February 15, 2011

Cast-A-Shadow Race report

So I eluded to the fact that I owed it to myself and the two readers that I have for this blog that I needed to put a race report in writing for the Cast-a-shadow 6 hour snowshoe relay that occurred last weekend. This race is always a blast and we scraped up a team consisting of myself, Brian Matthews and Tim Howland for the weekend. In years past, we’ve been vying for the overall win and to win some of those sweet Mountain Hardware fleeces that they give out to the division winners. This year, it was rumored that Mr. Jeff Beck and Nate Huckle would have a team and our delusions of going for the overall win was shattered as quickly as it tried to poke thru. Needless to say, the team wasn’t too stoked about slogging around in the snow for six hours, but we begrudgingly got our entry form in and were ready to roll for the race.
Race day came and we got dumped on pretty good the days prior. The atmosphere in the lodge at Black Creek was just electric and buzzing with folks getting ready and seeing everyone that they hadn’t seen in a while. It’s fun times. I got there, stashed my gear on a bench and decided to lead off the opening leg. (Bad idea…) I completely forgot that the opening leg was required to basically blaze a path thru the snow and “cut trail” for the 2.25-2.50 mile course. Needless to say that the opening leg was my slowest leg of the day. About 400 yards in, I actually stopped and started walking because I didn’t want to lead and the front pack bunched up a bit. By the time we got to the single track it got a little better and we were able to actually run the trails the way they were intended.
The whole race is kind of wild, there's a lot of commotion going around and people are everywhere.  Relay teams are all over and it's just like organized chaos.  The whole race has an "old school" feel to it as there are no timing chips, everything is timed by hand with a stopwatch and pencil and paper.  I think this year was actually the first year that they had handed out actual bib numbers.  It's one of those races where the race directors know pretty much everyone running and you just call your name or your team name out as you come up to the line and they handwrite your splits on their sheets. 

One of the coolest parts of this race is the fact that it starts at 2pm in February and goes for 6 hours, so about half of the race is in the dark and headlamps are required.  That and the fact that everyone running is in a pretty good mood and it's kind of like a party atmosphere in the lodge between legs for the folks that aren't getting ready to run.  It's fun all around.  This year was no different.  I was taking it as kind of a training run as I had to get in 15 miles that day anyway and it was the last thing I had to do before a rest week.  I had spun on the trainer for 3 hours the night prior and made up a swim at the WAC that morning, so I wasn't sure how much pain my legs would handle. 
I've blown up spectactularly in the past in this race (because as you can see, it's all about pacing) and I didn't want a repeat of that sordid fate.  So this year, I took it out conservatively each time I ran and we were doing pretty well.  We had no chance of pulling out the win and I really thought we'd be like 5th overall or so.  Turns out by about the midway point of the race (right around when headlamps were required) a sleuthy teammate of mine pictured above looking at the split sheets realized we were in about 4th place overall, but still holding the same amount of laps as about 3 other teams.
Now this year, the groundhog saw his little furry shadow, so the rules were that once the 6 hour mark hit, only FULL laps got counted.  Hence, if you were finishing up your last lap and were 100 yards from the finish and the clock read 6:00:00, that lap did not count.  So a little bit before the third to last exchange came up for Tim and then me, we realized that we might be able to sneak in one more lap if we all just ran REALLY hard.  So Tim leaves for his loop and runs great, I get out there for the exchange and run a solid lap, eventually passing Tim Dwyer and putting us a position ahead. The only problem was that when I got to the rellay exchange tent, my teammate Brian Matthews was no where to be seen!  He popped out of the lodge though when I bellowed his name and managed to remove his jacket on the run and fling it to the side as he started his loop. 

So time was running out, Brian came back from his loop and exchanged to Tim, I get ready for my second to last loop as Tim is out and we realize that it's going to be close if we can get this last lap in, like down to minutes or seconds.  Tim comes back from his loop HOLDING HIS SNOWSHOE in his HAND...I don't know if all of you are familiar with shoeing or not, but snowshoes are NOT supposed to go on your hands! I used that as fuel to get my adrenaline going and bolted off for my 2nd to last loop.  We all were running strong and it was fast.  I came back in about 17:3X and had been running consistent 18's all day, Brian went out and ran REALLY strong as I urged him to get me as much of a cushion as possible.  He came back strong and there was about 37 minutes left of the race when Timmy got his last exchange.  (Tim had to borrow a pair of snowshoes from someone because of his broken cleat/strap on his own pair and these were direct mounted Dion's that had no insoles in them...unlucky for him) Anyway, Tim runs out of his head too and hands off to me with about 19 minutes left of the race. 
I just take off, not wanting to spoil it for the team, the only thing I can think about is coming up to the line and having time run out and never crossing the line...so I'm cooking thru the darkened woods with a headlamp bobbing around and I can barely see where I'm going.  Most of the Ultra runners are done and in for the night, so it's fairly lonely out there as I'm huffing and puffing to get every last second out of my legs.  I only passed one other guy out there and finally got to the clearing and the last hill.  I could tell I was motoring and my legs were screaming.  That all subsided when I hit the line and was done.  We made it with less than 2.5 minutes to spare....thank goodness! :o)

The tie-breaker for when teams have the same number of laps is that the fastest last lap wins (so that was motivating me as well...) As we all got dinner and a post race feast (one of the many great things about the race) Fetch came by and slyly told me, "you know you did it, don't you?" and I had no idea until that comment that I had run the fastest last lap of the day and vaulted us from about 4th overall to 2nd place :o) I was beaming and it was a good feeling.  We all had dinner and beers at the lodge and I stuck around to help break down camp and load up the trucks for Mort and Tim.  Final results are up HERE for the mens division and HERE for everyone else.  All in all, it was a great evening and I'm glad my team convinced me to have a blast.  Wear your Mountain Hardwear beanies with pride guys.  Great work and none of it could have been done with out all of us running out of our heads.  Good times.
So that's it.  I gave you this race report as promised, told you all about the MS 20K lottery and the new toys (the Garmin) and that's been about it.  I'm just coming off a rest week last week for me and I'm getting into another solid 3 weeks of build and strength, so bring it on! See you on the roads, trails, on the trainer and anywhere else friends.  Enjoy yourselves, cheers!


Tim said...

I get third billing? Thanks man. Yes, the balls of my feet were hot for a few days after that lap in the direct mounts with no insoles. No, you and everyone ran their arses off during that race. Good times and your smokin' last lap bested the others to get us 2nd overall. Now if only they come out with a watt meter for your Crescent Moons.

Jenna said...

I'm one of your many fans!