Sunday, February 27, 2011

Northeast Snowshoe Federation Championships 02/26/11

3/4 mile in thinking "Will I ever catch them?"
Photo by Scott Mason

"Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan." Admiral Painter, "Hunt for Red October"

I'm not Russian, but I did have a plan for Saturday's race. After running the course with DD on Friday, I knew that the course was killer and patience was going to be key. The course featured two big climbs totaling 1500' of ascent and 1500' of descent in 5.4 miles of mostly singletrack. This would be a mountain race on snowshoes.

I knew with this race being the first Northeast Snowshoe Federation Championship it would draw a stout field, and it did not disappoint. CMS/Dion/Inov8 teammate Jim Johnson was there as usual, along with DD, Tim Van Orden, Judson Cake, Ryan Kelly and the numerous runners of Acidotic Racing. This would be a pretty deep field, then you add in the likes of new snowshoer and 1:07 half marathoner Nick Wheeler to the mix, and it just gets deeper.

My plan for the beginning of the race was to hang back knowing that a few people would be more than willing to take the lead on the groomed first 800m of the race. Not long after the gun went off I found myself in 4th place behind JJ, Nick and Judson. JJ and Nick were probably 10 seconds ahead of me as we rounded the pond near the finish line. I was already ceding a sizable lead in the first half mile of the race, but I knew were weren't even close to being done.

I stayed behind Judson as we entered the singletrack and slowly started to climb. I was content to stay behind him for a little bit as we were running a decent pace and I could still see the leaders not too far ahead. When we crossed the first groomed trail Judson let me by and I started my pursuit of the leaders. The first climb was close to 1.5 miles long, so I knew I could take my time and still cut into their lead, assuming that I was climbing any faster. I was struggling to climb a little at first, wondering if the 10,000 ft of climbing I had accumulated during the week were catching up to me. I kept taking small steps and before I knew it I was right on the back of Nick. I was able to pass him part way up the Pipeline Trail, and I set my sights on Double J.

Jim was just a few seconds up on me as we started the day's first descent. Jim usually blows my doors off on this stuff, and today was no exception. I lost sight of him fairly early and about half way down Nick rolled up on me and now I was fighting for second. Luckily the trail flattened out a little before big climb #2. Nick was doing a good job of dogging me and I thought he was ready to pass me as we started the climb. I asked him if he wanted to go by and he emphatically said "No!" I put my head down and kept grinding.

The second climb consisted of two parts: the first part was pretty long and made you think that you had finished the climb when you finished the first part, but in reality you were only about halfway done. The second part almost took you to the same elevation as the first big climb. About 2/3rds of the way up the 2nd big climb I was able to reel Jim in. He graciously let me go by and tucked in behind me after I gave him some "encouragement". I didn't want to see his race fold here, even if it meant him recovering and blowing my doors off on the last descent.

After finishing the climb we started the descent from Rose Ledge at the 4 mile mark. I did my best to bomb down the twisty, crunchy singletrack, especially when Jim told me that Nick was gaining on us. I thought about letting Jim by to lead us down, but there was no place to do so without losing a ton of time, plus I didn't want to give up the lead. No too long after that Jim took a digger reminiscent of last weekend's race at Kingman Farm, but he popped back up and got right on my heels. At this point Nick was running in our back pocket and we had a 3-person freight train bombing down the trail.

1/4 mile from finish thinking "When are they going to catch me?!"
Photo by Scott Mason

Luckily for me there was one more speed bump on the way to the finish. A cruel, short little climb reared it's ugly head right before the powerline section. Knowing this was my last chance to open a gap, I hammered it with everything I had. I opened up 4 seconds on Jim and ran for dear life after that. The last little climb was after the bridge at 5 miles. I passed Scott Mason wanting to look back, but I didn't dare. I burst out of the singletrack and did my best Carl Lewis impression. I was able to glance over my shoulder as I rounded the pond. I maintained my 4 second gap to the finish. I gave an uncharacteristic fist pump as I crossed the line. I was pretty psyched to run a smart race and win in a really solid field.

Post race I bonked pretty hard after doing a road cool down with the Turtles, JJ and Nick. It's kind of ironic that I get all of my road miles while warming up and cooling down at snowshoe races.

My next race will be the National Snowshoe Championships in Cable, WI on March 12. The course is going to be flat and fast. Not my strong suit, but I have two weeks to prepare and I have a hell of a base to start with.

1 7:54
2 10:16
3 7:08
4 10:15
5 7:49
0.4 2:24 (6:00 pace)

45:49 (8:29 pace)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snowshoe Run Up Mt. Washington 02/23/11


Now that I have that out of the way, on to the story. I wouldn't call this a race effort, but it was one hell of a workout. Every winter I look forward to trying to get up Washington, but only if the weather cooperates. One of the advantages of living up here is that if we get a nice day, whether it's a Tuesday or a Sunday, I can usually get up the mountain. This week is my annual winter vacation with Jess, which really means I run as much as my body can take and try to ski or snowshoe with her in between the madness. I love you!

The weather on Wednesday dawned cold, but clear. Wind speeds on the summit were in excess of 40 MPH in the morning. With the sub-zero temps, I decided to wait until later in the day to attempt to tackle the mountain. Around noon time I noticed the summit temps had gotten up to around 10 degrees, but the winds hadn't really died down. I figured I would make my way up to treeline and turn around if the weather was too nasty.

After purchasing a trail ticket at the Great Glen Trails office, I headed up from the traditional road race start. I was geared up with a "heavy" pack which included 20 oz. of water with Nuun tabs, 2 mini Larabars, digital camera, Epic Wide head-mounted video camera and a cell phone all stuffed in my Mini-Mule CamelBak. I was wearing running tights, running pants, poly pro short sleeve and long sleeve shirts, wind jacket, thick running socks, Inov8 RocLite 295 trails shoes, Dion 121 running snowshoes and hat and gloves. The clothing wasn't anymore that I wear on a normal winter run.

My goal for this run was to try to stay comfortable for the first few miles, then pick up the effort as I climbed higher. I didn't want to dig myself into a hole early, then bonk above treeline. I was able to stash my hat and gloves and unzip my jacket while I was running below treeline and out of the wind. As soon as I hit the halfway point I bundled back up.

After rounding the Horn (4 mile mark) the winds picked up, but I didn't find them to be too bad. It was actually a tailwind, which helped my progress up my least favorite part of the road, the dirt grade from 4.5-5 miles. The road at Cragway was mostly exposed. I tried to stay on snow and ice as much as possible so I wouldn't break a cleat on the side of the mountain.

As I rounded Cragway I was greeted by the Mt. Washington Observatory's Sno-Cat on it's way down on shift-change day. They seemed to be having a good time, and so was I as I ascended on the packed snow. Not long after passing to outbound Obs crew I ran into a tough headwind. It almost stopped me in my tracks a few times. I was starting to debate turning around, but the wind eased up as I passed the 6 mile mark.

The nice tailwind reappeared as I made my way up the hairpin before the Cow Pasture. My jacket acted as a sail as I started crunching along on the icy road. The Cow Pasture was a skating rink that had partially been broken up by the Obs tractor. At this point the wind was coming across the road and blowing me from one side to the other. This was one of those "What the hell am I doing here?!" moments. The wind subsided as I got some shelter as I started climbing again.

As I looked at my watch near the 7 mile mark I knew I would have a chance to break 90 minutes if I started to boogie. Boogie above treeline in 40 MPH winds means 10 minute pace. I put my head down and crossed the icy expanses that are the upper parking lots in winter. The wall was almost unrunnable, but the cleats on my Dions grabbed enough to get me up. I crossed the road race finish line in 1:31:13, 8 minutes and 41 seconds faster than my time from the winter of 2007. I think it was a little windier today as the Mt. Washington Observatory's records for yesterday showed an air temperature of 9 degrees and wind speeds between 35-50 MPH while I was on the summit. Brrr.

After crossing the finish line I pulled a Dunham and hit the summit in 1:32. I took a few photos with not another soul in site. After snapping a few more photos I took shelter in the entrance way of the Sherman Adams Building. I wasn't too hungry, so I had 1 Larabar and about 10 oz. of water. It was nice to get out of the wind for a few minutes. As I refueled, a worker for the State Park and/or Obs was finishing some maintenance work and asked me if I had a light for the way down. I'm guessing he was wondering how I was going to make it down before nightfall if I was just reaching the summit at 3:15 PM.

The trip down was interesting as the winds started to pick up and I knew I had a good 3.5 miles of running before I hit treeline. The first 0.6 miles down was pretty brutal (see video Part 1). I had to ball up my hands inside of my gloves to keep my fingers warm. That was the only time my fingers got cold though as my EMS Powerstretch Gloves kept my hands warm during the majority of my run. Running across the Cow Pasture was a treat again, and mysteriously the tailwind I had on the way up the hairpin was now a headwind. Go figure. The wind subsided for the rest of the run and I was somewhat sheltered by the mountain in some spots. I snapped some photos at Cragway and got a nice panorama of Great Gulf from just above the 4000 ft. mark.

The run down below treeline was pretty mind-numbing as usual, but I knew I was safe from the wind at this point. I was dropping sub-8 minute miles at this point just to get to the bottom.

The numbers:
Road Race Time: 1:31:13 (12:00 pace)
Splits 1 (0.9 miles): 10:23 (11:32 pace)
2: 11:40
3: 11:44
4: 11:46
5: 12:20
6: 13:19
7: 12:39
0.7: 7:24 (10:34 pace)
To Summit: :47
Down: 1:04:06 (8:26 pace)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kingman Farm Snowshoe Race

Despite Mr. Wiles suggestion to become a pen pal with an 11 year old Amish boy, I'll post a report of my race at Kingman Farm. I have been looking forward to this race for a couple of years when I first heard about a nighttime snowshoe race and the fact that it was being held at UNH's Kingman Farm. I spent a lot of time running there in my college days.

Last year's race was turned into a trail race due to lack of snow, but that wasn't a problem with this year's edition. The snow was "transformed" as nordic skiers would say. What was mashed potatoes two days earlier was bullet proof hardpack for the race. There would be no floundering in knee deep powder on this night.

After talking with Double J this week it sounded like he wouldn't be at Kingman due to doubling at Beaver Brook and Hallockville. I shouldn't have been surprised to see him as I came out of Best Buy in Newington. I think he was headed to the Taco Bell at the Fox Run food court for a little pre-race meal. Jim, DD and I headed out on the course for a warm-up. I'm glad I had a chance to see the whole course, because I would need every advantage I could get for this one.

The start area was a little narrow, and from our warm-up I knew the entire course, including the finish area would be this way. I'd much rather have tight singletrack than wide groomed trail. This was the best of both worlds though as the course was winding, but the snow was hard and fast. Knowing that Jim had raced in the morning, I decided to put the hammer down right from the gun to try to wear out his legs. After a mile I still hadn't lost him, but I kept the pressure on. As we hit the fields I still wasn't opening the gap and couldn't run all out as the course snaked back and forth. I decided to conserve a little energy here knowing that the big climb up Hicks Hill was still ahead.

As we left the field I started to push the pace a little. I opened the tiniest gap on the first small incline, but Jim was still just a few seconds back. I tried to push hard going up Hicks Hill but still wasn't opening a gap with all the switchbacks. I was pretty much gassed as we hit the summit, but I had to keep pushing knowing that this was one of the few good passing zones.

I was a little worried about the downhill on the warm-up, knowing how good Jim is on the descents. There were quite a few switchbacks here, but it was still pretty fast. I was grabbing trees on a few of the sharper ones, and I took a sapling like an alpine race gate on one corner. Through all of this Jim was still right on my heels. It was a flashback of the downhill at Great Glen last year, including Jim taking a digger. On the second minor ascent of Hicks Hill I heard him go down hard. I yelled back to make sure he was OK, then put the hammer down :-). Unfortunately for me, Jim was back on my heals instantly.

After the last downhill switchback the course flattened out and I could start to see the headlamps of volunteers at the last 90 degree left hand corner. I knew I had to start sprinting and make myself as wide as possible. If I got passed here, there would be no passing back. I managed to stay in front of Jim through the last corner, then was able to "power away" to a two second win. I was tasting pennies at the finish line. Both Jim and I were working pretty hard, but I think Jim still had another gear. I was holding him up, but he had no way to get around. It looks my strategy got me a win instead of my fitness.

After the race I got in a nice bonk-inducing cool down with Jim, Ryan Welts, Bob Jackman and Dave Principe. DD was doing a warm down with us. It was cool to run the roads that I used to run so often back in my college days. At the post-race awards I picked up some homemade goodies and a 6-pack of Red Hook Mud Slinger Nut Brown Ale. Chris Dunn put on another great, unique race. I believe this was the first time I've ever raced with a headlamp, despite the fact that most of my winter training is of the nighttime variety.

Jess and I topped off a great day by getting some slices at DHOP in Durham. Buffalo chicken + bacon = best combo ever.

Neat video of the start by Gianina Lindsey:

Also, check out the video from Thursday's NH Chronicle feature about snowshoe racing in NH:

Sunday, February 13, 2011


This will be a short post, but the point of it is that this blog is going to change a little. I have come to the realization that my online habits are becoming a huge time suck. I have always spent a lot of time on the internet, but my lack of motivation to do any thing worth wile lately has been in part related to the amount of time I spend reading and posting about the things I want to do instead of doing them. I'm closing my Facebook account and hoping to post to this blog a little less, but have more interesting posts. I don't know if my 30 mile a week exploits are very interesting to anyone, and they certainly take up way too much time. I'm hoping to still post about cool runs, workouts and races, but also include my thoughts about various subjects about running and the outdoors as they come to me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Training Week 2/7-2/13

M- 0 At least I'm consistent.

Tu- 5.1 with Roger in 1:01:51 on Bear Notch Rd. Good to get back out. 630 ft. gain.

W- 15.0 in 2:08:26 from Jericho Lake in Berlin on snowmobile trails. 3.0 warm-up in 29:36, then 12.0 tempo in 1:38:49 (8:14 pace). The goal for this run was to run about marathon pace effort, which usually translates to 6:00-6:30 pace on packed snowmobile trails, but I was sinking about an inch or two on every step. I thought about bagging the workout after the warm-up, but I figured it was effort based, so I would give it a try. I was a little worried that I didn't run hard enough based on pace, until I tried to get out of bed this morning. I'm hoping a run like this will make me tough as nails, even if it doesn't translate to a fast time at something like New Bedford. 1200 ft. gain.

Th- 5.2 with Roger in Bartlett Village in 1:13:17. We started going up the Mt. Langdon Trail which was packed by snowshoers, but after a mile it was less consolidated, so we hits the roads and snowmobile trails. 450 ft gain.

F- Treadmill Hillclimb Progression Run. 2 mi wu, then 5.5 miles @ 11.5% grade in 50 minutes, starting 1st mile at 10:00 pace, then 9:30, 9:05, 8:40, 8:30, then last 0.5 mile @ 8:00 pace. The last 0.5 mile was tough, but as long as I stayed focused it was manageable. 1.0 cd. I averaged 9:00 pace for the 5.5 miles which works out to a sub 1:09 up Washington. Maybe I'm finally getting my climbing legs back. It was also 69 degrees in the gym, but I handled the heat pretty well. 3300 ft of gain.

Sa- 1:25 classic skiing w/ Jess in Prospect Farm in Jackson. Nice easy ski to loosen things up. Was planning on a run too, but a true easy day isn't all bad.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Training Week 1/31-2/6

M- 5.0 easy on treadmill in 46:00. Right hip a little sore from running on snowmobile trails. Didn't feel like running outside after working outside all day.

Tu- 4.3 miles on the snowy roads with Roger in 47:27, then 5 x 1 mile on snowshoes in Whitaker Woods with 3:00 rest. 7:26 7:26 7:29 7:29 7:32. This workout is supposed to serve the same purpose as the 6 x 1 mile I was doing last winter. Not all out, but around half marathon effort. On groomed terrain I ran 7:00 average for the Whitaker Woods race, so 7:30 seemed reasonable. I was definietly getting a little tired/sloppy by the end. 0.25 mile cool down. I hate cool downs.

W- Got out of work early and headed up to Pinkham Notch. Did two laps of Tucks/Sherbie. 1st lap on skis: 62 minutes up, 19 minutes down (a lot of it on my ass). 2nd lap on snowshoes: 44 minutes up, 21 minutes down (Tucks Trail). The whole thing was a lot of fun. I was definitely tired the 2nd time up, and borderline bonking on the way down, but great fun to plow through a foot of fresh powder. I took video with my head cam, but something didn't work right and I only got sound.

2:26:45 total, 9 miles, 3800 ft gain (4.8 running, 1900 ft gain)

Th- 4.3 in 45:50 with Roger on snowy roads. Ran easy.

F- 6.0 up and down Black Cap in 1:07:52. The plan was to get in a hard hillclimb workout on the snowmobile trails. Unfortunately the trails were a little softer than I hoped and I wasn't wearing snowshoes. I was hoping for something in the 9-10 minute pace range, but it took me 39:06 (13:03 pace) to cover the 3 mile, 1700 ft climb. I realized that pace would be out the window early, so I made it my goal to make my quads hurt the whole time. I did just that.

Panorama from Whitton Ledge at work on Friday

Sa- 0 DOWNHILL skied with Jess at Sunday River. I had plenty if time for a run, but didn't make it happen.

Jess at the top of North Peak at Sunday River

Su- 0 Downhill skied for a couple hours solo in the morning and planned to run long in the afternoon. Got dressed, but couldn't get myself out the door. Downhill skiing takes more out of me than xc skiing.

Totals: 30.7 miles, 6.78 hours, 3600 ft gain. No comment.