I've been getting mentally prepared for Hawley for a few weeks now. I feel like I'm finally starting to round into shape. Back in August when I stress-fractured my sacrumm I figured it would be April (at best) before I was back in pre-injury shape. I'm not quite there but I feel like I'm ahead of schedule.
I picked up Dan at 6 AM and we head West. Dan was tagging along as I was going to be his transport and housing at the US 50KM road championships that would be held on Long Island on Sunday. We got to the Hawley fire department right on schedule and were surprised to see TIVO alread in the parking lot. He usually shows up late and seems to do very little warm-up. He is also drips of positive vibes. Dan and I hoofed it to the Kiln. Word is that there may be some mystical properties to the Kiln and I could use all the help I can get.
Dan joined me and Tim Mahoney for a three mile road run warm-up. It was a bit chilly and windy and I felt like crap on the way back as Tim and Dan buried me on the uphill. I was doing a lot of mental imagery of the course and I had read over Ed's course description a number of times. If not physically ready I was mentally in the game.
I changed into racing gear, put on my snowshoes and headed out for another mile. The snowmobile trail was firm (even a bit icy) and seemed to be pretty fast going. I also heard that the single track might be tough with post-holing being a problem. That was fine with me, slower and tougher means better for me. I figured my best bet was to hammer the first .7 on the snowmobile trail and get the lead by the single-track. I haven't had a great start this year (my best start was Northfield) and seem to get left a bit flat footed at the beginning of the race. I did a couple of strides and headed to the line.
Ed gave us some final instructions and the field of about 75 was off. I put it on the line from the start. I was hurting within the first 100m and tried to keep the pressure on. The first .7 has a bit of climb and I was huffing and puffing heading up the little rise. I could see TiVO off to my left and knew by sound that Tim Mahoney and Matt Cartier were right behind me. I pushed really hard when I saw we were coming up on the turn and hit the single-track in first.
TiVO was a step behind and Matt was behind him. Tim M took a spill right away as he post-holed. I was doing pretty good with staying on top of the snow but it was a bit rough as you never knew which footfall would land you 12" deeper than the last one. I was a little worried about crashing through on a downhill and having my momentum break a leg or tear a knee. I also could hear that the footfalls behind me were falling back, so I threw caution to the wind and hammered the downhill.
I love the section of the race from 1m to 2m which is twisty and turny and has a fair amount of run-able downhill. Ed had also put up markers every half-mile which is great as you get some feedback as you move along. My knowledge of the course was also helpful as I knew the topography pretty well. Just before 2 miles I exited the woods and hit snowmobile trail for about 50m then a sharp left brought me back into the woods. I glanced back but didn't see anyone. That didn't cause me to ease up, just the opposite....I tried to work harder.
The next mile plus was a bear. It seemed like every fourth step was a post-hole and I kept coming to a complete stop to extract my leg and get going again. Each time I did that I imagined that the chasers were closing in. I didn't panic but I was worried. The next section on the snowmobile trail would have been fast (the footing was) but there is a fair amount of climb. There was also a good long straight stretch where I glanced back to see if anyone was close. I didn't see anyone and pushed harder. I didn't want anyone catching sight of me and then reeling me in.
The last stretch of single-track wasn't bad, the footing was pretty good but it was a fairly tough climb. I just kept thinking "get to 3.9 then it is all downhill". I got to the top and turned on the snowmobile trail. I didn't ease up, I really wanted to make sure I had this one.
I was surprised and happy to get the win by a little over a minute with Matt taking second and TiVO third and Tim rounding out the top four.
Dan and I headed out for a quick warm-down and cheered on the racers coming in. I saw Jay K had a broken shoe and had run in the last 2.6 mile with only one shoe. He must have post-holed like mad!
It has been ten years since my first snowshoe race which was at Hawley and it is still as much fun as the first time out!
Here are my half-mile splits:
431 (a bit long as we looped the kiln) then
508 post holing a lot
351 (.6 miles)
Total 38:34 for 4.6 miles
Pic from bershire sports foto