Turned out to be a great day for a race (except for the lack of snow of course). Cold, crisp and sunny made for fast-like-you-read-about conditions. Unfortunately the snow killing rain on Monday forced a significant change to the 4 mile course. The entire race would be held on the fairgrounds and we'd get to know the course very well. The course changed to a 1.7 mile loop mostly around the perimeter of the fairgrounds and would be nearly flat (except for a small hill about 1/2 way around). Most of it would be on lightening fast groomed trails (nearly ice in some locations) with a short section of single track near the end of the loop. Oh, and we'd do the loop 3 times for roughly 5.2 miles of snowshoe speedwork. A quick preview of the course made for a no-brainer decision to swap out my deep cleats and go with the standard cleats today. I didn't want to destroy my deep cleats (again). After swapping out the cleats I took them for a test ride on the course, doing the entire loop so I had a good idea what to expect.
To be honest, I'm not sure if could do a typical (maybe boring) race report. The laps were fast and the action (at least around me) was a lot of back and forth. I don't remember who was doing what on which lap. It was, however, the most racing I've done in any snowshoe race....ever. It seems most races my position is set pretty early and not much happens for the majority of the race. This one was totally different.
A quick look at the players today and I had no problem lining up in the second row. This race was stacked. There were probably 10 to 15 guys who could (and have) beat me on many a day (snow and road). I had a simple game plan (simple plan, hard to execute): jump on Dave Dunham's heels early and hang on as long as possible. At the gun they were off like it was a 5k. It took about 3 seconds for me to end up in about 20th place. Teammate Danny Ferreria was off like a shot, too fast for me but I kept my eye on DD instead. It took a few hundred yards to get things settled out but by the time we hit the first set of woods most were racing single file. Passing would not be a problem on 90% of the course so I was content to hang back and follow...anybody...as long as I could keep DD in my sights. The first lap was quick and I don't really remember where everybody was exactly. I think I made a few passes on the first lap and moved up in the top 13 to 15. I'm pretty sure Eric Morse and Jim Pawlicki were in front of me, along with Danny and DD. The good news was I was still hanging with them. So far so good.
First lap split - 11:12 (1st lap was shorter since the start and finish were not at the same point)
Second lap split - 11:28
The third lap I probably made my next big mistake. Instead of being content and letting Danny and DD set the pace, I decided to make a move (on the only hill of all places) and take the lead. Once again I could hear those damn cleats! We got caught up in a little traffic as we headed into the single track for the last time. No problems though, I was yelling "on your left", "runners coming through", whatever I could to let them know we were about to pass. By the time we hit the groomed trails for the final 1/2 mile my legs were toast. As we came by the barns and took the final turn towards the finish I got caught up in some traffic and Danny and DD went flying by. I had nothing left for the short little climb just prior to the 50m downhill finish. As I crested the hill, for a brief second (literally) I thought I had no chance of catching these guys. Then I decided to give it a try. I ran as fast as I could run on snowshoes and wouldn't you know it I was catching DD (Danny was long gone by then). He knew I was coming because he kept looking back! Unfortunately I ran out of room and came up 1 second short! An unbelievable race from start to finish. Thanks guys!
Third lap split - 11:25
Top 20 Overall
photo credits - Jamie Gemmiti
Check out the link for some great photos from the race.