In the sport of middle distance running you know you're a real runner if you own a pair of flats. I know because my teenage daughter tells me so. It's really a pretty easy hypothesis to test...take a look at the feet of the folks up front at your next 5k (road race). As an exercise physiologist, I completely understand the "science" behind flats. Actually, you don't need a degree to figure it out. Flats are lighter and when compared to your 'heavier' training shoes there may be a small, but arguably significant, performance benefit. If nothing else, there's a psychological benefit to the feeling of lighter shoes when you race. So, it stands to reason that what works for middle distance road running should work for snowshoe racing. Hence my snowshoe version of racing flats...the Dion 121's. My brother Jay bought a pair of Kahtoola FLIGHTdeck snowshoes with the FLIGHTboot for the '08 Frigid Infliction winter adventure race. There's not much snow in VA where he lives so his Kahtoola's live in my garage. Last winter I trained and raced in the RF-RACE snowshoe. I was relatively new to the sport and had actually upgraded to the RF-RACE from my Tubbs racing-specific snowshoes. I performed pretty well, but the snowshoes didn't. What I believe was a manufacturer's material design flaw resulted in the 'shoes breaking down prematurely. As the snow began to fall this December and I busily compared racing snowshoes I decided to give Jay's Kahtoola's a spin. I remembered them being heavy and clumpy when they arrived two odd winters past. Running in them seemed nearly impossible then. This time however, my snowshoe-specific fitness had obviously improved and I was able to manage a fairly aggressive 30 minute run without too much difficulty. By the time the Dion's arrived at my door I was sold on the Kahtoola's as a training device. Yes, they are heavier than the Dion's. And that's exactly the point. The other great thing about them is their design. By the picture I'm sure you can tell than they're a little longer than the 121's, but not appreciably wider. This allows me to preserve my normal snowshoe running gait. And here's the payoff...the handful of times I've put the Dion's on to run, they feel like I'm wearing my trail shoes! The difference is amazing. I guess now the secret is out. Racing flat aren't just for the roads.
Dare Mighty Things
"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