Monday, January 11, 2010

Saturday, 01/09/10 Hardwater Snowshoe Race

Hardwater 11 Mile Snowshoe Race
2nd place
Race website

For months, my good friend Kevin Lund had been talking about putting on a snowshoe race on the Sourdough Trail in early January to fill the void left by the cancellation of the Turquoise Lake 20 mile snowshoe race in Leadville that traditionally has been held on the same weekend.

I was reluctant to commit, given that the weather up there is often times cold and windy this time of year and the host of usual other excuses I might have not to race. I put the idea mostly out of my mind, but spoke with Kunkle (he and Keith B were signed up for the 30k) and Kevin Thursday evening and was reminded of it. Kevin also informed me that there was the option to register on race day for only $20and there was a pair of Vasque shoes up for grabs. On Friday, I mulled it over, debating whether or not to race or volunteer, yet ultimately decided that with no other plans, a perfect forecast and the fact that Allison was enthusiastic to race it as well, it would be a great workout at the very least.

This was a very small race, 25 participants total, almost evenly spread out between the 11 miler, and the 30k option. We assembled at the start line in the Sourdough TH parking lot for the 9am race start and there were several very fast and fit looking guys stretching and warming up. Though it was a small race, you never know who is going to show up and blow your doors off in this neck of the woods and this was looking to be yet another one of those instances.

We started at 9am sharp and I led it out across the lot and onto the trail. This being my first snowshoe race and really my first time running in snowshoes, I had no idea what to expect or how to pace myself regarding speed. I held the effort high, but was careful not to blow too soon and just maintained a steady tempo. I could hear breathing behind me, but I did not want to look back and alter my focus.

A guy in a Redfeather Snowshoe Race Team kit (Greg) soon came along side, then passed me within the first ~1/2 mile or so and got a bit of a gap. He looked pretty fast, fit and decked out, so I figured he would just continue to increase his lead, but was surprised to maintain my deficit at a consistent 15-25 seconds for the next few miles, almost constantly keeping him in sight (it helped that his outfit had a lot of red).

I dared not look back, but I could not hear anyone for quite some time and assumed we had opened a good gap on the remainder of the field. At around 2.5 to 3 miles on one of the switchbacks, I could see Brian Hunter closing in, though I was not worried, as I knew he was racing the 30k. I held the gap for a while, but soon Brian passed on a loose snowy section and I gave him encouragement as he took off down the hill. He was looking great and really flying, going on to win the 30k, nice job Brian! I am assuming that when he closed in on Greg, they both really upped the pace and were racing one another, since the gap went from ~25 seconds to 2 minutes by the time I arrived at the turnaround aid station just below the gate for Brainard Lake.

At the turnaround, I skipped their services and did an immediate u-turn in hot pursuit of Greg. I figured he would continue to put time on me, but I chased for all I was worth regardless. Before long, I started passing other racers still going the other way and was getting encouraging time checks. Allison gave me some great encouragement and was a great motivational boost. I was feeling better than I thought I might given my moderate fitness and lack of specific training for this (none) and kept the effort high. Though climbing is normally my strength, my quads were starting to balk a bit on some of the short but steeper inclines. This was certainly due to the effort, but I also think 11,000 vertical feet in the snow the previous week was not the best taper after being sick and sedentary for 2 weeks (excuses??).

I kept hoping to see a glimpse of red through the trees, yet saw none. I asked a guy on skis what the gap was near the 8 mile point and heard something along the lines of 4 minutes. My hope was a bit dashed here and my thoughts of catching Greg diminished significantly and my new focus was to just limit my losses and not get caught from behind. Though my thoughts wavered, I did manage to maintain my effort and soon started to pass other people recreating on the trail, giving encouragement that I was really close. What does that mean? 4 minutes? 2 minutes? Less than a minute? The last ~1.5 miles trend downhill with some flat toward the end. The trees are somewhat open, but I guess were just thick enough to hide in. I was flying through this section, feeling surprisingly quick and strong, hardly noticing that I had snowshoes on my feet, with a surge of adrenaline knowing the finish was near and that I might be closing in on my competitor.

In what seemed like a flash, yet an eternity at the same time, the trail ended and the finish line appeared. To my astonishment, I could see Greg just ~150-200 feet ahead, about the same distance or less to the finish line. Sprinting out of the woods, across the road and through the parking lot, I gave it all I had and ended up just seconds back. The results have me down as 11 seconds behind, but I think it was a bit closer. I was stoked to be so close, as I really thought the whole time that I was further back, yet being so close was a bit difficult, knowing that, well…. I was SOOO CLOSE!!!

We exchanged congrats, then I immediately dashed off to the aid station near the Brainard gate to give Kevin my snowshoes so he could use them to sweep the course (he loaned his nice ones to Allison for the race). I rallyed the snowy roads to get there in time, but missed him by 10-15 minutes. I was bummed to not get to hang out at the finish and talk with Greg more and cheer on the remaining finishers.

I did however make it back in time to cheer Allison across the line and though she was toward the back, she was not last and had a great time as well.

Though the race was small, it was well organized, close to home, inexpensive, had many great prizes (Vasque shoes for Male and Female winners in both distances) and some awesome raffle prizes handed out at the finish, including a super nice backpack that was really the grand prize. The course was awesome too and I heard from several who ran the entire 30k and they stated that it was very challenging, perhaps more so than the Turquoise Lake race.

Thanks to Kevin, Reid and Kristen for organizing/volunteering your time. Hopefully they are able to put on this race again next year, I will be there for sure and I will highly recommend it to others. What a great day!


  1. Sweet! More snow shoe racing for you in the future perhaps?

  2. I would still be out there if I raced that one. Can't keep my feet from being on top of one and other in those things. And then you go and race in them and hit the podium? You are the Rock Star!

  3. Nice running, Jeff! What kind of condition is the Sourdough Trail in? Worth running in just running shoes or Microspikes?

  4. Thanks guys.

    GZ, yeah, I would definitely like to race another snowshoe race, maybe something that is all uphill!

    Tony, running from S. to N., the first half is packed enough that if you went while it was below freezing, I think it would be fine running with just microspikes (did you finally get a pair??). Beyond that, it might be touch and go as it has seen much less snowshoe/ski traffic, but would improve as you neared Brainard. Of course conditions change day to day.

  5. Congrats Jeff! But wait a second..doesnt this compute to about 10 minute miles? ;)

    You should consider the screaming snowman in Ned in February. Awesome single track race..

  6. I ran into Kevin on the Sourdough trail out snowshoeing with Kat the weekend before. He tried to talk me into coming out for the race.

    Great race. More in the future?