|Dropping down the "Bone Yard"|
at The Glen...snowshoe style.
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
Gorham, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- This weekend's Granite State Snowshoe Championship at the Great Glen Trails was the culmination of an incredible winter of snowshoe racing for the northeast region in general and me in partcular. In my 12th and final race of the winter I'd pull double duty...directing and racing. With a very capable and talented group of volunteers including my wife Karen and teammates Kate Ouellette and Amanda House this is actually a pretty simple (not easy) feat. Timmy and I arrived at The Glen around 8:00 AM to mark the groomed 5k. By the time we finished around 9:00 AM many teammates had already arrived and my volunteers had registration set up and ready to roll. The next two hours were a blurr as time flew by in warp speed. Before I knew it we were at the starting line and I was giving some last minute instructions. Thanks to more favorable weather we had 56 starters this time around despite the US Nationals having been run the day before in WI. Although JJ and Kevin Tilton were missing a very strong group of top 'shoers had made the trip among them aR's Judson Cake, Nick Wheeler, Ryan Kelly, Geoff Cunningham, and Tuesday Night Turtles (TNT) Bob Jackman to name a few. On the masters side of the draw I'd have my hands full once again with the likes of teammates Steve Wolfe and Jeremiah Fitzgibbon, TNT's David Principe, and Trail Monster Running's Jeff Walker and Chuck Hazzard. As the race got underway I had a certain calm about what lay ahead as I had previewed the entire course over the previous 24 hours. Predictably it was a mad dash for the first few hundred meters as folks scrambled to establish their place. Fortunately the first 5k would be run on wide groomed nordic leaving ample time and space to pass if necessary. By the 3k mark I had moved up into the Top 10 and was running very relaxed behind teammate Ryan Welts and TMR's Ryan Triffitt. Running through the tunnel (one of the coolest experiences in snowshoe racing) under Route 16 to the 'snowshoe side' of the course I was feeling great and eager to attack the Aquaduct Loop climb. Although I could still see the Ryan's I wasn't close enough to get a pull and felt pretty alone without anyone directly behind. The soft wet snow in some places disappeared under foot with the occasional 'wrong step' punching down 6-10 inches. The trick was to stride in the middle of the rail and hope for the best. Climbing resulted in fairly good footing but as soon as we descended and the landing forces increased the post-holing became a litte more frequent. And what you weren't creating you were attempting to avoid as numerous 'shoers ahead had suffered the same punch throughs particularly on the long 3/4 mile + descent. I peeked back a few times and still noticed no significant threat. Until I heard it. The sound literally appeared out of nowhere and I searched my mind's database for the source but to no avail. This was not a sound I had heard before and for good reason. Looking back over my shoulder I saw Jeff Walker closing on me. And then it dawned on me...I had raced Jeff in the past but I had neither passed nor been passed by him. Stepping aside to let him go by he made the most laborious gutteral moans I had ever heard. Sort of what you'd imagine a wounded wildabeast would sound like as it ran for it's life from a ravinous lioness. I did my best to try to latch on and get pulled up the powerlines but he was 'shoeing too strong for me to hang on. As I crested the powerline climb with less than a 1/2 mile to go I peeked one final time and caught a glimpse of Wolfe 1/2 way up the ascent. Racing through the final few hundred meters expertly designed by our friends at Dungeon Rock Racing I couldn't help but think what an incredible winter we'd had and that this was the last few minutes of snowshoe racing this winter. I crossed the line in 10th place overall (3rd master) for my 6th Top 10 overall finish of the winter. Funny thing is that I was racing in the 9th spot for 9k before being passed by a friend and newcomer to the sport in Jeff Walker. Last winter I finished 9th at this race...with no Jeff Walker. Time for a two week transition so I can get caught up on all the things around the house I've neglected since December. And then the purposeful preparation for a very ambitous and busy trail and mountain running season gets into full swing.
NEXT UP: Merrimack River Trail Race (MA)