Tag Archives: Dion Snowshoes

Racing Under a Million Tiny Lights

I know what you’ve probably all been thinking. ActiveSteve must have gone into hibernation due to the cold winter we’ve been having! Well, rest assured, that is most definitely not the case. In fact, quite the opposite. I’ve been so busy between training, traveling, racing, magazing obligations, and getting settled into the new house, that there just hasn’t been enough time in the days to bang out the requisite blog posts. As such, I’m taking some time while on a business trip to Edmonton to try and bang out a whole pile of posts to put up. I now present you with the first of these posts, a tale about my participation in a snowshoe race at night in Upper Canada Village in early January. I was taking part and covering the event for Get Out There, so you can view the video at the end of this post.

Now, obviously, over the holidays, I didn’t get a whole lot of run training in, and with this race early in the year, I wasn’t sure if wanted to go whole hog and sign up for the 10k version of the race (there was a 1 loop 5k race, and a 2 loop 10k race). I decided that it would be more fun to redline the 5k race and hopefully have a better chance at filming the beautiful surroundings. After all, this race was called ‘Ignite the Night’ and featured the amazingly well lit-up Upper Canada Village. To attract people to the village, which is open most of the year, they had decided to string up what I think may have literally been a million coloured lights throughout the property. The effect was absolutely breathtaking. Well, that and the cold temperatures (which will be a main theme of this year’s winter roster).

I convinced Deanna to join me for the evening, seeing as it should prove to be quite nice. There was also a pretty decent contingent of racers from the Ottawa area, given that Cornwall is not all that long a drive, and conditions for driving were pretty decent. Snow cover was not stellar yet at that point in the season, but definitely enough snow for a race. The course itself started in the heart of the village at the big barn, and saw us sprinting through the main areas of the village. However, after the first kilometer or so, we veered off into open fields and closer to the St. Lawrence River.

Due to a surge in race-day registrations, the event start time ended up getting pushed back around 30 minutes or so, and there was a fair bit of confusion leading to people going in and out of the heated barn a few times before the actual start. Temperatures were cold, but bearable. What was not quite expected was the arctic blasts when we actually did hit the aforementioned open fields.

At the start line, I seeded myself near the front, but not at the very lead pack. I wasn’t sure how fast things would go, given that this was a pretty flat course, which definitely doesn’t favour me. I knew the speedy road running dudes would destroy me out there. So, when the start gun did finally go off, I did my level best to kick into high gear right away. Unfortunately, so did the fellow behind me. To the point that he actually ran onto my snowshoe, causing me to fall down, 20m from the start!! I was a little annoyed, and got an instant adrenaline rush, causing me to surge ahead, and catch [briefly] up to the leaders. I stayed up there a bit until it was clear I’d fade fast. Sure enough, on the first little climb, with the howling arctic winds blowing, I had to dial it back.

In spite of the slight slow in my pace, I still had a good clip, and was near anaerobic levels. I had a string of racers sitting on my heels, and didn’t know if I could hold them off. All I could do was keep turning over the legs and hoping for the best. I also wasn’t sure whether people behind me were in the 5k or 10k race, so I had no idea whether I was truly ‘racing’ them or not. Of course, none of that really matters. Your best bet is to simply give it your all and hope its enough. Sure enough, as the course made it’s way over the hills and through the fields, I was passed a few times.

I decided to basically coast in and try to get footage. Sadly, with the cold wind and gloved hands, I was having problems getting my camera gear to work properly, so I didn’t get too much actual race footage. What’s worse, is that with he fiddling with camera to get shots at the finish line, I ended up letting 2 other racers basically pass me for free within 300m of the finish, when I could have stayed ahead. Ultimately, I think that’s what kept me off the podium in the 5k race, where I think I finished in 5th when all was said and done. Regardless, I had registered just for the heck of it anyway, so there were no tears shed.

Deanna and a few other were at the finish cheering everyone on. I got right back into the race, now just following other racers and getting clips of runners in the lit-up village. I also back-tracked into the final 200m of the course, to make sure I caught and cheered on the winners of the 10k event. Several of the talented folks I train with managed to take the podium slots in both the male and female categories of the 10k. In fact, they crushed it! It was great to watch the winners come across the line. I don’t often get to see that on account of being out there myself.

After the race was done, it was back into the warm awaiting barn for a post race meal, the camaraderie with fellow competitors, and the awards ceremony. Spafford Health and Adventure puts on this race, and they always dig up some great sponsors and price swag. There were prizes for the top finishers as well as a good number of door prizes. We stayed around till the very end, enjoying the evening, before finally piling back into the car and making the journey home. All in all it was a great race put on by great folks. It was  little unfortunate that we had the late start, but the rest went smoothly. Personally, I prefer more varied terrain when racing, but the twinkling lights did make for a unique way to enjoy what would have otherwise just been a mental slog for me!

Now, if you haven’t done so yet, take the time to check out the race video I put together below! See you in the next report.

 The Video

Heading to the Land of the Hip for a Race

Starting Gun Sounds

Another week, and another race report for my loyal readers! This past weekend, I headed off towards Kingston (home of the Tragically Hip, in case you didn’t get the title reference), for what I think was my shortest race ever, but a great time nonetheless. I was there to do a video race review for Get Out There Magazine of the Dion Snowshoes Frontenac Park Snowshoe Race. A mouthful, isn’t it? I’ve done plenty of snowshoe races in our area as part of the Mad Trapper Snowshoe series each year, but this was the first time I ventured out of town to try my luck elsewhere. As it turns out, this race was also a qualifier for the Snowshoe Running World Championships for this year! That was part of my motivation to tackle this race. I secretly hoped I’d be in the top 3. Have a look at the pictures I posted on flickr, then click on past the link to read the rest of my thoughts on this well-run family-organized race.

For starters, we couldn’t have asked for better weather or conditions. Although it had been bitterly cold the past couple weeks, on race day in Frontenac Park, temperatures were probably somewhere around -11 degrees. This really doesn’t seem that bad when you are redlining for an entire race! Also, the snow cover was deep and plentiful. The night before, there was even a light dusting of snow, so we had fresh powder to start the race with. The course itself was very straightforward. A 6.7km run on existing trails near the entrance of the park. This was a fair bit different from what I’m used to at the Mad Trapper races. There were almost no hills, and virtually zero technical bits. In other words, this was a sprinters race. Straight, flat trails, with very few turns or tough hills to climb. As you can guess, this type of race does not favour me.

Race Stats

So, how about my competition you ask? Well, there were apparently originally 72 racers signed up, but a small group from the U.S. weren’t able to make it, so we were left with 62 racers, which is actually a great number for this type of race, and more than have made it to past events. Of those, a large portion were gunning to get free entries (including food, accommodation and race!) into the worlds. As a result, the field was deep and very talented. I didn’t know most of them, but this year’s current ‘fast guy’, Derrick St John from the Mad Trapper was there. Also, it turned out the reigning world champ was there. Hmm, wasn’t looking good for ole ActiveSteve at this point. Nonetheless, I stayed optimistic, and seeded myself at the front of the pack. The race was set to go promptly at 10am, and with all racers strapped up and a local TV camera crew on hand, the starting gun was sounded by a park ranger.

Much to my surprise, I found myself as the race leader right off the bat! I was being careful not to push too hard, and didn’t understand why I was at the front. Unsurprisingly, this feeling didn’t last long. As soon as we got over the first rise (and out of sight of the cameras), I was passed. And not just by a few people. I’m talking a veritable throng! In spite of the sadness I felt at being crushed, it was also humbling. I did my best to focus on staying in touch with some of front runners, but it didn’t take long for the race at the front to start to spread out. I maintained a very steady pace, and in my heart, I hoped that some of the younger guys had gone out too hard and I’d reel them in. Sadly, in a 6.7km race, there really isn’t an opportunity for that to happen. Frankly, I’m just not made for these ‘sprint’ races. Of course, I knew that going in, so there was no real surprise or angst.

Keeping my steady pace, I did manage to make up a couple spots by passing a couple of the folks who had ran past me earlier. But making up 12-13 spots in order to get one of the coveted “world’s” slots simply wasn’t in the cards. In spite of that, I crossed the finish line with a big smile on my face and a real feeling of accomplishment. It was my shortest ever race, but I kept a great pace for me, and pulled off my fastest pace ever in a snowshoe race. 16 out of 62 in a field like this was still pretty good. PLUS, I managed to snap pictures AND shoot video while racing for the magazine. After all, I was on the job too 🙂 You can see the results of my video review at the end of this post.

As alluded to, the overall winner was last year’s world champion, and he dusted the course in a time 10 minutes faster than me! Amazing! It was a real masters’ class in snowshoe running out there. They came from far and wide, and gave it their all on the course. At the finish, I didn’t hear a single person complain about their race though. Everyone seemed to have bested their time from the previous year, so apparently all that action up front pulled a lot of people along in the slipstream! Post-race, we piled back into the park trail office for the food and awards. There was a mini-buffet of bagels, pastries, cookies, granola bars, etc. Additionally, there was hot chocolate, recovery drink, and soup. After re-energizing with those, the awards got underway. There were a few funny prizes, like a giant roll of aluminum foil, as well as tons of home-made fleece socks that were made by the race director’s mom and are always a favourite at these races.

After a few final words, it was time for everyone to head their separate ways. It was only 1pm, and the day was absolutely stunning. It was very tempting to stay longer, but with the 2.5 hour drive ahead, and the fact that I had to get the video done, we decided to head home. Even though it was a big investment of time and effort for a short race, it was still very cool. If you’re ever in the Kingston area in the winter and looking for a fun event, see if there is a Dion snowshoe race on. You’ll have a great time and walk away (or limp) with a smile on your face! Next up for me, the Mad Trapper night race this weekend. No video this time, but it’ll still be a great time. If you’re still on the fence, now is the time to try a snowshoe race. At night, it’s even MORE fun 🙂 Till next time, keep praying for more snow (till the end of March anyway).

Video Race Review