Monday, January 14, 2008

Moose Mountain Madness: Anaerobic Mahem at -19

So what if I'm obviously crazy, an 8k snowshoe race at -18...eeefuck, that was hard!

They cancelled the ski race because it was -24 at the ski trials so I had no choice, other than to sit at home eating bon bons.

About 20 people showed near the summit of Moose Mountain, adjacent to a local ski area of the same name. On the summit area it was clear and windless, and did I say cold?

The course was about 40% snowmobile trail (lots of climbing in the first half) and 60% rolling single track through birch forest. Local snowshoe stalwart Chad Carroll quickly established the pace and dominance over the first mile and pulled away steadily after that. So I had a good fight for 2nd/3rd with an up and coming high school runner. He probably could have beaten me, but old age and treachery prevailed. I just kept going thinking that he'd blow by but he dropped back after about 5-6 k. It was a tough course and nearly impossible to push hard because of all the layers of clothing and gear (snowshoes, wool socks, running shoes, chemical footwarmers, neoprene boot covers, windbriefs, polypro long underwear, arctic tights, lycra short tights over those; on top it was polypro t-neck, wind vest, another polypro, lycra ski top, and a vest; and over me head I had uber thin earmuffs, polypro balaclava, wool cap, and lots of dermatone on my face; and I wore new fangled mitts with more chemical handwarmers). The layers helped because the only thing that felt cold was my nose over the first mile. No frostbite no foul.

A friend from the desert asked what it's like to run in snowshoes. At times it's like running in a dream--the bad way--where you're going through all the motions but not getting anywhere very fast. Not unlike running on sand dunes at the beach. The shoes themselves weigh about 1 or 1.1 kg together. The biggest challenge was running in all that other gear. The layers of tights were very constricting and I could have gone with one less layer on my legs.

The snowmobile part was hard packed well enough to run on with normal shoes, and it was about 1.5 to 2 meters wide. The woods trail was barely more than a half-meter (2 feet at most), and was rough and uneven the entire way. Much of it was canted with the slope, which made maneuvering very difficult. And it zig zagged up and down the contours and around trees and over stumps. Fun stuff!

We had about 15" (40 cm) of snow on the ground. So this sport does involve a need for you to place your feet precisely. Downhills are the most fun and you can really open up if you're not too gassed from the other parts.

The single track section was exceptionally tricky as well. It was a series of relentless ups an downs winding along at a bit of a southward lilt. You couldn't get any momentum because you'd stumble in soft snow as soon as you got going. Moreover, any attempt at picking it up a brought swift foray into oxygen debt.

Three more races in the series and maybe I'll get a free pair of snowshoes.


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