Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hey I won! (without winning)

I didn't plan on entering all five of the races Finnish Line Snowshoe series this winter, but cold weather forced two ski races to postpone, so on days when more sensible people might stay indoors I ventured into the icy forests and bogs surrounding Fairbanks and did the snowshoe races, which are purportedly held "regardless of temperature."

Effectively, I should have been 2nd overall in the series, as local runner Chad Carroll won four of the five races and beat me every time. I'd have been happy with that and would have brought home a pair of Atlas Run snowshoes, to complement the pair I bought in December. However, they scored the standings by age group wins, not overall. So I scored 15 each week, while Chad was upset by 3-time Equinox Marathon and Midnight Sun Run winner, Kevin Brinegar at the Ballaine Ridge race on February 9. So I won by 5 points, and got a pair of ultra light Atlas Race shoes.

Here's a run down of the season
12/4/07 - Heart of Darkness 7 k (+10 F) 3rd overall in 33:04, 1:09 behind Chad
1/12/08 - Moose Mountain Challenge 8k (-22 F) 2nd overall in 41:29, 1:21 behind Chad
1/27/08 - Emily's 8k Memorial (-10 F) 2nd overall in 39:44, 25 sec behind Chad
2/9/08 - Ballaine Ridge 9k (-15 F) 3rd overall in 48:35, 1:56 behind Kevin (I was just coming off a cold and tried to run steady but not too hard)
2/23/08 - Fairbanks Snowshoe Classic (+12 F) 2nd overall, 13 sec behind Chad

Here's an article in the local paper: http://www.newsminer.com/news/2008/feb/25/sayre-celebrates-turning-50-winning-snowshoe-serie/

In this last race my new shoes broke and have sent back for warranty replacement so I was on some lower rate loaners. But just minutes before the race Andy Holland lent me his Atlas Race shoes. Those were so light, like putting on a pair of racing flats for the first time.

I felt a little wobbly for the first two or three km, wondering if I'd be able to keep Chad and Kevin in sight for much longer. But by 4k, they weren't pulling away, and in fact I began to gain on them. Felt good the rest of the way, but didn't quite have the guts or aerobic uptake to mount a serious challenge to Chad--kept him honest and wondering though!

My hat's off to both of them for putting on the series, and for the challenging competition this winter.

Snowshoe running is kind of weird, and some people knock it. I think it's legit and would like to see the sport to keep growing. Racing appears to be languishing in Alaska (http://www.adn.com/outdoors/story/317694.html), although it seems to be thriving elsewhere, particularly in the upper Midwest and Rockies. Very few runners here seem interested, and even fewer skier-runners. I find that the sports are very complementary. I hardly trained on shoes all winter--the five races plus maybe six or seven easy runs of 40 min to 1:10. Other than that I skied five or six times a week and ran about twice a week. Skiing builds up your quads and cardiovascular system like no other sport--and I'm thinking that it helps your agility so you are used to navigating those narrow trails. I also enjoyed the low key atmosphere at the snowshoe races.

At the world level, I don't think the lithe Kenyans would be so dominant. It'd be great to see this sport develop to the point that there are World Championships that get broad participation and publid attention, and of course inclusion to the Winter Olympics.


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