The Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble hosted its largest field ever on Saturday. This was especially impressive because for some, including myself, the status of the race was in doubt due to rain that hit the week of the race. I was so concerned with reports I had heard that I had to contact race director Kevin Tilton to see what the deal was. When I told him that I had heard there was no snow up there, his reply of “Erroneous!” was enough to convince me to still make the trip.
Maybe what was on the ground wasnâ€™t quite snow, but the ice and “crunchy snow” (as heard in the video below) mix made for a very fast whip through Whitaker Â Woods. Some tweaks to the course were needed so it ended up being about 3.5 miles instead of the usual 4.
I bent down to double knot a shoelace, which was exactly when Kevin started the race. Even while tentatively making my way out in the pack, I could see Nick and Jim Johnson shoot out to the front. “It was pretty much Jim and I from the start and we stayed together for the first mile,” said Nick. It was after that mile where Nick started to separate himself from the three-time defending Whitaker Woods champion.
Nick ended up running a 22:04, which was comfortably ahead of Jimâ€™s 23:16. “Iâ€™m telling you that was the worst beating Iâ€™ve had in a snowshoe race probably except for Nationals,” said Jim. Itâ€™s not to say the Jim didnâ€™t have a great time despite suffering his first ever loss in this race, but in the end it was only “as fun as a beating could possibly be.”
Kristina Folcik-Welts ran a 28:07 in securing her win, and she was about as dominate as Nick was. Kristina had a 46 second lead over runner up Melissa Donais (28:53). The battle in the womenâ€™s race, like the one in the menâ€™s, broke open just after a mile. I witnessed it…well, part of it.
The course crested a hill and brought the runners to a point with a spectacular view of Mt Washington off in the distance before the icy turn onto some treacherous single track. You wouldnâ€™t have thought it was that treacherous by the way Kristina (aka Dangergirl) attacked it. Kristina took off down that path like Wile E Coyote on crack, with an Acme rocket booster on his back that may or may not have had some Iranian nuclear “energy” funding behind it. It was sick. In the blink of an eye she was out of site.
Melissa had a bit of lead going into that stretch but Kristina has a knack for those icy single tracks. One runnerâ€™s weakness is another runnerâ€™s strength, and even early in the race it turned into the big break. Â ”She (Kristina) knows I slow down on the single track, especially when itâ€™s downhill because I am so clumsy and Iâ€™m so scared that Iâ€™m going to fall and break a leg,” said Melissa.
The section contained at least one turn that was so tight it brought runners a bit off the course when trying to make it. Yet somehow Kristina was able to cruise through it and take over. “It was actually on that section I could hear her and Iâ€™m like ‘Oh no sheâ€™s going to pass me!â€™ and sure enough she did, right on the downhill,” recalled Melissa. Surprisingly tactics like that arenâ€™t why Kristina is known as Dangergirl. Itâ€™s mainly because she falls all the time, according to the Dangergirl herself.
I was cruising along in the second mile and feeling good about my own race when I heard “come on, youâ€™re the third woman!”. I turned to clarify that I was in fact a man, when I noticed Leslie Beckwith breathing down my neck. Try as I might, I didnâ€™t have it in me that day to withstand that barrage that was Leslie on snowshoes. Leslie ended up being the third women, running a 29:15. I locked in on her and came in just after her in 29:24.
The top masters runner of the day was Dave Dunham who impressively came in third overall with his 24:59. For the effort Dave won himself a container of Tilton-made baked goods. You have to be present to win, Dave! I helped myself to the spoils of his triumph and damn, they were good. Definitely worth sticking around for.
For the ladies, the top masters runner was Robin AllenBurke of Acidotic who ran a 35:34 and placed 36th overall.
My goal for next time: donâ€™t finish so far behind Dunham where he has time to come back and get a picture of me in the race. Now, donâ€™t get me wrong. I know Dave does it with the best of intentions and heâ€™s incredibly supportive in doing so. However, thereâ€™s a part of me that thinks that itâ€™s an epic form of trash talking. Itâ€™s right up there with all of the epic trash talking in movies (American Flyers comes to mind) only it can be done without saying much if anything at all. If your rival comes up to you after a race and says “Hey I got a nice shot of you finishing” then what can you say? Well, not much besides damn. If I were to make a sports movie, Iâ€™d have to include that in there. Someone would get Dunhamâ€™d. Hopefully itâ€™s not me next time, but I probably didnâ€™t help my cause by eating his cookies. Damn.
Photos courtesy of Joe Viger Photography, except for the last shot of me. That was by Dave Dunham.