Hernando Beats Competition, Course at Horse Hill

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Racing

The start, courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

Watch out: the Sweetie Pies are making a move in the Granite State Snowshoe Series. In the latest race, the Horse Hill (or is it Horsehill?) 7k Snowshoe Race, top Sweetie Pie Nacho Hernando broke the tape in 33:03. The rookie bested snowshoe vets Brandon Newbould and Jim Johnson on the way to winning in only his second ever snowshoe race.

Not only did Nacho beat the competition, but he beat the course just the same. Brandon Newbould looked to be running away with the race but had trouble navigating a couple of tricky intersections. On two occasions Brandon had to stop to get his bearings and each stop allowed Nacho and Jim to catch up to him. After the first stop Brandon was able to surge ahead and regain some separation, but the second stop proved to be too much to overcome.

Newbould wasn’t the only casualty claimed by the course that day. Also falling victim to the course was Kristina Folcik-Welts’ bid for a win (wrong turn) and EJN’s dignity (fell on multiple occasions). In this instance there were several big intersections that were marked up with flags and arrows, but in the heat of the moment during a tightly contested race it can be easy to misread an arrow in the previously trampled snow.

In the world of snowshoe running (and trail and mountain running too), the course is even more of a foe than it is in road racing. Once you start running on those single track trails it is so much easier to make a wrong turn, even on a well-marked course. This race was pretty much all single track trails, for the most part. As seen in the race video embedded here, the start area was wider but there was a decent slop on either side of the trail that forced people into a more confined space. Factor in over a hundred people on the starting line (quite possibly a record field for the race), and it’s easy to see just how tricky it could be to find your footing in the early going.

After just barely enough time to get some space and get into a groove, the race goes up the steepest climb of the day and that set the tone for the rest of the course. Trudging up that hill in the deep snow, you know it’s a real old fashioned snow show race and that it’s not going to be like the track session that was Whittaker Woods or Beaver Brook. Heck, Sidehiller was a faster course and that wasn’t even a fast course with all the sugar snow out in the fields.

Katharine Jenkins on the way to the finish, courtesy of SNAPacidotic.

The first mile and last mile were the same, which meant that the runners would be flying down the same steep slope that they climbed up going out. But the middle two miles were packed with a twisting, turning single track that must’ve had an elevation chart that looked quite roller coaster like.

It was out in that single track loop where the field thinned out fairly quickly. There were many times where you could see competitors running back in the opposite direction on another part of the trail but with all the twists and turns it made it difficult at times to tell how much further ahead they were.

Whereas Newbould had nobody in front of him when he came to those crucial intersections, Kristina knew there were people in front of her but wasn’t exactly clear as to how far ahead they were. Not knowing exactly where to go, Kristina saw some runners off in the distance and took off after them only to find out later that it was the wrong direction. The wrong turn caused Kristina to add on some more distance and ultimately lose the lead.

This opened the door for Melissa Donais to get her first series win of the season. Melissa ran a 46:11 and came in 25th overall. Looking back at Nacho’s winning time of 33:03 and things get put in perspective a little better. With over thirteen minutes between 1st and 25th it’s easy to see just how strung out the field was in this race. Kyla Brustin came in shortly after as the runner up to Melissa (30th overall, 47:18) and then amazingly Kristina still managed to get third (37th overall, 49:18).

For the masters runners, Dave Dunham was the top finisher (surprise surprise) with his 9th place, 36:04 effort. For the ladies it was Molly McHugh who ran a 52:34 for 43rd overall and was the fifth woman on the day.

With his third place finish at Horse Hill, Jim Johnson extended his lead in the series. Both Newbould and Hernando haven’t run enough of the races so far this year to qualify for the standings just yet but if they keep this up then Jim will have his work cut out for him. Even with the wrong turn, Kristina maintained her perch as the highest ranking woman in the standings and is seventh overall.

Next up is the Kingman Farm Moonlight Race in Madbury, NH on Saturday, February 15th.

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