Mar 102012

by Ian Parlin

The days leading up to the final race of the Bradbury Mountain Snowshoe Series were an extravaganza of snowshoeing with 6-8 inches falling on Thursday, but by race day we were just lucky enough to be able to pull off the race with minimal snow coverage in a lot of places. On Thursday I got out near the end of the storm for a 5.5 mile snowshoe run on some local trails. I learned that the worn-down-then-sharpened cleats on my snowshoes no longer gripped the deep snow, but at least the trails would be packed before the race. On Friday I met Ryan at Bradbury to check out the trails for the race. Despite what looked like a lot of snow there was virtually no base on the mountain trails so we knew we had to find a course on the east side trails. With Ryan on his skis and me on my snowshoes we each headed out to break trail and see what it was like out there. We both covered 6 miles (hard work breaking trail for that long) and finished up about the same time. We spent a few minutes coming up with a combination of what both of us had seen that took in the best trails and tried to minimize any duplication of the previous race course, oh, and also looked like it would be close to 5 miles. We agreed that I’d go over the course the next day, and then we’d finish the course marking on the morning of the race.

On Saturday I returned to the park with Emma and we planned to walk the course and get as much marking done as possible. When we arrived it had just started raining, and as the morning progressed the rain picked up and was visibly turning the nice new snow to slush. Bastard. It took us 2.5 hours to walk the course, which turned out to be 6.25 miles, and we were soaked, and tired. Luckily there appeared to be a loop we could lop off the course to get it down to 5 miles, but it wouldn’t be until race morning that I’d go back out to confirm the distance.

By Sunday morning the rain had really screwed up the snow. Our only hope was that it got cold enough for long enough over night to solidify the course enough that we wouldn’t be running through slush and puddles. I got to Bradbury at 7AM and strapped on my snowshoes for the fourth consecutive day, the first time this winter I’ve been able to do that. I headed out onto the course with a big handful of orange flags to survey the conditions and finish the marking. Things were taking a bit longer than I expected, and in the interest of saving something for the race I decided to skip the Bat Cave, which I know from running it a bazillion times before is just over 0.6 miles long. So when I finished marking the course and my Garmin said I’d run 4.44 miles it looked like the course was going to be pretty much right on 5 miles when we added the Bat Cave in. However, the distance I came up with after running the race was 4.63 miles. I know that the bat Cave is definitely longer than 0.19 miles, in fact when I look at that section of trail on my GPS data from running the race it measured at 0.62 miles. But for some reason I still came up short on the race course. So while I’d like to believe that the race was 5 miles long I have no data to show that it is, and a few other folks also came up with less than 5 miles. Oh well, I doubt that anyone was looking for more after they crossed the finish line.

By the time I met up with Ryan on the course he was about 3/4 of mile from the end with a shovel in hand trying to cover up some of the bare patches of ground. I thought it seemed silly at first, but it actually work great and meant that our snowshoes never had to touch dirt and rocks.

While we got everything else set up for the race I had plenty of time to forget about my own racing strategy, so at about 10:45 Emma and I went out for a short warm-up to get the blood flowing and the mind focused. I had run well at the previous two snowshoe races so I put a little pressure on myself to make this another good one. Since Jeremy couldn’t make it to this race due to much better plans out west I knew I had a pretty good chance at taking second place in the overall series standings, but Jeff wasn’t that far behind me and I thought he had a chance of catching me if he had a good race. Since I was (once again) the only one who knew the race course I was able to formulate a race strategy and was actually able to execute it.

Race start, photo by Blaine Moore


I lined up next to Judson Cake, which seemed a little crazy, but my plan was to go out hard for the first 1/4 mile on the wider trail and then ease back a bit when we got to the twisty single-track. I did slow a little on the single-track, mostly due to the terrain rather than from a decreased effort. I was pretty sure Andy was right behind me and Jeff, Scott, Peter and Jamie were part of a tight pack that had me running scared. My knowledge of the turns helped a bit but I couldn’t put any distance between myself and the pack that was on my heels.

At about the 1 mile mark we turned onto the Snowmobile Trail which was wide and well-packed. This was going to be the first real opportunity for anyone to pass so I really pushed hard on this 1/4 mile stretch to ensure that didn’t happen. I was a little surprised that no one made a move, but it was still early. Back onto single-track and I slowed enough to catch my breath back, but the pressure was right back on again. I slowed down a bit more when we entered the Bat Cave, knowing that it would virtually impossible to pass on this tight trail. I think Jeff later mentioned my casual pace through here, but that was part of my plan. When we exited the Bat Cave we had a gradual uphill and I did my best to push the pace again on this stretch. Then back onto the Snowmobile Trail where once again I really had to speed up to fend off any passing attempts.

At 3 miles we turned onto the single-track of Ginn and I slowed a little to catch my breath. The pressure was immediately back on and now I could tell it was Jeff. I had no doubt that he knew exactly what the time differential was between us in the series standings and I was now pretty sure that he was going to try to beat me. I now had to decide if I should push the pace here to try to lose Jeff or relax a bit, hope that he couldn’t pass on the narrow trails and save it all for the 1/4 mile straightaway sprint to the finish. Neither option seemed like a good way of ensuring that I would stay ahead of Jeff.

Jeff planning his move, photo by Blaine Moore


At around the 4 mile mark Jeff finally made a bold move and went around me on the left. And he was really moving. I had all I could do to keep up with him and a gap started to open between us. I felt defeated, at the pace he was going it looked like he might have a chance of opening the 1 minute gap he needed to beat me in the series standings. He was breathing like a wounded gnu (his words) and I regained hope for being able to hang on. I closed the gap and got right on his heels. I could have made a move to pass but decided to wait until we got to the Link Trail where I wouldn’t have to step off into deeper snow and waste any energy. At one point I heard Jeff mutter “I’m Done” between breaths, and his pace was definitely slowing, but I remained patient. When we finally hit the Link Trail I kicked it in and went past on the double-track trail. I didn’t believe that Jeff was really done so I pushed it as hard as I could for final 1/4 mile. Luckily it was enough for a second place finish in both this race and the overall series standing. Sweet. Thanks to Jeremy for not showing up, and to Jeff for making me really work for it.

time: 39:17
distance: 4.63 miles (5 miles?)
pace:8:29 (7:51?)
place: 2/37


weather: high 30’s, overcast

conditions: wet, sticky snow, this in places, slushy in others, some ice

gear: Atlas Run snowshoes, Saucony Kinvara, wool socks, leg compression sleeves, shorts, long sleeve shirt, glove, cap

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