A blast of flying snow started the 6-mile race as snowshoe racers churned up the opening 3/4-mile of open field single-track at the Murphy-Hanrehan State Park in the southern Twin Cities suburb of Savage, Minnesota. Kyle “Dash” Donovan, 25, dashed ahead taking the early poll position and accelerated to a 50-yard lead early wearing Northern Lite racers and never looked back.
Bryan Frye, 40, worked to hold on to Donovan on the combination hard pack and sugar snow in the open field. “I started to go anaerobic and let him go,” noted Frye. Behind Frye, Brad “Ambassador” Canham, 46, dropped quickly dropped behind Frye and Donovan, but kept Frye in his sights. Doug “Streak” Hubred, 42, winner of last year’s inaugural Winterriffic 5k (and currently maintaining a streak of daily running for more than 4-years), paced off Canham as the field spread out while positioning ahead of Gerald Butler prior to the upcoming rolling wooded single-track.
The single-track deepened and hardened further in the wooded section with banking twists and turns and constant elevation changes. As Donovan slipped further ahead, Canham managed to keep Fry within sight and slowly closed the distance, briefly passing at the entrance to an open field of sugar snow at mile 2.5 where Frye had stepped off the trail to hydrate. Within seconds of Canham’s pass Frye immediately reasserted his position with a decisive move and pulled ahead 20-yards. Canham held on.
Again in the wooded single-track section at mile 4.25 Frye again stepped off the path to hydrate and Canham passed. The rolling single-track and at times steep switchbacks made for technical footing choices and a strategic battle as Frye held onto Canham. Canham pushed the pace on downhills with long strides and maintained a steady pace on uphills hoping to pull Frye into an awkward pace. “He was on my heels. Relentless. I tried shaking him off with speed changes, but he was like a badger. He won’t let go.”
At one point, the single-track path split and Canham hesitated on direction. In a classic moment of snowshoe racer sportsmanship “The Badger” Frye pulled Canham in the correct direction – while maintaining the race positioning – and the race continued.
As Canham emerged ahead of Frye from the single-track into the sunny open field at mile 5.25, the decisive race for second and third was on. “Dash” Donovan had polished off 1st place in a blistering 49:54. “I wish I’d known about snowshoe racing while in college track,” noted Donovan a 2:45 marathoner, “the power running conditioning is excellent.”
Meanwhile, Hubred was holding position in 5th place after being passed at the two-mile mark by Butler ahead of the pack of 33 6-mile racers. “Course conditions were great. A light layer of snow over the packed down single-track,” said Hubred.
At the 5.30-mile mark, “The Badger” made his move. Churning left through the sugar snow Frye overtook Canham on the open field track and powered ahead quickly. Canham’s strategic maneuvering had served him well in the single-track, but the “Ambassador” had no answer for the anaerobic bite that “The Badger” laid down. Frye powered ahead and pushed out a 60-yard gap at the close at 56:44. Canham came in at 57:23. Frye, a multi-sport athlete who is also gunning for a sub-3:00 Twin Cities Marathon noted “Snowshoe racing works quads in a new way, builds power for triathlon biking and speed for the marathon.”
Carla Stoner, 48, rounded out the top five overall and a first place women’s time of 1:04:31. Stoner’s win is even more impressive when considering this was her first snowshoe race. Rumor on the racecourse is that she has caught the snowshoe race bug and is gunning for a qualifying race for Nationals. Women’s second place, Paulette Odenthal, at 1:12:08, and third place, Faye Lopez, 1:12:14 were a mere 6-seconds apart at the final.
Hubred “Streak” who closed out with a 6th place overall finish at 1:04:45 noted, “The Winteriffic course’s long open-field start and close, and technical single-track, make this an ideal race course. If it moves on to be a National Qualifier it’ll be one of the top qualifying courses in the region, perhaps the country.”
Others in the 6-mile race commented like Jon Drew, finishing seventh, “Great course. Loved it.” Maria Barton spends quite a bit of time in the park and differentiated the fall ultra courses run here with these winter distances. “The dirt trails use the XC ski trail courses on the warming house side of the park. They’re actually wide. The snowshoe utilizes the (western) paths through the woods on the tight trails.
Two old ‘dog’ racers, Donny Clark and Maynard Lagace were all cheers for their friends, Mike and Colleen (Colleen at Finish Line), as they had a great trek out in the woods. “Beautiful day,” commented Clark on the -4 temperature start, and Maynard said, “Wonderful, just exciting.”
Winning the 10-mile race in 1:32 was Jim Felling, leading Jeff Lombardo by nearly two minutes. Mark Brose captured third over Dennis Wallach by just 14 seconds, closely followed by Charles Roach. Emi Yasaka was first over the line at 1:49 with Julia Lyng and Anna Belu finishing next. Other finishers include Tom Burr who commented, “Awesome course,” Jan O’Brien, Wayne Nelson, Karen Gall, with the most notable finisher, Ray Coyer, well passed 70 years old, at just over three hours. Kathleen Braun won the final finishing spot over several who dropped.
Joseph Altendahl, in his first snowshoe race ever, won the 20 mile in 3:45:13, commenting afterwards, “I’ve never won before.” (see photo). He looked strong coming out of the woods in the mile before making the finish. “My friend, James, was the one who gave me this idea for racing, but this morning he wimped out and didn’t race because of the cold temperatures.” Attendahl is an accomplished marathoner. Paul Schaefer finished next while Allan Holtz and Bob Rusch rounded out the four entrants in this class.
This course was fun for the racers because of the ability to see who was ahead of you on the switchbacks while checking the lead over trailing snowshoers. Days like this make winter terrifically fun.
Photos by: Philip Bailey (PB&J Photography)
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