Jan 272012
by Jeff Walker
100m shy of the finish line and failing to chase down Andy and Chuck.
Once a gap opens, it’s damn hard to close it.
Thanks to Maine Running Photos for this and other great photos.
It was an awefully cold day to shoot pics!


The Bradbury Squall, the first race of the Bradbury series, was a 3.5 miler on the Mountain side of Bradbury. After a snowless December and 1st half of January, we were fortunate to get two decent storms in the week before the race to give us enough snow to race it in snowshoes instead of trail shoes. Actually, the snow was quite perfect – that is if you wanted energy sucking packed powder to drive your heart rate up from the start.

Which is what happened. At the start, I positioned myself about where I thought I’d finish but 100m in I thought, “hmm, this is too quick of a start, I cannot sustain this effort, and we haven’t even gotten to the climb”! I eased up and JRock passed me, apparently because snowman told him to go out fast because it’s easier to sustain in snowshoe racing. More on that later.
The race quickly split into the lead group of Judson Cake, Matt Lunt rocking the old school long johns, and Jeremy WTF-are-you-doing-with-those-guys Bonnet, the 1st chase group of gIant, Andy K, and Chuck I’m-not-50-yet Hazzard, and the 2nd chase pack which included JRock, me, Zak, David Roberts and maybe Darren. The first climb is up twisty-turny Krista’s singletrack so you not only have to accelerate up you have to keep accelerating side to side. This is where I blew the engine last year (my first snowshoe race) and its not even 1 mile in so I was very happy to sit behind JRock on the ride up and wasn’t too worried about a gap opening between him and chase group 1. Pretty far into the climb jrock stepped aside to let me by so now I had the pressure of trying to move across the gap to catch chase pack 1. I picked up the pace slightly and pretty quickly closed the gap by 1/2 maybe (20-40m?) but it was really hard to know where I was because of the twistiness of the trail and the constant up (slow) and down (fast) which would shrink and swell the gap.  I was in no man’s land between chase packs, or, said differently, I was the entirety of chase pack 2. Finally we were done with Krista’s and chase pack 1 began to fall apart. Not entirely but they weren’t running in a tight bunch. With about 1 mile left, it looked like gIant dropped Andy and Chuck and I was catching Chuck. On the last little steep climb I pushed hard to catch Chuck which was probably a dumb move because after that I had redlined. Chuck kept calling back to me but I couldn’t really understand him because no oxygen was going to the language part of my brain as it was all being used in the part that keeps my lungs ventillating and my muscles firing. I tried hard to pick up the pace but Chuck wouldn’t let me catch him. I finished a few meters behind Chuck who finished a few meters behind Andy. gIant really did drop us because he was about 30s ahead of Andy.
The most humbling part of the race by far was seeing Jeremy cheering not at the finish line, which is where he’d be if he had just finished, but several hundred meters before the finish line, which is where he’d be if he had finished, rested, high fived the volunteers, showered, changed clothes, and lightly jogged back to cheer. Yeh Jeremy, let’s go kick some acid-robotic ass!
So back to my strategy. Clearly last year highlighted that redlining by the top of Krista’s (about a mile into a 3.5 mile race) was a poor strategy because I could hardly breathe for the rest of the race. On the other hand, once you let a gap open between you and whomever you’re chasing, it’s damn hard to close that gap unless they run out of gas and come back to you. Snowshoe racing is hard – it’s not pacing yourself like an automaton running a flat road marathon. It’s a fine balance between not redlining too early and not falling off the pace.Big shout out to Jeremy Litchfield and Atayne performance wear who donated two cutting edge shirts to the raffle, one of which I scored. SWEEEET! Chuck says they are the bomb so I’m thrilled to win it and pumped to perform in it!

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