Sibe the Scribe

Two years ago, we gave our Siberian husky, Meela, a very important job. She was to be the mascot and honorary race director for the inaugural Snow Dawg Snowshoe Race. Due to icy conditions, we unfortunately had to cancel that race, and Meela has been looking for a new snowshoeing role ever since. On March 8th we’re running the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon in Vermont. And so, as we head into our longest race on snowshoes ever, Meela insisted on interrogating – er, interviewing – us.

Meela Sibe: So, OneWhoRidesSled, Will you be in lead or wheel? What color is your harness?

Derrick Spafford: Um, Meela, this isn’t dogsledding. I’ll be wearing white snowshoes.

MS: Okay, and you, ConfusedOne – Do you think you can finally figure out your “gee’s” and “haw’s” for this race? I won’t be there to help you, you know.

Sara Montgomery: Meela, people don’t have to be as smart as lead dogs. The trail is marked with ribbon, so all we have to do is follow along. Even so, I haven’t been this nervous about a race in a few years. It could be that my last race – a trail marathon in the fall – was such a painful disaster. Plus I’ve never run this long on snowshoes before, so it’s venturing into uncharted territory.

MS: What are your thoughts on this, OneWhoRides? Are you nervous too?

DS: I’m really looking forward to Pittsfield. The thought of running a marathon on snowshoes with a substantial amount of elevation change is very appealing. When I heard about the race last year, I was really disappointed that we couldn’t have done it then, but we’d already committed to running US Snowshoe Championships at that point. In a way, it’s probably better anyhow, with a full season of ultras under my belt and higher mileage. Our winter this year has also been great to get more longer runs on snowshoes compared to last year.

MS: Okay, for both of you…How has your training been?

DS: Training has been going great. I took a few weeks of easy running after the Stonecat 50miler in November, then have been building up since then with some very big weeks of running (for me). My overall volume has been higher than I have ever run in my life, so feeling very good about that. I have tried to mix up my training between snowshoe running, trail running and a little road running (only when I have to). Have had some good tempo and hill workouts as well and my long run has topped out at 5 hours. We’ve been fairly consistent with strength and core training too, and I have Sara to thank for that as I really don’t enjoy it much. The one thing I regret not having done more of is a longer stretch of hill training. I felt that with the added mileage and a few minor aches initially, I had to be a little more careful with increasing the intensity.

SM: After feeling a bit burnt out last fall, and actually getting sick twice, I’ve been running lower mileage. To make up for it, I’ve been very consistent with a new strength routine and have been very happy with how that’s made me feel. By concentrating on single leg exercises I think I’ve overcome some strength discrepancies. Unlike Derrick, I really enjoy these workouts because it adds more variety to training. Other than that, I’ve maintained my weekly mileage around my average, with a couple of 4 hour long runs, mostly on snowshoes.

MS: Any particular challenges you foresee with this long of a snowshoe race? How do you prepare for them?

DS: Surprisingly enough, the first thing that comes to mind doesn’t really have anything to do with the physical aspect of the race. Weather conditions are a concern for me. When you are out there running hard for so many hours it can be pretty scary how much you can overheat if not dressed property for the weather. We really could get anything next weekend, and will have to be prepared for it. Luckily, we’ve had some long runs in some really challenging conditions already, so that has helped in knowing what to do. With the race being 4 x 6.5mile loops, it will also give us the opportunity to add or remove clothing every loop.

SM: I agree – it’s all about the weather.

DS: Another challenge I see is maintaining energy levels. I feel in a little better place about this compared to last year, after running a number of ultras and knowing what my body will be able to handle while running this long.

SM: I agree – it’s all about the energy levels.

DS: From the actual racing side, I think it’s really important for me to be sure not to go out too hard. Keeping the first loop as relaxed as possible will help for later on. Also, the more people you can run behind initially, the better the trail will be packed down and help you save energy for later.

SM: I agree – it’s all about not going out too hard.

MS: What are your goals?

DS: I’ve been thinking about this race a lot and really don’t have any fixed goals to speak of. It’s very tough to know until you actually get into the race. It’s so different than a road or even a trail race as the conditions will tremendously affect what your time could be. Also, with the course being very hilly, it’s hard to know what to expect. There are some very fast snowshoe runners who will be racing there and I have to be realistic about where I hope to place. I guess my goal is to make sure that I run well within my ability level early on, which will hopefully allow me to finish strong at the end.

SM: I want to do the best I can on the day, be mentally prepared for anything, and try to have fun!

MS: Okay, we’re done, now let’s go for a RUN! Run Run Run Run Run Run Run!!!!!! [Spins around like Crazy Sibe, notebook and granny glasses flying.]

For more info on the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon, and other Peak Adventures endurance races, go to www.peakraces.com

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About Sara Montgomery and Derrick Spafford

Derrick and Sara are trail runners from Eastern Ontario who discovered that running on snowshoes in the winter months is a great way to enjoy their favorite trails year-round. They competed in their first snowshoe series (The Mad Trapper Series in Low, Quebec) in 2005, each finishing 2nd in their respective divisions. Plans for 2006 are to return to the Mad Trapper, to take in some races in New York and Vermont, and hopefully cap their season with the U.S. Snowshoe Championships in March, as Canadian guests. Derrick runs a company, Spafford Health and Adventure (http://www.healthandadventure.com), which specializes in coaching and event promotion. He is currently planning an annual snowshoe race to be held in the Kingston area, starting this winter.