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 Pittsfield, VT Snowshoe Marathon 
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Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2005 9:51 pm
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Location: Derry, NH
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 Pittsfield, VT Snowshoe Marathon
1st Annual Pittsfield Snowshoe Half Marathon and Marathon
Pittsfield, VT - Saturday, March 3rd, 2007
13.1 Miles w/4,000' Elevation OR 26.2 Miles w/8,000' Elevation
Friday, March 2
I woke up Friday morning to the sights of a monster snowstorm. 6" of slushy "concrete" snow had fallen in Dover, NH and I new in a few hours things were about to change. I left Dover for the normal 2.5 Hour drive to Pittsfield, VT... only today it would take me 6 hours. I arrived in Pittsfield and marvelled at the fresh foot of snow they recieved. I checked in at Mt. Drew's house then headed for Joe Desena's office.

Joe is the property owner that the race starts and finishes on. A few weeks ago, I went to Pittsfield where he went with me to plot out the course. After saying hello to him today, he handed me a stack of signs and a garbage bag full of little brown skeletons. Mark showed up in his front end loader, he was pushing the piles of snow around to make room for parking. Mark handed Joe's father in law a key to a snowmobile and for the next 2 hours, we rode and marked the course. With race day fast approaching, I headed over to the check in location to mix it up with the folks over there. I went over to killington with another volunteer and had a few beers before settling in for the night.
Saturday, March 3, 2007: Race Day

I woke up early at Drews and had breakfast with him, Mtnmama and MtnPa before heading over to Riverside Farm to help out preparing for the race. When I got to the farm, I met up with Andy Weinberg. Andy is from Illinois and is the Race Director for the McNaughton park 50, 100 and 150 mile Ultra Run in April. He is famous in the running community for his style, freebies and stellar events. It was no question that with him in charge, this race would be extra special.

Racers began to file in one by one. A pair of college boys from Tufts University drove up last night and camped out in the parking lot in tents. A few other boys drove into town late and were almost out of gas. They parked at the pump at the only gas station in town, and set the alarm on their watch for every 15 minutes so they could wake up and turn the car on to give them heat. Leigh Schmidt was there, an Ultra Runner who has cleaned up almost EVERY race he has participated in over the last year and a half. Paul Low and his wife, members of the Montrail and US Mountain Running Teams. These were just a few names of the decorated races who showed up to run in todays snowshoe race.

Bob Dion owns Dion Snowshoe company. Accustomed to putting on Snowshoe races at 3 and 4 miles in length, he knew how scarce the # of participants got once you went beyond 10K and 8 Miles. He NEVER imagined that 97 people would have registered for a Snowshoe Marathon and Half Marathon ANYWHERE. Even better, was the fact that 92 people showed up to participate! It was very exciting on race morning to see all the smiling faces strapping on their snowshoes on a clear blue morning. Only one thing was left... the race.

Everyone got in a line near the start and Andy pointed out to an unbroken field of snow. Actually.. to be honest.. it was a 200 yard swath of untouched snow about 2 to 3 feet deep. He started us off and and we all took off into this field, moving as quickly as we could to hit the snowmobile trails. Just as we were halfway through the field, a guy dressed as William Wallace (Braveheart) came out fo the woods yielding a shotgun. Holy god was this hillarious.

After the course crosses the 200 yards of field, racers turned onto a groomed snowmobile trail for another 200 yard before they begin their long climb by another short bushwhacking section to the upper snowmobile trails. We all carried on in single file and once we hit the snowmobile trails, the strongest competitors started to distance themselves from the back of the packers. Around the 2 Mile mark there is a turn off, where racers are to take on their way BACK towards the finish. One participant made the mistake of heading up their NOW instead of later and myself and 30 other participants followed him up the hill. Near the top, he turns and asks me, "Sherpa, you made the course... is this the right way?" I chuckled and said, "I'm following you man!" I've never been afraid of a few extra miles and elevation. The line turned around, some angry some laughing, to return to the snowmobile trail.

The first 2.7 miles of the course is mostly uphill before it gradually flatens out to skirt around the top of the peak. I saw MtnDrew, MtnPa and Una_Dogger up ahead and we all yucked it up about how I went with the others up to the top of the mountain. Everyone was having a great time, I bid my farewells and kept on moving. I was wearing my running gear... and then it's what was on my feet that would KILL me later. 3 pairs of wool socks, leather hiking boots and my MSR Denali Ascent Snowshoes. As the temps rose, the snow turned into corn snow. Snow was melting, raining off of trees and balling up under my snowshoes. But the worst part, was that snow melted on and in my boots making an icy puddle for my feet. I was only 3 miles into the race when I hit the 1st aid station.. and I knew it was going to be a long day with cold wet feet that felt like cinder blocks.

At the aid station, we climbed another mile long hill before topping off with magnificent views to the east. Mtnmama was standing at the top of the mountain to offer support to not only us, but the other racers and to warn speedy snowmobilers about the race going on. After this was a fun section. We go past the old cemetary and then head out on a 3 mile downhill to the valley floor below. During this section we ran past hunting camps, past streams, over bridges and come out at the next aid station. After checking in here, we look to the mountain we just climbed... then ran down... and now must climb again via the road. 2.5 Miles to the top and another 2,000' of elecation gain. Its very tiring but worth the trip. Once we reach the top we backtrack the way in which we got there the first time.. except with a twist.

Back at mile 2 where many of us had mistakingly climbed the peak earlier, we had to do it again. Only this time at the top was Kevin with his 2 dogs. Sitting on top in a clearing where he had 360 degree views of Pittsfield and Killington, hit had lit a fire and checked us in. He then directed us to the sleds, red flying saucers leaning against a tree in a black garbage bag. We had the option, walk down from here.. or sled. I chose to sled and FLEW down the mountain weaving around trees and stumps, going off jumps and getting soaked. Regardless, this 2,000 foot downhill sled run was the most exhilarating i had ever taken. Laura Bleakly was in front of me.. and laughing like a child. It was great fun.

I ran to the finish area to hear my half marathon time of 3:31. Then they asked me, "Sherpa, you going back out?" Laura strolled in behind me and offloaded her Powergels on me... she was done. I said, "Yup! I'm goin!" I threw my ipod on and gave a big WOO HOOO! and then headed back out for round 2... I must be freakin crazy! During the second loop of the same course, clouds rolled in and lowered, snow squalls hit us from every angle, the temp dropped and a chilly wind blew up through the valleys. It was typical New England and though I was hurting... I loved it.

Only 14 of the 92 registered participants completed the Marathon. I'm not sure yet how many actually tried before dropping out. On the way BACK from the top of South Hill, the cold air pushing against my muscles caused painful cramping in my legs. Word made its way to me that Paul Low won the marathon with a time of 3:55. Holy cow! But it was the story of Ultra-Runner Leigh Schmidt that made me smile. 4:10 after starting.. Leigh got to the finish line and collapsed. When Joe went up to ask him how the course was, Leigh proclaimed that it was like running a 50 Miler! When I heard this news... I smiled that the course was every bit as tough as I had hoped it would be. I got to the top of the peak once more and slid down again in another flying saucer. I finished just behind young 60 some year old John Izzo who I traded dirt with during the Vermont 50. My time was 7:08:08... and I was zonked!

After spending 7 minutes trying to take my socks off back at Drews and showering... we headed back to the farm for an astounding Lobster and Shrimp Feast. Every participant of todays race recieved a fleece. Every finisher got a plaque and a ticket to the nights entertainment. Everyone got a 2 lb lobster, all the shrimp they could eat, potatos so long as they lasted and a speech from world famous adventurer/filmaker David Breashears. We all then saw the 2nd ever viewing of Davids new Everest film about the May 10, 1996 tragedy on the Mountain. The film, set to air on NBC in the future was simply amazing. A must see.

For a first ever event, this race brought it all. Great people, a killer course, awesome shwag and a whole lot of pain. I loved it and had a GREAT time. But now... I start plotting the course for the June 9th Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge, Where participants must climb to the top and return of all 6 Pittsfield Peaks. Those who can survive anyway


Fri Mar 09, 2007 8:50 pm
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