Tag: Snowshoe racing

The Picture Says It All

Always on the lookout out here for different perspectives and angles, and when we can get it, a peak behind the curtain for an event, process, etc. That’s exactly why I was excited to see Joe Viger’s blog post about a couple of shots he took of Nacho Hernando from the Granite State Snowshoe Championships.

With all the shots Joe takes, it’s easy to wonder just how he thins out the memory card to go from raw materials to finished product. What’s he looking for? What does it mean to him? In Joe’s words:

When ever make a photograph that I’m pleased with, I always look at it as a gift.  It doesn’t matter what type of photograph it is.  There’s a million examples.  The sun aligned and the light was sweet on the field of lupine. The baby looked at the camera and smiled.  The fall colors were peaking on the ridge as the morning fog burned off.  The model looked up and let her soul shine through her eyes.  These are all gifts that I’m fortunate enough to have recognized and preserved with my camera.  I say thank you to the universe and feel filled with gratitude every time it happens.  Mother Nature, the person, the weather… whatever… has given me something precious.  As a photographer, I value what those photographs say and the feelings they inspire.

Nowhere is this idea more apparent to me than when I’m photographing sports.  The athletes are generous with their gifts of winning, accomplishment, strength, endurance, inspiration and so much more.  I always feel privileged to have these amazing people in front of my lens.  I try hard to capture everything they are in 1/1000th of a second.

This past weekend I photographed the Granite State Snowshoe Championships.  I made a lot of photos that I’m really happy with but two series of images stand out to me.  In both frames, Nacho Hernando looked into my lens, showed me how he felt about his performance and gave me the chance to capture the story of the race.  The image on the left was made in the first 10 minutes of the race and Nacho was in the lead.  The photo on the right was about 35 minutes later and things had changed.  Jim Johnson, the race winner, had passed two minutes before and Nacho was now in second.  In both cases, whether he knew it or not, Nacho was giving me the photograph.  And like all the images I make, I’m thankful for that.

Viger Granite State Snowshoe Nacho DuoThose two pics side by side tell the story all by themselves, but it’s still great to get Joe’s take on it. Reading that really struck a chord with me because I had been thinking of some photos that Joe had taken during the US Snowshoe Championships back on March 1st.

That race had beaten me up pretty badly and before we even finished the climbing that constituted the first half of the 10k race, my goose was cooked. Over 1,100 feet of snow covered climbing was probably 1,000 more feet than I was in shape for and I was (for all of you people familiar with a certain mountain race) in an Upper Walking Boss kind of distress. Only difference is that instead of being near the end, here I was only half way through (and on snowshoes).

Something clicked once I got onto the groomed ski trails taking us back down. Perhaps it had something to do with running by that husky that started howling (my power animal?), I don’t know, but my legs regained some strength, the competitive juices started flowing and I hauled ass down the mountain feeling GREAT. I was catching everybody in sight (and some that had been out of sight) and was just pumped up. I got to the bottom of the switchback, almost done, saw Joe taking his shots and made a gesture in the moment that I thought conveyed my feeling. This is what I thought I was doing in my head:

Viger snowshoe nationals hernando
BUT…this is what I actually did:

Viger snowshoe nationals narcisi
Yeah, not exactly close. That’s Nacho in the first one, and his doesn’t look as awkward. It’s hard to ham it up for the camera when you’re still not confident that you’re not going to trip over your own snowshoes as you try to surge toward a finish line on exhausted legs. It’s fun though; I highly recommend it. For a closer, side by side look:

Viger Hernando Narcisi Snowshoe
Yeah, priceless. Can’t wait until we get the new Level singlets in. That sleeveless t-shirt just ain’t cutting it for race day.

Johnson Captures Series Title

Jim Johnson overcame a moment of pre-race panic to capture the 2014 Granite State Snowshoe Championship title. Jim would be upset if we didn’t remind everyone of this: he locked his keys in his car as he was about to go warm up. Along with the keys: his racing shoes, snowshoes, and bib number. PANIC!

Before any rash smashing was done, Scott Mason stepped up and worked some magic. Armed with a slimjim, years of knowledge from his work as a locksmith, and possibly some additional background from hours and hours of playing Grand Theft Auto, Scott was able to get Jim back into his car.

The race would end up going much more smoothly for Jim. Nacho Hernando tweaked his calf in the latter stages and struggled over the second half, allowing Johnson to pull away for the win. Jim crossed the line in 48:28 for 10k, with Nacho just behind in 50:51.

The win marked the 6th consecutive Granite State Snowshoe Series title for JJ. Dave Dunham was second and Ryan Welts was third. Dunham was also the masters champion. If Nacho runs a few more of the circuit races next year then he just might give Johnson a run for his money.

While we weren’t able to get race footage this time, we were lucky enough to get some first person video from Josh Fields. It’s a bit of a long clip, but if you scan through it you can get a sense of what it was like out on the trails. It’s interesting watching people pass on the single track portions.


Blazing Trails: Ryan Welts

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.

First-person race footage is courtesy of acidotic RACING member Josh Fields. Josh had a GoPro camera on during the race and got a cool perspective on the terrain.

Dangergirl Gets An Axe

Interview with Kristina Folcik-Welts after she clinched her 2014 Granite State Snowshoe Series title with a win at the season-ending Granite State Championship. Kristina ran a 1:01:52 and finished 16th overall. Coming into the race, Kristina had a pretty good lead in the standings. During the race there was a sizable gap between her and second place Kyla Brustin, so it was up to her to choose her own level of punishment as she came to the climbs later in the race. Push on and compete with the men around her, or coast it in a bit and enjoy the last few minutes of snowshoe racing for the season?

Johnson’s Key To Victory: Scott Mason

Jim Johnson won the Granite State Snowshoe Championship (and the overall series) on March 8, 2014. Jim ran a 48:28 for the challenging, technical 10k course. The real story was how Scott Mason set Jim up for the win before the race even started. Warning: this video may contain some salty language.

We’ll go easy on JJ here. This was all done very tongue in cheek and the video was edited very deliberately to pull this off. There’s no Mason-Johnson feud brewing here. Jim’s already thanked Scott, but we saw an opportunity here for something entertaining. Scott pulled it off like a champ. The way he sits down with the beer to casually tell the tale, it’s reminiscent of Robert Shaw in Jaws. In other words, he nails it.

Granite State Snowshoe Coverage Coming…

Covered (and competed) at the Granite State Snowshoe Championships today. Race coverage coming soon. Jim Johnson (48:28) and Kristina Folcik-Welts (61:52) were the winners in the race, which was a 10k for those scoring at home. In case you missed it, here’s some instant stuff we published “live” via Instagram during the awards…

Open women, overall series. Wait for the axe leap…

Overall women, today’s Granite State Championship.

Double J, swinging the big axe…

It was harder than I planned to get it all. Thought it would upload and I could get at least the open men & women, but it took too long to upload the video with a weaker signal out there. Anway, much more on this coming soon. The race was well covered by top notch race photographer, such as Scott Mason, Joe Viger and SNAPacidotic (Gianina Lindsey) and we should be featuring some of their work here. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram to get this stuff as it happens.

And why not leave you with this, the parking lot Old Man On The Mountain…

Snow Not Stopping Graham

The Level Legion: Inside The Race

Last we left the The Level Legion: Boston Marathon Edition, they were providing some insight into their recent training for the Boston Marathon. With just over six weeks to go now, we’re getting close to taper time. However, it’s the perfect time to get in races for various reasons, whether it be for a marathon pace workout, changing things up with a dose of speed, or even just for a confidence booster. With every race, each runner has their own unique story to tell.

Scott Graham just competed at the Dion US Snowshoe Championships in Woodford, VT over the weekend. Scott ran a 68:15 for 10k and finished 142nd. Here’s the story, straight from Scott:

If there is no report then it didn’t happen. Well then, I guess it really did happen.

Boston Legion GrahamSo lets start with my training for the prior week to set the stage.

Saturday – I went out on a 14 mile run all over Concord, MA. It was a great day and I felt super. After that, I spent the next few hours breaking up the iceberg I had going on in my driveway. I didn’t want to be viewed as the village idiot any longer. After I finished up my back was a little tight.
Sunday – I went to do an easy 5 mile run with the group. I was hurting but no rest for me.
Monday – 9.6 miles
Tuesday – 9.4 miles
Wednesday – 6.2 miles
Thursday – a very easy 4.1 miles
Friday – day of rest.

My back at this point was in major revolt mode. Sleeping was difficult. So I decided to start taking Advil every couple of hours to see if I could loosen it up enough for the race. The bad part about advil for me is it really goofs up my stomach. But I figured I could run with a goofed up stomach and couldn’t run with a locked up back. Advil it was.

Now I needed to pack for the race. Not knowing what the weather was going to be at race time I decided to pack EVERYTHING; I had a big duffle bag ready to go Friday night. Earlier in the week I also did a quick check on my Dion snowshoes. Good thing I did because one of the bindings was on the hairy edge and I figured I might need a set of deep cleats for the race. I got on the Dion website and saw that they were out of the deep cleats. NOOOO! I called up Bob Dion to see what could be done and he assured me that all I would need was my ice cleats and he could put a new set of bindings in the mail right away. Try that with Tubbs or Redfeather! The bindings showed up Thursday night and in one minute I had them changed. The shoes looked FAST. My equipment was set and I was ready to go.

Saturday morning started early. Real early. I was up at 4 AM. My back felt OK, not great but runable. I went through my race morning routine and was on the road at 5 AM. A quick stop a DD for 2 bagels, 2 Cokes and a banana and I was on my way. When I left the house it was 5 degrees. I was a bit nervous about what the temperature would be in Woodford, VT but I couldn’t control that so I had to put it out of my mind. As I drove through central MA I noticed that they didn’t have half the snow we had. That was a bit different. Then once I turned north on rt 91 things started to change. Snow was piling up and it was getting colder. I noticed at one point my dashboard read -8. I arrived in Woodford 2.5 hours after I left home. No traffic makes for a quick ride.

I checked in and found a nice warm spot in the lodge to stretch and relax. Soon it was time for the junior race. I checked my watch and it went off right at 9 AM exactly. I love it when a race director does that. The kids ran a 5K course that wound around the base of the mountain, and the kids ran great.

Next up was the senior women’s race. Once again the gun went off right at 10 AM to the second. Right from the gun Amber Cullen Ferrira took the lead (a Westford, MA alumni). We saw the women a couple times before they headed up the mountain to complete the bulk of the course. Amber was already taking total control of the race even in the early stages.

With about 800 yards left to the race we could see them coming back down the mountain. To say Amber was in the lead would be a HUGE understatement. She was in the lead and 2+ minutes later came the second place woman. Amber was amazing. The second place woman was another runner from acidotic RACING, Kristina Welts. So aR took 1st and 2nd. Not too bad for a bunch of hicks from NE.

Now it was time for me to get ready. My right foot was already complaining about being cold. I took off my trainers and changed up my socks. Both items were wet. No wonder my foot was cold. Now was decision time. What to wear? It seemed to be warming up. So I went with the under-dress this time. I knew I would be getting hot as I climbed the mountain. So I went with a base layer up top and my acidotic Racing singlet. For pants I just went with some sporthill sweats. On my feet I wore my racing flats with a pair of short gators. On my hands I had a pair of light gloves with a thin pair of mittens. To top it all off a poly hat. I was ready for speed. Well I was ready to slog up the mountain.

I went outside and did a quick warm-up. A couple of quick strides up one of the hills did the trick. I knew the race would start on time so it was time to line up. I seeded myself back about two-thirds of the way. This was a national championship and I knew I didn’t want to get in the single track area and clog up the course. The race director said a couple of words and pointed out one thing out that held true. He said “This is a New England-style course. It constantly changes. Lots of ups, downs, wide open trails and single track. You will never be able to get in a rhythm on this course”. So true.

Right at 11:30 the gun sounded and the field went out like it was black Friday at Walmart, where they were giving away free donuts to the first 50 customers at the midnight opening. In the first 100 yards I think I was already 100 yards behind the leaders. Holy Cow this was a fast field. We wound around the base of the mountain then hit our first steep climb. It was short but it already caused some people to walk and clogged up the trail a bit. About 8/10′s of a mile into the race we finally headed out to start the 2.5 mile climb up the mountain. The climb was mostly on single track and this caused a lot of conga lines. Once again, people who went out too fast were clogging up the trail. I didn’t mind, I had seeded myself exactly in the right position. The trail was tight and it was impossible to pass with out the person in front of you stepping aside.

We weaved back and forth across the mountain. I was holding my own but I was starting to get tired. In fact at one point one of my snowshoes caught the edge of the snow bank and I went down. DAMN!!! One of my major goals was to see if I could complete the race with out falling. NOPE!!

We finally reached the top and I was looking for some rest going back down. It wasn’t happening. First the single track down the mountain was always twisting and turning so you had to stay focused and run in control or you’d be making snow angels face down. Second, the race director Tim decided to make sure you had great views by running you UP towards the top a second time. I don’t know about the rest of the runners but all I saw was the snow under my feet because I was so beat up.

A couple of times we hit wide open areas to run and I was able to let the “big dogs run”. With about 2K to go I noticed a couple guys up ahead were coming back to me. I told myself ‘I need to catch these guys’. If they were in my age category I would be pissed at myself for not trying. Time to light up the engines. I started pushing hard. Two kilometers is what, 1.2 miles? GO OLD MAN GO!!

I knew I had to catch them before we hit the switch back part of the course going down the final hill. I knew I wouldn’t be stable in that area. I caught them and tried to stretch out my lead.

1K to go. Here comes the switchbacks.

Sure enough they were all chewed up with lots of deep holes. I was stumbling all over the place like a drunk during an earthquake. I could hear the guys catching me.

Viger Graham Snowshoe Nationals

Graham hits the switchbacks very ‘gracefully’. Courtesy of Joe Viger Photography.

With a quarter mile to go I was back on level ground and there were 3 guys right on my tail. Lets see what these legs got left. I did a full systems check: legs feel good, breathing was under control. Funny but climbing the mountain I was a mess. It seems my breathing has not been so good the last year. I have good endurance but once I need to take in a large volume of oxygen I just can’t expand my chest enough. But it was go time.

I started to dig deep. I had nobody in front of me so it was all about holding off the guys behind me. What we had left was in the shape of a backwards S, with the first 2 sections being flat to down hill. I knew I could hold them off on these sections. The third section was up a slight hill, and here is were I figured the race would be won or lost. The final section was down the same hill we just ran up. Here we go!!!!

First section, they are about 10 yards behind me. Hold steady.

Second section, still 10 yards back. OK it’s go time. Drive that stiletto into their hearts and give it a twist.

My legs responded and I was flying up the hill. I took a peak over my shoulder and they were shat out my back door. I turned the last corner to the finish and I could see they were all dropping further back.

Drive to the finish. Leg responded again. Where were these legs going up the mountain? I crossed the finish line and was dead tired. I grabbed my knees and just wobbled for a couple of minutes.

I knew I had given it all I had but the competition was off the chart. One thing I wanted to make sure of was that I didn’t finish DFL. Success!

I went back into the lodge and changed up quick. I was soaked and I knew if I stayed in these wet clothes I’d be a shivering mess in short order. I’m glad I packed everything. Now it was time to check the results. I didn’t have to wait even a second; by the time I got back outside they were posted. I was 8th in my age category and 142nd over all out of 213 male runners. WOW, I don’t think I’ve ever finished in the back 1/3 of any race but then again I’ve never run in a national title race before. I was satisfied.

Now for the hardest part of the day: driving 2.5 hours back home. I bought a couple of Cokes to keep me awake and listened to an audio version of “Born to Run”. Go figure!!!

A good day was had by ALL.

Hartmark Captures US Snowshoe Championship

Mason Hartmark Snowshoe Championships

2014 US National Champion Eric Hartmark gliding above the snow, courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

Here’s our raw footage from the men’s Dion US Snowshoe Championships. It was actually a couple of Canadians who claimed the top spots, with Dave LePorho winning in 41:51. Eric Hartmark (42:20) of Duluth, MN was the top American and third overall.

Galoob Continues Hot Streak

Mason Galoob Snowshoe Championships

Galoob gets one more on his way to the finish. Courtesy of Scott Mason Photo.

Mike Galoob made Team USA after finishing 6th (4th American) at the Dion US Snowshoe Championships. Mike ran a 44:30 for 10k in what was just his second snowshoe race ever. Here’s our interview with Mike afterwards.

Pics courtesy of Scott Mason Photo. Check out his site for great shots from all the action on Saturday.

New England Sweeps Podium at Snowshoe Nationals

Amber Ferreira decimated the field at the Dion US Snowshoe Championships. It’s hard to put it into words really. How about: Amber cut through the hilly, snow covered trails like an arctic wolf chugging red bull and riding a snowmobile. Amber really was a like a howling wolf riding a snowmobile and just ran away with the title.

For Amber, who is a professional triathlete, it was her second snowshoe title. The last time she won she ended up second at world. From the way she dominated on Saturday it looks like she ready to take on the world this next go around (which unfortunately won’t happen until 2015.

Amber wasn’t the only New Englander to taste success; she was joined on the podium by Kristina Folcik-Welts (2nd, 53:51) and Ashley Krause (3rd, 54:44). All three were named to Team USA for landing on the podium. Joining them are Sarah Gall of Cedar Falls, IA (4th, 54:57) and Abbey Wood (5th, 55:01). Abbey hails from Laconia, NH, which makes 4 out of 5 for New Englanders on the national team.

More to come on this.

Our coverage of the women’s race was enhanced by photos from Joe Viger Photography. Check out Joe’s great work from all the races that day!

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