Sunday, March 5, 2017

2017 World Snowshoe Championship- Saranac Lake, NY

Dion 120s. Brand new model of Dion Racing Snowshoes. Thank you to Bob Dion for giving me a pair!
After such a downer of week, it was so nice to have the opposite experience over the weekend. This is the second time I've been to this part of New York when I was so excited to be there. The last time was for the Whiteface Skymarathon in 2015. I had a great experience then and then another great experience here. Must be something about this place. I have a free week in June while John will be in Costa Rica. I've been trying to figure out what I want to do with my free time, and after being back in the Adirondacks this weekend, I know THIS is where I will be going in June. I need to come back here. Not a place I'd ever want to live, but there is something magical about this place that draws me in.

Friday morning, I got  up early even though I was still really beat. I was relieved to have dodged a bullet with the quad soreness. It was gone! Got right on the treadmill for an easy 3 miles in 21:27. Kept the incline at 1%. I could have run outside, but I wanted to avoid all hills today. Plus, I wasn't motivated enough to put on a lot of layers and go out in the cold. Sometimes it's nice to just put on shorts and a t-shirt in the winter. The run was super easy. I don't normally run that fast for this type of a run since it's usually just getting something in, but I felt really good. That was a good sign since my head wasn't quite in the game. I didn't expect to do well at World's. I was really going for the experience. This was the first time World's had ever been in the USA, AND it was so close! How could I not go?! I'm surprised that more people I know DIDN'T go. I'll be honest that they truly missed out. Despite the severe lack of snow, it ended up being awesome!

I wanted to get into Saranac Lake a little before 4pm so that I could check in and then participate in the Parade of Nations. I also had to factor in a stop at the Hunger Mountain CO-OP that Fabienne Pattison recommended for beer and the ferry ride across Lake Champlain. I wanted to leave around 9am, so after my run, I quickly showered, then packed up the car. John's dad dropped him off a little before 9, so we left pretty much right on time. I hated leaving the dogs behind, but we were staying at an Air B&B that didn't allow pets. Phoenix knew what was happening and was so sad when we left.

Funny. I'm sitting on that stool in the background right now.

It was nice to have John comment on the great view as we got into Vermont. We've done this drive quite a few times, but I think this is the first time he's voiced an opinion on it. I don't mind this drive at all. It has always led to good things so I think we both had a positive attitude about the weekend. I was glad. It was going to be another crazy double race weekend AND John's 11th birthday, so I was a little nervous about him having a good time. It ended up being the most relaxing, enjoyable weekend. I think both of us having a positive attitude from the start made all the difference. 

I made my stop at the the CO-OP as quick as possible. I hadn't eaten yet so I grabbed a few things to eat for John and me. I was super excited to have my chicken curry when I got into the car...only to discover it was tempeh curry. Ugh. I hate that! I actually really like tempeh, but I'm so sick of vegetarian food made to look like meat. It's like, "Oh come on!" It looked identical to chicken. Tempeh was the last thing I wanted to eat the day before a race. Three bites, and that was it. Never finished it. I had fortunately grabbed this awesome bread thing with sauteed onions that I ate instead. I was happiest with my beer purchase.

We drove on to the Charlotte-Essex Ferry getting there just as planned for the 2pm ferry crossing. I wanted to be early, and we were by half an hour. Just as I parked in line, my phone rang. It was Mikey! Michael Narcisi, who was supposed to share the studio apartment Air B&B with us. He had completely misjudged the distance and realized he was going to miss the last ferry. We talked for a bit, and he decided that he was going to bag the race. I was bummed for him, but when I told him that he could now run Amherst, he perked up and got excited again. So it ended up working out for him.

The ferry wasn't crowded due to the time of year, so loading only took less than 5 minutes. The woman didn't charge me for my "daughter" either so that was cool. Haha. She thought John was a girl through the window, probably because his hair was so long. He wasn't happy. Hahaha. Once the ferry was moving, we got out briefly to take some pictures and use the bathroom. It was cold and windy outside, so we got back in the car and listened to I'm on a Boat.

Cool island on Lake Champlain

Love, love, love this picture of  John

I almost didn't post this one because I look horrible, but I want to post one of me with my kid.
The drive from Essex to Saranac Lake was beautiful, but one thing was missing. SNOW! I didn't know how they were going to pull this off!

We arrived in Saranac Lake around 3:40, exactly as planned. I had time to check in, register John for the Shoe-Be-Doo snowshoe race and then meet up with Bob Dion to grab a pair of his brand new model Dion's! This would be Bob's first test of the 120s with some of us athletes here at World's. I was super excited to try them out! He took my bindings off an old pair of 121s and put them on the 120s so I'd be good to go in the morning. Ice cleats all the way. I race in nothing else. On first glance the shoes don't look much different, but they are significantly lighter than the 121s.

121s on the right. 120s on the left

Only an inch different, but it made a difference.
John met me over at the town hall where I checked in, then we walked to the start of the Parade of Nations getting there just in time for the start. This ended up being way more fun than I expected. It was so neat to see the other countries there. I will admit that I was a little sad to see only 2 or 3 people from India. They had a HUGE number or people registered early on, but most them had to back out after their visas were denied. That was really unfortunate.

Someone captured John and me in the parade on the left. 

Once the parade was over, we went to the Blue Moon Cafe for coffee and drink for John, then it was off to our Air B&B to check in. This Air B&B was a studio apartment in the basement of a family's home. It was SO cute! And perfect! John even loved it. So quiet and only .4 miles from the race start. I had a bed, and John had a futon. It was so comfortable. This was my first time using Air B&B, and what a great experience it was. 100x better than a hotel!

Entrance to our home for the two nights
John and I unloaded the car and then went back out for dinner at Bitters and Bones. The place was busy with locals. Pretty cool atmosphere. The food was good. Beer selection was lacking, but that was ok. I only had one. I brought one from home to have later anyway.

We were back to the apartment pretty early. John begged to open his presents a day early. At first I said no, but then it was like why not. I gave him a game for his Nintendo 3DS, a Pikachu portable charger and a Rowlet plush (Pokemon) that he had asked for. He was so excited for all three, but I think he was the most excited about the Rowlet.

The rest of the night was relaxing. John played his new game while I finished up that last blog post. I felt so not rushed here, but I was happy to have had the busy day. By the time I finished the blog post, I was beat and surprisingly fell right to sleep. That was a good thing. I needed rest for the next two days.

I woke up at 8am. Probably the longest night's sleep I'd had in weeks. It was so nice not to be in a rush. With the race within walking distance, I had all the time in the world. I made coffee and sat down at the table. I watched my now 11 year old sleeping. I couldn't believe it was his 11th birthday!! How did that happen? So fast! I'm so thankful to have this kid in my life. He means everything to me. And after the week's events, I was even more thankful to have him there happy and healthy. Man, people who choose not to have kids are SO missing out. They really are. To love an extension of yourself so much is just an amazing feeling. 

Still asleep on his birthday
After my coffee, I drove into town to get John a hot chocolate and breakfast sandwich at the Blue Moon again. When I got back, I made him pose with a party hat. Haha.

I was having trouble getting into race mode; it felt like I wasn't even racing in 1.5 hours, but I forced myself into my running clothes and went out for a 2-mile run to warm up. It was crazy warm out, so I only wore shorts and a t-shirt. The warm up seemed to take more effort than the pace, so I was a little nervous until I reminded myself that I was here for the experience, not to win. It was funny. Right at my mile turn around, there was a Labatt Blue Light can on the sidewalk. Here, that would have been a Bud Light can.

When I got back, I changed into my race clothes. With temps nearing 60 degrees, I knew a singlet was a must, but I still opted for full-length tights. I knew we would be kicking up all sorts of slush with our snowshoes, so I did not want to have bare legs. It would end up being the right choice. I saw a lot of bright red bare legs during the race. Once I was dressed, I made sure John was all set since he would be staying back in the apartment, then I grabbed my new snowshoes and ran the .4 miles to Dewey Mountain Recreation Center where the race was. This was not the original location for the course, but the nearly absent snow, it was the only option with its nordic trails. The distance was also changed from a 10K to an 8K. I have to say, the people of this town were amazing. When I arrived, I saw old people and kids shoveling snow onto the course. They had been working to make it happen since the day before. A quick warm up with Sarah Canney and Amber Ferreira to check out the course eased my fears. This was going to be a snowshoe race! They had done it. Thank you, people of Saranac Lake!

I made sure I wasn't there too early so that I didn't have time to get nervous. A quick bathroom break after the warm up and it was right to the start line. I lined up with Sarah Canney. Warren Angel was also next to us, as well as Phil Erwin and Jamie Woolsey to our left. It was pretty awesome to be lined up with people I knew. Warren joked that he wouldn't be passing me right at the finish this time. (He would end up finishing one second behind me! Haha!) Amber was lined up towards the front. I knew I couldn't beat her, but I wanted to use her to pull me along. Try to keep her in sight. 

As soon as we started out of the gate, the slushy snow was being kicked up in all of our faces. It was a mix of water and snow, and it was in my eyes and running down my neck and back. I knew immediately the tights were the right choice. Someone caught a photo of me right at the start with my eyes closed trying to keep the water out.

After about a quarter of a mile, the herd thinned out a bit and I found myself right behind Amber. I quickly passed her because this first section was more rollers. Ups and downs. I wanted to gain time here since I knew that after we looped back towards the start, we would have a long climb. It didn't take long for Amber to pass me back, but I hung onto her as we continued to pass a few more women. We caught up with one woman, who would turn out to be Brandy Erholtz. I never saw her face, and for some reason, I thought her snowshoes said "France" on them. The said "Race". Haha. Amber would pass her and she would pass Amber back during the long climb. As we got higher and higher, the snow began to get thinner and thinner with muddy sections we had to run through and over. It was pretty funny, but made us soaked and covered in mud. 

I wasn't far behind either of them once we crested the hill and began the long decent. I knew I could make up time here and most likely pass Amber and Brandy. I did just that. A portion of the trail was ice, but I've run on enough ice with snowshoes that I had absolutely no fear and just flew down this section. I had no doubt they would pass me back, but I had to use my strength on the downhill while I had it. 

Finishing the first loop

We finished up the first loop and started on the second. I had 2.36 miles on my watch here. The first small loop before the big climb again hurt this time. Amber and Brandy caught back up with me and passed me as expected, but I stayed right behind them until we started big climb again. This is where I slowed significantly. I started getting passed by a lot of guys, and Amber and Brandy gapped me. I hung on as best I could, but on a sharp left turn, I saw Amber peek back and see me. That's when she really picked it up to get farther ahead. By the time we reached the top, I knew she had too much of a lead for me to catch her. Brandy was a little closer, so I decided to bust it out to at least close the gap. I would end up closing the gap slightly on Amber and then much to my surprise, I was all of a sudden right on Brandy's heels. I was pretty sure I was going to pass her until we hit this really short, slushy incline just before the turn into the finishing shoot when she got just a few steps ahead of me. I pushed so hard through the shoot to catch her. It was pain face all the way. I was dying. Brandy would beat me in the end by one second. 40:06 to my 40:07. Amber finished ahead of me by 19 seconds. I would finish 9th woman overall and 3rd master female! I was stoked. I'd take that. Someone captured some pretty awesome photos of us at the finish line.

That slight incline before the finish that I just couldn't catch her on.

Real pain faces!

This is what it feels like to finish a snowshoe race when you've given your all. You are in a true pain cave!
Once I caught my breath, I was ecstatic at how the race went. I caught up with Amber and Brandy for a few minutes. Sarah Canney finished covered in mud after she took a tumble. It was pretty awesome at how dirty she was. I briefly got to say hi to Sarah Keyes and a few other people like Tim Van Orden, who was also 3rd master, and Jamie Woolsey, who finished 11th woman. A little girl walking around asked Amber and me for our autographs. That was cool, but definitely a real first for me. Haha. Full overall results.

When I was done chatting, I grabbed my bag and then ran back to the apartment. I was soaking wet and needed dry clothes before John and I would come back over to walk the Shoe-Be-Doo Snowshoe Race together an hour later. On the short run back, I couldn't help think of how awesome that race just was. I felt like I really put it all out there. I had tried really hard and ended up in the top 10 in the World! So cool!

Once back at the apartment, I quickly changed into dry clothes and had John get ready. I was excited to get back over there and snowshoe walk with him on his birthday. The temp was already at 60, and the sun had come out. It was a beautiful day! We walked back to Dewey Mountain, but still had about 30 minutes to spare so we went in the lodge and played ping pong for about 20 minutes before heading back out to the starting area where we ran into Diane Levesque, her husband, Brian Gallagher, and Marcy Schwam. I had no idea prior to this how involved Marcy is in the US Snowshoe Association. She's on the Board of Directors for the Northeast. Diane got a picture of Marcy and me.

I snapped a picture of John that I love of him on the podium just before the start of the race.

We lined up in the back, and the race started. We walked most of it. It was pretty fun at first, but it ended up being a long 2.4 miles. It took us over an hour. It wasn't really the walking that made it tough; it was the fact that all of the snow had pretty much melted near the top of the big climb, and we got soaked and muddy. My pants were nearly falling down from the weight of the water on them, and we both were freezing. Haha. For the most part, it was really nice to walk with John. I couldn't believe how lucky we got with the weather. Sunny and 60. Couldn't beat it. It was a good way to enjoy his birthday since I wanted him to get out and do something fun. He liked it until the end. Haha. But it was miserable by that point, I'll admit it.

We finished just in the nick of time. Just as we got back to the apartment, a storm blew in.

Walking back to the apartment with dark clouds on the horizon
The rain started shortly after we got back. We both got showers, and then it was time for John's oreo birthday cake that I made him. I didn't use actually Oreos, but organic ones, only because it doesn't have partially hydrogenated oils in them. I avoid that stuff as much as possible. Almost everything in the cake was either organic or natural ingredients. I let him eat that crap sometimes, but if I'm going to make something from scratch, it isn't going to be made of cheap, crappy ingredients. I lit his 11 candles, then he blew them out. He didn't want me to sing "Happy Birthday" to him. Haha.

After we had some cake, we relaxed for a few hours before going to the community college in town for the banquet and awards for the race. It was still pouring rain when we got there. My race entry came with a wristband, while John's did not. I didn't want to pay $25 for a wristband for John when I figured he probably wouldn't eat anything but maybe few bites of something. Since he didn't have a band, we weren't allowed to use a seat at one of the tables for him. It made sense since they had just enough places for pre-registered people. It was kind of a bummer to be stuck by ourselves in the back of the gym in some spare chairs since I would have liked to join some of my friends, but it worked out ok. I got a beer and some dinner. As predicted, John said he didn't want anything. Once the line was empty, though, he changed his mind and asked for some pasta, so I went back up to get him some. The dinner was actually really good.

The awards got underway, and I was surprised to be called up for an award. I knew I was 3rd master female, but I didn't think we would get anything special, but we did. It was really cool. Diane got a picture of me on the podium with the other two masters women.

This part was really fun because it gave me a chance to socialize with some of the people I knew in there. I was super excited to win this award. How often do you get a chance to win something in a World Championship race? Granted, snowshoe racing isn't huge sport, but it's become important to me. I've come a long way in the sport since my very first snowshoe race at the Hebron Hills Snowshoe Classic in 2012. Diane Levesque was actually my only female competitor! And this is also where I met Chris Dunn for the first time! Funny. That race was near zero degrees and really hard! Since then, it's been a huge part of my winter racing (except when there's no snow!). So to be an award winner and 9th woman was a really big deal to me. I don't care what anyone else thinks about it.

At the end of the awards, they called the Spanish Snowshoe Racing Team up on the stage to announce that Spain would be the site of the 2018 World Snowshoe Championship. They played a video to announce it. I was in a conversation with Phil Erwin at the time, but when we both looked up and saw this amazing video, we stopped talking and watched. Oh my god. I want to go there next year!! I'm kind of in the mindset that I'm going to make it happen now. And I'm not the only one. This video has us hooked!

I ended up getting to talk to a few more people before we walked out...into a snow storm!! During the banquet, the rain changed over to a heavy, wet snow and had already dropped a good two inches. By the time I got my car out of there, it had to be 4 or more inches!! It wouldn't have been a big deal, but the awards had been at the bottom of hill now covered in thick snow. Cars going up started to get stuck one after the other. I ended up spending the next 45 minutes or so helping push cars up the hill. And the snow was still coming down hard the whole time. I had to have helped push 8 cars at least. Brian Gallagher was helping and just after we got one car up the hill, a tree all of a sudden fell into the road, narrowly missing him! It was crazy!! When it was my turn to get my car out, I drove to the bottom of the hill, got up momentum then flew up the hill...only to be met with stuck cars that caused me to get stuck. After helping all of those cars, and being truly more worn out from it than the snowshoe race, the Spanish snowshoe team ended up pushing my car up the hill. It was pretty awesome. They were loving it and yelling the whole way. It was great. Such a crazy way to the end the day, but it really just enhanced the whole experience. The day had been truly awesome!

I got back to the apartment and after 3 tries, got it up the driveway. I was a little nervous about getting down to Amherst the next morning, but the plow trucks were out in full force already! Imagine that! Plowing after 8pm. Novel idea! Conway should consider that. Haha. I packed up as much of our stuff as I could and began making trips to the car with it. By the time, I was done, the snow had stopped. I scraped the car to save myself the trouble in the early morning, then went back down to the apartment to relax. It was a nice evening. I was exhausted and couldn't believe I was running the Amherst 10-Miler the next day. What was I doing to myself?! I could barely keep my eyes open, but as soon as my head hit the pillow, there it was. The 911 call...on replay. Like watching a movie, but with no emotion attached. Just watching it again and again. It was so weird how it just appeared. As soon as my brain wasn't preoccupied, it was there, just waiting for an open slot in my thoughts. It took about an hour and a half to go to sleep, and I would only end up with about 4 hours of sleep before I was up early to leave for Amherst.

Run or Hide by Run River North

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