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.