The NH & NE Snowshoe Championships were held back on March 7th in Moultonborough, NH at the Castle in the Clouds. Adding the snowshoe event to the All Terrain Runner Series meant that it would be a first ever snowshoe race for many in the field. Who would it favor? The marathoners with their legs accustomed to the long grinds? The mountain goats, already used to tackling challenging terrain?
Back when we selected this particular race we had no idea that the course elevation profile would look much more like a mountain race than that of a trail race. Slide the advantage over towards the mountain goats, slightly. After all, not every mountain has sunk their hooves into sugary single track before.
Well, it turned out that the mountain goats had their way with the course; Jim Johnson and Kasie Enman emerged victorious and both picked up big series points with their respective wins. JJ was first overall in 54:19, and Kasie won a very tight battle with former US champ Amber Ferreira.
Kasie ran a 56:42 and narrowly beat out not one but two Ferreira’s! Amber was right behind Kasie in 56:53 while Amber’s husband Danny was just behind her in 56:55.
Here’s our interview with the reigning NH & NE snowshoe champ (and former national snowshoe & world mountain running champion), Kasie Enman:
Would you have done any snowshoe races this season if it wasn’t for this event being part of the ATR series?
I’m sorry to say, but no. I’d be all over a race on snowy trails in just my running shoes, but I haven’t been able to fall in love with lugging extra objects when I’m on the move. It’s for the same reason I choose running over skiing and biking. I will say, getting to borrow the top of the line Dion snowshoes for this race made a huge difference from the last snowshoe race I did almost a decade ago. I fell down at least two dozen times in that first race and only 3 times last weekend. I did give myself a monster bruise on my right calf though from repeatedly kicking myself.
How often do you race (or even just run) in snowshoes?
I had run in snowshoes twice before this race. Both in 2006. Nationals were in Vermont that year so I ran a qualifier race and then nationals.
Did you feel like you had an advantage coming in being a former national champ? Or were you more nervous since you haven’t been competing in this discipline at all lately?
Maybe you can tell from the previous question, but I would not say that I came into this race with any advantage based on my snowshoeing experience. I was unsure of where I stacked up and how people’s abilities translated. Except for Amber. I figured she clearly had one up on me since she had been National Champion recently, more than once, and had done at least one other snowshoe race this season. I wasn’t really expecting her to be there at all though because I knew she was gearing up for Ironman South Africa. I saw her for the first time when Chris Dunn announced her at the starting line.
Also, not to set myself up with a whole bunch of excuses, but I was feeling really unsure of my chances at even finishing the race since I was dealing with a couple injuries. I had to bail out of the Amherst 10 miler plus a lot of training this winter because of a bum ankle and to top it off, I strained my back skiing the Thursday before the race and hadn’t been able to do much of anything since. My first attempt at running with the back issue was during the warm-up and it was really painful. Luckily the pain numbed out after a little while and the ankle held out.
How tough of a battle was it with Amber?
My thought process was that she was fit and experienced so if I could just keep her in my sights, it would be a really great sign that I wasn’t as far away from good form as I thought. The start was crazy because we had a very short distance before funneling into single track. I was just focused on not tripping. Once things settled down enough so that I could turn my focus away from my feet, I looked up hoping to locate the top women. Fortunately, since passing was not going to be an easy task on the single track, I found myself in the back of the train that Amber was leading. So I just focused on maintaining. There were 2-4 guys between us most of the race and I would describe the situation, at least through halfway or so, less as Amber and I “racing” and more as me trying not to get gapped too badly.
Do you think the course’s more mountain-like profile played to your strengths?
Amber was crushing the uphills, evidence of how fit she is right now. The turning point of the race for me though was directly tied into the terrain. As soon as we hit the first downhill I started eating up ground. I think this just came down to comfort level. My experience this past year racing down crazy mountain scree fields helped me out. For the first time, I started thinking maybe we had a race on our hands.
I also started thinking that I was an idiot for not doing a better job studying the course map. When we came by the finish line for the first time, I was right behind Amber. I actually thought for a second that it might be time to sprint it in right then, but luckily picked up on the fact that there was another loop. We started climbing again and Amber started pulling away again, but this time I knew I could close the gap on the final downhill. I caught back up and decided if I was going to make a move, it had better be during the downhill. I tried not to be a jerk by asking Amber to move out of the track after she had led the entire race, so there was a sloppy moment as I slipped and post-holed my way by in a less than graceful pass. I think we both laughed.
To my dismay, the downhill ended rather abruptly after that. I think we only had maybe 400m left to race. I was half expecting Amber to blow right past me again on the flat into the finish and told myself I had to somehow figure out how to sprint in snowshoes without face-planting. I joked with Ethan Nedeau after the finish that I never would have guessed the indoor track mile would have prepared me so well for the snowshoe race. He said he was pretty sure he was running faster on the final downhill than on the indoor track 😉
I was pretty surprised to pull off the win, but definitely happy. Especially after I found out during our cool down (I invited myself on Amber and Danny’s post-race run) that Amber is planning on trying to complete the ATR series too. Game on!
What would you rather do, run up Upper Walking Boss at the end of a mountain race or try to hold a fast pace while snowshoeing through sugary single track?
Upper Walking Boss, hands down. I’m a Loonatic. There is no safe word.