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Downtown Temple,NH

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day/Night Doubleheader

Saturday was a long day.
I headed over to Beaver Brook in Hollis,NH a little before 9am to mark the course for the 11:30am Beaver Brook 5k Snowshoe race (results). On the way over I was thinking of an often (dd?) used line in snowshoe racing - "everything takes longer in the winter". In other words, give yourself plenty of time. The wind had been howling (30+ mph) for the better part of a day and there was a good chance there would be a few branches on the course. In addition we had  2-3 days of temps near 60 which had melted a ton of snow. Hopefully I had given myself enough time. Marking the course was easy, clearing the 100's of branches was a pain. They were everywhere, including 4-5 blowdowns across the trail. Luckily, you could easily step over all of them so no detours were necessary. Snow conditions were also pretty good. Mostly firm, soft on the edges and just a couple exposed rocks. Other than clearing branches, no additional trail work was required. 1 1/2 hrs later I was done. I headed back out with Mike Wade for a warm up on the backend of the course. I only had on running shoes and nearly killed myself a half dozen times. I eventually circled back after a couple of miles before I injured myself.

Me and Bob Jackman near the finish
The conditions were soft enough that I went with my deep cleats without a problem. The race was mostly single track, except for a short section at the start/finish and a short section right in the middle. My plan was to go out fast at the start and get on the single track quickly to avoid getting stuck behind anyone who might eventually slow down. Apparently this was the plan of about 20 other runners as well as they all took off like it was a 400m race. I tucked in behind Mike Wade and Danny Ferreira and stayed right on their heels for the first 1 1/2 miles or so (except for the one time I stepped off the rail and postholed to my knee, causing me to face plant). Danny and I eventually passed Mike but Danny took off and I got stuck wandering in no mans land. I was running ok but just felt flat. I could see Dave Principe and John Pajer not too far up front but I wasn't closing at all (no zip in the legs). The rest of the race was mostly uneventful. I caught up with a struggling Bob Jackman not too far from the finish and went by him with about 1/4 mile to go. I eventually finished in 8th overall (3rd masters) with a time of 24:29. Not a great race but not awful either. After a short break, I headed back out on the course to pick up all the flags. By the time I got back the entire parking area was empty except for the race crew (Mike and Alec). 11.3 miles in the bank. I headed home, showered & changed and headed over to Madbury to help Chris setup prior to my second race of the day.

'Rustic' conditions heading into the field
I arrived in Madbury around 3:30 for the Kingman Farm Moonlight Snowshoe race (results) and helped a bit setting up the inside (tables, chairs, etc..). After talking with Chris about course conditions and bumping into Danny and Geoff (who were just coming off the course after doing some trail work), it sounded like conditions would be a little different than Beaver Brook. I don't like surprises so I decided to put on the Katoola's and run the 3.5m course while the sun was still out. The conditions were very hard and icy. In fact, a snowmobile had gone over the first part of the trail and you could barely see any track. The course seemed well marked and was the same course as a couple of years ago except the field. I stopped and took a picture of the pot holed icy trail leading into the field. This section would come back to haunt me later.Chris must have been drinking when he came across the field, marking the course. Instead of heading straight across the field he zigged and zagged back and forth all over the place. The fresh rail he had punched through the previous day was now a solid single track. What should have been a 1/3 mile trip across now seemed closer to 3/4 of a mile.  Should be an interesting section at night! The trail up and over Hicks Hill seemed similar to previous years. It was apparent someone did a lot of work on the trails (something you wouldn't know or see at night). When I got back I changed out my deep cleats for my ice cleats and got ready to race.
Near the finish - photo credit Gianina Lindsey
In addition to my headlamp, I also carried a small LED flashlight. You can never have too much light when running at night. I lined up a couple of rows deep, close to Dave Principe, with Sean Snow directly behind me. At the 'go' command we all took off like we were shot out of a cannon. I think it was faster than a typical 5k road race start. The roughly 1 mile gentle downhill start helped. Heck, we didn't see anything that resembled a hill for nearly 2 miles!. I quickly settled in behind Dave and I could hear someone right on my heels. I never looked back but I knew it was Sean. We would stay this way the entire race (although the order would change twice). Surprisingly my legs were feeling great! Nothing like how they felt at Beaver Brook. As we headed into the field (see picture above), I apparently caught a cleat and went down hard, banging my right knee pretty good before sliding on the icy trail for a few feet. As Sean went by he asked if I was ok, I responded yes and got back up, hoping not to lose Dave and Sean. We would stay in this order, very close together, all the way up Hicks Hill. There were a couple of folks behind us but I'd guess no closer than 20-30 seconds. As our train descended down the back side of Hicks Hill, we apparently missed the first sharp left turn and instead went straight down the side of Hicks Hill....all the way to the bottom. In fact, we went all the way down to the main trail we initially started on. I had a feeling we were off course pretty quickly but we were flying and by the time I could react we were already at the bottom. Dave was about the follow the trail at the bottom when I told him we had to go back up...we were off course. As we headed back up to the point we went off trail I could see runners going by and more coming. I entered the trail again directly behind Amber Fereirra. After a few minutes I asked to pass and took off (knowing Sean and Dave were close by), hoping to make up a little time if possible. It was a little demoralizing, especially considering we had a good race going. I'm not sure how things played out behind me exactly but Dave finished 11 seconds back, and Sean was 15 seconds. My disappointing time was 28:31, good enough for 11th overall and 2nd masters.
Overall I had a great time. There's just nothing like racing on snowshoes at night. My knee was scraped up pretty good and a little stiff but I'll survive to race again! After hanging out for a little food, awards and raffles, I finally was ready to head home...and get some rest. 7 more miles done, 18+ miles for the day. Now that's one way to get a long run in!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Twice as much fun as last week!

It didn't take a lot of effort to have more fun this weekend than I had last weekend at the Exeter Slowshoe umm 'Race'. I still can't get over how ridiculously hard (and slow) that was. This weekend I was right back at it and if things went well, I'd be right back at it.....twice!. I had a little more confidence this week due to a much better week of training. I was generally feeling less sick (more better?). Unfortunately I've felt this way before and then blew up in the race so I wasn't getting too excited....yet.

First up was the Horse Hill race (results) in Merrimack, NH. Not only was this my hometown course, RD Michael Amarello allowed me to design a new course this year, taking advantage of a few new trails. The roughly 4.5 mile course would be about 75% single track with a few wider sections sprinkled in for passing and such. Over the past month I've run the course about 7 times so I was a wee bit familiar with it. After marking it in the morning with Michael, I also knew it would be very fast. I lined up as conservative as I could (I have limits you know) and immediately tucked in behind Amber Ferierra and Chris Dunn, with Michael Wade on my tail. I was in no hurry early on and almost fell off the pace near the summit of Blodgett Hill. I made up any loss on the downhill single track and got back in line behind Chris and Amber for the next 1 1/2 miles or so. We had a good pace going and we seemed to be pulling in a couple of runners up front so I was content with my place...at the moment. As we headed down towards the powerline I actually felt like Amber had slowed just a bit so instead of running up Chris' back, I made an unconventional pass on the right, mostly because Amber was running on the left. If I recall, Chris followed suit and also squeaked by Amber.

Feeling good! (photo credit - Gianina Lindsey)
Course knowledge helped at this point, I think. I knew we had some fairly easy (fast ) single track coming up, followed by a fast descent down the powerlines before finally heading up a tough climb on Horse Hill. So I picked it up a bit on the single track, hammered the powerline trail and made another pass, before tucking in behind Sean Snow (who clearly was not at 100%). Sean was nice enough to pull me up Horse Hill and I followed him on the short and fast descent down the backside. We'd spend the next 3/4 of a mile climbing back up Blodgett Hill on a very tight single track. My plan was to get onto this trail in front of anyone around me since passing would be virtually impossible. So, on the short section of snowmobile trail before the single track I made my last pass of the day and got in front of Sean. Of course now I had a couple of tough climbers right on my heels (Sean and Chris). If they caught up I would have stepped aside if asked but I wasn't going to volunteer my spot. I felt confident if I made it to the top of Blodgett Hill without getting passed, I could hold them off on the downhill to the finish. Thankfully that's the way it played out. I finished up in 8th place overall in a time of 36:01, just 14 seconds ahead of Chris. For the first time in a LONG time I felt pretty good about my race. I actually think the guys at the finish were more excited about my finish then I was. I guess I can be a grumpy, miserable, pain in the butt when I'm not racing well (or sick). Who knew?

Since Saturday went swimmingly well, I decided to double up the weekend and head over to Northwood, NH on Sunday for the inaugural running of the Bear Paw Classic (results), put on by Chris' daughter Madison. The roughly 3.7 mile course would have just about everything: tough sugary, loose snow, lightening fast single track, nicely packed snowmobile trails and even a descent hill to boot. It seemed just about everyone here had raced the previous day so there was no sense complaining about tired legs (although I may have mentioned them). Chris refused to line up in front of me so I took a spot behind teammate Ryan Welts instead. Both the start and finish were on a loop around the baseball field on the toughest snow on the course. Not exactly the way I would prefer to start or finish a race but oh well. After a few minutes of racing it was clear Chris and and I would be racing alone. The fast guys were gone up front and we didn't think there was anyone challenging us from behind. For the first half of the race I lead and Chris followed. We asked each other a few times why we were running so hard since it was clear we weren't going to catch anyone in front and we were fairly certain we would not be run down from behind. It was mostly talk though. Let up in a race? Are you serious? Ha!
This is how most of the race looked, except the finish
As we hit the powerline trail (the only serious climb of the day), Chris pulled up on my side and we ran shoulder to shoulder for a while before Chris took the lead on some of the steeper climbs. I was definitely struggling on the climbs and tried to stay close. As we headed back onto the single track at the roughly 1 mile to go point, Chris started talking about finishing together. I led the 1st half, he led the 2nd half, it's only fair. I had visions of Kevin Tilton and Jim Johnson finishing up in a 'tie' at the GSSS race last year (holding hands I think). Anyways, it wasn't a pleasant vision. Chis is a great teammate, but there ain't a chance in heck that I was going to stroll in side by side without putting up a fight. He can be first, or I can but this dog don't tie! Lucky for Chris I had no fight left. I was barely hanging on during the last 1/4 mile of very loose, sugary snow. The harder I tried, the slower I went. I just could not close the 3-5m gap Chris had on me and eventually finished up 6th overall in 31:31, just 3 seconds behind Chris. For the second time this weekend I finished up and felt pretty good (although tired). On the road to recovery! Good thing since the season is almost over.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Solid week of training (at least for me)

Looks like I'm finally over whatever has ailed me the last 3-4 weeks. What a relief. Now I just need to get some decent training in again and this week was a good start. I do feel like I lost a little fitness but I'm confident it'll come back quickly.

Some highlights for the week:
  • 39.5 miles running
  • 18 miles snowshoeing
  • indoor track workout (8x800's @ 2:50 avg)
  • 2 snowshoe races
Finally had some fun in a snowshoe race (actually two). More on that later.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Apparently I was Wrong

Less than a week ago I wrote that Sidehiller was the single worst snowshoe experience I've ever had. Ha, I should have waited one more day! PULL UP, PULL UP! Crash & burn. It was not pretty. Captain Snowshoe calls these stinkers but in reality I don't think I've ever worked harder or pushed my body further than I have in the last 2-3 weeks. Unfortunately working hard does not mean going fast, it just means working hard. Sometimes hard work is slow....really slow....like a turtle (no offense to the Tuesday Night Turtles, most of who beat me each week). A nasty respiratory infection has seriously affected my ability to breath, which surprisingly is needed quite often in snowshoe racing. The good news (really?) is I've finally accepted the fact it might be a while before I'm healthy again. Basically what this means is I'll continue snowshoe racing each weekend, but you won't find me seeding myself up near the front any time soon. Start back, stay back and enjoy the view!

A true representation of how I felt
The latest Granite State Snowshoe race was the Exeter Snowshoe Hullaballoo (results) in Fort Rock. The 4.4 mile, 100% snowshoe single track course was excellent. Scenic, rolling, well marked. Just a great course. However, contrary to what co-race director Ri Fahnestock said, the conditions were not fast! I thought the loose, sugary snow represented some of the toughest conditions we've seen all year. Of course it could have been me.
At the start I thought I had seeded myself appropriately, several rows back but not too far back. I tucked in behind Amber and Chris right from the start and the pace was relatively easy for the first 5 to 10 minutes. I generally had no problems staying with the pace line in front. Well I guess the folks up front thought the pace was too easy and soon some passing was going on (some successful, some not). A few took advantage of some stomped out passing zones, but eventually some of the slower runners up front just stepped off for a second to let the train go by. Fortunately or unfortunately I got disconnected from the train on one of these passes and lost contact with the group in front pretty quickly as I got boxed in. At the time it was quite frustrating but looking back it had no effect on my race. I'd soon die a slow, painful death all by myself. If the race was 10 minutes long, I'd be in the game. It wasn't and I wasn't.
For the next several miles I trailed teammate Jerry Fitzgibbons, but the gap was increasing as the race went on and I was struggling BIG time. About 30 minutes in both calves started to cramp up, forcing me to slow down (ha, just writing that makes me laugh! Slow down...if I went any slower I'd be going backwards). Heck, I was walking some of the flat sections at times. I'd speed up (we're talking slug-like speed), cramp up, and then slow down again. Gee it was fun.
About a half mile from the finish Kristina Folcik finally caught up to me so I asked if she wanted to go by. Of course she said yes (apparently she wanted to finish before the sun went down). There wasn't anyone else behind me so I put it into cruise control and shuffled my way to the finish (heck, I think I actually walked across the finish line).Yikes.
I quickly changed out of my wet clothes, had some great soup and hung out by the fire pits for a while. Except for the actual racing part, snowshoe racing is a lot of fun. Good times, good company.
Turns out my calf problems was probably due to dehydration. My calves cramped up so bad during the race that I had multiple bruises on both right afterwords.Very strange.
So for the second weekend in a row, I followed up a crappy snowshoe race on Saturday with a visit to the doctors office on Sunday. Maybe I'll try something different next weekend (or maybe not).

Favorite quote: " I can't believe you looked THAT awful and I still lost to you" - Michael Wade

photo Credit - Tim Lindsey

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sidehiller and other Amusing Stuff

Steamed at Sidehiller
I won't spend much time with my Sidehiller Snowshoe Race report. In fact, I won't spend any time on it since I really didn't put up a fight and race. Hands down the single worst snowshoe experience I've had so far. When I reach way down into my bag of excuses I do come up with a decent one - a trip to the doctors the day after confirmed Bronchitis. However, it was still disappointing. I didn't feel that bad at the start but boy did I feel it 10 seconds after we started (and the next 40 minutes and 14 seconds). Moving on to the next one.

In a very short snowshoe season, having 3 weeks in a row of sub par races does not boost my confidence, regardless of the reasons why. January couldn't end fast enough. Lucky for me (and the rest of you apparently), my racing woes have not gone unnoticed. If it wasn't for my teammates, I wouldn't know how bad I've been lately. Gee thanks!

It has inspired some amusing videos, started by Chris Dunn of course. This one is called "Wolfe Searches for Answers".

Of course, after sitting on it for a couple of days I decided to make my own video response. It is called "Chris Dunn as Captain Snowshoe". Enjoy.

Up Next: The Exeter Snowshoe Hullabaloo on Saturday. Please please please let me not stink!