Ryan Welts talks about what goes into making a snowshoe course. He would know of course, since he was the brains behind the recent Granite State Snowshoe Championship 10k course. That single track doesn’t just magically appear on its own, after all. Ryan wasn’t just a behind the scenes guy either. He ended up running a 54:13 for 10k and finished 6th overall. For the series he ended up a measly point behind Dave Dunham for third place in the standings.
Tag: Ryan Welts
The Exeter Snowshoe Hullabaloo was held last Saturday in Exeter, NH. Besides being a snowshoe race with a fantastic name, it served as the final tune up for snowshoers in the area before this Saturday’s national championships in Vermont.
The Hullabaloo was tightly contested, especially for a snowshoe race. Ryan Kelly earned the win with a 33:22 and Ryan Welts was a mere seven seconds behind him. Only seven seconds behind Welts was the ageless wonder Dave Dunham. Kristina Folcik-Welts was the top woman on the day and fifth overall in 35:45. It was yet another strong showing by the Dangergirl.
For more about the race, we defer to Mr. Dunham (double-d Mountain Runner), who not only competes, then runs back out and gets pics (you got Dunham’d!), and finally caps it all off with a solid blog recap:
Exeter snowshoe hullabaloo – My final snowshoe race leading up to the nationals was the penultimate Granite State series race this weekend. I’ve never run in a “hullabaloo” so this looked very interesting to me.
I got to the race early, with the late start (11am) I got in a run earlier in the day to help loosen up, and headed out for my normal 3 mile warm-up. It was already about 50 degrees and warming. The snow was going to be very soft. I changed into race gear and headed out for a mile on the course in snowshoes. This was going to be interesting! The course was a big figure 8 with a ton of up/down and turns. Basically you never went more than 100m without a change in direction and/or a climb/descent. It was also entirely single-track and the snow was soft and getting softer.
It truly was a hullabaloo at the start as 80+ anxious runners took off down the single-track. I got out cleanly in 2nd place as Ryan Kelly stormed off. The fifth runner of the line got his shoe stepped on and went down blocking the trail and nearly getting trampled to death. I heard a lot of yelling during the first half mile, I guess it was people calling out “on your left” as they attempted to pass and sort things out. It is considered good sportsmanship to yield the trail to a faster runner. I heard after the race that this did not happen and especially the top woman runner was impeded. Sad to hear that.
Anyway, I was out clean and working hard to keep Kelly in sight. I had Ryan Welts and Chad Carr right behind me keeping me honest. The effort felt very hard, mostly the footing was very poor and you’d slip/slide or punch through a lot. That can be exhausting. I looked at my watch at 16 minutes in and thought “probably half-way done”. Right around the same time we did a section of the course with a big looping turn and I could see Kelly out in front but only about 25 seconds ahead. Within another minute or so Ryan Welts made his move and flew by me on a downhill. I was happy to have him lead for a bit and I settled in trying to place my snowshoes wherever he got good footing.
At 22 minutes I snuck a peek at my watch again. I was getting tired! We turned the corner onto the pipeline trail and with the long straight-away we could see Kelly not that far ahead. Chad Carr made his move and flew by me and Welts. He looked like a man on a mission. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on where you were in the pack, that was about the point where the snow was the deepest and least tracked. Kelly and Carr were doing a ton of work stomping through the deep and very heavy snow. It wasn’t easy back in fourth place but it was slightly better than being in the lead.
We continued to close on Kelly and with ½ mile to go Welts and I both made a move to go by Carr who graciously allowed us by. The last climb over “Camels Hump” was difficult and I egged on Ryan with a shout of “come on we’ve got him”. We got to within a couple of seconds of the lead when we hit 400 to go and the first really packed out section of the course. Kelly took off, Welts said something like “damn tri-athletes” and he took off as well. I was already all-out and was left flat footed. Kelly took the win in 33:32 with Welts 7 seconds back and me another 7 seconds back. Chad Carr rolled in 25 seconds later and a fast finishing Kristina Folcik took 5thplace overall (despite the aforementioned tangle with some less than gentlemanly runners).
Another great event put on by the Acidotic Racing crew on a perfect late winter day.
There are spikes in track, but there are much bigger spikes (cleats!) in snowshoe races. There are elbows in track, so then wouldn’t you expect the elbows to be that much bigger in snowshoe races? Perhaps size doesn’t matter (depends on who you ask), and perhaps we wouldn’t even be discussing this had someone not been there to capture the moment. Because someone happened to click the shutter on the camera at the exact moment when Chris Dunn’s elbow slammed into Jim Johnson’s rib cage (possibly knocking his hat sideways), we have to talk about it. It’s out there, and the picture is spectacular.
The fact that the race was even held was borderline miraculous. In the days leading up to the race, the course was changed several times in an attempt to find enough snow for the runners to run on. According to Chris Dunn: “I was on the phone with him (race director Michael Amarello) Friday afternoon after he had spent more than seven hours trying to link together enough snow covered trails to make a decent course.”
But then conditions deteriorated even further, causing the course to change yet again after a final walk through that Friday. It was to be a ‘throwback’ race, and use the original (and short and fast) out and back course. This was to be a quick one; 2.5 miles of double track logging road, with the first .4 mile downhill (and subsequent last .4 uphill), all on icy terrain for the most part.
Word of the questionable conditions spread fairly quickly via social media and there’s little doubt that that may have deterred a few people from making the trek. Despite those disadvantages, there were still over seventy people there lining up to take on this course.
When the gun went off, Johnson found himself behind a few runners. The whole field seemed to be converging on a five foot wide swatch of the best runnable snow, and Jim knew he had to make a move to get clear. With Dunn out to a fast start, Jim threw in a surge to get around him, but Jim paid for the move. Well, maybe not, but it certainly looked like he did. The elbow didn’t really slow Jim down and he was off.
Jim cleared the first mile in 5:42. Make no mistake about it, that is really fast for a snowshoe race. There was just the right combo of a downhill start plus really fast conditions all around. Nacho Hernando, in his first snowshoe race, was right there with Jim. Nacho himself is a formidable opponent on the roads, and Jim was hoping that his experience would ultimately give him the edge for the race.
“If I had some deep snow or a good climb, I may have been able to pull away a bit just from the sheer fact that this was his first snowshoe race and maybe my experience would benefit me in that case, but it was so fast that I couldn’t make any sort of decisive moves until possibly on the way back,” said Jim. “My plan was to try to stay ahead of him until the climb up on the way back and then maybe try to grind it out there.”
Jim kept pushing the pace after the turnaround. If there was a point where Nacho could have taken him it would have been on the stretch between the turn around the final climb. It wasn’t the case that day. The climb started, Jim’s lead grew a little more, and he could relax a bit on the way in. Jim closed out the race with a 7:36 last mile up the final climb and ran 14:22 for the 2.5 mile race. Nacho came in shortly after in 14:45.
Behind Jim & Nacho the battle was fierce for third place. Ryan Welts, Dave Dunham and Phil Erwin were all duking it out in a final push that’s probably seen more on the roads than in the snow. At the turn around, Erwin was ahead of Welts and Dunham by ten or so seconds. Dunham hung in back of the two awaiting his moment to strike. “We slowly closed on Phil and on the last 1/2 mile I figured I’d make my “move” on the uphill,” said Dave. “I’ll be damned if Ryan wasn’t thinking the same. He buried me on the climb. With 200 to go he went by Phil and I went by him with 100 to go.” Impressive finish, especially so considering the last climb.
What makes it that much more impressive was the fact that Dave had a severe
wardrobe equipment malfunction. “Around 1/2 mile my shoe came untied and I had to flex my toes/arch to stay inside the shoe.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, the poor guy also broke a snowshoe during the race. Yet he still charged up that last climb as fast as Chevy Chase rocketing down a mountain side on a greased up saucer.
Chris finished 6th (16:51) and was all by his lonesome by the end.”The final .4 mile climb was special as the early O2 debt came due,” said Dunn (acidotic Racing). Fifth place was nearly a minute in from of him and seventh place was almost thirty seconds behind. That’s a tough spot to be in when you’re in oxygen debt.
The women’s race perhaps suffered the most in terms of competition. Whereas the last few races had a solid pack of women up front pushing each other, this one saw Kristina Folcik-Welts pretty much running away with it. Kristina ran an impressive 18:06 and finished 13th overall. That was nearly three and a half minutes up on her nearest competitor; Dangergirl dominated.
“There was no female competition to push me, so I tried to get Chris (Dunn) but he is to fast on the short stuff!” Kristina failed to get Chris again, but she’ll have her next chance this weekend.
As this story is being finished, Mother Nature is answering the call of all the snow dances that have been performed around here lately. So whether you call it “New England clam powder,” “Connecticut confetti” or “New Hampshire Cocaine”, we should have plenty of it in Merrimack, NH for this weekend’s Horeshill Snowshoe Race.