Tag: Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble

Coffee Talk With JJ

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 though 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.

Will we see Sam at Sidehiller? Wouldn’t be a bad spot for him to try it out. It’s a qualifier for the national championships, which will be in Vermont this year. We should be at Sidehiller. Nationals here we come. Hopefully.

Wheeler Wins in Whitaker Woods

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.

Nick Wheeler pretty much skated through the icy course, looking like a natural on the snowshoes even though he hadn’t done a race in a couple of years. “I kind of forgot the pain of it, so I wanted to see what the pain felt like again.” Well, how was it after all these years? “It was exactly like I remembered,” replied Nick.

wheeler johnson viger whitaker
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.

folcik welts donais viger whitaker
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.

narcisi dunham whitaker
Photos courtesy of Joe Viger Photography, except for the last shot of me. That was by Dave Dunham.

Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble

Guest blog by Jim Johnson

Photo of the starting line by SNAPacidotic

Saturday was race #2 in the 2013 Granite State Snowshoe Series put on by acidoticRacing and sponsored by Snowshoe Magazine.  The host race was Kevin Tilton’s Whitaker Woods Snowshoe Scramble (results) at the Whitaker Homestead in North Conway, NH.  The race is a fundraising event to benefit the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring Foundation.  This was the third year in a row this race has been held and part of the GSSS.

This year it was great only having to drive 15-20 minutes up the road to the race.  I woke up in the morning to a nice dusting of an inch or two of fresh snow everywhere and it was snowing pretty good heading up Rt. 16 through Conway. I made it to the race early so I could run over the course w/ Dave  Dunham and flag some of the trails that we didn’t want to do until this morning (because it was still being used by skiers last night after we left).  We also had to tape across the stakes that had been set by Kevin yesterday afternoon.  We headed out at about 8:15 and did the entire 4 miles of the course, which had a nice top layer of powder on top of the already groomed xc ski trails.  I then ran another mile + on snowshoes back up to a junction to set more flags, then back down and around the field a bit to warm up right before the race.  My foot was starting to kill me on the way back down from flagging the last bit.  It was the worst pain I’ve had in a while in the foot…but after stretching a bit at the car and staying loose right before the race, it seemed to get better by the time the race started.

74 brave souls endured the cold morning and snow flurries to make their way out on the slightly longer than 4 mile course.  I got off to an OK start and moved ahead by the middle of the field.  I headed into the woods and started the small climb up the first of a few hills.  I probably felt the worst during this section. I just felt flat and gassed.  I am not sharp at all and it takes me a while to warm up to the pace and effort lately.  The more I race the more I hope to get back that edge.

Photo of my bad start by SNAPacidotic

Trying to stay ahead of Kristina and near Chris Dunn… by SNAPacidotic

Photo near the start by Justin Macomber

By the time we popped up and down and around the first half mile of the course, it was climbing time.  The major climb begins in the first mile and lasts for maybe a half mile or so.  It’s pretty steady, but not steep.  The condition of the trail made it relatively easy, as most any line you picked was pretty solid and had minimal affect on your pace.  Halfway up the climb, I turned to see that Chris Dunn appeared to be in 2nd and a slew of people lining up behind.  It seemed from the vantage point, that everyone was close…but going uphill for an extended period of time makes that illusion that everyone is right there running you down.

As soon as I started the descent off what has to be one of the highest if not the highest point of the course, I started to open it up a bit.  I felt pretty burnt out, but kept up an honest pace as I shot down and around and back up to the second major climb, which is the same uphill section we do in the Summer Series at Whitaker on Tuesday nights.

After summiting the second of the two big climbs, it’s mostly all downhill, with some moderate rollers.  I hit the powerline section and looked back a few times but didn’t see anyone.  The powerline stretch hooks a sharp right an hits some sloppy single track for a stretch before winding it’s way back down to the powerlines again, but further down the course.  Then you run back down the powerlines continuing for a bit before hooking left and back up the other side for a stretch until you hook right and back onto the xc ski trail in the woods.  From that point, it’s a load of on and off xc ski trail (groomed) and single track cut-across sections (ungroomed).  I tried to maintain pace in this section but just felt a bit tired.  I knew at this point, I had the race in hand (unless my foot blew up).  It’s all flat in this section and the last mile has got to be the easiest for sure.

Photo by Justin Macomber

I passed a few photographers and spectators during this last stretch so you know you’re getting close.  Then the race dumps out onto the field, where you do one full lap around the perimeter before hitting the finish line.  I was glaring at my watch over this last section and over the last few minutes, wondering what the time was going to be.  I had forgotten that I broke 27 minutes back in the first year (2011).  I ran 26:53 then on a slightly shorter course (not by much) distance-wise.  Then in 2012, I ran slower but still won in 27:27.  This year, I cruised into the finish in 26:56.  I really wish I knew I ran 3 seconds faster in 2011 and I may have been able to find a kick to try to PR on this course, but alas I am happy w/ a sub 27 and a third win in a row here at Whitaker Woods.  Because the course was slightly longer, I think my effort was probably the best it’s been.  I don’t quite remember the exact conditions last year, but I think they were fast and I believe the course was pretty firm in most spots, so I’ll gladly take a faster time from this year.

The prize for winning was yet another homemade goodie courtesy of the Tiltons (last year it was a big gold championship belt like the wrestlers get, and 2 years ago it was a snowfall measuring stick w/ some clever depth indicators on it).  Jess worked w/ the shop teacher at Kennett to create this lovely wooden snowshoe cutting board (she did the design).  I also got a $25 gift certificate to the Moat.  Scott Mason is 20 for 20 in winning something at the GSSS raffles.  I was just about to joke right before the last prize was announced, that Scott hadn’t won anything and it was a big surprise….when to NO ONE’s surprise, he won the LAST prize in the raffle.  I say it’s fixed.  🙂

Top 10 Overall

Place Time Name Age Club
1 26:56 Jim Johnson 35 BAA/Dion
2 29:10 Dave Dunham 48 CMS/Atlas
3 29:57 Danny Ferreira 36 acidotic
4 30:00 Chris Dunn 44 acidotic
5 30:30 Ryan Welts 32 acidotic
6 31:10 Phil Erwin 45 acidotic
7 31:16 Humzu Jafferji 24
8 31:48 Chuck Hazzard 52 Trail Monster Running
9 31:56 Amber Ferreira 30 acidotic
10 32:02 Jason Massa 45 acidotic

74 Total Finishers.  Full Results Here.

I cooled down a couple more miles over the course, picking up some flags.  Foot started to bother me again, so I called it at 2 miles.  11 miles total for the day, all on snowshoes.  Then home to see my girls!!!

Here’s a video taken by Tim Lindsey again w/ his GoPro (of the first 11 min. or so):

Jim is fast becoming our go-to source for the snowshoe scene. Check out his blog DoubleJRunning! Also, that’s a very sweet shot of Dave Dunham in his Team USA one piece racing suit. Action Dave must be jealous.

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