I ran the Horse Hill Snowshoe race this morning, my 3rd race in three weekends. Great weather, an awesome course and a surprise guest made for a very fun day! Horse Hill is race #5 of 6 in the Granite State Snowshoe Series. Aw, shucks, does that mean I only get to torture myself one more time? For those of you wishing to join me in this foolish endeavor all I can say is sorry folks, Kingman Farm, the final race in the series, is already sold out!
I arrived early for the race hoping to get one of the few parking spots at the trail head. I was happy to see there were still a few remaining and after parking I went to greet Michael A, the RD, and pick up my race number. Even though it was a bright, sunny morning, there was a cold wind whipping through the parking lot so I retreated to my truck, strategically parked in the sun, to relax and warm stay before the race.
As I waited in my truck I could see many of the usual suspects gathering for the race. All the fast guys were there, Jim "Double J" Johnson, Chris Dunn, Steve W and Scott "PHAT" G. It was shaping up to be another very competitive race but it was doubtful if anyone could stop Double J. He has owned the series winning 3 of the last 4 races by wide margins. Soon, many of my DRR teammates arrived and we went out for a pre-race warm up on the course. The snow was frozen and firm meaning this would be produce some fast times today, with the exception of yours truly.
Back at the parking lot I was pleasantly surprise by the arrival of Emily "Trail Pixie" ! I have been prodding her all winter the come out for a snowshoe race but other commitments, and perhaps a little fear of the unknown, had kept her away until today. Although Emily got lost and arrived at the race with just a few minutes to spare she was still in her usual cheerful mood with a smile on her face. I was also very happy to finally meet Laurel Valley after the race.
Trail Pixie and me
The race start was flat and fast and the field was strung out in no time at all. I started out near the rear and stayed there throughout the race. After about 200 yards of flat double-track the course turned left onto the wooded single-track. The single track twisted it's way down to a slightly lower elevation where we had to leap over a narrow flow of running water. After that, we hit the first of several climbs.
The hill started out at a manageable grade but then became steeper as the climb progressed. I walked a little on the steepest section and then began running again when the angle eased a bit. I thought I had crested the hill but the the course turned right and began climbing again. This part wasn't too bad and I was able to continue running.
Around 1K I entered a series of switchbacks that descended the side of a steep hill. Flying down the hill along the twisting single-track was a blast. I was really enjoying myself here but my joy was short-lived when I realized I would have to climb this section of trail on the way back to the finish. Shoot me now! At the bottom of the hill the trail continued to snake its way through thickly wooded forest. It was here when I noticed some pain and tightness in my left achilles. It stayed that way for the remainder of the race but it really didn't effect my running in any way.
At the 2K mark I hit Horse Hill, another long and perhaps steepest hill of the race. It was here where I stopped to tighten the straps on one of my snowshoe that was loose from the start of the race. When I pulled off the trail to fix the strap I was passed by three runners. They continued moving quickly up the hill and I never made contact with them again. I fact, I never saw another runner between the 2K and the 6K marks. It was like I was on a training run alone in the woods. Ok, back to the hill, I walked it of course! Were you ever in doubt?
After the long climb there was some easier running as the course made a long, gradual descent along some power lines. Once off the power lines the course made its way though deep woods with a lot of twists and turns along the way. This was my favorite part of the race probably because it was also the flattest! Unfortunately, this is where I also got lazy. Since I was tired and all alone out here, I really didn't have the motivation to push myself. My pace slowed and I just tried to put on foot in front of the other.
I finally made my way back to the Blodgett Hill with its series of switchbacks. This time I had to climb them. I ran a little, walked a little, and repeated that process until I made it to the top. I decided I should at least try to run hard for the last 1K to the finish. I flew down a steep hill and turned onto the final stretch to the finish. This is where I saw another runner but he was too far ahead to catch with only a few hundred yards to the finish line. I continued to push hard and crossed the line in 30th place.
A defeated Dan crosses the finish line.
(Photo courtesy of Steve Wolfe.)
Horse Hill is probably my favorite course in the series so far, mainly for its abundance of single-track trail. Cobble Mountain is a close second with the insane descent being its highlight.
Double J smoked the field once again winning by almost six minutes. DRR had another strong showing with Patrick S and Dan C finishing in the top ten and first time snowshoe racer Emily T finishing 3rd female and first in her age group. Great job Emily, Dan and Patrick. Once again, DRR finished second behind acidotic RACING in the team scoring. This is becoming a bad habit.
Wait till next week!!