Slushy Start to 2010-11 Showshoe Season

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Okay my dear friends, it’s high time I catch up on race reports with you all. Sadly, I’ve just realized that I’m fully 4 posts behind on my race summaries, and that is simply unacceptable. Being that it’s Super Bowl Sunday and all, I’ve decided that I’ll write a post to point out there are lots of other sporting events out there, many of which just don’t get their due :-). Case in point, snowshoe racing. Obviously, winters in the national capital region are long and bring lots of snow. Hibernating or ignoring this fact is one way to deal with it, or conversely, we can embrace this, which is precisely why events like The Mad Trapper exist! This post will fill you all in on the first race in the 4-race series for this year. As usual, you can also head to flickr to see the set of pictures I posted from the race. Read on for the slushy details.

As a lot of you are already know, the Mad Trapper series is something I’ve been happily taking part in for years now. In the world of races, particularly in the Ottawa/Gatineau region, there really is no other event to be beaten in terms of pure enjoyment and value for money. By registering for all 4 races, it cost me a mere $25 per event. For that, at every race, I get a clearly marked, extremely challenging physical race. But more than that, I get the company of like-minded and great friends to race against (if I want to push hard), and I get an awesome post-race atmosphere that ALWAYS includes a full MEAL, not just stale half bagels and bananas. Chips, cookies, hot soup, casserole or lasagna, brownies, drinks… Yeah, all that!

With that in mind, it is simply astounding that more people don’t make the under an hour drive to the race site which is nestled in a beautiful region of Quebec boasting many ski resorts, and other off-the-beaten-track attractions, the Ark (host of the races) being one of those attractions. Sure, I’m friends with Mike, the race director, but so is pretty much anyone who goes to a race out there! Those ‘in the know’ always want to come back, and I’ve yet to hear anyone say, yeah, it was fun, but I don’t think I’d do it again. At any rate, I’m digressing a bit, but I think the publicity is well worth it (although if 400 people suddenly showed up, I suspect things could change!)

So, back to the actual race. This one took place fairly early in December, on the 11th. In past years, we always seemed to get heavy snow early in December, which was gone by the end, which is what prompted Mike to move up the race. Sadly, we still didn’t fare too great on the snow front. There was enough snow to host a proper race, but just barely. Throughout the week, many of us were wondering if this would actually turn into a trail race instead of a snowshoe race, but come week’s end, Mike emailed everyone to let them know it was ‘game on’.

As this was one of the final weeks that Deanna was going to be ‘visiting’ me before moving in, she decided she wanted to come out and see what this stuff was all about, and join in on the fun. Armed with her new puffy purple jacket, we both went out together. She’d decided that due to the uncertain conditions, she’d forego racing this one, but instead would just volunteer as needed and take part in post-race fun.

After arriving, a quick look around confirmed that we would be starting the series off the same way we normally do, with the usual suspects ‘shoeing’ the line and competing for the win. Although again as usual, it was fairly certain how the chips would fall. For my part, after the scan, I was hoping to be top 5 in this one. As this was the ‘flatter’ course, we were going to be subject to 2 identical loops. Normally, the first lap consists of packing down the course and the second lap is slightly easier, and the speed picks up. Things were a little different this time though. Due to the poor snow cover, the second lap was actually slower. As we started running, the snow gradually turned to slush, and patches that were snowy on the first lap turned in to swampy, slushy messes on the flats on lap 2.

Of course, the course conditions did not slow down the head of the train, and the race was hotly contested, mainly on lap 2. I was surprised and quite happy to be able to stay with the lead pack for the entire first lap. Mentally, perhaps I was just trying to impress Deanna as we passed the start/finish the first time. After all, my training hasn’t been what I’d call very ‘stellar’ of late! Regardless, it felt good on lap one. However, shortly into lap 2 I started dropping off the pace a bit and myself fighting hard to maintain my position and try to give James Galipeau a run for the money.

Looking at the results, you can see it was a pretty fast and tightly-fought race. I ended up coming in 6th place, a mere 46 seconds behind James and 28 seconds in front of the next finisher Gilles. Damn! I was also only a bit over 2 minutes behind the leader. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to the winners in a long time. Could this be foreshadowing a strong season? Only time will tell. At the finish, Deanna was there to greet me with hugs and kisses, which made life all the sweeter. She’d made a few friends while waiting, and we then launched into the buffet spread.

After the awards and socializing, Deanna and I stayed on for a little while at the Ark. I got Mike to show Deanna all around the Ark and the work he’s done in order to be fully ‘off the grid’ as far as power goes. She was most impressed with it all. We also strapped on snowshoes once again, and Mike, Monique, Deanna and I headed out for another snowshoe around the property, as Deanna hadn’t been on snowshoes before. We trekked out to Mikes sugar shack, where he showed us the work he was doing on getting ready for next spring’s maple season. He plans to tap 1000 trees, and has a lot of high-volume processing gear in place in the shack already. Very cool.

All in all, it was a great day for a little road trip to Low, Quebec. The race and my result were very satisfying, the food at the finish very filling, and seeing Deanna out in the snow and smiling made be very excited at the thought of her moving in and spending time outdoors with me in the winter doing ‘stuff’ :-). That’s all for now folks, but rest assured, I still have another 3 races to blog about, so there IS more on the way at some point :-). Take care, and have fun out there, Winterlude is just underway, and already, it’s been amazing!

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