Monday, January 09, 2012

Brain Freeze 8.5K Snowshoe Race a No Brainer

With temps at brisk and cheery -19 F when I got up on Saturday morning I knew they'd have the 20K freestyle race at Birch Hill no matter whatbut I didn't even bother to scrape the LF4 off my (classic)skis. Postpone the race for a better day? Delay the start? Don't even think about it.

Instead of prepping for skiing, I rumaged around looking for snowshoes and neoprene shoe covers. This was also a protest against the decision to host only Distance Series freestyle race of the year in January with no contingencies. There were actually a lot of no shows. Twenty six hearty sould lined up; 24 of them did classic. I haven't talked to those who skated but it couldn't have been fun.

This was my first snowshoe race in three years; in fact, my last race was exactly three years ago also at Moose Mountain. With the knee injury and more coaching responsibility now, I haven't had the opportunity to get back on snowshoes.

They had to change the course because of last year's forest fire up above the Moose Mountain ski area. The start and finish were the same, but the middle 5K or so was altered. We had some great views of the White Mountains and hills.

With a start an hour later (noon) and almost double the elevation, temps were an acceptable -11 at the start (compared to -14/-15 at Birch Hill). With snowshoeing, you also don't feel quite as cold as skiing, so -10 or -11 isn't so bad, maybe about like skiing at -5 or -6.

However, my face froze over the first mile (climbing up a snowmachine trail about 300 feet in elevation), but by the second and third mile--single track, winding back and forth through the soot-covered trees in the burn area--I warmed up and caught a second wind. Snowshoeing is not exactly a skill event, but there is a knack to rounding turns and shifting gears and this was a technical course. I haven't put on snowshoes since early 2009 and felt rusty and awkward on the transitions. Also, hadn't done much race effort training for three weeks, so the pace and seemingly relentless climb for the first 18 or 20 minutes were killer.

I fell back to 5th after 1.5 miles, but bided my time and moved up after about 20 minutes. Fell four times, almost crashing into trees on a couple of those. Closed fast on the downhill (6:00 or so for the last mile), averaged heart rate of 156, which unlike the the terrain, looked level throughout the 52 minute effort.

I really enjoyed the event, and the company. Snowshoe racing is a great alternative to skiing on days when ski conditions are not good. I just wish they'd have more races weekends when there weren't ski races. Darn, this will probably be my last snowshoe race of the year, as all the remaining local races conflict with ski events/weekends. At least the Sonot will be freestyle. This year. Hopefully things will warm up a bit by late March.


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