The Moose Mountain Runaround was supposed to make its triumphant debut in the Granite State Snowshoe Series as the series opener back on January 10th. Unfortunately it had to be postponed due to a lack of snow. I know, I know…sounds crazy, right? The world has changed dramatically in the 4 weeks or so since then. Now we get weekly blizzards and the temperatures drop when the sun comes out.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Jim Johnson and Leslie O’Dell keep winning these series races. Both manned up, so to speak, and strapped the old tennis rackets to their feet to get after it again on tired legs. Only 24 hours prior to the start of this race was the Horse Hill “7k” race, where each had picked up their second series win of the year.
Unfortunately this race had a lot working against it. Not only did they most certainly lose people due to the postponement, but then factor in that it was the day after another series race and the field dwindled even further. Then just for the heck of it, why not throw in the blizzard-like conditions that greeted many people in the northeast MA area when they awoke Sunday morning? As I tried to make my way to the race, it took me a while to actually see pavement. I figured the highways would be clear, but there was a car jackknifed across the 495 on ramp, and even when I got on the road was reduced to one somewhat clear lane. Luckily the organizers delayed the start by about a half hour which alleviated the rush a little bit.
It was lightly snowing at the start of the race in Brookfield, NH and bitterly cold. With the wind at your back it didn’t seem to bad, but when that breeze was in your face it didn’t seem to matter how many layers you had on.
The race itself was a little over 5k (3.3mi per my watch) and consisted of some groomed ski mobile trails and some soft, mushy single track. Just about none of it was flat, although there weren’t any terribly challenging climbs.
As usual, Jim Johnson was out in front when the start command was given. Right there with him and myself was Andrew Drummond and Garrison Parker. As we cut through the parking lot and ran up the driveway the four us started to string out a little bit.
JJ had a decent lead in seemingly no time. Garrison and I were next, and Garrison looked strong on the single track. We made it out to a groomed portion with a downhill and I made a move to pass and kept my foot on the gas. I wasn’t going to catch JJ but still wanted to get a lead of my own. The move worked and I was out alone the rest of the way. Almost.
Somewhere throughout my years of racing I heard an expression regarding the marathon, something about how sometimes the road can just open up and swallow you when you least expect it. I think that happened to me here. Going down some steep single track in loose powder the Earth screamed ‘get in my belly’ and tried to inhale me. I fell backwards, my legs disappeared, but my momentum carried me downhill in some weird, awkward slide. I felt like I was in quicksand. I had no idea how far behind me 3rd place was but even before that I was thinking that I wasn’t moving too quickly. Mixed in with the panic was some laughter, and I struggled to regain my footing and get going again.
Moments later I heard a voice behind me. It was Andrew Drummond and he was closing ground fast. He said something to me in human words, but all I heard was the sound a hyena makes when it’s about to pounce on fresh meat. This was all within about a half mile from the finish, and I was able to hold off the challenge and get the coveted runner up status.
JJ was waiting for me at the finish, having won in 25:39. My 28:24 gave him plenty of time to relax, catch his breath and think about what he wanted to eat for lunch. Drummond came in just after I did, in 28:42.
Leslie O’Dell also won for the second time in as many days. She finished in 32:34, good for 7th overall. There was no twisting single track section where our paths crossed that gave us chances to exchange inaudible messages, as was the case at Horse Hill. Hilary McCloy was pretty close in 36:20 for 11th overall.
Acidotic took the team prize, paced by ATR contender Garrison Parker in 30:32.
In total, there were only 33 finishers, which is only about a third of the typical snowshoe race. It’s a shame the race didn’t draw more because it was a fantastic event. The course was great and the facilities and support was even better. The hot cups of chili and chicken noodle soup in the lodge afterwards were a welcome sight! Hopefully this race has some better luck next year.
Here’s an interview with the two champions: