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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!

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