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)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble

Top 20 finish at
Whitaker Woods!
"The problem with payback is, when does it ever end?"  -Trent Lott

North Conway, NH -- My fourth snowshoe race of the season would be the second race in the Granite State Snowshoe Series.  The Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble was a first time race hosted by one of the top mountain runners in the northeast and perhaps the US, Kevin Tilton.  By the way, he's no slouch on snowshoes either.  Having kicked around a cold for the entire week my training had been pretty lousy but I felt okay in the morning, picked up Timmy Lindsey, and headed to the Mt. Washington Valley.  As the sport continues to grow, my opportunities to podium in the masters division are few and far between.  And Whitaker Woods would be no exception.  Although the overall field was modest, the depth in the masters division was incredible; Dunham, Snow, Principe, Bazanchuk, and my teammates Wolfe and Erwin.  Throw in a few guys I don't know and a Top 10 in that division would be a honest day's effort.  With the "GO" command we were off to tackle the 4 miles of groomed nordic and snowshoe singletrack that Kevin had expertly designed.  Right away the class of the division disappeared out of sight.  Playing to my strength the first two miles are a net elevation gain as we climb to the high point of the course.  Wolfe and I were shoulder to shoulder early on and had both Paul and Phil in sight.  [NOTE: it should be mentioned that the current US Women's Champion and teammate Amber Ferreira took off like a shot at the start and immediately started to put the hammer down on all of us!]  As we climbed I started to reel in Amber but couldn't seem to close on either Paul or Phil.  And I shouldn't have been too surprised, Paul had put the screws to me at MNT EPIC and Phil probably would have beaten me at the Broken Boulder Dash had it not been for a missed turn.  As I climbed by Amber she predictably gave a word of encouragement.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, races with a more positive attitude then Amber.  She is amazing.  Just before we crested the high point I pulled up to and by Phil.  The course constantly seemed to switch from groomed nordic to virgin singletrack.  With the tons of powder we've received in the last week or so the singletrack section was incredibly laborious.  As we bombed down the powerlines on the groomed nordic the course took a hairpin turn to the right into a section of singletrack.  I spied Paul turn in and followed him as quickly as I could.  As we dumped back out onto the same powerline descent (just down hill) I noticed a group of runners heading straight down the powerlines toward me.  For a moment I was confused as to the direction of the course.  I should have taken another hard right back onto the groomed nordic but instead the two-way traffic momentarily confused me as I started diagonally across the course to a point where I saw the field ahead of me racing.  Within seconds I realized the error and doubled back on the correct path but had given Phil back the gap I had earned.  We raced side by side for a few moments as I attempted to determine why so many snowshoers who had been racing behind me were all of a sudden racing ahead of me!  Figuring they must have inadvertently jumped part of course I set my sights on picking off as many of them as I could.  By this time Paul had put a gap on me that couldn't be narrowed but I still had to work to keep Phil and Wolfe at bay.  Knowing they were back there and incredibly talented motivated me to maintain my effort to the finish.  As we entered the final loop around the field once again there seemed to be some confusion with snowshoers racing toward me from the right.  I did my best to hold off anyone behind and finished in a time of 31:11 good enough for 16th place overall and 7th master.

Masters Results (40+)
(1)  6.  Dunham, Dave
(2)  7.  Snow, Sean
(3)  10.  Hornney, Scott
(4)  11.  Bazanchuk, Paul
(5)  14.  Massa, Jason
(6)  15.  Principe, David Sr.
(7)  16.  Dunn, Chris J. (aR)
(8)  17.  Erwin, Phil (aR)
(9)  18.  Tighe, Martin
(10)  19.  Wolfe, Steve (aR)

NEXT UP:  Sidehiller Snowshoe Race, Center Sandwich, NH


[Photo courtesy of Gianina Lindsey]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feel Good Farm Snowshoe Race

One trip up & down Moose
Mountain...one to go!
 "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings."  -John Muir

Lyndeborough, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Moose Mountain...you won't find it on a map or an AMC trail guide.  But anyone who attempts (and finishes) the Feel Good Farm Snowshoe Race become intimately familiar with it.  Due to two consecutive postponements, FGF would be the opening race in the 2011 Granite State Snowshoe SeriesLast winter was the first winter this event was included in the series and my first time in Lyndeborough.  With over 3000' of climbing this may be the one of the toughest courses in NH...and perhaps in the northeast.  As if one time up and down Moose Mountain weren't enough, the 5+ mile course travels TWO times up and down the mountain.  The fabulous snow we had received the week before drew a very impressive field, both in number and in quality...Ferenc, Tilton, Nephew, Kelly, Cunningham, Therriault, Jackman, Wolfe, the Ferreira's, Snow, Principe, Welts, Fitzgibbon, Lavers, Myers, Curry, Wade, Smith and the list went on and on.  A Top 20 finish in this crowd would be a HUGE accomplishment.  The race started with a 250 meter 'sprint' around the parking lot on double wide semi-groomed track in an effort to get the field single file before we hit the singletrack which would comprise 99% of the race.  As predicted, this first section of the course was a sprint with snow, knees, and elbows a flying.  I tried to stay patient and tucked in behind my teammate Steve Wolfe.  By the time we hit the singletrack there was a quite a line of 'shoers and I estimated myself to be somewhere in the Top 15ish.  With the entire race in front of me and two trips up Moose Mountain ahead I was in no hurry to start pressing.  As we negotiated the first 5 minutes of singletrack Steve, racing directly in front of me, fell straight forward landing on his chest.  Figuring he'd dragged a tip, and knowing there were 50+ snowshoers directly behind us, I slipped by and encouraged him to go.  In retrospect I should have stopped...but more on that later.  Approaching the first climb I was in a very strong group consisting of David Principe, Sean Snow, and Amber Ferreira.  Dave & Sean were ahead with Amber pressing hard in back.  I asked her once or twice if she wanted the spot and each time she deferred.  As the ascent pace slowed to a power hike Dave stepped aside and let Sean, myself, and Amber pass.  Cresting Moose Mountain for the first time we began the gnarly steep descent that makes this race exciting and dangerous all at once.  Typically conservative on the downs I was unable to hold off a very hard charging teammate, Ryan Welts who went around myself and Sean.  No sooner had we lost nearly all the elevation that we had gained and we were once again climbing back up the mountain on a slightly steeper route.  It was here that I stepped aside and let Amber press forward to Sean and Ryan who I was beginning to lose.  Not long after Amber flew by two things happened...Ryan came back to me and Danny went around.  Although Danny had raced the Winter Wild uphill snowshoe earlier than morning he had no trouble putting the hammer down on me on the climb no less!  By the time we had made it around once (with one loop to go) Danny, myself, and Ryan were in a pace line doing our best to keep Amber and Sean in sight.  But that wouldn't last long as those two, perhaps feeding off each other, seemed to accelerate on that third ascent.  They would not be seen again...at least by Ryan and myself.  Danny rallied in those final two climbs putting a gap on Ryan and myself (who traded paced several times) and closing the gap on Sean and Amber (who he eventually caught and beat by less than 30 seconds).  On the final climb Ryan scooted around me and never looked back.  Although I kept him in sight he was far too strong and never let me get any closer than our finishing gap...6 seconds.  I crossed the line in 46:08 good enough for 13th place overall and 2nd 40+ behind Sean who beat me by more than 90 seconds.  Individual accomplishment aside, acidotic RACING had an incredibly strong showing with 4 in the Top 10, 8 in the Top 20, 14 overall finishers, and one podium...Amber's female win! 

PS.  I had mentioned that I should have stopped and helped Wolfe when he fell.  Apparently he pulled what's now referred to as an Wamber...stepping through one snowshoe with your other 'shoe hopelessly entangling your cleats.  Believe it or not, Danny actually stopped to help him, was unable, and eventually continued...and still beat me!  As I was finishing my last loop I noticed Steve taking pictures.  Once he eventually untangled his 'shoes the Velcro straps had gotten covered with powder rendering them useless.  He struggled to the finish the first lap with his snowshoes barely attached before wisely calling it a day.  Knowing Steve he'll unleash the fury next weekend at Whitaker Woods...and I'll be the unfortunate recipient of his revenge.


NEXT UP:  Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Race, North Conway, NH (GSSS #2)

[Photos courtesy of Scott Mason Photography & Steve Wolfe]

WAMBER: To punch the tip of one snowshoe
through the top of the other causing an
immediate faceplant and possible DNF; named after
both Wolfe and Amber who popularized the method.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Olde Salem Greens Snowshoe Race

Shuffling to a Top 5 at Olde Salem
Greens Snowshoe Race.
[Photo courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky]
 "It's like deja-vu, all over again."  -Yogi Berra

SALEM, Massachusetts -- Exactly one year ago I finished 5th at the Olde Salem Greens Snowshoe Race in Salem, MA.  Today, as if history were repeating itself...I once AGAIN finished 5th overall at Olde Salem.  The conditions were actually pretty similar to a year ago with long fairway sections of 6+ inches of crusty snow with very short stretches of grass and hard packed snice.  Although the snow conditions were similar, the course would be dramatically different as the dedicated athletes of Dungeon Rock Racing did their level best to piece together a course with the remaining snow on the golf course.  And rumor has it that they shovelled their fair share of the stuff as well to assure we'd have an adequate course to race on.  Their efforts certainly paid off as all were treated to some pretty fun racing.  The 3.2 mile course meandered around the Olde Salem Greens golf course with a considerable amount of up & down.  In fact, more up & down than last winter because of the course modifications.  This change, however, suited me fine as I am not the fleetest of foot but can hold my own on a hilly layout.  Predictably the field went out fast with a left-handed uphill hairpin turn within the first 50 meters.  Fortunately for me I had placed myself on the left inside and was able to take a nice tight line as the lead group log jammed.  Within the first 100 meters I was somewhere in the Top 10 but felt like I had more than that ahead of me.  Things got single file in short order as we made our way around the first two very short repeating loops.  I found myself racing with Patrick Smith & Christopher Smith of DRR who were just hammering this first kilometer.  Not wanting to get too far behind these guys too soon I tucked in behind them and let them pull me along.  By the time we made the split to the "big" loop I had taken those two spots and was closing on David Long of Wicked Running, who despite his size (he must have been 6'3"), he was just killing it in the first 2k.  As the course opened up I eventually passed David and was able to peek ahead at the lead group and only noticed the Top 3 plus the guy ahead of me (Brett Rickenbach of Winners Circle).  As soon as I was able to get to his shoulder I could feel he was very strong and not at all interested in me going around him.  The handful of times he slowed to allow me to pull alongside he quickly (and effortlessly) surged ahead to regain the 4th spot.  After another failed attempt to take the place and a quick spy behind to see if we were going to be challenged, I became content to let him pull me along to the finish.  In the last 25 meters he accelerated and put a little gap on me finishing 4 seconds ahead.  The kick I had two weeks ago at I Love Woodford was a distant memory.  My posture in the picture above really tells the story...I was tapped out.  I crossed the finish in 27:00 and 5th place overall.  And with a smaller overall turnout this year was able to pick up the 40+ 'masters' victory.  Kudos to RD Eileen Dunn and the entire crew at Dungeon Rock Racing for another fabulous event in not quite ideal conditions...although wouldn't you know it, the snow started to fall when we were finishing!

NEXT UP:  Feel Good Farm (GSSS#1)?


2010 Racing Recap

- Beaver Brook 5k Snowshoe Race (3rd)
- GSSS#1: Beaver Brook 5k (7th)
- Old Salem Greens Snowshoe Classic (5th)
- GSSS#2: Feel Good Farm (8th)
- GSSS#4: Sidehiller (19th)
- US Snowshoe Championships (38th)
- GSS Championship (9th)
- Merrimack River Trail Race (33rd)
- 7 Sisters Trail Race (70th)
- Hoppin Mad Mud Run (1st Team)
- Pineland Farms 25k (37th)
- Exeter 10M Trail Race (12th)
- Mt. Washington (180th)
- Broken Boulder Dash (1st)
- Bradbury Breaker Trail Race (13th)
- 24 Hours of Great Glen (mTb)
- Run to Fall (12th)
- Reach The Beach (36th)
- Pinnacle Challenge (3rd Team)
- MNT EPIC (13th)
- Shawnee Peak Challenge (2nd)
- Busa Bushwhack (8th)
- RI 6-HR Relay (1st Team)
- Andover XC 6k (34th)
- I Love Woodford (7th)