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.