Wednesday, February 3, 2016

White Mountain Winter Triathlon

January 9, 2016- Having been on snowshoes twice so far with the bleak winter snowfall, I decided to register for the White Mountain Winter Triathlon in Jackson, NH. It was being put on by Baxter Outdoors of Maine. I had done one of their events before, the Mt Abrams Ascent in 2014, and I knew a lot of people who were going to be there, so it seemed like a good choice. It was a local race and would give me a chance to race on snowshoes before the first snowshoe race of the Granite State Snowshoe Series tge following weekend at Whitaker Woods.

The triathlon consisted of a 5k snow run (with traction), 5k snowshoe run and a 5k freestyle ski (which means you can use whatever type of xc ski you wanted). When you see "5k", it doesn't seem like that much, but make it 15k on snow, and it ended up being a really tough race. I knew I wouldn't win this one because I only have backcountry xc skis, and in a race, most people would be using skate skis. Even if I had had skate skis, I still would have sucked, and the outcome would have been the same. I'm a terrible xc skier; I only did it for the first time 3 years ago, and I've never even tried skate skiing. But I thought this would be fun anyway. My goal was to come through first woman after the snow run and snowshoe run and then hand the reigns over to Meg Skidmore and Hilary McCloy for the top two women. I thought I could still manage 3rd if I ran well in the first two events, but I honestly was out there mainly for the training and the fun.

I got to the Eagle Mt House in what I thought was really early to check in and warm up.
The Eagle Mt House- Creepy

We all got a cool Baxter Brewing glass
Little did I know my warm up would take so long. I ran the entire snow run/ski course which I found surprisingly challenging. I didn't want to destroy myself before the race, so I ran it fairly slow. By the time I was done, I only had about 25 minutes until the start! I rushed to get John situated in the hotel and gather all of my gear. I looked like a mess since I was dropping stuff all over the place. Haha. I made it to the pre-race meeting only a few minutes late. I handed Meg my second pair of snowshoes she was borrowing, then realized I was aiding the competition! Haha. Ryan Triffitt and John Rodrigue from the Trail Monsters came over from the race. Other locals, Andrew Drummond, Hilary McCloy and Gabe Flanders were there along with a few other familiar faces, so I felt comfortable in this group.

We all walked down to the start. Everyone else thought to bring a bag to carry their things in, but I didn't and was dropping stuff all over the place. I'm not used to all of the gear. I lined my stuff in between Meg and Hilary. Meg is the tri-queen and gave me a few tips on how to make my transition a little easier. I've only done one other triathlon (off-road-kayak, mountain bike, mountain run), but those transitions were much easier.

It wasn't a huge crowd, so I lined up close to the front near Ryan Triffitt. We've been pretty evenly matched the last few years, so I knew he would be good to run with. Meg and Hilary were a few steps behind. The RD started the race and off we went. Andy Drummond led the pack right off the starting line and never looked back. A group of about 4 faster guys followed. I took off quickly right behind Ryan. I didn't hold back on this first leg. I wanted a good lead from the get-go. It would be the only thing to keep me in the top 3 by the end after the ski. John Rodrigue passed me pretty quickly, and Ryan held a quick pace. I was able to catch up to him and run most of the first 2 miles with him. John slowed down a bit. I couldn't even see Meg or Hilary behind me at all for most of the snow run. I ran it in 22:56 which was pretty decent considering it was on hilly soft snow.

Once back at the transition, I was a little slow in getting on the snowshoes. I don't know my transition time, but just as I was heading back out for the 5K snowshoe run, Meg was coming into the transition. She definitely has that transition skill down pat because I'd say she was out of there in less than 30 seconds. No lie. When I got a look back after the first half mile, she was only about 30 seconds back. I was running with Ryan and another guy and ended up passing them when I realized I needed to pick up the pace. The snowshoe run was on a different course that consisted of 3 single track loops. It was a bit rough due to minimal snow, but I have pretty good snowshoe running skills after the past few years so I was able to move quickly through the rough single track that had roots, rocks, trees and brooks to avoid. After the first loop, I was able to look back and see I had gained more of a lead over Meg, maybe 45 seconds. I kept running hard through the second loop, but then all of a sudden, I came out of the woods in a different place... ahead of the loop checkpoint! I was right where the 3rd or 4th guy was passing by. I had gone off course! I realized right away that I had somehow gone left instead of right and paralleled the correct trail on the other side of the brook. I knew I had to turn right here and go backwards on the trail to the checkpoint. As I was headed back, I passed Meg coming the other way, which meant she was now in the lead!! But I had to go back to the checkpoint to count. I hit the checkpoint and confused the guy there a little bit, then turned back and continued the right direction on the third loop. I knew I really had to push it at this point to gain my lead back. I booked it up the trail, and it didn't take me long to catch and pass Meg. She never got that far back from me, though. I had to stop at the checkpoint after the 3rd loop to make sure the guy there wasn't still confused, so I lost a little time there. Not bad, though. Still finished first woman through the first two events, running the snowshoe leg in 35:13.
One of the loops on the snowshoe run part
 This next part would be the comical part. Me on my backcountry skis attempting to keep up with skate skis. As Meg was quickly putting her skis on, I told her, "It's your turn," and laughed. She headed out and had a 2 minute lead on me within the first 1/4 mile. She would end up finishing over 14 minutes ahead of me to win the race. That's pretty amazing. I struggled through the ski and just laughed at myself the whole time. I ended up running on my skis for every uphill since it was the fastest way to get up them. Downhills were just hoping I didn't die! I think I yelled, "I'm going to die!" followed by numerous obscenities at least 20 times. I even fell once on a downhill but was able to fall into a position that didn't injure me and allowed me to hop right back up. Hilary and Ryan passed me really early on. I was no match for those guys. I looked like the biggest goofball out there, but I finished completely exhausted in 33:24 for the ski. It's funny that it took me almost as long on the skis as the snowshoe run.
Finishing up the ski. Photo by John Rodrigue

Laughing at myself at the finish. Photo by John Rodrigue
Including the transitions, my total time was 1:35:50. I was SO beat. That was actually a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I hadn't raced for that length of time and that hard since September, so I really felt it as soon as I finished. The course was no joke either. Total vertical gain was just under 1000 ft. I still finished 3rd woman, which was my goal, so I was happy. Including the warm up, I had done 12 miles and about 1300ft of gain. No wonder I was beat at the end.
Race Results.

Post -race was back up at the Eagle Mt House. I met up with John and ordered him some food and grabbed my free beer from Baxter Brewing. Beer never tasted so good.
 Once it was all over, John and I went down into the creepy game room to play ping pong. We had a really fun time and talked about haunted hotels since the Eagle Mt House always makes me think of The Shining.

We drove home, picked up the dogs and drove down to Sandwich to take a short walk on the Brook Path and then fill up our water jugs at the Sandwich Spring. By the time we got home, I was all done. So exhausted. I needed food, beer, a shower and rest.

Brook Path walk
Excellent beer to end the night with, courtesy of Bob Jackman

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