It is time to race. The Snowshoe racing mind-set is a really important part of competing well in snowshoe running that can be applied to other forms of running and endurance sports.
When I first entered into snowshoe running and racing in 2013, I had the shot out of a cannon mentality. I would shoot out to the front from the get-go and suffer the last few miles terribly. Pacing is important, but gauging effort and flow is even more so.
My best race results have come when I have focused on my effort working with the snow rather than against it. You see, my mistake early on was that I was fighting against the snow. I was pushing through it with so much force that I was overloading my body to the point of meltdown. This is where Patience comes in.
Patience in snowshoe running is knowing your pace is going to be slower than a road or trail run. Showing acceptance.
Patience is not pushing when the snow is thick or powdery and pushing when it is more packed and runnable.
Patience is gradually increasing your tempo as the race goes on.
Snowshoe running is already tough and taxing. So why not show patience of effort so that you get the most even spread of effort? Those that are consistent in snowshoe running often do very well. I like to pick one mile where I really go for it and make a move. It is usually one of the miles on the back-half of the race to where then I can push into the finish.
The more you snowshoe, the better you get at feeling out the snow conditions. Is it icy, is it loose, is it wet? Some conditions are just plain slow. Do not force anything. Focus on flow. Focus on moving as smooth and effortless across the snow as you can. The better you practice this, the easier it is come race-day to engage that mindset and have it be instinctual.
Where does the intensity come from?
Well that is where the fun is. Staying present in the moment in snowshoe running is important. Every step matters. I try to have each step be one with the least amount of slip and resistance from the snow. The more grip and power you can get in moving forward, the faster and stronger you will run. That mental energy and intensity is also patience in not forcing anything until the timing is right. I personally love downhills in snowshoes. That is a moment for me where I let gravity do its thing and virtually slide down the snow while bounding. It is one of the true pleasures of snowshoe running. I try to stay focused in my running where sometimes in ultras, I zone out for awhile. With snowshoe, I like to stay engaged as energy/effort management is really crucial to having a solid result. The smoother you move across the snow, the faster and with more energy reserves to really push it at the end.
Snowshoe running is hard, but man is it fun. There is no greater feeling that what you will feel at the finish-knowing you put out a strong effort.
While in a snowshoe race:
I like to keep my eyes open for other shoers out there and use them as the target. Slowly see if I can catch up to them in a mile. Setting those goals and benchmarks for effort during a race will really help you break up the thoughts of heavy breathing and your legs feeling like they are about to fall off.
I run most of my snowshoe races like a fartlek. I will surge based on the terrain and design of the course every mile for say a minute or two. The idea is to not stay stagnant in your current pace to where your mind wanders into how much it hurts. I have found a little extra push in tempo helps you come out of bad patches where your pace feels like a slog.
Have fun is of course the most important part. Imagine you are one of the few that gets to run through the snowy woods like this with others. That there is a community that loves this and wants to get outside in the winter like you is pretty dang cool. There is something to be said about being outside in the winter. For me, it is so invigorating and makes me be able to tolerate different conditions better in my road and ultra races.
To sum up:
- Run Based on the Conditions
- Pick 1 move in a race to just “go-for it”-preferably closer to the end
- Run with the snow, not against it
- Practice Patience
- Run by Effort
- Have fun–especially on those downhills
I hope you enjoyed a little exploration of the mindset of snowshoe racing. Good luck out there this season. And Maybe I will get to see you all at a local snowshoe race soon!