Ten Unwritten Rules of Snowshoe (and Trail) Racing

Here are Ten Unwritten Rules of Snowshoe (and Trail) Racing.  Rules that may be helpful in snowshoe racing and trail racing, too! Check them out.  Particularly number six . . . .

1. All know the fastest and ‘bestest’ bunch up on the front line. However, behind them often is a gap where competitors feel a hesitancy to fill in the space. If so, and if no one fills it, anyone of any speed is authorized to move there.

2. Don’t step on the snowshoes in front of you. (see photo) or put yourself in a  position to possibly do so. That you will trip that snowshoer is a given. You, too, may fall and injure yourself . . . or them! This isn’t NASCAR . . . inches here will be unlikely to make a difference at a finish.

3. Before passing on single-track snowshoe trails yell “To your left (or right).” The competitors will move over for you. However, trailing that person and steaming because you can’t pass is your fault. Just because you are behind someone doesn’t mean you, in fact, can pass or even want to.

4. If a competitor suddenly catches you, the odds are they will pass, so ask if they are ready, and move over. At the March 2010 USSSA Nationals in Syracuse, I was climbing the switchbacks on the major climb, about mile three, no company around; it was quietly fun. I heard, suddenly, snowshoes rapidly coming up. When behind me, I asked if he was ready to pass; answering to the affirmative, I stopped to the side in the deep snow (it was a deep single track), he went ahead, and off I continued. He was gone in a flash; I never caught his finish or why he was so far behind (maybe late to the start?), continuing on my merry way.

5. Finish the course. Just because you are not winning or not reaching your goal isn’t fair to the organizers or the racecourse. Respect the event, finish if physically able. Best example I know of recently was Lisa Trainor at the 2010 Snowshoe Shuffle, Minneapolis. Lisa was toward the front and suddenly I pass her off to the side of the trail fiddling with the bindings. Later, much later in the event, I am surprised as zooming past me is Lisa. Afterward, I asked her what was going on; she told me of her bindings failing. She described how she hiked back to her vehicle once she realized her original bindings were done for. She changed snowshoes and took off again, finishing the race, picking off a whole host of competitors from the back.

6. Be at the start three minutes or more before the start. Get your parking done and number pickup well before the start. Nothing is as irritating to the field as to stand there getting cold while you are running late coming to the line. I understand why race directors want all to be at the race and participate. However, there is a saying at the Indianapolis 500 that might be appropriate: “The Indianapolis 500 starts at 11:00 and doesn’t wait on anyone.”

7. Stuff your used gel packets in the pocket or vest, deep in your pockets or vest so they don’t fall out. Those things can easily get snow-covered and not appear until the spring melt.

8. It’s great to say hello before the race start, and talk about all those important things, but once the race begins, be careful. Sure, say “Hi,” and “Have a good race,” and so on during the event, but unless you know the person very well, don’t assume they want to chitchat during the race. Mike Most and Shelly Wilson passed me at the Snowshoe Shuffle, just a few of many by the way, but were nice enough as they blew by to wish me well; then they were gone. I barely had time to get out a “good luck!”

9. Attend the awards ceremony. This doesn’t always work because there could be a long travel back home, maybe six to ten hours worth. Conflicts happen. But when possible, get your award (if you placed), and participate in the fun. Most of these events for the USSSA Qualifying or Nationals will have prizes and other gifts that are significant.

10. Familiarize yourself with the layout pre race. Don’t wait to the start, and ask for a description, in detail, of the entire racecourse. Most events will have their course on the web site; blogs will describe it, a call pre-race can do the same. Respect the time of volunteers and race organizers.

11. Okay, eleven is more than ten, but I went to a poor school district and my counting may be challenged — but this is important: Give back to the sport by joining the United States Snowshoe Association, enjoying its benefits, volunteer at snowshoe events, assist newbies in the fun of snowshoeing and racing (photo, author finishing at 2010 Syracuse Nationals). Participate in your regional snowshoe series. Hey, read and share Snowshoe Magazine, too — help others subscribe free. Are there more unwritten rules?

Email me phillipgary@snowshoemag.com

USSSA www.snowshoeracing.com

Ultrasuperior www.ultrasuperior.com

American Trail Running Association www.trailrunner.com 

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About the author


Phillip Gary Smith

Phillip Gary Smith, Senior Editor, published "The 300-Mile Man" about Roberto Marron's historic doubling of the Tuscobia 150 mile endurance snow run. He publishes "iHarmonizing Competition" on various forms of competition, including drag racing, his favorite motorsport. Earlier, he wrote "HARMONIZING: Keys to Living in the Song of Life" as a manual for life with chapters such as Winning by Losing, Can God Pay Your Visa Bill?, and a young classic story, The Year I Met a Christmas Angel. His book, "Ultra Superior," is the first written on the Superior Trail ultra-distance events. He mixes writing with his profession--the venture capital world--a dying art. He is a creator of CUBE Speakers, a group espousing themes in "HARMONIZING: Keys" in a unique way. Currently, he has two books in the works.
Write to him at Phillip@ultrasuperior.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook @iHarmonizing.