Friday, December 19, 2008

2009 WMAC series - dd's notes

Here are my notes on the races in the 2009 Dion series. Who knows how many of the races will actually be held? The snow God’s could be fickle this year or we could have great snow from December right through to March. It is even-money that at least one race will get moved to another location or another date.

Here is a video I shot today. My first time out this season!

Woodford (12-28-08) – This is a favorite of mine. I’ve done it four times and won twice. One of the times I won was due to the top 4 or 5 guys going off course. It was funny watching them kick it in to try and beat Richard Busa. The course is one of the poorer marked in the series. Like trail racing you are required to pay attention in order to stay on course. At Woodford there just aren’t quite enough course markings to make it clear which way to go. Generally you are looping around a lake, but there are side trails that look like they might go the right way. A bunch of people (myself included) stopped at a four-way junction unsure of which way to go. When in doubt go straight. I’m going to run the course for my warm-up and take 50 surveyor flags to help mark any tricky spots. There is always excellent food after the race. Note that the parking lot can be tricky as it is usually packed snow. There are always a lot of snowmobile riders around, try to be pleasant to them.

Tilda (01-03-09) – I’m not sure about this new race, is it named after Ed Alibozek’s dog? One year we were marking the course with Ed’s dog and I looked back and saw that she was ripping out and “killing” all the flags after I put them out.

North Pond shuffle (01-10-09) – This is an excellent course. There is a little of everything. The race starts with a 100m dash to where the trail gets narrow, then single-track for a long way. Usually everyone takes it out like mad! There are some bridges to cross which are a bit narrow. The climbs while not super-long are draining. The downhill run to the finish seems to take forever. This one is very scenic and they seem to always have snow. If the building is open then there will be a cozy fire in the stove and a very cold room where you can get changed out of your wet racing gear. Last year the ARE (Albany Running Exchange) guys showed up in a team VAN! They may have also set up a tent, maybe to stay overnight? They are hardcore. I’ve only done this one once, but I think a few times we’ve modified the South Pond Shuffle and it was part or backwards on the North Pond shuffle course.

South Pond shuffle (01-11-09) - I’ve had good luck at this race, winning three of the four times I’ve raced it. The one loss was a battle with Ken Clark and Leigh Schmitt, who both kicked my butt. Again there is a fast start and then it gets narrow. This one is very similar if not the same course as North Pond. Anywhere from 3 to 4 miles depending on where we can go, a lot depends on the streams being frozen over. Every year courses are slightly different (on all of these races).

Greylock Glen (01-17-09) – This one has a spectacular view of Mt Greylock at the starting line. This race is a roller-coaster, and depending on how much snowmobile trail it can be a killer grind. I’ve done this one five times and won three times. The last time I did it I got past Al Bernier in the last ½ mile to win the race and get the series win over Ken Clark by less than a point. This one has a flying fast start with a good downhill. Two years ago the top 5-10 runners missed the turn and stayed on the road (packed snow). Ken Clark and I ended up in the lead as we yelled for them to come back. Lesson: Never blindly follow anyone! Keep you eyes open for trail markings and don’t assume that it will be obvious. Keep your head on a swivel looking left and right. The single track sections of this course are really nice, with some tough climb and lots of twists and turns. The last ¾ mile is very fast. There are no indoor facilities and it is always windy in the glen. Bring lots of warm clothes and hang out at the fire-barrel after racing. Remember that there is a fine line between staying warm and melting your clothes!

Brave the Blizzard (01-18-09) – A rare treat, indoor facilities. The school abuts some great conservation land (and a nice quiet cemetery for warming up on your own away from the masses). The course is a lot of un; the start has a section of unpacked snow so leading early may not be an advantage. The trails are narrow but passing is possible. I led for about 2.5 miles last year but couldn’t hold off (the Race Director) Josh Merlis who eventually was able to blow by me. He nicely called out which way we’d be turning before we got to each turn, even without a tour guide the course was very well marked and had people at major intersections. The distance this year was “about 4 miles”, it is advertised as a 5 Km and was a very long 4 mile. There are some great trails for exploring after the race.

Curly’s record run (01-25-09) – You’ll wish you had skis for the crazy downhill that is the aforementioned record run. One year it was single digits at this race. I think Busa still stripped down and took a snow shower. This course is a classic, I love this race. If you are a strong climber you will like it, if you hate to climb this will be brutal. I’ve only run it twice finishing 13th and 1st. The first time I went off course at the bottom of the hill, last year I was specifically warned about this turn (in front of everyone while we were on the line). You should have seen me the year I went off course, I was in a complete full-blown rant. Not at the race directors or course markers, but at myself for being so stupid that I missed the turn which was marked. I believe that this year it was marked and also taped off AND they had someone standing there. This one starts in a big open field and there is a little (very little) time to sort things out before it becomes single-track. No need to blast out, once the climbing really starts you can WALK by some of the early speedsters. This thing is unrelenting, you keep climbing and climbing. Then the fun (?) starts and you come down an incredible ski slope, just try to stay in some semblance of control. When you hit the bottom you still have nearly a mile of twisting and turning to go, you better have something left in the tank!

Northfield Mountain (01-31-09) – This one has great indoor facilities as they are an XC ski area and have dedicated Snowshoe trails. I’ve come up with a few different versions of this race depending on snow conditions, one year we had to have the race at Hallockville. If conditions are good we’ll use the same course as the summer race. This is all groomed trail, so the footing is generally good and usually fast. The first mile has very little climb, the next 2 miles climbs nearly 1,000’ including the “chute” where you have a 14% grade. Once you get to the summit and check out the view you can hammer the downhill, but keep something in reserve as there are a couple of short tough climbs in the last 2 miles of the course. I’ve only raced it twice as I’m the race director and never know if I’ll have enough help. I’ve gotten 16th and 1st, but neither race was the 10.3 km loop.

Saratoga Winterfest (02-01-09) – I’ve done this one three times, usually as a double-header on the same weekend as Northfield. I’ve won it once and run around 7’s over the rolling XC course. This one always seems to be fast, I think the trails get so much use in winter that they are always packed. There is always a huge field and it is almost always the biggest race in the series. There are indoor facilities, which are always a bonus. The race starts with a loop around the quad which is always a mad dash to look good in front of the fans lining the course. Then you cross the roads and you are on your own. The course is typically well marked and has a little bit of single-track, mostly it is wide open for running and fast running is the way to go. There are only two hills of note and both are minor, nothing that will really shake things up. I think Rich Bolt has the course record in something like 18 minutes!

Sidehiller (02-07-09) – The only WMAC race in New Hampshire and it is also a USSSA (United States Snowshoe association) National qualifier. The entire town of Sandwich turns out for this race, including the police chief who directs traffic while the race goes across the main road into town. Did I mention that the town DPW comes out and puts down a layer of snow across the road? Wow! The race starts and finishes in a big field. There is plenty of time to sort out things prior to any single track, no need to sprint out in this one. We loop the field then cross the road, then the real race starts. There are some moderate climbs and some twisting and turning. There are great views from some of the fields that you pass through. The local snowmobile club helps put on the race and they come out and even put snow on top of stone walls that you have to run over. In most years the course is pretty much all groomed trail, but surprisingly slow running. You never can tell what the snow will be like until you get out there. I’ve run the race twice and finished second both times to Kevin Tilton. Everyone gets a coupon for a free sandwich at the local store (Sandwich sandwich). Pretty cool.

Moody Springs (02-08-09) – Who knows which version we’ll get this year? I’ve run this race at any distance from 8m to 15 km. This one is always fun as Ed Alibozek sets an interesting course depending on the snow. Know that there will be a lot of single-track that could be deep and slow running. Stop at Moody Spring and drink the water which is purported to have restorative properties. I helped Ed set a Moody Spring course a couple of years ago and my injury which kept me from racing, healed quickly after drinking from the Spring.

Camp Saratoga (02-14-09) – I haven’t gone to this one in a couple of years, it is a long way to go from the Eastern reaches of Mass. I recall one year the snow being so soft that it was brutal, I also remember a year skimming across the surface. I have no memory of the course other than the dang last loop. You actually pass the finish line with about 1 kilometer to go (I saw Rich Bolt win the race as I struggled into the last loop). It is brutal on the fragile psyche of the tired snowshoe racer to pass the finish and continue on.

Covered Bridge/Hoxie Thunderbolt (02-21-09) – This is a two-for-one deal. The first loop is 3.5 miles and that takes you back through the finish line then you can call it a day or continue on for 4.5 more miles. If you continue on you get scored in both races. At 1:25 this is the longest I’ve ever raced (time-wise) on snowshoes, of course the year I did it the first 3.5 was almost all un-packed and quite slow going. The race within a race is a great idea. You really need to have strategy to do well in both. The first loop is kind of tough, but the second loop which tends to have a bit more groomed is just down-right brutal. I recall one climb that just wouldn’t end. There is a significant amount of climb on the slopes of Mt Greylock. This starts and finishes at the Greylock Glen so if it is a windy day you better have a lot of dry clothes for afterwards, gathering around the fire-barrel is a lot of fun.

Hallockville pond (02-22-09) – There have been a few versions of Hallockville. I like the one that stays on the side of the road with the camp. This version is mostly an out/back with a little loop on the end. The main path is wide and groomed, so it is typically very fast. Very small rolling hills will take a little of the oomph out of your legs. Not quite indoor facilities, but the camp has a nice building with a big fireplace which is a better location to change than the back seat of the car. Hallockville is where I nearly got trapped in the porta-john as I tried to maneuver with my snowshoes on. Use the porta-john before you put on your snowshoes.

Hawley Kiln (02-28-09) – This is where I did my first snowshoe race TEN years ago. Wow, the time has flown. The old 7 mile course was brutal with a staircase climb that would make you rethink what you were doing. I like the 5 mile “notch” version; you still get the flavor of Hawley Kiln without the sting. The start is excellent with a wide trail for the first ½ mile. No crazy sprints in this one. Once you get on single-track it is generally downhill for the first 2 miles. There are a lot of twists and turns which give great opportunities to see who is behind you (and ahead). The next mile or so is on wide snowmobile trail and there are a couple of brutal climbs. The newer notch version twists and turns in some beautiful woods before dropping you out with a half-mile sprint back to the finish. If this version doesn’t loop around the Kiln at the beginning of the race, do yourself a favor and check it out prior to the race. It is a very cool structure and may have some mystical properties!

Northfield Mass champs (03-14-09) – This is a lower key race. Very low entry fee, but titles in all categories are at stake. I usually have everyone fill out the results board except for their time and then when you finish you record your time and I take that to figure out results. This means I can race and I don’t need any help with timing/scoring the race. Who knows what the snow will be like in mid-March? We’ll figure out a course if there is any snow anywhere near Northfield. Farmer Ed knows all of the secret places that hold snow when there isn’t any in all the other places.

Catamount (03-21-09) – This is a new race. There was an unofficial race last year that Bob Dion won. The course has a moderate climb up a groomed ski slope with excellent views at the top. Then it travels along a ridge and has a long gentle down grade for the last mile. The race has a unique 4 p.m. start time.

There is also a new series in New Hampshire this year. The Acidotic racing team is putting on the series which includes some established races and a couple of new ones.
01-10-09 E Madison, NH 1st Pooh Hill ?? Miles
01-31-09 Gilford, NH 2nd Cobble Mountain 5 KM
02-07-09 C. Sandwich, NH 4th Sidehiller 4 Miles
02-08-09 Atkinson, NH 4th Frosty’s Dash 5 KM
02-15-09 Merrimack, NH 1st Horse Hill 7 KM
02-21-09 Madbury, NH 2nd Kingman farm 5 KM (note: Night race – Headlamp required)

Snowshoe magazine


pbazanchuk said...

Dave, nice job reviewing the races. It's coming down fast and furious here at the moment.

Scott Mason said...

OK Dave, you got me so psyched with this blog that i bought a pair of racing snowshoes today.
see you at the races. i'll be waaaay behind you.

day-v done 'em said...

Hope to see you guys out there. If you go to woodford you are welcome to join me and whoever for a tour of the course prior to the race. I plan on re-marking it as I go.