Into the Darkness for Mad Trapper Race #3

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Welcome back to another exciting chapter in the winter racing saga of ActiveSteve! I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as blog posts go. I’ll only be a couple posts behind once I get this one polished off for you all :-). Let me start by saying I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting races. Although this was actually just another snowshoe race, there was a slight twist on the topic this time around. Mike decided to turn off the lights on us, and make this a night race! Any of you who have raced or trained at all in the dead of night will realize that this has the potential of completely changing the way things unravel. Mountain biking is particularly challenging at night for example. With that in mind, I was pretty excited to try this race with a big headlamp strapped on my head. On account of the darkness, and the fact that my primo photographer Deanna was also racing, there aren’t many photos taken by us. However, fellow race-goer Jess Madott did provide some, that I’ve put in a folder on flickr! However, read on for a synopsis of the events that unfolded before, during, and after the race.

Well, as mentioned in the opening, the major difference between this race and every other snowshoe race that I’ve taken part in was the fact that Deanna was also strapping on the metal shoes and taking part! She’d been hemming and hawing since I first mentioned the series, and really wanted to take part, but needed to see it for herself a bit first. Well, because this was a night race, the fun factor was just too high for her to pass up I guess, and she signed up, even renting race snowshoes from Mike for the race. She opted to take part in the 5k race, which was a single loop, while I was going for the full pain of two loops.

Not only was this race set up at night, there were also the standard perks lined up. Namely, a well-marked course that challenged everyone as much as they wanted, as well as a post-race meal to fill all our bellies at the end. In addition to those things, Mike had also announced that there would be a big bonfire in the backyard, and that the party would continue after the race for any who wanted to hang out. BYOB, crank the music and stay for a while in other words. Deanna and I decided we’d definitely stay for a while, and play it by ear depending on what other people decided to do.

Being a night race, the lead-up and preparation were a bit different from usual this time. I’m used to getting up bright and early, stumbling around, eating my oatmeal, then driving out to the race for the 10am start. However, this time, we had to fill our day with all sorts of other activities before heading out. We decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go for a little cross-country ski then run some errands during the day. Before we knew it, it was later in the afternoon, and we had to be on-site for registration prior to the race start of 6pm. We hadn’t made any real food plans, so the standby option was to grab subs at Subway on our way home to get our gear. Opting to eat a full 12 inch ham sub, in hindsight, may NOT have been the ideal pre-race option. Perhaps if it hadn’t been about an hour from race start it would have been better!

We arrived at the Ark with about 40minutes to spare before the starting gun, and were happy to see a fair number of racers were going to take part, including a few old faces that I hadn’t seen in a while. In particular, Mike Abraham would be racing. He and I had previously run neck and neck in another Mad Trapper (the Canadian Champs I believe). The total number of racers was 33 between the 5 and 10k races. There were only 10 males racing the 10k, and a full 14 ladies doing the 5k. Looks like that is a bit of a trend. Either way, the numbers are somewhat irrelevant, as the calibre of racers I was up against was pretty spectacular as usual. Along with Mike A, the incomparable Dave McMahon was also racing. He of course prefaced it with “I’m no threat, I did a 2hour time trial earlier today [on skis]”. As if that would make me feel any better when he eventually mopped the snowy floor with me in the results.

This time, my jersey number was in the 30’s, so that was no indication of the result I hoped for. Accordingly, I decided to shoot for top 5, after all, there were only 10 of us, right? Well, it just wasn’t going to be my night this time. I’m not entirely sure what happened over the next hour and 9 minutes, but I didn’t get my goal. In fact, I finished a (in my view) dismal 7th of 10! Also, I was a full 8 minutes off the winner, Alex Michel (no surprise there). This was my worst gap of the year. Ironically, it was not for trying on my part. Far from it. I noticed my heart rate over 190 (maxing out at 192) several times in the race. This was even greater output than the last race.

In spite of the hard work, I was gapped pretty early on by the front racers in lap 1, left in 6th chasing the ankles of Glen Day for a long time. However, by the time lap 2 started up, even he had gapped me, and eventually, Mike Abraham, who had been behind me to that point, put a little move on my and passed. I tried to gauge my pace in the hopes of dropping him on the last major climb, as I felt I could out-climb him. His only edge was on the flats. Downhill, we were both fearless and fast. Uphill, I always felt a little slowed down. But on the flats, he had a better kick. He took advantage of that at one point, and it was game over for 6th place. Hello 7th!

All in all, the race was hard fought, and once again, I tip my hat at the tenacity of the competitors vying for the win. I suspect the were pushed to greater levels this time as a result of some of the new blood at the race, as 3 of the guys ahead of me this time were not ‘regulars’ in the Mad Trapper circuit. Oh well, there’s still one race to go in the series, and it looks like in the overall points standing, I will be unable to rise up out of 4th overall to nab my hopeful 3rd. Such is life. It will still have been a blast fighting my way through all four races this season.

But enough about me, right? Deanna for her part, had been quite concerned at how she might fare in a race situation in the snowshoes. However, knowing her fighting spirit, I had no concerns. Her greatest fear was that she would get lapped by the eventual 10k winners, and happily, that didn’t happen either. In fact, she managed to nab 8th in her category with a time just over 58 mins. So although she only made it to the finish 3mins ahead of Alex Michel, her fear was not realized. I’m pretty sure she was both happy with her race as well as amazed by just how friggin hard snowshoe racing in the woods at night in the hills can be! Regardless, I’m pretty sure she could be convinced to do it again. And I’m also quite certain she’d have her eyes on improving her result. I love her fighting spirit!

With the race behind us, it was time to focus on the post-race activities. Even though I’d had that footlong a mere 2 hours ago, I wasted no time in tucking into all the delicious food on offer. Double brownies? Why not! Tasty chips? Yes, please! Lasagna and soup? Don’t mind if I do! That’s the big perk of racing and training all the time, food is of little consequence. To wash down the grub, I’d brought along a few cans of Keith’s Dark. Yum! Once awards were done, I also tried to get the party going a bit by attempting to start some tunes. In the process, I nearly destroyed Mike’s giant external hard-drive, which almost made him cry. In the end, I opted to put on the radio and head back to the warmth of the woodstove.

In the end, not too many people stayed behind, so those of us that did just sat around the stove enjoying a couple beverages and chatting about the race and life in general. Met a few more people, and just generally had a good time. We were on the road heading back home around 9:30 or so. An early night by most Saturday night standards, but we’d had a fun time just the same. I for one hope that Mike repeats the night race idea in the future. It attracted some new faces, which is always good, and provided a new challenge for others. Well done all around!

So there you have it, 3 snowshoe races down, and one remaining at the end of February. A few other races, and that’ll be it for my winter racing schedule. Hard to believe it’ll soon be time to focus on the summer activities. Good thing Deanna and I are already spinning a few times a week in the basement 🙂 Till the next post, have a great time friends! I’ll write again shortly. Next up: Winterlude Triathlon!

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