Woodford start pic by Kristin
I wrapped up another 70+ mile week (72 miles) with 11 miles on snowshoes at Woodford Vermont doing the “I Love Woodford” 3.5 mile snowshoe race. I ended up with a total of 26 miles on snowshoes this week, which is a lot for me. I can definitely feel it in my ankles as the increased strain from the slipping side-to-side has left both ankles pretty sore today.
I tried to stay consistent this week with 4 & 6 mile doubles on weekdays and single runs on the weekend. The added Friday holiday (thank you Mr. President) was a bonus opportunity to do a “long” run. I’m probably not ready for back to back (to back) long runs. Monday – Wednesday I did my doubles, but the Wednesday afternoon run was a 4 mile loop on snowshoes at Winnekenni Park in Haverhill.
Dan and I previewed what I planned to use as a race course for the 25th. We found some excellent rolling terrain that is not extensively used by the typical Winnie dog walker (the area is very popular for dog walking). The course started with a flat loop around the basin, which had been plowed, avoiding the worst of the lack of snow in that area then heading out along the scenic shores of Lake Kenoza. After about 1.5 miles the course became hilly as we turned right and crossed over the hills to Lake Saltonstall. We then hit the deepest snow on the loop; some drifts more than 2’ deep as we came up over the hill past the stone ruins. One final climb brought us to the Winnekenni castle and then we descended to the “springs” via the Castle trail. The loop would be very close to 3.5 miles. I was worried that the rain and warm temperatures would really eat away at the decent snow.
I returned to Winni the next morning and was met with wind and warm temps. The rain overnight had indeed reduced the amount of snow. What was left was a slushy mess in most spots. I put out about 100 flags to mark the course (36 minutes), then checked to see if anyone had shown up to race me. No one had, so I took off trying to run the loop as hard as possible. I ended up taking the victory in 26:29, and also took last place. Oh well, you can only race the people who show up J. I did the loop a final time, picking up the course markings and noting how little snow was left after my two passages of the loop.
The next two days were unusual as I got in 10 mile runs on both days. Friday I ran with Petey before sunrise on the roads of Chelmsford. On Saturday I had a very rare run from my house. I haven’t run that often from home, but it was fun having a group show up. I took Mark B, Mark K, Dave Q, Woody, and Double-J out on the most scenic 10 mile loop I had. It also featured a bunch of town lines which featured some all-out sprints. Double-J was complaining on Sunday how much the town line runs had taken out of him.
Sunday was the kick-off of the WMAC Dion snowshoe series. I’ve won the series the last two year, which is kind of weird as my times now are much slower than “back in the day”. Sometimes it just pays to keep showing up! I checked with the RD to make sure the race was on as the temps and rain have done a number on the snow not too mention the ice storm which littered trails with debris (and left Dan without cable for TWO WHOLE DAYS!). I volunteered to add some markings to the course as Woodford has had a tendency to be way under-marked.
I met up with Dreamy Jim and Double-J (along with the lovely and talented Kristen) at the River to reduce our carbon footprint by carpooling. Jim (double-j, not dreamy) started in on me before he even got in the car and his non-stop harassment became the background noise for the entire ride. We made good time to Woodford (less than 3 hours) and found the parking lot already occupied by a fair number of fellow snowshoers. The lot was an ice rink, solid ice with a nice layer of water on top to make it super slippery. Traversing the parking lot would be the most difficult part of the day.
I headed out an hour before the start to make sure I had enough time to mark the course. At 3.5 miles I wasn’t sure if it would take me 30 minutes or an hour, so much depends on snow depth and how much of the trail has been broken. The course was fairly well packed, although not marked in any manner whatsoever. I’d run Woodford three times previously and was pretty confident of the course. Basically you just follow the blue rectangle trail. There were plenty of markers on trees and you could almost make out where the trail had been broken. I was able to put out 100 flags and made it back to the starting line in 38 minutes. I predicted 25-30 minutes to race it (for me), I was feeling pretty tired already and my feet were freezing from running in a lot of slushy snow.
The skies cleared out just before the start and the temps were well into the 40’s when we hit the trail at a sprint. Josh Ferenc took it out hard and had established his lead in the first 600m before we hit the single-track trail. Jim J was about ½ way between the lead and the chase group at that point, and I settled into 6th place with Jim P and another guy a couple of steps in front. I felt tired already, but was looking forward to the rolling hills and the twisting turns where I tend to run better (compared to the fast straight start). About a mile in Matt Cartier pulled ahead of the chase group and slowly closed on Jim J. I shot around Jim P and soon after Tim Mahoney went around Jim as well. I pushed really hard when I got into fourth and soon after worried that I pushed too hard and wouldn’t have anything left.
On the final short climb with about ¾ mile to go I could see Jim J and Matt ahead and I also took a glance back to check out where Jim P and Tim were. It seemed like I was about as far behind Matt as they were behind me. I tried to push; I was worried that over the last 400m both Tim and Jim P would be able to close on me as they both have superior speed. I had just enough distance to hold them off, with numerous glimpses back to check where they were.
Josh won the race for the second year in a row, with Jim J maybe 30 seconds back in second place in his first snowshoe race. Matt took third just under 25 minutes and I came in at 25:15 for fourth place. Tim and Jim P were 5th and 6th respectively, only a few seconds back. We caught our breath at the finish line and watched Abby Woods zoom in for the win. That was her sixth WMAC snowshoe victory which ties her with Cheryl Wheeler for the second most. The women’s leader is Kelli Lusk with 17 wins!
We (the CMS crew) headed out for one more loop around Woodford State Park picking up the flagging. It was amazing how much the course had been packed down by the passage of 83 runners. Despite all of us being pretty beat, we made it around again in just over 33 minutes. Needless to say, we were all pretty tired and hungry when we got back to the parking lot. They had a nice spread including hot beverages that we all happily absorbed. The camaraderie was also present with circles of folks standing around sharing tales of the day. All in all an excellent start to what I hope will be a great snowshoe racing season!