So there I was, about to witness my first race, the premier event of the Beaver Creek Snowshoe Adventure Series at the Beaver Creek Ski Resort near Avon, Colo.
I was slowly ascending the escalator at the base of the slopes, idly chatting up my new friend and counterpart for the day, Snowshoemag’s very own resident racing (soon-to-be) phenom Katie Klehr. There in front of me on the upper concourse was the prize I’d sought all morning. It was a virtual cornucopia of free-sample granola bars piled high atop an advertisement booth. Of course I didn’t know that these savory wafers of goodness offered the balm my soul craved after the long drive up. You see, “Marcus the Intern” was actually “Marcus the having-too-much-fun-with-friends-at-several-Denver-bars…guy” the night before (not as catchy a title, I admit). But when I saw the mound of nourishment laid out before me, the truth was painfully clear: I’d skipped breakfast. I ferociously tore into the wrapper with my teeth and tagged along after Katie as she went to register.
My next discovery was that nothing could make you feel quite as unhealthy as surrounding yourself with world-class athletes while nursing a hangover. Stretching and gearing up all around me were snowshoers from around the state, country, and world, some of which had won numerous events at varying locations and levels of difficulty.
It was then that I turned my gaze to the starting line where upon pulling focus, the intimidation seemed to ebb from my body. It was the start of the kid’s 1K, and the sight of a particular little girl bundled-up in a poofy winter coat, arms stiffened and outstretched like a miniature pink Michelin man, made me laugh out loud. I looked over at Katie in the crowd of adult participants who was laughing and clapping with everyone else.
She gave me a smiling thumbs up, having obviously achieved that elusive state of clear known as “the zone” among extreme athletes.
After the kid’s race, it was time for the adults to toe the starting line. I moved up the hill to gain a better vantage point for the stampede. They were off, and I was free to mingle with the smaller gathering of supporters and onlookers awaiting the results. Among the spectators was Greg Krause, an avid snowshoer and member of the Atlas Snow-Shoe team. Unable to participate because of a stress fracture in his tibia, he offered some insight for beginners like myself.
“I think people are interested in snowshoeing because it’s such a unique sport. We have a great camaraderie up here,” he said. “You get to meet a lot of cool outdoors people. You see a lot of friends at an event like this, but you meet a lot of new people and beginners as well.”
“Yes, beginners,” I thought. Maybe I wasn’t so out of place here after all. Soon, snowshoers began trotting across the finish line. I met the men’s 5K winner, John Litshert from Fort Collins, Colo., who had impressively won his first snowshoe race ever. Josiah Middaugh, who won the men’s 10K to no one’s surprise, boggled my mind by regaining his breath seemingly mere seconds after finishing. This man was the very definition of “in-shape.”
Most inspiring to me, however, was Ms. Klehr, who came trucking along to complete what was one of
her first career snowshoe races. I went to congratulate her as she labored for air.
“You did great!” I encouraged. “You had to have finished among the first half of the women”.
“No way! It seemed like it was uphill the whole time and I kept falling, over and over.” Katie finished 49th out of 161 female participants. “It felt like every time I picked myself up that someone was passing me.”
Clearly, there were 112 ladies who did not.