Sunday, February 09, 2014

2014 Maine State Snowshoe Championships Race Report

What a fun day. Kate and I were on the road a little after 5am to head up to Rangeley for the Maine State Snowshoe Championships. After around three hours of driving through beautiful countryside which turned to foothills which turned to mountains, we were there. Some of our Trail Monster contingent was already there and most of the rest showed up minutes after we arrived.

Checked in and hung out in the cozy yurt and chatted with others. It soon became warm-up time and John R. joined me on the groomed trails for about a mile and a half.

A good chunk of the field.

Miles 1-2

The start.
The 10k course would meander and roll up a larger hill and then undulate its way back down. It was mostly snowshoe trails with a few sections of groomed XC ski trails thrown in. The field was small, with 23 runners, but stacked with many fast folks.

Wide starting line and first several hundred feet which lessened the need for jockeying for opening position. Relaxed and just went out with what felt right and ended up behind Ian and Scott by the time we hit the single track.

The single track throughout was snowshoe packed, but scattered with hidden potholes that were undetectable. The snow would look even with no sign of anything abnormal, and then WHOMP! A snowshoe would suddenly sink a foot down and risk tripping an unsuspecting runner. Miraculously, I never went down, though many did. Just made it challenging and kept me on my toes.

The single track then met up with a stretch of cross country ski trails which was icy and fast.

Miles 2-4
The faster ski trails allowed me to catch up to Ian and Scott, who had begun pulling away a little on the previous single track section. Catching up to me and passing were the first and second women, including Jennifer V. I motioned with my hands that the girl in front was her target, only because Jennifer is a friend and I wanted her to win (but the other girl was really nice).

The trail turned up a long climb, and by the time we got back on to single track, a large pack of us had formed, including myself, Ian, Scott, Jennifer, Chuck, other girl, another guy formed a pack not necessarily in that order.

We caught up and passed one fellow shortly before the 5K mark. All the while here I was feeling great. I suspect Ian and Scott were taking the brunt of the work by being out in front... sure, the trail was packed but we in the middle and back of our group obviously had it a little more smoothed out. I wondered if Ian would want to stop leading at some point and in retrospect I should have offered to take a turn out in front, but also wasn't sure if that was indeed a factor.

Miles 5-6
Our congo line continued. Normally, I absolutely hate congo lines, especially in snowshoe races, but they are inevitable at times, especially if it's single track and the trench is pretty deep like on this course. But I was actually really enjoying it, I think because I wasn't suffering and was actually chatting with Chuck and the other girl for a bit. Normally I can only grunt.

Things got interesting in the final mile. The course, which had been very straightforward suddenly turned to confusion. Right after we crossed a ski trail, Ian second guessed if we were to head down the single track or the ski trail. So did we all. We all stopped and worked together to decide. In doing so, Ryan and another runner had caught up. We decided on the single track and a hundred feet later we saw the 8K sign, which verified the right direction. Whew.

Our pack was now huge, and with knowing we were getting close to the end the pace on the downhill also picked up with a sense of urgency. Some more route confusion which resulted in a bit more distance on single track trails, but whatever, it was fun.

Final Sprint
I knew we'd eventually hit a wide, fast, groomed XC ski trail that lead to the finish. As expected, when we hit that section, our pack full-on kicked it in for the final couple tenths of a mile to the finish. I managed to get out in front along with Jennifer, who managed to edge me by 8/10 of a second at the finish line. Major props to her for being first woman and pulling me to a faster time. Very stoked for her. Didn't realize it until I saw the photo, but Ian and Chuck were right at my heels. That was a huge dogfight, we were all within seconds of each other.

Crossing the line. 
Ian and I with post-race icy beards and sweatcicles.
Went into the hut to warm up a bit and change clothes. John and I then went back out to wait for Kate to come in. She finished strong and was grateful for the experience.

Major thank you to the race directors and volunteers. Great course and very fun event. The high quality wool beanies were perfect age group awards and reason enough alone to run the race.

Post Race Analysis
Very, very relaxed mindset without an ounce of nervousness which was a complete and total opposite of the nerves I had leading up to last weekend's MWC. Why? A few reasons: I knew qualifying for nationals would be pretty easy to do. Perhaps first and foremost was that I was simply burned out on stressing out after last weekend, which enabled me to simply enjoy this event.

The relaxed mindset allowed me to be patient and just have fun. Really couldn't have done anything different for the better. No tactical mistakes made and I'm quite proud of my final sprint there at the end.

Bring on Nationals!

Snowshoe Ran 6.2 miles @ 10:00/mile pace.
Official time: 1:01:37
Overall place: 6th of 23
AG place (40-44): 1st of 2
Trails, mostly snowshoed single track and a few sections of groomed Nordic trails.
Very hilly.
Mid teens, sunny, windy.
Dion 121 snowshoes, New Balance MT1010, sleeveless shirt, long sleeved shirt, short sleeved shirt, buff (neck), beanie, mittens.

w/u: Snowshoe Ran 1.5 miles @ 9:10/mile pace (Nordic trails).

No comments: