Boulder Lake USSSA Qualifier Features Frigid Two-Way Day

It was a glacial day, and the temperatures plummeted to . . . well it was just plain cold let’s leave it at that. However, the wind was calm, thank goodness. The snowshoers and the other racers, cross-country skiers, warmed the day with heated races and scorching finishes . . . and a unique start.

Four waves of racers started the day: three waves of XC skiers who went south across Boulder Lake to their 10.3 km loops and the fourth and last wave, all snowshoers, heading north on the nicely groomed trails. Two snowshoe distances made up the day, a 4 km loop, and the USSSA qualifying race of two loops.

Nicely laid out, the course formed an hourglass pattern with an aid station placed in the connecting two-way path. Such courses are fun for racers as one can see other competitors ahead or behind during the four times passing through the commons. Although groomed, the freezer-like conditions created more sugar snow after a handful stomped through it, reminiscent of the challenging 2010 Syracuse, New York, national championship racecourse. The roly-poly ups and downs with twists and turns are typical of the area and an easier proxy of the kind of conditions one should expect at the March 2011 Dion Snowshoes USSSA National Championships at the Cable, Wisconsin headquarters, Lakewoods Resort.

The snowshoe finish was interesting at Boulder as one had to pivot a 180-degree hook to line up with the finishing line, and the direct shot by skiers, and cross it. It was certainly possible and fun to have a snowshoer and a XC skier finish simultaneously, though arriving from different directions and different distances.

Steve Shelerud works in the same investment brokerage office as I and rode with me to Boulder Lake. He is racing as preparation for the world class American Birkebeiner next month near the site for the Dion Snowshoe USSSA National Championships. He noted the friendliness of the cross-country crowd as similar to snowshoers, (“Everyone is pulling for you, even if you pass them”) and related it to the work ethic of both groups. The photo of Steve getting his registration materials (top) demonstrates the cold inside the registration tent, what it must feel like to be inside an ice cube. After handing out materials Chad Mammenga, Plymouth, Minnesota, served the chili post race along with M & M cookies, raisin cookies, and various Nature Valley bars with the particular favorite, a sinful almond nut.

The race of the day was for the overall win between two-time USSSA National Champion, Greg Hexum, Esko, and aspiring-to-be USSSA champion, St Paul’s Kelly Mortenson after his 2009 runner-up finish. Hexum led the pack with Mortenson right with him for the first two kilometers, but about where the hourglass squeezes together, and after racing along side of one another, Hexum let Mortenson pull in front. Mortenson had a few second lead completing the first loop when Hexum slipped on the turn to begin the number two lap. He was unable to make up the distance while Mortenson wearing his Atlas snowshoes won by 39 seconds or about 100 yards.

Mortenson also won last week’s White Tail Ridge Snowshoe race after following in fourth for about 36 of the 48-minute winning time. “It just felt right to pick up the pace a little though I was using that race as training.”

Duluth residents Eric Hartmark took third about two minutes later, followed shortly by Erik Escher who was being pushed by youngsters (22 and 24 respectively) Eris Escher and Christopher Rubesch. Rubesch, who trains with his wife at Superior-Performance Athletes in Duluth, is learning snowshoe racing. He said, “I’m looking forward to the national championships over in Cable.” He won the Moose Mountain 50 mile Ultra in September, 2010.

A number of Braveheart Snowshoe Series participants were in the race including Woodbury’s Rob Class, recovering from an injury. Mike Most, River Falls, Wisconsin, edged out Ms. Significant Other, Shelly Wilson, by something over a minute. The photo reflects them warming up with hot chili in the now hot registration tent.

Rice Lake Wisconsin’s Jonathan Delf and John Kann, fresh from laying out the new nationals’ course at the Lakeland Resort in Cable, had good races today. Both are excited about the championship course. “It looks good,” Delf told me, as Kann added, “It should be a challenge.”

Jason Ruesch, Medford, Wisconsin, picked up a double this weekend after racing the Perkinstown 3 mile and finishing the Boulder 8 km loop at 55:40 in the tough 30-44 age group. There were only three age groups in snowshoeing: over 44 and under 30, male and female. There were 13 age classes in the skinny ski races, male and female.

Putting her past snowshoe win at the now retired Northwoods Snowshoe races to good use today, Becky O’Hearn won in an outstanding 44:17 and sixth overall. Andrea Mueller, Edgar, Wisconsin, experienced her double-up weekend,  winning the female class at Perkinstown on Saturday and second at Boulder. She did get the class win, as did another double up racer, Kristin Miller, Lakeland, Minnesota, third overall. Kristin won the mountaineer class at Perkinstown, which requires a 15-pound backpack and larger snowshoes for women, and was debating on the pair she would compete with at Boulder. She chose the smaller Red Feathers she owns.

Lesley Reynolds, Phillips, Wisconsin, picked up a second in her middle 30-44 class, getting ready for the Phillips Flurry on January 22. The race is near Snowshoe Drive, by the way. Mary Ross-Mortensen captured the final medal in their class so it was a happy drive back to St. Paul for the Mortenson camp (bottom photo).

Tim Buerger, Ironwood, Michigan, and Pamela Malsten, Ishpeming, Michigan, made the trek to race this event; Pam took a class silver. Deb Paschal and Tammy Domonoske travelled from Ventura Highway, Iowa that is, and finished within seconds of one another.

In the 4 km race, Scott Hoberg edged Sam Johnson, both of Duluth, by 15 seconds for the overall win. The Seliger twins of Marathon, Wisconsin, won the next two lots as Mitchell crossed a few seconds ahead of Paul. Jason Bociurko drove down from Thunder Bay, Canada to add an international flavor to the race. He finish fifth overall and won a silver souvenir for his class.

Amanda Lepisto won the women’s group under thirty minutes at 29:23. Diane Hopkins, Savage, took second in a good test prior to next Saturday’s Winterrific at Murphy-Hanrehan Park in Savage.

Having two events in one like at Boulder Lake — snowshoe racing and cross-country skiing — is a unique but exciting combo. Clayton Keim, Race Director and owner of Roller Ski Shop, selling his Pursuit brand of affordable roller skis, demonstrated his creativity by pairing these two sports. Perhaps it is an idea whose time has come, as he has discovered. The beating music powerfully piped out on Boulder Lake warmed the racers from both groups as they finished; all left warm at heart and feeling somewhat less like frozen hamburger in a chest freezer.

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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.
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