Kingman Farm is the final race in the newly formed Granite State Snowshoe Series, and also the only night snowshoe race in New England to the best of my knowledge. Dungeon Rock Racing fielded their strongest team for this final challenge in an attempt to break Acidotic RACING's vise-like grip on first place finishes. AD won the first five races of the series in convincing fashion with DRR placing second each time. The team race was close and heated as this friendly competition came down to the wire. DRR had a strong showing placing 3 runners in the top 10 and 7 in the top 20. Acidotic countered with 4 finishers in the top 10 and 9 in the top 2o. In the end, Acidotic eeked out a victory by the slimmest of margins, defeating my beloved team by a mere 10 points. OK, Acidotic, wait until next year! At least we outnumbered them this time and won the case of Widmer Hefeweizen for bringing the biggest team. Mmm, Mmm good!
There's not much to say about the open competition. Double J was there so we all knew the outcome before the race even started. Jim had already won 4 of the last 5 GSSS races by wide margins and I expected he would do the same at Kingman Farm. Double J claims to be directionally challenged so there was some hope for his rivals if Jim got lost in the darkness and went off the course. Alas, it didn't happen, and Double J cruised to his 5th win in 6 races.
As far as my own race is concerned, I was pleased with my effort at Kingman Farm. My conditioning is still poor having run only 58 miles in December and 87 in January. I never expected to be competitive in any of these races but I have been most disappointed in my lack of mental toughness. I had been giving up way too early in the first 3 races, letting the course, and other racers, defeat me without putting up much of a fight. This was my 4th snowshoe race and I think I finally got my mind in the right place.
The starting line was narrow allowing only about 5 runners across in each row. With approximately 120 shoers toeing the line this had the potential to be a dangerous start. Thoughts of being trampled by many claw-footed psycho-runners convinced me to seed myself near the front. With the command of "GO" the sprint was on! Almost immediately my teammate Eric, who was on my right, went down after someone stepped on the back of his snowshoe. I took a quick look back as people went left, right and OVER him. He got up quickly and seemed to be fine so I continued on. His adrenaline must have kicked in as soon after he blasted past me and went on to run his best race on the series. Geez, maybe I should have gotten stomped on too!
I went out very fast to escape the carnage but I was worried I would pay for it later in the race, and I did to some degree. The first 2 kilometers were mainly flat, double-track with little rollers here and there, but overall the course was gradually losing elevation. I averaged a 5:25 pace for he first 2K and thought I may be somewhere in the top 30. The course started to climb here but it wasn't too bad until it got to a section of switchbacks. I started to struggle a bit here so I took a look back to see if anyone was behind me. There was a long train on my heels!
This is were I usually crack but this time I kept pushing up the hill. I did not want to lose any places not so much for myself but, to protect the team score. Nearing the top of the hill, on some twisting single-track, I finally had to take a walking break. I stepped to the side and asked two runners if they wanted to pass. They accepted, and as they went past, I latched on to them. I vowed not to give up any more places!
After cresting the hill I made a long, screaming descent on perilous switchbacks, dodging trees in the darkness. I could hear the clatter of snowshoes behind me so I poured on the coals. The sounds faded as I descended and then got louder when the trail leveled off. This told me I was a better descender than those following me so I knew I had an advantage. I continued on my kamikaze mission not wanting to give up any places so close to the finish. I reached the bottom of the hill and sprinted the final 200 yards to the finish.
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I finished 36th out of 107 runners but that really isn't important. The thing that matters most to me is that I finally showed some guts in a snowshoe race and pushed myself even though I was feeling like poop! I'm almost sad to see the series come to an end. It's been a lot of fun running as a member of a team and being part of a friendly rivalry. You know who I'm talking about! I've also made some new friends along the way, people I never would have met if not for snowshoe racing. Isn't that what it's all about?
So long for now my new friends. See you on the trails......