Sunday, March 8, 2009
2009 snowshoe nationals
I woke up this morning to find a somewhat rare dusting of snow on the ground in Portland OR. Mt Hood got a fair amount of snow overnight. We headed out leaving ample time for the drive as the mountain road is popular with skiers and it would have a decent coating of snow. We hit the parking lot just as the junior race was heading out.
The weather was much nicer than yesterday, with the winds much milder and the snow not flying. The sun was even peeking out. The area looked totally different than when we struggled through the flying snow. You could see most of the first 1/2 mile of course climbing up the valley.
We headed for registration to pick up packets as they were not ready yesterday. The race management was sloppy at best and downright uncaring about the athletes at worst. Registration (I had pre-registered) was very slow and I was told "You'll be getting a large shirt, that is all we have". I thought about mentioning that I had ordered a medium when I had registered over a month ago, but just let it go. Rich had mentioned that the race management had a laid back style. Laid back was a nice way of putting it. I would call them unprofessional. I was mocked when I asked if they had an entrants list. So much for this being a "national championship".
We headed back to the car and to prepare for a warm-up. The ladies race took off on schedule at 11:00, with us soon to follow at 11:45. The course was a 2-loop 5km with 1,100' of climb (550' per loop). Unfortunately the timing of the events would mean that a lot of the women would get lapped out on the course. The described course from the website was not quite what was being run on. Rather than a mix of single-track and wide trail it was 100% single-track. Not a big deal, but it could be difficult for passing.
We did a 2 mile warm-up by doing many loops around the parking lot, there was nowhere else to run. After that a quick switch to racing gear and we headed off to do another few minutes on snowshoes. I threw in 4 or 5 pick-ups and it was time to go. I had seen Brandy Erholtz (US mountain team member) storm through the first loop under 30 minutes so it looked like the race was going to be (relatively) quick.
After a few words from USSSA sports director Mark Elmore we were off in a flurry of snow. My goal was a top 15 finish, I'd be disappointed with anything over 20th (based on past results and my current form). Within 100m of the start I was in a line of runners and I counted off 14 in front of me. Perfect. Soon the line began to slow a bit and I jumped into the powder and went by 3 guys. Around 1/2 mile into the race we got to the steepest pitch. I felt very good and asked two guys to let me pass. They willingly let me as they were walking. After cresting the top I reeled in a few other guys and by the mile I found myself in 5th place. This was a major surprise.
I pushed, but not too hard, figuring I wanted to have something for the second lap. I was just over 14 minutes at the top. The downhill was steady and had few sharp turns, which is great for me. The snow was packed well and the runnig was easy. I felt bad asking some of the women to step aside (yelling "track" as I approached). It really wasn't fair to them to give way but mark had mentioned at the start that slower runs should yeild the trail. I hit the 2nd loop in 24 minutes (10:35 for the downhill), and started the second climb. According to the time stamps on the pics Kelli took the leader was 1:49 up on me at the end of lap one. He had a seven second lead. Third and 4th were 50 and 55 seconds in front of me.
This was the first time since early in the race that I could see the leaders. Peter Fain and Kelly Mortenson were well up but seemed to be locked in a great duel. I saw Charlie Wertheim as he caught Andrew Kless in the steep bowl. They were at least a minute up on me. When I hit the top of the bowl I looked back and figured I had a good minute on the next guy. I started thinking I might be able to hold 5th and make the US snowshoe team. I tried to push hard to the top, knowing that my downhill running is not the best.
I hit the top 13 minutes since passing the start line, which was a little better than lap one but we had not done a little section (100m) down near the start. I really tried to hammer the downhill. About half-way down I passed Rich Busa who offered some encouragement, he looked to be moving steadily and I yelled "give 'em hell Rich" as I went by. I felt a bit beat up on the downhill, my back and my bum ankle was giving me a lot of grief. I checked my watch twice knowing that the down would only be 10 minutes. I looked at 5 minutes and again at 8 minutes. I was also running out of steam. Maybe the altitude was getting to me (4,600' at the top) or maybe I was just tired. Whatever. With about a minute to go I heard footsteps and heavy breathing. I ramped it up as much as I could, but with about 25 meters to go he sprinted by and I had no answer. I crossed the line beat, but pleased with a 6th place finish. The guy who beat me was also in the 45-49 age group as was the 3rd place finisher. So I got 6th overall and was 3rd in the 45-49, yikes! From the times on the pictures, the guy who beat me came from way back. He ran conservatively on the first loop and I was 1:41 ahead of him after 5km!
Rich came in a couple of minutes later, running well despite his knee woes that have severly curtailed his training. We quickly changed into dry clothes and did another 2 miles in the parking lot. Results were somewhat posted but confusing as they had times listed from when the first race of the day started (example: Peter Fain 2:08:59 - he won the race in about 45 minutes). We didn't wait around for them to get results as it didn't seem like that would be happening anytime soon. After chatting with some of the Dungeon rock folks and the Dion's we hit the road.
All in all it was a good day. The course was fantastic and I'm sure on a clear day the views would be spectacular. I won't let poor race management spoil my day! On to the East coast where racing is taken seriously. :-)
Sort of results:
1 Brandy Erholtz
2 Sonja Wieck - 6:30 back
3 Casey Shea - 2 seconds behind Wieck
1 Peter Fain CA 44:43 (all times approx)
2 Kelly Morenson MN 45:21
3 Charlie Wertheim CO 46:27
4 Andrew Kless NY 46:47
6 Dave Dunham MA 47:59
12 Rich Bolt OR 51:09