Jim Johnson of CMS had won every edition of the Beaver Brook Snowshoe Race, going back to the first one in 2009. Last year was one of his toughest battles when he went toe to toe with the young newcomer Nacho Hernando. Jim’s climbing strength there enabled him to put some distance on the speedy Hernando.
The conditions all around for 2015 were very different; Nacho was off in Canada where he had competed in the world snowshoe championships for Spain, the conditions were far slower than 2014’s icy race track, and Amarello’s legendary kale soup was swapped out for chicken noodle. The last part about the soup was the toughest change to deal with. I might bring my own kale and chorizo to the next race and drop it into the pot when no one’s looking.
The field size of 86 was up slightly from last year’s 75, but it was definitely missing some depth up front. Due to prior commitments (racing or otherwise), several of the top male and female competitors from the Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (the first race in the Granite State Snowshoe Series) were there. No word yet on whether the lack of kale soup scared them off.
With the vast amount of snow that was received so quickly, the RD wasn’t able to set the tracks on the trails for the normal course, so instead we ran the alternate out and back course. Those of you at home questioning why this would matter, well, breaking trail is incredibly difficult and even on the out and back course that had some tracks in it, the going was still incredibly slow. Think aqua jogging without the risk of drowning.
The competitors lined up at the top of the hill by the start/finish. Laid out before us were two tracks on either side of the wider trails. The tracks were soft, but the snow outside of those narrow tracks nearly untouched and capable of swallowing up your lower legs.
JJ shot out to the front with the start command and was basically off. I was right out on his heels for the first 100m or so, but then he slowly started to pull away. Slowly pulling away is what he would continue to do for the next 2.8ish miles. (Note: race was billed as a 5k but RD announced it was closer to 2.8 with the adjustments. Garmin reading from myself and JJ were in the high 2.4’s but it’s always tougher to get accurate readings in the woods.)
At the turnaround JJ had a good lead on me and I just wanted to keep him in site. However, my new CMS teammate continued to pull away until he was completely gone. I peeked to the side and saw Damon Gannon about as far back of me as JJ was in front of me. It was strung out already so now it was time to get mentally tough.
The going back was especially tough. On the way out the tracks seemed a little packed, but the traffic going over them seemed to only chop it up and make it slower instead of packing it down further. Jim powered through and got the win (his 7th there) in 17:57. “Four-plus hours in the car for a short 3 miles of out and back and no kale soup to show for it. … but I got the ‘W’ so …of course it was totally worth it,” said Jim of the race (jokingly).
I was in next at 18:53, while Damon came in third at 20:20. Damon was also the top masters runner. The next three guys were all acidotic RACING, which made the team competition quite close. But CMS had one more card up their sleeve as Dave Lapierre cemented the team win with his 19th place (25:57) finish.
The first woman was Issy Nielson, representing the Tuesday Night Turtles and making the trek from way down in RI (Warwick) to finish 16th overall in 24:50. Issy was unchallenged as the women were much more spread out than the men. Second place was Sarah Schlaack of aR in 26:59 (who was the top women’s masters runner too) while third place was Keri Bassingthwaite (also of aR) in 27:32.
The next race in the series is the Horsehill race on Saturday, followed up by the make up date for the Moose Mountain Runaround on Sunday. Yep, it’ll be a tough weekend with the double built in. The series standings will be a lot more solid after the results of those are finalized. They are a bit chaotic now with so many of the top runners from the first race missing the second race.