Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Race to the Clouds + 2018 Snowshoe Nationals: Mindset is Powerful

"Athletic endurance began to seem like a question of plumbing - whose heart could deliver the most O2 rich blood through the widest vessels to the largest muscles.  There was one big problem with this approach - it couldn't predict who would win an endurance contest..."  

Last week I was gifted the opportunity to Race to the Clouds on the new fat bike AND race the 2018 Dion National Snowshoe Championship.  My present fitness is low right now which is understandable considering the amount of time I took off and how slowly I have been adding volume.  I am presently hovering around 10-11 hours per week which breaks down into the following:

swim ( 3.5 hours/~11k yards/week)

bike ( 5 hours/week)

run ( 1.5 hours/ ~15 miles/week)

strength ( 2 x 30 min sessions)

The old me would have scoffed at the idea of anything less than 20 hours of training/week but I feel proud for giving my body the giant rest it so desperately needed.

The goal of these 2 events was to push hard and maybe get a little fitness boost from the intense efforts as well practice staying mentally tough. Because, lets face it, I was going to suffer. 

First up on the race agenda was RACE TO THE CLOUDS.

Of course the decision to race UP MOUNT WASHINGTON was made about 3 days before the actually race was set to take place.  And this was exactly 4 days after I bought my FAT BIKE.  Isn't there a saying along the lines of, "All good decisions are made in haste?"  No?  Okay, moving on.

I am obviously not THAT smart but smart enough to realize I needed some proper off road training before I race to extremes of elevation on slippery slide-y conditions.  I took the new Fat Felt out for a romp on the roads with Ry Guy. He patiently taught me some skills on little mounds of dirt in the park.  We  then road across one sad patch of snow and then I road confidently home. Hey, this off road thing isn't too hard!

Here is my over-confident-I-got-this face

I then demanded that Ry guy put my road bike pedals and cleats on the fat bike because now that I was an expert fat biker/off roader I meant business.

We arrived at the race site early so I could, of course, do some last minute practice and test the bike on ACTUAL snow.  I immediately regretted the pedals and cleat decision.

 A.) the pedals and cleats were so tight I had to muster all of my energy just to unclip a foot


 B.) As soon as I put a foot down snow would stick to the cleat and turn to ice making it impossible for me to get my foot back in the pedals.

Also, biking on mash potato snow is actually very difficult.  It's nothing like riding on dirt. Gulp.

The race was 3 waves.  First skiers ( GO RY!!!), second snowshoe runners, and finally the fat bikers.

The race starts at the base of the auto road and completes a loop out on the rolling cross country ski trails before the real climbing starts. I started in the middle of the pack thinking I would begin conservatively and 'feel out' the conditions. The gun went off and I was immediately in dead last. I looked behind me. No one.

Here is where I had to muster up all sorts of positive talk and tell my mind to just keep pushing.  Some of the mantras I use when things get tough are BE BRAVE and YOU ARE A FIGHTER.

I also reminded myself that you can't be afraid to fail.  Instead, you have to accept that sometimes you will fail and that is how we find our limitations and then ultimately that is how we improve.

Over and over again I told myself to BE BRAVE and KEEP FIGHTING.  I arrived at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road ready to climb to the clouds (pictured here in 2nd to last place ).

Be Brave.

You are a fighter.

Turn over the pedals.

 As the race climbed I started to get in the zone.  The snow was packed on the auto road so there was less skill involved and more head-down-grinding.  My strength is climbing on the bike so I was confident I would pass a few people on grueling climb.

As we climbed, I was passing more and more racers started to get in a groove.  I slowly worked my way to the front of the race.  I took a glance at my heart rate. Wow, those are some high numbers!

Be Brave.

You are a fighter.

Turn over the pedals.

I hadn't raced this hard in so long my laborious breathing was welcomed. I wanted to make myself hurt in the best way.  At mile 3 of the climb a spectator shouted that I was the first female and in 12th place overall.  I smiled and got a little adrenaline boost.

I also made a point to be grateful that my body was allowing me to push again. I stole a glance at the views and it was spectacular!

I managed to cross the line as 1st female and gave Ry a hug as he had placed 2nd overall in the ski.  We both agreed this was one of the coolest races and we will definitely come back next year.

"Athletic endurance began to seem like a question of plumbing - whose heart could deliver the most O2 rich blood through the widest vessels to the largest muscles.  There was one big problem with this approach - it couldn't predict who would win an endurance contest..." :)

2018 Dion National Snowshoe Championships.

I told Ry before Nationals that I was so thankful that my body was healthy enough to race.  I just wanted to hear the gun go off and BE TOUGH.  My run volume is extremely low and slow but I didn't want that to stop me from being aggressive.  I knew I had some swim and bike fitness and perhaps that would carry over to snowshoe racing ( which favors a strength-based athlete).

And, I am a huge believer in racing with all of my heart no matter what.

It was a MAGICAL snow year at Nationals. Literally the best snowshoe race conditions I have ever raced: waist deep powder, single track, cold, windy, snowy NARNIA!

I found Sarah Canney before the race and we did a 2 mile warm up together.  I knew Sarah was going to have a great race as I have been following her run training and she has been putting in some serious work.  It's been fun to track her progress and I know there are big things in store for her this year!

I was feeling a little nervous but also psyched on the epic conditions. I told Sarah that when I was suffering out there I was going to remember to smile because these conditions were EPIC.

And suffer I did! As predicted, the race started fast as the defending World Champion and 2x National Champion were in the pack.  I immediately found myself in 3rd place and kept my eye on the leader.  I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor but I am sure it was maxed out from the gun.  The snow was so deep it made for a race of taking one step forward and 2 steps back.  It was the ultimate strength race and what all snowshoe races should be like! In addition, the ladies raced before the men so we had FIRST tracks on this course. EPIC!!

I fought for as long as I could in 2nd before the 2016 National Champion and Sarah passed me in the waist high snow single track portion.

Here is where I had to stay positive mentally because physically I was failing.  My lungs were on fire, my quads were on fire, and my face was frozen. If I haven't convinced you to try snowshoe racing yet I don't know what will :)

Racing in 2nd place up Prospect Mountain ( a.k.a Narnia)

I found myself running in 4th for the last 35 minutes of the race and boy did I have to dig deep to even make forward progress at times.


After 90 of the most exhausting minutes I crossed the line in 4th and made my 4th National Snowshoe Team (Top 5 make the team).  Hands down of one of the hardest races of this duration I have ever completed.

Racing in 2nd around mile 3.7  - Ry Guy cheering! Me suffering.

Even when it gets hard, never quit the things that are important to you. Throughout the years of racing I have learned that NEVER QUITTING, DIGGING DEEP and BEING BRAVE are really good for your SOUL.  If you practice mentally staying in the game it's amazing what you can accomplish.

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