Monday, March 15, 2010

Granite State Snowshoe Championship - Race Report

This race report begins here:

Now, I didn't plan to put my car here. I actually spent the night at the race site, Great Glen Trails, which just also happens to be where I work. Pretty sweet deal actually. But, I figured I'd get up early and head into Gorham around 8:00am for a nice relaxing breakfast and cup of coffee before the race. Just to get away from the race chaos in a stress free environment. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Unfortunately, the inch or so of very greasy slush sent me off the side of Route 16 when I was barely going 30mph. So, my stress free environment was me standing on the side of the road for almost an hour waiting for a tow the wind driven snain. That being said, I was very lucky to not get hurt.

I made it back to Great Glen Trails at around 9:30. I was very, very cranky, and unsure if I was going to race. Over the phone, D told me that I needed to race. I told her I would, but I still wasn't certain. At 10:15, I decided...well, what the hell...

I did a short 10-minute warm up on my snowshoes. I felt like crap. Luckily, it was so close to race time when I finished that I didn't have time to dwell on it. I threw on my singlet and headed out. I did one quick stride, and suddenly felt a lot better. In fact, I felt great. I was ready to go.

The cannon went off. (Yup, cannon. We only host events, so the boss can fire the cannon.) The snow went flying. I slid myself into a comfortable pace and position. At about a half mile, I looked up and could see the front runners stretched out in front of me. I was in 13th place, and that was the place I would stay for the entire rest of the race. And, I ran basically alone.

The course was awesome—cruel, but fair. Admittedly, I had a home course advantage. I've spent a lot of time running and skiing these trails, so I knew exactly what to expect. But, looking back, it may not have been an advantage because I may have held a little too much back on the first 5k, more on that later. The opening half was on the groomed nordic trails, and even with the inch or two of fresh slush, they were perfect for running. But, they weren't easy. The trails don't offer much flat, and they were constantly twisting and turning. Throughout this entire section, I was trailing the lead woman, but she was steadily putting space between us. Every now and then, I would glance over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of the guy chasing me. But, again, I was basically alone.

Because I knew the course, I knew how much harder the second 5k would be: all singletrack, a big climb, a long downhill, a mean roller coaster section, the hardest climb of the whole course, then downhill to the finish. How strong is your core? I was most concerned about the initial climb. Climbing isn't my strength, so I was running scared the whole time. I could no longer see the lead woman—she had really put me away—but as I continued the climb I also couldn't see anyone chasing me. I worked the uphill as hard as I could, even though I kept sneaking peeks behind me. My main goal for this race was to not get passed on the uphill. I accomplished that, and I knew that no one could catch me on the down. Once I reached the top, I really opened it up. I nearly went down a couple times, but I held it together until I reached the dreaded left hand turn at the bottom. At this turn is a nasty uphill, but I crushed it. I stayed pretty strong along this roller coaster section, until the powerlines. Suddenly, I looked up and I could see the lead woman ahead of me. I must have really been running well. I reached the last uphill and barely kept moving forward. I really focused on using my arms, and I may have actually said "Arms" out loud a couple times. The lack of oxygen makes things a bit hazy. I never walked a step, though, and was very relieved to reach the top. It was all downhill from there, and even though, I nearly went down twice in the last quarter mile, I kept it together to finish in 58:11, 13th place. I was beat and very soggy, but happy with my race. I finished just about where I hoped I would and thought I could.

That being said, I'm not entirely happy. I wasn't really focused going into this race due to my vehicular calamity, but I took myself out of a potentially great performance in the first half mile when I counted the places. I knew who was in front of me and thought, "Well, I haven't run with them in any race yet, so why should I start now?" Plus, knowing how hard the second half of the course was, I was worried about going out too hard. I didn't take that risk. I wasn't ready to mentally challenge myself and took myself out of the race. Sure, I may have blown up later on, but at least I would have gone for it. But, it was a good race, and a good way to close out my first season on snowshoes.


Race photos by Scott Mason (This is a mandatory click. Scott took some terrific shots in horrible conditions.)

I'm already looking forward to snowshoe season next year. Due to my schedule and the crazy weather, I was only able to make it to four races this winter. And, really, I can barely call my appearance at Feel Good Farm a race. At Pooh Hill, I realized that I could actually snowshoe race, and at I was really pleased with my result at Sidehiller. I wish the weather didn't scare so many people away from this race, as the course was the best I've seen yet. Plus, it would have been great to have a better turnout for the championship race.

Post-race, I heard all about how Kevin Tilton and Jim Johnson held hands crossing the finish line tying for the win. Better yet, I took home beer (and some of Kevin's) from the raffle. Then, me and my bungeed-together car made our way home.


Blaine Moore said...

Nice race and glad you're okay. You might have gone faster, but you still did well.

And you were right, some great photos in that collection.

vja said...

Yay! Good thing you listened to D! Sounds like a great race.

middle.professor said...

Excellent race and report Ryan. Too fast? Too conservative? Who knows; that is the beauty of trails.