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.
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).