Feb 1 2003
Northfield MA 02-01-03
Conditions have been great this winter in stark contrast to last years bleak season of snowshoe races. Northfield was the site of the second Eastern regional qualifier to the United States Snowshoe Association (USSSA) National Championships. The top ten finishers in five age groups earned the right to race in Salt Lake City on March 29th. The first year race also served as the sixth race in the popular Western Mass. Athletic Club (WMAC) snowshoe series. Finishers accumulate points based on finishing position with the best six results from the ten race series deciding the series champion.
Due to an ankle injury I was unable to compete in the race myself, although it was probably best as race directing duties can take a toll. I had great assistance from my wife Cathy, my parents, Kelly Northrop, Gary Bridgman, Richard Bolt, Dan Verrington, Paul Low, Steve Peterson, and Al Bernier. Sorry if I forgot anyone else, many people pitched in whenever they saw something that needed doing. The facilities at Northfield are excellent for a snowshoe race; you can put your shoes on INDOORS! Bill Gabriel and the crew at Northfield were very helpful and positive about the event. Nike ACG donated awards and helped defray the cost of the t-shirts. Welch's donated juice for the race packets and Polar beverages pitched in drinks for after the race. Team prizes came from Red Bull and Powerbar. Thanks to the sponsors and racers a donation has been made to the Thomas Chamberas Scholarship fund.
Friday afternoon was cloudy and chilly, but nice once we got out there jogging along. Dan Verrington, Paul Low and I headed out to flag the course. Cath set up registration for us so that we could get things rolling first thing in the morning. The 8 AM start was needed to get our snowshoe group off the trails before the weekend skiers arrived. We spent a little over an hour putting out 300 surveyor flags and six Kilometer markers. I felt that the course was well marked, we had flags every 50m and many flags on the turns. Unfortunately you can never over-mark a course. Once at the Merrimack River trail race I was speaking with a woman who went off course at what I thought was a clearly marked trail junction, she told me how she went UNDER the ribbon that blocked her from going down the incorrect trail! Can you guess where I'm going with this?
The race started right at 8 AM with conditions favorable for a good race. Temperatures were around mid 30's, it was cloudy but there was no wind. A fast "New England Style" groomed course for the first 2 kilometers would spread out the field. I got to the first significant uphill at 1600m into the race and waited. I didn't have to wait long. The lead pack hit the mile in under 6 minutes. The group of five hit the uphill and began the long climb that would take them on some of the narrow snowshoe trails and up through the steep ledges near the summit. Nikki Kimball (Teva US Mountain team and USATF 100K team) came by somewhere in the top twenty with Olympic Trials marathon qualifiers, and Merrimack Valley Strider teammates, Jennifer Rappaport and Susanah Landreth in quick succession.
CMS teammates Richard Bolt (2002 US Snowshoe team and US Mountain team) and Paul Low (2002 USATF Mountain runner of the year) began to slowly gap the chase pack. Bolt went off course slightly and Low closed. At the 4 Kilometer mark Bolt pulled ahead again on one of the tougher climbs and started the long, mostly downhill, run to the finish line. The chase pack, which included perennial WMAC series racer Leigh Schmitt and Atlas snowshoe runner Ethan Hemphill from Portland Maine, failed to take the sharp left at the summit and continued on in the uphill direction.
Bolt moved steadily ahead of Low (who had just completed an unheard of 684 miles for January) on the downhill, but failed to negotiate the sharp left onto the final single-track section. Apparently this trail was missed by quite a few of the runners (by our count 22 of the 78 finishers missed one turn or another). Low moved into the lead and coasted into the finish secure in his "second place", or as we sometimes call it "first loser". He was quite surprised when handed the ticket for 1st place. Bolt came in about 1-½ minutes later after exploring the Northern section of the "Sugarbush" trail.
Bolt noted, "It was a great course, a nice mix of fast ski trails and long single-track climbs. It was also nice to see so many good quality snowshoe racers show up to compete - a great turnout for a first time event. Northfield is a high quality and flexible venue that could easily accommodate many more racers should the need arise. The course could also be made much harder, easier, longer or shorter depending on the needs of the race director."
Low's take on the race, from his racing diary: "How do you win a snowshoe race in New England? First, you make sure that Dave Dunham is injured, and then you manage to be the only runner in the top 5 and the half way point of the race to stay on the race course. The Northfield Mountain Snowshoe race was the most competitive field that I had encountered in my short "career" on the skins and the "Disneyland loop" start did nothing to spread things out at the front despite a fast opening pace. Five racers (with phonetically spelled names), Rich Bolt, Ian Lanza, Ethan Hemphill, Leigh Schmidt, and I hit the bottom of the hill shoulder to shoulder at which point I lead Rich on a break up toward the clouds. Rich and I traded leads for a while on the ascent (once because he slightly overshot a turn) before he pulled away while running through the outcrops. "No problem" I though, "I'll get him on the down." Once we hit the super-fast, groomed downhill, Rich continued to pull away such that after about 6km, I could no longer see him on the twisting, forested course. I finished the race in awe of Rich's performance and feeling a bit dejected for getting my ass kicked so thoroughly. Then, I was handed a ticket denoting my finishing place and saw that it had the number "1" printed clearly on it. Rich, who generally stands around following a race to cheer on his competitors, was nowhere to be seen. "Well, it looks lie Rich took a wrong turn out there," I told the finish line crew. Soon thereafter, Rich came through the finish line and confirmed that he had missed the final turn onto the singletrack, which was probably 2 minutes from the finish line. Behind us, our three closest pursuers were gapped a bit on the climb before shooting through a turn and adding minutes to their respective times".
Nikki Kimball took the women's race with a six second victory over Jennifer Rappaport. They placed 12th and 13th overall. Rappaport's thoughts: "Right from the gun, I had marked Nikki Kimball as the woman to try and stick with given her well-documented snowshoe racing success. I was able to comfortably maintain a short lead in front of her through probably the first mile. I could hear her panting down my back once we hit the steep singletrack so I stepped aside to let her pass. My plan was to try to keep up with her through the uphills, and then if I was in range, catch her on the final descending 2K. I was able to keep her in view for most of the steeps, but then lost her towards the end...probably because I tripped and fell twice! Once we started our descent, my legs came back to me and I began a full stride run down the mountain. I was having a blast! Still no sight of Nikki until I turned a corner and there was that flying red ponytail up ahead...I yelled at her back "Hey Kimball, I'm coming to get you!" In retrospect, it was probably a dumb move to alert a competitor, but hey, it was a fun time trying to catch her after tipping her off! As the results show, she finished 6 seconds up on me but I was closing fast. With a little more practice on shoes, I hope to be more competitive on the flats and steeps. Nikki told me after the race that she actually noticed me become more fluid and comfortable on the shoes during that first 2K. Plus, it was the first time I had ever run downhill on shoes...now my favorite part. The next day my left ankle was bloody and a tad swollen from kicking myself and my quads were quite sore, but I can hardly wait to run another one. The race conditions at Northfield were unbeatable- with a combination of wide groomed trails and relatively unbroken singletrack. The course was very well-marked, the facilities were great in that we used the mountain lodge, and the awards were provided by Nike ACG and other great sponsors making the whole event unbeatable for the entry fee".
Kimball also noted: "My race was much more fun, as well as more lung-burning, with Jennifer's presence. She's wicked fast on the groomed downhills. She was out of site when I looked back at the top, but thoroughly outran me in the last 3 km. I was very lucky to win. And, by the way, thanks for the little single track section. That cushioned my lead. Had it been groomed all the way to the finish, she would have won. She's got incredible leg speed. If she, Angie, Debbie, Susannah and I go to nationals, we eastern Betties will have a solid team.
Rappaport lead the Merrimack Valley Striders to victory in the team competition with 69 points (top three finishers score). Kimball lead the CMS team to a second place finish with 120 points. CMS's split squad with 19 points won the men's team championship. Overall champ Paul Low lead the way, along with Master's champion Dan Verrington and National Qualifier Paul Young. The New England Snowshoe All-stars took second with "trail troll" Dave Hannon, the Brothers Schmitt and 2nd Master Ken Clark only 4 points back. CMS-New Hampshire and WMAC rounded out the team scoring with 69 and 81 points respectively.
Fifty-eight runners qualified to participate in the USSSA National championships. In the spirit of fair competition, all runners who inadvertently went off course were given a bypass into the Nationals. Northfield will be hosting the USATF New England Mountain running championships on June 7th. The race will also be a qualifier for the Teva US Mountain running team. Competitors will test themselves over a two loop course covering approximately 8.2 miles and climbing/descending over 1600 feet. The top male and female finisher will earn a spot on the US team, which will compete in Anchorage Alaska in September.
Many of the racers at Northfield followed the race up with the 5 Kilometer Winterfest race, which was held on Sunday in Saratoga Springs state park. Bolt stayed on course to take the victory, while Schmitt and Low went off course while trailing and ended up finishing 3rd and 4th. Bolt stated "It was great to see so many people at a snowshoe race. With over 150 racers, it was by far the biggest race of the season. The start was a bit narrow, but it seemed to work out. After last years "ice-shoe" race is was nice to have some snow on the course. The course was mostly flat, but had a nice mix of single and double track trails. I look forward to returning next year." Low also noted in his racing diary: "Things were back to normal for this race. Well, almost normal. I got to the race 5 minuets before the scheduled start, skipped registration (with the race directors hastily granted permission), put on my snowshoes
and "bang." Of all the races that I do this year, this might have been the more important one to have in a good warm-up. 5 kilometers of groomed, flat running with no time to spare for anything. Rich Bolt took the race out hard with Leigh Schmidt and I in tow. For the first half of the race, Rich pulled Leigh away from me and then for the second half, I was (very slowly) reeling Leigh in while Rich strode off into the distance. Then, in an ironic (for me) and unfortunate (for Leigh) "turn" Leigh led the two of us off course when he blew through an unmarshaled turn. When we reentered the course, we met up with the 5th and 6th runners in the race and, after passing, Leigh managed 3rd and I 4th. ...Not really the result that I was looking for but a good workout nonetheless.
Information on the USSSA:
Information on the WMAC series: www.runwmac.org <http://www.runwmac.org>
Information on USATF Mountain running: www.usatfne.org <http://www.usatfne.org>
Pictures of this race are at
USSSA National Qualifiers:
Place First Last Time Division Team Town State USSSA Off Course
43 Michael Walsh 0:51:36 Junior Concord NH y
1 Paul Low 0:33:06 Open CMS Amherst MA y
2 Richard Bolt 0:34:20 Open CMS NH Manchester NH y Y
3 Ben Nephew 0:35:28 Open GBTC Canton MA y
6 Judson Cake 0:37:08 Open AE Bar Harbor ME y
7 Keith Schmitt 0:37:22 Open NE All stars Durham NH y
9 Ethan Hemphill 0:38:00 Open Atlas Portland ME y Y
10 Carl Bruggeman 0:38:01 Open Lexington VA y
11 Leigh Schmitt 0:38:03 Open NE All stars S Deerfield MA y
14 Paul Young 0:41:03 Open CMS Andover MA y Y
15 Ian Lanza 0:41:06 Open Amherst MA y Y
16 Alan Bernier 0:41:07 Open CMS NH Newmarket NH y Y
17 Dave Loutzenheiser 0:41:12 Open CRC Cambridge MA y Y
21 Tim Kruger 0:41:27 Open Hardwick VT y Y
30 Kelly Herrington 0:45:59 Open CDTC Schenectady NY y
41 Mo Moadeli 0:51:10 Open NY Flyers Wallkill NY y
42 Stephen Banatoski 0:51:20 Open AVSC Maynard MA y
49 Hal Needham 0:52:07 Open New Milford PA y
50 Stephen Peterson 0:52:11 Open CMS Chelmsford MA y y
51 Mark Behan 0:52:12 Open CMS NH Newton NH y y
53 Rob Smith 0:53:02 Open Charlestown MA y y
54 William Ross 0:53:31 Open AVSC Maynard MA y Y
55 Glenn Swanbon 0:53:46 20 GLRR Maynard MA y
4 Dan Verrington 0:36:48 Master CMS Bradford MA y
18 Ken Clark 0:41:16 Master NE All stars Somers CT y y
20 Jack Casey 0:41:20 Master Harvard MA y y
23 Jim Tharp 0:42:52 Master High Teck Andover CT y
24 Bob Dion 0:42:59 Master WMAC Readsboro VT y
26 Ed Alibozek 0:43:17 Master Suffield CT y
27 Craig Brumwell 0:43:31 Master CMS Worcester MA y
29 Rob Higley 0:45:57 Master WMAC Amherst MA y y
61 Bruce Grisafe 0:57:13 Master Salem CT y
35 Tom Kiely 0:50:21 Senior SMAC Athol MA y
38 Peter Lipka 0:50:37 Senior Adams MA y
39 William Morse 0:50:48 Senior Dracut MA y
40 Seth Roberts 0:51:06 Senior WMAC Longmeadow MA y
48 Mike Lahey 0:51:51 Senior Adams MA y
57 John Delorey 0:55:19 Senior WCRC Newburyport MA y
62 Peter Bonneau 1:02:30 Senior Keene NH y
69 Bob Massaro 1:08:39 Senior WMAC Chicopee MA y y
70 Jeff Hattem 1:08:55 Senior MRC Natick MA y y
37 Ed Alibozek Jr. 0:50:29 Veteran WMAC Adams MA y
44 John Pelton 0:51:42 Veteran West Rupert VT y
73 Richard Busa 1:22:48 Veteran WMAC Marlboro MA y
78 George Chamberas Veteran Salem MA y y
12 Nikki Kimball 0:40:01 Open CMS Ladies Elizabethtown NY y
13 Jennifer Rappaport 0:40:07 Open MVS Melrose MA y
25 Susanah Landreth 0:43:01 Open MVS Newburyport MA y
31 Angie De Fillppi 0:46:06 Open MVS Colchester VT y y
33 Stephanie Nephew 0:48:24 Open GBTC Canton MA y
47 Deborah Livingston 0:51:50 Open SHENIDSI Vernon CT y
56 Jennifer Shutis 0:53:59 Open Wheelworks Multi Arlington MA y
59 Lisa Schmitt 0:56:13 Open S Deerfield MA y
64 Laurel Shortell 1:04:21 Open Northhampton MA y
65 Lisa Swan 1:05:26 Open Albany NY y y
72 Kelley Handy 1:10:51 Open CMS Worcester MA y
36 Eva Vanstratum 0:50:23 Master CMS Andover CT y
60 Barbara Sorrell 0:56:38 Master WMAC Delmar NY y