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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

GSSS Final Thoughts

The final Granite State Snowshoe Series standings are now posted on our website as promised. Red Bull is a remarkable thing. It's almost 10 pm and I feel like I could go all night. Problem is, in about 30 minutes I'll be wishing I could fall asleep. A couple of finals thoughts about the 2009 GSSS...we saw a 42% increase in participation in the three races we hosted (173 vs. 246 competitors). There were 309 men & women along with 29 teams who competed in series races. Two races in the series had over 100 competitors (Frosty's, 141 & Kingman, 107). I've said it before and I'll say it again, team racing is becoming a big draw and more RD's should consider it during all seasons. At acidotic RACING we're now 70+ strong and all of the team-focused events we race (24 Hours of Great Glen, Reach The Beach, Pinnacle Challenge, etc.) fill up very quickly. There's something special about being part of something bigger than yourself and the additional motivation derived from not wanting to let your teammates down. Perhaps this is why the team events I race during the year are always the most rewarding and memorable. Sharing and spending time with teammates takes me back to a very happy time in my athletic life. Looking forward, the series is likely to expand in '10 and will include a year end championship event at a location to be determined. The other RD's and I will get together over the summer to discuss and set the schedule. We'll also talk at that time about potential series scoring changes (ie. best 6 of 8 races). I'd personally love to see one or more new RD's in NH get into the mix. There's really only so much Deb, Paul, Michael, and myself can do and we'd certainly welcome more positive energy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Training Grounds

Quick update on the Granite State Snowshoe Series final standings...they're still not done. Last week I started a contract with my friends at Equest to once again provide a twice weekly fitness program to some of their riders. Although this is quite possibly my most challenging and rewarding work, it does result in my fairly precise regimen being thrown off by an hour. This, by the way, isn't a whine. My schedule is what it is because I have chosen it to be this way. Right now it's 8:00 pm and I honestly don't have the energy to crank the numbers. I will, however, have the series standings updated and published by the weekend...promise. Tonight's workout was scheduled to be a :30 snowshoe run. It turned into a :60 snowshoe slog as I broke trail in knee deep powder the entire way. I'm extremely lucky to live in very close proximity to a hidden gem, Blue Job State Forest. By the way, "Job" is pronounced "Jobe". For me, this place is a year round playground with miles of trails for running and mountain biking. I have been lucky enough to run across all manner of wildlife up here including deer, porcupine, raccoon, fisher, and even a mother black bear and cubs. There's no place I'd rather train and it's less than a 5 minute drive by car or :45 mountain bike ride on logging trails. I brought my camera and planned to hustle to the summit of "Little Baldy", Blue Job's smaller, balder sister summit. It's actually Little Baldy (LB) that the above sunset photo was taken and by far the better "sightseeing" peak with views of both the White Mountains (in the daylight) and Newington, NH (at night). Typically in snowshoe's I can make the gradual climb to LB in about 10 minutes. And typically the rail is very tramped out as I'm not the only one around who enjoys 'shoeing' here. This afternoon was a completely different story however. The last snow storm had dumped over a foot of fresh powder on the mountain and resulted in many of the white birches bent and twisted with their tips buried in the snow. The normally hard packed rail was instead no wider than singletrack and appeared to have been travelled by only a very few in the past 48 hours. What should have taken me :10 took almost :25 as I ended up breaking trail in knee deep snow to the summit. I was, fortunately, in time to snap the above picture before darkness closed in around me. The wind always blows on the summit of LB and tonight was no exception. In February, in the dark, is no time or place to spend more than a moment too many here. It's very cold. I made my way down past the frozen swimmin' hole and up toward LB's more famous sibling, Mt. Blue Job. Again, the rail was narrow and only freshly trekked making running impossible and merely walking in snowshoes not far behind. Just before I began the climb I actually reversed turtled...in the dark I missed the change in snow depth and caught my tip in a snow drift sending me lunging forward. As my hands hit the snow my arms sank up to my elbows as I postholed thigh high in the deep drift. I was absolutely and utterly stuck. I managed to gain a little bite on the snow with my hands and push myself back to a semi-seated posture and free myself. By this time the :45 I told Karen I'd be gone was already spent and I still hadn't made it up and over Big Blue. The power hike up and down Blue Job was great training for next weekend's Frigid Infliction Winter Adventure Race in Bolton Valley, VT. The snow there last year was out of this world with waist deep powder in spots during the postholing section of the course. Although not exactly what I set out to do, the conditions did help me realize at least one important thing...I think I prefer the light wash from my Black Diamond headlamp because the LED's are arranged in a 2.5 inch straight line and provide a little better peripheral lighting. Had this been a typical Tuesday snowshoe run I probably would have been out of the woods before it got dark.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe 5k

Madbury, NEW HAMPSHIRE--The sixth and final race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series is in the book. The Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe 5k presented by Petzl was by every account a smashing success! A record crowd of 107 snowshoers donned headlamps and a sense of adventure and made their way around the roughly 5km loop at Kingman Farm. The challenges of not losing 107 'shoers in the dark in an unfamiliar place are many...the rewards, however, are greater. It's always pleasing to hear so much chatter after a race in which as many as 1 in 5 racers strayed off course at one point or another. Yet, as a credit to the relaxed and supportive atmosphere of the sport, there wasn't a single complaint about someone "cutting a turn". The reality of racing at night in the snow is that folks are going to get off course. Short of another 500 flags I'm not sure there's much I can do about it. [and by the way, my father vowed that he'll never sweep the course again if I set as many as 2 additional flags] As this series has progressed and we've entered into our second year of hosting snowshoe races it's great to see so many familiar faces. I'm starting to recall more names, but to be honest my ratio of faces to names is still probably 3:1. If I haven't called you by name please introduce yourself to me...that's usually all it takes for me to stick it in my brain.

As the defacto series championship there was a tremendous amount at stake last night. While the men's championship had all but been won (see Jim Johnson) and the second spot on the podium looking fairly solid (see Ri Fahnestock), the 3rd position was very much up for grabs with no fewer than 3 acidotic RACING teammates vying for the honor; Scott Graham, Jay Myers, and Ted Hall. Scott had a 1 point lead on Ted and a 6 point lead on Jay. By keeping those teammates in sight and not making any mistakes Scott was clearly in the drivers seat. That being said, both Jay and Ted had steadily improved not only their snowshoe-specific fitness but also their technical skills. This course would test both as the first 4k would turn out to be a track meet and the final km a switchback singletrack roller coaster testing the most agile 'shoer. Scott's first hand account of the racing action on his blog is a great read. In the end, although Jay beat Scott he only beat him by 4 places and fell short of the series podium by two points. In a valiant effort at cracking the top 3, our own Steve Wolfe (2nd overall) finished only a point behind Jay despite missing the Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Classic due to an illness. Jim Johnson was clearly the class of every snowshoe racing event he entered and cruised to his 5th win in 6 attempts. The victory secured his position at the top of the men's class and he was named the 2009 Granite State Snowshoe Series Champion. Rounding out the Top 3 overall for the night was acidotic RACING's Dan Ferreira who in his first full winter of snowshoe racing has established himself as a legitimate podium contender.

On the ladies side, the podium was filled with acidotic RACING women. Leslie Dillon, one of the top female middle distance road runners in the northeast, won her 2nd snowshoe race of the winter and posted a Top 10 overall finish for good measure (she placed 9th). Eventual Granite State Snowshoe Series 2009 female champion, Liz Hall posted yet another Top 3 finish racing to a 2nd place spot on the podium and yet another snowshoe racing newcomer Amber Cullen (only 90 seconds behind) secured the 3rd position. Both Leslie & Liz will likely move up in the New England Snowshoe Rankings with last night's result. Laurel Valley (Rochester Runners) was 2nd in the GSSS standings and Leslie Dillon (despite racing in only 4 series events) finished 3rd.

The team competition, like the men's series championship was dominated from start to finish by the host, acidotic RACING. The combination of great performances up front and unrivaled team turnout led to the eventual series title. That's not to say that there wasn't a very unique & special rivalry formed this winter. Dungeon Rock Racing singlehandedly transformed team snowshoe racing in '09. They were the first with team singlets and the first to fly a team flag. Led by Dan Cooper, Jay Curry, Patrick Smith and Bill Morse they turned out in big numbers and brought a great sense of passion and an unbridled competitiveness to the sport all the while with an extended hand a warm smile. For me, the best part of team snowshoe racing was the competitive bond formed between these two groups I really hope that many of the other teams that competed in the series (Rochester Runners, S2, CMS, Team TNT, Tuesday Night Turtles, and others) take from their lead and get their family and friends out to enjoy this incredibly challenging and fun winter sport.
Finally, we were very pleased to be able to present the Cocheco Valley Humane Society with a charitable donation in the amount of $781 and a pledge from a single donor to double the gift.
Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe 5k presented by Petzl

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kingman Farm Update

Madbury, NEW HAMPSHIRE--The final race of the 2009 Granite State Snowshoe Series is scheduled for this Saturday night. The Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe 5k presented by Petzl is the culmination of a record year for snowshoe racing in New Hampshire. Close to 120 snowshoers will walk to the starting line, headlamps a blazing, to take on everything Kingman Farm has to offer. Last year the conditions for this event were very thin as rain and warm weather conspired against us. This year, much as last, rain and warmer days for the past two weeks have knocked down much of the snow that had fallen in January and the beginning of February. After spending 4 hours at "the farm" this morning I'm happy to report, dare's plenty of snow in them dare woods! The rail, much like last weekend at Horse Hill, is hard packed and fast. Make no mistake about this course however...the trail is somewhat booted (in spots) and wicked off camber (in others) making it more like a trail race than a snowshoe race. I'd estimate that 90% of it will be a track meet, and the other 10% a highly technical challenge. The switchback singletrack up and over Hick's Hill is narrow, twisty, steep, icy, and probably the section of the course you'll want to do twice! If I fail to mention it Saturday night here's your fair warning...race this section at your own peril, the combination of highly technical terrain and darkness will make this part of the course both exciting and treacherous. My GARMIN VISTA HCx measured the course just shy of 5k, but the Motion Based software had it coming in a little over 5k. It's 5k and will be marked as such. Thursday's forecast is for a light wintry mix and temps in the 40's. I'm going to try to make it out there myself at least once before Saturday or send my Dad to survey the damage. There will be one final race update e-mailed before event night. Be preared to race with a smile the entire way! This event is unlike anything you've ever done.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Unnamed Ale #4

For those of you looking for a race blog or some sort of training insight I'm sorry to say that this one's for the hopheads in the crowd. This afternoon was the birth of unnamed ale #4, a Belgian Witbier. As I steadily work my way through the Belgian-style ales, I grow more and more found of them with each passing boil. I promised Karen this would be the last handcrafted ale until the weather warms up. Oh no, she likes beer...she just prefers to keep the house on the "cooler side" (of cold) and yeast is much happier when you keep them a little warmer. Actually, each strain of yeast I brew with has a specific temperature range and wouldn't you know it, generally it's below our thermostat setting. But ever the supporting spouse, she lovingly puts up with my crazy all consuming "hobbies" and gives up a few degrees north of 63F. As a novice I'm still using the 'fool-proof' kits from Northern Brewer (NB). Yeah, it's sort of like making brownies from a box but the way I look at it is this, if I'm going to invest 6 weeks of my life brewing beer I want to make sure it's not going to taste like dishwater.

Another reason I prefer NB is the cool descriptions of the beers. Here's #4's; Literally, "white beer," this wheat beer originated near Louvain and got its name from its extremely pale, cloudy haze. Witbier was originally made by blending hopped wort with unhopped, bacterially infected wort, which gave it a tart, acidic taste. Fortunately, the Wyeast culture in this kit gives you all of the tartness with none of the bacteria. Light in color and extremely quenching, Witbier's unique flavor is also enhanced by coriander and bitter orange peel.
Now on to the nitty gritty...

Unnamed Ale #4
Wyeast #3944 Belgian Witbier
1.) 2 oz french strisselspalt hops
2.) 1.5 lbs wheat malt syrup
1.) 1.5 lbs wheat malt syrup
1.) 1.5 lbs wheat malt syrup
1.) 1.5 lbs wheat malt syrup
1.) 1 oz coriander seed
1.) 1 oz bitter orange peel

I used a similar division of fermentables for my Old Man Winter Ale and was pleased with the result. In slightly less than 3 hours I had boiled the wort, cooled the wort, and pitched the yeast. I've been getting slightly less than 24 hour lag times on my first three ales and the finished product has reflected that efficiency. I'll update the fermentation process as it progresses and give you a bubble by bubble account of all the yeasty action.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race

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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Frosty's Dash for a...Podium?

Atkinson, NEW HAMPSHIRE-- Frosty's Dash for a Cure is one of the longest running snowshoe races in New Hampshire and routinely raises thousands of dollars for cystic fibrosis. As the 4th race in the Granite State Snowshoe Series the usual cast of characters were present and accounted for including Jim Johnson, Bill Morse and the Dungeon Rock Racing group, and of course my teammates at acidotic RACING including Ri, Jay M, Steve S, Chris E, Gary, Liz & Ted, Michael, Steve W, and Scotty G (who by the way has the whitest legs I've ever seen...and displayed them proudly today). This morning I headed toward Atkinson early anticipating a 90 minute drive (or at least that's what Google maps had me believe). Pleasant surprise #1 of the morning was the fact that my Garmin said it would only take an hour. Pulling out of the driveway I quickly glanced at the car thermometer and was greeted by pleasant surprise #2, it was 45 degrees. My mother always told me that good things happen in 3's. Actually she always said that bad things always happen in 3's but I'm taking a little creative liberty 'cause it's my story. I arrived about 2 hours before the race, met the RD Deb Fudge, and began to make the circuit talking to many of my new snowshoe racing friends. I think the small "community" vibe is something I really like about snowshoe racing. Everyone seems to either know or recognize everyone else and is very willing to stop what they're up to and share a moment or two of their time with you. Yesterday I wrote that today was my first ever racing double. But as I sat to write this today I realized that like many things as I get older, my memory is beginning to dull around the edges. In fact, I do have experience with racing multiple times in short periods of time. My teammates and I have raced the Reach The Beach Relay for the past three years. Those of you who've raced the 200+ mile relay know that the 3rd leg of the relay is as hard as anything you'll do in endurance sports (with respect to Ri and his incredible feats of aerobic strength). Sizing up the field before the start I felt like I had a legitimate chance of a Top 10 finish. When the "GO" command was given I quickly established my place in the top 5 and attempted to make note of the condition of my legs. Pleasant surprise #3 was that my legs felt good despite the mashed potato consistency of the snow. It didn't take long to get into a rhythm and settle in behind my much stronger (and older) teammate Steve Wolfe. Today was a little different story from yesterday when the gap between us was much too wide to get any hooks into him and feel a pull. It's likely that he's still not back to 100% because I raced on his heels for most of the race. He actually let me slide by for about a 1k and pull him a little, which I happily obliged. It wasn't long however before he tired of my plodding and regained the podium spot that we were both racing to attain. I stayed with him as we worked together to put a little more distance on the 5th place guy. We both kicked a little with 50 meters to go and crossed the tape in 3rd & 4th. I was glad to see him get the podium finish as he's battling for one of the top 3 spots in the GSSS standings. For me, two very solid performances in a row have helped me regain a little confidence in my fitness that I had lost at the gruesome end of '08. Next up on the schedule is GSSS race #5 Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race coming up this Saturday in Merrimack, NH. That race will probably end my snowshoe racing for '09 so I'd like to log one last strong showing.

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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Racing Flats

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.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cobble Mountain Revenge

Gilford, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- On another glorious winter morning the 2nd installment of the Cobble Mountain Snowshoe Classic was held at Gunstock Mountain Resort. Our hosts (and event non-profit) the Gunstock Nordic Association couldn't have been more hospitable. Igor was there bright and early to eagerly open the building, start a fire, and drag out every piece of event management equipment they posses...all for us to use. This may have been the most difficult course to set that we've ever done. The four hours of work to create several sections of bushwhack singletrack we're unceremoniously covered up by Mother Nature as she dumped over 15 inches on the resort in the days leading up to the event. Less than 24 hours before the race my dad and I were back out on the mountain "re-building" two snowshoe singletrack sections we tabbed as Hardwood Follies (connecting Maple & Birch) and Disasters Edge (Cobble Mountain descent). The five hours of trekking were spent mainly on Cobble Mountain as we broke trail in knee deep powder. When I finally got home Friday night I had to pick my left leg up into bed as my hip flexor had been completely destroyed. For the 2nd race in the Granite State Snowshoe Series it was another fantastic turnout with 67 snowshoers stepping to the line for what has been billed by some as the toughest snowshoe course in New England. With over 300 meters of climbing in the slightly over 5 km, there's little doubt that this race is not for the feint of heart (or feint of training). Jim Johnson of the CMS Polar Bears was once again the class of the field and ran away with the overall title in 32:11. Rounding out the top 3 were Tim Cox (acidotic RACING/PR Racing) and Matthew Westerlund of Lacona, NY. On the women's side, acidotic RACING dominated the podium with Leslie Dillon (acidotic RACING) taking the top spot in 39:43, Liz Hall (acidotic RACING) placing 2nd, and Laurel Valley (Rochester Runners) coming in 3rd. Valley spent a little more time on the podium as she won the women's masters category followed by Diane Gagnon (Team TNT) and Trish Shibles. On the men's side, Patrick Smith of Dungeon Rock Racing took the masters crown with John Skewes and fellow Rock teammate Michael Doyle rounding out the top 3. Lastly, the team title was once again captured by acidotic RACING (365.75) followed by Dungeon Rock Racing (231.75) and Team TNT (124.00). The next race in the series is the Sidehiller 4-Mile Snowshoe Race in Center Sandwich, NH. Expect the best overall competition of the year because the event is both a WMAC and GSSS points race.