Got up somewhat early saturday and drove to santa fe for the annual pending snow Santa Fe Snowshoe classic. I had mild misgivings due to a lingering bad stomach from something thjat is going around and a thoroughly tweaked back from some overzealous yoga on thursday.
I had a peanut butter and honey on toast, an espresso and a handful of advil and hopped in the car for the suprisingly short drive up to the Santa fe nordic ski "center" up there at 10,000 plus feet over santa fe. I always budget at least 1 and a quarter hours for the drive, but again, it took just under an hour and I was among the first racers to have arrived.
Me triumphantly posing after the race wearing the tights I won at this very race 2 years back:
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The race was really underattended. Maybe 30 total racers. Given that there was obviously going to be snow, I was expecting it to have more racers. They usually have an excellent prize list and raffle too. This race was a running race last year due to lack of snow, but last time I raced it in 2004 there was less snow and lots more racers. But there were a few fast looking guys and my friend Zach showed up who is definitely a faster runner than I.
Before the race, the Kahtoola snow travel system company had a tent and demo snow travel systems to try. They consisted of a neoprene overboot with nasty looking crampons that stood on its own as a running/hiking shoe OR clicked in, spd style, to a snowshoe base. It was pretty slick and worked pretty well. They had enough demos that pretty much half the field ended up racing on their boot/snowshoe system. Pretty cool. They also had some light weigh strap on crampons for running/hiking shoes that looked really nice and light, but I did not try them. Over shoe and snow shoe:
Anyhow, the race was one or two 5k loops around the nordic ski trails, ranging from stamped down snow to crusty untracked powder to hard ice ski track. There was about 95% coverage with a few bare spots and lots of rocks and stumps sticking out. There were also 4 or 5 trees down across the course which are much more tricky to negotiate on snowshoes than you would think.
Zach looking fast post race:
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The race starts with a fairly significant hill and I managed to be up with Zach and the two other leaders at the top of the hill. Running at 10,000 feet is not so easy, nor is running in snowshoes uphill. By the top of the first hill my legs felt fine, but I was cardiovascularly about to pop. I looked back and saw a huge gap to the rest of the pack, so I vowed to stick to Zach for as long as I could. At this point, one of the older guys took off andnone of us ever saw him again.
The course from here went through some rolling hills for a couple of kilometers with lots of obsticles and hairpins. Unlike last time I did this race where I fell at least 10 times, I actually had some running snowshoes that I borrowed and only fell twice the whole race. I felt pretty good through this middle section and watched as Zach and one other guy slowly gapped me.
From here the race had a long climb broken up by short downhills that seemed interminable. Here I lost focus a bit and watched/heard a tall fit guy also from los alamos named jason slowly sneak up behind me as I plodded miserably up the hills, with my heart about to explode. Fortunately, he was a slow steady type and my downhill speed put a big enough gap on him for him not to catch me on the up hill.
Also fortunately for me, the end of the race came with an icy downhill which I sprinted to finish the 5k race in 3 overall behind Zach in second and the first older guy. I think my time was around 26 minutes, which was pretty swell as I think it was faster than 2 years back, despite the fact that I did not run nearly as much this year. One guy ahead of me continued for the 10k, as did Jason behind me. Jason ended up overhauling the leader and winning the 10k in 52 minutes, which is really impressive as he negative splitted on the second lap. If I had to keep on going, I am pretty sure I would have run a 35 minute second lap.
After the race the winners in the mens and womens 5k and 10k ended up winning crescent moon racing snowshoes or those boots from kahtoolie. The rest of the podiums got nice pottery and waterproof sealskin socks.
My second place under 40 mug:
So now that I have raced snow shoes twice, here is my advice for new racers:
1. Just do it, borrow any snow shoe and go try it, it is pretty fun.
2. That said, running snowshoes make a huge difference on packed trails and shallow snow. They are lighter and thinner profile and you don't trip as much.
3. Never wear shorts. I did that two years ago and had lots of cuts on my ankles from hitting the snowshoes against them and even more on my knees from falling repeatedly on crusty snow. Tights are good.
4, I am ambivalent about gaiters, your feet do get soaked, but in a short race when it is not miserable out, it seems to be more trouble that it is worth.
5. That said, bring spare socks for after the race. I forgot to and would have suffered mightily had I not won a pair of waterprrof socks as a prize.
6. After two whole races, I think running snowshoes with heel crampons are a bit better. I did not have them this year, and the shoes got a bit sideways as I ran on off camber stuff.
7. Make sure you have your shirt tucked in at your waist and have a tight fitting upper layer. When running fast on non-packed snow, you kick up an enormous amount of snow which seems to hit you in the neck or the small of the back and tends to be unpleasant.
8. Don't overdress, snow shoe running is really hard and generates lots of heat. I can't imagine wearing snowpants or rain jackets. Do wear gloves though, to protect your hands as you fall.
9. Try not to step on soft stumps with your crampons, they don't come out easily.
Anyway, thats the long winded report. More photos from the rest of the day later maybe.