Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sidehiller Snowshoe Race - Race Report

Center Sandwich, NH is hard to find. Well, not really, but it felt like the other side of the universe, even though it only took me a little over two hours to get there. After a few minutes of thinking I would never get there, I finally arrived about 55 minutes before race start. I grabbed a potentially towable, certainly jerky parking space almost on the walkway to the Center Sandwich Library and headed to registration.

The mood around registration was somewhat comical. On top of the fact that it was cold—even cold for a snowshoe race—the official word on the course change was out. Due to Monday's monsoon, the snowpack in the woods was not suitable for racing. So, instead of the allegedly groovy course over the hills and through the woods past grandmother's house (literally), the course was laps around the fairgrounds. Three laps to be exact. The three laps brought the total distance to 5.2 miles, which according to my math is longer than the advertised 4. That being said, Paul, the race director, did a fantastic job of creating an interesting and fun course out of nothing. He found/made some good singletrack and even found a hill. Granted, that hill saw us running to the top of the leach field, but it still counted as a hill. Even though it wasn't the original course, which would have been fun, I have to admit that the lack of major climbs and fast surface really suited me. I was able to find my rhythm and stay in it. Well, as best you can in a snowshoe race. The singletrack sections felt like running in sugar. One section was sugar over a swamp, and with each lap it got browner and browner and browner as more swamp bubbled to the top. Running in brown sugar is hard, too.

At the start, I thought I lined myself up fairly conservatively: third row. But, as Paul gave the command for the race to start, the vacuum sucked me right out. After 400 meters, I looked up, and I could still easily see the front runners and was near the front myself. "Whoooaaaa, big fella!" A couple people went by me, but I just stayed relaxed. And, surprisingly, quite comfortable. Admittedly, going into the race, I was a touch nervous how I would feel after feeling kind of flat and tired for the second half of the week. I spent a good twenty minutes on the foam roller on Friday night, and I felt shockingly frisky on my warm up. OK, let's keep rolling...literally.

Going through the swamp singletrack, I did the second most athletic thing I have ever done in my life. (The first being when I caught and tracked a Norwegian skier from UVM on a hill during a cross country ski race in college. It was EPIC.) There were three other racers right on my heels, when I tripped on something unseen. I knew that there was a 100% chance that I was going to get trampled and cause a massive pile up. As I was going down, I somehow managed to roll to my left out of the singletrack into the "soft" snow. I looked up as the three runners went by unscathed. It was just like in the movies, when the hero nearly gets run over by a truck, rolls to safety, looks up intently and watches it speed away. Just like that. At the finish, the guy who was right on my heels at the time ended up finishing just behind me, and all his oxygen-deprived brain could come up with was "Hey, you're the guy that went down on the first lap. Man, that roll was awesome!" Or, at least that's what my oxygen-deprived brain heard. But, trust me, it was indeed awesome.

After the fall, I managed to get up and get back on the train. The fall happened so suddenly, it didn't throw me at all. I went through the first lap in 12:40. Because I'm a runner geek, I was so tempted to hit the split button on my watch. I refrained. On the second lap, I just stayed steady. It was nice to be a bit spread out after the first lap because where the new snow had drifted across the course, it was like running through a cold smoke screen. Every time the runner in front of you hit the fresh drifts, it was cold enough to sting your face. My split for to laps was 26:12, a 13:32. "Hmmm...I could break 40:00. Hmmm. Wow. Really? Let's do this."

Just before the close of the second lap, I passed a couple guys, and started to close on a third. I really wanted to run the last lap hard and not back off. Heading around the field that made up the first section of the lap, I feebly passed the aforementioned third guy. I stayed ahead for a bit, but he was a bit stronger in the singletrack, and he passed me back and pulled away a bit. Going into the final swamp singletrack, I caught another runner and stayed just behind him the whole way. I wish I'd been able to get him before the singletrack because he was going a touch slower than I would have liked, but not slow enough that I could get around him. Plus, I was in the hurt locker at this point. It's hard to run at that pace on snowshoes for that long. I passed him just as we came out of the singletrack, and the runner who had caught us also tried to go by me. I put in a short surge just enough to put him behind me for good. In the last stretch to the finish, there was a close to 90° turn that gave you good opportunity to scope out the competition behind you. The guy in front of me did just that, and I thought, "If you're looking, I got you." I put my head down and opened it up. Apparently, he did the same because I never got any closer. I didn't look back at the turn because I really was focused on the guy in front of me. (That's a really good racing sign for me.) I said to myself, "If anyone's going to catch me, they're really going to have to earn it." No one did, and I finished in 30th place in 39:21. A 13:09 last lap that really hurt, and a 7:34 per mile pace, which is shockingly fast for me.


Overall, this was my best race so far. (So far.) Certainly, the course and conditions helped, but I raced well. Simply: I'm getting into race shape. My place was worse than at Pooh Hill, but the top end of this field was much deeper, since this race was also the qualifier for Nationals. The top end of the field was fast...really fast. (Speaking of fast, congrats to Kevin on his second win of the season.) In order to qualify for Nationals, you need to be in the top 5 of your age group and be a member of USSSA. Going into the race, I figured I had a really, really outside shot of qualifying, but it was a moot point. The race is in Syracuse, and I have a work commitment that same weekend. So, even if I did qualify, I couldn't go. With that in mind, I decided to save the $30, and not become a member of USSSA before the race. But, looking at the results, it appears I finished 4th in my age group (35-39, since it's based on your age on 12/31/10) and would have qualified. Cool. Oh well, maybe next year.

The madness continues next weekend in Exeter. Apparently, this course is all singletrack, so it should be a lot of fun.

Great photos of the race from Jamie Gemmiti.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble - Race Report

Photo by Dan Houde, Marketing Director for King Pine & Purity Spring Resort

Kevin commented on my Facebook page that he was looking forward to my "always entertaining" race report. I have to admit that this made me a bit nervous about this race report because I had already been thinking: "Hmmm...what am I going to say about this race? This is going to be a boring race report." The pressure might be too much, but I'll give it a try...

I ran hard. It hurt. I'm pretty happy with the result.

And, really, that's about it, but here's a shot at elaborating:

With the new snow this week, I was pretty psyched to be going to a snowshoe race that would actually be held on snow. (Unlike last week.) As a bonus, I had a cheering section as D and the Little Lady came along. D said, "I really want to see about all this chaos."

After a short warm up on the roads, I headed to the line and waited for the chaos to commence. I lined myself up further back this week with the hope of pacing myself a bit better and comfortable in the knowledge that the first 400 meters were on wide groomed trail. This was a good choice as I didn't feel so harried as the race started, and I was able to get into a good rhythm right away and pass a number of people right out of the gate.

The groomed trails made up about half the 8 kilometer course with the other half being singletrack. No deadly hills to contend with, but there were enough longer steady climbs or short, very steep hills to keep things interesting. The majority of the singletrack had seen very little traffic, so it was soft and fluffy. Beautiful, but tough. And, the groomed trails weren't nearly as fast as I thought they would be. They were inconsistent: some places they were firm and fast, but in others I felt like I was sinking as much as in the singletrack. My guess is that in the world of snowshoeing this would be considered a relatively easy course, but it sure wasn't easy. One thing I've determined about snowshoe racing: it's all hard.

The majority of the singletrack was covered through the first half of the course, and I just tried to stay relaxed and enjoy the know, while busting my ass. This section really was beautiful. My plan was to hit the long stretch of groomed "road," and pick up the pace. In truth I did manage this, but I really couldn't go much faster. It's really hard to change gears while snowshoeing. It's slow and slower.

Two guys caught me just before we entered a windy section of "unnecessary" singletrack. I asked the race director, Chris, if this section was "necessary" after the race because it wove through a field when there was a perfectly nice groomed trail all the way around the same field. He laughed at my wussiness. I did my best to hang with these guys through the singletrack not only because...well, you's a race but also because a third guy was creeping up behind me. I had no desire to have to pull over and stop to let him through. I did manage to hang on, but I was really hurting by the time we made it back to the groomed. At this point, I assume we had about another mile to go.

The guy behind me did eventually go by me on the groomed section, but I fought back to pass him again just after we crested a short uphill. I'm sure he thought I was dying because I was making all kinds of noise and the snot was flying everywhere. Ah, snowshoe racing! About 400 meters to go to the finish is the steepest, nastiest uphill of the whole course. My buddy caught me again at the bottom of the hill, but there was no way I was going to let him take me on the hill. I really powered up this thing (at 17-minute pace...RAWR!), and he didn't come with me.

You can just about see the finish from the top of this hill, which does give back with a short downhill just on the other side, so I dug in for the final "sprint."

Here's the most important lesson I learned today: Under no circumstances can I outkick a 16 year-old. Now, this should be obvious, but my oxygen deprived, adrenaline fueled brain was blissfully unaware of this truism 7.9k into the race. Brain said: "Go fast. Catch runner. You good." About 100 meters from the finish, this was true. Coming off the downhill, I was all out, and I went by the kid with a good head of steam. For about 2 seconds, I thought I had him. I really believed it. Not so much. He had another gear of youthful exuberance that I had absolutely no chance of touching. He blew by me about 10 steps before the line. I finished in 26th place in 45:40. RESULTS

"Respect your elders!!! Can't you see I'm in tremendous pain?!?!" Photo by D

Overall, I'm really happy with my race. I went hard, and I never backed off. The course was certainly more suited to me than Feel Good Farm, which helped, but my effort was much stronger. I raced. It hurt. It was fun.

Next week is the Sidehiller 4 Mile Snowshoe Race in Center Sandwich, NH. Word on the street is that the course is similar to Pooh Hill, so I'm looking forward to another good result.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Welcome to Quad Busting Week here at Snowman Says. Come along as I do nothing but repeatedly try to explode my, I mean get totally ripped.

It all started on Saturday. In fact, I don't think I've done anything that quad destroying in quite some time. Smartly, I did a short, easy run on Sunday. Although, the three-mile out and back on the powerlines isn't exactly flat, so while I got the gunk out of my legs, I'm not sure I helped my quads.

On Monday, it snowed. A sane person would have taken the day off. Not me. But, I did make a smart choice to run along a quiet road. The Highland Green Road is diligently plowed and quiet. On this day, it was plowed, but it was still covered in snow. It was more like running on sand. And, this was the good part. The best route to the road involves crossing the powerlines. These aren't plowed. They do see regular snowmobile traffic, but not on this day. I figured the trail would be untouched before I left, but why not run half a mile through 10 inches of fresh snow? Then, I ran back through it on the way home. Needless to say, it was a quad busting 5 miles.

Not wanting to "overdo" it, I "took it easy" during Nordic Meisters on Tuesday. Yes, this is the same Nordic Mesiter course that includes a rather large quad cranking uphill and an additionally large quad wrenching downhill. I felt pretty squacky during my warm up, but after my run (which I did take fairly easy for a hardish run), I actually felt better. Not sure how that works, but I'll take it. Oddly enough, as well, I actually ran the middle, uphill section faster than I have in the previous two weeks—completely by accident. No idea.

I felt fine when I woke up this morning and had hoped to stick to my plan of a "long" run. The new snow put the kibosh on that idea, though. The snowmobile trails would still be too soft, and I wasn't thrilled with the idea of running on snowbank shrunken roads—not in the mood to get run over. My solution was to grab the snowshoes and head for the Commons. I figured that the Commons would have seen a few skiers and snowshoers to pack down the trails, and I was right. The main thoroughfares were decently packed, but narrow. The narrowness of the path altered my stride slightly in places, and just enough that I was able to enjoy the feeling of aluminum on ankle bone. It's awesome! (I'm not sure my ankles are going to survive the winter. Snowshoe running! It's awesome!) I also ventured off on some of the side trails, which had seen less traffic. Not the best choice. Unless you were looking to bust some quad! Even with my shoes, I was sinking up to mid-calf in places. This took quite a bit out of me, and I started to feel like boo boo. But, once back on the well-packed sections, I felt much better. The run was a little more than 45 minutes, but it was plenty. So, not the long run, but it felt like it.

So, all in all, a solid week so far. Looking forward to racing this weekend. I'm not sure my quads are, though.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Feel Good Farm Snowshoe Race - Race Report

They should rename this race: The Hurt Bad Farm Snowshoe Race.

Today, I ventured down, over across, under and through to the Feel Good Farm Snowshoe Race in Lyndeborough, NH. The race was the second in the Granite State Snowshoe Series, but it was the first-ever snowshoe race for me. I've been doing some running on my snowshoes, so I thought I knew what to expect, but the thin snow cover, tough course and large field made it an eye opening experience. I have a lot to learn about snowshoe racing, but it was a decent first attempt.

The unseasonably warm temperatures (low 40's at race start) had me worried on my drive to the race: Will there be enough snow? I even called D to double check the race website to see if it was still on. No news of cancellation, and I ended up being one of 100 finishers on the day. I did the usual pre-race ritual: registration, change clothes, short warm up (on the road.) After much debate, I went with just a t-shirt under my Trail Monster singlet. Rookie mistake: the short sleeves were fine for the temperatures, but I got sprayed with so much snow, my arms were cold. (Some racers went with shorts. Ouch.) After hearing the course description from the race director—9k, two laps, two climbs of Moose Mountain each lap for a total of 2200 feet of climbing during the race—we were off.

Absolute bedlam. That's the only way I can describe the race start. Complete insanity. Snow flying everywhere: up my nose, in my mouth, in my eyes. Snowshoes on top of snowshoes. Bodies flying everywhere. And this pretty much continued for the first 5 minutes of race. While all this was going on, I was trying to find the right pace. I felt pretty comfortable for the entire first climb up Moose Mountain, so I just stayed where I was.

Of course, had I wanted to pass, I'm not really sure how or when to do it. Most of this race was just single track, so passing opportunities were limited. You would have had to have memorized the entire course to know the real passing opportunities, that would be impossible. And, without really knowing whether the pacing was right, I didn't know when the right time to go was, and by "go" I mean tromp into the untracked snow. It's somewhat complicated, and I just need to do more races to figure it out. It's much different racing with people as opposed to just time trialing as I have been during Nordic Meisters. A LOT different.

I took my first and only fall just before the summit of the mountain. A racer in front of me stepped on a stick, and it shot sideways into my snowshoe. I was only down for a moment, but it was just another reminder that this was different.

"A stick?" you ask. There were a lot of sticks. And stones. And other things to hurt you, such as open water, more rocks, logs, more rocks, bare ground and more rocks. The snow cover was inconsistent and lean to say the least. The track attempted avoid many of the larger rocks, but it was futile. The snow cover was so thin, that it was impossible not to hit multiple snowshoe breaking obstacles. The race director even took the course off trail in places that the trail itself was bare. (The astute reader out there will realize that I just said portions of the course were more like bushwhacking.) All of this made it extremely tricky. Plus, all the lateral movement took a lot out of me.

The difficulty of the conditions became clear to me on the first descent from the summit. It was unreal. It was steep enough that you really needed to be careful to not crash. But, the bedlam factor was in full effect. Snow, snowshoes, arms and legs everywhere. We were still packed in, and there was a certain disregard for human life. At one point, I felt a very hard thump against my left elbow. I'm pretty certain it was someone's head. My self preservation instinct told me to slow down, but then that same instinct realized that I would get run down if I did. The thin cover was a huge issue on this descent because it was particularly uneven with plenty of large rocks and roots to deal with. Like I said, absolute bedlam.

I managed to survive the descent, and there was actually a fairly runnable section before the second climb up the mountain. Ten minutes into the race, and I felt like I was running for the first time. Then I was walking. The second climb was equally steep and tough. I just hung in with the train.

At the top, you could run again. Briefly. On the descent, you needed a parachute. At the top, it was snow covered, so you could open it up. Really fun. Then, *&$#@%$%&!!!!!! Where did the snow go? Just as the trail was the steepest it was the barest. I tried to slow to avoid...well, death. I lived, but my right snowshoe did not. I heard an especially loud pop, and I knew it was bad. I didn't realize how bad until the finish. I broke the toe cleat and snapped the front cleat at one of the rivets on my right snowshoe. It definitely hampered my climbing ability on the second lap, but I certainly wasn't the only one to break a shoe on the day. In the spring, anyone out on those trails is going to find a lot of metal.

The end of the lap was very runnable, so by my math, in a 4.5k lap, I calculated about 1.5k of truly runnable terrain. I went through the first lap in about 27 minutes, feeling pretty good. Although, I knew that the downhills had taken a lot out of my legs.

The second lap was more of the same, just more spread out. I walked the steep sections, ran when I could and tried to stay upright on the downhills. I couldn't believe how trashed the trail was the second time through. The snow, dirt, leave mixture on some sections was just gross looking. I wished I was using an enemy's snowshoes. I just bought mine! The downhills were more civilized as I was able to go at my own pace, and admittedly, I was still it shock from the the chaos of the first lap. A handful of people passed me on the uphills, but I always closed the gap on the downhills and the flats. Coming into the finish, I was moving pretty good, and closed in on two guys who had passed me near the top of the mountain, but I ran out of real estate. I finished in 55:27 (9:55 pace) in 47th place. About 2:30 slower on the second lap. My guess is that I lost the majority of that time on the first descent, since I wasn't sprinting to stay alive like I was on lap #1.

Overall, I'd grade my effort a B-. I never really felt like I was racing today. I never went to "that place." I pushed, but never all out. I was definitely concerned about blowing up, and I only really opened it up after the final descent and run into the finish. I think that's because at that point I finally knew that I wasn't going to die (either literally by crashing or in the running sense). Additionally, I was still just trying to figure it out. The first ten minutes of the race really threw me, mentally. With the chaos, I'm sure my heart rate was a touch higher than normal. I can also admit that this course didn't really play into my strengths. It reminded me a lot of the Bradbury Breaker: it was more of a mountain run than a trail race. My strengths lie more with the flatter, speedier courses. That was clear based on how I felt aerobically—fine the whole way, but my quads were very unhappy. I haven't exactly had the type of mileage or hill work in my training to perform well on this type of course. It definitely hurt, and as I expected, there were a lot of fit, fast, hardcore people out there. Had I been fully race ready, I'm sure I would have gone a bit faster, but I still would have been pretty far back. Snowshoe racers are a tough lot. (Hmmm...that wasn't meant to sound like a paragraph full of excuses.)

All that being said, I had a lot of fun. It was an eye-opening experience. I'm really looking forward to more races. And, not just the race itself. Great atmosphere all around. Just like trail racing, there's a great sense of camaraderie. It doesn't matter how fast you run, just that you show up and go for it. I had a good time chatting with the Tuesday Night Turtle guys I parked next to, and ran my warm down with my buddy Kevin (1st place) and his friend Ben (3rd place). They chatted about their Inov-8 sponsorships among other things. I didn't have much to add to that part of the conversation. :)

Official Results

Race Photos (Great shots! I even look like a racer in a couple!)
Race video:

Up next: Pooh Hill Snowshoe Scramble in E-Mad! We used to live about 1.5 miles from the race site, but I was too fat to run on any of the trails, so I don't know much about this course. However, Kevin assured me that I'll like it more. Looking forward to cutting it loose next weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch

Normally, a crunching noise around me would be refering to something less than healthy I'm stuffing in my face, but in this case, it's the noise I've been hearing on all my runs. I've been mostly hitting the snowmobile trails, and they have a sweet, sweet crunch right now. The conditions on the trails around these parts right now are just about perfect. Sure, we could use more snow, but the running is pretty great.

On Monday, I proclaimed my cold mostly dead, and I did a short run on the powerlines from home. The powerlines see regular snowmobile use, but since we run on them all summer, I don't primarily think of them as snowmobile trails. But, they were well packed and perfectly crunchy. I felt much better than I thought I would over the 3-mile out and back.

Tuesday marked the second week of Nordic Meisters, and I was feeling ready to go. Well, ready to go in the sense that I planned to use it as a tempo run. During my warm up, I was psyched to see that the conditions were better than last week, but much less consistent. In the woods, the trails were well packed, as long as you stayed up the middle. Any deviation from the center, and things got soft. The real trick was the open sections, which were either wind packed or wind blown. Those two are very different. The wind packed sections were firm and great for running. The wind blown sections were really deep and really soft. The problem was that it was difficult to tell the difference between the two. Overall, though, I felt much better, and along with the better conditions, I have course knowledge to thank. As Paul Sherwen would say, I was better able to "dose my effort." I knew the very hilly middle section was coming, so I didn't charge up the first few hills quite so hard. In the end, I ended up running about 2 minutes faster than the previous week, with a effort that felt easier and more even.

For some reason, I've decided that I want to run a "long" run the day following my tempo runs. No idea why I think this is a wise training decision, but I'm going with it. Then again, the long run I'm comfortable with right now is only seven miles...think real, real slow build here. So, on Wednesday, I extended the powerline out and back to seven miles by following the snowmobile trails. In summer, at about two miles from home, I continue straight for a 5-mile out and back, but the main snowmobile trail turns left at that point. I'd never run out to the 3.5 mile point before, and I'm looking forward to see what's beyond that point. Up to that point, however, it's some really nice running: just hilly enough and only one short road stretch. I felt great the whole way, a bit of fatigue near the end, but that was expected. The route took exactly one hour, and I was pleased at how comfortable that felt.

Today, I followed it up with a return to the powerlines for three miles to get the junk out from the previous two days. Zipped through and felt fine. Hamstrings are a bit tight, but nothing I'm going to worry about.

On Saturday, I'm making my snowshoe racing debut at the Feel Good Farm Snowshoe Race in sunny and beautiful Lyndeborough, NH. OK, I don't know if it's either sunny or beautiful because I don't really know where it is. First task: find the race. In all seriousness, though, I'm really looking forward it. All my "test runs" have gone well, and I've run in a variety of conditions. I think I'm ready. Along with, you know, the actual training, I've been cruising around the Intertubes looking at race results and reports. One thing that's clear: it's going to be hard. The other thing I've noticed is that these races are stacked. I'm pretty certain I'm going to get crushed. It makes sense, though. You have to be pretty serious to want to race snowshoes. But, that's part of the challenge. Wish me luck.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Know Your Audience

After taking four days off in an attempt to kill this cold, I really couldn't take it anymore. Today, I snuck out for 5 miles. As expected, I didn't feel great. Lots of creaks and a lot of snot. Unfortunately, not all the snot came out. Still not feeling great. Hopefully, soon.

Instead of running, I've been using some of that time to read about running, specifically Trail Runner Magazine. It should come as no surprise that I'm a couple issues behind. Today, while D was running and the Little Lady was napping, I was reading the November issue, which featured an article on how to dress for cold weather running. Now, in any magazine, even one as niched as Trail Runner, not every article is going to appeal to every reader, but, in this case, I found this particular article way off the mark. The article, "Become One with the Cold" outlined what to wear in cold weather, e.g. multiple layers, and the various options for shoes. The entire subject and tone of article was targeted at neophytes. This makes no sense at all. It seems very unlikely that a newbie would be reading Trail Runner. Everything about the magazine is focused towards the committed athlete. In fact, it's fairly ultrarunning focused. So, I think we can safely assume that very few neophytes would read this magazine. What was this article doing in Trail Runner? Perhaps my ire arose from the fact that I'm a marketing guy for my day job, and I spend a great deal of time ensuring that I'm focusing on the correct target audience. If you're not talking to the correct audience, you're wasting your time and money. To me, this article didn't even come close to the target audience, and it struck me as tremendously lazy, as well. The content was so basic that I doubt it took more than two hours to put this whole article together. Everyone who has ever run outside knows that when the temperature drops adding layers is the way to go. What would have been more useful would be to provide actual reviews of cold weather gear: tights, jackets, shoes, etc. (Interestingly enough, the same issue has an article which reviews tights, socks and calf sleeves.) "This jacket breathed well, but lacked pockets." Or something to that effect, would have been much more useful to the target audience. I'm not ready to ditch my Trail Runner subscription, but they are on probation. In fact, I thought the rest of the issue was pretty solid, especially the articles on nutrition and their "Bucket List."

OK, off soapbox...for now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Soft Snow Everywhere I Look

Well, I've also seen some slush, ice and a little pavement, too.

My final run of 2009 was a bit of an adventure. I wanted to get in about an hour, and usually the loop on the Cathance Preserve trails fit the bill. Well, I ran for an hour...and then some. The trails were covered in a couple inches of fresh snow. Looked nice, but it was just enough to hide a lot of ice...a whole lot. I never knew if I was going to step on something nice and crunchy or wicked slippery. Ended up being about 50/50. On top of that, the trail along the river was tricky because the river had risen quite a bit and frozen, obscuring the trail. I thought at one point, I was going to fall in. Good times. Then it got dark. At one point, I deviated from my normal route thinking the trail would be too tricky. Instead, I ran down a snow-covered road. Under the aforementioned blanket of snow was the slipperiest ice on earth. For about 10 steps in a row, I made the cartoon "woop woop woop' sound. Somehow, I stayed upright. D had that I'm glad you're alive, but I'm going to kill you thing going when I got home.

What was most surprising was that my hamstring was no worse for wear following this run, and it actually felt pretty OK during my short run on New Year's the snow.

Unfortunately, the snow thwarted my plans to open my racing season on Sunday. I had planned to run the Beaver Brook 5k Snowshoe Race, but I wasn't too thrilled about turning 4 hours of driving into 8 hours due to the "Blizzard of the Century." Ian was going to race with me, but he had the same idea I did. Part of me is pretty bummed out, but I also thought I felt a twinge of a cold coming on, so I stayed inside all day. So much for my streak of running every day in 2010.

Sunday afternoon, we packed up the Little Lady and met a crew of Trail Monsters at Pineland. D took the first shift watching the Little Lady, while I spent the hour with Jamie and Jim giving Jamie a bit of a skate lesson. Jamie made great progress for a newbie, and we had a blast tooling around. I took a baby shift, while D skied, but D was nice enough to let me get a ski on my own. I cruised through the River Loop somewhat quickly, and it felt good to be on skis for the first time this winter. It snowed off and on most the time we were there, which just added to the coolness.

I was a bit sore on Monday, but not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. I snuck in a quick...well, it was supposed to I figured that the snowmobiles would have packed the powerlines and that there would have been traffic on the section of trail that makes up the Suck Loop. I was mostly wrong on both counts. The snowmobiles had been out but not many. The snow was soft, and I sunk to my ankles with just about every step. The trail section was even worse. Needless to say, my quick three mile run took about five minutes longer than it normally would. My training log as has the notation "sickish," perhaps this was just wishful thinking.

When I woke up on Tuesday, I felt better than I thought I would...sort of. My nose was completely plugged all night, which apparently made me a treat to sleep next to. By morning, it had decided to drain out the front, and I probably blew my nose 249 times that day. Oddly enough, though, I felt fine...just drippy. So, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and jump into the first week of Nordic Meisters. Luckily for me, a decision was made to add a snowshoe division this year. Perfect timing for me, and I hate ski racing anyway. The loop is basically three parts: rolling 1k, uphill 1k, then 1k of fun, aka, mostly downhill. I warmed up on the first 1k and realized it was going to be sloooooow. Only a handful of people had been out on the loop, and the snow was really soft. Plus, the trail is a less than level bit of singletrack, so falling off in either direction was a common occurrence. My plan was to not go all out, but rather use this as a tempo run, which is exactly I tried to do. However, it was tough to do that in the middle without walking. I only walked a few steps, but the combination of the steep hills and soft snow made it slow going. After about three weeks, I reached the top and was ready to open it up. I'm starting to learn that opening up on snowshoes isn't really a possibility, especially not on these trails: they're too twisty and too narrow. Oh, and the inconsistency of the snow just added to the mix. One moment you're cruising, the next minute you've sunk about 40 leagues beneath the surface. I have to admit, I was pretty happy to hit the groomed section that makes ups the first and last 150 meters. The course is between 3 and 3.5k, and my time was 25:09. Yeah, it's that hard.

As I type this, my training log for today reads, "Off, Sick." My nose continued to leak all day, and I, generally, feel like boo boo. Well, from the neck up anyway. I was really wishing we had a treadmill today, so I could have put in an easy couple miles to get yesterday's effort out of my legs. I didn't think running outsides was the best idea. I'm heavily medicated, so, hopefully, I'll kick this thing in a day or so.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 in Review

At the close of a year, I feel a bit of pressure to write something profound to sum up the events of 2009. But, that's not really my style. Instead:

Or, here are the highlights and lowlights by month:

January: Ran 24.75 miles at the GAC Fat Ass 50k. In hindsight, I should have run the entire 50k that day. I felt great.

February: Started the month off with a painful result at the Mid Winter 10 Mile Classic. (I hate that race.) Redeemed my soul with some nice snowmobile trail runs, and closed the month with the TMR Fat Ass hosted by Chuck and Katy.

March: Spent most of the month upping the mileage. Wrapped it up with the IBMFTYAMWSDHA Fat Ass in honor of Ian & Emma's anniversary. I ran 27 miles that day for a distance PR.

April: Starting sprinkling some speed work into my training. Had a blast, along with bacon covered donuts, at Blackstrap Heaven. Nearly died from heat stroke at the Muddy Moose in Wolfeboro, NH. Looking back, April was where the trouble began.

May: Opened the month with a tremendous bonk at the Ocho de Camden. Had a terrific trip to Acadia with Mindy, Pete and Jamie—my favorite place to run hands down. Closed the month with the Pineland Farms Trail Challenge 50k. I've never suffered so much in a single day. Looking back, I was over trained, but I'm proud at my effort.

June: In theory, I was recovering, but I was too busy looking ahead. I struggled badly up Mt. Washington...really badly. My training log reads "not race ready." In truth, I was exhausted.

July: Couple groovy trail runs, but kept dragging. Poor result at the Bradbury Scuffle.

August: Began the month with three awesome days in Baxter State Park with D. Tried to keep things mellow, including just an easy run during the Bradbury Breaker with Mindy, but my training log has a lot of "mehs" and "oks," the describe how I felt.

September: It took a near death experience at the Bradbury Bruiser for me to realize that I needed to take some time off and rest.

October: Samantha was born. Hmmm...guess which was the best month? Ever. Aside from the sleep deprivation, of course.

November: Launched a new, "run shorter races" plan, and after some rest, I starting feeling good again. I was really pleased with my results at both the Wolfe's Neck (Longer Than) 5k and the Maine Running Company Turkey Trot. Closed out the month with Blackstrap Hell, which is the mostest funnest race there is.

December: Slowly built the mileage up and added in a few tempo runs. Snowshoe ran for the first time likey.

Here are the final numbers:
Miles Run: 1118.75
Miles (Trail): 799.5
Miles (Road): 319.25

I surpassed 2008 in total miles run by about 60 miles.

In terms of race results, it wasn't an awesome year. But, what I learned from my racing was invaluable. 2009 was a good learning year, and I think I'll be successful taking those lessons learned and moving forward. Really looking forward to 2010.

In the short term, I'll be getting into snowshoe racing. Beyond that, I have a few ideas kicking around...still just kicking, though. I'm going to wait and see how the next few weeks go before I make any decisions. Either way, it should be fun...