I am writing this now as a snowstorm is moving into Binghamton, NY getting ready to give us the last bit of Winter before the Spring season commences. This recap comes on the eve of Snowshoe Nationals that are being held in Bennington, Vermont.
The North American Snowshoe Championships is a race with rotating sites each and every year. It just so happened that this year the event was to be held at the Cockadoodle Shoe near Plattsburgh, NY, an event I have done a couple times in the past. I love this race and course and was excited to finally get back into more serious snowshoe racing after a two-year hiatus from having a dedicated season.
Weather forecast for the race was perfect Adirondack style: cold, no very cold. Temps hovered around 3 degrees for the Noon start with windchills near -15. Now that is what we call a PARTY!
My wife, Ashlee and our two dogs, Daisy and Ozzy made the trek to the Northern Adirondacks. This was as we trekked from a snowstorm in Binghamton and the NY region which made travel a little difficult but was well worth it the closer we made it to Plattsburgh.
It was a great time hanging out in Plattsburgh pre-race and even getting the chance to see Bob and Denise Dion, owners of Dion snowshoes at the local brew-pub.
The race had a strong field assembled with 2017 World Champion Snowshoer, Joe Gray at the front. I came to this event hoping to just have a fun day and not get too swept up in any pressure to compete a certain way. This more relaxed and easy-going mentality and approach to racing has always boded well for me. It was great to see so many familiar faces before the race and reconnect with runners I have no seen in quite awhile. I was able to hang a little with Mitch and Nick who went to Cortland during my Grad school years and had a full "Send Em" crew for the race.
A nice handful of Team MPF/RNR members were on hand with Elizabeth and Joe documenting the race and taking some killer photos, Ben Nephew, Julian, Jay Lemos , Jan Wellford who was sweeping the course, and many others.
|Myself, Ben and Jay ready to go! Photo Credits: Joe Azze|
Check out our team page here: https://www.mountainpeakfitness.com/team/
Here is also A MPF recap of the event:Photos
Sponsor Plug here: If you have not tried Redfeather Snowshoes, you should. I started my Snowshoe running in Dions which are a staple to snow shoe racers the world over. Bob and Denise do a great job! I branched out the next year and became an athlete with Redfeather wanting to try something different and found their shoe design for some reason works magic with my stride. The Company is based in La Crosse, WI which is wear my family on my father's side grew up, hence also a reason to initially support. They are a non-profit company part of ORC Industries and employs many workers with disabilities and learning difficulties and teaches them crucial work skills in the manufacturing and assembly of snowshoes. Pretty cool stuff.
The "Cole Vapor" snowshoe has been a project I have worked with the brand on and man is it an incredible shoe. It is light but not the lightest out there. The V-tail design, deep crampons, and nice surface area of the shoe creates a shoe that glides over deep snow well and allows for my legs to remain fresh for the last kilometers. Check it out at the link below!
The Race ___________________________________________________________________
I took my 1 Boom Gel 15 minutes before the race which is a now staple of mine as I have always felt better with some energy in me close to the race going off. Call it a superstition.
To not see Joe Gray blast off to the front would be suspect as this guy is one of the most decorated endurance athletes around. I cannot keep track of how many USA teams he has been on but between XC, Mountain, Snowshoe, Trail, its like 8-12 teams which is unreal.
The start is very chunky snow and funnels from this open field into the single track. It is by no means a fast start and hearing from Mitch that the trails had some deep spots brought back my last race here 2 years ago where my positive splits from a 21ish 5k had almost a 30 minute second 5k that year.
Joe shot out and took to the lead as the snow was flying everywhere. I took my time not looking to get snagged up in the shuffle. My plan was to remain relaxed and in contact through 5k before making a push the last 5k as the second half in my opinion is harder than the first half.
I made some adjustments and settled behind Mitch, Nick, Ben and Tim which I felt was a good crew to be with. We hung out through the first kilometers and now the fun had begun. I saw that Nick was separating some from the group and then Mitch made a move to close the gap. I looked at my watch and saw the pace fluctuating between 8:30-9 a mile. I felt really fresh and wanted to run near 7:30-8 pace as the second half eats you up and making some time in the beginning helps.
I made a move and then pushed to Mitch. I sat with him and enjoyed the beautiful Adirondack scenery. Mitch let me get ahead and I kept on the tempo increase. Deep in the woods maybe a minute or two later, I came up on Nick. We hung out for some time too before like Mitch, Nick gave me the right-away and I took to the lead. At this point I knew I was in a good position, possibly top 3 which was my "A" goal. I floated through the deeper downhill sections and hung tough on the uphill portions. I was now in that 7:30-8 minute a mile range and took in the sights. This course screams beautiful deep pine woods with sun creeping through the canopy. To me, it is true snowshoe running at its finest.
From the course, what worked well for me was through deep snow, I did not force it. I slowed accordingly to save energy and when the snow conditions improved, I opened it up. As I had separated from Nick and was now on my own, I had thoughts and dreams of pulling up on Joe in the race with 400 meters to go and we would duke it out in an epic snowshoe finish. This did not happen but it was fun to imagine such a scenario. In the moment, I was having a blast. I felt free and was just so overjoyed to be running in snowshoes again in such glorious conditions.
As we crossed the field section, I knew about a mile and a half was left to the race. As the gradual climb from the field started, I was closing in on someone ahead. Was it Joe Gray? I had no idea and put a little surge to see for myself. I soon found it was Julien who has been the Canadian Snowshoe Champion. I eventually passed him as I could tell the early pace for him and the deeper snow here had made him a little gassed. I took to the front and continued on my pace. Maybe Joe was right up ahead.
What happened next was something I never thought would happen. I came from the trail and right before me was some xc ski poles blocking the trail with yellow construction tape as if not wanting us to go straight. With about a mile or so to go left, I stopped and looked at my watch to double-check distance and to make the best decision. We were on the blue trail and the section here was Red at the intersection. i know of this as the main trail where we came from the Start. I thought to myself that surely we would not turn here. But why is this block on the trail here? I had no idea and with such a pivotal decision to be made, I waited. Julien came up to me maybe a minute or so later as I asked him which way we should go. He said without much hesitation to "Go Straight". I asked him if he was sure and I would rather be lost together than all by myself. We went straight and maybe 200 meters in, we saw the red sign. Whew, we made it. I was then able to relax more as we wound back towards the parking lot area and this was indeed familiar to me from past years. I pushed the pace some more and then made that turn into the straight-away which leads into the final straight. Alright, the race was almost over. I came into the final turn exclaiming I feel like I could do this again! I felt fresh and strong which is never the case for me in a snowshoe race.
|Great race photos. Credits In tandem Photography|
I hit that line and saw Joe there and a bunch of other athletes. Joe asked me immediately that some of them made a wrong turn and asked me which was I went. I told him I waited for Julien and he went straight through the course barricade or block and he said that was the right way. Man what a level of relief. For those that know me well, I have a long history of missing course markings and in this race, I was lucky to get it right with the help of Julien.
|Coming into the finish! Photo Credits Joe Azze|
So there it was...Second Place North American Snowshoe Championships. Pretty cool stuff. I never thought I could put up such a solid performance after having many snowshoe races go terribly bad for me as of late. It goes to show that a positive attitude, remaining patient, and letting the race come to you rather than forcing your effort is the key to success in snowshoe racing.
|Top 3! Photo Credits Ashlee Prewitt Crosby|
Race Results: https://www.webscorer.com/racedetails?raceid=124721
This was by far my best snowshoe race to date and a massive confidence booster for Nationals. For the Nationals race I will be running the 10k and Marathon. My goal is to run free, have fun competing, and remain patient and race by feel. I will need to save my legs for the hard climb and run strong and just see what happens. Anything can happen but I hope I can find myself able to have a similar day to that at Cockadoodle shoe.
|The Last Bend. Photo credits Joe Azze.|
|Ashlee and Me! Photo Credits Joe Azze|
Thank you to all of the volunteers, RD Jeremy Drowne, and USSF USA Director, Mark Elmore for putting on a true master-class event.
Thank you to my wife for keeping me company in the freezing cold and watching over the dogs that weekend.
Thank you to Joe and Elizabeth Azze of MPF for being such great advocates of trails and the outdoors and for having me be a part of such a team that is MPF/RNR which is more of a family than anything else.
Thank you to my sponsors:
Redfeather snowshoes for the Cole Vapors which continue to give me incredible confidence on the snow in all of my training and racing.
Janji: Thank you to Owners- Dave and Mike and their team for getting me linked-up with an incredible brand that has some killer apparel that provides clean water to the various countries they craft their apparel around.
Nathan Sports for hydration and other great essentials needed to help me Run Stronger and Run Longer. I will be using a winterized Peak hydration belt for the Nationals Marathon that will be crucial for a solid race.
Team MPF/RNR for the constant support and group of amazing people that allows for us to share our stories and experiences and true love for trails with the rest of the world.
Fits Socks for the best fitting merino wool socks out there. These things are gold for keeping feet dry and warm or cool based on your needs. I raced with the Light short racer sock and it was a dream.
Boom Nutrition for fueling me with the best in natural fruit energy. And they taste amazing because a gel should not be a struggle to take.
To SUNY Cortland XC and Oneonta XC for my coaching stints. Two great programs!
Confluence Running, Finger Lakes Running for being great retailers in the community and ones I have been lucky enough to work at!
Thank you to new sponsor: 361 Degrees USA for providing all of my footwear needs. I am really excited about this new partnership.
Onward to Snowshoe Nationals!