Ben Nephew’s Recap of Snowshoeing Racing & Family Time "2 Races and the Little Things"

After a couple years of not snowshoe racing very much at all, I decided to try and get back into it this year due to the fact that the Snowshoe Nationals are in VT this year and the realization that I am getting too far away from shorter races in general.  While my training has been limited by family and work obligations, I thought I was doing enough quality workouts to at least run decently.  Back in the day, I used to do alright at SS races, but I know that the level of competition has risen.  I didn’t expect to be fighting for the win, but I thought I’d be able to stay in the same zip code as the winner.

Photo by  Gianina Lindsey

The Sidehiller 4m Snowshoe Race was one of the first races of the year due to poor snow conditions this winter, and it ended up attracting a very deep field due to it being a qualifier for nationals.  As is often the case, the weather was an additional challenge at Sidehiller, with an air temp of 4F and 20-30 mph winds.  The attempt to try to stay warm almost made me miss the start, and the race got off fast on the flat 2m loop we would do twice.  By about a mile in, I was losing touch with the first 5 runners, and my legs were already starting to fade.  I just seemed to be working harder than I should be at that point, but I was hopeful that others were in the same state.  That definitely wasn’t the case, and I dropped about 6 places in the next 1.5 miles.  Almost everyone I regularly race was in front of me.  I ended up in 12th place, wondering if I had qualified, as at one time they only took the top 10 runners from the qualifying events. 

I did qualify, but it didn’t really make me feel much better about the race.  The only silver lining was that struggling for an entire race is certainly an intense workout.  Well, the drive up did include an 11 mile rally stage of snow covered roads, and I did see about two dozen people that I haven’t seen in months, and being social is generally a good thing.  Since I haven’t been racing recently, I had no idea if that was my fitness level, or if there was some other explanation.  However, it did seem that I overdressed, and it was possible that my foot was too far up in my SS binding, which can decrease traction.  Back to training, and I would see what would happen at the next race, the Horsehill 7k. Click here for race results.

Photo by  Gianina Lindsey

The literal approach to Horse Hill 7K Snowshoe Race was less than ideal as we got stuck in construction on 95 and didn’t get to the start until 15 minutes before the race.   The first comment out of everyone’s mouth was how deep the field was, great.  With a foot of fresh snow that was packed but not solid, it was going to be a slow course that would wear on the legs over 4.3 miles.  The good news was that I was dressed for the weather and did a better job of placing my shoes in my bindings.  Another fast start, and the top 4 started to pull away, including Jim Johnson, but not quite as fast as at Sidehiller, and I might have been pulling away from some runners behind me.  Kevin Tilton was not one of those runners; he was right on my back.  By 10 minutes into the race, he called for me to let him by, and then put some time on me quickly.  I managed to stay in contact, and at times gain a few seconds back.  The middle two miles was mostly spent hanging on to Kevin. 

By the final 1.3 miles or so, I was almost able to get close enough to pass, but couldn’t maintain the momentum needed to justify passing.  The bigger problem was that Chad Carr was gaining on us like a freight train.  Just as he seemed to be getting close enough to pass, everything went silent behind me.  He had tripped and managed to get his shoes tangled up.  Although he rallied, he had lost a good amount of ground.  I went back to chasing Kevin, who ended up throwing up a huge smoke screen of snow on the last big downhill (this was clearly deliberate).  He kept the pressure on up the final uphill and onto the finish straight, and the best I could was to close within a couple seconds for 6th place. 

Between chasing Kevin and running away from Chad, I was absolutely spent at the finish.  I would have liked to run a minute or so quicker, but I was significantly closer to Jim and Kevin and placed much higher in a field that was similar to Sidehiller.  I don’t think I was in substantially better shape for Horsehill, I just didn’t have a good race at Sidehiller due my SS issue, overdressing, and who knows what else.  Like at work, a sample size of 1 is usually pretty useless, so the moral is it might be a good idea to race more than once to determine your fitness.  Hopefully my next race isn’t as bad as Sidehiller!
Click here for race results.

The more enjoyable and somewhat relaxing part of the weekend was heading over to Windblown XC ski area so Steph and Gavin could ski.  Gavin did great, and Steph got that first painful ski of the season out of the way on some nice snow.  I used to be able to keep up with her with one rider in the Chariot, but she is too fast for that now.  Pushing 27 pounds of Aiden in the Chariot on snowshoes is not that bad, but when Gavin jumped in there after skiing his legs off, it was a good thing I didn’t do the math on the load until I was just about done, in many ways.  Apparently, I was pushing over 100 lbs of offspring, stroller, and gear.  I was barely moving on the uphills, but at least I provided plenty of amusement for all the other skiers!

Photo by Ben Nephew

Photo by Stephanie Nephew