Finger Lakes Running Club Trail Series | Super Frosty Loomis Snowshoe Race 2022 | New York
I love to try new things and on this day I got a twofer. I put snowshoes on my feet for the first time ever. And then I went and ran a 5k wearing said snowshoes.
I don’t know if I would have participated in this event otherwise, but I made a commitment to myself to run all the events in the Finger Lakes Running Club trail series and the Super Frosty Loomis Snowshoe Race is part of that trail series so I was committed to doing it. And I am glad I did. It was something fun and new.
Trying something totally new
I am always up for a challenge and this was such a unique challenge for me. So many variables and aspects to this event that I had no experience with and that I had no idea how they would impact my running. I am not a fast runner but I am pretty experienced on trails so I have a good sense of how I will perform given a particular course distance and elevation. At very least I have a sense of how much exertion will be required for me to run a race.
I am not a graceful runner. I do not have an ideal stride. Sometimes my feet even make contact with the opposite leg as I move through my stride. And I have huge feet. I though all of these factors might lead up to some very complex and eventful snowshoe running. Add more size and volume to my ungainly and chaotic stride and I was pretty sure I would fall at least once.
I managed to have a few friends join me for the race. We were all really excited. We made sure to get to the race nice and early. I wanted to have time to get those snowshoes on my feet and practice in them before the race. After getting my snowshoes on and adjusted I was able to get a miles worth of walking and running in them before it was time to get ready for the race. I was feeling ok about it. But I did learn by nearly falling over that snowshoes are not made for going backwards. I made some last minute adjustments to the fit of my snowshoes.
Running a snowshoe race
When the clock finished counting down we were off and the race was underway. There were a good number of people who clearly knew what they were doing and pulled away from the pack quickly. I was not one of them. I am not a pulls away from the pack kind of guy on the best of my days. And especially not so in snow with snowshoes on.
The beginning of the course was uphill. It wasn’t long before I found myself power hiking up the trails. Just trying to stay connected to the group of runners I found myself with.
The biggest challenges of the race were figuring out both how to run in the snow and how to best stride with the snowshoes to make best use of them. Running in the snow, even though it was somewhat packed down most of the way was similar to running on sand. That is if the sand might suddenly drop off unexpectedly on one side and you sink into it about a foot. Follow the leader was the name of the game. See where the previous runners were finding the best traction. Try not to get stuck in someone else’s sink hole.
So running on a lose surface added an extra level of exertion required to gain momentum and keep moving. And that is a lot of fun going up hill you know.
Adjusting to snowshoes
Then there was trying to compensate for the added weight of the snowshoes. I wouldn’t call the snowshoes I was using heavy but it was at very least like doubling the weight of your normal shoes. Imagine trying to run with an oversized pair of sandals or flip flops on. Especially for the back end of the snowshoes they reacted just like a flip flop. Fortunately the FLRC offered snow shoe rentals and I took advantage of that because I didn’t have snowshoes of my own. And that definitely worked out to my advantage because the snowshoes that FLRC provided were much smaller and lighter looking than standard snowshoes used for just walking on the snow.
I felt a little more comfortable in the snowshoes on sections of trail that were relatively flat. Where I really liked the snowshoes was on the downhills. The snowshoes had these large metal claws underneath aligned with the ball of the foot for traction. This was perfect for downhill running. I was able to open up much more on the downhills than I would have expected given the amount of snow there was. It wasn’t fast by any means because I was already exhausted but it felt so much better and more comfortable to run the downhills in the snowshoes.
Snowshoes vs. dirt trails
It is always hard to compare times and distances for a trail race because terrain and elevation makes such a big difference, but if I wasn’t significantly slower I sure felt slower in the snow with snowshoes. I felt like I was working a lot harder than I would have expected to be given the terrain at any point along the race. I was more tired than I would have been for the pace I finished with and the elevation profile of the course had it been regular dirt trails. So if you had any doubt snow shoe running is harder than regular trail running. I think seeing the finishing times of the race winners confirms that as well.
I would like to go back out and se how it feels without the snow to truly compare.