Tuesday, March 27, 2012


At long last, here is my recap of the Horse Hill 7K snowshoe race:

With not much of a winter down here in Philadelphia, I knew if I wanted to get a snowshoe race under my belt in 2012, I was going to have to travel. Lucky for me, a trip was planned up to Maine for the first week of March. It was lucky for me because a search of snowshoe races had some scheduled to occur while I was up in the region. I had races I could choose from in both Maine and New Hampshire. Due to logistics, our drive was starting on Friday night right after I got out of work. Since we were stopping in Lowell, MA, I knew I was going to be close to the Horse Hill 7K in Merrimack, NH. The race choice was decided: Horse Hill 7K on March 3rd.

Or so, I thought. A couple of weeks out, it looked likely there would not be enough snow for snowshoe racing. However, a few days prior, enough snow fell to have Horse Hill be, GAME ON! Except, it was going to be a lot of hilly single-track. The hills aren’t the problem. To date, I have not gotten the hang of single-track snowshoe running. Considering I’m from an urban city in the Mid-Atlantic and still new to the sport, this is not too surprising.

I was excited and nervous leading up because I knew I was going to get solid competition and was racing in a new pair of snowshoes, Northern Lites Elite Racer model. Also, this was my first race, representing Northern Lites as a competitor, so I was nervous to do well for them as they have invested themselves in me. (Hope I did solid by you!)

I knew I had it in me to do well given the right conditions. Oh the conditions….

While snow had fallen earlier in the week, the morning of the race looked a little worrisome with drizzle coming down. However, I was mentally committed and I drove the 30 minutes or so to the Horse Hill Preserve for the race. Driving up really got me worried as it started to downpour! Oh noes. I was hoping I didn’t show up to have it cancelled. Thankfully, when I pulled in to the small parking lot, it was still on, even if I got my car a tad stuck.

Before the race started, I did a small warm up, part of it on the course. I felt good about the opening stretch since it was wide but about a quarter mile in, the course got ugly. Since we were going through some wetland-ish areas, a couple of puddles appeared. Nothing major but not what I wanted to see. Thanks, rain.

One good and bad thing about racing in an area I am not from, I am not familiar with the competition. All I knew was Joe Johnson was injured and not running. I was not familiar with one of his training partners, Kevin Tilton who happened to be there. Even in the bad weather, the best show up. In talking with organizers before the start, I learned usually 100+ are at this race. While, on this day that number was much much smaller but filled with some quality.

Everyone lines up at the start. I’m about a row back. Bang! Off we go, I get off the line and am in 7th place but within a hundred meters, I make it into 4th. Knowing that the single track is coming up, I gun in for the whole and enter the single track in 2nd place. 1st place is already rocking me but I can see him and feel I can close the gap so I go the best I can. I’m doing well for about a mile in. Until the single track starts to snake itself around. For me the turns became too tight and my lack of technical skill compared to the others began to show. I started catching too much snow losing some balance. During this stretch, I was passed and dropped into 3rd place. However, I felt, I could reclaim second as first was now pulling away. My race for 2nd was a yo-yo. I would gain and loose throughout. Until we hit the ‘rollercoaster’ section of the course. The course weaved through this so much, I lost my sense of direction! And with each turn, I lost a bit of time on second place. Not a lot much but just enough. Once we came out of this stretch, I could see 2nd and hit the gas hard. Unfortunately, I ran out of real estate and finished 3rd roughly 25 seconds back. First place ended up running away beating me by 3 minutes. In a typical short distance race, this would devastate me but when done in snowshoes, I can take it in perspective.

I did learn after the race who Kevin Tilton, the winner and Dave Dunham, 2nd place were. Dave was a former national champion and multiple top-5 national runner. Kevin on the other hand is a multiple top-10 national runner and since this race finished 7th at the World Snowshoe Championships. If I had to lose, better to lose to two people with those accomplishments. They give me a place to strive for.

On this day, placing third to them is quite an accomplishment. Conditions were terrible. Running in snowshoes in the rain is gross and extra taxing. And given the course being of a design not suited to my best snowshoe skills at the moment, I’m happy.

Sadly, this race was the start and end of this year’s snowshoe season. Next year, I hope the winter is more of a winter where I can do more races. Considering Nationals are in Bend, Oregon, I plan on making them. This summer, I also hope to make it to a beach or two to do some off-season training in snowshoes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Still not about that snowshoe race...

I know, I will get to the Horse Hill 7K recap. Just not tonight.

This post is going to focus on last week's St. Patty's Scramble.

Around this time, last week I was nervous. I thought a good night sleep on Saturday would have been a great thing for me. However, I did not get it. Instead, I felt really jittery and as if I was coming down with something. Mind you 15K sick is not a good mental image when already feeling nervous. Considering I had to be at the race two hours early to help out beforehand, I had some thinking to do since I knew I was going to be involved with course sweeping. I made a decision to drop to the 6K.

As bad as it was to cut out such a distance, it was wise. Not for the sick feeling but turns out I was the only one sweeping the whole 15K course. So I had to run the 15k anyway, just with a bag on my back picking up all the signage. Really not my ideal Sunday. It made me a bit bitter even if I raced for free because I felt the time I had to dedicate was pretty steep compared to the other volunteers. But that said, lesson learned if I do that again.

With respect to the race itself, I feel I could have won the 15K as I was 50 yards up on second where the 6K and 15K routes split. I ended up winning the 6K by a fair margin of 2 1/2 minutes. Just missed going under 20 minutes but when the last quarter mile is a HUGE uphill, it is tough. The one really positive I take away from it all is that I had speed and held it well. Considering I won't have a 'normal' road race until April, it is nice to know I have the turnover on the trails.

By the way, I rocked the INOV-8 X-Talon 190's. Odd at first but a really great trail shoe.

One last note, of a sad nature, I learned there will be no XTERRA Philly series this year. The guy who put it on is taking the year off from doing so. I feel it is going to be no more. Bummer.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pre-race Jitters

Usually always before any race I have some degree of jitters. However, when I feel I am at my best, they are minor. For tomorrow, they are a bit higher that usual.

A couple of factors play into this:

1) It's a trail race. Results for me have been mixed in my previous attempts.

2) This year, my worst opponent has been my body. Since the start of the year, I have had to manage my running around my groin flaring up. In mid-Feb, I was running well but was dumb and didn't rest when I should have. Right now, I feel behind the curve of speed fitness.

3) Last year put up some smoking fast times which Factor 2 is concerned about. After all, I would like to be high overall. In fact, I would like to win.

4) At the end of the month, I have a 10K. I would like to be in shape and not injured for it. Having been injured before during a trail race has me on edge.

Now, I'm saying these things because they are the reality and mindset of me as a runner. Once tomorrow comes, I'll be much better. All I have to decide really is if I want to use the INOV-8 X-Talon 190's. I'm trained in them well enough but feel comfy in racers. I haven't been in the Merrill's enough to have those be my trail racer yet.

And I know I still owe a post about my snowshoe race in NH on March 3rd. I plan on getting to it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dawning of a new running chapter.

It has been a while since I have intensely blogged about my running as I felt my facebook was becoming dominated by the sport. (Granted I do post about it quite a bit.) Now it is true running is a huge part of my life. And I felt it was time to expand again on my running. This time, I felt it was important to write about my transition to being a snowshoe runner in the 5th largest city in the United States.

I look forward to blogging about my endeavors in this year and beyond. In fact, I should have a race report up soon.