With more than 30 inches of fresh snow in the days prior to the race, runners who braved the single digit temperatures were rewarded with soft trails and deep powder stashes at the second race in the Beaver Creek Mountain Running Series Snowshoe Edition. Conditions weren’t easy, resulting in more time out on the course, with many racers admitting the uphill sections turned into speed hikes and downhills being more like controlled falls. But blue skies and endless powder made the effort well worth it.
The second race in the series takes place on the Eastside Hillside route, a lollipop loop of groomed trail and single track for 5K racers and a challenging and extensive loop of groomed trail, single track and unbroken trail for those in the 10K. Everyone gets his or her fair share of uphill trudging, including an uphill finish that makes the sprint to the finish more painful than usual! Race organizers, especially those setting the course, felt the burn as well.
“It took about five hours to set four-and-a-half miles of course, with snow waist deep at times and knee-deep at best,” said Jeremy Gross, race director for the event.
The 10K counted as a United States Snowshoe Association regional qualifier for the USSSA Snowshoe National Championship Race, which takes place in Woodford, Vt., from February 28-March 2. The top 10 overall USSSA members in both the men’s and women’s 10K race qualify for the National Championships.
Top running contenders, including Josiah Middaugh, John O’Neill, Sage Canaday and Charlie Nowacki, Heather Gollnick, Katie Mazzia Jennifer Razee and Sandi Nypaver were out in force to earn their slots for Vermont.
Podium places in the men’s and women’s 10K races were hard-earned with lead racers taking turns breaking trail. Josiah Middaugh crossed the line in 1:14:17, followed closely by John O’Neil who finished in 1:14:31. Sage Canaday came in third with 1:15:04.
“It was 50 percent easier if you were running in second and 80 percent easier in third, when compared to how it felt breaking trail,” said second place finisher John O’Neil.
The women truly had a sprint to the finish. Jennifer Razee won in 1:19:55; Heather Gollnick clocked a 1:20:05 and third went to Katie Mazzia with her time of 1:20:09.
“The course was pretty sweet with blue skies and tons of powder,” said Vail valley local and first time snowshoe racer Geoff Grimmer. “It was definitely a little sloppy on the downhills, and I spend a lot of time digging myself out of powder messes.”
McKenna Ramsay won the women’s 5K in 36:37 and Ethan Pence won it for the men in 34:10.
The final race of the Beaver Creek series, the Jeremy Wright Memorial, happens on March 2, at the McCoy Park Nordic Center.
Editor’s Note: Despite running to second-place in my age group, my daughter pulled past me at the uphill finish to beat me fair and square. Proud? Of course, but I may start keeping tactical racing advice and course knowledge to myself!