No one caught BIG FOOT at this year’s version of the annual Traverse City, Michigan, USSSA Qualifier, and neither were they able to catch Mr. Fleet-a-foot, overall winner and champion, Nick Allen. Over 103 ten kilometer racers lined up to try, the best ever turnout for this race. Race Director, Randy Step, says it best, “I love this race! I love a winter road trip to Traverse City!
Boogieing at the finish in true Warrior style in 51:02, Nick comes to the sport with a strong athletic background and assists in the cross country program at Wayne State University. The 26 year old led 13 finishers across the line in under one hour. Tougher conditions this year slowed times over 2007 and proved an ample test of all who toed the start.
The course launches mildly enough, with a short but nicely groomed layout, but turns tough as racers find themselves dancing in deep fresh snow. Randy explains it, “The course is a super hilly, off trail run with plenty of logs to jump and branches to duck. Heavy snow and an 85% untracked course made for a beautiful but tough run. The leaders did some serious work through the first 5K of this 2 loop course only to find the second loop just as difficult, not from breaking trail but from cold corn snow conditions, much like running in sand, not a day for making snowmen or getting a grip.”
That’s called the Big Foot Surprise. No wonder that apparition has never been caught with a snowshoe apparatus – or any other, for that matter.
BIG FOOT BOOGIE USSSA 10KM QUALIFIER
Chasing the Wayne State Warrior, Yaro Middaugh took overall silver, finishing in 51:38, about 30 seconds behind the gold. Next was bronze winner, Ty Schmidt crossing in 52 minutes flat, just nipping Tim Polonkey at the line for the last medal spot in the overall category.
Gold in the women’s race was won by marathoner Erin O’Mara, 23 year old resident of Goodrich, in her first snowshoe race attempt. She won comfortably over silver finisher, Jami Grant, crossing at 1:04:22, followed by third place winner, Sara Williams.
Some notable finishes include the first 50 year old, Marshall Randall, finishing sixth overall at 54:27. Youngest first finishers were Josh Courtright, 18, one of those under an hour and 11th overall, and Sarah Sherwood, 19, crossing 57th at 1:20 and a few ticks.
First in the 60 year old class is Minnesotan, Jim Graupner (picture), at 1:04 and some change, 19th overall, age group winner, too. Probably the tops this year in competing at the most Qualifiers, Jim called the course “challenging.” He characterized the layout as “a circuitous course in deep, sugary snow, ungroomed, mostly single track . . . and through the woods at Timber Ridge.” Relating today’s challenge with the several other qualifiers he has raced thus far, including Rib Lake, Wisconsin, and Park City, Utah, Jim offered a classic reminder:
“It’s so true that every qualifier is a unique story. There’s little consistency in the racing experience as far as course, weather conditions, terrain, distance, topography, snow quality or atmospheric influences. But in terms of the age-old drama of athletes, the constant among the variables is the personal athletic challenge.”
Ted Kilmer, 66, was the 100th finisher, the oldest finisher, and the first to finish at two hours. He was followed a couple of minutes later by a finishing trio of Brett McCabe, Jessica DeGroot, and Katie Talik, and the race was over.
BIG FOOT’S FIVE KILOMETER
A repeat victor for the overall gold, Derek Henning, now aging at 17, won the ‘fiver’ in 23:12, one second slower than his 2007 time when he was a ‘kid’ at sixteen. Don’t worry, Derek; if every year you age you only ‘lose’ a second from your previous year’s time, you’ll be a happy snowshoer for many years to come.
Giving hope to those a little older, Vincent Mack, 45, won the overall silver, followed by bronze medalist Blake Yard, 15. He was pushed by Andrew Franklin, 17, and Robert Swain, 16. That trio edged Rodney Lofquist, 54, by nine seconds who led Dave Foley, 60, across the line. Darren Frechette, 37, was next, then Kurt Krueger, 17 and Samuel Sherwin, 22.
The reason to detail those top ten finishers is to note the seniors mixed with the crop of junior champion snowshoers this race is developing, and an excellent group of potential senior class (20 and above) racers as they graduate into that division.
There were other ‘Junior’ class qualifiers in this event but none more so than 12 year old, Rachael Warner, who snowshoed past the finish in the top 100 of the 163 who finished.
Rachael has many years of snowshoeing ahead of her as evidenced by 70 year old Gary Lee’s finish in 55th position.
Go through the results sheets; check out the competition that was evident all the way through the results. It is exciting!
For one example: in the 5 km, # 67, Ivars Begs finished just one tick ahead of #68 Calvin Brown. In the Big Foot 10km, #76 Jennifer Lynch led #77 Christy Guzzo by one second, who just finished ahead of #78 Callie Corsa. There are dozens of these examples ‘back in the field,’ showing the depth and intensity of the competition whether at the front or not.
Snowshoe racing is optimum racing.
Just like Jim Graupner related, “Personal athletic challenge” at its finest.
Later, gathering “around a roaring fire at the beautiful log lodge at Timber Ridge Resort, the mood is just fun!” exclaims RD Randy Step. “The massive Timber Ridge Lodge is an ideal staging location for Bigfoot, complete with a protected outdoor fire pit for the traditional post race chili fest! The awards were nice useable travel coffee mugs; all in all, a great event.”
Randy continued, “The sport continues to flourish and grow here in Northern Michigan. There are some very serious shoers at Bigfoot because it is the Midwest qualifier for the National Championship Snowshoe race coming up in March (The USSSA PowerSox National Championship, SnowBasin Resort, Utah, 3/8/2008). A 5 person U.S. Team goes on from that event to compete at the World Snowshoe Championships. Serious stuff! Mike Decker, of Running Fit, Traverse City, is a previous member of the U.S. National Snowshoe Team.”
Red Feather snowshoes, official snowshoe manufacturer of this race, made an impressive showing today. Generally lots of snowshoes are rented out for first timers getting introduced to the sport.
Randy talked about the weather, saying if there is “low snowfall downstate it always hurts winter tourism in the north. It’s hard to picture that there is snow just 200 miles north (at Traverse City). The north woods are like stepping into a fridge, the snow stays through many a thaw . . . .”
Besides, snowshoeing is therapeutic. Paraphrasing Running Fit stores, “There is nothing wrong with snowshoeing away from your problems, as long as you get your goods here.”
So the quest for Big Foot continues in Michigan for another year, with big time snowshoers doing the boogie, plenty of snowshoe dancing going on all the way to the pack and back.
Ultimately, every one is in search of their own real-life elusive boogie man — Mr. Gold Medal; harder to find for most than the owner of a phantom foot step.
For More Information:
Big Foot Boogie Snowshoe Race – http://www.runsnow.com, http://www.tctrackclub.com
United States Snowshoe Association – http://www.snowshoeracing.com
Phillip Gary Smith – http://www.ultrasuperior.com
Photos courtesy of Greg Sadler: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.sadlershots.com/runningfit.html