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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snowshoe Double: Sidehiller & Hebron Hills

Holding on for dear life at the
Sidehiller Snowshoe Race
(photo courtesy of KrissyK)
"Fatigue makes cowards of us all."  -Vince Lombardi

PART 1:  Sidehiller Snowshoe Race

Center Sandwich, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- This weekend was the first really big test of the winter for me.  Not only would I have the opportunity to measure my fitness against the best snowshoe racers in New England I'd also have the chance to see how my legs would respond to the challenge of a double (ie. racing twice in one weekend).  The Sidehiller Snowshoe Race is the race that started this snowshoe odyssey for me back in 2007.  I would come in 3rd that day...out of 15.  Fast forward four years later and not only was I making my 5th appearance I would be bringing my defending champion snowshoe racing team (acidotic RACING) to a race in a series (the Granite State Snowshoe Series) that I helped to organize.  And if that weren't enough, I'd be part of history with this event as it finally cracked the 100 competitor mark!  Kudos to RD Paul Kirsch, his volunteers, and the Sidhillers for putting on one of the best events in New Hampshire.  This race has grown in participation thanks to Paul's efforts and everyone in snowshoe racing is thankful.  The 2011 edition would return to the "classic" course including the other side of the road.  This pristine combination of snowmobile and singletrack is literally "sandwiched" between two groomed nordic sections of the fairgrounds.  Funny thing was that the "groomed" nordic sections were just as tough as the singletrack thanks to the mountains of snow the region has enjoyed over the last month.  With such a strong and deep field the goal was to Top 20 and Top 5 in the masters division.  And the "old guys" category was no 'gimme' with the likes of former US Champion Dave Dunham, top NH triathlete Sean Snow, Maine snowshoe legend Peter Keeney, NH Masters Athlete of the Year Steve Wolfe, road runner extraordinaire David Principe, and my Pineland Farms 25k nemesis Mike Wade of GCS.  Suffice to say I'd have my work cut out for me.  And not to mention my ongoing battles with US Women's Champion (and aR teammate) Amber Ferreira and Trail Monster Ryan Triffitt who has beaten for the first 100 meters of every race but never finished ahead of me in the end.  The race started off fast (like all snowshoe races do) and I comfortably (relatively speaking) settled into the Top 20 or so.  I worked with my teammate Steve Wolfe as we watched the really fast guys (Dunham, Snow, & Keeney) gap us within the first 300-500 meters.  By the time we reach Beane Road I pulled slightly ahead of Steve and with a quick peek behind noticed Amber once again hot on my heels.  Triffitt has gone out predictably hard (like he always does) but I fully expected him to come back to me on this 2+ mile section of climbing and sloggy singletrack on the other side of the road.  On that first and only big climb teammate Ryan Welts, apparently tired of me beating him, surged around me and the line of 'shoers plodding up this ascent.  I'd never see him again.  Eventually Triffitt, Amber, and I would overtake Tuesday Night Turtle David Principe on a soft section of singletrack approximately 3 miles into the race.  Shortly after Amber asked by me and promptly took Ryan as well as we climbed the final gradual ascent.  The three of us stayed with 5 meters of each other as we bombed down the hill back and over Beane road and onto the fairgrounds for the final 1/2 mile to the finish.  Just when Amber seemed to fade she heard the ROAR of the crowd (and trust me when the first women approaches the finish it's a ROAR!) and simply shifted to another gear leaving Ryan and I with mouths agape and lungs searing from hypoxia.  The 3 of us finished Amber, Ryan, and myself within 3 seconds of each other.  My 38:30 finish time was good enough for 17th overall and 4th Masters getting bested by three extremely talented 'shoers in Dunham, Keeney, and Snow. 

PART II:  Hebron Hills Snowshoe Scramble

Yes, this is the elevation profile from today's
Hebron Hills Snowshoe Classic.  Just what a
pair of tired old legs needed!
(courtesy of Ian Parlin)

Hebron,  MAINE -- Without any clue what my legs would feel like today and without an idea who'd be showing up to this first time event I picked up my aR mates Timmy Lindsey and Bob Taylor (making his aR snowshoe racing debut) and took the 2 hour drive to beautiful Hebron, ME.  As an aR production this was absolutely a must do race as owner of the company.  But despite my 'obligation' I was incredibly impressed with 1.) the organization of our first time RD Austin Stonebraker, 2.) the quality of the course, and 3.) the hospitality of our hosts from Hebron Academy.  A modest field of 28 racers 'shoed the line including aR's two top dogs Judson Cake and Geoff Cunningham.  Also in attendance was a relatively new team on the snowshoe scene in 2011 from Trail Monster Running.  These guys and gals are extremely talented trail and mountain runners so it would naturally follow that they'd be a force on the snow covered trails.  Among them was fellow master Chuck Hazzard who although I got the better of him at the Bradbury Breaker, he utterly destroyed me at MNT EPIC in October.  Thankfully the course would only measure 5k, but unthankfully it would be anything but flat.  Typically climbing is a strength, but on tired legs it would become somewhat of a liability.  As the predictably fast start settled in I was solidly in 5th place behind Judson, Geoff (and I mean waaay behind these guys), Scott Hornney, and head monster Ian Parlin with Chuck Hazzard and teammates Ri Fahnestock and Chris Benson within striking distance.  By the time we negotiated the first section of sweet flowy singletrack, Ian and I had put a gap on the guys behind and although we could see Scott ahead he had raced outside of our grips.  The Hebron Hills course was a masterful combination of singletrack and groomed nordic with the two constantly changing.  Expertly marked, Ian and I raced hard staying within 2 meters for nearly the entire race.  The "nearly" is the important word there...on a particularly short steep up he accelerated off the crest and put 10 meters on me in a blink of an eye.  The course climbed for the final 500+ meters and I never got any closer.  For my 29:21 I earned a 5th overall finish and 2nd masters behind Scott.  Chuck, Ri, and Chris were close behind.  I predict that this event will explode when the word gets out.  It's easily one of the best singletrack networks I've ever raced.  Another strong aR showing with Cake and Cunningham going 1-2 and both Sarah Silverberg (2nd female) and Gary Reuter (1st SuperMaster) grabbing podiums.  Thank you and congratulations to all my aR mates!

NEXT UP:  Exeter Snowshoe Hullabaloo, Exeter, NH (GSSS #4)

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