Wrapping up the Winter Race Season

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G’day mates! Cheerio from the land of cold weather! If you look outside your window at this moment (provided it’s daytime), you’ll probably say to yourself that winter is on the way out. Officially, we’ve passed the first day of spring, so this posting finds itself just a touch too late. My tale this time is all about the final race of my winter racing season. It was the fourth and final snowshoe race of the season. I’ve pushed particularly hard this winter in these races, as it was the first time in well over a year that I was able to run again, and I wanted to see if I was still able to push hard. The attempts have paid off, with my fastest foot races ever as far as pacing and effort. So yes, kudos to me :-). In this particular race, it resulted in a 3rd place finish, and clinching 4th place overall in the series. Before reading a little more about the race, you can head over to flickr to look at the pictures taken by a volunteer. Also, you can check out all his pictures here. Once you’ve looked at those, click on back and read the rest of my story.

It became painfully obvious early in the week leading up to the race that we were going to have some possible issues on the course this time. The weather had already started turning, and warmer days and a lack of snowfall meant a virtually muddy, grassy trail run may be in the cards. All week I kept hoping that things would turn around, and we’d get a big dump or at least a freeze. The opposite actually happened, and on Friday night temperatures were well above zero, all night. Mike had reported that there was still about 90% snow coverage, but that was before the Friday night thaw. Driving up to the race, we saw a lot of empty grass patches in the fields. Oh well, nothing we could do at this point in the game.

Like past races, Carl and I carpooled to the race, and brought our own plates, bowls and cutlery to be eco-friendly. Due to the warm weather, and the lateness of the winter season, there seemed to be fewer people at this race than the past ones. However, there were still plenty of people lined up at the start, and certainly strong people there to challenge and push me. It wasn’t long before Mike was giving us the final words of warning, and the gun was going off. The temperatures were so warm that I was down to just a shirt and some tights. Another fellow close to me was actually down to his shorts. We weren’t warm at the start line, but we knew that within the first 4 minutes, we’d be sweating buckets and be completely warm.

At the start of the run, I stuck to John Ranson like a fly on poo. He was in first place, and I knew he was fighting for the overall series victory, so if I could stick with him, he might be able to pull me to a second in the race, and possibly 3rd place overall, rather than the 4th overall that I was more likely to finish in. For a bit, I felt like he wasn’t even pushing all that hard, but after the first couple hard hills, he was steadily pulling ahead of me, and the fellow behind me was breathing down my neck. Eventually, I just had to step aside and let him power by, since I knew that his goal was to catch up to John, and i didn’t want to hold him back. I kept my pace up, because there were other still within striking distance of me in this race.

I could see a shadow following not too far behind, and I was perpetually nervous about all of a sudden turning around and seeing him running me over. On the downhills, I powered down as fast as I possibly could, since that’s usually where I can make up some time. By the mid-point of the second lap though, I could see that I was pretty safe, as my shadow had dropped off a little from my pace, and had fallen back a bit. As long as I maintained, I should be guaranteed of my position. Instead, I focused on the racecourse itself. While the first lap (the hilly loop) had been pretty hard-packed and fast, I found that the second lap (the flat loop) ended up being much mushier, and tougher going. At first, I thought it was just the tiredness in my legs, but after sinking down to my knees in a couple of spots, I decided there was definitely more to it.

I just kept my head down and chugged along, trying to see how close I could finish to the two front runners. When all the numbers were in, the 1st place person finished in 58min and 25sec., with me finishing in 1h, 2min, and 58sec., a difference of 4 and a half minutes. Certainly not terrible, right ๐Ÿ™‚ Post-race, I was all smiles and chuckles. As per usual, we had an awesome post-race spread of chili, cookies, chips, fruit, etc. Mike did his usual awards ceremony, with an emphasis on the fact that we all did the race, not about who came in first and second (and third in my case ๐Ÿ™‚ It was a great series, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s races.

In order to celebrate my accomplishments for the winter season, I followed up the race with a trip out to Calabogie for a Poker night at Jim’s cabin. It was time for the annual winter poker tournament with the boys in the woods. Normally, we’d snowshoe out to the cabin, but due to the lack of snow (and the fact that I’d just raced), I opted to just walk down. We had a fantastic night of poker and debauchery, the perfect relaxing follow-up. Of course, my poker playing was nowhere near as successful as my snowshoe racing, and I ended up losing every game that I played. On the plus side, I did enjoy my beer and cigar :-). Well, that’s it from me for now. I just wanted to get a bit caught up on my blogging, even if it wasn’t super-interesting to you, at least if proves that I’m still keeping up my role of ActiveSteve! Till next time, play hard kids.

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