight changes in race course that may have happened aside, my time this year was substantially slower than last year but I do remember it running a bit faster last year on the groomed sections.  I've run 2 times faster than this year and 3 times slower. One of the faster times was definitely on a slightly shorter course in 2014.  In 2011-2013 it was advertised as 4 miles but it may have been a little short...possibly in the range of this years' course.  Similar to trail races, snowshoe races are never really exact anyways...

My Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble history:

2016 - 1st of 77 (3.9 Miles on my Garmin) - 26:29 - Eric Narcisi 2nd + 1:28 gap
2015 - 2nd of 109 (3.9 Miles on my Garmin) - 25:17 - Nacho Hernando 1st - :28 gap
2014 - 2nd of 75 (3.5 Miles on my Garmin) - 23:16 - Nick Wheeler 1st - 1:12 gap
2013 - 1st of 74 (~ 4 Garmin) - 26:56 - Dave Dunham 2nd + 2:14 gap
2012 - 1st of 40 (~ 4 Garmin) - 27:27 - Judson Cake 2nd + :58 gap
2011 - 1st of 49 (~ 4 Garmin) - 26:53 - Judson Cake 2nd + 1:07 gap