Not angry mad… just crazy mad? Because if you think you are crazy mad, why not take up snowshoe racing? And if you live in Eastern Ontario or Western Quebec there is no excuse not to try thanks to the Mad Trapper Races, where crazy snowshoers (and trail runners when the snow is gone) can gather to race, eat food and drink beer, with an emphasis on the last activities.
My husband and I tried our first Mad Trapper event last night and we are planning on going back for more. The races take place on the trails of race organizer Mike Caldwell and his wife Monique’s property, just north of Wakefield, Quebec. I am quite sure it is a beautiful property, but since last night’s run was in the dark with only enough snow to partially cover rocks and branches, I spent more time looking down than enjoying the scenery. I can tell you for sure though that there were some hills despite the fact it is not their “hilly” course! The big challenge last night was definitely the conditions. The snow was coming down but our complete thaw over the holidays meant that there just wasn’t the ideal base for the snowshoes. I went over on my ankles several times and somehow managed to save myself from two potential face plants as I tripped over rocks or branches. We were told it was probably the worst conditions to have, so our theory is if we survived that we have to go back to experience it with more snow.
If you read anything on snowshoe running they will tell you that if you can run you can snowshoe run. Technically they are not lying to you. They just don’t tell the whole truth. If you are a road runner be prepared for the fact that you might, well… completely suck at snowshoe running! I am going to assume that much like running, you do improve with practice. At least I hope that is the case. Let’s just say that if this were a snowshoeing blog I would have to call it “Blog For a Way Back of the Pack Snowshoer Who is Just Trying to Survive”. To give you an idea of the difference; I can now run a 10k in about 53 minutes. Last night I completed the 5k snowshoe race in 43 minutes. Wait…it gets better (or worse?). The course was about half a km short. So I only completed 4.5k in 43 minutes! I also finished at the same time as the 10k winner… yes he did two laps in the time it took me to do one. And when I say the same time, he actually passed me in the last few metres.
I made it through the first three km at a somewhat steady pace. There was a lovely flat field in the middle of the course where I felt like I had a nice run going. By the 3k mark though, I was feeling like I had done 10k. I was more than happy to spend some time walking, thinking I would pick up the pace later on the course. Little did I know that the hill we started at was actually the baby hill, the real hill was still ahead. I got to it, looked up and realized that I couldn’t see the top. I kind of laughed to myself and realized there would be no running up that mountain. OK, it wasn’t a mountain but it felt like it by the time I was half way up! Shortly after cresting the hill I realized I was almost at the finish and I managed a final run to the line to meet my husband who had finished 3 minutes before me.
So why, you ask, do I recommend trying this? Honestly, snowshoe running is a blast. I find I just let go of any expectations and take it for what it is – a great time outdoors and a perfect winter workout. But if that isn’t enough fun for you, the Mad Trapper races also throw in a fun indoor social event with a woodstove, draw prizes and great food and beer, all for an entry fee of $35. You have to admit that beats the heat sheet, dry bagel and warm yogurt of a road race event. There are even draw prizes, so you don’t have to win the race to go home with a prize.
Last night was also a fundraiser for i2P or impossible 2 Possible, an organization that funds youths to set off on amazing adventures to push their own limits and to make positive changes in the world. To support i2P there were items up for auction and I scored a certificate for a full gait and footwear analysis at SoleFit, something I have wanted to do for the last year. I will definitely be booking that appointment soon.
Have you decided if you are mad enough? If so, the next Mad Trapper snowshoe race is January 24th. If it is your first time they will even lend you a pair of Atlas running snowshoes for free. Be ready to let go of any pace expectations and enjoy a fun way to cross train in winter. If nothing else, it should make spring running on the roads seem a little bit easier!