Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Like an Artic Wolf chugging Red Bull...

This past weekend Danny and I headed up to Prospect Mountain to race the US Snowshoe Nationals.  This fun winter sport has become something I am quite passionate about.  I liken the snowshoe community to that of the trail running community: chipper andrenaline junkies that welcome the beauty and pain of each race.

I was lucky enough to earn the National title in 2010, runner-up in 2011 and 2nd in the World at 2012.  Snowshoe racing brings on a special kind of pain and as the race loomed I was honestly craving that pain. Ironically, the week leading up to the race was infused with the pain you experience only after getting 3 wisdom teeth yanked from your mouth.

The actual dental procedure did indeed have some interesting moments (completely numb face + lots of drool) but mostly it was rife with tension.  Rife with tension after the alarming realization that the tools needed to yank 3 teeth are simply:

1. Numbing needle

2. Pliers

Did I mistakenly make an appointment with a horse dentist? Anyway, thanks to Danny for holding my hand. And sorry to Danny for breaking 3 of his fingers. In the end I made it out alive with a brand new nickname: Chipmunk.

Fear The Chipmunk!
And as my coach pointed out in his business like tone: the recent dental procedure was good because I would drop some weight and be the first one up the climb. Welp, that's one way to look at it.

Despite me feeling off and unlike my usual hyperactive self all week I woke race morning hungry for the kind of pain that only racing up a snow covered mountain on snowshoes can deliver. I chugged my Infinit (which is a secret weapon that deserves a blog all of its own) and was ready to roll.

We were blessed with a Vermont winter blue bird day. The venue for 2014 Nationals was absolutely stunning. Prospect mountain loomed in the background as a crowd of 400 anxious racers warmed up around its base.

One very magnificent fact about Snowshoe nationals is there is a separate race for men and women. A women can win all the races she wants but rarely does she get to cross the line as the first human.

As the females lined the start waiting for the gun I repeated my race plan in my head: Go out as fast as you can and make yourself hurt.  I was confident in my fitness but with a brainless plan like this the race could either go very good, or very very bad. 50/50. This is Vermont Amber, not Vegas! BOOM! Start gun goes off. I sprint like a mad women.  No turning back now. :)

The brainless plan in action

Here is some great video footage of the race thanks to Level Renner Magazine. Race Video

And getting back to nicknames, Level Renner Magazine did liken me to "an arctic wolf chugging red bull and riding a snowmobile. Amber was a like a howling wolf riding a snowmobile and just ran away with the title." I laughed out loud when I read this. However, I resent the comment about the snowmobile :)  It was just me and the Dion Snowshoes.  

I went through the first mile in 6:55 which got me thinking that my winter training was going a bit better than I thought it was. Everything up to the first mile was smooth sailing. I was thinking how great I was feeling and just trying to stay focused and push as hard as my body would let me.  But the crowds and rolling terrain of the mile 1 are replaced by the abrupt uphill that is Prospect mountain. I tried to remain positive and think happy thoughts but as the ascent sharpened the positive sayings were no better than hogwash. 

My quads were on fire, I had developed a rare abdominal cramp and I started looking behind me like a crazy lady. The negative thoughts started to invade the mind. And then I saw Danny and the talented photographer Scott Mason. Scott snapped a picture of me smiling on the start line and said: I hope you're smiling like that at the top. I remembered that and as I passed Scott I forced a grin. It worked! I got my mojo back and started hammering!

I am serious when I race but deep down I always seem to remember to appreciate the beauty and be thankful for the body that I was given that can complete all these crazy races. I was hurting in the above picture but how could I complain? It was gorgeous!

I tackled the switchbacky uphill which sends you flying out into a winding section cut through a thick snow-covered forest. In all honesty I was like a little pig in you-know-what.

Before I knew it, the race was nearing an end. I saw Danny cheering (which always seems to spike my heart rate) and charged (a.k.a tried to hold it together) home to the finish.

In addition to Scott Mason, I would like to thank Joe Viger, SNAPacidotic, and Ben Kimball for supplying some awesome photos!

WOOHOO! 2014 National Champ!

2014 National Team Headed to Quebec City for 2015 World Championships

Next up was Danny's race where he managed to beat me by a mere 21 seconds. (He most likely took that snowmobile Level Renner eludes to...)

And then it was the Citizens 5K race which of course I bullied my mom and dad into doing. My Dad executed a strong, well paced race to nab 6th overall and mom only tried to cheat once.

Overall it was a great day!  Up Next: ITU Winter Triathlon in Quebec City. No, there is not a swim portion. Phew! But there is a speed skating portion and at best I am sub-par at this discipline. Therefor, my next blog will likely involve less winning and more whining.

Post Race Interview