Who knew when I started writing this running blog almost two years ago that as a late-in-life runner I would find new ways to enjoy the sport. Last fall I took my running to the woods and with a map and compass in tow, took on the sport of orienteering. Last week I tried my first snowshoe race and last night it was snowshoe race #2 at the Dion Ignite the Night Snowshoe Race, the first in a series of Dion races.
Being fully honest, I didn’t actually race this event, though I did take part. We took the boys for this one and while I knew that Evan, only days away from being 12, would be good to head out on his own, I thought Luke might need some support on the run. This proved to be true in the first hundred metres when one of his snowshoes fell off. As a result I spent the 5k doing what I referred to in my head as intervals; I would run up ahead and then move off to the side and wait for him to catch up. Several times I thought about how lucky I am to be able to share my activities with my kids. Several times though I also thought about how I really wanted to run faster and see what I could do; I am after all supposed to be training for the Prague Half Marathon in March. I’m not entirely sure if that last thought makes me a determined runner or a bad mother. In the end I was happy I stuck with Luke. His determination, even when he was exhausted, was impressive and we managed to sprint to the finish line hand in hand – a great way to end a race! To his credit, I know that when I was 9 years old I might have made it halfway and then just plunked myself in a snow drift until someone agreed to carry me back to the finish line. They would then probably have to scrape the ice of my face from my tears. Luke on the other hand would take a break and then shout out “Full steam ahead!” and start running again.
Getting ready for an out of town snowshoe race with two kids can make you yearn for summer road races. Ah, for those days where you just make sure everyone has shorts, tech shirt, shoes and a bib number. Prepping for a snowshoe race involves hauling out enough clothing for a week’s holiday. You need layers for running, layers to change into, boots to wear, shoes to run in, hats, mitts, scarves, balaclavas, extra socks and of course snowshoes. This is what our living room floor looked like before leaving:
The race took place at Upper Canada Village, about an hour and a half south of here. The historic village kindly agreed to allow the race to take place on the property and opened up their large cafeteria to use as a warm place for pre and post race activities. Not only that, they turned on all of the Christmas lights for this night race. How often do you get to run with views like these?
The route also took you out of the village through fields and along the St. Lawrence River. Between the darkness and the blowing snow there were times I wasn’t sure if we were in fact on the frozen river. Parts of the course put runners right into a cold headwind with temperatures supposedly in the minus 20’s with the windchill. Even with my slow pace I never felt uncomfortably cold. For anyone who was really running the temperature would not have been an issue at all. I have quickly learned that as warm as I get running in winter, snowshoe running makes you sweat even more.
This was the perfect event for experienced and new snowshoers alike. The mostly flat course made for a good intro and I am sure led to some incredible times for the top competitors. A short 700 metre kids race allowed even the youngest of competitors to try out this fun winter sport. The race was a little late to start, largely because many people chose to register at the race rather than take advantage of online pre-registration. I love the advice that was given prior to the start; if you are not sure whether or not you want to register for a race, just register and then you will be sure! Good advice for all of us 🙂
Food was supplied by Beyond 21, a non-profit organization that supports developmentally challenged young adults. For a voluntary donation participants were treated to chili, chips, beautifully decorated cupcakes, cookies, oranges, bananas, as well as cold and hot drinks. Members of the program also handmade the plaster snowflakes used as medals. The top three winners earned horseshoe medals handmade by the village blacksmith. If this wasn’t enough, there were so many door prizes that it seemed as if everyone walked away with something. We brought home a snowshoe bag, a buff, a winter hat and a water bottle with sport gels. Having only completed 2 snowshoes races and each time coming home with some loot, I am going to start expecting goodies at the end of every race!
It is safe to say I am hooked on snowshoe running and participating in “local” (some are a bit of a drive) events. I think my husband, particularly after his great run last night, is even more hooked. For the last several years we have as a family done a fair bit of downhill skiing at a nearby hill. I admit I prefer the snowshoeing and we might have to force ourselves to the ski hill a few times this year just to make sure we put our equipment to use. For anyone who quits running for the winter, or resigns themselves to the dreaded treadmill, snowshoeing is a sport you should look into. Any fear of being cold will quickly disappear as it is impossible to stay cold when working so hard. There is no way to get bored if you pick beautiful routes and you will get to places you wouldn’t when sticking to the roads. Like running, snowshoe races are for everyone. Sure you might be lapped by the 10k racers finishing their second loop but that won’t be held against you! Let’s face it, winter can be a long haul in this neck of the woods, the more fun activities you can do to make the time go faster the better. Maybe it will even be disappointing when spring finally arrives!