Let it Snow! For the sake of Racing!
Hey gang. Thanks for tuning in. I'm going to write a quick blog post about the race that I just finished a couple hours ago. Normally, I'd drag my heels a bit, but given that I'm heading out of town soon, it's probably better that I just get this done right away, don't you think? Plus, it'll be a little shorter than my normal race stories :-) Of course, I'm talking about that venerable racing tradition, the Mad Trapper Snowshoe race series opener! Today was set to be the 'flatter' course; a test of strength over a course of 9.2km (two loops of 4.6km). Of course, 'flatter' by no means implies 'flat', it was a lot of slogging up and down minor hills. For the full quick dump, read on. You might also want to check out a few videos [update: There is now a huge gallery of shots from the race from the photographer up] from the day capture via Andrew Cameron's helmet cam. Pretty cool footage I must say!
Less than a week ago, the possibility of having a snowshoe race seemed only remote. We still had no snow whatsoever, and temperatures hadn't been all that low, so it was anyone's guess what might happen. As a result, I had put off registering until I knew what would happen. Normally, I sign up for all 4 races, but I was already missing one in January, and with no snow, I wasn't even sure whether I should put the money up for 3 races! Luckily, that all changed with Wednesday's big dump, permitting racers to get pumped up for the first race. Snow cover wasn't particularly deep yet, with plenty of the rocks slightly exposed, but it still made for a great race overall.
Arriving at the start, I wasn't sure what to expect in the way of racer participation. Given the short notice that the race was on, it might have been a light crowd. Luckily, there was nice core group of racers, and lots of familiar faces to make it a great day. After a quick scan, I could tell coming anywhere near the top 3 would take a herculean effort, and given that I hadn't been running seriously since the Hamilton Marathon, I didn't put my chances very high. However, the start of the race was a funny beast from that perspective.
Normally, at any race I've ever been to at the Ark, the race start is a free-for-all where the top guys put the pedal to the floor and explode off the line. I normally hang back just a little bit, and try to hang on behind them for as long as possible. Well, this race was a totally different beast. NO ONE wanted to break trail. As you can see from the clip accompanying this post, I actually ended up taking the lead to start the race. Not something I was comfortable with, and certainly not something the other guys accepted for too long. I reckon I lead for the first 500m, then finally people started passing me. After that, I stayed on the tail for a bit, till I was finally shaken off by the top 5. Oh well, probably a good thing, as my heart rate had been around 185 since the start!
I decided to try and fall into a nice pace, but I had a shadow! Yup, one of the other racers (Gilles) was basically right on my rooster tail (the snow that flies off the back of snowshoes) for the entire rest of the race. And I mean the WHOLE WAY. I've never had anyone right on my butt for so long before. I'd like to think that I was pulling him as much as he was pushing me, but I couldn't shake the feeling that he could've passed me at any point. He called out some encouragement on a few tough spots, but for the most part, we ran in silence. After all, we were both putting out pretty high efforts, so chatting wasn't really an option :-)
When the time came to finish the race off, I started getting paranoid that after following my heels the whole race, he'd pull out to steal my spot at the finish. Part of me wanted to tell him that if he had the energy, he should just go for it, but the other part of me said that was the wrong attitude. After all, shouldn't I keep pushing till the finish and make sure he didn't pass? I went with the latter, and dug in to try and run really hard up the final steep incline. Things seemed to go well, as I could hear he had dropped off a bit from my snowshoes. I dug even deeper, and kept pushing over the top, then started sprinting for all I was worth down the final hill to the finish. I couldn't let up even one jiffy.
In the end, I managed to hold him off (or, more likely, he let me keep my position since he's a nice guy!). I almost collapsed at the finish from the final effort, but it was sure worth it. Great feeling. For those curious about the stats, they break down like this:
Lap 1 - 4.6km, 33m 11s, 7:16/km, Avg HR 182, Max HR 191, 208m of Ascent
Lap 2 - 4.6km, 31m 30s, 6:52/km, Avg HR 182, Max HR 192, 208m of Ascent
Total of 9.2km, Time of 1hr 4m 41s, Pace of 7:04/km, Avg HR of 182BPM!
Oh, yeah, and I was 6th to cross the line overall.
Not too shabby on the results front I'd say :-) After the racing was done, the action moved indoors where we had our fill on a great lasagna (meaty or veggie), salad, brownies, chips, and fruits. A great post-race spread as usual. Then, on with the results and prize ceremonies. Great times spent around the wood stove catching up with old friends and making new ones (as usual!). I'm already looking forward to the next race, which for me won't be until January 30th, 2010. Some of you might want to consider signing up for a good time. After all, you don't HAVE to run, and you even have the option of only doing 1 loop instead of 2. These races are just a really good excuse to get outside, get some exercise, enjoy the beauty of an Ottawa winter, then warm up with food and friends. Till the next race, take care. Back to packing!