Race #5 of the GSSS is in the books.
The Horse Hill 7k was only 3 miles from my home but I was still there 1 1/2 hrs before the start...and I wasn't even the first one there! I met up with Scotty G and John S and headed out for a warm up run and course preview. Scotty and I were in our running shoes, John on his new Dions. The conditions were great for racing thanks to cold temps over night. Most of the course was borderline icy conditions which made it a little tricky during the warm up, as we covered the last mile or so of the course.
A few more folks were milling around when we got back including my teammates at acidotic RACING, a car full from Dungeon Rock and even a handful of my Gate City Strider teammates, some making their snowshoe racing debut. I met up with Jim J and Mike W and headed out for my second warm up run of the day. I grabbed a couple more signs and planned to head out to about the 4.5k mark to place at least one more sign at a questionable corner. This time all of us were in our running shoes. After placing the signs we headed back, following the course to the finish, up and over Blodgett Hill. Blodgett was VERY icy on the decent as we stuck to the sides to avoid falling on our butts. We got back with about 15 minutes to spare and I quickly changed into race attire: a stealthy white short sleeve shirt.
After a short delay for some late arrivals we were off. Double-J was out of sight by the time I crested the first hill probably a 1/4 mile into the race. Chris Dunn was pushing the pace for us mortals trailing behind. Chris surprised me by going out really fast and had a decent lead on me by the time we reached the first hill just under 1k into the race. I gained a little back on the downhill single track but he was still pushing pretty hard, maintaining the same lead at the 2k point. I peeked over my shoulder a few times on the single track and saw Mike Wade and Scotty Graham not too far behind. What the heck did these guys have for breakfast?
As we headed up the 2nd, steeper hill I closed a bit on Chris and once again I peeked when we took the sharp turn at the top. This time I didn't see anyone. I finally caught up to Chris on the power lines and pulled in front to pull for a while (so I thought). I never looked back but I could tell Chris was tight on my heels as the icy conditions made it easy to hear him. I pushed hard for a while but was tiring as we crossed the power lines and headed back into the woods. I slowed a bit, and even moved to the side of the trail a few times but Chris seemed happy to stay right behind me. Did I mention I hate to be in front??
So now I start thinking about race strategy and whether Chris was just toying with me. He's been racing me really tight the last couple of races, improving each time. I felt like I gained some on the downhills so I decided to test this about the 4.5k point as the trail descended towards the last major brook crossing. I ran as hard and fast as I could down towards the bridge and the sound behind me changed a bit and I felt I may have increased my lead.
The next 1k was a steady climb off and on, slowly climbing back up to the summit of Blodgett Hill. I took a peek on the switchback and didn't see Chris (although I heard him) but was never comfortable. I didn't want to take any chances and ran the last 1k (all downhill) hard, taking one more peek as we turned back onto the main trail to the finish.
My teammate pushes me waaaaaaaaay to hard, but I love the competition. I've never looked back so much in a race, ever. I finished 2nd (or as Scotty G likes to say, I was first loser) to Jim Johnson, who I think had already changed, eaten, and finished his cool down run by the time I got to the finish line. Chris finished 3rd, less than a minute behind me followed by Mike Wade (in his 1st snowshoe race every) in 4th and fellow acidotic teammate Ri Fahnestock in 5th.
Complete results can be found here.
I also took a few pictures after finishing and got about the top 30 or so before heading out for a cool down run with Jim J and Mike W.
Splits for the day:
Now for a shameless plug. A few weeks before the race I was contacted by the Manchester Union Leader about a preview article they were writing about the race. The reporter asked if I would talk to him and do a photo shoot at HHNP. I agreed and the article was in Fridays paper (the Merrimack edition). Although the article seemed more about me and less about HHNP (sorry), it did give me a chance to promote the sport of snowshoe racing and the GSSS. If you're interested, you can read the article here.
Next up, the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe 5k, probably the 1st New England snowshoe race EVER to sell out.