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: http://www.wmur.com/chronicle/26819417/detail.html