"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
Gilford, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- The first event of my self-proclaimed "Slow-Twitch Decathlon" is in the book. This morning with temps hovering between -1 and 1 above I stepped to the line of first event of 2009 and my first ever winter triathlon. To be honest, I bet I wasn't alone. It may have actually been the first ever winter triathlon in NH. If anyone else can lay claim to that one go right ahead. My expectations coming into today were not surprisingly tempered by at least two things...the fact that it's only the end of January and I haven't spent more than an hour on my skis. You know what they say about the best laid plans. Now, before you rush to judge those comments as excuses, know this...I never make excuses for my performances. I own my performance today. Fact is, I learned a great deal about winter triathlon today and I had a fantastic time doing it. The first leg of this winter tri didn't include any swimming which I was actually happy about. It did start with a 5k trail run (two 2.5k loops) on the new Gunstock Nordic stadium course. Having pre-rode the loop prior to the race I knew to expect the first half as a climb and the 2nd half as a descent. I started conservatively and tried to just find a rhythm and warm up. I frankly was a little surprised to pass as many people as I did on the ascents on the first loop. Feeling good after the first 2.5k I decided to pick it up a little on lap #2 and by my support crews unofficial count I picked up 10 spots and arrived at the first TA in 18th place. Anticipating the mountain bike loops (3 of them on the same Stadium course) would become a little choppy and that I might spend quite a good bit of time with either my foot down (Moto-style) or walking the hills I made a last minute decision to stay with my Salomon screw shoes despite having my old-school Ritchey pedals still attached. It actually worked fine and I'm not sure it really made any difference. Most of effort on the 2nd trail run leg was lost on the mountain bike section as I lost a ton of spots to stronger, fitter, and more technical riders. Here's a lesson I learned: Riding the indoor trainer less than 10 times since November is neither winter mtb-specific enough nor close to sufficient to develop any appreciable riding fitness. If I go back in 2010 I'll correct that. I managed to slog through three laps with pretty consistent splits despite feeling like I was hike-a-biking as much as I was riding in laps 2 & 3. After a quick splash of HEED in transition I set out on what I anticipated would be my biggest technical challenge...XC skiing. My well documented 25+ year layoff from the sport became very obvious very early as I once again started losing spots to faster more technically superior skate-style Nordic skiers. While I'm no stranger to the faster more superior skate technique, for some reason (perhaps my own self-doubt) I stuck with what I knew...the old-school classic style. And just in case I needed yet one more self-imposed logistic handicap, I ignored the well known fact that in Nordic skiing it's common to wax your skis. Although I was slow enough for comfort on the descents (thanks to my snowplow) I really struggled with the flats without any glide whatsoever. Lesson #2: Spend more time getting comfortable with the skate-technique by spending time on your skis and pay the $6 to get a wax job (not that kind of wax job). After the first of two 3k loops I felt my right quad start to act a little squirrely and I made a quick pit stop to my crew and drank a little HEED. For me, Hammer Nutrition products are worth their weight in gold and as I expected the crampy feeling resolved and I finished the race without any health issues. I'm proud to say I didn't fall during any discipline today although I took the hills very conservatively...some may say too conservatively. The results aren't posted yet and I really wasn't interested in sticking around to find out. Plus, my faithful support crew had spent the morning standing out in the cold. With a finish time of just over 2 hours I'm sure I finished in the back 1/4 of the field but I'm really pleased with my effort today. I kept repeating my favorite racing mantra all morning, "Give nothing less than everything you have.". The 2009 racing season has begun and there are 9 more endurance sports on my "To Do" list.
This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved with snowshoe racing. The sport is currently enjoying tremendous growth here in the Northeast. In fact, our friends from the Albany Running Exchange just held what they're billing as the largest snowshoe race ever held in the Northeast! And with 173 finishers I'm in no position to question them. Kudos to them. From all accounts they are a first class organization and it's a fantastic event. Those of us to the east aren't doing so bad either if I must say. Between the WMAC and the Granite State Snowshoe Series, snowshoe racing here in New England has exploded. In an effort to recognize the excellence of many of the men and women snowshoe racers here in our midst, we will soon release on our website (http://www.acidoticRACING.com) the New England Snowshoe Rankings. We will take the results of all New England snowshoe races and publish a list of the Top 10 male and female snowshoe racers. The list will be updated weekly as snowshoe races occur throughout our region. The list may be both controversial and informative...but despite what you think if you're talking about it the sport of snowshoe racing will grow.
East Madison, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- The first race of the inaugural Granite State Snowshoe Series is in the books and I must say it was a phenomenal success! The perfect combination of beautiful NH winter weather (cold, but mostly sun splashed), a picturesque course, and great competition led to the trifecta of snowshoe splendor. [Did I oversell just a little?]. In all honesty, this wasn't the first snowshoe race we've hosted, but it was one of the best. We couldn't have asked our hosts at King Pine & Purity Spring Resort to do any more than they did. They were gracious, accommodating, and provided us with a first class venue. Our volunteers and sponsors also came through and made the registration & timing seamless and the beer and prizes bountiful! I know there were some people that went home without any Redhook, but not many. If you raced with us this weekend and thought the piles of prizes were impressive, wait...you ain't seen nothing yet. Join us at Gunstock Mountain Resort on January 31st for the 2nd annual Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Classic.
Anyone who knows me, knows that if I do 9 things perfectly and 1 thing poorly I'll spend the next several days stewing about what "could have been". I'm a perfectionist. I can't help it. From a technical standpoint, I should have manned the right hand turn up the Pooh Hill Trail with a volunteer, but sometimes it's not obvious when you've trekked the course 10 times and know exactly where you're going. Plans have already been made to improve that part of the course. I was devastated when a member of the Tuesday Night Turtles (Warwick, RI) walked off the course after missing the turn completely. Those things keep me awake at night. With any luck the 6-pack of RedhookWinterhook that I offered as a consolation prize made up for his bitter disappointment.
Jim Johnson of CMS and Crystal Anthony of Dungeon Rock Racing were the respective overall and female winners. Patrick Smith of DRR and Laurel Valley of the Rochester Runners took home the masters men's and women's titles. Finally, the team title was won by our own acidotic RACINGholding off new rivals DRR and Buckingham Brown & Nichols (BB&N) out of Cambridge. A special thanks to Bill Morse and his gang at DRR for sending 10 snowshoers to the first race of the season and providing exactly what the series was intended to offer...great team competition and a welcome distraction from the bitter, sometimes trying, New England winter. Is the Gunstock race really three weeks away?
This must have been what Jim Fixx felt in the early 80's. While I'll never be credited with creating snowshoe racing in New Hampshire, I am poised to reap the reward of the next winter sport revolution. To my utter delight as I thumbed through the latest edition of Runners World (back to front...I know, it's a quirky habit) there before me was an article about of all things...SNOWSHOE RACING! Imagine that, snowshoe racing in a running magazine. Runners snowshoe?! Who would have thought. You can feel this thing slowly building momentum. I personally know at least 10 people that will race on snowshoes for the first time this winter. And these are just my teammates. Although I haven't looked at the numbers in about a year, the last time I checked retail sales of snowshoes are up some staggering % over the previous reporting period. All of this is very exciting to a snowshoe race director. We're anticipating at least a 20% growth in our race participation in just our second year. Articles like the one in Runners World only stand to help the cause. Now, if global warming will just hold off another 100 years.
With a little more than a week to go, the Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble course is beginning to take shape...finally. Anyone who knows me knows this is generally not how I operate. I'm the guy with the 50 item checklist for races and events. Teammates ask me for copies of my checklists. Putting on a great show for our participants means everything to me. For the past few weeks, it seems any number of circumstances have conspired against me getting up to King Pine & Purity Spring Resort to set this course. Despite this being the best college football day of the year...Pop, Brayden, & I were in the parking lot at the resort this morning at 8:00 AM. With air temps in the single numbers and wind chills below zero (on one of my few days off), for a fleeting moment I wondered what in the world motivates me to do these things? When we finally started and snowshoed our way around Purity Lake on the nordic trail network the answer came to me...it's about spending time with family and experiencing the natural beauty that surrounds us. We had a great morning. The trek up the Pooh Hill Trail was spectacular and an interesting surprise greeted us near the summit of Toll Hill. A small, fairly neglected cabin with a wood stove was nestled among the evergreens. One of the 'hallmarks' of our events is my father positioned at the top of the highest point of the course greeting people as they're ready to hurl their morning coffee and muffin. Stocked but locked, this cabin may play a role in next weekend's event. Although I'll plan to head back up there again this weekend and work a little more on the bushwhack, the course is 99% completed and will measure approximately 8 km. I think it's a great mix of groomed nordic, ungroomed snowshoe, and backcountry authentic old-school snowshoe tramping. Although the roughly .3 mile climb up the Pooh Hill Trail will leave many cursing my name, all will be forgiven on the FAST and packed groomed nordic trails that constitute at least 1/2 the course. I'm excited to get the first race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series off to a great start!
"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