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Whitetail Ridge Snowshoe Challenge Launches Braveheart Snowshoe Series in Ideal Conditions

Top snowshoe racers had race strategy in mind when a mass start dash across 20 open yards to a wooded single-track quickly bottlenecked to launch the inaugural Whitetail Ridge Snowshoe Challenge in River Falls, Wisconsin on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010.

Kinnickinnic Off-Road Cyclists (KORC) presented the inaugural Whitetail Ridge Snowshoe Challenge 2010 on Jan. 9th, 2010 with a 5K Snowshoe Race/Walk, a 10K Race, and a 20k snowshoe race. A nearby daycare graciously allowed its facility for indoor use before and after the event for food, drawings, and race prizes. To go to Whitetail Ridge Snowshoe Challenge 2010 results click here http://www.kinnioffroad.com/snowshoe

Gentlemen Rules on a Tough Single-track
Gathering the snowshoe racers across a line of orange cones race day director, Rick Cleary, reminded racers of a “gentlemen rules” for the single-track path wherein slower racers may elect to step to the side of the trail to allow obviously faster racers to pass. And then, with a “Ready, Set, Go,” in the sub-zero temps Cleary sent the racers off.

Except for a challenging open field area, the majority of the course is a wooded single-track, winding and banking through hardwood trees with continuous uphills, descents, and switchbacks. Within the wooded section the single-track snow base was solid. Off the single-track passing occured either when a snowshoe racers “stepped off” or when a snowshoe racer found a break in the line of tree trunks adjacent to the single-track and punched through a light snow crust over 12+ inches of quad-burning sugar snow.

The Open Field
At about a mid-point in the races the snowshoe racers powered through a section of open field, where the single-track base layer disintegrated into variously solid footing and churning sugar snow. “We packed the snow base down on the single track, but with the snow that blew in a few days ago the two open field areas definitely have churned up snow,’ said Cleary.

In the open field snowshoe racers were head-down “picking their footing” and spinning off rooster tails of snow in the bright sunshine. “The open area was definitely not packed down…tough, but fun,” noted Brenda Robrock, 44, Prior Lake, MN who despite “hitting the side of the trail and face planting” went on to take first in the 5k, female 40-49 division wearing the yellow-on-black Atlas Racers.

While the race start was sub-zero by the end of the open field section many snowshoe racers were sweating.

Atlas Racer Webbing Issues
Jim Graupner, 65, Lake Elmo, MN noted he preferred wearing the Atlas Racers today versus bolted on Northern Lites, since trail snow stability was a factor.  However, he pointed out an issue with the Atlas Racers that plagued several snowshoe racers — tearing in the webbing along the outside front of the Atlas Racers snowshoes.  “It occurred to me while racing at Snowshoe Nationals, last year,” said Graupner.  for details on Snowshoe National Championship click here http://www.snowshoeracing.com/home.htm

Rocky O’Neill, 53, St. Paul, a first-time snowshoe racer had tears on both of his one-year-old Atlas Racers by the end of the race on Saturday.   (Full disclosure – the author also had one-year-old Atlas Racers with a webbing tear.) Robrock also saw worrying wear in her Atlas Racers webbing by the end of her 5k race. Graupner said the Atlas Racers were the perfect snowshoe for the day’s snow conditions, but that he was also curious about the new Dion snowshoe racers potentially for next season. “Atlas has been great about repairing the torn webbing,” he noted.

Graupner, a perennial favorite in his age division, and ever dangerous racer across all divisions, was impressed with the new race course. “One of the most beautiful, flowing courses I’ve ever raced” he said, “People went out hard at the start to get a position on the single-track and then the race pace stabilized.”

Kris Miller Sets Steady Pace
In her Tubbs 10k Velocity snowshoes Kris Miller, 47, West Lakeland, MN took the first in the female 10k by “locking into a high aerobic pace” and sustaining throughout the course. “I didn’t try to get out in front for the start,” said Miller, ”I thought there would be more passing, more stepping on snowshoes…but it spread out quickly.”

“The single-track was great and the soft churned snow gives some of the power runners an opportunity to go ahead.  I was head down and focusing on foot placement,“ said Miller, who said she had a good experience on her late-model Tubbs this race. In previous races the Tubbs pull bindings loosened during the course of a race and needed cinching. Not today, but she said she was starting to look at other models of racing snowshoes.

“I was a little overdressed. It’s hard not to want to overdress a bit when you start the day at -12F,” said Miller, who plans to hit several of the Braveheart Series races, including the upcoming the Northwoods Snowshoe Championship in Duluth, MN on Jan. 16. For more info the Northwoods Snowshoe Championship click here   http://www.cutemoose.net/snowshoe_schedule.htm

Schuneman: “One with the snowshoe”
Dave Schuneman, 32, Duluth, took the title in the 20k noting that on the second lap through the 10k course the trail was “blazed down” and made for better footing in his bolted on Northern Lites Elites.  Schuneman said the Northern Lite Elites snowshoe felt very stable in the varied snow conditions and were in excellent condition after 5 years.

Bolting a running shoe onto the snowshoe isn’t a matter of a weight advantage, said Schuneman, as it is the responsiveness of having the running shoes bolted directly into the snowshoe. “You feel more one with the snowshoe,” noted Schuneman.

The 20k race spread out and the lack of any wind kept the low temperatures from actually being much of a race factor, noted Schuneman who said he had on three “light layers” for his 12.4 mile winning effort in sub-zero temps. One of the races on Schuneman’s and several other snowshoe racers’ list is the Ashland, WI to Washburn, MN “Book Across the Bay” on Feb. 20, see more info here  http://www.batb.org/

First Event of the Braveheart Snowshoe Series (for series details click here  http://www.uppermidwesttrailrunners.com/braveheartregistration.pdf)

Wearing his signature blue and white face paint and a knee length kilt for this the first snowshoe race of the 14-event, Braveheart Snowshoe Race Series, Jim “Braveheart” McDonald, Series Director, said the twisting course and varying snow conditions made for an interesting  “technical” snowshoe race challenge.

“Bill Langhout got out front at the start on the single track,” said McDonald, of his training partner Langhout, 52, of Woodbury  who went on to win the 10k men’s, 50+ division with a 56:32.

McDonald, who took 3rd in the men’s 50+, 10k division, was also outpaced by another training partner Rob Class, 49, Woodbury, MN who came in  2nd in the 10k men’s, 40-49 division at 54:13. Class edged out Mark Brose, 41, Minneapolis, MN who came in 1-second later at 54:14.  The winner of the 10k men’s 40-49 division, Mike Quednow, 46, Westboro, WI had come in just moments before Class and Brose at 54:06.

Jeff Quednow, 18, Westboro, WI took the overall men’s 10k title with a 53:02.

Scott Purrington, 45, Stillwater, MN took the overall 5k men’s title at 30:10 and Fawn Pachowski, 21, Withee, WI took the female 5k overall title at 37:24. For more detailed divisional results click here  http://www.kinnioffroad.com/snowshoe

McDonald noted that he is already eyeing adding several more races for next year’s Braveheart Series making the series the “largest snowshoe series in the world.”

As for the starting race of the 2010 series?

“A beautiful single-track course…and a cold and sunny day. That is what snowshoeing is about,” said McDonald.