Ryan really lucked-out again this year with just the right amount of snow a few days before the first snowshoe race of the series. The Bradbury Squall might just have been a mud run with warm temperatures the preceding week, and I might have been okay with that. For whatever reason I get real anxious with shorter distance races. Maybe because there’s a closer-knit competition, albeit all-in-good-fun. Maybe there’s just less pressure in the longer races. Possibly with the little amount of snowshoe running, fewer miles, and less quality miles under my belt this year I knew I wasn’t nearly in the shape I was last year. But I was definitely more rested.
Earlier in the week it became clear that a few of the people I normally chase down in race events were not going to make an appearance. This definitely help nurture the competitive thought process and get the juices flowing. It’s always about who shows up to these races. With that in mind I wanted to win. But did not really think it possible.
I rode up with Zak and his friend Ben who was running his first snowshoe race ever, and briefly met up with Chris to loan him my older snowshoes and wish him luck on his first snowshoe race as well. I hit a quick out-and-back on the road to warm up, attached the snowshoes and warmed up a bit with them as well. The conditions were great and the trail was absolutely bustling with people. Ryan had a record turnout with 62 entries and quite a few people volunteering, cheering, and hanging out in the unseasonably warm weather.
Looking around at the start I searched for some recognizable faces, as well as people I didn’t recognize, sizing them up as best I could. With Ryan coming back strong this winter, Jamie hitting some high mileage, Scott looking strong, and a half-dozen other people with game faces on I could feel the adrenaline surging down to my toes. Ryan gave his usual funny and informative speech, and we were off!
My plan was to settle in behind whoever wanted to race from the blocks. That person ended up being Alan. Tucking in behind him for a few hundred yards I realized I’d have to make a move quick and try to run out the field (a strategy Ryan had explained last year that works really well). Now in the lead I was nervous once again. The pace seemed slower than I wanted but was barely manageable with the tight twists and turns of the Lanzo Trail, not to mention my already red-lined heart-rate and exhaustive breathing. This is a place I’ve never been in during a race. Lead person, target on my back, pressure. I began to pray.
“Pump your arms on the uphill Jeremy, kick your feet out, relax your breathing, don’t look back, hold on. Please, just hold on and don’t blow it. Who’s coming? Ryan, Scott, Jamie. They’re all right there. Getting closer? Damn switchbacks, can’t tell where the hell I am. Lean in to the corners, move your feet, positive thinking, you’ve got this. Why are you breathing so hard? Don’t swallow your tongue, why is it in the way then? Impeding my breathing. Damn is he getting closer? Watch beeps. !@#%@$^ only one mile?”
Finally to the Link Trail and some striding to help put some distance between me and Scott. Of course Scott has real long legs and can cover a lot of ground when he wants to. With a few glimpses of him in my rear view it was all about holding on and hoping I could maintain until the end. Luckily there were more possibilities to throw in some speed, but I that gave Scott the opportunity to gain some ground, and Jamie wasn’t far behind.
The halfway point and the slobbering, sucking wind and snot-rockets reached a crescendo. The rest of the race was a blur with a few normally minor inclines, which today felt like mountains, an ice bridge which cracked on impact, and a strap which repeatedly got under my cleat allowing my foot to slide around every corner. Then the final quarter-mile, a lovely downhill, and a beautiful straight-away to the smiling and friendly faces of the finish.
I thought I was going to pass out at the end and collapse to my knees but wanted to make sure I cheered on Scott, Jamie and the rest of the crew flying through the finish. Another wonderful race put on by the Trail Monsters and wonderful people supporting. It was a great day all around as many other people had great races too. Scott, who’s only run a few times this year, crushed it. Jamie made amazing strides from previous years. Zak definitely found his groove. Chris ran a solid race, very impressive for his first ever. Ryan played it smart and stopped before his injury progressed (but he’ll be back strong). Chuck, Alan, David, Danielle, Kate, Chandra, Zak’s friend Ben and all the TM’s raced so well. It’s always impressive and uplifting to be around so many inspiring people.
A big thanks to Ryan and all the supporters, crew, and volunteers as well as Maine Running Photos for the pics!