Shoe to the Clouds

by EJN Comments (0) Articles

Originally this was going to be a double race report. There was no better time do it for than last weekend’s slate of races. Saturday night featured the Kingman Farms Moonlight race (a snowshoe race through the trails at Kingman Farms) with only our headlamps and the moonlight there to light our way. The very next morning was Ski & ‘Shoe to the Clouds, a race with a course that ventured through the Great Glen Trails for 2.5 miles before heading up the Mt. Washington Auto Road for the last 3.5. Epic.

But who wants to hear from the guy who took a wrong turn and got a big old DNF in the process? That’s what happened to me at the Kingman Farms Moonlight snowshoe race. Instead I’ll leave that to Jim Johnson (who won uncontested) and Danny Ferreira, who doubled back and finished up properly after taking a wrong turn too.

As for me, I was just too damn cold to be out there any longer. Besides, I wasn’t entirely sure where I went wrong. I knew there was a good chance of that happening before the race even started. Looking back on it, I think I know now where it all fell apart. If the guidance at that spot was beefed up then maybe we would’ve been fine. Since Jim was out of sight, I along with the other 5 guys chasing him all ended up going wrong there. But it’s a nighttime snowshoe race which means it’s not only challenging to navigate (especially for directionally impaired guys like me) but it’s also challenging to set up. It’s quite possible that in broad daylight that intersection wouldn’t be confusing at all.

The real disappointment is having my battle with Chris Mahoney go to waste. After he destroyed me at Horse Hill a few weeks earlier I was right there with him that night. Oh well. It’s either that or our devastating loss in the post-race chili cook off.

My wife whipped up a batch of her delicious chili for the contest. We even named it ’50 Shades of Heat’ and gave it the tag line of ‘Prepare to have your tastebuds blindfolded and spanked.’ Somehow we lost. It’s baffling. We tried to not let it get us down as there was still plenty to do that weekend.

Trying to think positive, I realized that in taking our wrong turn we cut out the back part of the course that featured the only real climbing. On the bright side it meant I was more rested for Sunday morning’s race. All I needed was a good night’s sleep and I should be no worse for the wear. Easy, right?

We hit the road and continued on north up to Jackson, NH. By the time we got to bed it was pretty late. We settled in to our hotel bed only to find that someone had postholed the shit out of it. The only thing we can think of is that someone was really jumping up and down with intent to destroy. Either that or it was some dangerous kind of White Mountain sex act that hasn’t quite made its way into the mainstream yet. While the exact cause might be unclear, the end result was a dead mattress (matricide?). At that point the hotel was sold out and had nothing for us. Sleep was awful that night (luckily they refunded our money the next day without us even needing to ask).

Still about a mile or so to go here, I think. Legs were toast. Courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

Made it to the starting line the next morning with roughly 50 seconds to spare. A little too close, even for me. They kept suggesting we take the tunnel to get to the other side of the road, where the starting line was in sight. Crossing the street on the surface was a straight shot, but using the tunnel meant taking the ‘scenic route’. That was a pleasant surprise.

My heart was still racing when the gun went off, which isn’t exactly good for your confidence. With the way things had been going lately I was now thinking this race would just be a straight up DNF.

The gun went off and I momentarily entertained the thought of hanging back but it didn’t feel right. Seeing a seam open up, I shot through it and took my place just off of Kevin Tilton. Kevin’s a mountain guy, I’m still trying to get back to 2011 shape…this was not the ideal race strategy.

I hit the first mile in 6:34 and was only a few seconds back of Kevin. I must admit that I was feeling pretty good, too. The terrain was rolling and the trail was well groomed and fast. The only problem was that this section of the course didn’t really matter. You needed to get through it and be in a competitive position and with plenty in the tank for the climb up the auto road.

The two goals I had now were a.) keep Kevin in sight for as long as possible and b.) don’t get swallowed up by the field. Kevin had already started to really pull away over the course of that second mile (7:12 for me), and by the time we hit the base of the Auto Road (2.5 miles in) he was cruising all by himself. But he was still in sight surprisingly and I was actually able to keep him there for a good stretch climbing up that beast. My third mile split, which was half trail and half mountain, was 9:28. Panic nearly set in as I wondered if I’d be able to maintain a steady pace on the climb.

Although I felt like I was falling apart badly, the watch said otherwise. However, my mile splits for the 3 full miles on the auto road were 12:00, 12:10 and 12:25. Since I had done the road race the previous summer and did all right, I thought I was prepared for what was coming here. In reality it was much more difficult than I anticipated. But since I had made it however far in second place, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was relinquish now. I powered through.

The last mile and a half featured more deals and promises to myself than I care to mention, but that’s the level of suffering that was being endured. For time, my A goal was under an hour and my B goal was sub-65:00. Realizing sub-60 for the 10k was near impossible (at 4 mi in) I adjusted and thought sub-63 was the mark to shoot for. I was on pace for it too (at about 5.75 mi) when people started telling me the finish was just ahead. Apparently it’s only a 6 mile race and not a 10k…so all of a sudden sub-60 was back on the table. I threw whatever was left into it and was able to get through the line with a few seconds to spare.

When the dust settled (I use that term loosely because the dust was under a couple of feet of snow), new course records had been set by Kevin Tilton (52:22) and Leslie O’Dell (1:05:53). Full results here.

Men’s podium, featuring new course record hold Kevin Tilton on top. Women’s course record holder Leslie O’Dell was working the camera.

Ended up cooling back down the mountain to the lodge with Tilton, soaking in the spectacular views afforded by such a beautiful day the entire way. I tried to do that on the way up as well but it’s just so much easier to do on the way down.

Spoils from the weekend, including the six pack of sympathy given to me by JJ from his raffle winnings on Saturday night. Notice a certain soup slip in there?

The after party and awards were great, except for the Soup Nazi. In addition to all of the food available to buy, we all got a free cup of steaming hot tomato soup for doing the race. The only catch: you needed to turn in the tiny slip of paper for it, the one that was jammed into your pre-race goody bag. Mine was still in my goody bag, in my car, which was now about 20 miles away. It’s only a cup of soup, right? Shouldn’t be a big deal. WRONG!

I stepped up the register with soup in hand and explained that I didn’t have my slip. The cashier, clearly not in a position to make such calls, gave a timid smile and said she needed it. I was a little shocked. Then an older, manager-type woman passed by and the cashier mentioned that I didn’t have my ticket. Without stopping to consider the ridiculousness of their stance, the woman fired back angrily “no ticket, no soup!” W…T…F…

It seems silly now, but at the time it was more appalling. I was cold, tired, hungry and she added ‘frustrated’ to that list. Considering runners just went more than halfway up Mt Washington in the dead of winter and then had to run back down, are you really going to deny them that comfort food because they lost your business card-sized scrap of paper? I tried to explain that I had just run the race and was unaware I needed that slip, and she said I’d have to find so-and-so, but luckily that nice lady was right there and she made it right. I found that slip later on and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it now. Maybe I’ll keep it in my wallet at all times; it must possess magic powers. We had a good laugh about the whole ordeal.

Goofed off on the podium a little waiting for Kevin Tilton to take his perch at the top. That’s Andrew Drummond (3rd place) on the right. Thanks to Leslie O’Dell for taking this masterpiece.

Finishing second overall in that grueling race was the high note I needed to end the weekend on after the disappointment of the DNF on Saturday night. Both were very unique and fun events (especially if you like suffering) and I strongly recommend checking them out next year.

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