Kahtoola 25k Snowshoe Race
Last saturday I “ran” my first race of the year, a 25k snowshoe race, the Kathoola Bigfoot Snowshoe Festival 25k snowshoe race. I had originally planned on running the 50k, but in the end my laziness during the winter got the best of me and a shorter distance sounded like a better fit. The Kahtoola Bigfoot Snowshoe Festival actually offered a number of different distances; 50k, marathon, 25k, 10k, and 5k. The 50k and marathon started at 8am and the rest of us short distance runners started at 9am in Midway, Utah. Haven’t heard of Midway? Don’t worry I hadn’t either, but it turns out its a small town northwest of Heber City.
At about 8:30am I joined all of the other runners in the Visitor’s Center of the Wasatch Mountains State Park in Midway. It’s an inviting little visitor’s center which greeted the runners with a burning fire in the fireplace and a number of taxidermy animals and other information. I checked in and got my race number, stretched out a bit, used the restroom and relaxed waiting for the race to begin. A few minutes before 9am I strapped on my snowshoes and headed outside with the rest of the runners toeing the starting line marked by a small Bigfoot statue.
“Ready. Set. Go!” Shouted John, the kind yet rugged race director whose mustache hangs down well below his jaw. I started out slow and comfortable but still found myself in the top 10 after the first 5 miles. The 25k course follows 3 loops, a loop through the golf course next to the visitor’s center, then a mountain loop on single track, then another loop around the golf course.
The snow was thin and soft and the first loop was a bit more tiring than I had planned for, but I was feeling good and trying to take it easy. I was doing a great job sticking to my refueling schedule and taking in calories and water (plus some RedBull at the aid-stations). Despite my sensibilities my minimal experience snowshoe running became apparent. As I began the mountain loop the difference between a 25k on trail vs a 25k on snowshoes was becoming painfully obvious. Much of the climb during the mountain loop I spent hiking rather than actually running. While running in snowshoes is very similar to running without snowshoes there are some distance differences. Mainly the soft snow makes each stride unsteady and difficult.
By the time I reached the top of the mountain loop climb my muscles were feeling some exhaustion as a result. I was excited to begin the descent and planned on making up some time, but just about 100 years into my descent my left calf cramped. The pain shot up and down my leg and I collapsed into the small oak trees along the single track. In my race focused mind for a split second I didn’t realize what had happened and thought my life was coming to an end. I tried my hardest to stretch my calf while wearing snowshoes, a task that is harder than it seems. After about a minute my muscles began to relax and I cautiously continued my descent.
Without any further incident I made it back down the mountain and began my final 5 mile loop of the golf course. By this time, however, the snow was very soft in the midday sun. I reached the last climb that turns back and forth up the golf course and began to hike where I had run earlier that same day. Once again I got to the top of the climb and was excited to begin my final descent of the golf course loop and last 2 miles of the course. I began down and almost like clockwork I cramped badly, except this time it was my right calf.
This go-around wasn’t quite as painful, but it did result in me watching two other runners trot past me. I had no idea of which distance they were running and if they were my actual competition, but I was bummed nonetheless.
I hobbled through the last couple of miles and into the homestretch through puddles of melted snow. I crossed the line at 3:52:08 in 4th place out of 15 runners in the 25k distance. I was excited to chow down on a some homemade soup in the lodge and watch some other runners finish before heading home to celebrate Paityn’s 2nd birthday.
However, despite my “top 5″ finish (out of 15 people, not too exceptional) I was a bit bummed. The Kahtoola 25k snowshoe race was a big wakeup call for me. My training had suffered during the colder winter months, something I had vowed not to let happen. I knew that I was not competing or running on a level where I wanted to be. If I wad I would likely have won the race. All in all it was a great race and is a great way to shake of the dust of December and get back to serious training for that actual race season.