Running scared might be an accurate theme for the 2015 Exeter Snowshoe Hullaballoo. One probably wouldn’t normally associate being scared with any sort of hullaballoo but when said hullaballoo is a tight, twisting, undulating, single track where you’ll face plant if you step out of the rail…well, you can see how scary that sounds.
Jim Johnson returned to the race for the first time since 2011 and came away with the same result: a win.
JJ, as the old man is affectionately referred to by his adoring fans, ran a 29:03, and although he was running scared he kind of had a scary big lead. His closest competition was over 3 minutes behind him and, unlike Jim, they had more than imagined fears to ponder. Andrew Drummond and Damon Gannon finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively and it was pretty close. Andrew ran a 32:43 and Damon was just behind him in 32:57.
When you’re right there with someone on tight single track conditions like they faced then you really have to put some thought into when and how you’ll make any moves if you’re planning on moving up and past someone. On the flipside, if you’re racing like a gentleman then you’ll also need to consider letting the guy behind you go if he’s clearing rolling up on you and you’re slowing him down. But who wants to step off the track and face plant?
Out in the lead, Jim clicked off a 7:35 for the first mile. “I was clear at that point and decided to lay off just a little bit as I suddenly realized that the race was 4 miles, not a 5k, and also I remember how tough of a grind it was over the later miles.” At that point he had already taken one digger and it only becomes easier to ‘eat snow’ as your legs get more tired and rubbery.
Jim technically slowed it down for the second mile (7:45) but he wasn’t easing off the pace like he had hoped to. The second mile also featured his second digger, this one coming on the steepest climb of the course. “I just lazily stepped on my own snowshoes and fell on my face again. I was almost walking anyways.”
Johnson hit the third mile in 8:00 and managed to stay on his feet, but he would succumb to gravity once more over the last mile on a downhill stretch. “I almost welcomed the second or two rest I had, picking myself up out of the snow.” That’s how you know you’re tired. If you fall down and you’re not thinking ‘shit!’ but more like ‘this is nice’.
It was a slightly different story for the ladies. Leslie O’Dell ran a 35:38 also had a big lead over second place, but she had some men around her to battle with. “I was nervous going into this race because I wasn’t feeling that great, and I thought it was supposed to be a tough course,” said Leslie. “Plus, Abbey Wood showed up and had me running scared the whole way.”
Fear can be a powerful motivator, and it perhaps it helped power O’Dell to the win and into the top ten. Leslie finished 9th overall and was the top finisher for her acidotic RACING team (that’s men & women). “I went out fast from the start and kept it on until the finish.” Abbey Wood ran a 38:13 and was only a few spots back placewise (14th).
Although Leslie also described her frame of mind as scared, that seemed to be where the similarities between her point of view and that of JJ’s would end. “I actually found the course to be really well-packed with a fairly wide track.” Oh man, which was it? Does that mean that JJ falls down on wide tracks, or that Leslie is such a mountain goat that even a narrow path seems like a luxuriously wide trail? We might need to do some more investigating to find out.
Jim recapped the race about as well as one could: “Everyone had about the same story….first mile you felt pretty good….second mile was ok….third mile started to get interesting….fourth mile was a nightmare. The funny thing was that each mile looked about the same…there was nothing really special about the last mile or mile and a half that stood out from the rest…it was just a tough day out there the way the race played out.” If you’ve never done a snowshoe race then the grind aspect of it might be a little hard to understand, but the term is quite fitting for a race like this that is all on single track.
In closing, Leslie had this to add: :Oh, and this week’s song in my head was ‘Contagious’ by Night Riots, so it looks like my race playlist is on the up-and-up.” That song is unfamiliar to the Level. After making the mistake to look up her initial race day song, we’re afraid to search for this one. We’ll let the Legion decide if it’s an improvement.
Series continues this weekend with another double due to some blizzard related rescheduling. First up is the nighttime Kingman Farm Moonlight race on Saturday night in Madbury, NH. Then the brave souls of the Granite State Snowshoe Series will will gather by the Mt Washington Auto Road on Sunday morning for the Ski & ‘Shoe to the Clouds race. That one is a 10k and the last half of it goes straight up the Rockpile auto road. It’s bad enough tackling that fresh, let alone some 12 hrs or so after your previous race. The Level will be on hand for both. Good luck to all!
Jim could not be reached for comment so we relied heavily on his training log update from this race.