After missing the Belleville 10k with calf soreness, I definitely did not want to miss this race. I had done it last year as a 15k and race director Mike "No Surrender" Galoob tweaked it this year to make it an even 10 miles. However when it became evident that we were going to get hit with a massive blizzard on Friday, I was unsure if this race would happen. Digging out on Saturday, with no power and knee-deep snow on the ground, I became even less convinced that I'd be racing on Sunday.
It became clear that Mike had no intention of cancelling this race, no matter the snowfall. He updated the conditions on Saturday night, indicating that snowshoes could be used and that running shoes were "probably doable." Not the most promising message, but I was determined to get out there and do my best, even though my entire family thought I was crazy.
I arrived at the entrance to Burlingame and met up with Jonny and Tom for a quick warm-up. There was about 30 or so people who made it out. I'd say half were on snowshoes, half in running shoes and one plucky woman on skis. Mike explained that it was very tough running out there and that there were three race options based on everyone's preference. The trail reconnected with the plowed road at various points allowing people to make it a 1.5, 4 or 5 mile race depending on their appetite for punishment. Mike had dubbed the last 1.5 miles of trail the Snowshoe Deathrace since the snow was deep, the trail was unmarked and there was only a single set of snowshoe tracks to follow (Mike's.) He recommended anyone with running shoes and/or common sense to avoid this section and just race the 4 mile option.
Finally we were off and after a few hundred yards on the plowed road, we entered the trail. Immediately the snow made for slow going and I settled into a spot right behind Ken Shardlow that I would maintain for the first 3 miles of trail. For awhile I could see Jonny up ahead with his red hat and snowshoes and Jeff and Tom beyond him. Soon enough they were all gone and it was just Ken and myself. And whiteness. I tell you, it was something else out there. The trees were caked with snow, the sun was shining through the woods and it was just white heaven.
Ken and I were running at a pace that allowed for conversation and I didn't feel like I was working that hard. I felt that I was holding back but at the same time I had already convinced myself that I was going to do the whole 5 miles so I wanted to make sure I had something left for the last deep slog.
We both opted to try the Snowshoe Deathrace at which point I decided to pass Ken and push harder. Soon I was all alone in the woods and with the increased pace it became a truly grueling effort. I tried to land in the prints of the previous racers but it didn't matter much - the snow was deep and I was soon walking the uphill sections. I felt very much like I did at the end of the NipMuck marathon: totally spent, walking a good deal and looking over much shoulder expecting to see runners that never appeared.
Near the end of the trail section, I began to close in on another runner and passed him with only a few hundred yards of trail left. Back on the road, it took a few moments for my legs to shake off the hell I just put them through. I began to find my kick as I neared the finish. Up ahead was a runner I was gaining on. At first I thought it was someone who had opted for a shorter distance but then I recognized the red hat. I could see Mike shouting at Jonny to warn him of my approach and I wasn't able to close the gap in time. I finished right behind Jonny, very pleased that I was able to tackle the entire 5 mile course.
In the end I finished 4th out of 9th for the full 5 miles in 58:33. It was so very tough but a lot of fun! Thanks to Mike and the entire Galoob clan for another great event!