Sixteen brave souls gathered in Maudslay State Park in Newburyport, MA on the morning of January 5th for an unofficial race. Whether you want to call it the Maudslay State Park 5km Snowshoe Run or the First Annual Dave Dunham Snowshoe Spectacular, it was a great little race with an old school feel. There weren’t even popsicle sticks! We just wrote down our names on a results poster board. It was awesome.
I was excited to finally try out my shiny new Dion 121′s. The excitement was tempered because not only had I never run in snowshoes, but running of any kind was few and far between for me as of late. For such a small race, it had quite a deep field. There was going to be some intense competition (in damn near perfect conditions).
After a brief warm up that consisted of mainly doing a couple of strides and then waiting to get signal on my Garmin, it was about time to start. We gathered at the line in the snow and were out quickly on command. Since we were off road I figured it would take a little while for the pack to thin out. Wrong! The leaders were quickly putting distance on the rest of the field and I couldn’t believe how quickly they were running away with it.
I also couldn’t believe how I seemed to be kicking snow up into the air and down the back of my neck. It was going to be a long three miles for this guy.
At just about the half way point my torrid ten minute pace was proving to be too much and a little asthma started kicking in. It was at that point that Theresa Ridgway went flying by me like I was standing still wheezing. Wait. I may have been. Theresa incredibly put two minutes of space between us over the last mile and a half.
Just when I thought I was overcoming the breathing difficulties (or the mid-race wheezes), a rogue runner flew by me at about Mach III. What?! At that point I started panicking thinking that I had somehow taken a wrong turn and come out in the lead. But that wouldn’t have even made sense; it was only a three mile race and if people were running that fast then they clearly would have finished long ago. I was beginning to fear that the breathing was worse than I thought because I was either now hallucinating or just couldn’t do simple math. Remember that time I went out for a run and forgot math? Yeah, didn’t want to be telling a story like that. The rogue runner must’ve been real.
Turned out he was very real. It was Tim Mallard, a member of the Gate City Striders who had arrived a bit late. As I was coming into the last straight I ran into basically the entire field coming back out for their cool down. Ah, perfect. They even had time to pose for a lovely group shot before taking off for that cool down.
I had been out on the course for so long that Mark LaRosa assumed I had been eaten by a bear. You know what? I feel like a part of me was. That’s what happens when you show up on race day without having done your homework: you get eaten by a bear. Even if it’s only figuratively speaking, it still sucks. At the very least I increased my chances of being consumed by an ursus americanus, and really, do you want to mess around with something like that?
Predators go for the weak and sick animals that can’t keep up with the herd. There’s not much room for pride or bragging rights when your primary motivation is to eat, so why bother going for the lead pack? By straggling so far back and wheezing I was probably looking quite appetizing. Maybe training so I don’t become dinner should be my new motivation.
As for the competition up front in this race, Scott McGrath (Whirlaway) won the 3 mi race in a blazing 20:19. Mark LaRosa was just behind him in 20:54, and Scott’s teammate Steve Dowsett grabbed the last podium spot in 21:09. Race organizer Dave Dunham came in 7th place, in 24:35. Think about that. Dave’s no slouch and he only came in 7th place in this unofficial race. Pretty incredible.
Melissa Donais was the top woman on the day (26:45, 11th overall). She still couldn’t convince her husband Nate Jenkins to get on the snowshoes though. Nate was seen running around on the street in the area. Maybe next time, Nate. Maybe next time. A couple of minutes in back of Melissa came Theresa in 30:21, followed by yours truly in 32:36. There was possibly a bear stalking me, but I never turned around to look.
It was a great event put together by Dave, even if it just ends up being a different twist on a Sunday morning meet up for a training run. This one involved snowshoes and a couple feet of some damn fine powder. What’s really amazing is that as I’m writing this, only 8 days removed from the event, all of that snow is basically gone and has been for days now. Crazy. Here’s to hoping that there’s enough snow for the bigger snowshoe races coming up this season!