Gorham, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- This past Sunday marked the official end of the snowshoe racing season for me and aR. Thanks to the incredible support of my volunteers and teammates I was able to RD and race the 1st Annual Granite State Snowshoe Championship at the Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. And boy what a race it was if I do say so myself. The rain throughout the region may have kept many snowshoers away as we had our smallest turnout ever (I think) at 34 finishers but those 34 were definitely hardcore snowshoe racers. The travelling conditions Sunday morning were atrocious from the Pinkham Notch Vistors Center north with numerous reported accidents...some significant. Because I stayed in North Conway Saturday night I was able to mark the course the day before and therefore alleviate most of the race day stress. A special thanks goes out to Steve Wolfe for helping me mark the Aqueduct Loop. I'm sure he was very eager to help...but I'm also sure he was very eager to scout out the "tougher" of the two sides of the course. Despite the small'ish turnout I was sure to have a couple of people to race with as my season long nemesis' Wolfe and Danny Ferreira were there as well as my training partner and teammate Rich Lavers. I had beaten Steve and Danny only once this season and really hadn't been close to them in any other race but I knew this course had plenty of climbing and climbing is my strength. Rich had become stronger as the winter progressed, he had run the course earlier in the winter, and I knew he was ready for a Top 10 finish. We discussed a plan to race together and push each other as hard as we could. At the cannon (how cool is that?) the race started in a flurry...literally, it was snowing for a change! Before I knew it the US Women's National Champion, and aR teammate, Amber Ferreira was motoring by me like I was a spectator. Sooner than I had planned, it was on. For the next kilometer Rich and I ran off of Amber's hip as she gamely pulled us along. When we began to climb she started to come back to us and we pulled ahead attempting to pay back the favor. I figured I'd try to pull the both of them along with me up the hill. The "groomed nordic" 5km may have been the 'easier' side but it wasn't easy. Although many have described it as rolling we were gaining elevation for the first 3+ km. It was at roughly the 2 km mark that Dave Dunham came racing by me. Let's hit the pause button for a moment...yes, that Dave Dunham. He's had a challenging winter from a health standpoint and had planned to 'work into the race'. Because I've never been in front of him I forget he was behind me. I'll admit, it was a twisted confidence boost to be passed by Dave. I entered the XC Stadium in roughly 24:00 and felt really confident in the first 5 km. Danny and Steve were ahead of me but I could still see them and the toughest climbs were coming. As we raced up the Aqueduct Loop I could feel myself gaining on both of them. Nearly 1/2 way up the AQ climb I passed Steve who by this time was alternating between walking and running. I gave him a few words of encouragement (bad move in hindsight) and set off after Danny. Within 100 meters I had pulled Danny in and was content to race in his pocket. As we crested the climb and started the 2 km descent I knew this was the section that would make or break my race against the two of them. I am a weak downhill racer...be it trail or snow. It's something I'm aware of, I just can't seem to figure it out. As anticipated Danny started to move away from me as soon as we turned downhill. Not more than 200 meters down the hill I could hear Steve closing fast. I stepped aside and let him race by. I knew I couldn't hold him off and he had a much better chance of racing Danny from this point than I did. The two of them disappeared before I knew it. I peaked over my shoulder and did not see an imminent challenge so I attempted to push as hard as I could but always mindful of the last major challenge of the course...the powerline climb. When Ri, Austin, Jay M., Rich, Geoff, and I scouted the course a month or so earlier we actually skipped that section. I knew it was a crazy hard climb if for no other reason than it came at roughly the 9 km mark of a tough 10 km race. Keeping my head down, and determined not to walk, I ran that section with the occasional glance backward just to make sure my overall place was secure. I crossed the finish line of my own race in 53:56 (9th overall) with my wife and daughter cheering for me. How cool is that? After I finished I had the good fortune to watch Rich, Amber, and Ann finish as well before heading inside to change into some warm dry clothes and get set up for the awards ceremony. At the awards ceremony aR was once again very well represented. Geoff finished on the podium (3rd) alongside co-winners Jim Johnson and Kevin Tilton. Amber won the womens race (again) with Ann finishing alongside her (again). And thanks to the entire aR team (Steve S., Steve W., Jay M, Joe, Richie, Ann, Amber, Danny, Rich, and Geoff) we once again stood atop the team podium. Despite the numerous challenges we had this season with postponements and cancellations the Granite State Snowshoe Championship was an awesome (and fitting) way to end the season...sitting around with a bunch of friends drinking Redhook and eating cake. I think snowshoe racers are some of the best people around and I'm really, really grateful that they're there to help the winter pass by a little easier. What a great race aR put on...THANK YOU again to all of the volunteers, teammates, and sponsors that made it all possible. I'm not sure I'll race every race I direct, but I'm sure I'll always race this one.
RESULTS courtesy of 3C Race Productions
PHOTOS courtesy of Scott Mason Photography and Becky Peabody
NEXT UP: 7 Sisters Trail Race
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