Sunday, March 13, 2011

US Snowshoe National Championships- Post Race Part 1

We have just arrived back home from our long weekend in Wisconsin to participate in the US Snowshoe National Championships held at Lakewoods Resort in Cable, WI. This race would serve as the US National Snowshoe Team Qualifier taking the top five men and women to represent the United States. Amber, the reigning champion, was looking to hold on to her title. However, there were many other women who were hoping to take that title. All five of the 2010 US Snowshoe team were there as well as the 2009 US champion and two-time Pike's Peak Ascent winner, Brandy Erholtz. Additionally, there were a couple other women who had  been on the team in previous years there as well.
While last year, the women went off before the men, this year it was reversed with the men going off first. After having spent the previous evening with Jim Johnson, Kevin Tilton and Tim VanOrden talking with many of the prospective winners, I knew that I needed to make sure I didn't start too far in the front. Apparently, I started too far in the back. The first kilometer was sluggishly slow, as I was successfully prevented from passing anyone because a couple of runners decided it would be appropriate to run two abreast during a championship race... Anyhow, I finally gave up asking to pass and just took a long loop around the two and tried to catch the pack ahead.
  A word about the course: It was amazing! This race was supposedly on a golf course but not one that I have ever played on. It was relentless short steep hills with nice gradual descents with a good tortuous double track, that crossed under the main road via a tunnel. While it definitely favored the fast road racers, it was definitely a fair course and I certainly liked the variety it provided.
  After slogging through the first half of the course, I was probably in the low 30's for overall placing. I was able to gain successfully a group of slower moving runners and steadily started picking off runners. Having run the second half of the course the night before with Am, I knew how far I still had to go. At first this was to my advantage as I picked off runners who had hit the hills early too hard. However, about 9K into the race, I had a runner pass me who I should have been able to stick with but decided to just settle in behind him. We picked off a few runners together before he made a second surge which I decided(or my body did) not to match. In the last few hundred meters, he had made a gap on me to finish 13 seconds ahead of me. To take 20th place. Making me the first out of the Top 20. Bummer. However, I came in 21st place this year from 36th last year in Syracuse. This year I finished in a time of 47:28 with the winner's time 41:41 14% slower.  Last year I finished in a time of 58:32.00 to the winner's time of 42:51.06 or 37% back.
  So despite finishing out of the Top 20, I am pleased with my overall improvement from the previous year. CMS must also be pleased with Jim and Kevin taking 8th and 9th place respectively and TiVo running a solid race to finish as one of the fastest Master's runners in the US.
  After finishing the race, Am and I did a cooldown/warm-up as I wound down and she prepped for the women's race. There was a lot of nervous energy around. I quickly gave Am a hug and wished her luck then ran over to the tunnel where I would see her for the first of many times along the course. I had barely gotten there when I heard the course marshall yelling "a women in orange is in a huge lead!" Amber was wearing her Dion jacket and sure enough she was in the lead. Closing in behind her was Erin and Cheryl, the 3rd and 2nd place finishers from last year's race, followed closely by Brandy. I cheered her on as she made her way up the first of many climbs of the day and then booked it to the second place where I could watch her. In the 3 or four minutes it took me to get to the next stop, Brandy must have made a solid move because as the women crested the climb, Brandy was now in the lead with Amber and Cheryl about 25 seconds back. So in less than 1 kilometer Brandy had made about a 35-40 second change in the race. I gave Am a few quick words of encouragement before she scrambled off after Cheryl.
  I'm not sure what happened in those next few kilometers(hopefully part 2 written by Am will soon follow) but Brandy gained another 25 seconds on Amber who had also put a large gap on Cheryl. She ran strongly up a steep strong hill putting a little more time on her and the third place runner and giving us hope that she could close the gap on Brandy. I met up with JJ, Kevin and TiVo and ran to the spot to view the race. We saw Brandy maintain the gap on Amber but not put any more distance between them on two more occasions before I ran to the finish to see them come across. Unfortunately for Am, it was not the spectacular finish of last year, pulling off a last minute win, but rather finishing a very strong second place to Brandy who appeared to have a very good race herself. So, while no longer the US Snowshoe Champ, she is the silver medalist and a member of the 2011 US Snowshoe team. More importantly, it finally gave her an opportunity to really push herself and I expect we will see a very strong, and dedicated, 2012 performance out in Colorado.

The snowshoe season finished well for us both and we both look forward to the upcoming triathlon season which starts on April 9 in Galveston, TX with the US 70.3 Championships. Four weeks later, will be my first Ironman and Am's first as a Pro so things are exciting and (more than ) a little scary. 

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