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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Granite State Snowshoe Championship

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

Sunday, March 7, 2010

US National Snowshoe Championships

Fabius, NY--Saturday's US National Snowshoe Championships were a "highlighted" event on my 2010 racing calendar. I had set an age-group podium finish as a goal for this event back in December. It's been tough to stay motivated to snowshoe with the warm temperatures and melting snow over the past few weeks here in NH but these championships are the northeast on a rare occasion. Despite spending very little time (READ: no time) in snowshoes, my last two weeks of training on the roads had been pretty solid with a renewed emphasis on hill climbing. That strategy would serve me well as the 10k course at Highland Forest Park was a brutal combination of wicked climbing and snow so chewed up it looked as if they'd had a monster truck rally on the course that morning. The men's race would feature 129 snowshoe racers from across the snow covered US. I seeded myself on the far right in the 2nd row at the start. Looking around I saw only a few familiar faces and those were the guys whom I had no chance of racing. In a preview of things to come, the course started uphill. The powdery snow caused near whiteout conditions as racers stammered and staggered all around me desperately searching for two solid footstrikes in a row. The soft snow pack was incredibly choppy with zero definable rail. I must have started poorly off the line because for the next 4-6 minutes I steadily began working my way through the field around slower competitors. Within the first 2 km I recognized my teammate Danny Ferreira. I was actually a little surprised to see him. At Sidehiller, some four weeks ago, he beat me by over 2 minutes and just last week had run a sub 3 hour marathon. Racing with him reaffirmed that my effort was good. When we reached the singletrack section at approximately the 3 km mark we got caught behind a group of slower snowshoers. Within a few minutes the guy in the front of the line stepped off the trail and allowed us to race by. I felt the pace quicken immediately. The narrow width of the singletrack and the hairpin turns made the footing very challenging. On at least two occasions I stumbled forward planting my bare hands wrist deep in snow. Once out of the singletrack and back on the double-wide, Danny accelerated. The descent was marked with 8 inch deep 'shoe holes so I decided to let him go. As he raced out of sight I picked up another couple of places as I raced around our singletrack buddies. I ran alone for the next few minutes but as we began to climb again I noticed Danny and the two guys he was racing coming back to me. I felt very strong on the ascents and eventually closed the gap with Danny. A familiar pattern would evolve over the final 2 kms...Danny would pull away on the descents and I'd reel him back in on the climbs. Knowing the final 350 meters was uphill I liked my chances if I could stay close on the final descent. The only problem with the strategy was that Danny probably knew this as well. As we approached the final descent he put the hammer down. I just couldn't match his incredible youthful strength. Although I did close the gap on the last climb (the race finished uphill, just like it started) I wasn't a threat to him. Astonishingly he actually passed someone on that final climb to finish in 36th place overall. I crossed the line in 38th place (6th overall Master) in an unofficial time of 58:58. Although I didn't achieve my goal of a podium finish I was beaten by three of the best northeast masters snowshoers...Sean Snow, Tim Van Orden, and David Principe. The top aR mens performance of the day was Geoff Cunningham's 17th overall finish. In the womens race, aR's Ann Rasmussen and Amber Ferreira had incredibly successful races. In her first full season of snowshoe racing, Ann posted a stellar 7th overall finish (3rd in her age-group). And finally, in the aR highlight of the year (heck, perhaps the last 5 years)...Amber Ferreira outraced 70 of the best womens snowshoe racers in the country to win the 10th Annual PowerSox US National Snowshoe Championships! See the podium ceremony clip below;

Next Up: Granite State Snowshoe Championships

[PHOTO CREDS: Chris at finish (Scott Mason Photography), Chris & Danny, climbing to the finish (Scott Mason Photography), aR team photo...Geoff, Danny, Ann, Amber, Chris (Scott Mason Photography)]