|The finish to a long descent at the WinterWild|
Championship at Bretton Woods
[Photo courtesy Gianina Lindsey]
Bretton Woods, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Nothing like finishing a lousy winter of snow-related sports with a FANTASTIC championship event! aR played host to the WinterWild Championship at Bretton Woods this weekend. Not being a skier many of the WinterWild stops have been first times for me at these mountains and Bretton Woods was another fine example. The facilities are simply amazing and the mountain absolutely majestic. Although with a dark and foggy 6:30 AM start there really wasn't anything to see when we got started. My teammates Rich Lavers and Danny Ferreira expertly pulled off a terrific event in their RDing debut's. As I've mentioned in other WinterWild recaps, these events have been a tremendous amount of fun and I'm already looking forward to more of them next winter. Of course the great thing about these races is that even if Mother Nature doesn't blanket us with enough snow to snowshoe on...she keeps it cold enough for the ski areas to make snow. Having missed a race two weeks ago (Mt. Sunapee) there was no chance of catching masters leader Mark Hecox for the series title so my focus turned to giving one more quality effort this winter and ride the good vibe right into spring trail racing. But a week before the race I learned that my mountain running arch nemesis, Paul Kirsch, would be making his WinterWild debut. As a fellow masters runner, Paul is best known for his mountain prowess. Living in the NoCo gives him easy access to big tough trails and his mountain racing times reflect his training and his experience. It's fair to say that I measure my fitness and training with head to head performances against Paul. To stay close to him in a mountain race is a huge victory...to beat him is the ultimate confirmation that my mountain/hill-specific training is dead on. I helped with registration so didn't have a moment to warm-up so when Rich announced the start had been pushed back to 6:30 AM I was thrilled. Paul and I chatted briefly before the race and he did his best to lower expectations. The way I saw it, despite the fact that he hadn't raced since last June didn't diminish his toughness and experience with mountain races. With a final course modification announcement (we'd miss the two peaks due to poor snow coverage and the course would be shorter) the race got off under misty darkness. I had turned my Petzl Tikka Plus2 on just before the race but within 10 minutes of the start the sunrise began to lighten the shadows and the course became easier to follow. Assuming the field would be strong I took off hard right from the start. Climbing is the stronger aspect of my mountain racing so I pushed hard on the initial series of ups. The over OPEN leaders, Kevin Tilton and Andy Greene, along with several elite Nordic guys gapped the field within minutes. Mark, appearing stronger than ever, never let me get anywhere close and hammered out a secure 3rd overall (1st masters) spot over the first half of the race. I settled into the 5th overall place (2nd masters) during the first 800+ feet of climbing. Peeking back a couple of times I didn't see Paul but knew that as tough as he is on the ups, he's just as fierce on the downs which is the weaker part of my game. Just before we took the final turn back down the mountain the younger guy I was racing stopped to re-adjust his MircoSpikes and I moved into 4th overall OPEN (still 2nd masters). As I took the turn for the long descent of Sawyer's Swoop I noticed that I had several pursuers but couldn't make out exactly who they were. Almost immediately as I began to descend the younger guy bombed past me with his MicroSpike back in place...5th place. Half way down the run I felt like I was going hard relaxing and letting gravity pull me to the bottom. The footstrikes were soft and at times I felt like I left a 4-6 inch divot. Then I began to hear the pounding of footsteps and the paced breathing of more than one runner. Whoooosh. Two more guys passed me...7th place now (? masters). I watched in amazement as they hurdled effortlessly down the mountain. By this time I needed the race to be over before I fell out of the Top 10 all together. When I could see the finish I peeked back one more time just to make sure I wouldn't be edged at the line again (see Pat's Peak). Without anyone in sight I strided to finish in 32:29 good enough for 12 place overall, 7th place OPEN, and 4th master. Of course it bothers me to give up a Top 5 finish and a masters podium but it strengthens my resolve to train as hard if not harder on my descending technique this spring and summer. My good friend Paul finished just behind me. He was right...training fitness isn't the same thing as racing fitness. I expect to see him again soon and there's a pretty good bet I won't be looking down at him in the results.
PS. My winter racing and training is now wrapped and other than the disappointing snowshoe racing season I feel really good about my performances. When we did race on snowshoes I think I put in solid performances. The competition wasn't as tight this winter because of the snow. I missed racing against the likes of Steve Wolfe, Sean Snow, and David Principe. But I more than made up for those absences by trying to stay close to Mark Hecox in the WinterWild series. I'm probably not as fit and definitely not as light & lean as this time last year but I'm healthy and I'm ready to start racing on trails and mountains really, really soon.
NEXT UP: A well earned transition then the Merrimack Rivah Trail Race (MA)