The 2017 World Snowshoe Championships were held in Saranac Lake New York. I have been snowshoe running for a few years at Mad Trapper events but this was my first really big Snowshoe Running event. There were more people registered in my age group than I usually see in a whole race!
The race was originally supposed to start in downtown Saranac Lake right in front of the town hall. The town had been stockpiling snow all winter so they could dump it on the road for a really cool start right in the middle of town.
There was a big melt the week before the race. On Thursday there was grass not snow in Saranac Lake and the ice on Flower Lake was pretty well gone. The forecast high for race day was +13C with rain. Race officials made the call to move the start to Dewey Mountain because the snow was disappearing rapidly. Even the new start at Dewey Mountain was more muddy than snowy. Tough week when you have an international snowshoe race scheduled but the town of Saranac Lake really came through. Volunteers got out their shovels and shoveled 135 truckloads of snow onto the new shortened 2 loop 8k course.
We arrived on Saturday morning. A beautiful sunny spring day, even though it was February 25th. I wished we had brought the bikes so we could do a loop of the IMLP bike course or the kayaks for a paddle.
The start at Dewey Mountain was well organized with big rubber mats for putting your snowshoes on and straw for traction on the ice when you were not wearing snowshoes. The course had newly shoveled snow on it but it was melting so fast they had put in drainage channels so the water had somewhere to go.
There were three races the 10k –now 8k World Championships, the 5K now 4K Junior World Championships and the 4k Shoe-be-doo walking party.
The 8K started first so I lined up not at the back but towards the back. I knew I was not going to finish at the front so my plan was to start towards the back and see who I could catch. Everyone was very friendly and it was nice to see and chat with some friendly familiar Ottawa area faces dressed in their Natural Fitness Lab finest. A few of the racers were in costume and several were in shorts. I was wearing Atlas Race snowshoes but there were lots of other snowshoes around including Dion, Northern Lites and some European brands. A number of racers had direct mount snowshoes and the two women beside me at the start were discussing their experiences with different direct mount (snowshoes where you screw your shoes right on to the frame) and training runs in summer. I was starting to think I should move a little farther back!
The gun went off and we started only to stop again at the first narrow spot but the course was wide enough for passing and I know from experience that even 8k on snowshoes is an endurance sport so I was not too concerned. The course was pretty hilly and the only snow was the snow shoveled onto the course. Everything else was ice, mud or water. The down-hills were pretty icy so you had to trust that the crampons on your snowshoes were enough to keep you from sliding (they are you just have to believe they are which being somewhat prone to breaking things like elbows I have trouble with). The up-hills were pure cardio and a few of the men around me were walking up the hills and then flying past me at high speed on the down hills.
By the second loop the snow was pretty well gone in places and we were running through mud puddles in snowshoes which is tough on light weight racing snowshoes. I saw a number of racers dealing with detached or even broken snowshoes but mine were fine.
Running in snowshoes kicks up a lot of snow and when you run through ice cold water you get very wet. It was like taking an ice bath while running! The final 1000 m was basically downhill and I was getting passed so I kicked it up a notch but I still got passed by a guy with no shirt on! I finished in 47.37 which may not sound fast for 8k but it’s fast for me on snowshoes.
Harold and I stayed and watched the finish for a while but I was soaking wet so we retreated to the car for a complete change of clothes. We went back to watch the 4K finish. It is amazing to see the top end runners. They really are “running” on snowshoes. The winner of the 8k finished in 28.22! Annie Jean from Chelsea was the 2nd woman across the line in a time of 36.48(WOW) the women’s winner was from the Netherlands. We checked the results and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was 1st in F50-59. Good thing I hammered down the last hill because 2nd and 3rd were not far behind.
We drove back to the hotel to shower before the banquet thinking the weekend adventures were over but we were wrong. We were staying in Lake Placid at the Cascade Inn. Taking a shower was uneventful (great water pressure!) but shortly after that the power went out. Then it started to pour down. The rain was so heavy that we needed an umbrella to get from the car to the banquet. While we were in the banquet they announced that ironically it was now snowing. When we left the banquet it was a total white out of thick, heavy (perfect for snowballs) snow. On the drive from Saranac Lake to Lake Placid Harold drove and tried to see the middle of the road to make sure we did not cross it. I tried to spot the side of the road to make sure we did not go off it. There was nowhere to pull off so we kept going slowly. There were big trees falling down on to the road. We passed a couple which were completely blocking the other side of the road.
When we arrived at the hotel the power was still out, they told us it would be out all night and asked if we still wanted to stay there. We told then we most definitely did not want to drive anywhere else! So we got out the headlamps and found an extra blanket in the car.
We awoke to a beautiful blanket of snow which would have been perfect for a snowshoe race no shoveling required!
So we put on our backwoods snowshoes and climbed Wright Peak.
Great event and great community spirit. Congratulations to all and thank you to my ever supportive husband Harold.