Fresh Tracks 5K: Snow-Filled in 2008

The Fresh Tracks 5k isn’t many things: It isn’t 10k; It isn’t at 7,000ft, and It isn’t always run. However, what it is, is what’s important! It is the oldest continuing snowshoe race in northern CA; It is the last chance snowshoe racers have to ‘enter’ the ASC High Sierra Snowshoe Series; and it is hosted by one of the great running clubs in this country – the Tahoe Mountain Milers & Sagebrush Stompers.

Tahoe Mountain Milers & Sagebrush Stompers: My first introduction to TMM/SS was by way of snowshoeing – well, not directly. Back in ’05, my running club in the SF Bay Area, Tamalpa, spent considerable time ‘discussing’ management of it’s USATF 50k Trail Championship – the Headlands 50k. Logically, I decided that if that event was going to demand that much of my time, I was going to run in it.

With 2 west coast (Squaw Creek ‘Blizzard Race’ and Squaw Creek ‘Sunburn Race’) and 2 east coast (Northfield ‘Little Snow’ and Camp Saratoga ‘Retro Snowman’) National Qualifiers and the Anchorage USSSA Nationals (back-to-back with the Tour of Anchorage 50k X-C Race) to my credit, I worked out a coaching trade with east coast Tamalpa transplant and ultra-running star, Mary Fagan – snowshoeing for ultra-running coaching tips. And Mary said, ‘None of us have done it, but you should enter the Tahoe Rim 50k’. Well the entry form stated that the 18+ mile out & back additional section for the 50 miler contained the most beautiful vistas in the Sierras.

I believed / I entered / I ran-walked / I chased cut-off times at every aid station for the last 25mi. as last runner / I passed 4 runners on the final 7mi. downhill to the Finish … but most of all I was treated like an elite athlete and encouraged on by every volunteer along the second half of the course. Flat out the best organized, best produced, best volunteer staffed athletic event that I’ve ever attended – these folks ‘do it right’!

Fresh Tracks Snowshoe Race: The big news about Fresh Tracks this year was snow. Unlike 2007, when lack of snow at lake-level forced event cancellation, they had it in abundance this time around. Having to work on SAT, my plan was to be out the door for the SF to Lake Tahoe drive by 4:00AM/SUN. When the alarm woke me at 3:30AM, SAT’s storm was still ragging in the city, so I brewed a pot of coffee and decided instead to begin writing the promised article for web-based Snowshoe Magazine on the ASC Snowshoe Challenge / High Sierra Snowshoe Series. …

Well, 32 hardy / hearty snowshoers had a different plan and found a way to get to Fresh Tracks at Camp Richardson. Last year’s Men’s and Women’s Series Winners, Bill and Sarah Raitter, were there. (For Bill, it was down to race Fresh Tracks or abandon the Series title for 2008.) Last year’s 4th place Men’s Finisher, Ross McMahan, was there. (Both knowing that 2.5min. is gained for each additional Series race and aware that in 2007 that was equivalent to 2 places in the Men’s standings.) Then again, like the others among the 18 day-of-race entrants, maybe it was just a case of wanting to ‘play in the snow’. And it did snow …

From Race Director David Cotter: ‘The snow was heavy enough during the race that participants reported both periodic “white out” conditions and strong winds causing snow to blow sideways’. In addition, since the 5k groomed trail course hadn’t been groomed on SAT, much of the course was as soft as single-track. When it was over, the tracks had vanished as quickly as they had appeared and 3 racers broke 30min. – 1st & 2nd place Men’s finishers Bill Raitter (24:19) and Ross McMahan (27:14) / 1st place Women’s finisher Sarah Raitter (28:14). Series Adjusted: Sarah 1st / 5177, Bill 2nd / 5258, Ross 3rd / 5833. With all 3 racers again going to the USSSA Nationals this year, some big surprises await athletes from the other regions.

Fundraiser: As is the case with all Series events, the Fresh Tracks race is a not-for-profit fundraiser. It serves as the “THE ERIC NAGEOTTE MEMORIAL 5K SNOWSHOE RACE & FAMILIARIZATION WALK”. Dave Cotter explained: “For those who may not know, Eric Nageotte and family, Ron and Carol Nageotte, have been long time, active members of the Tahoe Mountain Milers Running Club. Eric left us after a tragic skiing accident in New Zealand during the fall of 2004 where he diligently trained to make the US Olympic Freestyle Ski Team. All net proceeds from this event are donated to the Heavenly Valley Freestyle Scholarship in Eric’s memory which was created to help local, financially disadvantaged, young athletes fulfill their goals.”

Sponsors: Similarly, each Series event relies on the generous cooperation and support of a Nordic Center in the Sierras. Fresh Tracks enjoys the support of Historic Camp Richardson Resort, which has hosted and sponsored their event for 9 of the past 10 years. Dave emphasized that “their contributions are essential to the success of the event and their heartfelt involvement in the race at the grass roots level fits perfectly with the sport of snowshoeing.”

ASC High Sierra Snowshoe Series Event Results & Standings: With only 3 Series Races having occurred, Standings are currently based first on number of events and then secondly on best cumulative time. At present, in the Men’s Standings, 1st & 2nd places are held by the only 2 snowshoers to enter all 3 events – Jim Meskimen 1st / 13,055 & Luke Castell 2nd / 15,209. While 3rd place is held by the only male snowshoer to enter 2 events – Ross McMahan 3rd / 10,001. The current Women’s Standings have 1st & 2nd places being held by the only 2 female snowshoers to enter 2 events – Sarah Raitter 1st / 8960 & PattyJo Struve 2nd / 10,898. And 3rd place is held by the new-to-snowshoeing and Nationals bound 2nd place finisher at the ASC Snowshoe Challenge – Emma Garrard 3rd / 4606. With 2 races only a week away, both Men’s and Women’s Standings will see major shifts. However, as in 2007, most racers will be relying on Squaw to make their ‘minimum’ and tip the balance in their favor.

Only 2 Race Dates Remain: Hope that each of you were able to make it to one of the first 3 races in this year’s ASC / HSSS, because unlike 2007, sufficient events have already occurred for the 3 race minimum to stand. Next up are 2 events on 09MAR. If you’re not going to Ogden, UT for the USSSA Nationals, you can go-local and race the Northstar Snowshoe RWK. Then it comes down to toeing-up-to-the-line at the base of Squaw Mtn. for the event that brings it all together on 30MAR – snowshoers & x-c skiers / athletes & recreational participants – the Billy Dutton Uphill.

Hoping to see you at the starting line of the remaining ASC High Sierra Snowshoe Series Races, and that the winter is good to you between events – John Stauffer

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John Stauffer