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Downtown Temple,NH

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hawley Kiln Snowshoe Race

I headed out to Hawley Kiln (results) for only my second time (the last back in 2009). This is relevant because it would only be the 2nd race all season which was run on the same course from the previous year(s). 11 races done so far this season and only the first (Woodford, back in December) and the last (Hawley Kiln) were on the same course from previous years.
Woodford started out well, a 2 1/2 minute PR on fast conditions. Yes, I know it's hard to compare snowshoe times season to season but it doesn't mean I can't try. Anyways, the season started well, and I felt good on the next race (Turner Trail) on a new course. Since then I've been a model of inconsistency. Some would say I've actually been quite consistent, consistently slower. Nearly a month of struggling with Bronchitis (without taking any race weekends off) probably didn't help either. I kept plugging away in spite of myself. So for most of the season I never really had a sense of how good or bad I was racing. Let me rephrase, I had a sense, I just didn't have any data since all races after Woodford were on new courses (nothing to compare to).

So what does any of this have to do with Hawley Kiln? Well, it would be the first race since Woodford run on the same course from previous years. As far as conditions go, I'd say the conditions were similar to 2009, maybe just a tad slower, maybe. Finally....I'd have something to compare to once and for all!
Roughly the 4 mile mark - (photo credit-Bob Birkby)
The first (and last) 7/10ths of a mile are run on a nicely groomed snowmobile trail. Going out it's a gentle climb for most of it before turning right onto a rustic single track. I went out fairly easy and probably hit the single track around 10th overall. The single track was not a well established trail (no rail) and the trail probably saw its first snowshoe tracks when the WMAC boys marked the trail. The snow was a mix of sugary snow and crusty snow. If you were light enough, you could probably stay on top of the snow and not break through. Generally I'd say I would have fallen into that category. However, running along in 10th place means there were a lot of people in front of me punching through the snow. This made the trail extremely uneven and broken up and kept me off balance for nearly the entire single track section (roughly 3 miles). It was also very tiring, at least for me. I could sense I was probably pushing a little too hard early on and had slowed considerably by mile 2 (which I hit in 20 minutes). Not long after that Abby Mahoney went by and a few minutes later, Ken Clark. My 3rd mile was 12:32....really. Looking back I think I may have slowed a bit too much. Granted, the 3rd mile was slow and hard (700ft of climbing along this course, a lot of it in the 3rd mile), but I was saving way too much for later. The 4th mile was a little easier to run and I was feeling pretty good (apparently since I was going so bloody slow earlier) so I started to pick up the pace. I passed Dave Merkt around mile 4 and was gaining on Abby and Ken (who were about a minute in front by the time we hit the snowmobile trail for the last 7/10ths of a mile to the finish). I managed to close the gap but it was too little, too late. Oh well.
So, what did I learn from running on a course I've run previously? Well, 2 years ago I ran the same course about 2 1/2 minutes faster. I think I've finally confirmed what I've been feeling for most of this season - slower.

Enough about the race. The real reason for doing this race is the pancake breakfast right after the race at the South Face Farm Sugar House. $15 for a snowshoe race and breakfast, what a deal. The place was packed as usual but I got seated pretty quick with Dave Boles (fellow snowshoe racer). I had a great time. Dave has been doing these races since the mid 90's. Not only that, I think I actually found someone who drives longer than I do to go to a snowshoe race. This weekend I only had to drive 2 1/2hrs. Dave routinely drives 3+ hrs (from the Hudson valley in NY).

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