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Featured Review: Peak Snowshoe Challenge

If you haven’t made it up to Pittsfield VT for some strange reason.  Go.  Even if its just to meander through the mountains and grab a sandwich and smoothie at the General Store.  Most people however venture to the north country to challenge themselves and because they’re nuts.

This time, for the first time, I got to drag my wonderful wife Kristin along.  I won’t say she “loved” it but she worked hard, kept going, never complained and finished.  Her first 10k, first anything since our second child, first snowshoe race (and mine however we have plenty of experience on them) and our first over night away from children and dogs in almost 3 years.

We headed up Friday to stay at the Trailside Inn.   Many Sphatens and Storm Chasers bunked here thanks to the efforts of Jennifer Sullivan.  I highly recommend this place and will probably be looking to use this as a place to lick my wounds in June, but I digress.  Initially we stopped in at the General Store for packet pickup.  Kristin checked out the joint we grabbed some goodies and stepped off, bib’s in hand.  With some extra shwaggage  consisting of:  high quality t-shirt, Peaks beanie, moral patch, sticker and coupons.  Not a bad get pre-race.

I loved our accommodations and would go into the lovely evening that we had but this isn’t dear diary and none of  you care.  Brass tacks here!  So race day:

When we arrived at Amee Farm (no this is not the link to the farm, its across the street, figure it out) home of the Death Race, to participate in the Peaks Races Snowshoe Challenge, runners were lining up.  Racers were there for the Marathon distance: 4 laps, the half mary: 2 laps, and the 10k:  1 lap.  With over 300 registered racers this would be the largest snowshoe race in the United States.  Ultra distance runners, 100 miles, had started the night before at 7pm and conveniently for us were braking  trail and packing down the snow.

It was a super positive atmosphere.  When your at one of these races your home.  Lots of familiar faces and everyone is of the same mind.  Get it done.  Everyone has their own idea of how to accomplish that so it really doesn’t matter what your level is.  I didn’t get to see much of the pre-race activities due to interpersonal differences of opinion.  Regardless it was positive, with a slight chill in the air, a bit overcast, and a few flakes on the wind.  You couldn’t really ask for better.

There was a small briefing by Peter and off each racer went by respective distance heats.  10ks being last and me at the end of them.  There was plenty of snow on the ground making snowshoes convenient but not entirely necessary do impart to the sheer numbers of people packing it down.

The course is on a mountain all to familiar to Death Racers.  I should note that there was a Death Race training camp going on at the same time as the race from the evening before.  Some crazy people; Nele, Patrick, Andrew, and Eric were participating in that camp and then did the 1/2 marathon after.  Because why?  Well because why not!  The trail was narrow single track mostly up hill but not “killer”.  Most of the people I saw were really in it for the sheer enjoyment of it.  I myself was trying it just to see some of the area before its thrust upon me in June.

We wandered and ambled through switch backs and long stretches.  Delayering as necessary.  I had chosen to forgo a “boot” or even gortex for my feet and used my old standby innov8s.  They were perfect.  As we climbed we were passed by those doing the greater distances.  To say some phenomenal athletes were blasting by us would be an understatement.  Most looked as fresh as the moment they started, but none showed any real sign of fatigue.  Stepping off trail to let them by, as proper etiquette dictates, was always met by sincere gratitude but also with words of congratulations and encouragement by them!  Here they a’re knocking out 2, 4, and 15 loops and they’re telling us good job?  Humbling, very humbling.  I think that is the most pervasive atmosphere at these event’s.  Attitude is checked at the door.

At what I believe to have been the half way point which may actually have been, it really was no relief.  At this area the “aid” station was pretty picked over but we were last, and it was remote.  Also we planned self sufficiency and felt the “runners’ need it more.  So we trudged on.  More up hill, more switchbacks.  Then an almost primeval area aptly named the “labyrinth”.  It was not  till then that we could confirm that we were in fact plateauing.  A stone cabin at the summit built by the efforts of Death Racers came into view.  here an even more picked over aid station.  Afterward it would be the decent.
Descending in snowshoes is a tricky enterprise at best.  If your not paying attention you’ll be eating snow quickly.  If you are paying attention it just takes a little more time.  You have to trust your equipment and you need huge quads.  As we descended it donned on me that Betsy had a little flask of what she likes to refer to as Captains Reserve.  In this case was Glenkinchie scotch.

GLENKINCHIE 12 YEAR SINGLE MALT SCOTCH 

Glenkinchie is a light, delicate whisky; Sweet and creamy with a subtle floral fragrance.

This subtly sophisticated Lowland single malt is a superb pre-dinner drink; try it taken straight from the freezer.

Well now, look at that it just happened to be pre-dinner and the temps were below freezing.  There really is nothing like a good scotch to warm the bones, lighten the senses, and add an extra pep in your step.  It certainly took my mind off the miles.  There were a few spills and chills on the way down but our little group trudged ever forward.  Kristin not imbibing. might have done well do to so if only to lessen the pain of double blisters which she endured without a sound.

Finally at river elevation we could see Don Deavney cheering people on.  No longer lounging in the “monkey” bridge over the river Don was still smiles and encouragement.  Crossing back over the bridge and into the homeward stretch I finally ditched the snowshoes, which was instant relief.  My snowshoe bindings are designed to go over stiff mountaineering boots not soft running shoes.  The design which at first blush appears excellent but in retrospect is uncomfortable and probably is why the company no longer uses it.

Meeting up with Spahtens at the finish line was excellent!  An unexpected medal at the end was a nice bonus.  A huge cup of most excellent vegetable soup was very well welcomed.  Some opportunities to socialize were taken and at least one photo was snapped.  But as parenting duty call’s as it always will it was back in the truck an headed home.

This is a great Race and a great time.  Although we couldn’t stick around for after festivities we felt excellent and accomplished.  I highly highly recommend this race.  Take the time and make a weekend out of it.  On the way home stop off in Lebanon NH and visit the 7 Barrels Brewery.  Kristin and I annihilated a plate of chili nachos, sandwiches, and a shepherd’s pie.  I’m not ashamed to say we could have done more damage to the menu.  Nothing like a post race hunger.

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