This week was the first snowshoe race of the season up at Whitaker Woods in North Conway. This is only my second season snowshoeing, but I’ve found it to be a great way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter as someone who doesn’t downhill ski. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season – we just need more snow if we’re going to be able to race!
Here’s the thing: Snowshoe racing/running is silly. It’s incredibly hard, it’s slow, you’re likely to fall (or at least come close), and it’s almost always freezing cold so you need a million layers. I think this might be why I like it. I’m always drawn to and have the most fun at the most silly events where I have no expectations.
I really never race snowshoe races. I just run them comfortably hard. I don’t get nervous, I don’t think about pace or place. I just go and see what happens. These are my favorite sort of events and I’m pretty sure it’s why I love trail running and ultradistance running – it’s more about the experience and the training than the race itself. I want to be able to stop and laugh at the absurdity of what I’m doing and admire the beauty of the place I’m in. If I can’t do that, it’s not fun or fulfilling for me. I don’t ever want to make running something that causes me stress. For a long time it did (a story for another day/post), and I’m happy to be free of that aspect of the sport.
That being said, the race Saturday was great. The conditions were cold (10 degrees), but the snow was hard-packed and there was a good ice crust over the single track, so it was relatively easy to get moving on snowshoes. If it’s warm or the snow is deep, it can feel like running in mashed potatoes. I settled into 4th place woman within the first quarter mile and stayed there the entire race. The first mile of the race is pretty much all uphill on good groomed trails, then you turn on to some twisting single-track that plummets you downhill for quite sometime. I don’t like running downhill, so I lost a lot of ground there – I tend to run almost a minute slower per mile on steep downhills than I do on uphills! It’s something I’ll need to work on as I train more for VT100 since it has a lot of downhill miles. I got moving again for miles three and four of the race and actually ran my fastest splits there. I was smiling at the end, partially because my face froze that way, and finished a minute faster than last year. It was good to feel fresh at the end of the race. It’s something I never felt last year when I was racing on snowshoes. I think the whole “not really racing” thing is the way to go.
What I love about snowshoe racing is the low-key, low-budget atmosphere that seems to be present in trail racing as well. Timing is taken care of by hand – you hand a popsicle stick over at the finish chute to have your time recorded.
After the race everyone gathered together in a warming hut, passed around maple whiskey and Fireball, played with dogs that came with their owners, and ate some hot soup and bread. The overall winners received large jugs of homemade cookies as their prize. It feels like a backyard family party, and in some ways, it kind of is.
After the race, members of SIX03 Endurance and Acidotic Racing went to Tuckerman’s Brewery to eat pizza and enjoy some microbrews. It makes me incredibly happy to see how two teams can come together after a race and talk about their race and upcoming adventures and events.
Overall it was a really successful day for SIX03. We were fastest overall team and had the most entrants. On the women’s side, we took 4 of the top 5 spots and had the overall winner in Leslie O’Dell. Our men’s team had great showings as well. Full results are here.
I’m looking forward to more fun this season with this crazy crew.
Weekly mileage: 34.5 miles running; 10.3 miles hiking/walking
Time on feet: 9hrs