Sunday, February 1, 2009

2009 Northfield Mountain Snowshoe race


7th annual Northfield Mountain snowshoe race

Over 70 runners took advantage of beautiful weather (20's and sunny) and excellent snow conditions in the 7th tour of the scenic trails around and over Northfield Mountain. Most of the race took place on the "snowshoe only" trails which also happen to be some of the more scenic trails on the Mountain.

I set out nearly 300 surveyor flags on Friday afternoon and found the conditions to be very slow going. There was between 6-24" of snow on the ground and there was a thick icy crust on top of that. I was the first snowshoer, since the 6" of snow that fell earlier in the week, to make my way over the loop. The going was quite snow and I took about a dozen headers on the 800' of descent.

Thanks to the crack DRC timing and scoring crew I was able to head out for a "normal" warm-up prior to the race. After some brief instruction, including a reminder that everyone needed to really pay attention to the flagging in order to stay on course, we were off in a flurry of snow.

Ben Nephew (CMS) took it out hard and lead the way as we hit the single-track snowshoe trail after the initial groomed 200 meters where the pack could sort out positions. Josh Ferenc (BAA) and Justin Fyffe (CMS) had both won WMAC races earlier this year and by 400m into the race they both went around Nephew. Ferenc then accelerated and strung out the chase pack behind him. The trail was much firmer than Friday and the going seemed quite fast (under 10 minutes for Ferenc for the first mile which climbed about 400').

I made a move and went around Greg Hammett (CMS) just before the mile mark (10:02) then went past Ben soon after. I found a good rhythm on the climb and closed on the tall guy who I didn’t recognize who was in third place. On the long climb up the outflow pipe trail I could see Josh way out in front and Justin about halfway between. It was around this time that I thought “This guy looks like Leigh Schmmitt” but I dismissed that as Leigh hadn’t run a WMAC race in a few years. He does a bunch of Ultra races now including taking 2nd place (to Paul Low) at last year’s Snowshoe marathon in Pittsfield VT.

I tried to accelerate on the groomed road section near the top of the climb but couldn’t seem to cut into the “tall guys” lead. I was hoping that we were pulling away from Ben, Greg, and Tim Mahoney (CMS) who were not far behind. The out and back section to the viewing platform gave everyone an opportunity to scope out the competition. It was there that I realized it actually was Leigh Schmmitt. Dang! We first raced each other 10 years ago in my first snowshoe race back at the Hawley Kiln. The years have been much kinder to Leigh than to me.

I could see that Ben, Tim, and Greg were in a tight bunch and not too far behind us at the turn. We started the descent and immediately Leigh was gone. Now I started listening for Ben to catch up. I hit the 2m mark in 20:45 (for a split of 10:43) and tried to concentrate on staying on my feet. The snow was great for running and I figured I was rolling along pretty well. I also figured Ben was chewing away at my lead in leaps and bounds. I hit three miles in 29:13 (8:27 split). The final .8 would be almost all on groomed trail and at the turn off the single-track I looked back. Ben was close behind. I pushed as hard as I dared and must have looked back a dozen times in that last section. I ended up holding off Ben by 10 seconds to take fourth place overall. The last .8 was covered in 4:24 for a total time of 33:36.

Josh extended his lead to about 30 seconds by the viewing platform near the summit. He extended his lead over Justin to over a minute with a very strong descent, despite taking a couple of spills. Ferenc's time was a new course record by over three minutes. The top seven all finished under the record from 2008. Justin had a solid run, and Leigh showed his descending speed really cutting into Justin’s lead.

Abby Woods (CMS) continued her dominance of the WMAC/Dion snowshoe series with her 10th win in her last 10 races from this season and last season. She has yet to lose a snowshoe race and today won by nearly 5 minutes breaking the course record by over 5 minutes and finishing 15th overall in a very competitive field. Full results are on coolrunnning. Over 300 pictures on photobucket.

The entire top 10, plus a couple of others (including Abby) went out for a warm-down doing the loop again. It was great to have a huge group going out to pick up the flagging. That is the most difficult post-race task for the RD. We had a lot of fun and the snow was great! The warm-down loop only took us 45 minutes!

All in all it was a great day at Northfield. I’m looking forward to going back in March for the Mass. State Championships.

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