Monday, March 2, 2015

Shoe to the Clouds Snowshoe Race 2015

This is the 3rd year this snowshoe race has been held and my 3rd time running it. I try not to think about it too much beforehand because if I do, I'll remember how hard it is and start worrying about it. I  think I was more focused on missing Kingman Farm the night before that it gave my brain an outlet to put the Mt Washington Auto Rd torture out of mind. I actually woke up Sunday morning feeling really good. This was notable since I've had a few snowshoe races this season where I wasn't feeling 100%. And since I was feeling so good, I made the decision to wear tights! In case no one has noticed, I DO NOT wear tights. The last time I did was at Snowshoe Nationals last year, and I was so horrified by the photos that I vowed never to wear them in a race again. I complained so much about it that following week that my friends started calling me "Hippo" due my constant, "Look at how huge my hips are! Oh my god!" So yeah, no tights. But for some reason, I said to myself, "Dammit. I'm wearing tights today," so I did. They weren't too bad, but I still don't like them. Back to my baggy Pearl Izumi pants next week. :)
I dropped John at friend's house on the way up to Great Glen Trails; this would be too long of a day for him to tag-along. The sun was out, and the mountain looked beautiful, so I was psyched to be headed up it (well halfway, at least). Shortly after I arrived, Kevin Tilton, Jonathan Miller and I headed out for a short warm up on snowshoes. We had planned 2 miles but ended up doing a loop that brought us back at 1.85; I knew I would be running to the start line which was across the road and right at the base of the auto road, so I wasn't sweating it. But I sure as hell was sweating; the temps were rising, and it was warmer up at 3500' than it was at the base, so I decided to stick with my usual two light layers. It turned out to be the right choice. Once back at the lodge, I realized I was running short on time, so I quickly ditched my extra layer and ran .7 miles to the start. I arrived just after the skiers started, so it was right to the start line then we were off.
The last two years have been kind of a guessing game here. Go off fast or save something for the auto rd. Well, I had no choice, since Abbey Wood started off really fast and was right over my left shoulder. I was a little panicked at first because it was really fast, but we were right behind Jonathan Miller, whom I've been racing close to the last few races, so I thought maybe this was good. Plus, the footing is hard-packed, wide and groomed which meant for running fast. But then we started passing people we don't normally pass, and Andrew Drummond was way too close, so I was back in worry-mode immediately thinking I was making a huge mistake. But I kept pushing. Right off the bat, Josh Fields was playing leap frog with Jonathan and me; despite his supposed lack of training, he looked pretty freakin' strong. I didn't dare look over my shoulder yet to see where Abbey was at this point; I wasn't ready to face the light. She's typically a much stronger mountain runner than I am. The run on the Great Glen trails is mostly small ups and downs, nothing too difficult, and it came to an end pretty quickly. Down the last hill to the flat with the auto rd in view. I was scared. Jonathan Miller and I hit the uphill together, but I ended up falling in line behind him, and that's where I would end up staying the rest of the race. He had a good run up the road and ended up beating me by well over a minute. Once we were up the hill just a bit, I finally took my first, of about 20, looks back. I could see Abbey just approaching the bottom of the hill. Way too close for my comfort, so I decided to push a little harder, and as soon as I hit the first mile marker, I felt like I was going to puke. This never subsided the rest of the race. I could have easily stopped at any point, walked to the side, puked and then just kept going. I was on the verge the whole 2.5 miles to the finish. I ended up catching and passing Josh at one point, but he was doing the run-walk method and was able to push past me when he started running again. I would continue to gain on him every time he walked, but once he started running again, his lead would grow. It was like this the entire race. Jonathan just got farther and farther away. I kept looking back to see who was behind and no longer saw Abbey or Phil Erwin, who hadn't been too far back at the start of the climb. There were two guys gaining on me, one who would quickly pass me and continue strong up the road. The other guy I had passed towards the middle of the lower trails. He caught and passed me with just under a mile to go, but then slowed down, staying steps ahead of me until the last quarter of a mile when he just tanked and dropped way back behind me again. I had been eyeing my watch the last two miles since I had planned on a PR and was hoping for a course record, too. I knew I was right on the money even if I slowed a little (which I did). I was familiar enough with the road that I knew I was almost to the finish and normally, I would give it a good kick in, but I was running slower than a walking pace and couldn't bring myself to go any faster. I saw Josh cross the finish line and soon enough, I did, too, and almost had to step to the side to throw up. I was that close. 1st woman and 7th overall. I checked my watch to see 1:05:57 (official time would be 1:05:53). I couldn't believe it. I snagged a PR by 7min46sec AND the women's course record by 5min20sec. SWEET. And no wonder I wanted to throw up.
Photo by Gianina Lindsey

I kept walking up to the group hanging by the van with our drop bags and talked to Kevin, Eric Narcisi and Andrew Drummond for a minute before grabbing my bag and walking farther up the auto road to change clothes in "privacy" (I changed right in the middle of the auto rd). Once I came back down, I saw Abbey and Sam who had ended up walking a lot of the auto road together. They were in good spirits, as always, but were starting to get cold since they had no drop bag and immediately started their run back down. I spoke, briefly, to Hilary McCloy, who had finished 3rd woman, and then started my run back down. I was thankful for warm clothes at this point because I had cooled down enough that I was starting to get really cold. I stopped a few times to take some pictures of Robin, Diane and Lisa and then ran pretty fast trying to catch up with Abbey and Sam. I hauled ass and finally caught up with them at mile marker 1 and ran with them to bridge where we ran into Kevin and Eric. As soon as I stopped running, I realized I was bonking hard. I started to feel dizzy and all I could think about was nachos and beer at the Moat. The walk back to the lodge was excruciating. I didn't think I was going to make it. I needed food STAT. Eric Narcisi and I got in line for our free soup. Eric had forgotten his free soup ticket and was met full-on with Soup Nazi. No joke. The girl at the register was trying to be nice about it, but then the kitchen lady came flying around the corner, looks at Eric and yells (literally), "NO TICKET! NO SOUP!" I was dying laughing inside, but also shocked since he had obviously just run the race and this wasn't a Seinfeld episode. Fortunately, Kim, who was in charge of the whole event, quickly came to the rescue and fixed the whole soup/ticket issue. Eric was now allowed to have his 6oz of tomato soup free of charge. I'm still dying laughing as I type this. I needed more food than the soup, so I looked around for more free stuff and grabbed about 6 packs of saltine crackers to go with it. I ended up paying for a much-needed coffee and a rice crispy treat. It was right in front of me and was one of the cheapest things I could find. I sat with Kevin, Josh and Eric for what seemed like forever. I think it was over 1.5 hours before the awards started. I was glad I didn't wait for the Moat to eat or I would have passed out. Awards were announced and FINALLY, after all of these years that I waited to win a pair of Dion's, I finally did!! Of course, after I broke down and bought a pair 4 months ago. Oh well, doesn't hurt to have a second pair. And for the second year in a row, I got a comped entry into the Mt Washington Road Race. I've already registered and paid, but I will be super psyched when I get that $80 back in my pocket. Oh, and I snagged two more fleece blankets to add to my Mt Washington collection. I ended up winning a Mt Washington Road Race guaranteed entry in the raffle and promptly handed that right over to Josh Fields, whom I knew needed one.
Top 3 women. Abbey Wood, Hilary McCloy and me. Photo by Meg Skidmore.

Once the awards were finally over, it was time to head to the Moat. Eric Narcisi rode with me so that his wife wouldn't have to drive all the way back up to Great Glen Trails after shopping in North Conway. She just met us at the restaurant. I had promised Eric my most depressing playlist, consisting of 2 songs on repeat, for the ride down, but I failed to follow through. I know he's still disappointed. We met up with the acidoticRACING group, plus Lisa Ransom's friends and family and had the back of the bar all to ourselves. I ordered a 20oz beer that I drank 3/4 of  before I got any food, so I was feeling pretty good. The Moat is always a good time. Picked up John from his friend's house after that and finally made it home. Longer day than I thought, but it was definitely a good one. I needed the recharge before heading back to work on Monday. Total mileage for the day ended up at 12.1 miles to make 62.4 miles for the week. No all out long runs, but a lot of shorter ones to make up the distance.
Next weekend is the last race in the Series, The New Hampshire and Northeast Snowshoe Championship Race. And based on the pre-registrants, it is going to be competitive. I don't see a win with this one, but I'd like to pull off top 3 for the women. Even that might be a stretch, but that's ok. I could use the competition to bring me back to reality a little bit. Plus, I LOVE running at Castle in the Clouds. Love, love, love it there. And the after-party (More Moat Beer!!!) will be a good time. It looks like I have the Granite State Snowshoe Series locked up for the women's win, so that's exciting. Then it's time to do some road racing for a month or so before the Mountain Series starts.

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