The Millinocket Marathon. A true Northern Maine Experience

Running a marathon in Northern Maine in December? Yes, that is my type of event. I have heard great things about the Millinocket Marathon, an event that truly brings what is best about Maine and New England all together on 1 day.

https://www.runnersworld.com/news/a20859087/in-a-struggling-community-runners-come-to-help/

The Millinocket Marathon, started by Gary Allen was created out of generating a cause that the town, that the state and runners from outside of Maine could rally behind and do some good on a day in December. Runners are a generous group, often donating money to local charities and also running for causes through fundraising. Millinocket a lumber town in Northern Maine up near Mount Katahdin, the finish of the Appalachian Trail, has gone through tough times like many communities in New England as industry has left the areas. Mainers are a tough bunch though, and that strength and resilience is something you “feel” when you run Millinocket.

The race is “free” to enter, as the purpose of this is to spend your money in the town and surrounding communities of Millinocket as a token of thanks and support to the community in-place of that standard entry fee. It is a brilliant idea and one that I deeply respect from the RD. A local grass-roots event that has spirit and is really special. Where most races continue to become more-commercialized, Millinocket does not. Instead, it offers a top-notch event because of the generosity of the local community. Local artisans make the race medals that you can purchase in-advance from the actual craftsman that makes them. The mile marker signs all hand-made and some done in wood, and pop-up aid stations that are like ultra running aid stations full of incredible food. That is why you spend as much money as you can for the community because their generosity is contagious and it only makes sense to return that generosity.

For me, this race was a draw because the course is challenging with almost 2,400 feet of elevation gain in a marathon, and half the race run uphill on a dirt logging road, it felt like my type of marathon. A true strength course and one that considering I have not run a speed workout since April, this course best-suited my abilities.

As I made the 5 and a half hour drive from Providence to Millinocket, the race weather looked to be cold and rainy but warm in terms of the history of this race. Once I arrived to the packet pick-up, it was amazing seeing the whole school gym absolutely filled with vendors. It was like a Maine-themed Christmas/Holiday Extravaganza! With 2,500 runners in total with both the Marathon and Half-Marathon combined, this was on the level as one of the largest marathons in the state of Maine. I had fun talking with the vendors and even bought a little snack before heading to my hotel. I personally did not get to take-in all of the vast line-up of festivities at this race, but I surely hope to do so the next time. They had concerts, a 2k night run, business specials and so much more.

When race morning rolled around, I felt ready to see what I had in the tank. This year, I have wrestled with some IT band tightness, knee pain on and off associated with when I smashed my knee on a rock during the 2021 Hellgate 100k++. I taped my knee using KT tape hoping this would help alleviate any pressure. With the rain forecasted to fall in the second 13.1, I wanted to make sure I had as much warmer gear as possible. I elected to wear a hydration vest to carry additional fuel and have a place to store hat and gloves. I also wore my Adidas Running Jacket I purchased from the World Snowshoe Champs in Japan in 2020 as it is a little thicker and warmer than a light rain shell and plus it looks cool.

I spent the morning fueling on Ucan Energy, had 1 Spartan Hydrate Tablet, 2 Glazed doughnuts, a protein milkshake, and some scrambled eggs from the hotel. I would take a Ucan Edge gel every 45 minutes of the race along with a bottle of water and Ucan Energy. I also decided to wear the Hoka Tecton Carbon Trail shoes as the conditions would merit having some extra Vibram traction and I am glad I wore them.

Once you park at the High School, where the packet pick-up was, you can either take a bus or walk the .4 miles to the start. I elected to jog to the start. I went to the Elks club which is a warming station for the race and was able to stay warm and relax until the race would go off. 15 minutes before, I headed to the town square where they had a Native American song that was performed by local tribal members and really was special and reminiscent of my time in Native American studies classes while at the University of Oklahoma.

We all soon lined-up at the start and it was funny to see a guy come up to the RD and ask about where he could drop off his duffle-bag just minutes from the start. Sometimes they do not learn.

The race set-out and I went with the first two guys. I soon found I was running with Matt Cheney who worked at the Princeton Running Company when I was a Tech Rep for Nathan, now lives in Portland, Maine. We settled into a nice pace going up a steep first hill before turning onto the dirt road. I really did not focus on my pace but rather effort. I could see we were going fast. 6 minutes flat on the sharp uphills, and 5:45’s on the flat or downhills. In 2018, Derrick Hamel set the Course record in 2:40 and I expected to run around 2:40-2:50 given the course has a lot of uphill. We were already running under course record pace, but it felt relaxed and controlled. After running some short races and 5k’s the past month, it felt more at home running 5:40-6 minute pace.

The course was muddy in spots and icy too. What impressed me was seeing these pop-up aid stations and hand-made mile markers. I expected the race to be primarily self-supported which is why I wore my hydration vest. People telling you about fireball shots and full spreads of fruit and food. So amazing. The Asics Matt Schafer pushed hard as himself and Cheney separated from myself by 10 seconds around mile 9 or so as we hit an icy patch. The course is one big loop and on the backside back into town, the rolling nature was a nice break from the continuous uphills of the first 8 miles. Cheney shot ahead and opened up a nice gap. I eventually surged and caught Matt Schafer and kept pushing after a 5:35 mile and some more 5:45 miles. It felt good until soon, a slight rain began to fall. As I ran into town at 13.1, I was in at 1:17 which was a 2:34 finish time. I was hurting a little bit feeling soaked going up the steep hill to the dirt road again but still felt in control. I really did not worry about time but feel again. I was working hard but still within my ability. I hung onto second place and felt if I could hold this effort, I would have a spectacular day.

Credits to Capstone Photography.

As the rain intensified and the wind picked-up, I struggled. It felt like running in a freezing cold car-wash. The wind chill was in the low 30’s and I was starting to slow-down. It was by mile 16-18 that I truly started to hemorrhage time. My soaked 9inch shorts froze my quads, my hands froze, and soon everything went numb. I grunted as I pushed up every incline knowing physically, I was getting too cold too fast.

I was passed by two runners before the last back stretch of the course around mile 18 or 19, maybe it was mile 20. All I know was that the last stretch was a run for survival. I could feel my body seizing up and I was border-line blacking out as my vision would get foggy in spurts. I was at a tipping point and experiencing hypothermia before, I knew I was very close to being a liability out on the course. At this point, I slowed down big time but all I wanted was to move my body to that finish so that I could get warm. I could care less about my time and place at that point. I was now in 4th. The runners I was running near were so awesome cheering for me as I grunted my way forward. The type of cold I feel when hypothermic is a brain-freeze on your entire body. Everything burns but also is stiff, and is almost impossible to move. I could not even speak, I was so cold. Not the best way to feel finishing-out a marathon right.

Near the finish, I chugged some maple syrup from a local Millinocket water stop outside of their house and shuffled to the finish. Matt Shafer passed me heading into the finish as hit the finish line in 2:45.

That time would have been the second-fastest time in the history of the race.

Credits to Capstone Photography

I was so happy to grab some hot chocolate and try to warm up before I sprinted back to my car to change into dry clothes. That I froze and still ran the way I did was awesome. My knee felt fine and held-up in the race and the community of Millinocket was what helped get me through. As an ultra runner, I felt like the conditions and challenge was a true December test that I needed.

Millinocket was truly an incredible experience. I was lucky to be a player in making the race the fastest in history even if I did become a human icicle. New England is an amazing region and Maine and Millinocket is incredible. This is one reason why I love to run. To experience a different place and challenge myself among others all while doing my part to help positively impact others.

Thank you Millinocket, all the Mainers, Gary the RD and the whole entire community for providing such a special experience. I hope to be back!

Results: https://www.allsportsevents.com/results/millinocket-marathon-half-marathon-2022/

Bringing on the Hurtz at the Tesla Hertz 157 mile

So if you said that I would run 157.2 miles in the Pine Barrens of Long Island in New York in October, I would say “No way”. But I did. And what ensued in the race was one of the highlights of my year in my running for 2022.

My Own Tesla Hertz Bib # 2

The Tesla Hertz has been going on for 10 years. Put on by Vinny and Nichole at Happily Running, the race is a Fall highlight of a really cool area in Long Island. The Course is 10.48 mile loops with an aid station every 5 miles. It is a deceptively hard course. Yes, the elevation gain is not extreme, but the rolling nature of the course, the sudden twists and turns absolutely challenge your body. This year was a special year as the 157.2 mile option came about because of the 10th year anniversary and getting the race permit extended up to Monday. The community behind this race is the true highlight. I was blown away by the kindness everyone expressed out there and truly made this event one of the best of the year for me.

On a personal note, I have had a hard time training this Summer. After Gunstock, I have not been at my normal paces and fitness levels. I had a lot of pressure coming into Tesla Hertz and I really was wanting to have a great race here. I did not know what I was capable of but hopefully could run a low 30 hour finish. I have noticed some knee and IT band discomfort which I believe has been caused from running hard paces all year on sidewalks and roads here in Providence. I worked with my coaches to get some PT going and hoped for the best.

I drove to the race on a Friday afternoon and made it to the hotel around 6pm. I grabbed some local pizza and a beer nearby and grabbed some rest for the long race ahead.

Laying out some of my gear the night before: Swiftwick socks and Norda shoes

The next morning, I would drive to the start and unfortunately we hit a small patch of rain though the rest of the race conditions would be cool in the 50’s during the day and 40’s and 30’s at night. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces-too many to mention even. I felt like I was with my tribe and ready to commit to 15 laps to run 157.2 miles in these pine barrens. At 6:10am, we were off. I settled in with the first few runners and decided to run their pace to the first aid station. We settled into miles in the 10 minute range which was where I hoped to be for the race as 157 10 minute miles is nothing but stellar. The rain was coming down a little and I just tried to remain calm in the dark of the morning. Running through the woods was really cool and it felt like I was in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, just the drier version. We eventually made it to the first aid station where I hit the bathroom and then surged to catch back up to my lead group. It was here I put together some 8 minute miles and then started my pace in the 9 minute range.

Bob Law and Cole ready to run 157 miles

As the laps progressed, I started to feel better and better. The weather was perfect after that first loop with some nice sunshine and nice cool Fall temps. I continued to run sub 9 minute miles in the 8:30-8:40 range like clockwork. The sandy nature of the trails, made for running fast, difficult but the winding-nature of the course allowed me to really get into a groove. The course was a tale of two halves. The first half had a lot of winding trail, lots of steep ups and downs and was a half mile longer. The second half had a long steep hill towards the last 1.5 miles of the loop but the majority of the loop had more straightaways and less winding terrain.

My Ucan Energy and Edge gels were working great for me along with Long Haul Hydration and bananas at each aid station along with other whole foods. Man Dad came to crew and join me around Noon and I got into a nice groove trying to bank time in the day light. I was probably running too fast as I split the 50 mile mark around 7 hours and 30 minutes and continued that pace up through 70 miles. I was able to run 7 loops before it started to become dark and the woods started my need for a headlamp in my 8th. The pace I was going if I could maintain it, I could possibly finish 157 miles in 24 hours which would give me an unofficial performance for the US 24 hour team (as the course needs to be USATF certified and this one wasn’t) . I was flying and loving the course.

The Pine Barrens of Long Island

By the 8th lap, I had to slow down if I were to get to that 15th lap in a solid position. This is a course that wears you down. My joints took a beating. My hip flexors, lower back, shoulders, and ankles all felt it from the constant ups and downs of the trail. By mile 85, I knew I had to do my best to grit this out. “Survive the night” was the mantra I kept in my head. The trail at night is dark. We had a full moon and it did nothing to light the trail. The Pine Barrens are a mysterious place. The temperature on the first loop dropped like crazy. It soon dropped into the low 30’s and was moist, soul-crushing cold. To start lap 9, I put on a beanie, gloves and was able to run with Smithtown legend, Mike Petrina. It was amazing to have Mike along for the ride. In total, Mike would pace me two loops and he really helped set me up well as I pushed in the overnight.

This is where the race is won or lost. I was slowing down about a minute per mile from my 9-10 to 10-11 minute miles just having a hard time taking in the calories I needed. Pizza helped me for one lap, Starburst candies at Whiskey Girl Aid kept me going in the night, and warm broth. I pushed hard to 104 miles and finished that lap in around 18:30 close to the overall 104 mile course record. The night is tough. Your body and mind are tired and the cold weather saps your energy. My T8 kit I noticed was freezing out my legs a little bit so eventually I put on pants that made a massive difference. It was fun seeing everyone wearing crazy bright headlamps, running vests, often jamming out to music. But as the witching hour came, I saw fewer and fewer runners.

From mile 90 to the end, I needed to stop at the aid stations longer to roll out my hips. I even took a bottle of Motrin and used it to rub myself out. This was the point where I regretted signing up for the 157 mile. 104 miles felt good at this point but I knew I had to stay present. On my 11th lap, I fought the sleep demons. By the time I finished this loop, I needed a nap. I noticed the trail looked like a river or an ocean as the light from my headlamp was distorting things. My Dad was awesome and took a dog bed, blankets, a sleeping bag, and my Stupid Award Fleece Blanket from Hellgate last year and I covered myself up. I slept for maybe 25-30 minutes. I immediately started to feel good. That did the trick.

In these longer runs, there is a fine balance between time spent stopped to address food, sleep, rolling out etc vs pushing through the extreme fatigue. I knew this nap would make my chances at running 145 miles in 24 hours difficult to achieve but what would be bad if I did it in 26 hours or 27 but could keep moving strong to 157 miles. I did all I could muster to get through the night. By the time morning had come in the middle of my 12th lap, I was ready to roll. After eating some bacon at the Whiskey Girl Aid with Thad helping us runners out, my low I had from the night was over. The surge of energy I had was sheer magic. Often times when you are hurting, you just need more calories and the right type of calories to move you in the right direction. My pace immediately got back to where I needed to be running 9 and 10 minute miles again. It was like a switch was flicked on.

Ready to roll in the Daylight! A few more laps to go!

I ran another lap (14) with Mike and we flew. We hit that lap in 1 hour 45 minutes. By the time I started my last lap, I was going to finish this race close to 31 hours. I took my time to roll-out, chugged a Modelo just like in Cocodona and I was off. I ran this loop well hitting many 9 minute miles. The feeling that I was going to finish this thing was massive. It was a brutally hard race for what it does to your body. And I was proud I walked maybe .05-1% of the entire race, only at the one steep climb towards the end of the loop. I ran the last half lap with conviction and funny enough had not fallen until entering the final aid station. As I hit the last little hill to the aid station, my toe clipped a root and down I went. I had my phone in my hand and as my phone left my hand, it bounced on the sandy turf and bounced right into my forehead, drawing blood.

Made it to 150, just 7 miles to go!

When I hit the last aid station, I was greeted by David and some of the other runners. I took some time to refuel on bacon and drank some Coca Cola and shot-out to catch the caravan of runners. But before I did, I took a shot of Fireball whiskey that I could only stomach half of it. As I caught them one by one, I could smell the barn. I hit 150 miles in just around 30 hours which was awesome and a goal. With more 9 minute miles, I was just 2 miles from the finish. I texted my Dad and Ashlee that I was almost done and then ran into Vin recording me out by the final section that is in the woods near a school. There was a soccer game going on so the cheering was extra motivation. Just like Cocodona, something took over me as I continued to pick up my pace. It was until I hit that final finish chute seeing a 5:11 mile pace tick on my Coros Apex watch. I crashed into the finish line thankful to be complete with the journey of 157.2 miles. 31 hours 27 minutes was my finish time. I averaged 12:04 a mile with a moving pace of 10:12. It was really a textbook run for me. I never greatly wavered from my pace and with going out very fast, I was able to adjust to more of my goal pace. What this endeavor taught me is that belief in yourself, is the #1 hurdle. When you let go of the pressure and just run, amazing things can happen.

Half shot of Fireball at the last aid station, 4 miles to go!
Drinking that Modelo to power me through the last lap.

These “longer” distances are not about sheer talent, but mental skill and fortitude. I am no Kilian Jornet, no Jim Walmsley. But what I have now found is that I excel at consistency in pacing and effort and my mental strength to adapt and power through difficult conditions is hard to beat. Where most athletes would take a 20 to 30 degree temperature swing as a death sentence, I look at is as an opportunity to adapt and stay engaged to my environment. After running across New Jersey, what I thought were my initial limits as an athlete are just the tip of the iceberg for me. Why do I seek out races beyond 100 miles? For me, I have found an incredible community of like-minded runners but also because it is when I push beyond the standard 100 mile distance, that I experience something new and profound. Multi-day running is unique and special. It is all of life diluted into a few days. What I gain from pushing myself these extreme distances have been so much more valuable than any medal, accolade, or Ultrasignup result. The journey of 157 miles, 250 miles, is what I love most about running. It is about pushing your own limits of what you think is possible, re-defining the status quo, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, re-creating your potential with each passing checkpoint.

157.2 miles in 31 hours 27 minutes
Love the community here! Rhode Island runners unite!

Running is not static, but fluid. We are our own champions of movement. So when you ask yourself, how can we run more than 100 miles, the answer is simple but the belief in the answer is the most difficult task: One step forward, one checkpoint at a time until the deed is done.

Thank you to everyone that has been a part of my journey thus far in ultra running. Tesla Hertz was the perfect event for me this Fall. Vinny, Nichole and the host of volunteers, fellow runners, and others in association with the event was absolutely spectacular. Everyone here truly was a breath of fresh air. Mike and the Smithtown Run Co crew was awesome! Thank you for that Modelo aka rocket fuel!

Mike kept me motivated and helped so much in this massive effort!

The various brands and people behind those brands that help me out thank you for your support:

T8 apparel: John and David, the blue camo T8 shorts are my favorite. The Iced Tee and Commandos also did the trick. No chafe issues for 157.2 miles.

Nathan Sports: The Vapor Krar Volume 2 vest and Halo Headlamp, and handhelds worked wonders. And the apparel for the cold night stretches and post race had me comfortable and looking sharp.

Ucan: once again the Ucan Energy powder and Edge gels just give me consistent energy that is built for the long miles. Since working with Katie and the Ucan team, my consistency in my racing has been next level.

Squirrels Nut Butter: To Chris and the gang, T8 and SNB work like a match made in heaven. SNB is incredible anti-chafe solutions and since using them, blisters do not really happen much these days.

Swiftwick socks: Kristen and Swiftwick have been stellar. A new partnership, Swiftwick has been a savior for my feet as they saved me at Cocodona and now Tesla Hertz. They fit my feet really, really well and the variety of their range is exactly what I need for both extreme hot and cold ultra runs and everything in-between.

Dion Snowshoes: Well I did not wear snowshoes for this race but snowshoe running is what has been my secret for building off-season strength in winter that keeps me active and in top shape for a long season of ultra running. Dions are the best and the buffs are cool too.

Willa and Nick at Norda for the great shoes along with Ray Zahab providing counsel on racing in the extremes.

Coros, Janji, Trails Collective, Finger Lakes Run Co and Confluence Run have all been past partners and some current that have helped out in many ways.

To my coaches Anthony and Lindsay, thank you for your continued guidance. I am excited to see what we do with the 340 mile Speed Project in 2023!

To Ashlee, my true inspiration, love of my life, crew boss, and overall super human, without you, none of this would be a reality. Her motivation, love and support is the best I could ever ask for!

Time to enjoy the Fall and get ready for 2023! My next BIG project will be in March with The Speed Project, a 340 mile run from Santa Monica to Las Vegas!

Copahue Extremo. Taking Snowshoe Running to the Extreme! World Snowshoe Champs 2022.

Upon arrival to the village of Caviahue, in the Andes mountains of Argentina, I felt like we entered into another dimension, another time. The landscape here was unlike anything I had ever seen. Mountains that reminded me of the Flintstones that had everything feel “prehistoric”. From the trees that were around during the dinosaurs, to the crystal clear lake and epic feel, this race was going to be nothing short of awesome.

Our team arrived on a Wednesday evening, giving us Thursday and Friday to prepare for the 12k race on Saturday morning. Our lodge sit at 5,300 or so feet in elevation while the race would crest close to 6,700. Not high altitude in the respect of Colorado and some of the areas we are used to in the US, but the environment was drier than Cocodona, drier than any place I had ever been to which was another challenge along with the altitude coming from my sea level home base in Rhode Island.

It was an incredible venue. The town welcomed us all with open arms and everything from the race check-in, race start, and awards was nothing short of extreme. Here in South America, they do not shy away from going BIG. I have never been to such a production of an event as the race had big theatrics with laser light shows, techno music, and a cutting-edge video crew taking in tons of race footage used for social media and Youtube films immediately. It was really impressive. To paint the picture, check out this race video on the event. Copahue Extremo literally cut the footage and released the video at the awards which I have never heard of doing so quickly.

Thursday was the race check-in and big pick-up. It would be here we would have our snowshoes checked for the proper size requirements as well as get all of our schwag. Just a short walk to our lodging, inside the gym, techno music, flashing lights and a big projector screen show-casing footage from the race in years’ past.

This event was special for the sport of snowshoe being the first Snowshoe World Championship event in South America and only the third world championship event in the history of Argentina, and the only running type of its kind. The check-in was nice and efficient and the fun part was doing some fun videos and photos at the race banner. I was wearing my USA hat so I had some of the local media ask to give a USA chant as they hit record.

Before this, we all hitched a ride up to the race site at the Copahue ski mountain to scout the course. Little did we know that because of the melting of snow up on the peaks, the course would be changed on Friday evening for the race. With the weather supposedly like early March in Argentina, the intense equatorial sun warmed things up quickly as temps hovered in the 40’s and 50’s during the day and as the sun set, into the 30’s at night. As our team had the chance to preview the course, or so what we thought was the course, we were immersed in an environment like the moon or maybe Planet Hoth from Star Wars. It was definitely not Rhode Island. The course would take us up along the ski mountain and chair lifts up to a ledge before nearly summiting one of the volcanos. Eric Hartmark and myself ended up running at the top along a frozen lake and then discovering some cool igloos that we had to “inspect”. Following Eric’s lead on the invisible course since markings were not out, we crossed over another mountain pass to the little hut at the top, cut by some skiers and then bombed down a dicey downhill section. And when I say bombed, I mean like sub 5 minute mile-type of flying. So much so that we ended up into the forests of Patagonia off of where we needed to be. Running out of time, we turned up the hill and wham straight downhill to meet everyone with minutes to spare for our bus ride back. It was about 2:15 minutes of 8 miles of snowshoe running. What we would eventually find out is that the course would deviate from that frozen lake section and cut into the ski hill where Eric and myself bombed down and ended up would eventually become part of the new course.

We hung out in town looking at shops, getting some work done, trying to find places that were open for food as the town had strange hours.

That evening was the Parade of Nations. We had our chance to learn of the new course, mingle with other nations and get some time up on stage. This race group of course had the techno music, laser lights, and a really cool performance of a local indigenous group that happened to be wearing old wooden snowshoes at the race. We had a solid dinner at our cabana and got our last bit of rest before the big day.

Race morning came and we had a nice breakfast and then hit the bus to the ski area. Once we arrived, the music and atmosphere was like that of an 80’s ski movie. Bright colors everywhere, drones flying overhead, and tons of reporters getting footage and asking for interviews. I even was interviewed. I had the chance to quickly tell my story and talk about our US team.

The Team Photo before the big race. Photo Credits Ashlee Prewitt-Crosby

I had a chance to warm-up with Julien from Canada and Stephane from France. We did some loops and took in the atmosphere. It was going to be a fast race. With many top athletes from all over the world, we would get to see just how intense the race would be.

As the biggest Snowshoe race I have ever been a part of, we did our pre-race preparations (taking 2 Ucan Edge gels before) and then headed to the starting line. The Juniors would start first, then a Paralympic athlete and then us. We huddled up in the front of the line as people were bottled up, stepping on snowshoes a little as we huddled into our starting positions. I was nervous about the start as that is by far the scariest part of any snowshoe race.

Hanging out with Ashlee before the Start.
Some of the Men’s Squad before the start. Photo Credits: Ashlee Prewitt-Crosby

As the race gun started, we shot out from the line. I was on the far right side and surprisingly had enough space to run out hard. The race starts at around 5,600 feet altitude and man I felt it. I do not know exactly what happened but after the first all uphill mile, my lungs were on fire and my body just could not respond to the ferocious pace. Maybe it was associated with breathing in gasoline emissions from the snowmobiles out on the course? It still remains to be seen. I was probably in 18th place or so as many of the top runners shot out ahead of me. It was tough to feel this gased so early on but I knew that there was much of the race still left to be run. So I took it easy leading into the steep climb up the second chairlift. The first mile was a gradual uphill and I would say the top runners were in the 7’s and I was maybe in the high 8 minute range. As we hit the first major uphill, I caught a few South American runners as we battled up the slope combining both walking and running. I could see teammate Alex Willis out ahead as we started to gain on him. By the time we crested the hill, my heart rate was so high. I survived the next downhill and then picked it up on the short flat section. The pace the athletes were going downhill was incredible. I then pushed things heading into the second climb as we went across the ski area hill that Eric and myself ran by when we scouted the course. This second hill I was able to pick it up more. I had now worked my way into near top 10 range as three runners in front of me were so close I could almost grab hold of them but as they crested the hill and then so did I, I looked at the next ferocious downhill and they were already 30 seconds ahead of me. It was like teleportation. I flew down the mountain as best as I could to maintain my speed but also not lose myself on the off-camber of the trail.

Race Action shot coming down the first downhill. Photo Credits: Copahue Extremo

Back to the base lodge and the start/finish I went. I was still hurting but starting to regain my strength and composure. I knew that the next 6k would be solid for me. I hit the turn by the lodge and then headed out to the new loop out by our hotel and back.

This section was more rolling and I was able to really pick up my pace as I finally was able to get my heart rate down enough to a more normal level. I had one runner from Argentina in my sights. I surged in the 6:50-low 7 minute range as I closed on him quickly. He would surge on the downs and I would catch him on the ups. It was after maybe 1 kilometer where I pulled ahead on an uphill. Once I took the lead, I surged ahead but saw him look to rally back as he quickly sped up to me. We battled the next 3 kilometers as we ran the snow roller-coaster around the loop. I enjoyed this section though stayed attention to not miss a turn.

I loved seeing the signs giving us the kilometer markings. Once I hit 10k in 55:00 or so, I knew I needed to pick it up. I surged more all the way to the last aid station where I ran through a tunnel of supporters and then looked back at my Argentina athlete and saw that I was probably 40 seconds ahead so I power hiked the last climb then sprinted into the finish. As I came near the finish shoot, I asked which way to go and was pointed into the chute. I then hit the finish tape and did a ninja kick into the finish. 11th place, 3rd American in 1:10:19. How I rallied the last 6k of the race was awesome.

Flying into the 11th place finish

It was soooo much fun hanging out with our team at the finish and seeing how well everyone did was incredible.

Running Snowshoe Worlds is such a special event and the camaraderie of snowshoe running is truly something special. We then walked back to our room to shower and grab a snack before the Awards ceremony.

Once at the Awards Ceremony, we were treated to one of the longest awards events that I have been a part of but we did have like a 40 minute dance/rave party in the middle of it. Our US team did incredible from multiple Age Group podiums, Jennifer Britz winning overall for the Ladies, Heidi third place and Stacie 4th for the ladies in the world (Ladies team won gold) and Eric Hartmark a solid third place, Alex was 8th and I was 11th. Our US Men’s team came in second to Argentina losing by about 20 seconds. It was close. The link shows the results:

https://www.copahueextremo.com.ar/2022/inscriptos.php

As we departed Caviahue, we were treated to a village that embraced us with open arms and a culture of hospitality, athleticism, and positive energy and dance vibes. At Neuquen again, some of our teammates would be staying here and other would be departing back to the US while others would have a few more days in Buenos Aires like Ashlee and myself.

Back in Buenos Aires, it was wonderful to get to relax, explore the last few things and get to run some more of the different neighborhoods.

The Latin American Art Museum was amazing
One Last run in the Natural Area.
Last day in Buenos Aires with my #1: Ashlee.

The World Snowshoe Running Championships was a trip I never would have imagined. Japan was incredible in 2019 and Argentina and Patagonia in 2022 did not disappoint. If you are a trail runner, you need to try snowshoe running. It is such a wonderful community to be connected with and it is one of those sports that gives you the opportunity to travel to some pretty cool places.

Thank you to the USA Snowshoe Association, Mark Elmore, the WSSF for the organization of this event. Thank you to Caviahue for the warm hospitality and to Lizardo for putting on a World-Class event.

Thank you to our Team supporters:

Ushood

Topo Athletic

Comfort Sock

Shady Rays

Thank you Bob Dion and Dion snowshoes for all of your support of myself and to some of our athletes out at Worlds. If you havent tried Dion snowshoes, you should. They are the first pair I have ever run in and continue to find success with them.

Thank you to my brand Partners:

T8 Apparel

Ucan

Squirrel’s Nut Butter

Swiftwick Socks

Nathan Sports

Coros

The Trails Collective

Finger Lakes and Confluence Running

This is Argentina. A Journey at the 2022 World Snowshoe Championships: The Scene Setter.

This is Argentina. A South American country 5,000 + miles away from my home in Rhode Island. A land diverse in its landscapes, yet offers a familiarity to specific destinations in the United States. A place where the sun shines bright, the tango moves through you, and afternoon siestas followed by midnight meals are the norm. A place where Spanish is the language of choice, yet tourists are respected and even celebrated. If you love meat, carbs, Malbec and delicious craft beer, Argentina delivers. From the deserts, to the jungles, to the plains and the Andes mountains, it truly is a special place.

Welcome to Argentina. Photo Credits: Fordos.com

Argentina would never be a place on my radar to travel to. For one, it is far away. Literally, it is the gateway to travel to Antarctica. But with the World Snowshoe championships being held in the small village of Caviahue high in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, it provided a great excuse to experience a different part of the world. As my first time to South America and for my wife, Ashlee as well, it would be a grand adventure and a vacation of sorts.

This was a trip on the docket for August of 2020 but we all know what happened that year with Covid and so the event would be postponed until September 2022. The logistics of such a trip were arduous as we flew Newark to Dallas with a long 8 hour lay-over then followed by a 10+ hour flight to Buenos Aires. We would stay in Buenos Aires for a few days before flying domestic to Neuquén before a long 6 hour bus ride to the race site up in the mountains. Then repeat on the return trip. In total, we flew 7 flights in a span of a week and a half.

As we arrived in Buenos Aires excited to explore for two days, we linked-up with some of our team and then headed to the Ker Recoleta hotel in the Recoleta neighborhood. Mark Elmore did a fantastic job organizing the blueprint of travel for our team as well as this hotel stay. As we arrived before the 2pm check-in, we waited awhile to get our bags dropped-off. The pace of things here moves a little slower than what we are used in the Northeast. But once settled, we set out along the city for some food.

One of the two big lessons we learned in Argentina was the exchange rates for Argentine Pesos from US dollars and the siesta hours. Not to go into the weeds on economics, Argentina has unpredictable inflation. The US dollar being pretty stable means you get a lot for the money in Argentina. For every $1 US dollar you can expect 137 pesos up to 330 pesos based on where you go to exchange. The lower values are closer to what you find as the “Official rate” and the higher values you find while buying goods at a store or even the people on the street by some of the big shopping areas vocalizing the word “Cambio, Cambio”, meaning “change” in English. We soon learned where and how to get the most for our US dollar and that helped stretch our ability to spend more on the trip. Argentina is not too bad if you have US cash on hand and the bigger bills, the better for getting a higher rate of exchange. The second point was siesta times. So in the United States places are usually open 10am-6pm say with more constant hours. In Argentina, many places close mid-day from 12-5pm sometimes later for a siesta and then open back up late in the evening. In Buenos Aires, food was easier to find in that 12-5pm range more so than the other places we traveled to but much of your choices were left to cafes.

The Patagonia Beer was my favorite
Cheesy, olive oil and fluffy pizza
A grapefruit soda that was really good.

The cafes were nice though. Offering nice wine, beer, pizza and delicious sandwiches and more. We ended up going to the Mercado San Telmo, an indoor street market where we had our lunch and bought a yerba matte cup which is a national staple of Argentina. I personally love yerba matte as it is a drink I use in place of a Red Bull for many of my long multi-day ultras. The overall feel of Buenos Aires was very much a combination of European cities like Paris with New York City. There was so much unique architecture found in old chapels, buildings with terraces, romantic balconies you would see out of Romeo and Juliet as well as various statues and parks.

Running in the city can be tough but we were close enough to a dirt path at the Ecological Preserve out by the water which was amazing. I ran there the first evening with Eric Hartmark and the 5 mile loop made you feel like you were running some of the trails of Central Park in NYC. But much of the running was hard on the body as the sidewalks were narrow and made of a slick granite. We closed out the evening with dinner at a cool cafe where I had a Liter of beer that was the price of a standard pint in the US. We had a wonderful meal with Alex and David, two from our team as David being fluent in Spanish was a big help for Ashlee and myself in deciphering the menu.

The next morning was exploring more of the city. We went to the Galleria Pacifico, a giant shopping mall as well as various stores that lined the streets. This was place to get good Cambio/change. We then went to a bookstore like no other. It was literally an opera house converted into a bookstore. I had never been in such an incredible bookstore as this one.

We checked out some outdoor stores which was one of my goals and then a quick bite to eat, a run around Palermo and then time for our team dinner back at the hotel. It was great to see everyone for our team dinner and the excitement was at an all-time high. The next morning we would be taking a bus to the domestic airport to catch our flights to Neuquen, the northern gateway to Patagonia. How about we talk a little about Patagonia. So the whole southern half of Argentina makes up the Patagonia region. But what most people think of Patagonia, that area is further south than where we ended up. Patagonia is a wild region, full of mountains, glaciers, lakes, wind, sun, and unique wildlife. Where we ended up in Neuquén was more like as Alex put it, New Mexico where the dry alpine desert meets an arid plain.

Northern Patagonia. Photo Credits Patagoniatravel

Once we arrived in Neuquén, I had some Malbec and Pizza with Ashlee at a nearby restaurant that did not have their full menu because it was 6pm. I then ran at night up into the foothills and found my favorite section of the trip thus far. A trail network at the top of a hill that flowed out to the river valley below. One section was incredibly well-lit and people were out running even at 8:30pm. I really enjoyed the wider sidewalks and rolling hills of this city. It reminded me of a dry version of Binghamton, NY. The next morning, Alex, Jeremy, Stacy and the Drownes all went for a run out along the trails. It was so much fun getting to explore the network in the morning daylight.

We picked up some provisions at a local shop and then began our epic 6 hour bus ride to the race site. We had to take taxis to the bus terminal which was a journey. But once there, we met-up with some of the other countries. The highlight of the bus was the random dog that came into the terminal and took in all of the pets.

Bus rides are pretty uneventful. We did stop at a rest stop where I hat some baked ham flavored Lays that were okay. My breath in the aftermath…well that is another story for another day. In terms of what we saw on the bus ride. We would go through these towns that had fossils of dinosaurs then followed by scrub and desert plains. We saw some horses out there and that was the extent. Things did not get spicy until just 18 kilometers from Caviahue. We had smelled like burning rubber for an hour now and then we had to stop. The bus transmission was in distress. With bad cell reception and being in-between a mountain pass, we waited for another bus and took the time to walk around outside in the cold and take photos. When the new bus arrived, we loaded on like sardines as the windows fogged-up and our rate of speed that last 18k was at a snail’s pace. We ended joining a standard transport bus which we packed in past capacity and man did we all not want to jinx ourselves. We finally made it to the lodges to a winter wonderland of snow. It was a little tough to figure out which cabana we were staying at but once we figured it out, our cabin of 7 was able to settle in. A dinner of Kalfu was nice as in the small village of Caviahue, where the race would be held, finding food would be a challenge for the remainder of the trip.

Hear more about the time spent in Caviahue and the race site in the next post.

7-11 Day: 7 Seven-11’s, 7 Slurpees, 38 maybe 39 miles. 1 Epic Day

So on 7-11 I did something wild. I ran an event that takes runners across central Connecticut traversing 7 different 7-11’s in search of free slurpees for Free Slurpee day.

Loving the Free Slurpees.

I felt that this would be a wonderful excuse for a nice long run and to get some volume under me as I prepare for the World Snowshoe Running Championships. I am hoping to get as strong as I can to power through 12ks of high altitude snowshoe running (race is at 8,000 feet).

The run was created by Jimmy Mac, local CULTRA podcast star and RD. He was inspired when he did a 7-11 run in California and wanted to bring this concept to his home in Connecticut. And so the Slurpee run was born. The course connects Vernon to Meriden through 7 7-11’s. Your entry fee would cover the coach bus ride to the start of the run. With it being in the middle of Summer, historically, it has been as what Jimmy says is “Hot Garbage” and this year’s edition was hot but not as sticky as it has been in past editions. The 2022 version had 19 starters. We would all keep together for the most part throughout the first 4 7-11’s before the pace would pick up.

Distances between 7-11’s:
Vernon to Manchester – 6.2 miles
Manchester to East Hartford – 5.4 miles
E. Hartford to W. Hartford – 5.7 miles
W. Hartford to Newington – 3.9 miles
Newington to New Britain – 5.2 miles
New Britain to Meriden – 8.2 miles

I drove out to Meriden about and 1.5 hours from me and arrived a little early. I was able to relax and hang out before meeting-up with everyone. Once runners arrived, it was fun to meet so many new faces as I am new to the whole New England trail running scene. On the bus, lots of war stories were shared. The coach bus was a nice element and once we arrived, we had about 15 minutes to hang before right at 11am we could then start and get our first slurpee. I packed a good amount in my Nathan 12L Vaporkrar–similar to the amount I had with me for Cocodona. I wanted to carry some extra food, my wallet, plenty of fluids, a spare shirt, and a cooling towel. You want to be prepared for these type of adventures.

Location # 1–Vernon, CT —Slurpee # 1

Promptly at 11am, we entered our first 7-11 to indulge on some delicious icy drinks. I added an additional challenge of drinking a different flavor of slurpee at each location and once you consume one flavor, it would be eliminated from the list. After our first stop we then headed to Manchester which was a 6.2 mile segment. We hit some miles in town and then onto a sweet bike path. It was a nice segment here. This would be our nicest stretch of shade before we would hit the more urban/suburban stretches. We ran together as a big group and it was fun to hang with everyone. Our pace hovered around 10-11 minute miles for the first chunk.

The Cool murals en route to 7-11 #2.
Cool Sign.

Location # 2: Manchester, CT

Stop 1 I tried cherry. Stop 2, I went with the Vitamin water flavor which had no sugar and was delicious. It was fun having a crew of us come into every 7-11 and the staff there know exactly that we were in need of the free slurpee. There were a lot of cool art murals throughout this run and some nice suburban sections through here. We ran by Wickham park which is where a lot of Cross country races in High school happen in CT and we also found a sweet fountain to jump into to cool-off. It was already in the mid 80’s with a breeze so it was nice to cool down.

Location #3: East Hartford, CT

I think it was here that we had some free slurpees bought for us out of the group which was really nice since our App only gave us 1 free slurpee. They only cost like $1.15 so it was not a bank-breaker. I was getting into the groove of taking in the slurpees thought the sugar was hurting my stomach a little. It was around lunch time and had to wait until the next 7-11 for a slice of pizza.

Location #4: West Hartford

This was a top section of mine. It was so cool to go through Hartford on the big bridge, by the Traveler’s building into UCONN Hartford and other cool sections in the city. We even found a splash-pad here to cool-off.

The Travelers Building for those Golf lovers.

After running through the heart of downtown Hartford we then entered some of the rougher neighborhoods. We stuck together here as we had some vocal residents cat-call us and say a few profanities. To each their own. This is where we stopped for a while and fueled up. I had a slice of pizza, a Nesquik, slurpee and a peach iced tea. From stops 5-7 we would start to do our own thing. The group would then split-up and run our own paces. For me it was 8 minute miles. I felt good to know we were getting close to being done. It was around 3pm. I whipped out my cooling towel and that was clutch in staying cool. This stretch went by some cool shops and a vegan market that I have never seen like Vegan monkey or something.

Location # 5: Newington

It was at this stop after I made a little push that we had like a Rabi recite a ritual I think with Jake which was cool to witness. I had a coke slurpee here which was clutch though I was getting pretty tired of slurpees at this point. Now at around 4:15pm, I wanted to get going so that we could finish before too late.

Where the Rabi came by.

Location # 6: New Britian

Newington to New Britain began the series of hills as the last 14 miles had some nice rollers. I ran with the woman’s champion out of Boston,, Traci. Traci was a very strong runner as we pushed in the 8 minute range. At stop 6, Jimmy Mac said his stomach was killing him and he kept going without having a slushy. I guess that would DQ him perhaps. We left a couple of minutes after. This section was on a narrow road as the 5pm rush of cars made us have to be extra careful. It was nice lush green countryside so it was nice to have the shade and knowing the heat of the day was over with. We stuck together up and down the hills and then hit the reservoir which was where I dropped at the CUT 112. It was crazy to instantly recognize that spot and then see Castle Craig up on the hill-side. This section was so pretty though as we wound up and down a few more steep hills in some neighborhoods and then descended right down by our cars. I went over to the 7-11 and had my final slurpee and some Liquid Death to rehydrate. I separated from our ladies champ on the last climb as she wanted to stop to drink some more fluids. It was awesome working together and she is going to crush her next race.

Location # 7: Meriden

Nothing better than drinking your last slurpee after a long day: 7 hours and 51 minutes worth. It was a great run tour of Connecticut and a fun challenge. With some 38 miles of running in for the day, it was a great way to start the week. The concept of running across a bunch of different 7-11’s linking them on foot is an amazing idea and I hope perhaps you get to do something like this in the future.