04 Mar 2015
Race Day: Saturday, February 28, 2015 – 10am
Driving to Eau Claire, WI, I felt a different mood than most higher priority races. I didn’t feel nervous, I didn’t have a specific goal, and I wasn’t scared of complete failure. This was to be a fun race. And a fun race it was!
After qualifying at Boulder Lake, Nick, Kyle and I all tossed around the idea of what to do for Snowshoe Nationals. We all qualified but didn’t read the bold, underlined and all caps print that says you need to be a USSSA (the governing body of snowshoe running in the U.S.) member before the qualifying race, and neither one of us were current members. So, we were questioning whether we’d be able to race at all. Regardless, the initial plan was to race the 10k on Saturday, which is the true national championship, then race the half marathon national championships on Sunday after staying the night in Eau Claire.
When race day approached, we sorted out the membership stuff and knew we could all race. Kyle decided not to join, and Nick and I decided not to sink the whole weekend and a lot more cash and to just go down for the 10k only.
We woke up early on Saturday, around 6am, to make the 2.5 hour drive into the heart of Wisconsin. The temperatures were very cold, but slated to warm up as we drove.
With coffee and Mountain Dew, we both were getting pretty jacked up for the race, but no nerves. Usually for a big race, I am nervous and tense, but it didn’t feel like a “big” race, even though it’s a national championship! What other sports can I qualify for an event of this caliber? Probably not many…
We arrived with perfect timing to get registered and set up and go for a nice warmup jog. The temps were really prime and the sun was shining in abundance. There wasn’t much snow, however, for better or worse.
Eventually, we lined up for the race start. There were a few guys I recognized from the Boulder Lake race and I could tell some guys were going to go hard. It’s a national championship after all… The start line was very wide but there was a 90-degree left turn about 50 or 100 yards right off the bat. I lined up far right with the intention to swing wide and get in front of some guys. “Go!” came from the speakers and we were off in a flapping flurry. The lack of snow made visibility a bit easier, and the race was underway.
The start stayed wide for a while, so jockeying so hard for a good position wasn’t completely necessary. I stayed on Nick’s tail for a bit while we entered the park trails. A short, steep valley separated the group a bit, and then the places became a little more solidified once we got onto some singletrack trail. There were definitely a few guys in front of me, but I was in a good position and feeling good. My breath was out of control, but I felt good. I could tell the lead guys were really pushing hard to break away and Nick was still much closer to me. He’s going to have to really crank it up if he wants to content, I thought to myself.
At 1 or 2k into the race, the race positions really seemed to start sorting out. The lead group of 3 guys was completely out of view, and Nick was on the back of a second group of guys who were definitely pulling away from me. I could hear people right behind me, so I tried to keep pushing but wanted to get my breathing under control. Perhaps 3k in, I was decidedly passed by a dude in all black… very formidable. Looking behind me brought some mental relief because there was nobody right on me. So when my overtaker started putting some time on me, I was racing all alone by myself. Story of my life…
The meat of the race was relatively uneventful. The course was sweet–a mixture of groomed ski trails and technical singletrack mountain bike trail. Some sections of the singletrack were completely snowless, however, which was a little weird to run on with snowshoes. It was definitely easy running, and I think a powdery course would have slowed everybody significantly. My breathing came to and I felt totally in control by 5k. I was pretty much in between my overtaker and another kid a few hundred feet back. I can hold this spot, I thought to myself.
To my delight, the guy in black overtook another racer and I noticed that this guy was fading hard. I started reeling a guy in a green vest, which felt good. On a section of singletrack, I made a strong surge to get right on this guy’s back. Once we popped out onto the ski trail, it was my turn to make a decisive pass! Unfortunately, green vest guy was decisively passed over and over during the race. One more spot up and I was still rolling along. I wondered what place I was in and I wondered if the kid behind me was gaining on me. The switchbacks were deceptive, and it looked like he was on my neck until we’d turn onto the straightaways and he’s way back there. If I ever felt like he was gaining on me, I’d summon some quick-access fuel and surge ahead.
I saw the 9k marker and put on the afterburners to ensure that I would not get passed in an embarrassing last-minute fashion. I could see buildings out through the last singletrack section and felt like a power-beast blasting past a photographer.
Once out in the open, I could see the guy in all black turning towards the finish line. Flat and packed down, yet windy, I let ‘er rip. A quick glance over my shoulder and I knew I locked in my place. I could see Nick and those who finished before me at the finish line and sprinted in towards them.
I felt super happy to have executed a great race. What a confidence booster… Nick reckoned I came in 12th or so and I was so amped up to look at the results and read that I was 10th overall and 3rd in the 25-29 age group. Nick had a fantastic race by reeling in a lot of guys right up to the last kilometer, which netted him 5th place and a spot on the U.S.A. National Snowshoe Team, which represents the United States in all international snowshoe events. THAT is cool.
We bummed around Eau Claire for a few hours and stayed for awards. Overall, a wonderful event–well produced, good competition, and awesome course. I am extremely satisfied with my race and left it all out there. I don’t think I could have raced a second faster and to beat out some other really talented runners and snowshoers is good for the ol’ ego.
Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger, size 11
Snowshoes: Dion Model 121 Racing Snowshoes
Pace: 4:07/km (6:38/mile)