Sunday, March 25, 2018

U.S. Snowshoe Championships

packed the WRX and headed out to the 2018 Snowshoes U.S. National Championships on Friday morning. It was directed by CMS teammate, Tim Van Orden. 40 inches of snow dropped on Prospect Mountain in Woodford, VT a day earlier. Three hours later Dave Dunham and I met up for five mile snowshoe tour around Prospect Mountain under light snowThere was plenty on the mountain. The single track was going to be deep. Not sure how deep as the flags and paths were not created yet. 

(BackgoundI have raced twice there in the past: February and March of 2014. The first race was challenging with deep snow. I recall that it took me about an hour and twenty minutes to finish what was around a 10K distanceI fell and hiked in several single track sections of the course. However, over a month later, for the U.S Snowshoe National race, there was less snow. I ran under an hour. I got to the podium placing in my age group (master) as I was going to turn 40 later in the year. I had a feeling that 2018 was going to offer a challenge and I was right.  
Prospect Mountain Trails
After the tour of the Mountain, I headed into downtown Bennington to pick up my number. Bob and Denise Dion were set up with the snowshoe offerings. After catching up with them and Mark Elmore (the man behind USSSA), I headed over to the hotel to meet Dave and unpack. Wgrabbed dinner at the Bennington Pizza House. I killed a plate of Eggplant Parm and Dave went after a pizza. I crashed fairly early so I got plenty of rest. 

Dave and I were up early, heading over to Dunkin Donuts for coffee then hit the hotel breakfast buffet where I had oatmeal with granola. I had over 4 hours to wait for my noon race so went back to the room. I packed up several sets of gear (warm up, race, and cool down/chill clothes) imy bag and headed to the mountain – 18 minutes away. It began to snow on the way up to the mountain. Fitting. The parking lot was packed. The announcer was calling for the women's 10K race. I managed to see them start and yell for Leslie O'Dell and Amber Cullen-Ferreira 

I caught up with my CMS teammates: Steve Brightman, Greg Hammett, Ed Sheldon, and Ben Nephew. I did a short warm up and got into the snowshoes. The women's leaders started to finish as my race started to line up. Without hesitation, I got on the front row. Tim Van Orden advised us not to go out too fast – "a lot of climbing early on." He proceeded to get into the race as a competitor. A flurry of snow was kicked up and about 100 shuffled out. The sound is amazing. We circled around the base and began the climb. I settled in and had a healthy gap between me and the gent in front. Greg Hammett was right behind me. I was holding back with patience. Greg went by after a couple of miles while on the ascent up Prospect Mountain. Smart move.  
With Greg Hammett early on
Photo by Dave Dunham
I fell on the approach 50 yards to the top. I dusted myself off and moved on. Soon I was heading down in full flight and into the first real narrow single track with two foot walls created by the earlier race with the women. It was crazy. Barely two feet wide. Going down this single track required caution. Throw in a turn every four feet and I am talking Amusement Ride quality with a heavy fee if you wipe out. I felt so unbalanced. I tried to focus on staying upright. 

Xavier Chiriboga barelled up on my ass during my cautious pursuit on the descent. I offered him to pass and jumped to the side even though there was no room for anyone to passIt cost me. I got pushed into the wall of snow while my snowshoe got stepped on. My right shoe went in about a foot deeper. My right calf started to cramp. I was rip shit. He said sorry and scurried up and away.  

I was afraid of another competitor coming up on me in the single track. I was looking forward to getting out of that single track and onto the wide fire roads. Unfortunately, over the last three miles, it seemed 80% was single track with no passing lanesI got tunnel vision when surrounded by the two foot wide and two foot walls. 
My favorite: down hill
Photo by Dave Dunham
Peter Keeney from Maine caught me after 5 miles. He declined to pass when I offered. Now my concern was not to hold him up. The single track near the base of the mountain was constant with short ups and downs, left and right, hold on to a tree to maintain balance. I was tired of the single track 
After five miles with Peter gaining
Photo by Dave Dunham
The race was pretty close to six miles and I was heading to the finish line happy to see this ride endI was directed past it. OK, no problem, a little out and back to finish up with a 10K. Nope, we dived back into more single track, left, right, left, right – like the secret code to endless lives in Contra (old Nintendo reference there). Finally, I crossed the finish line. 1:19:29. I measured 6.8 miles. I was amazed no one passed me after Xavier crashed into me half way through the race. I felt so bad for the gents doing the half and full marathons the next day. 
Heading to the finish line with Peter behind
Photo by Dave Dunham
I walked back inside the lodge and changed into dry clothes. I hung out until the results were posted. I finished 20th overall and 4th CMS finisher behind Tim (9th), Greg (12th), and Steve (17th). Ed finished 29th. Ben (7th) competed for MPF so they could field a team (2nd place in the open). CMS masters finished 1st I would agree with Tim in that he wanted to give athletes something to remember. 

1. 3:41:43 Central Mass Striders (1:13:55) 
1 1:10:40 Tim Van Orden 50 Bennington VT  
2 1:13:38 Greg Hammett 41 Chesterfield NH  
3 1:17:25 Steve Brightman 50 Providence RI  
4 (1:19:29) James Pawlicki 44 Lynn MA  
5 (1:24:53) Ed Sheldon 54 Hooksett NH 

Check out the photos. ben kimball photography showed the narrow single track terrain well
2018 Snowshoe Championship Photos

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