The Kahtoola Bigfoot Snowshoe Festival is a feast of distances with a smorgasbord of five different events covering the Utah snow from the ultra 50 km, marathoners 26.2 miles, hearty 25 km, the USSSA qualifying 10 km, and Mr. Quick, the 5 km qualifier . . . all raced in one exciting day. Giving proper due to the various innovative Kahtoola systems for foot traction, the events allow any method of gripping for shoes though only those who race full distances in snowshoes are eligible for awards.
Touring the Wasatch Mountain State Park, between Salt Lake City and Provo, is also a festival for the eyes. This 22,000-acre preserve nestled away for summer and winter use was recognized by the 2002 Olympic Winter Games for events at its Soldier Hollow location. Soldier Hollow continues today in wide use in biathlon activities, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and other winter activities as well as a variety of summer uses such as horseback riding.
The Bigfoot Festival makes extended use of two layouts: one is the golf course 10 km loop. The other is the 5 km mountain loop, a noticeably steeper trip up and down. This trail is of the lollipop-layout variety while the golf course wanders the valley in a squiggly loop. Combing the two, then, provides the prescription for the 25 and 50 km distances while the marathon is essentially the same, too.
For a distance snowshoe, this is a great place to run it. With the combo loops, one can leave a drop bag and have access to individual supplies though there are aid stations. In addition, the benefit of adding or subtracting clothing as the race progresses helps the mental aspect required in finishing those longer distances on snowshoes.
This race is blessed with Utah sunshine; “We had another beautiful sunny day for the fifth year in a row,” race director, John Bozung, told me. “The temperature was about 5 degrees at the start but warmed to a comfortable 33 or so by afternoon,” exactly why it is nice to pass those drop bags to leave off jackets one wore at the start of the longer distances.
In the featured 10 km USSSA Qualifier, Glen Gunnel won the overall and was the only competitor in the field to break one hour with his 59:30. Marc Munns won the overall silver with a 1:01 while the younger Cees Hofman grabbed bronze in 1:02.
Debbie Lovci gave love to all senior masters with her women’s win at 1:15, good enough for a top-ten (6th) finish, too. Bailey Lubeck captured the women’s silver, crossing the line with Steve Dhams (Idaho) in a tie while Bryan Adams led them by a handful of seconds. Connie Barns proudly captured the women’s bronze and a tie for 11, all as the oldest competitor in the race.
In the 25 km challenge, Kandice Lund celebrated with a dominating 4:05 win. Geremy Gines and Patrick McCarvey raced to a tie at the 10 km split but at the 15 km marker, Gines had pulled away by seven minutes and extended that for the silver.
Meanwhile, Katie Cassiday won second in the women’s class and Valerie Merges took the bronze. In the men’s event, Jim Skaggs was third male, overall.
The popularity of the marathon distance was demonstrated here as 15 finished the race. There was no doubt this was 39-year-old Scott Kunz’s race. Leading at every milepost, his win had expanded to 35 minutes over Jamie Williams, also the first woman finisher. Michael Walline and Brent Bell finish the top three males while Michigan’s Andrea Carollo won the women’s silver finish.
The Boss, the 50 km distance, lured eight hearty souls to travel the hours required for an ultra finish. Young Ryan Hanse, 24, led from the get-go and finished in 6:33.RogerSquires,NM, was second at the first marker but drifted back by the 15 km clock to fourth where he finished. Meanwhile, Bryan Bozung moved up to second by the 15 km. He held that position past halfway, but by the 35 km timer, Rodger Smith had steadily gained to hold an eight-minute lead that he held for the silver finish. Bozung took bronze.
Recognition is due for Paul Hart at 63 the oldest in the distance, Troy Robertson, Jeremy Swenson and Tony Christensen for their eight-hour plus finishes. These are true ultra finishes, reflecting the challenges of going long distance on snow. (There were no women competitors in this distance).
Cory Bringhurst won the 5 km overall gold, breaking 30-minutes by 21 seconds. John Hawkins won silver while Ryan Archuleta finished out the top three.
For her first race ever of any kind, Karen Skaggs won the women’s class and fifth overall. Elana McGaughy earned silver while Lisa Graham grabbed the bronze.
Bozung had some worries leading into the weeks before these races. “As of two weeks ago, we could have played golf on the course we use; the event is run on the 18 holes that make up the Wasatch Mountains Golf Course. We finally got a couple of storms last week giving us enough snow to groom the course using snowmobiles. The course us usually groomed using a snow cat but needs 18 inches for that.”
Completing this distance-fest day, racers and spectators gathered at the visitor’s center for hot beverages, soup, rolls, and a host of other goodies to help recuperate from the energy spent.
The website for the race is complete with one of the best course profiles of any USSSA national qualifier or state championship race. There is a top-down gradient profile, a side-view elevation page and the “raised level” view of the course layouts like one was looking out from the top of a long boom; it looks 3D. All of these are important in planning for one’s race plan but also envisioning—dreaming—how to attack the courses in 2013.