Saturday, March 7, 2015

NH and Northeast Snowshoe Championship Race

Friday ended up being a rest day as planned. John and I did a little x-c skiing at the Albany Town Forest, but that was it. I was super tired and could barely keep my eyes open past 7pm, so the zero day was probably good for me. This morning, I woke up (after hitting snooze once) still feeling a bit tired, but really good, otherwise, and ready to race.
I had been eyeing the registration list for the NH and Northeast Snowshoe Championship for the past few weeks, and every time I checked it there was a new name added of someone with pretty impressive race results. With this race being part of the USATF-NE All-Terrain Series, people were coming out of the woodwork to run it. I knew for sure I wasn't going to end up with a win at this one when I saw Kasie Enman (2011 US and World Mountain Running Champion) appear on the list, but for some reason, I was still really nervous about it. I think it was mostly the unknown women I would have to race. I really wanted a top 3 finish, but I was starting to think top 5 would be nice. I've been running well, but as far as snowshoe racing goes, I haven't had much competition to see how I really measured up. So all I could do was just show up and go all out.
I drove over to Castle in the Clouds pretty early and got prime parking right in front of the carriage house since I had picked up the soup from Big Dave's. I made a huge mistake on the drive over by taking 113. I started hitting frost heaves and the soup started sloshing. I was thinking it hadn't spilled out, but no, it's all over my passenger-side floor, and my car smells like soup. That's going to start smelling like puke over the next 24 hours. Awesome. :)
John had to tag-a-long today, but he didn't seem to mind since the carriage house had wifi. He was stuck with his face in my phone the ENTIRE time, which I hate, but it was what he wanted to do, so I let him do it. I did a quick 1.5 mile warm up and started looking at all of the faces I had never seen before and continued to get more nervous. After my warm up, I ditched my jacket, said bye to John and ran down to the start. Once I was down there, I ran into my (new) CMS teammate Jenn Brooks who was pretty cool. We chatted for awhile and then lined up together along with Abbey Wood. Amber Ferreira (2014 National Snowshoe Champion) showed up last minute, so I knew for sure I would be LUCKY if I even made 3rd. In a way, it kind of took the pressure off, but I still didn't know who some of these "fast" looking women were. Kind of like Boston Prep. They all looked fast, but there was only one who ended up being faster. I was hoping that after Kasie and Amber, today could go similarly. It was a little tougher to place myself properly for the start since there were so many new faces, but I felt like I was in a decent spot. Turned out to be off a bit. As soon as Chris said go, it was a cluster. Chuck Hazzard got taken down right away and the rest of us were almost walking just to stay off each other's snowshoes. Kasie and Amber shot off ahead along with another woman, and then I fell in line behind Jenn. Chuck caught up and squeezed in ahead of us. Jenn and I got caught in a bottleneck right away, so I asked her if she was up for moving a little faster and wanted to pass this group with me. She said she was game, so I hollered out the need to pass. They did their best to move over, but I still ended up in the really deep snow off to the side, and it totally zapped my energy. Once we passed them (including the woman who had been ahead of us), we were able to move again. At this point, I started to see people ahead of me who shouldn't have been so I knew I needed to pass Jenn. She obliged, and I moved on chasing Chuck and the group just ahead that included Amber, Danny and Kasie. There were about 4 or 5 people in between that I started to pick off, including Chuck, which surprised me. He's been killing me at almost every race (except Whitaker), so I thought he would end up passing me later on. The footing was pretty similar to the Bradbury White Out Snowshoe race with a lot of powder and post-holing off to the sides of the trail. It was tough running, but I just pushed on up the long climb pretty much holding steady behind the group with the lead women. They didn't seem to ever get farther ahead of me, and I'm not sure they really did gain much. I finally caught up to and passed Sam Wood and Garrison Parker. That only left 3 people in between me and Amber and Kasie. I could see Amber had the lead this whole time with Kasie really close on her heels. I didn't know who two of the guys were (I would learn later that one of them was Danny); the third one was one of the younger Sweetie Pies guys who had been beating me at every race. At this point, I had a feeling I was pretty much where I was going to finish, and it was only around mile 2. I kept trying to catch the group, but they just seemed to stay in the same place ahead of me, so I kind of ended up alone for a little while. Chuck, Phil and Garrison weren't far behind me, but I still wasn't really running with anyone. It was kind of nice, but at the same time, I had to make sure I didn't slow down, so I continued to run hard for the next 2.5 miles. I was constantly looking back half expecting to see some woman gaining on me, but I never did. Abbey ended up finishing 4th, but she was about 5 minutes back. I had nothing to worry about, but I didn't know it, so I continued running scared.
Sliding all over the place- Photo by Dave Dunham

Right around mile 4.5 (I think), we came down the hill where the finish was visible. I remember looking over that way, and the next thing I knew, I was going down hard. I had stepped in someone else's track and the soft snow on the side of the trail, and it sent me flying forward flat on the trail. I jumped up fast, though, since I didn't want anyone to catch me and continued on. The course veered away from the finish area and started a pretty decent climb up. I could still see Amber just steps ahead of Kasie and the 3 men right behind them. This climb hurt, and I saw Chuck starting to gain on me. I wasn't letting that happen so I pushed on and started focusing on the guy in front of me who had dropped off the group. We finally hit the top and began making our way down. I knew we weren't too far from the finish at this point. I saw Don Fredrikson who was watching the race, and he yelled out, "It's all downhill from here." I never believe people who say that, so I yelled back, "Are you lying to me?!" He said no, so I just decided to believe him and speed up for the finish. I ended up reigning in the guy in front of me, and as much as I feel bad passing people just before the finish, I picked it up and passed him down the last stretch. I was watching the clock and did not want it to cross over the 58 minute mark. I ended up crossing the finish in 57:49, third woman and 18th overall. I was spent. I talked to Kasie for a minute to ask her if she or Amber won. She told me she passed Amber on that last downhill for the win. Kasie beat me by just over a minute and Amber, just under a minute. I was shocked to finish that close to them.

Photo by Joe Viger

I took off my snowshoes and started walking back to the carriage house. I did jog a little bit, but I really just wanted to walk. Once back inside, I found John still glued to my phone. I wasn't up for a cool down today, so I decided to bag it and just change out of my gross clothes and start drinking. Post-race at Castle in the Clouds is always a good time. Good food, free beer and just a nice atmosphere. It was fun hanging out talking with people before the awards. As far as awards go, I got to go up twice, first, to share the podium with Kasie and Amber. I felt honored to be standing next to them, even if they did make me feel like a giant. Ha ha. I doubt I will ever come that close to either of them in a race again so it was a pretty cool moment.
I got to hit the podium a second time as the women's winner of the Granite State Snowshoe Series. I'm so psyched I was finally able to complete enough races in the Series to take the win. (I was the women's winner in 2012, but I don't really count that one; most of the races were cancelled, and I only ran 2 out of the 3 that were held.) The last two years the fog of my old life held me back. I've been trying to crawl out of it, and I feel like I'm getting there. Running and racing have been a huge part of that for me. Having a race to look forward to almost every weekend has also helped me get through the winter, and it wasn't just the racing, it was the people. I miss this group after most of the races end in November, so it makes me smile (except Exeter ha ha) to see them all through the season.
After the race, I made John walk up to the Castle to check out the view. Scott Mason caught up with us on the way up. He had never been to Castle in the Clouds before so he was really enjoying it. John was actually impressed with the view and planted himself inside one of the stone planters at the top of the stairs. It is so beautiful there and has become one of my favorite places. I can't wait to go back there when the snow melts and run those mountains again.
Now that snowshoe racing season is over, it's time to do some road racing. I originally registered for the Shamrock Shuffle in Lebanon, NH for next weekend, but now that I'm running the New Bedford Half, I'm 99% sure I'm going to skip the Shuffle. Plus, John was supposed to be going away for the weekend with his dad, and now, he's not. I'm not sure I want to drag him 2.5 hours away for a 5K. It's probably best if I don't run it, since I would go all out. I can't just run "for fun" in a race. No way. Not happening. I'm looking forward to New Bedford. I have no idea how I'm going to run. I don't know if the training I've been doing will lead to a fast time or not. I guess I'll know around 1230 next Sunday. Ha ha.
Tomorrow, I might be able to actually run outside and do loops around my neighborhood again. The road has cleared enough, I think....I hope.

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