Vermont’s changing weather vexed the racers, as usual, at the Eighth Annual Northern Vermont Snowshoe Race at Smuggler’s Notch Feb. 8.
Race organizer Zeke Zucker said the weather always goes from bad to worse on race day. One day a few years ago, it was 20 below. Last year, a snow squall cut visibility to zero, erased tracks and made locating trail markings difficult.
This year, the course had been covered with a nice firm packed powder for weeks. There had been no thaw since late December, an improvement over most recent winters. But Zucker awoke on race day to rain and a temperature of 41 degrees.
A cold front roared through just before race time, throwing down a quick dusting of pasty snow and dropping the temperatures enough to leave a mushy, swampy mess of mashed potato snow on the trails with a slim but thickening crust on top. Nearly 40 racers took on the odd snow conditions, which were changing by the minute as temperatures dropped into the 20s.
The conditions seemed to make the competitors relish the challenge all the more. “It was good, very nice,” said Lisa Philips of St. George, Vt., smiling as she completed the 4K course.
The 8K winner was Aaron Robertson of Rouses Point, N.Y., with a time of 46:31. Zucker said the time was amazingly fast, given the hills on the first half of the course and the sloppy snow underfoot. Robertson said the conditions were dicey in spots.
“It was slippery. You couldn’t get a good footing. It made it tough,” Robertson said. Still, he emerged from the woods and was pouring it on as he crossed the finish line. “I was trying to make it look good,” Robertson joked.
The Smugglers’ event was a qualifier for the ninth annual U.S. National Snowshoe Championship to be held March 8 on Mount Hood, Ore.
At almost any Vermont race or endurance competition, you’ll find a group of Norwich University students competing. The Smuggler’s Notch event was no exception. Norwich, in Northfield, Vt., is the nation’s oldest private military college. “We want to be in the SEALS,'” said Renat Fatkulin, 20, of Torrington, Ct., a Norwich junior. So when he and his pals aren’t training three or more hours a day, they’re doing road races, ultra races, death races or snowshoe races. Fatkulin blasted through the Smugglers’ course in 55:21, a show of force that indicated all his training was paying off.
“We mostly compete with each other,” said Kevin Durgin, 20, of Windham, N.H., a Norwich sophomore who came in shortly after Fatkulin with a time of 58:59.
The race drew competitors with a wide variety of skills, ages and abilities. Some of the racers said they did so on a lark, while others, like Robertson, are regulars at snowshoe races.
Over food post race, Zucker pronounced himself happy with the race, saying interest in the event each year seems to stay steady or grow.
8K results are below:
Smuggler’s Notch, VT
1. Aaron Robertson, Rouses Point, NY – 46:31
2. Paul Bazanchuk, Amherst, MA – 52:14
3. Steven Keating, Grafton, MA – 54:25
4. Renat Fatkulin, Northfield, VT – 55:21
5. Mike Bessette, St. Albans, VT – 56:09
6. Tom Hathaway, Lynnfield, MA – 56:13
7. Chris Bernier, Waterbury Ctr., VT – 56:32
8. Ed Habeck, Northfield, VT – 57:20
9. Ted McNight, Jericho, VT – 57:33
10. Kevin Durgin, Windham, NH – 58:59
11. John Pelton, W. Rupert, VT – 59:18
12. David Polow, Morrisville, VT – 61:14
13. Dan Valdo, Hackettstown, NJ – 66:16
14. Dan Myers, Colchester, VT – 70:03
15. David Delibac, Grand Isle, VT – 73:19
16. Nancy Comstoc, Burlington, VT – 76:59
17. Michael Gordon, Essex Jct., VT – 78:01
18. Jeff Comstock, Burlington, VT – 86:23
19. Yuen Chun, New York, NY – 90:53