The Chama Chili Ski Classic is a two-day event, of Freestyle & Classic Style Races; Snowshoe Race and Combined Ski/Snowshoe Events. The races are 12 miles north of Chama, NM in Windy Point, Colorado at the Cumbres Pass. This threw me off a bit as my driving instructions were not that specific, but I made it in plenty of time, 73 miles from home.
I pre-registered for the 6k snowshoe race, 6k = to 3.74 miles, it was not 3.74 miles, it was 4.22 miles, that is a big difference on snowshoes when you are busting your lungs at 9,902 ft of elevation. Okay, and let’s face it, working harder than I have the fitness for, especially without eating breakfast – dumb move.
The course was beautiful rolling hills and loads of snow.
I donned my Redfeather Pace Series snowshoes. It is not a racing shoe but a recreational/fitness shoe. It is made smaller for women’s frames and mine is rated to 125 pounds. I am new at this, only my second race so I was not about to put up $300+ for racing shoes. I got mine at SierraTradingPost for $89 and feel pretty smart about it. A guy at the start jumps next to me, almost on top of me asking how much my snowshoes weigh. They are compact, but they do weight over 3 lbs, where the racers are closer to 2lb. Then a women seeks me out asking me my age. She was sizing me up, and yes I was in her age group, groups are a 10 year span. She was ready to race, me, I love the competition, but I am not so ready for the pain at altitude and in snowshoes.
We were off, my right leg started doing it crazy thing of extreme pain from the muscle not contracting and I was limping along, unfortunately for almost 1.5 of these beautiful scenic miles. I walked, a lot it seems, but as fast as I could. The women from the start, Laurie, so far ahead I could not see her. But eventually the pain was gone, I was running more than walking and I saw Laurie. She was about 200 meters ahead. i chomped on my TraderJoes Tangerines and set out to catch her. It did not seem promising, until the last 3/4 mile. I got closer, and closer. I passed one of the checkpoints and the marshal said to me, “you look so happy” and while deep down I felt the pain of diminished oxygen, the depression not see the finish line yet, but I was happy, really really happy.
With about 250 meter to go and a nice hill ahead I was catching up. But then I see Laurie’s husband, who also raced, run out from the finish and join her. I thought, “crap, if he paces her I am done” so without even thinking I yelled, “if you are going to pace her, you have to pace me too.” I honestly don’t think they realized that’s what they were doing; there was no response then he says, “well you better get up here then.” And I did, I ran, caught them and kept on going. I heard Laurie, say, “I am red-lined.” and she cheered me on, but I was not going to believe she was done. I saw how fast and beautiful she ran in those shoes. My manta had changed from, “God, please let me finish this” to “I want this win.” over and over. I did not look back, I looked only to the finish line. I saw my friend and Santa Fe Strider, Ed, marshaling the finish. I know how hard Ed can push his running, and I was going to do the same. I ran it right through the finish. I had no idea where the other women were on the course or even who they were, and I found out later that Laurie had won the previous year. But this year, I was first in the division, I won, I was thrilled and gasping for breath.
After the race I chatted with Laurie and her husband. I am assuming it was her husband. They too are running Boston, though in 2016. We shared are favorite running racing and they got me excited to run int he NM Cup Low 02, a 10K snowshoe racing in Red River, NM, north of Taos, all above 9800ft. It is the regional qualifier for the United States Snowshoe Association National Championships and it is sure to be high competition. Just to run 10k in snowshoes will be a feat, But I am having a blast doing it, so I plan to go.
I did not stick around for my prize. Awards were given out much later in the day and I wanted to get home. I have a cool shirt and a nice goodie bag. But I can’t help but think, “if I only had faster lighter racing snowshoes” it is so easy to get caught up in that drive for better and faster. But I see SierraTradingPost has the RedFeather Vapor shoes on sale, maybe they throw a pair my way to review, or sponsor me with a nice pair of racing snowshoes in the next race. Wouldn’t that be cool?