Double-dip racing on Presidents Day weekend
At 10 p.m. Saturday I decided to race in Sunday’s Auburn Ski Club Snowshoe Challenge. I wanted to qualify for Snowshoe Nationals in Ogden, Utah, next month as I will be there for the Winter XTERRA, a multi-winter sporting event.
My only hesitation was the fact I was planning on doing Paco’s Presidents Cup 15-kilometer cross country race at Tahoe Donner Cross Country on Monday, my Great Ski Race warm-up, and racing back to back can be rough.
I had never competed in a snowshoe race but figured with my running background, it wouldn’t be that hard.
Not only had I not raced in snowshoes, I had never been to a race before. The Snowshoe Challenge was a 10-kilometer, two-loop race on the Auburn Ski Club trails. It switched back and forth from groomed ski trails to single track, zig-zagging through the woods. I figured 10 kilometers wouldn’t be too bad.
Again I was wrong.
As I warmed up, Jack Driver, who was working in the timing shed, asked if I wanted to use his snowshoes ” apparently the ones I had weren’t good for racing. I kindly accepted and he helped me put them on with seconds until the start.
After Sally Jones started, I sprinted out of the start behind the lead guys. I soon felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest. Sarah Raitter, an experience runner and snowshoer from Reno, passed by and ran into the distance with they guys.
I was now running with Sarah McMahan, a fellow XTERRA racer from Incline Village.
The trail was marked with little pink ribbons, which easily could be missed if your eyes weren’t peeled. I found out when I missed a turn, then heard McMahan yell from behind, “Hey this way!”
Running on the single track was challenging because of the uneven surface with lots of foot holes and sinking snowshoes. Because of the high snow level, we often had to jump down onto the groomed ski trail. I was always relieved to get back on the hard packed trails.
After lots of ups and downs, including one trail known as “Pink Lung,” we started to make our way back to the stadium. Having already raced for 30 minutes, I began to question whether I could do another lap at the same pace.
Fueled by some GU and water, I headed into the second lap. The snow was softer, and although I was sinking deeper on the single track, I was getting the hang of it.
Snow was flying up from the back of my snowshoes and hitting me in the back, which was kind of refreshing considering the warm weather. By this time I was by myself, and was more relaxed, although I dreaded making a wrong turn.
I knew these trails well, and missed not having the glide I was used to on my cross country skis. By the end of the second lap my hip flexors were getting sore from lifting my snowshoes. I was relieved to get to the top of the last hill and run downhill toward the finish.
I placed second behind Sarah Raitter with a time of 1:09.45 ” more than enough to qualify for Snowshoe Nationals. But I was also exhausted. The race was much harder than I anticipated. But apparently these were the best conditions the race has seen in its three years of existence.
I woke up with every muscle in my body sore from the snowshoe race, wondering if I would be able to compete again. I needed some motivation, so I headed down to my garage to my stash of race suits. My Junior Olympic suit circa 1997 was just what I needed to get me out on the trails.
If I couldn’t win the race, at least I could have the brightest suit ” actually, that’s probably harder than beating Beth Reid.
I warmed up fantasizing about getting a sports massage and whether the two Advil I took before the race would get me through pain-free.
The women’s race started five minutes before the men’s, making it easier for the women to stay as a pack. I started slow but made it to the front pack by the time we headed down into Euer Valley. I did not see Reid in front, which lifted my spirits. Maybe I had a shot. Rory Bosio was in the lead sporting her zebra-striped dance tights ” another nice choice in spandex.
It felt good to be gliding on snow, not trudging through it. My skis seemed relatively fast considering my economy wax job.
We skied around Euer Valley with a slight headwind. I was resisting taking the lead as I new it would make me work harder. As we skied from High Noon to Paiute, I took a sharp left to take the lead.
When we got to Last Round Up, the dreaded climb out of the valley, Cathy Howard made a move and vanished up the hill, followed by Rory. I was hurting. By the time we got to the top half of the long climb, we got passed by the male racers. I was surprised we had made it that far, and seeing them sprint by me made me feel even more tired. We got some friendly cheers from junior racers and UNR racers watching, which gave me a boost.
I was now with Judy Rabinowitz, racing for third place. I managed to make up some time on her on the last downhill and back to the stadium. Picking up my pace around Cup-of-Tea, I sprinted to the finish, pleased to be in the top-3 behind Cathy and Rory, respectively. As soon as I crossed the line, Reid came in behind me sporting her red- and leopard-print suit. Did she miss the start?
Nope. She purposely started with the men. Although her time would have won the women’s race, she instead placed eighth in the men’s division.
I was pleased with my finish. I was able to stay with the women’s pack for most of the race, giving me confidence for the Great Ski Race in two weeks.
But more than anything, I was relieved my two days of racing was over.
Garrett Reid of Palo Alto crossed the finish of the Paco’s Presidents Cup Race a second faster than Reno’s Tav Streit ” posting a time of 35:25 to Streit’s 35:26 ” to win his fourth straight Far West Nordic event.
August Teague of Reno placed third in the 15-kilometer race in 35:37.
In the women’s competition, Truckee’s Cathy Howard outdistanced the field to take first with a time of 41:25. She was followed by Rory Bosio (41:36) of Tahoe City and Emma Garrard (41:48) of Truckee.
In the 7.5-kilometer juniors’ race, Joanne Reid placed first with a time of 21:32. Jordan McElroy was second in 21:45 and Paige Brady third in 23:08.
Truckee’s Peter Fain is a threat to win any local endurance race he enters. Sunday’s Auburn Ski Club Snowshoe Challenge was no exception, as Fain blasted through the 10-kilometer snowshoe race in 55 minutes, 2 seconds to take the win.
Ross McMahan of Incline Village finished second in 56:36 and Rob Rusk a distant third in 1:08:05.
The ASC Snowshoe Challenge is part of a five-event snowshoe series concluding with the Billy Dutton Uphill on Sunday, March 30.
In the women’s 10K, Sarah Raitter placed first with a time of 1:09:49. She was followed by Emma Garrard in 1:09:49 and Sarah McMahan in 1:12:13.
Jim Meskimen won the men’s 5K race, posting a time of 46:47, while Bill Ely (46:49) was second and Luke Castell (50:03) third. Cathy Scott took the top spot in the women’s 5K in 49:35. She was trailed by Rita Purcell (51:05), a junior racer, and Tori Blickle (54:19).