The view of racer No. 106 remains the same: watching his Easton Snowshoes kick up a cloud of flakes as he leads the way. It is only on the short two-way segment connecting the figure-8 course a snowshoer has a chance to see the other side, the face, of Duluth’s Eric Hartmark, 2011’s Dion Snowshoe USSSA National Snowshoe Champion. As his home course qualifier, Hartmark set the pace with a sterling 38:01 in the Boulder Lake Snowshoe Stomp.
It wasn’t this way in 2011, the last race here as 2012s was weather-related cancelled. This year almost was a repeat but a quick reschedule by race director, Clayton Heim, saved the event; in doing so, the combo of snowshoers and cross-country skiers enjoyed a downright glorious day of deep snow and Northwood’s beauty, the kind one typically sees on those picturesque holiday cards.
St. Paul’s Kelly Mortensen won 2011’s competition, leading Hartmark as he crossed the finish line etched into the frozen lake by nearly two minutes in that sugar-snow, -10 day. Under more pleasant temperatures—high single digits at the command “Go!”—and with firmer snow, Hartmark took advantage of his running prowess. He turned the results upside down, winning over Mortensen by slightly more than a minute though they both broke 40.
Smiling and happy, Hartmark explained, “We were together until that first BIG hill; I took the lead there and led the rest of the way.” The signature geographic feature of the course is this hill rising out of the ground like an earthen remnant of “2001: A Space Odyssey’s” Monolith. A big UP, then a big down plays to his strength first glimpsed at the Cable, WI championship course filled with enough climbs to resemble a mega roller-coaster.
Hartmark plans on racing the Bend, OR, Dion Snowshoe USSSA National Championships in March 15-17, 2013.
Eric Nordgren, Duluth, held off Woodbury’s Rob Class for the bronze trophy, or in the case at Boulder Lake, bronze cup. Beautiful jugs and mugs mark winners of this race; in a show of thanks for the scheduling hassle created by Mother Nature, the race awarded all finishers today the cup.
Being given one is the only way I am going to get their mug. The master’s age bracket resembles the ski world stretching from age 45-120. I vote any racer finishing at age 80 and above automatically gets a Boulder Lake logo mug ready-filled with hot chocolate. And maybe like John Frankenheimer’s film “Reindeer Games” suggests, a slice of “pe’ can” pie, too.
Longtime Northern athlete, Amanda Lepisto, raced to the women’s victory in 53:23, giving Duluth a sweep of the top two slots while Gary Lepisto followed her through the finish line. Lepisto won the women’s class at Duluth’s highly competitive Fitgers 5 km roadrace in 2012.
Phillips, WI’s Melissa Tekippe gave a hearty chase but fell short by a scant 18 seconds. Tekippe also snatched second at the challenging Phillips Flurry Snowshoe race in her hometown January 26 in 56:12. The comparison of the Phillips 10km times and Boulder’s 8km finishes causes one to ponder the possibility that Boulder Lake has more “k’s” than it is credited. Katy Class scored third in 58:52, edging snowshoe racer extraordinaire’ Lisa Trainor by a nickel’s worth of seconds.
Other notable racers included newly elected Upper Peninsula’s (MI) Running Hall of Fame member, Edward Rousseau, just coming off a 188 or so mile 3-day road race. The always happy Minneapolis resident explained that course consisted of repeating two-mile loops.
Rochester’s Wayne Nelson, always affable and constant trail racer whether on snow or dirt, snowshoed part of the Superior Hiking Trails on Saturday then raced Boulder Lake on his way back home.
Minneapolis’ Bonnie Riley won her class while adding a touch of sanity to the loud cabin where lots of chili, served by Jessica Baglo and Chad Mammenga in the separate heated tent, provided nourishment and warmth.
In the companion one-lap race, Scott Hoberg, Duluth, zoomed to a 23-minute finish, chased by the very quick senior racer, Tim Zbikowski, Maple Grove. Zbikowski’s speed on snow recalls his glory at the University of Minnesota.
Jean Carmichael, racing from Southern Pines, NC, turned in a quick 38:09 on her new Red Feather Snowshoes, a snazzy tiger-striped yellow given to her at Valentines, to lead Ely’s Cynthia Braff over the line. Carl Klitzke, Maple Grove, took third while winning her age-class.
Kudos to Duluth’s Cindy Matheson for competing in decidedly not-for-racing -snowshoes. These were some big ones and clunky; yet she completed the lap in less than one hour, demonstrating the bold spirit of the Northwoods.