Sunday, February 13, 2011


This morning I attended an introduction to snowshoe running. First and foremost, it was exhausting, but it was also really awesome. Up until recently, I had no idea that people used snowshoes for running, and there I was lined up with almost 40 others for a race. It was a good time, and I'd like to do it again next year.

I rented snowshoes from a company that was on site, and (with only minor difficulties thanks to frozen fingers) I strapped myself in for the first time. Here's how they looked:

I walked around a little to get a feel for them. There were several inches of snow on the ground covered by a crunchy coating of ice. It was treacherous walking with just sneakers, but the snowshoes made it fairly easy -- once I stopped stepping on my own feet. They distributed the weight so I didn't sink down, and they had deep cleats on the toes and balls of the foot that gripped so I didn't slip. After walking around, I jogged a little and felt pretty awkward. I had to lift my knees up more than usual so as not to trip over my own feet. It looked like snowshoes are generally one-size-fits all, and I wonder if a larger person with bigger feet would have an easier time of it.

Once some more people arrived and started warming up, I took another jog around the snow/ice covered field by the starting line and got the hang of it. I didn't run around too much, though, because even that little warm up tired me out.

I was surprised to see that a lot of people had brought their own snowshoes. It turns out that some of them were experienced snowshoe runners who had participated in national races. I made sure to start out on the back of the pack for the race.

After the race started, I soon found out that it was very tricky running on icy snow that had already been crunched. The snowshoes were very hard to run in on uneven ground, and stepping into deep footprints almost made me fall several times and was very rough on my ankles. As difficult as it is to run in snow with just sneakers, if that snow is rutted or uneven, especially when they're hardened from ice, the snowshoes don't make it much easier. I wasn't concerned about my time, so after pushing harder than I should have for the first half mile, I started walking through the uneven areas. It really gave my legs, ankles, and lungs a break, but overall, it was such a workout that those breaks didn't really refresh me. At one point, the trail went past the road, and the snow was soft and wet from being mixed with road salt. I found this to be one of the easiest parts to run through, although I kind of freaked out when bits of snow were flung up from the lip of my snowshoes right into my mouth. Eewwww. But I kept going and haven't died yet.

The last quarter mile was flat and even. There were not many places were the ice was broken through, and I took the opportunity to speed up and start passing people. I really started to feel good at this point, because I could get a rhythmic stride going. There were two distance options for this race: 2.5K, which was one loop of the course, and 5K, which was two loops. I had signed up for the shorter option, since it was my first time, and I was so happy I did. I was exhausted! I broke off from the rest of the group and made my way to the finish. It will never happen again, but I turned out to be the second person to cross the finish line! Out of 7 people to run the 2.5K option, I was the second, and thankfully no one from the 5K lapped me. :-) My time for the 2.5K ended up being 26:31 - about what my usual 5K time is!

So that was my first experience running in snowshoes. It has really helped me to narrow down my options for winter gear. One of the more experienced runners said that the conditions were the most difficult he's ever encountered for snowshoeing, but those conditions are similar to those on the rail trail I usually run on. That would be one of the main reasons for me to get snowshoes, and I think that traction devices like YakTrax or MICROspikes (they're like snow-chains on steroids) would be a better option for me.

On another note, the race was held in a park that used to be the grounds of an old psychiatric hospital.

It kind of looked a little like a college campus, but in a creepy, almost Gothic kind of way, especially when you got a closer look.

It was an interesting day all around!

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