It’s been an incredible 4 years of putting on more miles and more miles. Meeting new people in new places and coming up with new ideas has made this whole running thing totally awesome. I’m a pretty fresh face with TMR and maybe some of you might recognize me from numerous local races. I really feel pretty lucky to have this oportunity to share something that means so much to me. We probably have a lot in common. So here it goes, the first race report…
Going on training runs with TMR through out the fall the guys always ask me if I’m going to get into snow shoes over the winter. I’ve never ran in them but have logged plenty of back yard miles walking the dogs. Really I was pretty excited about the idea. As soon as I saw Bradbury Shoe Series registration I was in. At the time I think I was fresh off of two solid ultra runs. Brad 50k and TARC40. Those finishes came as quite a surprise and before I knew what I was doing I had taken a little push from a Spartan Race friend who had suggested entering a snowshoe race in the Green Mountains of Vermont. With what little ultra experience I had, I thought there was a decent shot at the 60k. At least I was ready for the challenge. I signed up before realizing it was the same weekend as the Brad Blizzard. Hmmm, this wasn’t my first time doubling down…
My ultra training looks basically like this. Run a lot, run it all. For a 60k race I knew I wanted to have that mileage comfortably down in a week. Like if I can run 40 miles in a week, the thought is I can run it in a day with enough rest. Trails, roads, snowshoes, screwshoes. Anything I can get on my feet and on any surface at any time in any weather, I’d get out there. It didn’t matter. So very grateful to also have TMR there every step of the way. Way more fun having others there to meet up with on group runs. So there I was, getting in 60 mile weeks in as some describle as the harshest (best) winter we’ve had in years. Snowshoes felt great. The first two Brad Snowshoe runs went well I thought. I even logged in a 24 mile training run the week before my first 60k. Having not trained that full 60k distance really didn’t scare me. I remember going into the Maine Marathon having never ran more than 18 miles which included two rest stops. No worries.
The race weekend was up. It was Friday, nothing was going on at work. Car was packed and I was ready to go! I love a good road trip. Especially to a race, especially to Vermont. Before making my way there though I stopped to visit some old friends in my home town, New London NH. Wow what an ominous feelint being in the middle of the Kearsarge Greenway. Seeing Ragged, Kearsarge and Sunapee sitting there silent and snowy. Six months from now there will be another write up about the Emerald Necklace. What a feeling it was to have all three peaks in view. Goosebumps.
4am Saturday the alarm went off and I had a two hour drive to Blueberry Hill XC Ski Center. Great drive! Vermont has the best roads winding along the rivers, up and down over rollling hills at break neck, white nuckle speeds. Lol I really think 50 is just too fast for some of those corners! Well, I arrived just before sunrise. It was cold, slightly breezy and the forecast was looking great. What a day to run! It didn’t look like too many people were there. Maybe 7 events total going on so it was hard to say who was doing what. Past experience taught me not to judge, just go with the flow, be present in the moment and everything will happen just as it is meant to. There was about an hour to warm up and get my bib and chit chat the locals. Funny walking into a place and having a couple people walk up and shake your hand. “Hey you won that 40 miler didn’t you?” one kid asked… Another had recognized me from the BBU… Then I saw a few familiar Spartan faces. With a comfortable feeling and my 008 number I was ready. RD had anounced snowshoe race about to start.
I’ve been training without water or food lately on my long runs. 15, 18, 24 miles with nothing had been pretty regular. The course was two 16 mile laps with aid stations at every 8 miles. This seemed perfect. In my pocket was a home made power cocktail. Peanut butter, honey, banana, beans and almonds all whipped, bagged up and ready to devour as needed. The outside temp was cold, but so were my training runs. I felt totally prepared. We lined up, the gun went off!
The three shoe events went off together. 10, 30 and 60k. Off the bat it was me and a couple other guys who took off. A spartan pro I knew was in the 10k and in the lead. I so badly wanted to take him but just decided to let it go. His turn came up, he split right and left me behind another pair of runners. Slowly I caught up with one of them and asked which event he was in. He said 60 and the other guy ahead was in the 30. So I didn’t let the 30k guy into my head. It was just me and this other kid. Looking at him though I was breaking my own rules. He looked like quite the goober. Baggy snowboard pants and cotton shirts?!? His sprint then walk style confused me also. I decided to pass him and his reaction was to stay right on me. The swishing sound of his baggy pants really was starting to irritate me. Focus, form and meditation are such a huge factor in my running. I was losing it with this guy on top of me. There were some trees down in the trail I had to try and duck and the kid actually ran into me, fell over and landed on top of me. WTF I was pretty upset and told him to get away. I gave him the lead. I’d deal with him later. 4 miles in was too soon to lose my mind.
Race format was to send xc skiers out first an hour before the shoe crew. The thought in my mind was the trails would be nicely packed. Not quite as I had thought. Sure the skiers packed it down some. But a snowshoe tracks a lot different than a ski. With goober ahead of me he spent a lot of time postholing the course. That was some real tough running. Forgeting to mention the first 4 miles are all uphill, the begining of the race was by far the hardest. Maybe around mile 5 or 6 we get off the single track and got onto a little stretch of sled trail. I knew that was my chance to take the lead. I picked up the pace and put a good distance on the new 2nd place runner. Grabbed a quick cup of water at the first aid and the trail changed back to single track. Maybe its different running styles, but I was able to float right on top of the ski tracks where goober was postholing. Probably a solid advantage to have. Winding and rolling, in and out of shade and sun, up and down and all around the green hills we went. It was so beautiful. Beautiful and cold.
Through a majority of the run cold was a factor. It seemed to spread through different parts of my body. I’d lose my hands first. I’d try to do things to get them back. In stride I’d open and close my hands, exaggerating arm swings, ball up my hands. Anything to get the blood flowing. Then it was my feet. Then it’d go back to my hands. I think warmth was always a factor. Focus really came into play. I needed to stop thinking about it. Change my form. Use my whole body to generate heat. Program my mind to enjoy. Gaze 10 feet ahead, all will be well. So it was. There were a few buildings off in the distance, I knew it was my first lap finished.
That was the time to hit my drop bag. Lol there wasn’t much in it. Sure lots of clothing and stuff. I had it in my head to just keep ahead of goober. I didn’t want to stay long. Tore into my prized Peanutbutter Passion, stood by the fire to warm my hands for a few minutes. That’s when second place came in. Fumbling I put my numb hands back into the gloves, beat some ice off my legs and shoes and was gone before he even got into his bag.
I knew it was time for that 4 mile climb again. My strategy had changed some because I definatly took the first lap too fast. My legs were feeling it for sure! The idea was to back off the pace for awhile until some one had caught up. I found myself really taking a lot of time. Walking hills, stopping to stretch. Talking for awhile to the people of the Aid Station at now mile 24. No other runners came… I took off at my snail pace and felt pretty decent about it all. Stopped to stretch again and that’s when it happend. He was finally there. He had caught up. Time to race I was gone! It’s such and amazing rush of energy when there’s some one there to push. I’ll always be a firm believer that with others around, we can go much further than alone. He must’ve burned off some steam trying to catch up, because that was the last I saw of him.
I was probably six miles out of the finish and I worked every single one of those. The trail was nice and packed for the second lap. Snow was tight and fast. Trail was wide and I recognized features to know where I was. Total confidence. Just needed to keep composure, not get cocky, keep focused. Breathing was good, heart rate was good, no cramping. Everything was great. I knew there was just a mile or so left. I let it all hang out. 2/28 was apparantly my lucky day. I had just won my first 60k snowshoe race.
It was a small event and there wasn’t too much going on at the finish line. Just a hot bowl of chili and a few tired bodies to trade stories with. What an incredible day. And totally worth it. The Endurance Society had certainly put on a great race. It was about the run, not the hype. I hung around for a little while and new I had to get on the road to do it all again the next day at the Bradbury Blizzard. To those who don’t know already, that day went just as well!
Never once will I ever claim to have done it on my own. So much respect for those who have built and participate/live TMR. Tuesday nights, Saturday mornings, excercise challenge groups, friends, outings, FATASSES. The whole deal, I feel it’s where I belong. You are all awesome and thank you if you took the time to read this. I’m just a vessel that puts this group energy into action. Weird right?!? See you all soon