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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Snowshoe Double: NE Championship & Bradbury Blizzard

Wondering "Where the heck is the
finish?" at the NE Championships
(Photo courtesy of Scott Mason)
"You cannot plough through a field by turning it over in your mind."  - Unknown

PART I:  Northeast Snowshoe Championship

NORTHFIELD,  Massachusetts -- In what has become a quite familiar story this winter I raced twice this past weekend.  And my 10th & 11th races of the season would be two of my biggest challenges this winter.  The weekend "kicked off" with a trip to Northfield, MA for the inaugural Northeast Snowshoe Championship.  Past US Snowshoe Champion Dave Dunham would design and direct the race.  A fierce competitor and legendary "climber" Dave favors races with BIG climbs...and the course he designed at Northfield Mountain was no exception.  With two ascents of 700 & 500 feet, the race certainly played to my strength.  The usual cast of 40+ year old challengers were present including favorites Tim VanOrden and of course Dave.  The rest of us (including Wolfe, Principe, Pajer, Agosto, Bazanchuk, etc.) would be fighting for the last spot on the masters podium.  A fairly large field of 85 snowshoers ripped through the first few hundred meters of flat groomed nordic before turning into singletrack for all but the last hundred meters of the race.  And almost as soon as we got single file we started to climb.  I was once again in the familiar position of being right behind my champion teammate Amber Ferreira.  Typically a fast but patient starter, I could sense that she was uncharacteristically pushing a little harder than usual at such an early point of the race.  The two of us must have been 'around' the Top 20 (with Amber being the #1 female) as we tackled the first climb.  Settling into as much of a rhythm as is human possible climbing 700+ feet in a little over a mile, Amber and I started to pick off snowshoers.  One by one folks started to fall back to us.  Cresting the first climb we had picked up 3-4 places and were racing with Ross Krause and Steve Dowsett.  If I've improved one facet of my snowshoeing it has been on the descents.  Working to push harder on the downs Amber and I maintained our cushion on the next closest competitors.  On the second and final climb I experience something I've never experience in snowshoe racing...and probably never will again.  I caught and passed teammate Tim Cox.  Obviously not 100%, but still refusing to quit he graciously stepped aside and let Amber and I motor past as we started the final series of steep descents.  Racing with a purpose she gave no quarter and we finished 15th & 16th just :03 apart.  Holding off one of the deepest masters field's of the winter my 54:02 was good enough for the last spot on the podium (3rd) behind VanOrden and Dunham.  And the best part of the day...beers and burgers with my teammates Ryan Kelly, Charlie Therriault, Steve Wolfe, Jerry Fitzgibbon, Tim Cox, Amber Ferreira, and Rich Lavers at Elm City Brewery in Keene, NH. 


Nope...not an optical illusion.  Bradbury State Park
 in Pownal is FREAKIN' hilly!
(Photo courtesy of Maine Running Company)
PART II:  Bradbury Blizzard

POWNAL, Maine -- It was my intention from the beginning of the season to make at least one race in the new Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series hosted by our friends at Trail Monster Running and directed by fellow 'shoer Ryan Triffitt.  But as the winter moved along that prospect started looking bleaker and bleaker.  And when my last chance came as a back-2-backer with the Northeast Snowshoe Championships (see above) I thought the chance was all but none.  Then an e-mail from Ryan asking me to bring some of our Granite State Snowshoe Series loaners and his DION prizes was all the prompting I needed (not much really) to pull off this incredibly challenging double.  Having raced Bradbury State Park this summer I knew two things; 1.) the Trail Monsters host great races and 2.) the trail network at the park includes some pretty wicked climbs (that's 'Mainese' for pretty difficult climbs).  The field at the Bradbury Blizzard would be considerably smaller the the NE Championships but no less competitive for me as Crow Athletics masters snowshoer Peter Keeney and Trail Monster's Jeff Walker and Chuck Hazzard were all in attendance.  I've never beaten Peter on the snow (or any other surface for that matter) and although both Jeff and Chuck are new to snowshoeing they aren't new to kicking my tail on the trails and mountains of the northeast.  With the "GO" command RD Triffitt took the early lead from my capable teammates Judson Cake and Geoff Cunningham. Within 50 meters of the start we were already climbing the first set of swtichbacks.  And because it was a two loop course it would be important to keep track of the details of this climb because we'd soon see it again.  On this initial climb I found myself in the Top 10 behind Ian Parlin & Chuck and directly in front of Peter.  I could sense Peter was getting antsy to pass but not only were we climbing, but we were climbing some pretty tight singletrack.  Both Ian & Chuck were keeping a great pace but Peter was clearly the strongest of the caravan yet in the worst position...last.  With less than 25 meters of climb left Chuck & I stepped aside and let Peter squeak on past.  Flying down the Tote Road I caught and passed Ian and tried to keep Peter in sight.  Approaching the second loop Peter had gaped me and I only caught a glimpse of him on the switchbacks up ahead.  Using that same vantage point I spied Chuck who was probably :30-:60 behind.  Knowing I probably wouldn't catch Peter the objective turned to maintaining my position and holding off the rest of the field.  I ran alone for the entire second 2.5 mile loop and finished 5th overall in 52:06.  Ironically it was my fourth 5th place finish of the winter and second masters podium in two days.  Not a bad weekend.  The plan is to spend the next two weeks sharpening my fitness for the most important race of the entire winter...the Granite State Snowshoe Championships in two weeks!


NEXT UP: Granite State Snowshoe Championship, Gorham, NH

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