Snowshoe runner? Check. I ran the Whitaker Woods 4 Mile Snowshoe Scramble in North Conway, NH. This is the first of seven scheduled races in the 2014 Granite State Snowshoe Series. Being a first-timer, I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this race other than a PR and a dose of humility.
The conditions were a bit icy. I was counting on the claws of my snowshoes to keep me upright as I jogged around the field prior to the start of the race. There were roughly 100 participants, the largest turnout this race has ever seen, and an indicator that snowshoe racing is taking hold in the Granite State.
Snowshoeing draws an athletic, outdoorsy crowd. They are the same runners you see at road races, but with a slightly harder edge. These guys and girls are tough. They enjoy the elements, the effort, and the competition. For men, especially those in the masters age group, an ‘ice beard’ is the norm.
I tucked my Popsicle stick (#27) in my waistband and headed to the starting area located deep in the left field side of the local ball park. I was not prepared for the cacophony created by a herd of snowshoe runners. I’ve never been caught up in a stampede of horses, but that’s what I thought of immediately. The thunderous sound of metal claws and aluminum snowshoe frames hitting the frozen surface was both ominous and impressive.
As we headed into the trees is became clear that this was going to be a challenging roller coaster ride up and down hills. I found myself covering groomed nordic ski trails and trickier single track sections requiring a decent amount of finesse and balance. Running uphill on snowshoes isn’t easy. But, running downhill on snowshoes is no picnic either. I was concentrating most of my efforts to stay on my feet (and out of the trees).
I ran in a pair of Gold 12 snowshoes manufactured by CrescentMoon. I was worried that the rolling of my feet in the tough single track areas would be enough to loosen the bindings, but they worked perfectly. In a crowd of white Dion snowshoes, these beautiful screamin’ yellow CrescentMoon shoes really shined.
I didn’t crack the top ten in this race, but I covered the challenging course in decent time. I’m already planning to attack the next race with a different strategy. It pays to get a quick start in these races. Passing runners is much more difficult in a single track environment on snowshoes, than it is on the open roads.
All in all, it was challenging and invigorating. I was thrilled to be running in the woods surrounded by the clean smell of the pine trees and the crisp winter air. The workout was akin to some demonic sandpit hill-training intervals with weights strapped to your feet, but hey… what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, right?
Click here to see the overall winners in their custom Snuggies.