Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Winter Iowa Games Snowshoe Race

If you remember back in December I mentioned I was going to run a snowshoe race. It was part of my plan to keep moving during the winter. 

So December comes to a completion with me finding a different pair of snowshoes built for running. They are narrower and lighter than my other ones. I found them via a post on Facebook and the seller said I could try them out before I bought them. So I met Amber and a few other strangers in Des Moines for a run at 5:30 pm on New Year's Eve day. (Amber wasn't actually a stranger since I had briefly met her last year at the Maffitt Lake race.) I strapped them on and went for a four mile icy trail run with her. I could tell that they worked for what I needed though when I got home I had developed my first black toenail ever and so I would need to adjust how they fit. No problem. I had a month until the race. Except that it never snowed of any amount in the month of January around here! My mom told me Waverly/Cedar Falls had plenty of snow so I knew the race would still go on. I headed out to find some snow somewhere to adjust the snowshoes and the closest I could come up with was some icy trail. I was going to count on my three previous snowshoe outings from over a month ago for the race. (I had kept up my running.)

I drove up the night before and spent the night at my parents. In the morning, my mom joined me at Hartman's Nature Center in Cedar Falls. This is the second year for the snowshoe race in the Winter Iowa Games and The Runner's Flat in Cedar Falls hosts it. The race timing is by Trekman Racing and they both do a great job. 

Here's a race participant note that is a suggestion, not a criticism. Race directors, please keep in mind that not everyone racing is from the area. Things such as parking and restrooms and gathering spaces are details that are easy to include in the race information at the time of registration. For those of us coming from out of town, these details beforehand help us plan better for ourselves and our families/others when we take time to travel and join a race. It doesn't have to be elaborate but I think it should be included with the race description. That way, no one has to wait or chase down emails or Facebook notices.

We geared up and warmed up in the nature center's building and a few minutes before race time, we clipped on our snowshoes and gathered at the bottom of the hill where the starting line was. The race course was indicated by flags or spray paint and it was suggested to not run over the painted snow so others could follow the course. A shouted "Go!" and we headed out. 

This is all of us.
The weather turned out beautiful and snowing. There was no wind to drive the snow into my face and besides the fact that snowshoe running is actually quite a workout, I thoroughly enjoyed my run. 
I saw a couple of people wipe out when their crampon on the bottom of their shoe hit a tree stump. I found the hardest part of the run was the sections through the tall grasses simply because the snow hadn't pack down as easily from the faster runners. Sure, there was some good hill sections which I let myself walk up instead of forcing myself to run. I wanted to have fun while trying something new. The only thing I had to prove was just that- trying something new.

Swear to you, I'm having fun. I'm just mostly trying to breath here.
Did you know snowshoe running can burn up to three times the calories as running? It also uses your quad muscles slightly differently because of all the lifting to clear the snowshoe. After my first two practice runs of the winter I would complain of my "lifters" being sore.

There were two races going simultaneously, a 5k and a 10k. I chose the 5k and the 10kers took a second lap. 5k was plenty far enough for me. As I came into the last clearing, I could hear my mom cheering for me, the same as in high school. Afterwards, I stood around and cheered more runners coming in. I also got my picture taken with three complete strangers by a guy taking pictures for the Eastern Iowa Department of Tourism. Funny because of the four of us, only one was truly from eastern Iowa; Cedar Rapids to be specific. I'm obviously not and the other two girls were foreign exchange students- one from Germany and the other from Switzerland, I believe. Anyway, we won't receive any monetary compensation for the use of our likeness.

We went back into the nature center and warmed up with hot chocolate. I talked more with my photo buddy and then talked with another runner. That's one of the things about races. You can make connections pretty quickly.
They confirmed all the race results and handed out awards. The Iowa Games break down the age divisions into five years for the adults. I placed second in my age group. Of course, there was only two of us in that group to begin with but I'll take it and not dismiss it. Trying something like this was the win and getting a medal is just bonus. Plus, the boys think its pretty cool their mom got second. 

My medal is folded up in a plastic bag in my hand. No big medal ceremony here.
Next winter is a long way off and I'd like all this snow to melt sooner rather than later but I may be running this again next year.

If you're interested in snowshoe running, I've a Pinterest board with links and such so you can read more but really, its just running in snowshoes.

Race course report: Besides my comments above, the Hartman Nature Reserve is tucked along one side of the Cedar River. The facilities include a large room with a fireplace and indoor bathroom facilities. We parked in the upper lot and walked down to the building. The course started further down the hill. It snaked its way through tall prairie grasses, up the side of a hill, back down and along the river before making its way across more grass and some wide path trails. Finally it mounted up a short hand grabbing climb followed by a long steady climb , curved around, made a sharp descent only to go right back up before the final 100-200 meters 'til the finish. That was this year's course. All the hill ascents were pretty much straight on or wove around in a manageable trail versus off camber. There may be more than that but that what's my brain remembered. I would say the course was very doable for a beginner runner as there was a 7 year old girl who had never run a 5k or snowshoe race before and she made it (with her mom's help).


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