Well, here it is. The non-controversial controversial snowshoe race report that stirred up one of the most assinine arguments I've ever had with another human being (or dog for that matter, and that's saying a lot). For those that missed the whole brouhaha, consider yourselves lucky.
I was lying on the couch after my first snowshoe race this morning listening to an album called ‘Alabama Ass Whuppin’’ by a band called Drive By Truckers. They describe an Alabama Ass Whuppin’ as a whuppin whereby the whupper yells at and derides the whuppee while the whuppin’ is taking place. Then while the victim is lying broken and bleeding on the ground the whupper asks him if he wants some more and the victim must beg and plead for it to stop. This is pretty much how my race went today.
The race took place at Eldora Ski resort which is about 45 minutes from my house in Boulder and at an elevation of just under 9000 ft. or so. Eldora is legendary for its windy conditions and though it’s a beautiful sunny morning in Boulder, the wind is gusting which is not a good sign. Sure enough as soon as I get out of the canyon and hit the mountain town of Nederland I’m greeted by big gusting swirls of wind and snow. Usually when this happens I decide there are much more hospitable places to be and plenty of other fun things to do and head straight back down the canyon. But I’ve already paid for the race so dammit I’m going. By the time I hit the road to Eldora the car is nearly being blown off the road. There are beautiful cloudless blue skies everywhere except for Eldora, which is shrouded in clouds. When I get out of the car it’s not really that cold and the front soon lifts bringing back the blue sunny skies but when the wind gusts, which is often, it’s strong and bone chilling.
I pile on tons of clothes to go wait in line for my number and by the time I get back to the car to wait for the start I’m freezing. It’s really easy to overdress for snowshoeing and I figure the course is pretty hilly and in the woods, sheltered from the wind so I probably don’t need so many clothes. I take them off and head for the start line but I just can’t do it. I don’t care how hot I’ll get, I’m freezing now so I put all the clothes back on figuring I can always take them off later if I really get that hot. This turns out to be a wise decision, I never get too hot and by the finish I’m thankful for every last piece of fleece.
The race starts up a huge hill and I have to walk most of it but I figure that’s o.k., I can walk the steep uphills and run the flats and the downhills just like for trail races. Except that the race is approximately 3 percent flat and the downhills are so steep that I’m sliding down them like I’m on skis more than I’m really running down them. The first big hill is really not so bad since it’s on a heavily used packed trail. However the course soon goes off onto unpacked single track through deeper than knee deep snow. The trail is packed down a bit from the racers in front of me but there are still several inches of loose snow to slide around in. And then there’s the traffic jam. I’m soon stuck behind an endless line of racers and I’m forced to walk. Sometimes the line comes to a complete stop when someone falls or has some problem and blocks the trail. Trying to pass people through the deep unpacked snow is out of the question, it’s too much work and the line of people is so long I can’t see the start of it. But the worst of it is that I’m having a terrible time keeping my balance. I manage to fall twice walking uphill right at the start of the singletrack. It doesn’t hurt but it takes up energy pulling myself up out of the snow. A few other people stumble and fall a bit too but I seem to be the only one constantly tripping over my feet and waving my arms in the air trying to keep my balance. Oh and did I mention my lungs feel like they’re going to explode the entire time? The whole course is either straight up or straight down and the downhills are so steep and scary that you can’t really recover very much. I’m still incredulous that I managed to get down all those hills without falling or getting intimate with a tree or another racer. I don’t think I’ve ever sworn so much during a race. After a half an hour I’d had enough. After 40 minutes if there was some way I could have gotten off that freakin’ mountain and DNF’d I would have done so GLADLY. Unfortunately the only way off was to keep going. At that point the trail widened a bit and people were able to pass each other. I was pretty well trashed but apparently so were a lot of people around me. Someone would manage to run for a little spurt then have to walk and fall behind again. It felt like everything was in slow motion, like those stupid dreams where something is chasing you and you feel like you’re running really hard but you’re barely moving.
Finally I could hear the loudspeaker for the race and see faint glimpses of the finish area through the trees so I started picking up the pace as best I could, mainly because I just wanted to be done. But the course took several more twists and turns through the woods so I ended up exhausting myself too early. Finally we got out of the woods onto the final stretch only to be greeted head on by the freezing, horrible wind. I had to stop and walk just 60 yards or so from the finish line. Two people passed me but I had a great big case of ‘I don’t give a damn’ and I let them go. I managed to run the last 20-30 yards or so but didn’t try to catch them. I don’t think it’s ever taken me so long to catch my breath after a race. My time is 55.10. I figure this can’t be very good and there were so many people in front of me I probably didn’t do all that well. I grab a double chocolate chip muffin (this race director always has great post race food) and head back to the warmth of Boulder without even thinking twice about hanging around for the awards or raffle.
Now I’m hardly a neophyte snowshoer and I’ve been to Eldora a zillion times to ski and I’ve seen those wicked steep looking snowshoe trails but I still can’t believe how crazy that course was. I’m so glad I didn’t sign up for the 10k! I think I can say with a fair degree of certainty that that was the beginning and end of my snowshoe race career. I’ll stick to nice recreational romps in the woods with my dogs and husband.
I checked the race results this morning just out of curiosity and nearly choked on my breakfast when I saw that I got third place (out of 11) in my age group. It turns out they cancelled the awards ceremony and raffle because of high winds so they’ll send me my prize (whatever it is) in the mail. I’m a bit incredulous but pretty excited. Hardware in my first snowshoe race is just too cool even if I did have to suffer an Alabama Ass Whuppin’ for it.