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Monday, January 25, 2010

First Snowshoe Double of the Season - Pooh Hill (Part 1)

Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble
On Saturday I headed up to King Pine Resort in Madison NH for the 3rd race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series (results). This race probably has one of the nicest locations for a snowshoe race anywhere in the Northeast. It's not often you get a scenic spot, a combination of groomed trails and snowshoe single track and most importantly indoor facilities (a real bonus in snowshoe racing). If you haven't done it you're definitely missing out on a beauty.

Last year this was the 1st race in the series and it was a doozy. 8.5k in length with a killer hill about 1/2 around the loop. A couple of things would make this years version a bit different. Pooh Hill was the 3rd race in the GSSS this year so most of us have worked out some of the kinks already (if that's possible in
snowshoeing). More importantly the infamous Pooh Hill was gone.
Surprisingly, I didn't think it made the course that much easier. Any longer snowshoe race is hard, and this one was still 8k in length. The conditions were excellent, both on the single track and the groomed trails but both could be deceivingly slow, especially the groomed trails. You really had to shop around to find the right (aka nice solid snow) line. Find it and you could feel the difference, good grip, good speed. Loose it and you'd sink in the soft snow and become frustratingly slow (like running in sand).

After last weeks disappointing effort at Feel Good Farm I had something to prove Saturday..to myself. I was hoping last week was a fluke and not a trend. With the regular cast of characters toeing the line I figured I'd know pretty quickly if things were trending in the right direction. The course starts on a wide nordic trail before dropping like a rock to the lake a few hundred meters in. After crossing the lake the course continues on some rolling single track for the next 1 to 2 miles before eventually popping back out on the groomed trails on the back side of the lake. Most of the remaining course stays on the groomed trails with the exception of 2 slight detours into some deep powder, just to mix it up (gee, thanks Chris). Although there was plenty of climbing along the way, most hills are manageable, with the toughest climb just a few hundred meters from the finish.
Right on time we were off. Immediately I got boxed in on the outside and couldn't pass. The pace was slower than I wanted but I was surprisingly patient (mostly because I was stuck). My only concern was to get good position before heading into the single track. By the time we crossed the lake for the first time my position was already set. The really fast guys were already out of sight and the regular fast guys (Jim Pawlicki, Tim Cox and Matt Westerlund) were probably 30m in front of me, slowly pulling away. For the rest of the race I always had someone in sight but just couldn't close the gap. A few times along the way I peeked over my shoulder but didn't see anyone so I spent most of the trip around the lake trying to cling to whoever was in front of me (which turned out to be teammate Tim Cox for most of the race). I definitely felt much better this week and was generally pleased with my effort and the result (8th overall, 1st masters).
L to R: Tim Cox (7th), Kevin Tilton (4th), Ben Nephew (2nd), Matt Westerlund (6th), Jim Johnson (1st), Jim Pawlicki (5th), Bob Jackman (3rd) and yours truly (8th).

Photo Credits - Krissy Kozlosky
The fast guys were kind enough to wait for me to cross the finish line before snapping the group photo above. It's probably not hard to tell it was literally taken seconds after I crossed the finish since most look like they've been finished for quite a while :-)

I snagged my camera right after I finished and managed to get photos of nearly everyone who finished after me. In addition Krissy was also snapping away, catching most runners as well. My son Alec also ran his first snowshoe race ever and did pretty well, humbly finishing in 46th o/a.

My photos from Pooh Hill

Krissy Kozlosky's Photos from Pooh Hill

Part II will be posted shortly.

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