Snowshoeing is a great way to stay fit in the winter. Some years Connecticut does not offer too many opportunities for snowshoeing, so I try to take advantage of the snow conditions when I can. I often trot over to a nearby park while the snow is falling to run loops around the perimeter. Reservoir #6 on Avon Mountain is another favorite spot. Whenever possible I'll run a snowshoe races put on by the Western Mass. Athletic Club or part of the Dion Snowshoe Series


Moby Dick (7.2 Miles), Mt. Greylock Reservation, Lanesborough, MA - February 21, 2010

I ran the Moby Dick race on a beautiful winter morning. The there was also a race at Hallockville Orchard race on Sunday, but I would be doing the longer course on Saturday. It was my first snowshoe race of the year. I borrowed a pair of Dion's for the race and then purchased my own pair afterwards. I was happy to be making the trip to Greylock, having survived the Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler the weekend before. The start\finish area was at the Greylock Visitor's Center. Inside there is a huge model of the mountain with all of the trails marked. In the summer I run a trail race from Greylock Glen and it was fun tracing the course on the model. Farmer Ed was the race director and Brad Herder helped him with the course. Brad described to us how he got lost a few days prior skiing the course. Hopefully the leaders would not go off course, it is easier to follow footsteps than to look for blazes on the trees. Ed assured me he had marked the course that morning well and I wouldn't get lost. We ran the course in the opposite direction then Ed had initially intended. While marking the course that morning, Ed reached a section that he couldn't climb with his snowshoes. It was possible to tackle that section going downhill and during the race many of us scooted down it on their bottoms. Brad was waiting with his camera to take our pictures.

Unlike Northfield two weeks earlier, Greylock had an abundance of snow. It was exhausting trying to stay upright in the fluffy snow. My legs just weren't used to the loose footing luckily I only fell once. At the start, as Ed described the course one thing caught my attention. The first five and a half miles were to be on single track trails through the woods. After that we would be on a snow packed road heading downhill to the finish. Bingo! That is what kept me going. I kept saying, "Just get to five and a half and you will have it made!" I could hardly control my excitement as I picked up speed on the snow packed road. I was in my element. This was the easy part. Then I was gone and I didn't see any other racers until the finish line. I finished and I was proud of myself.

Afterwards I changed clothes, slowly pealing off my wet technical clothes and replacing them with warm, dry cotton. There was a post race party beside the visitor's center and I munched on Fig Newton's and eventually had some soup. Then we said our goodbyes and headed home. I left later than I thought I would, surprising, and I had to hurry so I wouldn't be late to walk the dogs with my friends Jenn and Kevin at River Highland's State Park.

Northfield Mountain (5.3 Miles), Northfield, MA - February 6, 2010

Bentley, Lacey and I made to trek up to Northfield for my first snowshoe race of 2010. Todd was saving his legs for his annual running of the Martha's Vineyard 20 Miler the next weekend so I was flying solo. The race was advertised as being 3.8 miles long and that was just long enough for me. I have done the summer trail run at Northfield and I didn't think we could get to the top of the mountain and back in 3.8 miles. I was content with running part way up and back down. As we pulled up, we noticed a definite lack of snow. There were people everywhere, but were we really going to be able to run in snowshoes? A quick trip to the visitor's center revealed that not only were we going to race in snowshoes, but because of the lack of snow they modified the course and we were going to be running 5.3 miles, all the way to the top. What?!? I questioned if I was up for such an endeavor. But we had driven all that way and I knew I would be disappointed if I didn't do it, so I strapped on my shoes and took off with everyone else.

The first two miles was where all the climbing happened and it was really tough. I kept reminding myself my reward would be the three miles coming down. With a mix of running and walking I made it to the top and started down the mountain on a wide path. My pace quickened and I was enjoying the ride when I suddenly got a side stitch. What?!? This is what I worked so hard for and now I was walking? I tried a mix of stretching and breathing, but nothing seemed to help. I decided to run slowly and hope it would eventually work itself out. Unfortunately it took two full miles for that to happen. About a mile from the finish we went up a small hill and that finally did the trick. With my side stitch gone, the last mile was a blast. As I came out of the woods near the end I spotted Todd. He was standing off to the side with a camera. I waved to him and headed for the finish. We only stayed for a short while at the post race celebration. Lacey and Bentley were in the car and they were excited for us to return so we could continue our adventure home. Another great day on the trails.

Turner Trail (4.3 Miles) - Pittsfield State Forest, Pittsfield, MA - January 10, 2009

I always wanted to try snowshoeing. Todd suggested I try a snowshoe race. A lot of the same people that we run trail races with in the summer also run snowshoes races in the winter. A friend of Todd's, Bob Dion, makes racing snowshoes and his company Dion Snowshoes sponsors a snowshoe racing series.

Our schedule and the weather cooperated so Todd and I could make the race in Pittsfield, MA on Saturday. It was held in the Pittsfield State Forest. The race application advertised it being a 5K race with 1000 feet of vertical elevation change. It was a loop course with most of the elevation gain coming in the first mile. It sounded daunting, but I wasn't in it to win it. I just wanted to try the snowshoes.

We arrived early and were able to borrow two pair of snowshoes from Bob. I got advice on socks and footwear from Ed Alibozek, a seasoned snowshoe racer. Bob Massaro was there. He and I run about the same pace (he is faster at shorter races and I can win at the longer ones). He snowshoes a lot so I had no hope of keeping up with him on this day.

When the race started I ran a few hundred yards before the steep incline started. After that I decided to conserve my energy for the second part of the race and walk the rest of the first mile and a quarter until the first turn. It took me 26 minutes. My surroundings were beautiful and very peaceful. Although it was only around 18 degrees I warmed up quickly. I passed a guy from southern Connecticut who was also running (well, at that point walking) his first snowshoe race. He wasn't a runner, preferring to mountain bike instead. I wondered if he would have the cardio vascular fitness to run after we got up the big hill. I never saw him again. A couple people passed me. Based on the ease at which they went by they must have started the race late.

After the first turn the terrain evened out somewhat so I was able to run and I passed a couple people who were walking. After two more turns I started dropping elevation and to ease the transition switched back and forth, only taking a few strides before changing directions again. A woman in purple went screaming past me on one of the switch backs and I was able to close in another man. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman behind me. My goal was to not let her pass me. I was able to retain my lead over her for the rest of the race. There was a man on the trail taking pictures. Of course I slipped right in front of him and he got a classic picture of me trying to save myself. The switch backs were a lot of fun.

As I ran onto a wider path I heard Todd's voice. He finished and came back out on the course to find me. Slowly we ran towards the finish line. We emerged from the woods and Todd took a shortcut while I continued along the perimeter of the meadow to the finish line. It took me almost one hour and four minutes. I found out later that instead of 3.1 miles, the course was actually 4.3 miles. I was ecstatic! I couldn't believe how much fun a snowshoe race could be.

There were many people mingling around who congratulated me and hoped we would both be back for more races. Because of the cold weather we didn't stick around too long. We quickly returned our borrowed snowshoes and said our goodbyes. We rewarded ourselves for a job well done by enjoying two bacon ranch salads at McDonalds in Lee, MA. As we drove towards Connecticut we talked about purchasing snowshoes.