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February 15, 2009

Gettin’ My "Giddy-Up" On At Horse Hill

Yesterday I ran my first-ever snowshoe race: Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race. It was fantastic and surprisingly not as hard as I anticipated! With the sun shining, a light breeze and hard-packed, minimal-slush trails, conditions were perfect for this first-timer! Was this nature’s and SS’s way of telling me I was in the right place?

The first and last time I strapped on my snowshoes was February 12, 2006—nearly three years ago to the day. I wrote in my log that P and I hiked in the Cochran Bird Sanctuary during a blizzard and that it was difficult. Time to dust off those Atlas Electra’s and take up Dan S on his invitation to join in the SS fun. I signed on with Dungeon Rock Racing in hopes of helping them with a few points in the series scoring. I did a lot better than I ever imagined (3rd female overall) and earned some points for them but, alas, not enough to nudge out their competition.

I left Andover, Mass. with oodles of time to spare and I’m relieved I did because I got lost finding the Nature Preserve in Merrimack and instead ended up finding Amherst and Hollis, NH. Eventually I arrived at the race with five minutes to run from my car, register, strap on my SS and line up in the rear. My .3-mile run from the car was my warm up. Seeing the familiar faces of Jay, Dan, Brian, and Jeanne was a calming relief and after the race I was happy to catch my breath with them as well as Diane and Laurel (who’d caught her breath long before).

Lesson #1: SS racing is hot—hotter than trail running! I figured if I was cold at the starting line, I was properly dressed for the race. Not so. At about 3.5k into the course I was stripping off my
headband and gloves, and wishing for fewer top layers. For comic relief, I imagined self-combusting on the trail and having the next runner come upon my smoldering SS frames! Lesson #2: carry water (no watering holes in the woods).

I loved the thunderous sound of the start—the click clack of 100-plus snowshoes moving forward like a herd of wild horses. After the 1-2k mark, I was in the middle of a small team. The pace was comfortable and I already learned from racing in general Lesson #3: do NOT go out too fast. I did not and felt comfortable, as though I was on a training run for the majority of the race. As the hills arrived I power-walked passed people and found myself a ways behind Diane. Then we pulled away from the others. At about 3.6 miles I started to fatigue. My runs haven’t been longer than 4.5 miles since last year and I’m averaging about six to 12 miles per week, so it’s no surprise I faded. Lesson #4: SS running is a harder work out than running on hilly snowy trails, even when post-holing.

I was thankful for Diane being in sight; she was a wonderful carrot that kept me on pace and focused. She led us up and over hills with her incredible stamina, consistency and grace. I think I would have started to build snowmen in the woods if it wasn’t for her. Lesson #5: there is a time and a place for building snowmen. SS racing is not one of them.

With about 1.5k remaining I decided to pass Diane. She asked, “Emily, is that you?” I thought she knew I was behind her. When I passed her, my tank was on “E” and thought “what the heck am I doing?” I playfully Trail-Pixie joked, “yes, come and get me!” She did. I anticipated sprinting it out with her over the last 1/2 mile (with her finishing ahead) but not today. I thought for sure she’d pull ahead. We both must have been tired and I finished fewer than 30 seconds ahead.

Diane continues to inspire me. In past years I ran with her on the Rochester Runners. She’s a consistent and phenomenal road runner who’s successfully added trail running to her resume. She’s an awesome uphill runner (I learned this at Northfield Mountain '08) and in this SS race she proved it once again, pulling away from me on the ups. I am an adventurous down hill runner so that’s where I closed the gap in this event. I must say I am relieved that we are in different age groups because it keeps our trail racing company playfully competitive and motivating. Furthermore, the older I get the less competition I feel with other runners and the more I aim to challenge my own ability to greater heights. I also enjoy being part of a team and working together.

Lesson #6: There is a Right and a Left foot for SS. The buckle and straps face the outside. After the race Jeanne asked me if I had put my SS on the correct feet; she thought she saw that mine were possibly, switched and on the wrong feet. I found hilarious because it is just the kind of goof-ball thing I would do! Purely by accident, I did end up putting my SS on the correct feet. Still I suffered many snowshoe (and other) malfunctions during the race. Apart from accidentally flinging my car key into the woods two times and a garment conundrum, I had to stop a lot to tighten my SS straps!

I also kept banging the cleat/frame of my SS into my right ankle, wincing in pain each time. I new I was bleeding but Trail-Pixie is tough! On the drive home I gooped some hand sanitizer (gross, I know) on the area and took two Advil. When I saw P later that day and showed him my battle wound, he said “Em, that’s swollen!” Indeed it was and I was off to ice! Lesson # 7: Pin car key to inside of pants; Lesson #8: Crank down SS straps very tightly, or invest in Dion Snowshoes; Lesson #9: Wear some protective gaiters or apply moleskin with duct tape to ankle area (thanks Brian); Lesson #10: If it feels right, for the right reasons, carry on......snowshoeing.

For photos by Steve W go to: http://hav2run.shutterfly.com or via his blog: have2run. Thanks for being out there, Steve! Dan, Thanks for encouraging me to come and SS!

5 comments:

Steve W said...

I love the pic of your ankle! Too funny. Don't worry, you are not alone...trust me. Mine is dinged and bruised as well. Great job out there in your first snowshoe race!
Steve

Trail Pixie said...

Steve W, Thanks for taking pix. Also, you had a FAST run at Horse Hill. How do you do it? Woah, nelly... so speedy. Time to ice the ankle. ;-)
Cheers and see you out there.....!

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your first SS race. When Dan and I said you'd end up with nice legs, we didn't think you'd go out and distroy your ankle. Then again my right ankle is in the same shape as yours. I hope to be able to talk to you at the next race. Sorry I had to scoot after the awards.

See you at Joppa Hill on the 28th.

Running and living said...

Hey Emily,
Congrats on a great SS race. I have yet to try them. Next year, for sure. Sounds like you had a great race and lots of fun! See you soon, Ana

Trail Pixie said...

Scotty, I'm running in the MS Fells on 2/28 so I won't be at the Joppa Hill ;-( though I'll be there in spirit! Will look forward to another SS event soon...if there are more...will explore. Talk soon!