I love snowshoe races. You need to be able to turn your heart rate up to 11, keep it there and not die too badly. Strapping ungainly boards to your feet favors the power runner over the finesse. High altitude racing only sweetens the deal and the pain.
As such, intrepid race hater Paul and I trekked up to the norski area in Santa Fe last weekend for the Santa Fe Snowshoe classic. This was my third time doing the race. The last two times were pretty successful with me taking third in the 5k in 2006 and 4th overall in the 5k in 2004.
We made it to the start with an hour to spare, registered and shivered a bit. As we were milling about before the race they made a pretty significant announcement: You must run the distance you signed up for. In the past, you could make a decision on whether to run the 5k or 10k in the middle of the race. The 5k is one lap of the course, the 10k two. What had happened in past years is that fast people who signed up for the 10k could just stop after 5k if they were placed well and reap the benefits of their place without doing the second lap. The race has always been pretty low key and odd, but with great prizes and raffles, so it was never a big deal, although it had cost me a few places over the years.
This year there were about 60 people on the starting line, which was about double the last time I ran it. I ran around and warmed up a bit, took a small swig of hot apple cider and headed to the start line. I lined up on the front row, so I could use my patented run real hard and blow up technique without getting impeded by other racers. As the race official was making last minute announcements it warmed up considerably. I was a touch overdressed, but no time to fix it, so I waited for the gun. However, one dude behind me whipped his shirt off and ran bare chested. I did not hear a hulk-like roar.
Me in the foreground
As we started I felt decent so I took a flyer on the slightly downhill starting stretch and got the hole shot leading to the first big climb. I felt decent on the climb and kept pushing it and lead for about half the climb. At this point Matt (orange jersey in the background of the photo above) blew by me and opened a huge gap on his way to winning the 10k decisively. I think he looked back at me and either laughed at/pitied/mocked me on his way by. I was starting to blow up something fierce. By the time I got the top of the big first hill, I was completely blown, but still in second place with no one too close behind me.
The course then winds through a long down hill. As I was running down, four more people passed me. Usually I am a great downhill snowshoe runner, but I was completely cooked. I set to the grim task of slogging along and slogged. I also set to the grim task of attempting to not vomit up the apple cider I drank pre race. What was I thinking?
I could hear three more runners coming up behind me as we went through the middle rolling section of the race. Two passed me and started pulling away as we entered the long last climb toward the finish line. I started to recover somewhat and was able to pull away from the runner who was on my heels and started to haul in the two in front of me.
The course ends on a long downhill, so I opened up my stride and tried to sprint past the two in front of me. They did not seem to be speeding up so I thought I could take them, then suddenly they turned off to do the 10k as I sprinted to the finish line. I felt a little sick, but glad to be done. The finish line timer told me good job! No one even near you. And I looked at him quizzically and then it dawned on me. I won the 5k. All the 7 people in front of me were in the 10k. Hooray!
I finished in 26:16, which I think was about the same time as 2006 give or take a few seconds. I still can't believe I won the 5k. I am happy the fast runners did the 10k and let me win. I am also happy the race organizers made people run the distance they signed up for. Thanks fast runners! In the post race raffle I won a $25 gift certificate to the local running store. For winning the race I got a nice handmade bowl and a pair of gaiters. We also got nice embroidered winter hats as a part of the entry fee. This race has enormous payback for those who actually do it. I would encourage more people to show up next year. I think everyone got a raffle prize.
bowls I have won over the years at this race
Fellow SWNordic Ski club members PaulG took 2nd in his age group in the 5k and LisaD took third overall woman in the 10k (in her first snowshoe race ever). DaveW also did some pre-race grooming to get the course in shape for the race.
A good day was had by all. Paul and I hit a restaurant in santa fe for some sammiches salads and beer and then headed home. I was sore for almost a whole week afterwards. I need to run more...
2006 Santa Fe Snowshoe Classic race report