Howdy folks! Sorry for the delay in getting this blog post out. Although the race I’m about to write about occurred 2 weeks ago, I’m only now able to get anything written down. Sadly, the motherboard on my main PC died suddenly, and I’ve not been able to get the system set back up yet, so getting the pictures done and writing the post took a backseat. Of course, it’s a little sad to write about this race anyway, as unfortunately, due to a finicky mother nature, we were unable to get the snow we desired to make the race a success. The race in question? The first Mad Trapper snowshoe race of the season. How does one have a snowshoe race with no snow? Well, it basically turns into a trail race, doesn’t it? And that’s exactly how it went down. Have a look at the few pictures that were snapped at the race, then read on to find out how my hard-fought 5th place finish played out.
I gotta start out by saying that I feel a little bit bad for Mike Caldwell, the race director for the excellent Mad Trapper races. Every year, he seems to run into the exact same problem for the opening race, no, or not enough, snow. In the past, we’ve joked and called it the ‘climate change challenge’ race. This year, Mike tried to be clever and use early December. Other years, we’d get a huge dump of snow early in the month, only to have it melt by the time his race took place. To capitalize on that, this year he booked earlier. Still no luck! This is a 4-race series, and there will also be a winter Rogaine, so it requires at least one race to happen before Christmas.
The other downside of poor snow leading up to the race is poor pre-registration numbers. Mike always has to put out a desperate plea in the days leading up to the race seeking more racers. People tend to be a little gun-shy for a snowshoe race when there is no snow on the immediate horizon. Of course, from my selfish perspective, I look forward to having less competition on race day. Being the first race of the season, the results would still count for the overall standings, so there were big points on offer 🙂 Unfortunately for me, all hopes were dashed upon arrival and seeing Dave McMahon jogging a little warm-up with Lise. If he was out there, it would likely also mean a few other speedsters had come out from the trail running group for the fun of it. Dang!
Instead of just being out there for my own health, Deanna joined me for the event, and we even piled Jonah into the car so that he could come out to the Ark and run amok in the wild for a few hours. I’m pretty sure that he had the most fun of the three of us. Not only was he off-leash for most of it, he also had a few other furry friends to play with. Dogs, Alpacas, horses, other racer, etc! He basically spent the next 3 or so hours running and playing. It was great to see him having such a good time. Too bad I can’t take him out to more of my races like that. But I digress, time to get back to the race at hand. At the appointed time, the 25 or so races lined up at the start to get ready for our race. As usual, I plunked myself right at the front, so that I could hold on to the leaders for as long as possible.
The gun went off (or at least Mike yelled ‘go!’) and we were off. Right off the bat, I was sitting in 2nd just behind Dave, and focused on following his heels as best I could. For the most part, I was able to do so without too much trouble. It occurred to me that he was likely just warming up in the opening few kilometers in order to open things up on the back 5-6km. I could hear about 4 other people behind me staying right with us. My position was pretty much optimal for my hopes, and I really wanted to stay close. Conditions were actually much more snowy than the lack of snowfall back home would indicate. For the most part, we were running through a couple inches of show. However, that was quickly getting packed down by us. The tricky part was that we couldn’t really tell where all the rocks were, or where the little swampy bits might be that were waiting to suck our feet in. I had chosen to wear just plain trail runners. Dave had put on shoes with some sort of cleat on the sole. Watching his gait and stride, I tried to match it, and found he was slipping as much as I was, so I wouldn’t be able to blame my race on footwear!
After about 3 kilometers, I could tell that some of the other guys behind me were itching to pass, but had held off in doing so seeing that Dave was right in front of me. However, it seemed all of a sudden the light turned green for all these guys. They passed me, and then a gap opened up between me and the front pack which now consisted of 4 guys. I pressed on, and did my best to keep some distance between me and the next fellow. For the most part, I thought I was successful. About 1km further, I glanced behind my shoulder, and to my horror, 6th place dud was right there, catching up. A minute or so later, and he was on my heels. And so began my challenging 6km of the race that was left, and lead ultimately to my hard-fought 5th place.
From now and for the rest of the race, I had a shadow. A huffing, puffing, ankle-biting shadow. I was pretty sure I knew his game. Stay on me like glue until the final push, then pass to take my spot. Well, as most of you will know by now, that is sufficient motivation for me to keep pushing hard. Normally, I’m able to get my gaps on uphills, but everytime we hit an incline and I would try to pick up the pace, he was right there! The flats, same thing. However, on the downhills, I was able to get a bit of distance on him. Apparently my technical descending ability (or insanity) was just a touch better than him. My new goal was to keep pushing him hard on the downhills.
When we got to the final series of hills, I kept pushing with all I could. Part of me was actually hoping he’d just pass me, so that I could either accept defeat, or at least have someone of my own to chase for a while. There is nothing more annoying than being pipped in the dying meters of a race when you’ve been out on your own most of the way. The showdown was being nicely set up for the very final steep climb, which is subsequently followed by a very steep downhill, leading to a final flat final sprint. On the uphill, I red-lined it and did my best to grab a lead of any sort. It wasn’t working. Okay, time to flail my arms madly and go downhill like a bat outta hell. My shadow had mustered some more courage for the final downhill and didn’t give up and inch. We were both on the verge of a massive wipeout if we had a single mis-step. We finally reached the flat and it became clear this would be an absolute sprint for the finish. Digging deep, I propelled my legs as fast as possible. My competitor was unfortunately taller than me, so I could tell he was gaining. Luckily, I crossed the finish a half second before him. It was obvious that if the line had been 10m further, he would have passed me. I more or less collapsed in a heap. Congratulations all around with my fellow racer, and it was time to refuel. I appreciated the hard race, and thanked him for making it fun!
As usual, the post-race atmosphere made the whole outing worth it. Delicious lasagna, chips, cookies, clementines and Mike’s famous brownies. There weren’t as many prizes as other races, but really, who comes out to the Ark for prizing?! It really is all about the outdoors, the great exercise, and the great friendships out there. Deanna, Jonah, and I stayed for quite a bit after everyone else left, chatting with Mike and Monique. Mike picked up a 1981 Honda Goldwing, and plans are already underway for some touring next summer, including the possibility of a long road trip to the east coast where we might take part in an iron-distance tri! Stay tuned for more on that adventure in 2012! That pretty much brings us to the end of this race report, and the final race of 2011. 2012 is already shaping up to be an interesting one, and during the holidays, I hope to plan out my race calendar. Wishing you all the very best over the holidays, and pray for snow friends!