Have you noticed a theme to my posts lately? They all involve snow. I have to say that winter is my least favorite season in New England but I am learning to cope with it. My introduction to snowshoe racing this year has given me an opportunity to challenge myself in new ways and turn the dreaded winter blues into an appreciation of Mother Nature’s harsher side. I guess it’s something like the expression, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” My new motto is, “When Mother Nature dumps 12 inches of F@#%&ing snow on you, strap on your snowshoes and make tracks.”
This weekend, I was back on the road to New Hampshire to compete in the Frosty’s Dash for a Cure 5K race. Frosty’s is race # 4 in the Granite State Snowshoe Series and race #2 in my long and illustrious snowshoe racing career. HA! I wanted to improve on my performance from the previous week where I had to take several walking breaks because of the difficult terrain. Frosty’s race is run on the grounds of the Atkinson Country Club so I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be any mountains to climb. Fingers crossed!
Checking in for the race was a little confusing. Frosty’s is also a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis so there was a lot of activity happening in the function room before the race. A helpful volunteer walked me to the registration area where I got my number and race shirt. After registration I went back to the function room to look for my fellow Dungeon Rock Racing teammates. They were all very easy to locate wearing their bright orange team singlets.
We had several new faces show up this week. Most, if not all of them, were “virgin” snowshoe racers. Matt the triathlete, Kathey the California surfer girl, Eric the strong one, the husband and wife team of Steve and Deb, and Art brought along his two daughters. I wonder, did they volunteer for this or did Art issue a parental directive? Hmm, not sure about that one. After introductions, we sat around for a while just to make sure there weren’t any other later comers. DRR had a good turnout, 11 people, despite the fact that 4 of our top racers couldn’t make it due to other commitments.
Before the race Bill, Matt and I went out for a warm-up run on the course. The course terrain was much easier than last week’s race. It was mostly gently rolling hills with flat sections in between. I was happy to see there were no monster hills. Unfortunately, the warmer than normal overnight and morning temperatures had softened the snow considerably. Even though the track had been groomed with a snowmobile, the snow was still soft and had the consistency of mashed potatoes. The wind was also very strong and because the race was on a golf course there was no hiding from it. This would not be an easy race.
Lining up for the start of the race I met Steve Wolfe, Chris Dunn and Scott Graham from Acidotic Racing. Steve, Scott and I were the only three brave enough (foolish?) to wear shorts. I knew if I was lining up with these guys I was in the wrong place. They are way faster than me but I decided to stay up near the front. There were over 140 shoers in this race and I didn’t want to get trapped in back at the start and lose a lot of time, and places, right from the start.
The race was off and after a 50 yard sprint we turned left down a short hill and onto the golf course. I took it out pretty hard (for me) and was in maybe the top 25 in the first ¼ mile. I wasn’t very far behind teammate Bill M , he’s another fast guy, so I knew this pace would catch up to me sooner or later. I decided to stick with it and hold on for as long as possible.
The footing on the course was very difficult. I couldn’t get any real traction or grip when pushing off. I tried weaving from side to side looking for firmer snow but it was nowhere to be found. I went through the first mile around 9:30 and feeling good. Right after the mile mark I was passed by two guys moving easily over the snow. At least it looked that way to me. Shorty after that I was passed by two female runners. One of these women was Laurel Valley from Maine. She went on to finish 3rd female overall. I later learned that earlier in the week, Laurel had gone on a 20 mile snowshoe run in the woods of Maine covering the distance in 3:45! Seriously, how is this possible? She is one tough lady. This is one reason why it’s never bothered me to lose to a woman. If she trains hard, and races harder than me, she deserves to beat me. Simple as that.
My pace was starting to slow as the course began to get into a series of rolling hills. None of them were particularly large but my poor early pacing, and the softness of the snow were beginning to wear me down. I had to take a couple of short walking breaks over the hills to get my breathing and heart rate back to earth. During these breaks I was passed by two more runners. I was beginning to get a little pissed at myself for walking and letting people go by without a fight. Right now I just don’t have the competitive drive to push myself past the pain threshold and keep driving when the race gets tough. I hope I can get that back before long.
With about a ½ mile to go I could see the finish line after cresting the last hill. I had no desire to pick up the pace so I was hoping no one came up to contest the final ¼ mile of the race. Wouldn’t you know I began to hear footsteps behind me? I glanced over my shoulder and could see a female runner moving up fast. I knew I couldn’t hold her off at my current pace but I didn’t have much left in the tank at this point. I made a half-hearted attempt to kick it in but to no avail. With about 30 yards to go, she went by me like I had cinder blocks strapped to my feet!
I finished 28th out of 140+ runners so I was happy with my placement if not my effort. Once again DRR finished second behind Acidotic Racing in the team competition. Jim Johnson was the overall winner, his 3rd win in four Granite State Series starts. The female winner was fast moving Kim Webster who finished 8th place overall. Next up is the Horse Hill 7K in Merrimack, NH. I always get a little worried when I see the word “Hill” or “Mountain” in the race title. This one won’t be easy, but then again, are they ever?