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 scenery...you 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 know...it'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.