So I headed down to the Northfield Mountain Recreation Center in Northfield, MA with my WMAC driver Bill Morse, hoping the mountain held more snow then the surrounding towns (which were nearly bare). Dave D and Paul B assured us (via pictures no less) that there would be a snowshoe race. In Dave we trust.
This would be my first trip to Northfield Mt (results), a very popular venue for snowshoe, high school xc and mountain trail races throughout the year. Turns out it's also one of the closer races as well (Northfield is only 1 1/2 hrs from home). Also rare is the heated indoor facilities, talk about a bonus! We needed it on Saturday with the temps in the single digits. Brrrr.
The course was different then previous years (so I was told) and longer (5.3 miles). We'd still climb to the summit of Northfield Mt though. Roughly, we were told we'd climb for the first 2 miles to the summit and then have 3.3 miles of downhill to the finish.Trails would be mostly xc ski trails with some single track near the summit. There were a couple of bare spots but for the most part the entire trails was nicely snow covered.
I lined up in front hoping to get a fast start. I'm not a strong climber but felt I had to at least try to push early on. I needed to try to stick with the regular climbers as long as possible. It didn't last long. Dave Dunham passed within the first kilometer and shortly after that he was followed by John Pajer, Sean Snow and Danny Ferreira and then by Donald Pacher and Kurt Gustafson. One mile in and the wheels were coming off. Most of the climbing was runnable (read not killer steep) but it went on and on and on. I had no idea where the top was so I just kept looking at the surrounding terrain to see if the trees stopped going up. Near the top we jumped onto a nice single track for maybe 3/4 of a mile and I was able to catch up with Donald and Kurt. Dave was out of sight and Danny, John and Sean were probably 100m ahead. We were able to close the gap on the single track a bit so when we hit the summit and began our descent we were all within 30m or so. A quick check of my watch showed something around 21:15. Yes, that's like 10:40 pace for the climb up.
Most of the descent was down a snow-covered road, very wide and not very steep. Perfect for fast running. I was pretty confident I could make up some time and hopefully pass a few folks on the way down. Within the first mile I think I had passed all 5. John Pajer would stick to my shoulder the rest all the way to the finish, and we were flying! I could see Dave and Tim Mahoney in the distance but we had no chance of catching either, but did reduce the gap quite a bit. The road went on and on until we finally jumped off onto a side trail. The last 1k would be the same as the first 1k so I kept looking for familiar trails. I was able to open up a little space over the last 1k and pushed hard to the finish, finishing in 6th place overall with a time of 40:03, John just 4 seconds back. The most amazing thing to me is how fast we actually covered the last 3.3 miles....on snowshoes. It took me 18:48 to cover the last 3.3 miles: that's a 5:42 avg pace..on snowshoes. Wow. Dave did a great job with laying out the course. No broken cleats (at least for me), great competition, even better racing once again.
I hear the racing up front was pretty tight as well, with Justin Fyffe taking the win...just barely :-)
photo credits - Dunham Racing
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