I Made a Deal with the Devil… and Lost!

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Greetings sports fans. It has taken me almost a week to write up this blog post, as I’m still recovering from a humiliating defeat right at the finish line of my latest race. That’s right, a mere 4 days into 2014, and I was testing my fitness at a Mad Trapper Snowshoe Race. Not just any race though, the dreaded ‘hilly’ course. This was over 10 km of grueling ups and downs around the property surrounding the Ark in 2 loops! I had rested for 2 days, and wanted to attack the course and see if I could improve on my 5th place finish from the previous race. Of course, I wasn’t alone in this mission, with a good group of hearty souls lining up with me at the start, including some real speedsters. So how did I do? Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out. I had a camera with me, but in the madness, only fired off a few frames after the race, which you can view on flickr as usual. Now read on!

Random Pics from Event

As you read on, and as you hear more about this race, you’ll see exactly why I’m having a hard time living it down. You really don’t need to do much more than glance at the race results page for proof of my shaming. Go on, click on over there, it’s in black and white right at the top “The race where James passed Steve right at the line! “ And so continues my embarrassment all week. Need more proof, well, please, dear readers, allow me to invite you to witness the exchange on Facebook as well. I am literally being put to task and humiliated publicly by friends and people I admire :-(. Good thing I have thick skin, right? You bet. It’s also good that I believe there is no such thing as bad publicity, and at least I will be remembered for this event, right? Of course, once again, I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s just step back and give a quick re-cap of my undoing, shall we?

The day started innocently enough for me. James Galipeau and I were carpooling together to the race, both intent on putting in a good showing. It looks as though we’ll get to do some great adventure racing together later in the season, so it’s good to push each other in training too. Plus, we often match up quite similarly in these sorts of events. Of course, according to him he was ‘totally out of race shape’, but I knew I’d have to watch out. I’d managed 5th place in the first race, and ideally, hoped for the same this time. ESPECIALLY once we arrived to see some of the tough competition. Once again, a couple of the local track, road, and cycling stars came out for this one. Never easy racing against a pro cyclist, the winner of the National Capital ½ Marathon, AND ex World Cup skiers, is it? Rare company indeed, but just another day in the life of a Mad Trapper event! We knew we’d be lucky to stay in the front heap in this one. Lucky for me, I got bib number 666, and decided that might be a good omen for some reason!

My Race Stats

Race_Results

Like it or not, we’d be in for a doozy. Temperatures were just right for a good race too. At about -10 degrees Celsius, it was warm enough to go with only race layers, and not overheat, while not so cold that we’d suffer. Well at least not suffer any more than expected. The race started about 5 minutes late on account of the large number of last-minute racers showing up, and as usual, I seeded myself in the front pack. Behind the biggest guns, but ahead of the hopefuls.

The pace started out quite reasonable in my mind. I didn’t feel like I was pushing overly hard, and hoped that I’d be able to stay with the front group. There was probably around 10-12 of us at the front working at this level. Truth be told, looking at the graph, it was only about the first 200m that were the warm-up. After that point, my heart rate broke 170 bpm, and basically stayed up there for the rest of the race (averaging 177 bpm over the race!). The heavy hitters slowly started detaching themselves from our front ‘pod’, We dropped a few on the way, until it was (apparently) a group of 4 off ahead, then a group of 5 of us in the 2nd pod. Natasha, Vero, Dave, Myself, and James, in that order. The two ladies are tough as nails, and I doubted I’d be able to stick with Vero through the whole thing. Her and Dave had both beaten me at the Anvil in December. Natasha on the other hand, I have beaten in the past, and James and I often jostle for spots here. So, with that in mind, we ran as a unit.

After a bit, Dave pulled off and let James and I go past. This was unexpected, and meant he was basically out. He just wasn’t feeling it I guess (then has the nerve to make fun of me! Lol). So we were down to 4 of us. After a bit, Natasha and Vero pulled off and had about a 15-20m gap on us, which stayed constant until basically the end of Lap 1. James and I held our spots, with him matching me step for step. I generally pulled ahead on downhills, only to have him chase me down on the uphills, but neither of us really gaining or losing. We passed the start/finish and embarked on lap 2.

I grabbed a cup of water, and James grabbed a bottle, both of us trying (and failing) to get much drink into us before the first hill on the other end of the driveway. However, with over half the race in the bag, I tried to step up my pace just a little and bridge the gap to the girls. Which we did successfully. After a few hundred meters, I felt like I could make a move and pass, which is where I pulled of a huge tactical move. There was steep downhill with an S shape to it. Picture the girls passing on the outer apex of that S, and me taking the straight line instead to jump in front. So after the first part of the S, I was ahead of Vero, then in the 2nd half, managed to just squeeze ahead of Natasha.

You have to understand that in a wilderness snowshoe race, passing chances are very slim. If you are on the trail, you’re in a nice little ‘snow canyon’ formed by racers packing the trail. To pass, you have to throw yourself in very deep snow which slows you down a lot, and then try to pass. I got lucky. James did not. Apparently after my heroic pass, which he admired, he decided to try one himself a bit later. Sadly for him, it backfired, and all the momentum he used to get in the deep snow merely propelled him, Superman style, headlong into the snow. He said it took a while to recover.

So now picture it, I’m ahead, and pushing myself to the breaking point, but realizing we have 3.5k to go. A bit early for a finishing kick… Regardless, I wanted to mentally put in a gap, and eventually got to probably 100m ahead, leaving at least a couple of them thinking I was out of the picture. However, as I feared, Vero had lots of reserves left. She was just shadowing Natasha, knowing that 1st place was hers if she passed Natasha. Sensing this, Natasha picked up her speed to stay ahead. The downside is that eventually Vero decided to turn on her own jets, and shot in front, but not before they had significantly closed the gap to me. With about 1k to go, Vero bore down on me, and passed me like I was standing still. I had tried to shake her, but there was no hope. Oh yeah, probably worth mentioning she was ONE of the pro cyclists there (the other being Derrick St. John, winner of the race).

I was okay with her passing, as I expected it, and just wanted to stay ahead of the other two. Glancing back, it was Natasha, followed by James another few meters back, and I seemed to be in good shape to stay ahead. Undaunted, I pressed on hard until the final 2 major climbs. At the top of the final climb, I was still ahead with 30-40m of a gap, and thought James was behind Nat. Turns out, he wasn’t He had passed her, and wanted to close in on me.
Feeling as though it was ‘in the bag’ for me, I started down the final steep downhill leading to the finishing chute, probably only going at about 80%. People were ‘cheering’ for me, and I enjoyed the moment. Crossing the line, I hear “He took it from you”, and noticed a shadow on my left. Turns out, they were NOT cheering for me, but yelling “He’s right on your tail”. WHAT??!?! Ahead of me, laying flat on his back and barely alive was James, who had undertaken a heroic sprint to push for me at the line. I had NO idea he was there, and had let him pip me at the line. RIGHT AT THE LINE!! I have NEVER lost at the line like that, and was really annoyed by it.

However, that’s racing, right? We live and learn. James realized that I had no idea, and acknowledged he honestly didn’t think he could possibly catch me, but went for it anyway, so ‘chapeau’ to him for the effort. I just wish I had noticed and made it a real sprint. Suffice to say, I would NOT have lost if I’d just noticed he was that close. Grrrr…. even reliving it as I type makes me mad. Not for him, but for me. Stupid stupid stupid. And even worse? It was for that 5th place I had hoped for!

You know what? That’s really all I have to say about that race. Extremely hard fought, fun as hell, and a great post-race social atmosphere with food and beer as usual. Already looking forward to the next Mad Trapper, which will be the famous night race. Of course, first, it’s time for a change of scenery. I’m off to Cornwall to race in a Dion Series snowshoe race with a few others. Should be a great time, and stay tuned for that story. I can promise you I will NOT be pipped at the line again. I probably won’t win either, but I will get what I deserve 🙂 Till then, pray for more snow… it’s too early for 8 degrees and rainy weather!

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