Winter storm warnings continuing after another 20” of fresh new snow caused the ‘Gallop in Gallatin’ lap to be shortened for 2008 to three kilometers from five, yielding a six kilometer, two loop race for the USSSA Qualifier. Run in the heart of the Rockies at the Bohart Ranch Cross Country Ski Ranch, Montana, snowshoers race on one of the top venues in the 21 USSSA Qualifying event circuit.
Race Director, Gary Hellenga, said, “In Bozeman, several people couldn’t get out of their driveway. But at Bohart, the windchill was only in the -10F to -20F range,” continuing my thesis that snowshoers are a hardy bunch. Just think of the hullabaloo network media would have about this cold if they were televising this event and the chill factor was at this level. Then compare Gary’s ‘it’s only -10 to -20′ characterization.
The course loop starts and ends at the ‘Arena’ in the heart of the Bohart base area (see picture of start). From here, the course begins gradually climbing through the pines, following several of the Nordic ski trails in a counter-clockwise direction. Along the northern fence-line, the Coyote Cutoff is taken to make a direct approach to Jane’s Gate.
Instead of passing through as racers normally would, the shortened course stays within the Bohart Loops and heads to the South side. Another section of untracked snowshoe trail is encountered, then a short stint on packed trails, followed by a cut through an open glade of powder. At about 2.3 miles, racers are challenged by a short but steep hill, before dropping down again toward the Arena. Just before arriving at the base area, racers cut down to the right into the ‘Stadium’ at the south end of Bohart property for a mostly flat loop to the finish line.
These ungroomed areas were tough, described by Gary as, “trenches formed by the racers up to two feet deep as they followed each other’s footsteps.”
Marking the course proved to be exciting as someone doing the job noticed two large, bear looking beasts through the ‘Cold Smoke of the Northern Rockies.’ After some reflection, the apparition was determined to be moose and everything returned to normal.
USSSA 6 KM QUALIFIER
Nikki Kimball (see picture), Bozeman, four time USSSA National Senior Women’s Champion, ‘Miss Dominate’ in the world of snowshoe racing, continued her quest for a fifth championship with a win today and second overall at 34:14.
Having the stars of the world of snowshoeing like Nikki competing at the United States Snowshoe Association Qualifiers, when they are grandfathered in for the PowerSox National Championship, shows their commitment to the sport and dedication to competition . . . ratcheting up the whole race to a higher level.
Pre race, Nikki was so busy helping those without snowshoes race by lending many pairs of her own that Gary couldn’t determine which pair she ended up keeping for herself. Plenty of finishers will have quite a story to tell about the day they raced in the champion’s snowshoes.
Dewey Peacock, Bozeman, and Tom Borschel, Idaho Falls, ID, (see picture) continued their annual two-man race for the win here but Dewey pulled off the course ill, and Tom took the men’s and overall gold with a 30:37. Gary characterized Tom’s speed, as he blew by the RD who had jumped into the back of the fray and raced, as “powerful and really moving. His flashy yellow Atlas racing unitard passed all of the 3 km racers who had started 15 minutes earlier.”
Tom (see picture) reported on the race that “Dewey and DJ Snyder took off very fast (see picture) with me lingering 30m back on groomed section. I made up ground on DJ on the first powder section and passed him just before Jane’s Gate. I closed on Dewey midway on the next powder traverse . . . he got another lead on the steep, groomed downhill section, then I closed again on the short single track. Downhill to Grunt, I caught up; he stumbled and let me go by as I was on his heels.
Power-walked up Grunt and hammered the deep downhill to the meadow. Pushed the meadow part and as we looped around and saw I had created a good gap. I broke trail all around the loop and back to start finish. Got some nice cheers from Nikki across the way who was moving up.
Next lap, the groomed section was more chopped up, and I started passing the just-starting 3k racers. The powder sections, now almost waist deep in sections (!), were much better with the others having packed it down. I thought for sure Dewey would close now that footing was better, so I really pushed those sections. Looking over my shoulder I could not see him but kept pushing. I had a solid finish, running negative splits.
I wore Atlas Dual Trac SL racing snowshoes with La Sportiva ‘Raceblade’ very light shoes. I compete for the Atlas Snowshoe Team and La Sportiva Mountain Running Team. The course was awesome and very challenging with the deep snow this year. Pacing and balance on the deep sections the first lap were paramount to finishing strong”
2nd in the men’s, 3rd overall, Tim Dumas recorded a 34:30, followed by DJ Snyder, Idaho Falls.
2nd in the women’s race, 5th overall, and trailing DJ by just seconds, was Sarah Keller, Billings.
6th overall Mike England, Bozeman, with a 39:41 led Kama Werner, 7th overall and 3rd place woman, across the line by 18 seconds, completing the list of finishers under 40 minutes.
3 KM SNOWSHOE RACE
Rob Maher won 1st overall with a 16:16 doing proud the borrowed Atlas demo shoes that were supplied by Montana Atlas sales rep, Jonathan Hearn of Egan LLC, Seattle. 2nd in the men’s race was back-of-the-pack starter, Gary Hellenga at 18:38, missing 2nd overall by ten seconds to women’s champion Ann Sorenson, Bozeman.
Constance Myslik-McFadden, Bozeman, took the best age racer of the day award with her 34:02 finish at age 69. Hugh McFadden raced, too, and finished 26:08.
Gathering for the awards ceremony at the Arena, all were celebrating with a specialty of The Garage Café; Gary terms it the “most unbelievable” hot tomato basil soup. Chugging hot coffee and cocoa compliments of Rocky Mountain Roasting Company, eating ‘Wowzer Rolls,’ a blueberry/raspberry/cinnamon chip bun baked by the Great Harvest Bread Company, the Gallop slows to a trot, perfect after plowing through waist high powder.
This race is also paired with the Montana Senior Olympics Winter Games, awarding medals to highest finishers 45 years or older.
One innovation popular here is prepared thank you letters to the sponsors are laid out for each of the snowshoers to sign during the ceremony, giving a tangible way for individuals to express their thanks and a warm piece of mail sent on its way to sponsors post race. This personal touch can be adapted at all USSSA events as a way to express and send gratitude to those businesses and individuals who contribute.
Snowshoers need to do something similar for the beleaguered race directors, too.
The Big Sky Wind Drinkers presented this 2008 third annual Gallatin Gallop, the premier snowshoe race in Montana. Concluding a challenging set of obstacles like heavy snow, staging a successful race with some top racers in the country, this group, led by race directors Gary and Lynn Hellenga, could now sit back and enjoy gulping Rocky Mountain Roasting coffee as they had consumed enough wind for one day.
Gallatin Gallop Snowshoe Race: http://www.gallatingallop.com
United States Snowshoe Association: http://www.snowshoeracing.com
UltraSuperior Media: http://www.ultrasuperior.com