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

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sidehiller 4-Mile Snowshoe Race

Center Sandwich, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Although I've been racing for the better part of the past twenty years, this weekend will mark something I've never done...pull a double. I know full well that racing twice in the same weekend is by no means rare, unusual, or exceptionally heroic but for me it's uncharted territory. Part of the motivation comes from my desire to support the other races in the GSSS series, some of it is just pure curiosity. As it turns out, 24 hours ago the prospects of me doing a single were in serious doubt. I took Thursday & Friday as zero days because of a new and quite uncomfortable case of anterior tibial tendonitis (self diagnosis) in my right lower leg. This morning when I got up I was feeling considerably better and felt confident that the rest had at least put me in a position to race the Sidehiller 4-Mile Snowshoe Race today in Center Sandwich, NH. I decided to arrive at the race site early to help fellow RD Paul Kirsch set up. When I pulled into the Sandwich Library Parking lot the big dogs (Double J, Double D, and Jim Pawlicki) had already marked their territory. Actually, they too had arrived early to also help Paul. As both a WMAC & GSSS points race this event promised to draw some of the best regional snowshoers and it didn't disappoint (more on that in a moment). As usual, Scotty G. was third car in the lot and he and I chatted a bit while I shared my knowledge of the course. It wasn't long before the rest of the acidotic RACING snowshoeing team began to arrive. I'm happy to say that we had a very strong showing once again represented by Ri, Leslie, Jay M, Scott, Michael, Steve W., Ted & Liz, Danny, Joe, Gary, and Steve S.. I'm sure I must have missed someone but the point is we had a great turnout. I suspect that we stayed ahead of Dungeon Rock Racing at the very least. They too had a very good turnout and it was nice to be able to catch up with all of them. If there's a greater bunch of competitors, I haven't met them yet. I love those guys. With the "GO" command the race was off and immediately a group of about 10 snowshoers made a very fast break. I wasn't in that group. But I did keep the tail end of that hurtin' train well in sight. Just before we crossed the road, Scotty G. came up hard to my inside and pulled ahead of me. For me this would have been perfect. I was hoping to have someone to pace with to help pull me through the rough sections (and I knew they would come). Sadly, before we crossed the road either he let me move ahead or I picked up the pace and moved up ahead of him. As we began to make our way toward the only elevation on the course a guy ahead of me had fallen and was lying by the side of the trail. As I got to him and offered a hand to help him up I noticed he had stepped on his other shoe and had wedged it hopelessly behind his other cleat. We struggled for a moment and finally freed his 'shoe. After helping him up I pushed him ahead of me. I believe in trail karma and that what comes around goes around. I never hesitate to help someone in need because you never know when you might need the favor returned. When I finally arrived at the climb I was pleased to feel some of the folks ahead of me come back toward me and I actually passed two 'shoers before the end of the climb. Training at Mt. Blue Job had definitely paid dividends in the hill climbing category. As most others have reported the snow was fairly slow going and I, like everyone else, plodded along trying to catch the folks ahead and stay in front of the folks behind. I was firmly in the 10th overall spot behind Steve W. the last 2/3 of the race. While I've witnessed him perform at snowshoe races this would be my first time feeling him race a snowshoe race. The guy is a machine. I know how strong he is (I've seen his race pace at various distances), but you can't truly appreciate a person's metabolic engine until you give everything you've got and he still pulls away. Thus was my experience racing behind Steve today. I managed to maintain the 25-50 meter gap for most of the other side of the road, but after the last open field and before the descent he pulled away. Although I once again fell on my face climbing over a stone wall, he honestly was widening the gap before that. When we arrived back on the fairgrounds I checked back over my shoulder to gauge the chase group that I knew was coming. Happily I saw only one individual but he seemed to be closing the margin I had developed as quickly as Steve had moved away. With 100 meters to go I could hear him. In a flash he was beside and beyond as I meagerly tried a half-hearted attempt at a kick. The combination of soft snow, low snowshoe-specific fitness, and a general lack of will contributed to my 11th place overall finish in a time just over 40:00. For the past two years I had logged third place finishes here at Sidehiller. Now, I am a year older and undoubtedly slower, but I promise that if I raced this event 10 more times with this field I'd have a hard time placing any higher. This field was deep and fast. All in all, I'm very pleased with the effort. I felt very strong on the climb, maintained an even pace, and had no measurable heath issues. As a bonus, I had the opportunity to get to know Danny & Amber a little better on our cool-down. Recoverite, two of my latest handcrafted Sovereign Trail Ale's, and 600 mg of IBU and I'll do it all again tomorrow at Frosty's. This double thing's not that bad.

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