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 22, 2012

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble

The start of the 2012 Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble
[Photo courtesy of Gianina Lindsey]
"The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure."  -Sven Goran Eriksson
North Conway, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- One of the not-so-obvious benefits of frequent racing for me is a lack of fear.  So often endurance athletes are hesitant to push beyond the obstruction for fear of what lies on the other side.  The result so often is finishing a race with regrets about leaving "something in the tank".  Experience (and racing a lot) has taught me that I can go to that incredibly uncomfortable place and stay there assuming my training and preparation has been consistent and purposeful.  This weekend was my second snowshoe race of 2012.  I picked up my teammates Timmy & Gianina Lindsey for the ninety minute ride to beautiful North Conway for the Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble hosted by Kevin & Jess Tilton.  I was very pleased and proud to see such a great acidotic RACING turnout as well as some of my good snowshoe racing friends.  The Scramble would be a 4 mile combination of groomed nordic and fresh powdery snowshoe singletrack with what seemed like 75% climbing.  I had apparently repressed the memory of how much climbing this course had because I was amazed how much we went up.  Fortunately I fashion myself as a climber so it actually fit my strength.  At the gun I got off fast and found myself running in the top 5 stride for stride with past US Snowshoe Racing champion Dave Dunham.  In short time however Dave began to move and effortlessly pulled away from me as he chased down the leaders Jim Johnson, Judson Cake (aR), and Danny Ferreira (aR) leaving me in 5th place overall.  The course switches and winds back onto itself enough to occasionally catch a glimpse of the pursuit.  And I could clearly make out my teammate Ryan Welts and a member of the Tuesday Night Turtles (who I later learned is named Chris...interestingly enough).  I've only occasionally beaten Ryan on snowshoes and it's almost always early in the season before he gets his "racquet legs" under him.  A fearless and tenacious descender I had a feeling that when we eventually lost the elevation we'd gained he would shoot by me as is his MO.  What I didn't expect however was to be overtaken by this newcomer from the TNTs.  At approximately the 1/2 way mark he passed me on a short groomed nordic descent and would maintain the 50 meter gap for the rest of the race.  I pushed as hard as I could on the singletrack sections as the soft snow provided very little purchase and occasionally spied back at Ryan to measure the gap.  Surprisingly he didn't seem to be getting any closer.  When I popped back onto the ball field for the last 100 meters of the race I looked back one last time and didn't see him.  I finished 6th overall (2nd Masters) in 31:11 (7:47's).  Amazingly, I ran the exact same time last winter on this course but finished 16th overall.  I'll never be a podium contender but I'm no less satisfied with my results particularly when I can take a seat on the 'pain train' and ride it to the last stop.

I'm old...but not as old as my
snowy beard would suggest.
[Photo courtesy of Gianina Lindsey]

NEXT UP:  Sidehiller Snowshoe Race, Center Sandwich, NH

POST SCRIPT:  Tremendous kudos to Kevin & Jess Tilton for putting on another outstanding event.  The course was expertly marked and very well designed.  Registration was effortless and well organized.  There were even handmade prizes again this year.  A nice touch.  And a heartfelt thank you to my teammates Gary, Richie, Lisa, Timmy, Ryan, Kristina, Mariano, Mike, Danny, Jay, Robin, Leslie, Dan, and Judson for showing up and RACING acidotic.  Not to mention winning yet another team title and putting two on the overall podium (Leslie 1st and Judson 2nd).  I'll look to carry this momentum onto Sidehiller next weekend against the deepest and most talented field I'll face all winter long.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Weekend Double: WinterWild & Hebron Hills

"Gravity is the contributing factor in nearly 73% of all accidents involving falling objects."  -Dave Barry

SATURDAY:  WinterWild Whaleback

Enfield,  NEW HAMPSHIRE - Everyone once in a while it's good to try new things.  Even if those new things drag you out of bed at 3:30 am in January, drive across the state, and run to the top of a ski slope...and of course back down.  Such was my first experience at the wildly popular new race series here in NH, the WinterWild hosted by Chad Denning.  Full disclosure:  aR will be hosting the WinterWild Championship at Bretton Woods in March so I thought it would be a good idea to check the 'phenomena' out for myself.  Plus, I'm a decent uphill runner.  Going back down, however, is another story entirely.  I met teammate Rich Lavers at "the" Park & Ride in Concord and we drop up together.  Rich is a veteran of these races but hadn't done this particular stop in 2011.  We arrived about an hour before the start and got the intel on the course...0.6 miles to the summit and then a return trip back down on the same slope.  There would be about 100 meters of flat with a slight uphill finish in soft chewed up snow.  I changed into my MicroSpikes and trail shoes and warmed up.  Just as soon as the race started a group of about 10 competitors pushed hard on the initial flat and attacked the hill.  I stayed cautiously to the outside edge of the pack and settled in as we began to climb.  Within 30 seconds of ascending I could feel my heart pounding out of my chest as my complete lack of preparation for this type of race became painfully obvious.  Learning to stay patient with uphill-type races I found a cadence and slowly began picking people off.  I ran approximately 1/2 way up the climb before alternating between running and walking particularly on the very steep sections.  By the time I reached the top I had managed to move into 6th place overall.  As I began the descent I noticed two competitors directly ahead.  Traditionally I've struggled with descending.  It's probably more fear than lack of fitness.  For some reason however this time was different.  Feeling confident in my grip I leaned forward and used my arms like windmill counterbalances as I wildly threw myself back down the mountain actually picking up two places in the process!  Just as I leveled out at the bottom I gave 4th place back and lost to the overall masters winners by a second.  I finished the 1.2 mile course in 13:13 (2nd Masters).  While cooling down with Rich my left calf felt very tight and a little crampy.  We drove back to Concord in a snow squall...where was this weeks ago?!

"A true friend is someone who thinks you're a good egg even though he knows you are slightly cracked."  -Bernard Meltzer

SUNDAY:  Hebron Hills Snowshoe Classic

Hebron,  MAINE --  This really is one of my favorite races and race courses of the entire year.  Our teammate Austin Stonebraker has designed a fabulous track on the campus of Hebron Academy.  This year, however, the course had to be slightly modified due to the lack of snow.  Much of the killer singletrack would be left out but all of the hills would remain...and we'd get a chance to do all of them TWICE as the course would be a double loop measuring around 4.5 total miles.  My calves were trashed from my WinterWild exploits 24 hours earlier.  I actually had a noticeable limp when I attempted to warm up.  And "warm up" was a relative thing as temperatures were close to zero with wind chills in the negative double digits at the start.  Sizing up the competition at the start it was obvious that I wouldn't be running with the top 2...aR's Judson Cake and top masters snowshoer Scott Horney.  Also in the field was my good friend Chuck Hazzard from Trail Monster Running.  Chuck and I have duked it out on trails, mountains, and snow over the years with  our overall head-to-head series probably dead even.  Right there at the start I devised a plan...I'd race with Chuck and let him keep me company.  Not feeling quite 100% and the first time racing on the racquet's this winter it seemed like a good strategy.  When the race started Judson and Scott quickly gaped the field.  Chuck also got a great start and shot out ahead obviously not having planned the same race strategy as myself.  Within a 100 meters I had caught him and we were running side by side and all alone in 3rd & 4th place.  And moments later we having a conversation...perfect.  I think he figured me out right away and because he's such a great guy he played along.  We tempo'd the course with me pulling slightly ahead on the ascents and him bombing by me on the descents.  As we neared the finish line he just nipped me at the tape.  I finished 4th overall in 41:22 (2nd Masters).  I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to run every hill on the course including "breaker" both times.  All in all a great start to the 2012 racing season!

NEXT UP:  Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (North Conway, NH)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Racing Recap

Me & T-Lite 'Doggin' it at the
HalloWiener Hustle in ManchVegas
[Photo courtesy of Gianina Lindsey]
Wow.  What a year!  Thirty-three events was by far the most I've ever done.  Credit two things, 1.) avoiding injury and 2.) Karen being in graduate school.  Karen finished her degree in December so I expect to race a little less this coming year.  Great times with great friends.  Everything I love about endurance sports in New England.

- Old Salem Greens Snowshoe Classic (5th)
- Feel Good Farm Snowshoe Race (13th)
- Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Race (16th)
- Sidehiller Snowshoe Race (17th)
- Hebron Hills Snowshoe Classic (5th)
- Exeter Snowshoe Hullabaloo (12th)
- Horse Hill Snowshoe Race (9th)
- Bear Paw Classic Snowshoe Race (5th)
- Northeast Championships (16th)
- Bradbury Blizzard (5th)
- NH Snowshoe Championship (10th)
- Merrimack River Trail Race (29th)
- 7 Sisters Trail Race (83rd)
- NE Trail Championships (50th)
- Hoppin Mad Mud Run (1st team)
- Pineland Farms 25k (22nd)
- Exeter 10m Trail Race (10th)
- Pinnacle Mtb Race (DNF)
- US Mnt Running Championships (52nd)
- Loon Mountain Race (50th)
- Bradbury Scuffle (12th)
- Tough Mountain Challenge (1st team)
- 24HoGG (18th team)
- Great Adventures Challenge (5th)
- Run2Fall 5k (9th)
- Reach The Beach (19th team)
- Pinnacle Challenge VII (3rd team)
- Grog & Dog Jog (?th team)
- Firetower 5k (4th)
- No Brakes Mtb Race (4th)
- RI 6-HR Relay (1st team)
- Hallo-Wiener Hustle (1st co-ed team)
- Andover XC (27th)