Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble

Guest blog by Jim Johnson

Photo of the starting line by SNAPacidotic

Saturday was race #2 in the 2013 Granite State Snowshoe Series put on by acidoticRacing and sponsored by Snowshoe Magazine.  The host race was Kevin Tilton’s Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (results) at the Whitaker Homestead in North Conway, NH.  The race is a fundraising event to benefit the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring Foundation.  This was the third year in a row this race has been held and part of the GSSS.

This year it was great only having to drive 15-20 minutes up the road to the race.  I woke up in the morning to a nice dusting of an inch or two of fresh snow everywhere and it was snowing pretty good heading up Rt. 16 through Conway. I made it to the race early so I could run over the course w/ Dave  Dunham and flag some of the trails that we didn’t want to do until this morning (because it was still being used by skiers last night after we left).  We also had to tape across the stakes that had been set by Kevin yesterday afternoon.  We headed out at about 8:15 and did the entire 4 miles of the course, which had a nice top layer of powder on top of the already groomed xc ski trails.  I then ran another mile + on snowshoes back up to a junction to set more flags, then back down and around the field a bit to warm up right before the race.  My foot was starting to kill me on the way back down from flagging the last bit.  It was the worst pain I’ve had in a while in the foot…but after stretching a bit at the car and staying loose right before the race, it seemed to get better by the time the race started.

74 brave souls endured the cold morning and snow flurries to make their way out on the slightly longer than 4 mile course.  I got off to an OK start and moved ahead by the middle of the field.  I headed into the woods and started the small climb up the first of a few hills.  I probably felt the worst during this section. I just felt flat and gassed.  I am not sharp at all and it takes me a while to warm up to the pace and effort lately.  The more I race the more I hope to get back that edge.

Photo of my bad start by SNAPacidotic

Trying to stay ahead of Kristina and near Chris Dunn… by SNAPacidotic

Photo near the start by Justin Macomber

By the time we popped up and down and around the first half mile of the course, it was climbing time.  The major climb begins in the first mile and lasts for maybe a half mile or so.  It’s pretty steady, but not steep.  The condition of the trail made it relatively easy, as most any line you picked was pretty solid and had minimal affect on your pace.  Halfway up the climb, I turned to see that Chris Dunn appeared to be in 2nd and a slew of people lining up behind.  It seemed from the vantage point, that everyone was close…but going uphill for an extended period of time makes that illusion that everyone is right there running you down.

As soon as I started the descent off what has to be one of the highest if not the highest point of the course, I started to open it up a bit.  I felt pretty burnt out, but kept up an honest pace as I shot down and around and back up to the second major climb, which is the same uphill section we do in the Summer Series at Whitaker on Tuesday nights.

After summiting the second of the two big climbs, it’s mostly all downhill, with some moderate rollers.  I hit the powerline section and looked back a few times but didn’t see anyone.  The powerline stretch hooks a sharp right an hits some sloppy single track for a stretch before winding it’s way back down to the powerlines again, but further down the course.  Then you run back down the powerlines continuing for a bit before hooking left and back up the other side for a stretch until you hook right and back onto the xc ski trail in the woods.  From that point, it’s a load of on and off xc ski trail (groomed) and single track cut-across sections (ungroomed).  I tried to maintain pace in this section but just felt a bit tired.  I knew at this point, I had the race in hand (unless my foot blew up).  It’s all flat in this section and the last mile has got to be the easiest for sure.

Photo by Justin Macomber

I passed a few photographers and spectators during this last stretch so you know you’re getting close.  Then the race dumps out onto the field, where you do one full lap around the perimeter before hitting the finish line.  I was glaring at my watch over this last section and over the last few minutes, wondering what the time was going to be.  I had forgotten that I broke 27 minutes back in the first year (2011).  I ran 26:53 then on a slightly shorter course (not by much) distance-wise.  Then in 2012, I ran slower but still won in 27:27.  This year, I cruised into the finish in 26:56.  I really wish I knew I ran 3 seconds faster in 2011 and I may have been able to find a kick to try to PR on this course, but alas I am happy w/ a sub 27 and a third win in a row here at Whitaker Woods.  Because the course was slightly longer, I think my effort was probably the best it’s been.  I don’t quite remember the exact conditions last year, but I think they were fast and I believe the course was pretty firm in most spots, so I’ll gladly take a faster time from this year.

The prize for winning was yet another homemade goodie courtesy of the Tiltons (last year it was a big gold championship belt like the wrestlers get, and 2 years ago it was a snowfall measuring stick w/ some clever depth indicators on it).  Jess worked w/ the shop teacher at Kennett to create this lovely wooden snowshoe cutting board (she did the design).  I also got a $25 gift certificate to the Moat.  Scott Mason is 20 for 20 in winning something at the GSSS raffles.  I was just about to joke right before the last prize was announced, that Scott hadn’t won anything and it was a big surprise….when to NO ONE’s surprise, he won the LAST prize in the raffle.  I say it’s fixed.  :)

Top 10 Overall

Place Time Name Age Club
1 26:56 Jim Johnson 35 BAA/Dion
2 29:10 Dave Dunham 48 CMS/Atlas
3 29:57 Danny Ferreira 36 acidotic
4 30:00 Chris Dunn 44 acidotic
5 30:30 Ryan Welts 32 acidotic
6 31:10 Phil Erwin 45 acidotic
7 31:16 Humzu Jafferji 24
8 31:48 Chuck Hazzard 52 Trail Monster Running
9 31:56 Amber Ferreira 30 acidotic
10 32:02 Jason Massa 45 acidotic

74 Total Finishers.  Full Results Here.

I cooled down a couple more miles over the course, picking up some flags.  Foot started to bother me again, so I called it at 2 miles.  11 miles total for the day, all on snowshoes.  Then home to see my girls!!!

Here’s a video taken by Tim Lindsey again w/ his GoPro (of the first 11 min. or so):

Jim is fast becoming our go-to source for the snowshoe scene. Check out his blog DoubleJRunning! Also, that’s a very sweet shot of Dave Dunham in his Team USA one piece racing suit. Action Dave must be jealous.

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