February 09, 2009

Snowshoe The Bear

It has begun! The first race for the Open Air Big Bear multi-event challenge! The Showshoe the Bear race went down in near perfect conditions this weekend and I am so stoked that I got to participate in the race and hang out at the venue. Monique, Tiffany, Wes, Wendi, Ryan and I were signed up for the 10K and a few other friends were racing the 5K. There were about 150 registered and I believe about 200 competitors on hand. I knew the venue and swag would be off the hook with Paul and Karen behind the event but the timing for the weather, family vibe of the crowd and challenge that the course held took this event to a whole new level.

Just before the race start the people participating in the Open Air Big Bear series were handed special jerseys that would mark us for "series competitors". Monique and I were pulled in and I am now looking forward to the remaining four races! That makes some decisions for future weekends a bit easier ; -)

The race started with a climb...then we climbed some more and climbed some more. It was an easy pace in the beginning with local returning champion Ted Devito leading the charge. The first few hundred yards or so was pretty crowded with people marching up the road but as soon as we hit the switchbacks it got quiet and lonely. Ted was chatting it up and I was just trying to get oxygen in the lungs and increase a gap on the pack behind us. We marched up the twisting road in the pow pow into the sound of our own breath ...

Ted started pulling away at a consistent pace....or I was slowing down? As we moved further into the switchbacks I was just trying to balance the pace of keeping him in sight and not blowing up early in the race. An impossible task it would prove to be. . .I had to "race my race" and with that I settled into my pace. Besides, Ted was slipping away but I could see nobody behind me for a few switchbacks at this point and I was putting in an effort that I could maintain... even picked it up a few notches later in the race.

We marched on. The conditions were PERFECT! A solid base with a good foot or more of fresh powder and the skies had cleared just in time for amazing views of the lake. I had one eye on my GPS watch and was counting every tenth of a mile progress. Maybe I was a bit overtrained or maybe this race was more of a challenge than I had expected. Last weekend I ran a half marathon in 1:35 with an average heart rate of 156bpm. This 10K would take me less than 1o minutes longer to complete and at an average heart rate of 166bpm. Hard.

Reaching the turnaround lollipop loop I also realized that this was going to be a bit longer than a 1oK...more like 7.75 miles. Harder! The lollipop turn around also let us get a glance at everyone else on the course. Ted was heading out of the loop just as I was heading into it. He had put a 3 minute gap on me. As I ran out of the lollipop loop, a volunteer on a snowmobile told me the 3rd place racer was the guy I saw running into the loop. . .another 3 minute gap. BUT what the guy on snowmobile didnt tell me or didnt see was that Darren Clark was actually in the loop behind me and we were looking at the 4th place runner heading into the loop. Critical time of the race...

I maintained a steady run back down the mountain. I was stoked to see people marching their way up and everyone was super encouraging. Awesome group of people out there! I was feeling good and started picking up the pace while I had people shouting the gap times between Ted and me. It was pretty awesome to see everyone's face light up.

Somewhere on the way down I started taking walking breaks. I still do not know exactly why and I have been pondering my decision to do so... Was I tired, bonking, did the overtraining make me mentally weak... was I giving up on chasing down the leader? I saw nothing behind me and I thought I must have had a 3-5 minute gap on that guy I saw heading into the lollipop loop. Maybe I was content with my second place position? Maybe I was saving something for a late race attack by a third position racer?

As we reached the end of the switchbacks we dropped into the road we started up for about a quarter of a mile and I was ready to easy it into the finish. I was already pushing a good pace but was looking over my shoulder "just in case". . . its a good thing I was! About 20 yards down the road I saw Darren with ski poles in rage chasing me down! Ahhggg..... The quarter mile road made a final left turn before heading into the 150 yard finishing shoot. I did not want to have to go head to head into the last 15o yards so I gave it everything I had to put a gap on Darren before we reached that turn. I didn't look back...I didn't feel my feet, my legs or even hear a sound. I resolved to a rare "numb focus" on my form and pushed as hard as I could. I turned left and looked over my shoulder to see there was a unrealistic possibility to close the gap left between us but somehow my body was going to keep that pace through the finish line and I was not going to try to slow it down. I crossed the line in second and it made for an exciting finish!

Complete results are not posted yet but Monique was in the top 10 for the women and I am sure she made the top 5 women for the series competitors. Tiffany shocked everyone with a causal showshoe run to a 1st place womens finish! Did she even know she was leading the entire race?

We all got loaded up with giveaways, food and some good times...Awesome event! Some pictures posted over here. I am stoked that Tiffany and Wes will also be joining us for the Conquer the Bear series now! It is going to another great year of racing with friends new and old!


Luke said...

cool write-up...sounds like fun for sure!!

Pedal Circles said...

You guys are crazy! I thorougly enjoy reading about all the adventures. You guys keep it fresh every weekend!

Zippy said...

Found your 'blog thanks to Luke. Sounds like fun! Nice job!