Canadian National Snowshoe Championships Report

Wow, what a day!

The weather was perfect. The conditions were perfect. The competition was awesome. And Monique was able to save my food shopping faux pas!

This past Saturday, the Mad Trapper Snowshoe Series was honoured with hosting the 3rd annual Canadian National Snowshoe Championships. And unlike the past 2 Mad Trappers this season, we didn’t awake to temperatures dipping below -22C. Instead the sun was shining and temperatures were hovering around -6C.

Last week’s rain had compacted our snow base, leaving a bulletproof, icy surface. But with Thursday and Friday’s 10cm snowfall, conditions were perfect and fast for race. I was expecting some record times on this day and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

In the Atlas 10k Division, the 2 favourites coming into the race were John Ranson (one first place finish this season, and 2nd place overall in the Series last year) and Alexander Michel (a first year snowshoe racer but with impressive 2nd and 3rd place finishes at our previous races). Longshot possibilities would include Robert Lefebvre (3rd and 4th place finishes previously this year) and Mike Abraham (first Mad Trapper this year, but impressive finishes in past years).

And then of course, although unknown to the snowshoe community, this guy certainly isn’t unknown to the off road race community in general. Putting his skis aside for the weekend, David McMahon showed up to see if he could dominate the trails in the winter, in the same fashion he does in the summer.

On the women’s side, Leslie Sanderson was here vying for her first National Snowshoe Championship. Leslie had not been even moderately challenged in previous races this season, but there were certainly a few sideways glances at the newcomer who made the trip out from Calgary specifically for this event. Given her modified Atlas Race snowshoes and her Atlas race tights, a few of us expected she had snowshoed before…

Once the gun sounded, the racers were off and John Ranson stayed true to his word. John jumped into the lead position challenging the rest of the field to match his early breakneck pace. Word is John was able to maintain his position up and over the first few sets of hills, but once the course flattened out in The Meadow, David McMahon, Alexander Michel, Syl Corbett and unknown racer Pierre Lesage dropped the hammer and moved past him. At the 5k halfway point, few of us were surprised to see Dave McMahon leading the charge down the hill toward the Ark, but what did surprise us though, was seeing a female cruising along comfortably right on McMahon’s heels!

It looked like Syl Corbett was going to compete for the overall victory! This raised quite the conversation at the Ark, is there any sport where a woman has been able to claim an overall victory when men are competing? It looked like there a good possibility that that question would be answered today!

But Dave and Syl weren’t alone as Alexander Michel was running tightly with them. Apparently, Syl was able to continue holding her own on the flats and ascents, but Dave’s downhill trail running experience, and Alex’s additional mass were too much for her on the descents and the 2 men pulled away. The lead continued to change throughout the remainder of the race, with Alex and Dave both taking turns breaking trail. Every time Dave surged, Alex responded. Every time Alex surged, Dave responded… except for Alex’s last hard push.

Alex has raced here before and knew the course better than Dave. He recognized the last hill before the finish and with the memory of Andrew Cameron dropping him on the this very hill 3 weeks prior, Alex made his move and gave it his all. Without knowing how close the finish was, Dave allowed Alex a slight gap, and this was Dave’s first, and fatal mistake. Alex crested the top of the hill and sprinted down the back side to the finish line besting Dave by 3 seconds!

But who would finish next?

Just over a minute later, Syl Corbett came crusing down the hill all alone. Looking fit and fresh, Syl recordest the highest overall placing (3rd) in any Mad Trapper event. But this wasn’t the only record set. The quality of the competitors and the condition of the trail saw 6 racers finish the course in under an hour! Breaking an hour is another record, previously unseen at any Mad Trapper.

Congratulations to Alexander Michel, Dave McMahon, Syl Corbett, Pierre Lesage, Rob Lefebvre, and John Ranson for their sub 1 hour runs.

Full race results can be seen at: http://www.synergyark.com/mad-trapper-2009-results.html.

But what do these results mean to the Overall Mad Trapper Points Leader race? The Mad Trapper offered 4 races this year, and the top 3 points will be counted towards the Series Championship. Alex Michel has 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishes for a total of 275 points. Alex is unable to attend the final race so this is his final point total. After 2 races, John Ranson has a first and a fifth place finish for 179 points. 100 points is assigned to the winner of each race, 90 points is awarded to second place. So this means if John finishes first in the final race he will be awarded the Series Champion title. But if he finishes in second place or lower, that award will go to Alexander Michel.

On the women’s side, Leslie Sanderson has already locked up the Series Champion title with 2 first place and one second place finish.

I’ll get to the 5k finishers in a second, but the battle for first wasn’t the only excitement on the day. The battle for 18th place was even more dramatic! Mike Giles crested the hill with Trevor Forsey right on his heels. Half way down the hill, Trevor made his move and went wide in the deep snow to pass Giles. Mike held his line though and as Trevor pulled even with him he stumbled in the deep snow and Mike pulled ahead. Trevor recovered though, and right at the bottom of the hill, Trevor made another move to pass. But again, the deeper snow caused a knee to buckle and Mike gained a 2 step lead. I assumed 18th place was now decided, and Trevor would accept his 19th place. But NO! Trevor had one more attempt left in him! Just before the finish, he dug deep and made yet another mover, but sadly he met with the same result in the deep snow, giving Giles the 18th place finish.

For the next race I’m going to be sure to tramp down 2 trails to the finish to allow for better end sprints!

On the 5k side, Christopher McMahon had better success than his dad. Also putting aside the skis for the weekend, Christopher cruised to an easy first place finish and the title of Canadian National Snowshoe 5k Champion. Sarah Rowe, the 2007 Canadian National Snowshoe 10k Champion and Mad Trapper poster girl, cruised to an easy 5k win and her second Canadian Championship title.

But of course, despite all that text above, Mad Trapper races aren’t really about racing, they are about the atmosphere and post race party! Two days earlier, Monique had given me my shopping list for the chili. I couldn’t believe my luck finding chili powder at a much lower price per volume than the powder Monique requested! Well, there was a reason for this; the powder I got wasn’t really chili powder, rather it was simply ground up super hot chili peppers! It took Monique until 1am and all of her culinary powers to save the meal, which once again garnered rave reviews from everyone present! Thanks for saving the day Monique!

And although I want to thank all of my sponsors: Atlas, Trailhead, and Raid the North, I want to extend an extra special thanks to Bushtukah Great Outdoor Gear. Hearing that we lost our MEC sponsorship at the very last minute, Bushtukah stepped up and provided even more prizing. With these additional prizes and the prizing provided by Dave and Lise and Natural Fitness Labs, more than 50% of our participants were able to go home with some form of prize. Please keep this in mind, when you have a choice to save 10% by shopping from some faceless, storefront-less, online retailer. You can’t beat the support of our local sport and outdoor retailers!

Thanks again to all of our sponsors, Monique (and her 1am assistant Nathalie), and everyone who participated. It’s because of all of you that the Mad Trapper may possibly be the most fun and social race series in the world! (I can’t take any credit for the terrain which also makes it one of the world’s biggest sufferfests! Right Alex?)

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Mike Caldwell