Sunday, January 26, 2014

Race for Redemption--Highland Forest 10k Snowshoe Race

Here is a nice link to the coverage of the race:

This was a very exciting race.  After a tough weekend as the Cockadoodle Shoe that saw me post-holing the whole way through I was primed and ready to race fast at the Highland Forest 10k also the New York State Snowshoe Championship.  I woke up at 8 am and headed to Tim Horton's with my father for a delicious cinnamon raisin bagel and cream cheese.  We then drove the 20 miles to the race site.  It was a race I had done last year and was the first where I felt like I could do this snowshoe running thing.

I had the chance to meet with Jack Hillenbrand who I have met through my job at Confluence Running and I convinced him to give snowshoe running a shot this weekend. What we found was that Jack was able to win his 5k race and qualify for Nationals with the hopes of making the US Junior National Team.  I am very glad he gave it a shot! 

The race prep has always been the same with all of my other snowshoe races. I jogged about 10 minutes with Jack and warmed-up in cold 10 degree temps with a -5 windchill factor and hung out inside the lovely Highland Forest Skyline Lodge.  If you have never been to Highland Forest, I highly recommend it as they have some amazing facilities all nestled high up on the hill.  With like 2,000 acres of wild forest, this park has been labeled the "Adirondacks of Central New York". It really is something and the Skyline Lodge is awesome.  Once inside, it was time to get those snowshoes on and race.

The Race!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Go Get him" was my mantra playing in my head at the Highland Forest 10k Snowshoe Race

To begin the race, I did in fact lead everyone off course which I take the blame for!  
It was a cold morning with temperatures maybe with a high of 10 and with the wind like minus 5-10. Thankfully the Highland Forest course is all in the woods so the windchill would not be too much of a factor. I had my usual warm-up and prepared for a fast race. As this year was the New York State Snowshoe Championships, I was expecting the best talent out there.  After the last race at the Cockadoodle Shoe, I was primed for a fast performance and I wanted to run controlled and strong, not to mention a smart race.  From the gun I was in the lead running a nice pace. It was great to actually have some soft snow versus the potholing experience at the Cockadoodle Shoe which was disaster for me. Once the initial wrong course maneuver was fixed (which I thought something was off but I saw Eric Sambolec who has run this race many times and I thought if he is following then surely this is the right way).  I then hear a loud " COLE! Wrong WAY! WRONG WAY COLE!!!"  And as 45 runners were all bunched up, we pretty much just decided that the race had now began right there in the woods.  I resumed the course and yes this new direction was in fact the right way.  It was slow-going through the winding uphill single track. We hit a couple of road crossings with myself in the lead and Eric and another runner pictured above and below in the green Brooks Jacket right on my heels.  I took it easy and ran a relaxing pace.

The Start of the Race!

Kicking up snow!  

MILE 2----- Once the single-track now became the nordic track, I began to open-up my stride.  I still had my Brooks Green Jacket runner right behind me as I was kind of breaking trail which of course is exhausting. I felt fine though and had the plan that because we lost time going off course, I would run more conservative and then put in a huge move to end the race which would be great practice for Nationals.  I hit the downhill sections and floated down them like I enjoy kicking up snow and adding some sizable time to my overall lead. I kept glancing back to see my lead of a few seconds turn into half a minute then to almost a minute.  I hit the last downhill section before the slight uphill and back into the downhill single track.  It felt great to be having a race where I did not feel like I was going to get stuck or do something to ruin my effort.  On a nice section only less than a mile from the 5k point, I made a wrong turn and if it was not for the runner behind me, I would have been lost and would have had a lackluster race so Thank you!  I quickly turned around and sprinted the minute or so to get back onto the trail. Now I was in second.  The Brooks runner gained some time on me here and I fought the last mile to close on him from maybe a full minute deficit to about maybe 3 seconds.

LAP 2----Here is the photo above of us coming out of the woods only steps away from the official 5k mark.  As you can see I was catching up.  As we came out of the woods, our split was 27 minutes or so which was not bad considering we took a half mile detour. That would mean we were on pace with my time last year if not faster by almost 30-60 seconds. This was a great confidence boost knowing I was running a quicker time than last year with the course detour. As we merged onto the uphill single track I was almost caught up with first place. I surged on sections he looked like he was halting and was able to pull-up right on him. On some sections he would try to gap me, but I held my ground. Out of the single track we hit the nordic section with him kicking snow up into my face and still I remained unfazed. I kept right on his heels all the way until the last turn into the woods for the final say half mile to mile or so.  Something out of the blue happened, he asked me if I wanted to pass. Without hesitation I said "Sure" and proceeded to take the lead. I made a nice move and then meandered through some of the other finishers of the 5k and headed for the finish.  I was preparing my move in the race as I was asked to pass and had now established my finish.

Coming into the last straight, I put the pedal on high and finished the race.  My time was under 51 minutes probably pretty close to last year's time which meant we had run under 8 minutes a mile and what was a perfect day for a race. The snow conditions were not too bad and minus two wrong turns, the race was a lot of fun.

1st and 2nd place!

Myself and Jack!

Fits Socks Shout out--Warm and Dry feet the whole way and never once did I have my sock bunch-up!

THOUGHTS:  This race boosted my confidence. I was worried I did not have it this year for snowshoe running with my mishaps but that I have been feeling nice and relaxed these races and still having tons left in the tank in terms of energy is a great sign.  I think at Nationals running the race smart and controlled with the top pack will work out really well as I sit and wait for my moment to really go for it.  I am fit and even with this super cold winter and lower mileage weeks for me than in most winters, I have had solid quality runs and that is why I think I have kept my fitness much higher than it ever has been.  My next race will be near Valentines day out in Hazelton, PA area at the Pennsylvania State Championships.  I hope to run this race really fast from the get-go maybe 2 miles of control and 4 miles of all-out speed. We will see. I will use that race as my last tune-up before Nationals which I cannot wait for. Last year was so much fun and I think this year will be even greater!

RACE GEAR!!!!!!!!!!

*Mammut Snow Zip (Peridot: warm and kept all the snow from making me wet)
*Acidotic Racing Ball Hat and Acidotic White Tech Longsleeve
*Craft Gunde Windboxer
*Craft Thermal Run Tight
*Craft Hybrid Weather Glove
*Dion 121 Snowshoes with Deep Cleat
*Acidotic Head Buff as handkerchief
*Fits Socks Ultra Light Trail

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

CockaDoodle Shoe 10k Jan 18th--Adirondack Powder- First Big Snowshoe Race of the Season

It is time!  After a lovely winter break, it is finally time to lace-up those snowshoes and get after it! I am so very excited to see what the season brings and I cannot wait to race well!

I have been diligently putting in more volume running after the flu (10-15 miles a day) to get myself back to where I was with the Fall in top shape. It has been tough getting in the efforts but I have managed to do my best.

My first snowshoe race will be the Cockadoodle Shoe 10k up in Saranac, NY near Plattsburgh.  It will be a fun drive up through the Adirondacks on Friday and I am excited to run fast and get the ball rolling for snowshoe racing. I am looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity of racing on a solid course that has had some strong competition up-front. And you never know what can happen when first place is $150 dollars the largest prize purse I have ever heard of in snowshoe running. Currently, the snow has melted here in Cortland but hopefully there is still some up in the North Country for this race.  It is going to be a great year of racing as I feel very fit and rested enough to be able to perform at a high level. Of course you never know what might happen leading up to a race or even in daily training but the name of the game is to place yourself out there for success. I wish everyone a fun winter for the last few months and even when it is cold outside, all it takes is that first step outside to get yourself going.

A cold snowy run this holiday season

Here is a link to the race website:

Sunrise on a lovely Cortland, NY morning

Link to write-up on the Highland Forest 10k:

Cockadoodle Shoe 10k Race Report---Post-holing, falling, and Running Fast

So Saturday's race did not turn out the way I had envisioned it. I felt like I could run comfortable through the first half and then show my speed and strength and charge home for the win. Boy, was I wrong. Not only was the competition fierce, but I probably had my worst snowshoe race to date which sounds crazy if you look at the results so let me explain…..

The trip all began on a Friday morning. I loaded up my car with my belongings, filled up with gas and headed the 5 hours to Saranac, NY right near Plattsburgh.  It was a long drive but very interesting. It was fun to pass Watertown, St. Lawrence University, Potsdam, Malone, and then the small Adirondack towns of the North Country. My intent was to make it to the race course before the sun would set so that I could preview the course before the next day…RACE DAY!

I was able to make it out to the course by around 3, just enough time to jog the course before night-fall. I would be staying with Jeremy Drowne, the race director of the Cockadoodle Shoe 10k and his family and I was excited for the whole experience.

The layout of the course

The course was in decent condition considering most of the snow in Cortland was all gone and a recent warm spell almost made this race not possible. I had the chance to jog the course the day prior and though the course felt fast, I had a decent post-hole tumble down a steep hill and then realized that I probably should take it easy. The snow was so hard-packed that a lot of it was hollow so though it looked solid one weight-bearing step and boom , you would fall right through.  I got in about a 5.5 mile run of the course and then proceeded to link up with Jeremy, the race director. I really appreciate him and his family's kind hospitality and the pizza was AWESOME!!! I got myself all ready, laid out my gear as is the tradition and then hit the futon for a nice night's sleep. The next day was going to be a big day!  We woke up around 7ish and with a nice breakfast it was time to head to the Land Trust.

*2 Pairs of Fits Light Trail Socks
*Craft Flex Tight
*Dion Snowshoe Hat
*Mammut MTR 141 Thermal Top (Warm and Flexy)
*Mammut MTR 71 T-shirt
*Craft Hybrid Weather Glove

*Kala Patar Tech Hoody (Best Mammut Top around!)

After a 45 minute drive to the race site, I decided to check-in and run around the course to warm-up and just relax before the start. Here is what I saw:

New Land Trust Course Markers!  

*Acidotic Racing Shirt!

Nice crisp cool day

The Main Lodge (Registration)

Sign-up booth inside


I raced with my trusty Dion snowshoe 121's, Standard Cleat because of the hard-packed snow and the speed-velcro binding system. I love Dion Snowshoes because they are interchangeable and they have some simple style. The white with the slight orange really sets them apart.  Light, Durable, Fast, and Comfortable describe Dions in a nutshell.  I took my nice jog of about a mile and a half of the course just trying to get my bearings with the footing which was going to be interesting because of the hard-packed snow that was not groomed so it was extremely uneven. Due to the unstable course conditions (the day earlier I ate it BAD on a pot-hole) I knew that tightening my binding system as tight as I could would help make a difference. What you will see is that this day was just not my day.


I snapped this photo about 15 minutes before the race would begin.  It was time and I was relaxed and poised to run a very fast time. I traveled 4.5 hours of the chance to run a very quick time and to hopefully win the race in dramatic fashion.


The race was a once around 10k loop. The first 5k would be with the 5k racers and then the loop would split for the final 5k of the race. We lined up in a open meadow with lovely views of the Adirondack Mountains in the distance and this set the stage for a big-time event. I did some strides waiting for the rest of the about 80 or so runners to reach the starting line.

(Photos are credited to the New Land Trust Website!)

Once we all gathered, it was photo time and off we went with a loud "GO!" from the timers.  From the start I kept catching pot-holes on the snow as I positioned myself right with the front pack of about 4 of us. I was with Matt M, Mitch and Jeremy Drowne (Race Director).  I told Jeremy that no World Records would be made today with all of the falling and slipping. I fought for second position behind Jeremy then quickly took to the front. behind the lodge we hit our first downhill which I used my reckless speed and opened up a nice gap only 2 minutes into the race. The pace felt comfortable and my plan was to run in control through 5k then blitz the last 5k once I had separated myself from the rest of the group.  The downside to the race was that I was going to post-hole like 20 times in the race with 5 times actually getting stuck under the snow layer with my foot trapped in half a foot of thick ice. Yeah, it was bad!

So what happened to me that gave me such a hard time. Well, on the first downhill section, I hit the snow funny and my heel-binding loosened.  As we crested the first steep uphill, I made it almost to the top and had to stop and re-fasten my snowshoe as it was slipping off. That was the first mistake. I went from first to 5th as a waisted a good minute and a half fixing the binding.  Once I had the shoes all figured out, I sprinted down the hill and started the chase. I caught everyone very quickly and then proceeded to catch Matt M. and then just drafted behind him. I thought that Jeremy was long gone so it was a race for second. Not knowing Matt was first place, I drafted right behind him for about a mile and a half before passing. Then I turned on the jets and started striding out. I was now going for first place though I thought I was in second but truly I was leading the race. I did alright with the adverse snow conditions and danced along the course. I would hit a pot-hole every now and then but nothing to stop me in my tracks.  I had made it to the 5k point running really relaxed and in control. I turned on the jets some more then up the trail I had my first accident. I got stuck in the snow as I panicked and tried to punch the ice around my snowshoe so I could get out of the pothole. I sat there for a good minute and a half trying to free my foot. When I did, Matt passed me and off I was to try and catch him.  I had lost sight of him then could see him in the trees. Boom! I am stuck again! I yelled some bad words as I could not believe this twice. I lost another minute.  Off I was to catch Matt again and this time I caught him. I drafted behind him a little more then took the lead again. This time I was getting tired. I had already made this 10k a sprint for me. I now put the pedal down and of course it happened again! ARE YOU KIDDING ME I THOUGHT TO MYSELF!!!!!!!!!!

WHAT IS GOING ON??????!!!!!

Matt as he passes me again tells me to move backwards. I try that and still my snowshoe is stuck so bad in the snow the only way to get it out is to punch the ice around the lip where my shoe lays buried. I get it free after maybe another minute and a half and off I go again. By this point my race mentality is over! I am so DONE with the RACE!  I have waisted so much time maybe a whole 5 minutes almost a mile of the race dealing with stopping!  I was not going to win the prize money and I was not having fun anymore. I just wanted this thing to end after getting severely stuck! I cannot STRESS how STUCK I WAS. MY FOOT WAS Buried 4 inches deep in crusty snow with solid ice making-up the layers of the snow and the hole was perfect so that the frame of my snowshoe would catch about 4 inches of ice on either side.  So the race ends with me finally catching Matt again on the exposed barn loop. It was a slight uphill and man I felt like I was running so slow. I looked behind and saw a Paul Smith's runner approaching and I thought to myself we have to move to avoid being caught. I surged ahead and passed Matt. I was so tired at this point. With still some energy in the tank, I slowed my pace a little even though I was pushing hard. I could hear the clamor of snowshoes right behind me.  With about 55 meters to go I get passed by Bob Bolton.  I find out that I was in first before he passed me!  

I was a little shocked to find that I lost out on the prize money because of me being complacent. If I wanted to out kick Bob, then I would of secured first.  I thought we were fighting for second and as he passed me I thought it was no point to challenge with second and third place pretty much the same in terms of awards.  Boy did I learn my lesson.  It was great to race such solid competition in a snowshoe race which I have not had since Nationals. It helped push me and also those guys too to very fast times.

Myself at the finish

*I will admit I was mad at myself for how I raced.  I had a very bad day for me in snowshoe running.  As I look back on the race I was really being hard on myself. I feel like second let down my friends, family, my father, my lovely girlfriend Ashlee and my sponsors who give me these chances to show my stuff.  It was a long drive back home. I felt dejected and defeated. It was tough. I was worried what my Mammut staff would think of me. I was worried. But looking back on the race, the experience, it was a successful trip. I met some awesome people, made some great friends,  raced some great competition, and the top three ran 44 minutes flat which is like 7:06 a mile. What does that mean? Perhaps I averaged 6:30's the majority of the race maybe even faster?  I felt strong the whole way and had some give left. I think I will be even hungrier for my other races and for Nationals. With a tough race at Nationals last year, I want to not only make the team but shoot for a number one placing. I know this sounds like a stretch but I really believe in myself this year and I truly think I am capable of doing something I have never done before.  If I did not post-hole that race, I might have run sub 40 minutes for the 10k. I can only wonder what time I could run on that course. I have a race for redemption Jan 26th at Highland Forest. It is the NY State Championships again and I am the defending champ.  I love this course because it is the perfect balance of everything that is snowshoe. It has ups and downs, hard packed snow, loose snow, creeks, logs, and all kinds of obstacles. What I learned from this race is that running is great but I should not always be so hard on myself. I can always redeem myself and run to my potential.  And most importantly, it should be fun.  I have had some nice training runs this week leading up to the race and really I have felt like I am really fit for snowshoe running. For the first time, I was not dying in a snowshoe race and actually felt not so bad!  Maybe I am starting to get the hang of this stuff!

I would like to take this moment to thank all my friends, family, supporters and my running sponsors: Mammut North America, Acidotic Racing, Dion Snowshoes, Fits Socks, Karhu/Craft for all their support of my dreams.  

My next post will be titled: "Race for Redemption" on the Highland Forest Snowshoe 10k

I am excited to see where this sport takes me and boy do I have a fire burning inside.  Think of Catniss from the Hunger Games.  I am going to go for it!

Thank you Matt, Jeremy, and Mitch for being awesome!

A link of the race coverage:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sick :(

So I have been run-down this week and feel like I have picked up a flu bug that seems to be all around the country.  I will be taking a hiatus from training until I recover from this bug which luckily this comes at a good time where I can still piece in some solid snowshoe runs and training leading up to my Jan 18th Snowshoe Race the Cockadoodle Shoe 10k, a USA Qualifier.

We all go through ups and downs and I am very lucky to only get sick once in a blue moon and my flu symptoms are not too terrible but without proper rest, I could cause some severe problems.  So I am going to veg out on the couch and kick back and relax.

I will back at it soon.

Happy New Year and look forward to some big performances from me this 2014!

Sickness Report:

So today which is Monday January 6th 2014, I am feeling like my old self in terms of energy but I am not fully there just yet for hard training. Today I ran to get cat food which is about a 5k loop one-way and though I averaged 7:46 a mile, I still got in some exercise and it felt great to run again.  Tomorrow, Matt, myself, and Ian (Confluence Running) are meeting up with Jordan Kinley, one of the smoothest and coolest brand reps around and a good Oklahoma buddy of mine (Karhu/Craft).  It will be fun to catch up with him and see the new line of footwear and gear.  By the end of this week, I should have my running form back down just in time for snowshoe season to begin!

A nice run the other day for about 6 miles and another decent run for about 9 today. I am slowing building myself back up. I have about a week to get my sea legs under me for my first snowshoe race of the year the 18th which I hope I can run a very fast time at and qualify for nationals.

January 11th----I am finally  getting back into form and have been getting some running in beyond just a few miles.  My legs are bouncing back and I am finally getting my pace on flats and hills at 6:40-7 min pace average which is where I normally train at on most training runs that have at least 1,000-2,000ft of elevation gain.