Tag Archives: Mad Trapper

Doubling Down in the Dead of Winter

Good day my friends! As most of you are well aware, I like to train. I also like to race. Sometimes, I may bite off a little more than I can chew. This post will be an ode to one of those instances. As my title alludes to, I made the great decision to race in two races in one day! Unprecedented? No, as I did the same thing last year with no ill effects. However, this time, things didn’t quite go as planned. Regardless, please read on to learn about the fun I had at the Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon in the morning, and the Mad Trapper Night Race in the evening, and find out where the wheels fell off!

I suppose I might as well do the cowardly thing right off the bat and make my excuses. You see, I’d been battling a flu / cold for over two weeks on the day in question. Even as I write this, over three weeks have passed (and 3 races!), and I’m still coughing a fair bit. I know I should have listened to my body, but the Snowman Award was up for grabs, and it’s always so much fun that I just couldn’t skip out on either of the two races.

Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon

First up in the morning was the Frost and Fire Tri. I’d done this race last year for its inaugural outing, and decided to give it a whirl once again. Last year, the race was plagued with horribly cold weather, and was a tough grind, and I had hoped this year things might turn out a  bit better. Unfortunately, in spite of the best efforts of the organizers, mother nature threw them another curve ball. How so? Well, let’s just say she huffed and puffed and blew the house down!

Last year, there was only a small tent for participants to seek shelter from the elements in the farmers field. So this year, they tripled the size of the tent. Unfortunately, 2/3rds of it blew away the night before! Not only that, but all the groomed tracks were completely covered in blown-in snow before the event got underway. So once again, we arrived to a cold, wind-swept race site, trying our best to stay warm, and figure out where the snowshoe and ski tracks were!

Frost and Fire Results

As you can see above, I managed a time of 1:40 for the entire race. However, that wasn’t an easy task at all. I seeded myself at the front of the race, hoping to do well. The snowshoe leg would probably be my best bet of doing well, but was also the shortest leg, at a mere 2.7km. I went out hard, and was rewarded by spending most of it in 4th, and for a few brief shining steps, finding myself in 2nd place! It was great. Whereas the show was quite soft and hard to find footing in the main track, I found spots beside the track that were quite crusted over, giving me a chance to ‘float’ past my competitor friends 🙂 Towards the end of the snowshoe I faded a little bit and slipped into a pace line of 4 other racers, coming into the first transition in about 7th place (but importantly, with all the leaders).

I tried my best to pull off a fast transition, slipping on my ski boots and running out. I fought a bit with gloves and poles before finally gliding off, ready for 2 laps of 4.3km each, for a total of 8.6km of skiing. I’ve been taking skate ski lessons, and had hoped to focus on strong technique. However, nothing could prepare me for this monstrosity. While the terrain was relatively flat, it was all buried in 20cm of fresh snow for a lot of it. Imagine trying to skate ski in sand. Yeah. Not fun. I didn’t know what to do. Not only that, but you couldn’t even pole well, as the tip would sink 2 feet down, on account of a non-packed trail! It was horrible. With a sinking heart, I contemplated throwing in the towel. However, realizing everyone else would be suffering, and that I wasn’t actually being passed, I figured I’d grin and bear it.

When I finally cruised back into transition, my spirit was crushed. Luckily, it was just a nice 5k road run out and back (albeit with some climbs), to finish the race. I re-grouped, and pushed hard to the finish line, trying to claw back any time I could. My end result was a respectable 9th overall, with a 5th in my category. The race was wrapped with awards at a local restaurant (for an extra charge surprisingly). This was a good spot to trade war stories with my fellow racers. No one got our unscathed. I was also there to cheer on the winners, who are people I train with. Very cool to be a part of ‘the team’.

Anywho, to close off on this race, you might as well watch my race review, if you haven’t seen it before. Sadly, I have no pictures from this one. Too focused on racing, staying warm, and getting the filming done!

Mad Trapper Night Race

The second race of the day is another perennial favourite of mine, the Mad Trapper Night snowshoe race. It’s really cool to watch a field full of headlights bobbing around as they race their way through the woods in the dark. As with all Mad Trappers, the focus is on fun anyway, so the only real competition is manufactured by those of us testing each other out. And of course, that means me! I was still stinging from the last race where I got pipped at the line, and wanted to see if I could kick some butt this time. My main adversary had also raced in the morning, so we were in the same boat. I figured that with a few hours of recovery at home, I should be good to go, right? Maybe not. Let’s see how that worked out…

In another funny twist, yet again this year, the night race was plagued by somewhat poor weather (read: there was a snowstorm!) on the lead up. Although it had been clear earlier in the day, by the evening, it was a full-on snowy stormy night. The past three years have basically had the same weather! The funny thing is, the crowds just get bigger in bad weather. But I digress. Due to the weather Deanna and I were running pretty late, and showed up pretty much right at the start time. Luckily, the race was delayed about 10 minutes on account of lots of other racers arriving late. Some had started wondering if I’d show, but of course, I wouldn’t miss the chance!

Headlamps on, snowshoes strapped to my feet, it was time to do the dance. I lined up at the front, aware of my competitors and where I should seed myself. The field was pretty much the same as the last race, so I settled in about 6th to 8th slot on the opening lap. James and I let the front runners take off, and we found ourselves in a little trio of racers. I felt OK, but not great. James also seemed a little tired, and at one point even pulled over to let me pass. For a brief moment, I thought that I would be able to just stay ahead and power my way to the finish ahead of him (I was probably in about 5th place now).

Mad_Trapper_Results

For most of the first lap, things just went along nicely like that, with me staying ahead of James and pushing along. However, with the last kilometer or so of the first lap, I started waning a bit, and let James pass me on the last big climb. I thought I’d just let things go at that, and stay behind him. However, he stopped for a drink at the Start/Finish, and I shot past again. As a result, I felt it was back in time for me to stay ahead, and pressed on bravely.

Unfortunately, the wheels fell off. Big time! See that graph above in blue? Notice how it shot up, stayed steady for a while, then just gradually drops off to nothing? Yup. That is my heartrate, and it shows quite dramatically where I fell apart, and got slower and slower, eventually falling off to a walk in the last 2km.

I felt horrible. I was completely parched, starving, and had no energy. I literally wanted to curl up into a ball and sleep on the side of the trail. I was cursing my body, and annoyed at the situation, but unable to do anything. Every now and again I’d get the bright idea to try and run again (usually on an uphill), only to crash back down. Eventually, if felt like everybody caught and passed me. I believe 7 people did so in the last km!

I was not a happy camper. A few asked if I was okay, and I just told them to race their race, and I’d be fine. The last person to pass me, Paul Shea, a fireman by trade, went the extra step. He offered to walk with me, to which I told him to race on. Once he finished, he got a gel from someone and BACKTRACKED to find me and give it to me to help me finish. I couldn’t argue and just ate the offering. This was probably my worst-feeling finish in a race since the last Ironman that I did where I don’t even remember certain parts of the run and had to dive in water to cool my core temperature down.

I know it was bad because at the finish, people didn’t even make fun of me, as they could tell I was a broken man. Even though there was beer at the finish, I didn’t pour a single pint for myself. I didn’t deserve it. However, I DID deserve the 3 brownies that I ate along with the delicious chili on offer. There was a nice festive atmosphere, but I was too pooped to really enjoy it.

So there you have it, a fun couple of races, but a disappointing way to cap off the day for me. In retrospect, I think I didn’t hydrate or re-fuel properly between races. I had gone home, and worked on some other stuff rather than focusing on me. As a result, I paid the price. Lesson learned, and time to move on, right? And move on was the key, as in 1 week, I’d be off for the next race, a winter triathlon in St. Donat, Quebec, but that’s for another post! Till then, stay hydrated, and enjoy the snow!

 

I Made a Deal with the Devil… and Lost!

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!

Solid 5th Place at Season Opening Mad Trapper

Howdy race fans! Back again for another dramatic race re-cap from the wilds surrounding my humble abode. This time, the start was at the venerable Ark, and the event was [supposed to be] the season opening Mad Trapper Snowshoe race. Each year, Mike puts on a total of 4 snowshoe races on his property, including a super-fun night race. Although we’d gotten a good dump of snow over the course of the previous 2 weeks, we also unfortunately had a day and a half of warmer temps that brought rain. So, while there WAS snow, the coverage was poor and there were lots of rocks and exposed open fields. As a result, a Mad Trapper Trail Race was held instead. Not the first time this has happened in December! Check out some pics I snapped an put on Flickr, then read the rest of my recap.

Pictures from the Race

If you’ve spent any time whatsoever on this blog, you’ll likely have read quite a few posts about Mad Trapper races out at the Ark. Mike is celebrating 10 years of hosting races up there, and I’ve been a part of almost all of them. There are only a handful of us that can lay claim to that distinction, and it’s still fun to see them out there and share the trails in friendly competition. Snowshoe races are the classic out there, but as you may know, Mike has branched out over the years, hosting trail running races, orienteering races, obstacle races, and even a beer mile! Can’t wait for whatever is next, but first, let’s talk turkey about this race.

The traditional December race is the ‘flatter’ course, and for this one, Mike would the clock back to one of his classic course designs from years gone by where we traipse over his neighbour’s property, in the open fields. This truly is one of his flatter runs, which should lead to some pretty speedy results by the front runners, which I hoped to count myself among. Thanks to the Anvil race a couple weeks before, I had what I considered would be the best footwear for me, my new Mudclaws. Yaktrax or similar shoe attachments might have been ok as well, but they tend to get in the way, and I don’t own any spiked shoes. With the conditions being what they were, the race consisted of about 40 hearty souls in total. Just the right number to make it a fun challenge.

I showed up a touch earlier than usual, and did a nice little warmup on the trails and with a bit of bushwhacking for fun. This was mainly to determine the state of the course. Luckily, it was a little warmer than the Anvil had been, so the footing was a little safer, as the ground wasn’t completely frozen solid (better purchase in grass and leaves). I got back to the start with a few minutes to spare, lined up with my like-minded friends, traded friendly taunts, and got ready to go. Mike warned us to take it easy on the first lap, as by his estimation, this would be the most dangerous Mad Trapper he’s hosted! That seemed to translate to a classic ‘gentleman’s’ start, with no one seeming willing to push hard off the start.

My Race Log

Race Results for Me

Instead, at the front of the pack, we just all sort of gradually picked up tempo as we got comfortable with the trail. It was the usual suspects out front. I was sitting 7th or so, but gradually picked my way up the field until I was sitting in 3rd overall, behind Nathan Underwood and Dave McMahon (both ski phenoms). This didn’t seem quite right, as I knew there were faster people behind me. Well, once we hit the flat, open fields, that’s where I lost a couple spots, to find myself sitting in 5th. I was determined to hold onto that spot, and pushed hard to stay in contact with the front 4. The plan was working well, and for a bit, I thought I might actually regain 4th place. However, such would not ultimately be the case. I crossed the end of the first lap in a time of about 28 minutes. Pretty good for the opening 5k. Knowing that someone was on my tail, I opened it up a little more to press on hard for the 2nd lap.

My second lap consisted of my wondering whether or not I could maintain my pace, with my average heart rate sitting at over 175bpm, and my will being tested. However, I knew that physically I could hold on, so it was just a mental game. I used my standard practice of pretending that someone was right on my heels at all times and that if I let up, I’d get passed and lose my top 5 slot. It worked quite well, and although I never quite caught 4th place again, I sailed through the course for a dead-even 2nd lap sitting at about 28 minutes again. My total time was 56m30s, good enough for 5th overall, and a full 6 minutes ahead of my next closest competitor. My litmus test had me at 2.5 minutes behind Dave McMahon (3rd place) and about 6.5 minutes behind the winner. In other words, I was clearly in the lead pack, with a good gap to the rest of the field. Sweet! Only the 5 of us beat the course in under 1 hour. Here’s hoping that I can keep this sort of fitness for the actual snowshoe races as well.

As usual, the post race socializing was as much fun as the race. There were heaping helpings of both meat and veggie lasagna, homemade brownies, chips, cookies, fruit, and of course fresh Broadhead Beer on tap (kegerator this time!). Everyone milled around until Mike decided to do his version of an awards ceremony. This of course is random prize-giving, random good-natured insulting, and general rambling to the amusement of all present. All in all, a good season opener in spite of not getting to try out my new Dion Snowshoes in a race setting. However, judging by the weather we’ve had so far in December, I think I’ll be in good shape for snow activities for the rest of the winter. Now with that, I have to go shovel, slap some green grip wax on my classic skis, and head to the Parc for some training. See you all out there!

One Final Mad Dash for Winter Race Season

Moments Before Start

Huzzah! One last race to write about for my winter race season. It’s been a very busy February, with 6 races in the past 5 weeks! With all the racing, I hardly had time to update my website, as a result of all the videos that I had to put together, coupled with the training I had to to do prepare for those races! Luckily for me, I have a little bit of a breather now. In fact, I have no events on the calendar at the moment until the first weekend of May. Of course, in the meantime, I’ll be keeping busy with wedding planning, and a little road trip to Las Vegas for my bachelor party! But of course, that’ll not be blogged about. However, the Mad Trapper Finale of 2013 will be! And if you are here reading this, you came to the right place. No re-cap video this time, but plenty of pictures for you to check out! Once you’ve had a look, read on for the story of this challenging final race!

Photos from the Event

Although the Mad Trapper Snowshoe race series started with a bit of a hiccup in December (remember the trail run that we had?), the subsequent 3 races were absolute treats as far as snow cover went. It seems as just before every race, we had a nice big dump of snow a few days before, forcing race director Mike to head out and to some serious trail setting. The finale was no different in that respect. Whereas most years, you can count on a ‘flatter’ course, a ‘hilly’ course, a ‘night’ course, and the ‘finale’ being a combination, this year, it seemed every race was a whole new course for us. Sure, there were some common trails from past years, but by and large, these were new inventions of Mikes. For this particular race, Mike apparently pulled out all the stops and decided to put together an incredibly challenging course for all, just so that when you crossed that finish line, you KNEW you had accomplished something!

Race Summary / Stats

Race Results

The picture above pretty much says it all. I was pushing in zone 5 the whole way (well, about 80% of the time according to the raw numbers. My average HR was 169, and my max was 191. We covered almost 11km, and that took me a total of about 1hr20mins. The numbers are actually a little off, as I forgot to hit stop at the finish, but rather pressed lap, so really it was 90% zone 5, and all other numbers higher! But of course, numbers only tell some of the story. The real story is in the experience itself, and the competition that I was racing against. Happily, my performance against my betters was quite strong, and the course, although painful, was also quite beautiful.

Mike himself was out on the course at a few spots to not only cheer people on, but to also secretly laugh as we suffered in spots that we’d have to climb up steep sections, only to come barelling right back down again, and then have to head back off on an uphill slog. I’m not quite sure how it was possible, but it felt like we spent most of the race going uphill rather than flat or downhill sections. Of course, given the lower speed when you climb, and the grades we were faced with, that makes sense.

For the finale, there were about 55 participants finishing the course, split between the 5k and 10k courses. Looking at the results, there were 33 racers in the 5k, split pretty evenly between males and females, and 22 racers in the 10k, with only 5 females. However, there were more racers that actually started than finished. I know this for a fact because 2 of the toughest 10k competitors both dropped out after the first lap and officially DNFd! Who are these characters? Well, for starters, Dave McMahon, who had been having stomach issues, and the other was none other than Nick Best, the fellow who actually won the NCM 1/2 marathon, and placed 2nd at the Army ½ as well. Yup, he’s that fast and talented!

What does that all mean for my race? Well, looking at the names of those who did beat me, I can safely say I feel pretty damn good about it. When the race was officially started at 10am, I found myself sitting probably around 10th place, which I wasn’t too enthused about, but knew that after the first couple climbs, I’d likely claw past a few people who started a little too enthusiastically. I’ve done enough of these to know my pacing. So I stuck to a hard, but steady pace, soon finding myself behind Natasha Elliott, the ALWAYS victorious female, and a person whom I usually have a very good battle with out there. I had just beaten here on the first 2 courses, and she had just beaten me in the night course, so I know staying with her would be a good pacing plan.

However, after about a kilometer with her, I felt like I had a bit more to give, and decided to make my move and pass her. James Galipeau followed me, and we steadily made our way forward, opening up a little gap as we huffed and puffed. Not long after, we caught sight of both Dave McMahon and Rob Lefebvre, another speed demon out there. They had been gapped by the lead pack and were running together. Sure enough, James and I closed in on them (no easy feat). When we finally did catch up, Dave encouraged us to pass them and keep pushing, to hold off any others coming behind. The encouragement was good, but also seemed foolish in retrospect. Buoyed by this, James and I made the pass, and tried to pull away, however, it just felt as though it had forced us to push even harder, and the terrain was NOT easy!

After a few more km, we did managed to open a small gap, and by then, James was apparently feeling even better than I, as on a particularly nasty steep incline, he offered to take over the lead and break trail. I agreed, and once he got past me, I simply could not stay with him. He seemed a man possessed. We had seen others in the distance, but the gap was not one I thought we could bridge, so I was happy to just keep others at bay behind us. I should note that all this was during the first of two loops, and probably around the 3.5-4k mark at that! There was still a lot of racing to do. It was clear to me there would be NO easing up, as I knew both Rob and Natasha would be gunning for me.

Lucky for me, I had the motivation and drive today. I wanted to push hard and leave it all out there. I was not lugging any cameras and did not have to get any pretty footage. I could turn myself inside out for this final race, knowing that I would have the following weeks to finally recover from a hard month of racing. So I did just that. I pushed till I ran out of steam, then told myself to push again, and harder, as otherwise I’d be caught out. I really wanted to catch back up to James, but that wasn’t going to happen. Somewhere midway through lap 2 I found a 4th wind, and kicked up my pace again, and managed to start closing on James, probably reeling back about 45 seconds, but it was all for naught. He ended up crossing the line 40s before me. In turn, I beat Rob to the line by a mere 34s. Turns out he was being chased hard, with the next fellow only 6s after that!!

All in all, I had a great race. I knew I was in for a rough ride when at the 1k mark, I was already tasting blood in my throat. However, the engine was running smoothly and the body did not resist my pushing. I’m extremely happy with how things finished. Particularly considering the cast of characters that beat me. If you scan the names, they are the who’s who of top runners, cyclists, triathletes, skiers of the region, and finishing 6th in that crew was a great accomplishment and rewarding way to cap my season off.

Of course, as usual, the real fun only started after crossing the line. I cheered my fellow competitors in the warmth of the ARK with a nice cold beer compliments of the Broadhead Beer Company. My beer of choice? A tasty pale ale known as ‘Underdog’. How fitting, given how I feel in these races 🙂 I also scarfed down 3 delicious chocolate brownies, and enjoyed helpings of both the delicious soup and chips that were on offer. All this while socializing with all the other racers, and Mike giving out all the prizing from his generous sponsors. I walked away empty-handed, but smiling nonetheless. I’ve long stopped racing for any sort of prize I think. It’s all about the experience, and this was another Grade A experience!

So, what do you do after a hard race like this? Well if you’re me, you have plans with friends. Including a nice cross-country ski in the parc, and putting a traditionally Swiss raclette for supper afterwards. The wine and board games went over stunningly well, and when I finally turned in for the night, I did so knowing I had a pretty much perfect day. Lots of playing outdoors, time spent with friends and loved ones, and enjoying great food together! Yup, this sort of day makes a 5-day stretch in a cubicle all vanish from my mind. If you haven’t gotten out a lot this winter, the best is yet to come with piles of snow and milder temps. Do your mind a favour, and head out there!! That’s it for me for now, and I’ll be quiet for the next little bit as I focus on spring training and making sure wedding plans are well at hand before the summer race season! Hope to see you all out on the trails though.

Chasing the Snowman… 2 Races in 1 Day!

Skis at the Ready

Hello all. It should come to no surprise to anyone who knows me that I will often enter and be interested in new and interesting races / challenges to keep me motivated to train and race. Well, recently, there was a new challenge unveiled at a Mad Trapper race (started as a mere suggestion, but ‘snowballed’ into the real deal). The challenge was that on January 26th, a ‘Snowman’ and ‘Snowwoman’ would be crowned. How so? Well, the fastest time combined in the Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon from the morning and the Mad Trapper Night Race in the evening. I do fairly well at the snowshoe races, and I also dabble in multi-sport, and most importantly, I have the energy reserves to race twice in one day :-). I was registered in both, so the stage was set to see if I could become the first winner of this mostly symbolic award. How did I do? Well, read on for both race reports (and videos!) and the conclusion. I didn’t take too many photos (was focused on fliming), but you can see them here and here before reading on.

Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon

The first event of the day was the Frost and Fire Winter Triathlon. This was a brand new event for this year, and I was keen to try it out. I generally take part each year in the Winterlude Triathlon, which takes place downtown in Ottawa, but the more rural setting of the Frost and Fire was appealing to me, as it was near Wakefield, QC. Also, whereas the Winterlude tri is skating, skiing, and running, this race would actually be snowshoeing, skiing, and running. I’m not much of a speedskater, so I thought I might do better in this race.

The day started out cold, but not completely unbearable. The race consisted of a 2.5km snowshoe (single loop), a 9-10km ski (double loop), and a final 5km out and back run. The entire event was spread over a large farm area, with the snowshoe and skiing snaking a bit into the surrounding woods. There was a reasonable contingent of racers on hand for this inaugural event (about 30 for the triathlon, with another 30 for the 10k run), and only later would I learn that some of the top local triathletes had come out to play.

I lined up at the front, next to Dave McMahon. Given that these were generally not the snowshoe racing crowd, I figured I had a good chance of finishing the snowshoe close to the front of the pack. Unfortunately, with a mere 2.5k of snowshoeing, even if I was fast there, I knew I’d lose a lot of time in the ski, as there are MANY faster skiers than me. The trail was more exciting than I had expected, and although some of it was in the field, there were still nice little hills to climb, and trees to snake around. At the end of the snowshoe, I was in 4th, and had a pretty quick transition to head out on skis, which as predicted is where I dropped a few spots.

The ski was a tricky course in my opinion. The track got pretty narrow in a lot of spots, and additionally, there were some really steep, wooded climbs that were almost bare ice. I was slowed down a lot here, but encouragingly, so was everyone else. Luckily, because of the numbers, clutter wasn’t too much of a problem, and I only had to execute a few passes on my 2nd loop as others were on their 1st loop. Looking at the raw numbers, it looks as though I had the 10th fastest ski, so I dropped a few spots. No time to dwell on that though, on went the running shoes, and out I went for the final 5k run.

The run was very straightforward. 2.5k on a country road, turn around, and come back. At the far end, there was a pretty steep climb to make sure you were still pushing, but all in all, easy peasy. I tried to hold my place, and managed pretty well on that front. I had the 8th fastest run, and when all the three events were tallied up, I finished 7th overall and 2nd in my category. Not great, but I was hopeful that most of these other folks either wouldn’t be in the snowshoe race, or that I’d be faster in a pure 10k snowshoe race! Post-race, we headed to a local restaurant for a chili meal and the awards ceremony for the triathlon. It was a nice atmosphere and went quite well. I would definitely consider this race again, and encourage others to look into it. For the best overview, check out the race video I put together:

Mad Trapper Night Race

What can I say about the snowshoe race that hasn’t been said in past posts? These races kick ass for so many reasons. They are just long enough that you can bust a lung and feel accomplished, but short enough that recovery time is fast. The post-race food and atmosphere is really great socially (brownies and beer anyone??!?), and the people that come out and take part are great, salt-of-the-earth types. BUT, there was some interesting twists for this race. Namely, the course!

Although we’d gotten heaps of snow this year, Mike decided to try something different for this year’s night course (yup, we race by headlights at this one). With the promise of record numbers of racers, and the fact that it was at night, he opted to actually groom the trail with his snowmobile! Not only that, but this was the most straightforward course he had ever laid out. Long, straight stretches, with only a few sizeable climbs, instead of the constant ups and downs and sharp turns we were used to.

Sadly for me, that meant this was not a race course that would favour me at all. I’m more of a technical runner, and rely on the tough conditions to stay ahead of the the speedier road runners that come out. However, I wouldn’t let that deter me. I lined up at the front and threw everything I had into the race, pushing my heart rate into the red zone the entire way. I had a good battle going with a couple other racers, but at the finish, only managed 9th place overall, and 8th in my category.

Regardless of my position, the race itself was beautiful. It was a perfectly clear night, and also a near full moon, guaranteeing amazing scenery on the run, with the twinkle of 80 racers’ headlights, and the moon glistening off the snow as we made our way around the property. Also, at the post-race, there was another fine fill of chili, and brownies, washed down with tasty beer. There were prizes galore, and we even held a mini-auction to raise funds for impossible2possible. So all in all, a great event once again.

So, what about that Snowman award you ask? Well, unfortunately for me, I only came in 2nd for the prize, being nudged out by the legendary Dave McMahon. Oh well, I guess having your coach beat you isn’t that bad, right? I was only partly sore about it, because originally he was slated to be in Lake Placid for a ski race. Had he gone… well.. you know… I woulda won it!! 🙂 Maybe next year, right? Unless of course he wants to defend his title. Either way, to see the video review I put together for the Mad Trapper, check it out below:

Mad About Winter

Snowshoe_Running_Jan2013

Yup, you read right. I’m mad about winter. But in a good way 🙂 I know it’s been a little while since I updated my blog, so I figured I’d do a 2 for 1 race report in this post, seeing as both races form part of the Mad Trapper Snowshoe Race series. The first one occurred way back in early December, and the 2nd took place a little earlier in January. Both races were quite unique, and ironically, both races saw me finish in 5th place overall in the 10km race category. In a departure from most race reports of late though, I carried no cameras, and took no photos or video. My focus was purely on the races and the camaraderie, so you’ll just have to re-live the events through my words, and a little video clip put together by Dave McMahon further below. In spite of the lack of visual stimuli, I promise the story will still paint the picture for you. Now read on and learn about both of these fun races!

Mike Caldwell has been putting on races at his property “The Ark” for many years now. He’s held snowshoe races, trail running races, and even a rogaine out there, not to mention he hosts weddings, corporate retreats, and teambuilding events. It is not just his place of business, but his home. In that regard, whenever you attend a race out there, it feels quite ‘homey’. And not in an urban city kind of way ;-). He and his wife Monique offer not only a great race, but they also put on a spread that should make most race directors envious. After almost every event out there, they put on a veritable post-race buffet for everyone. It’s no wonder some people sign up solely for that reason. It certainly makes the money worth it from my perspective. But at the heart of it all, I come out for the racing.

Numbers have stayed relatively small, but growing, in the years I’ve been racing there. It was not impossible, for example, for me to outright WIN at races there, and I have done so. However, increasingly, word has gotten out about the fun and the food, which has gradually drawn in some of the more dedicated racers out there. While this has meant a drop in standing for me, it has equally meant I have to up my game to feel competitive out there. And the results speak for themselves. I’m getting faster, but falling lower in the placings, but I’m totally fine with that.

The other nice thing about holding races at his own venue is that Mike can roll with the punches. A fine case in point is the December race. It was supposed to be a snowshoe race. We had no snow! Was that a problem? Nope. Just make it a trail race. Mike didn’t mind. Most racers didn’t mind. The numbers may have been a little lower as a result of the change of plans, but things still went off just fine anyway. I’m a big fan of trail running, so I was happy to put the hammer down and see how my body was doing.

Race Summary According to my GPS Watch

Mad Trapper Dec2012_Result

This race was the first time since my ankle injury that I went really hard. As you can see by the result above, I pushed. Hard. I stayed in Zone 5 the entire race, with an average heart rate of 182 bpm. That’s high. I’m guessing that part of this was due to my body angry about pushing my weakened ankle so hard, but I know my limits, and I know that I can push my system to that limit for about an hour with no dire consequences. The result for me was a satisfying 5th place overall, and several people commenting that I had a great race out there and seemed faster than last year. I’ll take the compliments, but obviously, with no step on the podium, I still have room for improvement 🙂

After a quick re-fueling, it was time to head back home, and start enjoying the Christmas season. There were no other races until Mike’s next race in January, so it was time to pray for snow and start the training in earnest for the Canadian Ski Marathon in February with Deanna, since we were both signed up and that means 160km of skiing in 2 day.

So with that, once the new year was upon us, it was time for a bona-fide Snowshoe race, the Mad Trapper ‘hilly’ course. We’d had a TON of snow in the time since the trail race of December, and in fact, there was so much new snow that week alone that Mike was uncertain how to lay the course. There were no discernible trails anywhere. To prepare for it, Mike just strapped on Snowshoes and followed deer trails around his property, giving racers a completely new course layout with different twists, hills, and turns than we’d seen in the past. Again, rolling with the punches and doing what needed to be done. The course probably couldn’t have been better if he’d tried!

Race Summary According to my GPS Watch

Mad Trapper Jan2013_Result

As the results above show you, it was another redline fiesta! The casual observer will note that my average heart rate was a bit lower at 174 bpm, but have a look and compare the distance and times. Nearly the same distance, but almost 50% longer! That was thanks to the incredibly deep snow. Once again, I wrapped this race up in 5th place, and was quite pleased with that result.

Why so slow? Well, being that this is 2 loops, and I was in 5th, it means that for the entire first loop, I was out at the front of the pack trying to break trail with the big boys and pack down the snow. This is not an easy task. The reward for this is supposed to be a much faster 2nd loop. However, after all that effort, I only managed a negative split by 2 minutes. The second loop seemed just as hard. The snow still made for tough going.

On the plus side, this was probably the absolutely most gorgeous race I’ve ever seen out there. The snow was not only thick on the trail, but also in the trees. While we’d had a lot of snow, there hadn’t been a lot of wind, so all the snow stayed intact in the branches, making for an absolutely breathtaking course (from the running AND the views). All racers agreed this was the whole reason we all like coming out and running around in the winter; sights like this! Luckily, local videographer and racer extraordinaire Dave McMahon was onsite not only running, but also stopped racing after one loop to get the stunning footage I’m embedding below for you all to admire.

Video Footage from Dave McMahon (XCZone.tv)

Afterwards, another great feast, and plenty of commiserating, congratulating, and camaraderie between all the participants. With this race under our belts, it was only a few more weeks before the next snowshoe race, and I’m pretty sure everyone was stoked for it, as it was going to be the annual Bushtukah Night Race! Yup, that’s right, racing under the stars. Plus, I was going to cover it, so I’ll have a video review of it for all to see, and I plan to focus on the party atmosphere, since shooting video at night is pretty tricky. Till the next post, hope everyone is getting out there and enjoying the wonderful winter weather!