Now, let's start by saying this isn't as big of a deal as it sounds like. Don't get me wrong, it is still top notch event and a National Championship, but it's not (yet?) quite on par with other running events of it's caliber. It is, however, a fun, well organized, day in the cold and snow with a great group of athletes! The US Snowshoe Championships are also a weekend long of racing different snowshoe events on Saturday and Sunday. The biggest of which being the 10K on Saturday, which determines who will represent the country in the World Snowshoe Championships the following year.
Woo and I decided to go ahead and register and try something new that was outside of our comfort zone. I registered for the marathon on sunday and she registered for the half.
One small other fact is that we had only owned snowshoes for a few weeks prior to this and trained on them 3 times. Once in a blizzard on 18" of fresh powder (OUCH), once at the Weston Ski Track which was good, and once on the beach because there was no snow.
The area in VT where the race was held is not far from Mount Snow and in historically one of the snowiest areas in the state. On queue they received a dumping of 30+ inches the week before the race! Luckily for us the 10k and few other races were the day before so they would pack the course down a bit. Or so we hoped.
We were lucky in that some friends and fellow SRR-ers were also going to be up in the area and a big thanks to Scott and Julie for letting us crash with them at their condo nearby. That made things much easier on the trip.
Woo (all smiles below before the start) and Scot both had great races finishing with age group podiums in the 1/2 marathon. They started after me and finished before nice and warm. The weather was windy, blistering cold. When in Rome?
Since I was starting at 6am (basically sunrise) I decided I wanted to get there early and park and get checked in, not knowing what I was in for. I took the car and Woo rode up later with Scot to their 1/2 start. I (of course) was the first runner there and felt okay taking a quick power nap before getting my gear inside to begin getting ready. I saw my coach Amy, who also won the women's marathon this day.
The race itself was pretty uneventful. I wanted to start out the first lap or two just getting used to the shoes and the course and get an idea of what to expect. I also wanted to finish strong. Only 11 people started the race, so it was definitely smaller than I was anticipating. Almost everyone was more experienced than I was, including several New England locals who knew how to rock the snowshoe. A few runners also did the 10K the day before.
I started out around 4th or 5th and passed a couple of runners as the loop course went on. Moving my way up to 3rd where I thought I was a long way behind Brian Rusieki and Ben Nephew for the top 2 spots. It has been a long while before I saw anyone ahead of me on the out and back or open sections. With that in mind, I settled in content with a podium spot in my first snowshoe race. I finished the race in 3:53:28, not bad for a marathon in snow on snowshoes I've never ran for more than 2 hours on.
Come to find out later, somehow I passed Ben and only finished a couple of minutes behind a very experienced Bob Bolton. I know I could have closed that gap had I known the distance or been more aware of where others were on the course. I had asked the volunteers a couple of times or officials as I looped through the finish line, but nobody could give me any details unfortunately. Lesson learned. Next year I'll be ready to push it harder and more experienced.
The course was really beautiful and so much fun! There were nice open sections with long straight or loop stretches and then there were some really fun technical up and downs through the middle of the woods. It was unlike any race I've ever done and we definitely want to head to WI next year for the race again and maybe give a go at making the US Snowshoe team in the 10k event!