"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt
Merrimack, NEW HAMPSHIRE--My last race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series would actually be the 5th race in the series, the Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race presented by 3C Race Productions. With the last race being one of mine (Kingman Farm), today would be the end of my 3-race snowshoe racing season. To be honest, I'm actually a little envious of the other snowshoe racers this season with no fewer than 8 snowshoe races just here in NH alone. If there's any way I can figure out how to RD and race that will be my goal in '10. Brayden came along for the ride this morning down to Merrimack to be the official team photographer. We arrived about an hour before the start and were fortunate enough to grab one of the last spots in the small parking area of the Horse Hill Nature Preserve. It didn't take long to assess that the snow conditions would be hard & fast. Compared to the snow last weekend, this course would probably favor the fleet of foot. When Steve Wolfe and Scotty Graham arrived after taking a spin on the course I attempted to gain some additional knowledge. Apparently, after the first 100 meters or so the course took a left hand turn into a singletrack section. Despite their assurance that there would be plenty of room to pass along this stretch I decided it would be best to get out fast and establish my position earlier rather than later. As the rest of the crew began to arrive I was initially a little concerned that our team turnout may be a little thin. Dungeon Rock Racing once again showed up in big numbers (and bright orange shirts) and looked poised to present a formidable challenge. My fears were very short lived however as our snowshoe racing teammates began to file in; Jay M., John S., Steve S., Erik D., Terri B., Joe M., Austin, Steve W., Scotty G., and Liz & Ted. When I asked Austin whether Ri was coming or not he told me, "He said he was coming.". Just before 11:30 AM we began to line up at the starting line as Michael began his pre-race briefing. Just as he began his instructions a car pulled hurriedly into the parking lot...with Ri, Sarah, & Mike. Ri jumped out of the car and in one fluid motion took his hoody off and threw his snowshoes on just in the nick of time. Actually, Michael brought the entire race to a halt as he graciously got the three latecomers registered. Nobody thrives on the razor's edge like Ri. With the instructions finished the race was off and as I had planned I took it out as hard as I could to get a good spot before the singletrack. Funny thing was, as hard as I thought I took it out Double J ran away from me and never looked back. Let there be no mistake...this winter it's been Jim Johnson and then everyone else in nearly every snowshoe race. I'm not in his class, in fact I'm not even in his grade level. Everything is relative however, and for me, settling into 2nd place in a snowshoe race is a pretty darn good spot to be in. Especially when the field behind you includes some really fast runners including the aforementioned Steve Wolfe. I should have known from his comments following last weekend's racing that he was going to set me up. Not losing sight that we are in fact teammates, I told him before the race that I'd be happy to pace him to a podium finish. He smiled and corrected me, "I'd rather race you to a podium finish.". For the first 3.5k it looked like that would be exactly the outcome. Steve & I had broken away from the chase pack by the 2k mark and as I kept peeking over my shoulder I could see him 20-30 meters back. As we descended toward a set of powerlines he caught and passed me. For the next 1.5k we seemed to match pace as I put hooks into him and let him pull me along. By the time we reached the last set of climbs I could feel my grip on him loosening and I could see him pulling away. I didn't get a chance to ask him about it afterwards, but I think he put it into another gear around 5k and hammered it home. I managed to labor the climb and then regain a little speed on the final descent and 100 meter flat section to the finish. In reflection, although I went out hard I think my snowshoe-specific fitness has definitely improved. Two Top 5's and a near Top 10 miss at Sidehiller (11th) is a pretty good start to '09. But perhaps even better than my own personal accomplishments is the incredible increase in popularity that snowshoe racing has enjoyed this winter. For the first time in a long time, the melting snow and hanging up of the snowshoes will be bitter sweet. I've made a ton of new friends this winter and have shared with them some incredible racing.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." - William James