Last weekend, we headed to Vermont for the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon. Pittsfield is located a few miles north of Killington, in southern Vermont. We were excited about this race, having switched gears this year from the usual 10 km races we normally do, to this longer event. We arrived on Friday evening after a long drive, managing to mostly beat an approaching storm that was due over the weekend. The forecast to the north was for a lot of snow, but it looked like we would be racing in rain the next day. Thankfully the large base of snow on the ground would ensure we would be racing on snowshoes regardless of what the weather might throw at us.
We stayed at The Mountain Top Inn & Resort (for an in depth review of this unique resort, see Features) and spent the evening eating a lot of pasta, getting our gear together, and resting up for the next day.
The next morning the rain took a break, and we were able to get running before it started up again. Shortly into the first loop it started to drizzle, and gradually throughout the day it came down harder and harder. The race started with a short, flat loop around an open field which helped to sort out runner positioning, before narrowing into single-track and immediately heading up into the mountainside. This had most of the field hiking and gasping within a few minutes. A nice flat section at the top that weaved among Spruce trees was a highlight of the course, and provided some relief from the relentless grade up to that point. The aid station, at roughly the 3 mile point of each loop, was well stocked and the volunteers were troopers to be out there all day for us. The course was basically an hour up, up, up, and then 30 minutes straight down. After fighting to pass a good number of people on the ups, I found it disheartening to then be re-passed by almost all of them on the way down the mountainside. I fell so hard on this down that it took several seconds to dig myself out. My entire leg was just gone, disappeared in the snow. I need to work on my snowshoe-ski technique!
Shortly into the second loop and already exhausted, I came close to turning back several times. I knew that doing all four loops was something I just didn’t have in me on the day. I also knew that if I didn’t at least complete the half marathon that I’d really regret it later – which I knew would be by far the more painful of the two prospects. So I kept chugging, and at least knew what to expect this time around. The second time down the giant steep hill into the finish, I knew what to expect and was actually able to run down more effectively.
Finished for the day myself, I waited for Derrick to come through, and kept toasty by the bonfire and under the shelter of the overhanging roof. By the time he came through it was pouring buckets, and he wisely decided to stop after the third loop and forgo the last loop. He will be running the Rock and Ice Ultra from March 22-24th, and needed to save something for that. It’s always tough to drop out early on a goal, but Andy Weinberg and the other organizers from Peak Races were kind enough to make you an official finisher of what you actually do accomplish on the day, which helps a lot to lessen the sting.
In fact, as Andy mentioned to me after the race, the goal of the Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon is to ensure that you are challenged, but also have a fun time doing it. The challenging part was certainly evident by the extremely difficult course, including 1700ft of climbing per 6.55mile loop; while the weather was an added bonus to making it even more of a test.
The fun part? Well, especially considering the conditions, the organizers went above and beyond what could have been expected to make sure that everyone would enjoy themselves as much as possible in this race. They even threw a giant seafood feast for the awards dinner that night, which certainly added to the enjoyment of everyone after a demanding day in the mountains.
For the complete list of results, see www.peakraces.com/snowshoe_mstr.html.
For information on the many exciting events in the Peak Adventures Series of races, see www.peakraces.com.