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, February 13, 2011

Snowshoe Double: Horse Hill & Bear Paw

Deeeeep in the Hurt Locker at
the finish of Horse Hill
[Photo courtesy of Bob Jackman]
"If winning isn't everything then why do they keep score?"  -Vince Lombardi

PART I:  Horse Hill Snowshoe Race

MERRIMACK,  New Hampshire -- Ironically enough, the lack of snow in early January resulted in at least two races in the Granite State Snowshoe Series being rescheduled.  That (un)fortunate circumstance put another "double" on the schedule this weekend.  Luckily, snowshoe racing isn't that tough on the joints and racing twice in a weekend isn't really all that hard to do...or is it?  I missed the 2010 version of Horse Hill last winter as it fell on the same day as the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe Race that I host.  In fact, the last time I raced at this venue I actually 'podiumed' finishing third behind Jim Johnson and Steve "Buddy" Wolfe.  Oh how the sport has evolved in the last two years!  A podium finish would not be in the cards this time around as apparently someone let the cat out of the bag that this snowshoe racing stuff is a lot of fun.  Another very impressive crowd, some 88 strong, tackled a newly re-designed Steve Wolfe creation.  Wolfe has become one of the premier course designers in New Hampshire and the "new" Horse Hill didn't disappoint!  The conditions were hardpacked and fast with a mix of singletrack, doubletrack, and snowmobile.  Knowing that things would get out fast early I attempted to seed myself in the 3rd row right behind one of the top masters Sean Snow and directly in front of teammates Amber "Irongirl" Ferreira and Wolfe.  Within minutes of the start I was in a line of 'shoers that included Amber, myself, Wolfe, and Mike Wade.  We stuck fairly close together as we started to pick off racers that had gone out a little hard and couldn't keep up the pace.  Eventually Amber, myself, and Steve were running alone having put a little gap on our pursuers.  On a snowmobile section approximately 2 miles in Steve made a move on both Amber and I.  As he ran by I asked Amber for the spot and she graciously obliged.  It would be our turn to pull her for a while.  With Steve as the engine of this runaway locomotive we set our sights on Snow.  I jokingly told Steve to catch him, pass him, and then 'put the breaks on' so the rest of us could catch up.  Within a few hundred meters Steve had reeled Sean in and zipped around him.  I eventually caught him as well and was very content to be racing so close to a guy who has completely destroyed me for the better part of two winters.  He asked several time if I wanted by but I was pretty happy with his pace and my position.  As we switched back up Horse Hill Amber began to close the gap that Sean and I had put on her.  Eventually she was clipping my tails as we approached the summit.  Sean finally stepped aside to let me pass.  With about 800 meters to go I decided it was then or never and I pushed as hard as I could racing the last descent as out of control as I've ever been.  Knowing Amber has the best finishing kick around my only chance was to put a little space on her before the flat straight-a-way finish.  Astonishing even myself I was able to hold her and Sean off to finish 9th overall (4th master) in 36:15.  My teammate Wolfe finally got back on the winning side of things beating me by 14 seconds.  Truth be told...Sean definately wasn't 100% and was probably fighting off an illness.  He's a warrior for showing up to race anyway.  Fantastic aR showing with 2 in the Top 3, 7 in the Top 10, and 12 overal finishers!

PICTURES (courtesy of Bob Jackman)

"Pulling" my teammate and best friend Steve Wolfe
along to the finish of the Bear Paw Classic
[Photo courtesy of Karen L. Dunn]

"Seeking to forget makes exile all the longer; the secret of redemption lies in remembrance."  - Richard von Weizsaecker

PART II:  Bear Paw Classic Snowshoe Race

NORTHWOOD,  New Hampshire -- Another day...another snowshoe race.  But on this day it wouldn't be just any other snowshoe race.  It would be the snowshoe RDing debut of my daughter Madison.  As her CBNA senior project, she organized the first annual Bear Paw Classic Snowshoe Race on the campus of CBNA as a fundraiser for the winter track program.  The course was expertly designed by Tim Cox, coach at CBNA and top northeast snowshoer.  And it was a masterful combination of 'sugary' rustic doubletrack, carnival ride-like singletrack, and killer snowmobile climbs.  An enthusiastic crowd of 45 snowshoers stepped to the line and tore off though the outfield of the baseball field with snow and smiles flying everywhere!  I quickly settled in behind Wolfe who seemed determined to repeat his thrashing of me the day before in Merrimack.  The two of us were somewhere in the middle of the Top 10 as we cruised around the 'Back Loop'.  As we entered the singletrack we were all alone having worked our way up to 5th & 6th overall putting a gap on 7th+.  Steve flew through the singletrack section and I did my best to hang on.  Popping out onto the first snowmobile section I knew it would be a slog as I'd previewed the course and then marked it the day before.  This relatively short stretch mostly gained elevation and the footing was very soft for snowmobile track.  We passed my son Brayden, marshaling the next major snowmobile intersection, and proceeded to attack the "Power Line" snowmobile corridor.  The only significant climbing on the course would be on this section and with the trail running along the powerlines we could see Dave Dunham in 3rd and teammate Ryan Welts in 4th as they raced up ahead....way ahead.  Nearing the top of the "middle" climb Steve fell off the pace slightly and I realized it was my time to pull the two of us for a little bit.  Descending on the other side he caught back up and we hit the last singletrack section together with me setting the pace.  Finally back on the 'Back Loop' I encouraged him to pull up behind and we would finish side by side for a change.  It only seemed fitting that he had led for the 1st half and I had led for the 2nd half that our duel should end in a tie.  The only problem was the slow footing on the 'Back Loop' prevented him from close the 2-3 meter gap.  Once back on the baseball field for the final 100 meter sprint we held those places and finished 5th and 6th overall.  And as a testament to how competitive the masters division is...we were 3rd and 4th masters with top overall  northeast ranked snowshoer Tim Van Orden in 2nd place overall and Dave Dunham joining him on the podium in 3rd.  For a first time event there were a few minor 'glitches' but overall everyone seemed to love the course and the organization.  Well done Maddie!

NEXT UP:  Northeast Snowshoe Championship, Northfield, MA 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Exeter Snowshoe Hullabaloo

"Strength does not come from winning.  Your struggles develop your strengths.  When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength."  -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Exeter, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- The word "classic" has several definitions.  Used as a noun it can mean a traditional event.  Saturday's Exeter Snowshoe Hullabaloo was a classic snowshoe race in every sense of the word.  acidotic RACING RD's Ri Fahnestock and Sarah Silverberg have literally been planning this event since last winter when the race was postponed and eventually cancelled due to the lack of snow.  This winter would be quite the opposite with the snow piling up from one snowstorm after another.  The 4.4 miles of sugary rollercoaster 100% singletrack would wind through the Exeter Town Forest in Exeter, NH.  Commonly referred to as "Fort Rock", the two foot base of packed powder would blanket every rock & root this highly technical trail network has to offer.  Teammate Timmy Lindsey and I arrived on site early to set up the DION Snowshoe loaner tent and help Ri, Sarah, and volunteers get things ready.  I'm always amazed at how quickly 2 hours goes by when chatting with a steady stream of snowshoe racing friends.  Before I knew it Sarah made the "10 minutes to race time" call.  I hurriedly went through my final preparations and jogged to the race start some 50 meters up the trail.  The incredible success of the Granite State Snowshoe Series was evident as 97 snowshoers lined up on a narrow stretch of trail that Ri had widened to double track for the first 1/4 mile earlier that morning.  Despite his efforts the start would be tight with just enough room for two wide with the edges being very soft powder.  I lined up in the second or third row just behind the Top 10 with Amber in front and Ian behind.  After last weekend's incredible performance I encouraged Ian to get up ahead of me but he was content where he was.  Just moments before the race Amber, for some strange reason, pulled me ahead of her.  Flattering yes, but not very practical, as she's beaten me the last two races.  Maybe she took my suggestion to be her bodyguard seriously?  Either way, the start of the race was mass confusion and reminded me of a tri swim start with elbows, knees, and powder flying everywhere.  Seconds after the start I heard the commotion of what sounded like a downed 'shoer but didn't dare turn around.  As the race proceeded I worked hard to stay in the middle of the doublewide track to take advantage of the better surface.  Truth be told however, the soft powdery surface provided very little 'solid' surface to push off.  As we made our way down the trail teammate Jerry Fitzgibbon, a very strong masters athlete, yielded to push me on ahead.  Moments after that, teammate Ryan Welts tried to pass on the right thought knee deep powder but quickly realized that any passing would have to be in the designated passing zones or by courtesy.  Before long some 'shoers that had gone out a little too hard to establish their place were beginning to back up the rest of the Top 20 and one by one they graciously stepped aside to let faster 'shoers go by.  Not long after that I raced up hard behind a guy and called my intention to pass on the left.  Apparently not having learned from Ryan's earlier failed bushwhack attempt I tried to plow though the 2 feet of powder to pass.  Within three steps I heaved forward narrowly missing a faceplant as Ian, Amber, and at least one other racer zipped by.  Quickly getting back on the singletrack I decided that passing for the rest of the race would need to be on packed trail.  Reminescent of Sidehiller (except substitute one Trail Monster for another) Ian, Amber, and I would stick together and pull away from the group behind us opening up at least a 20 second gap.  There were times when Ian and Amber would pull away slightly, but the soft powdery climbs would allow me to close the gap and get within 2-3 meters of them.  We held that order for the rest of the race.  Ian expertly changing speeds when he sensed Amber was closing and particularly when he spotted  the "passing zones" (freshly tramped singletrack).  My relative lack of training once again was the difference in my inability to match their acceleration within the last 1/2 mile as they slowly pulled away.  I crossed the line in 46:24 good enough for 12th overall (2nd masters).  David Principe of the Tuesday Night Turtles finally returned to form and won the masters division.  aR had another great turnout with multiple Top 10 & 20 finishes and yet another team victory. 


NEXT UP:  Horsehill Snowshoe Race, Merrimack, NH (GSSS #5) & Bear Paw Classic, Northwood, NH (GSSS #6)