Here’s the full interview with Jim Johnson after the Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble on Sunday. It was an interesting conversation, going beyond the race of the day and examining the possibilities of some of the area’s elite strapping on the snowshoes. Of course it led to an open call for Ben True and Sam Chelanga to put the shoes on and mix it up with the locals. Ben hails from Maine so it should be easy for him. On the other hand, Sam went on the level back in September and made it clear he wasn’t intimidated by the thought of experiencing his first ever New England winter. Well, Sam could prove it by jumping into one of these races. He could even do it discretely, maybe by registering as Sam C. Yeah, that would be clever.
Tag: Kevin Tilton
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 wasn’t quite snow, but the ice and “crunchy snow” (as heard in the video below) mix made for a very fast whip through Whitaker 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 Jim’s 23:16. “I’m telling you that was the worst beating I’ve had in a snowshoe race probably except for Nationals,” said Jim. It’s not to say the Jim didn’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 women’s race, like the one in the men’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 wouldn’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 runner’s weakness is another runner’s strength, and even early in the race it turned into the big break. ”She (Kristina) knows I slow down on the single track, especially when it’s downhill because I am so clumsy and I’m so scared that I’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 I’m like ‘Oh no she’s going to pass me!’ and sure enough she did, right on the downhill,” recalled Melissa. Surprisingly tactics like that aren’t why Kristina is known as Dangergirl. It’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, you’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 didn’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: don’t finish so far behind Dunham where he has time to come back and get a picture of me in the race. Now, don’t get me wrong. I know Dave does it with the best of intentions and he’s incredibly supportive in doing so. However, there’s a part of me that thinks that it’s an epic form of trash talking. It’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, I’d have to include that in there. Someone would get Dunham’d. Hopefully it’s not me next time, but I probably didn’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.
Guest blog by Kevin Tilton
Well, it’s the end of an era. Double J put an end to my reign of terror in the tiny town of Sandwich, NH, also known as the Center of the Snowshoeing Universe. It was a hard fought battle from the beginning to end.
I knew the conditions would be fast as we haven’t had any fresh snow in this part of the state in a few weeks. Luckily there was a decent base that allowed Paul Kirsch to set a modified course. I was worried that most of it would be on the flat and fast fairgrounds, but I was quite surprised to see how much of it was in the woods on the other side of the road.
I was pretty nervous the last couple of days as I haven’t run a race since Cape Cod in October, and the first snowshoe race of the year always hurts like hell. Usually by the time Sidehiller rolls around, I’ve run at least one other race to get ready for what is usually a pretty competitive race. With a relative lack of snow and a busy work schedule, that didn’t happen. Work has also been cutting into my training, as I have been pretty busy this winter taking on some new responsibilities. Hopefully I’ll adjust and get back to some good training again.
The gun went off and as usual Jim shot out to the front 1/2 a mile in. I was working pretty hard just to keep him in sight. This is usual though, so I just kept plugging along hoping that I would make up some time on the hills and singletrack. He had a 5-10 second lead as we crossed Bean Rd. where the volunteers had put down plywood and shoveled snow to cover the road. Thank you Sidehillers!
I immediately started to close the gap on the steep up and managed to catch Jim on the field section, which was surprising as I was not expecting to actually run through the upper fields. My lungs were burning pretty good at this point, but I kept the hammer down as Jim let me by and I opened a little gap while running through the windblown snow.
I was hoping for more of these conditions, but we ran out of hills and the rest of the course was pretty firm. I did my best to open a gap in the last field and on the downhill singletrack, but Jim hung tough. I knew that if he was close after the road crossing that I would be in trouble. Unfortunately, I was in trouble before we hit the downhill. I was pretty much out of gas. I lengthened my stride on the downs, and opened a tiny gap after the road crossing, but with a quarter mile to go Jim went around me. I responded, but it was too late and he cruised into the finish for a 4 second win.
I spent a good amount of time with my hands on my knees at the finish. My lungs were on fire and my quads and core were shot. I ran hard but Jim ran harder. This was the first race in a LONG time where I just didn’t feel strong. I haven’t been doing the mileage, long tempos or long fartleks that make up the base of my training. This was a good reminder of what I need to get back too.
I am running in the GV Snowshoes Challenge next weekend in Quebec City. It is a 10k consisting of 5 laps of a 2k loop. Not my type of course, but it should be a neat experience running a race in the middle of Winter Carnival in the heart of the old part of the city. The course will be fast, but at least now I have a race under my belt.
Get A Glimpse Inside the Head of a Mountain Man by following Kevin’s blog. Also check out this video of the finish (shot by Roger Marcoux and posted to Youtube by Jim Johnson):
Kevin Tilton is a certified mountain runner and all around good guy. The certification comes via his membership on two USA national mountain running teams. The good guy part was verified via a recent 9 mile trail run I had with him. On that run I really came to respect his outlook on not only running but life as well. He is very knowledgeable about our sport and there is a method and principle behind his workouts.
The workout outlined below was constructed and executed in preparation of the Mt Washington Road Race. Last weekend at the rock pile, Tilton ran an impressive 65:54 for 18th place in a stacked field. This below is what he did in preparation for it.
This is a workout I started doing every other week this spring as prep for Mt. Washington. The first three times I did it, it was 3 miles of 1:00 on, 1:00 off on a 10-15% grade. The key to this workout is that the off segments are also uphill, so you learn to recover while running up a steep grade. I started doing this workout 1.8 miles up Hurricane Mtn. Rd. here in North Conway. From there is it 1.2 miles on hiking trail to the top of 2,367 foot tall Black Cap. The whole climb is close to 1,700 feet in 3 miles. As I got closer to race day, I did the workout on the auto road itself. The first time was on May 11. I went to the 3 mile mark covering each mile in 6:52, 8:22 and 8:49. Each mile ends up being a little slower than race pace, but you get plenty of faster running. I didn’t feel particularly good on this one, but the splits were fast and I pushed through some dead legs to get to the 3 mile mark. Good training for the later miles on race day. The last time I did the workout was on May 26 and I was able to make this workout 4 miles long. My splits were 7:00, 8:33, 8:52 and 8:50. The splits were slightly slower than the last time, but I felt much better and was able to push the workout to 4 miles.
A pretty simple workout but effective. That could just be one of the takeaways from this Negative Splits Session: keep it simple and work hard, very very hard.