about the photo

Downtown Temple,NH

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Granite State Snowshoe Championship

I almost wasn't going to do a blog post on the GSSS Championship race (results), held on March 13th at the base of Mt Washington. No particular reason other than I wanted to move on from snowshoeing. However, since it was the best race (course and venue) in the Northeast, I figured I should at least mention it. The recent return to winter made me have a change of heart.

Great Glen Center
After a 2 1/2hr drive up through Franconia Notch and down through Jefferson (where it was snowing heavily), I thought for a moment we'd have a repeat of conditions from last year. No such luck, as the temps actually increased by 10 degrees as I approached Great Glen Center, directly across from the Mt Washington Auto Road entrance. It was a balmy 40 degrees and rising, warm for snowshoe racing. However, they were not lacking snow, with feets of it on the ground. The conditions looked pretty good. I checked in, chatted a bit and then headed out for a couple miles on the road to warm up.

Seeing this was the last snowshoe race of the season, all I really wanted to do was get it over with. However, I absolutely wanted to end the season on a positive note no matter what. So with no expectations other than ensuring I had a good time, I headed over to the start line and planted myself a couple of rows back, right in the middle of the line. I was going to race but I wasn't going to kill myself trying.

This was an awesome race last year, definitely one of the best courses all year. The 10k course had something for everyone, groomed trails, single track, climbing, fast descents, you name it. It really is a shame more people won't give it a go. Trust me, you are missing out on a great time. The first 5k is all on groomed rolling nordic trails before heading through the tunnel under Rt16 and over to the Great Glen side which generally had all the climbing and was 100% single track. This years course was very similar to last years, just a couple of slight changes. The snow conditions were also a bit slower this year.

me & Jeff heading up Blueberry Hill
As the gun (go command?) went off I found the first flaw in my plan. The middle was not a good place to be. The entire field slowly migrated towards the middle and a couple dozen snowshoers were kicking up some nice wet snow making it a tad difficult to see where the heck I was going. I survived and eventually settled in to a comfortable pace, doing my best to ignore who and what was going on around me. My plan was to run the first half a little easier than last year and not blow up on the 2nd half climb (like last year). The rolling hills were not taxing at all and I felt pretty relaxed even though I was getting passed by a few folks, including Capt Snowshoe. aR teammate Rich Lavers was right on my shoulder for most of the first 5k and I thought he was still with me as I hit the tunnel in 25:29, nearly 2 1/2 minutes slower than last year. Chris was probably about 1 minute ahead already. As we came by the Great Glen Center and began the climb up Blueberry Hill, I peeked back to see who was behind me and to also make sure I wasn't holding anyone up. Rich had dropped back a bit and Jeff Walker had replaced him. I told him to let me know if he wanted to get by and continued on. We kept this order to about 1/2 way up the Aquaduct trail and Jeff eventually tired of my company and took off without me. Mainers. By the time we hit the top of the climb he was almost out of sight, probably a minute or so up.

Last year I made up a ton of time on the nearly mile long downhill section. This year would be somewhat similar but much slower. I tried my best to open it up but the soft snow and constant threat of post holing (while running with snowshoes at near 5k pace) eventually slowed me down in order to maintain some control (and not break my leg). By the time we turned back on the single track I had closed the gap on Jeff to just about 10 seconds. It didn't last long. He knew I had gained on him and he turned on the jets once again and left me talking to myself once again.

Gnarly downhill near  the finish
The last mile is a great section of single track and has a killer climb along the power lines not too far from the finish. When I got to the power lines I was surprised to see Chris about 50m in front of me. He looked close enough to catch and for a second I thought about it. I soon realized this was 50m on the toughest hill on the course. Time wise I was still 20-30 seconds back. Oh well, time to settle in and at least make sure no one passes. I looked back a few times, just to make sure no one was going to sneak up on me in the last 1/4 mile and just tried to keep my balance over the last little tricky part of the course (thanks DRR!). I finished up in 58:18, 11th overall, 15 seconds back of Chris and 30 seconds back of Jeff.

Even though I was a full 5 1/2 minutes slower than last year, I think I actually had a better time this year. I had fun. Mission accomplished.
Unfortunately I couldn't take part in the festivities afterwords and needed to leave shortly after the race. I'm glad I ran but I'm also glad the season is finally over!

No comments: