Say Yes to Noque! The Noquemanon 2015: Ishpeming to Marquette

From the Noquemanon Trail Network laid out from Marquette, Michigan, rises a snowshoe 10 km and a strong endurance test of 15 miles testing the adventurous. The race is affiliated with the USSSA and a member of the Braveheart Snowshoe Racing Series. Combined with distance classic and freestyle cross-country skiers on Saturday makes for an exciting, energetic vibe. The 10 km races Sunday with snow bikes, and two class of Skijorers: one or two dogs! Bark it up!

Top Finishers in the 10 Km raced on Sunday: (L-R) Michelle McCarthy (1st woman, 2nd overall), Andrew Grosvenor (overall champion), Neal Collick (3rd overall, 2nd male)

Top Finishers in the 10 Km raced on Sunday: (L-R) Michelle McCarthy (1st woman, 2nd overall), Andrew Grosvenor (overall champion), Neal Collick (3rd overall, 2nd male)

The race directors show a sense of  humor when referring to the snowshoe races. Instead of the poor relatives invited to Sunday dinner, snowshoeing takes a seat at the main table with their attitude:

“Enter a race where waxing is not a worry, and it is not the quality of your skis that matters, rather the strength of your legs. Pass skiers on the uphills and watch them tumble head over heels on the way down.”

The layout proves a favorite as it races point-to-point, no laps in the 15 so no battles not to quit, or give-up when passing the start-line multiple times. The course is described by the race, “It’s fair to say that the Noquemanon trail has many faces, ranging from gently rolling hills and flat lake crossings to testing climbs and plenty of downhills. One thing, however, remains constant: the beautifully rugged U.P. wilderness that surrounds snowshoers throughout the course.”


A positive for the snowshoer, the elevation drops over 900 feet from beginning to end; essentially, the prevailing slope on the map is down to the Noque finish line just outside the Superior Dome. The Superior Dome houses the Northern Michigan Wildcats football team in this unique wooden structure. Billed originally in 1991 as the world’s largest wooden dome, it reaches 14 stories in a geodesic design supported by nearly 800 Douglas Fir beams. Today, it still holds that title along with a ranking as one of the largest of all domes though new pro football structures are pushing it further down that list. What a glorious finish line!

Plenty of goodies for those racing the course though a special Noque ski hat becomes a part of the 15 mile take. Special Moen Cow Bells go to the 15 mile winners overall and age/gender

classes while the 10 km winners received hand-made, local cow bells. Legend has it the last finisher gets the cow, but that’s not official. Importantly, the 15 km adheres to a strict 210 minute time limit.

Jeffrey Devries, Grand Rapids, snowshoed away from everyone else in the 15 mile race, crossing in 1:41:24 for the gold overall. Also from Grand Rapids, Jesse Girod nailed silver with his 1:56:19, the last finish under two hours, though Neal Collick, Negaunee, almost broke two when winning the bronze position.

1-Official beer sponsor

Marquette’s Olivia Juntila won the class gold in 2:11:03, along with sixth overall in the tough field. Jennifer Gustafson took the silver, 2:35 as Terra Castro, Detroit, won bronze. 23 competitors finished the race.

The winner of the 10 km, Andrew Grosvenor, Marquette, cleared the line in 53:23, followed 40 seconds later by the winner of the women’s class, Michelle McCarthy, also second overall.

Neal Collick won second male in 55:221 while Ethan Bott, Marquette, earned the bronze finish and the last one completing the course under one hour, edging Clive Iowa’s Chuck Fritz who still won a gold age-class medal. Fritz provided me with his remarks of the day.

“I loved the course.  Steep downhill start.  Everyone took off at a very fast pace.  I think my jaw probably fell open because I had no plans to sprint a 10 km snowshoe race.  Things did calm down somewhat, and I moved forward passing some people who started faster. The initial section was on groomed cross-country trail. It was harder but smoother than other Wisconsin or Minnesota courses I raced this year.

Eventually we crossed two small lakes—again, beautiful scenery—and reached single-track. There the snow was deep off the trail, so placement was key. I rolled twice on different sections of single track because the conditions off the path were so deceptively different.
Anyone spot Christopher Walken standing near the awards table? Maybe that's his Blackrocks Brewery "51K IPA"?

Anyone spot Christopher Walken standing near the awards table? Maybe that’s his Blackrocks Brewery “51K IPA”?

The course is primarily out-and-back, but the section furthest from the start-finish was a loop big enough to essentially hide most of the runners, so I didn’t see them on the trail as we headed along the back-in section of the out-and-back.
When I made the base of the steep hill start-section, now going back up, it did not seem as aggressive as I remembered from just a short while back. I still struggled to run up the entire length of it.  Fortunately there was a race official/volunteer about halfway up who offered some encouragement.  I will never cease to be amazed at how much just one person with a cheer helps at the end of a race.
1-noquemanon MI poster 2015
To finish we crested the hill we started down and then looped around behind the ski hut-chalet and passed through an area called ‘the amphitheater.’  The race ended under scaffolding with the finish banner and time clock where there was an enthusiastic crowd of spectators, race officials, and volunteers.
Marquette is a long trip from Central Iowa. I started my drive to Marquette from Phillips, Wisconsin after the race there (Phillips Flurry finishing in 1:03:57 in a strong national medalist field). I made the return trip in more or less one effort by sleeping in my car in a cold weather sleeping bag at a park-and-ride near Minneapolis when I needed rest.  I loved the Noquemanon course and liked Marquette too. I plan to do that race next year. Definitely.”

Second woman, Alex Bott, Marquette, later followed Fritz with her 1:06, her silver placing her in sixth overall. Pierre Ogea, Marquette, crossed in seventh then Nora Bird, Cottage Grove, earned the women’s bronze finish and eight overall.IMG_0041

Completing the top ten, Don Wostratzky, West Chicago, took ninth (1:11:27), then Kevin Holmes, Marquette, 1:12:20. 27 finished the day.

The Animoosh Skijor 14 km, 2-Dog, saw four finishers. Richard Kisseloff, Algonquin, Illinois, won overall in 28:50 while Melanie Bomier, Barnum, Minnesota won the women’s class and second overall.

The Animoosh Skijor 14 km, 1-Dog, saw Minneapolis’ Adrian Swanson win in 32:47. Marquette’s Jorrie Houle won the women’s class in 41:06 while 15 finished the event.

In the 20 km Snow Bike class with 36 finishers, Brian Geschel, Marquette, won in 51:55, while Susan Vigland, Traverse City, took the women’s class in 57:36.


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