Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Snowshoeing in Search of Sasquatch

...And now Part 2 in the cliffhanger I left you with, regarding the toe:

As I write this, I've still been avoiding contact on it.  I've been walking around it, and avoiding putting any pressure on it.  My right calf has taken the brunt of it, because favoring my toe has made it do more work and it's pretty much been pulling or in threat of pulling at any given time since last Wednesday. 

Friday night as we drove up to Traverse City, I was still pretty unsure whether I would be able to do much at the Bigfoot Snowshoe Race.  Not only that, but we kept heading north and I didn't see any snow, despite what the Running Fit people said in their email.  Even in Traverse City, there wasn't a lot on the ground.  Was there enough to use snowshoes?  Sure, but not really enough to where they'd be feasible, and definitely not enough to where they'd be required.

We settled into our hotel room, and Jason called to ask what we planned on doing for the night. We eventually settled on trying out the North Peak Brewery. The food was okay, but the brews were really tame and built for people that have no adventurous beer taste whatsoever (even the IPAs). I wasn't impressed, especially when everything that looked good to me ended with our waitress informing us that they were "out" or it was unavailable, and that was after waiting 30+ minutes. North Peak, if this gets back to you, you gotta ditch that Sun.-Thurs. menu, or at least don't give it to people that are there on a Friday or Saturday. After getting back from that, I did a little leg and toe soaking in the hot tub, read a little bit of the Theo Fleury autobiography, watched a bit of HBO, and went to bed.  I woke up to a truck scraping the pavement outside my window while he was plowing some snow.  I looked out the window and was immediately excited.  We got bombarded with about 5-8" of snow overnight.

I turned off the alarm before it ever went off, and started getting ready, thinking maybe I'd get an earlier start than planned with the weather.  I was ready to go about 7:00 and hadn't heard from Jason yet, so I went off for some continental breakfast alongside all the couples with small children that woke them up way before they were ready.  The early start didn't happen, because the weather held Jason up from getting to the hotel, and it made us miss a turn out on the roads.

I can usually find the place otherwise.  The Timber Ridge campground and resort is actually where my family went on vacation every summer until my dad passed away in 2003.  For most of those years it was actually a Jellystone Park, with plenty of activities to keep us kids busy, an arcade where I hustled older kids for quarters on Centipede, and where Yogi, Boo Boo, and Cindy Bear all came to visit our campsite while my parents made us dinner over a campfire.  Even when we got older, it was something we looked forward to every year, and instead of being excited by seeing Boo Boo, I'd get asked to fill in and play him.  There was something for everyone, even when it became privately owned and ditched its franchise name.
Strapping In
The race started without us, so we tried to get out snowshoes on in a mad rush to get going.  We probably should have at least tried to put them on once before, and maybe even walked in them.  Yeah, Jason and I had never even walked in snowshoes before Saturday.  We're just not good with this whole prepping thing.  If there's ever any sort of apocalypse, don't look to us for any survival cues.  I just plan on following DEMCAD's lead, ha ha.
Photo Op
The race started off easy enough and off we went, running in our snowshoes for the first time. About 1/4 mile in we ran into a single-file track and we were stuck behind the walkers and had to stop and walk with them.  It opened up a few times, but we still got stuck behind walkers.  I was still favoring the big toe on my right foot, so the stopping and starting, along with the cold and the new angle I was putting my foot down started to take its toll on me.  My right calf started to tense up, and after that I realized how exhausting this snowshoeing really is.  I was zonked.

I was still somewhere in the middle of the pack until I realized my heel was rubbing.  I stopped and realized my back strap and the plastic grip on it had found its way to my heel and dug in just inside my shoe.  After I stopped and got that away from there, I realized I was bleeding a bit and it actually hurt a bit.  I made an adjustment and followed the group up a steep hill where it was all single-file once again.  A lot of people were holding onto branches and trees for dear life, and trying not to fall backwards, taking 5 or 6 people out with them.  Not all of them succeeded.  There were a few human bowling incidents, but I managed to make it without incident.

After that debacle, I made three more stops to adjust my shoes and that damn strap to relieve some of the heel pain.  It wasn't happening, and I was totally bombing this race.  Jason caught up and stopped with me, asking what was wrong.  Apparently he had taken a pretty good spill back there and was recovering time from learning how to stand back up on snowshoes.  We ended up sticking together and finished the first 5K loop.

After the first 5K, I did a complete stop and sit by the water station, trying desperately to find some way to rig my shoes for it to not rub.  It wasn't happening.  If there were any more people in the 10K behind us, they all called it a day and took the right turn for the 5K cut-off.  There was nobody passing us at the aid station.  I seriously thought about turning back to the 5K finish myself and just calling it a day, but, as many people have learned, Jason and I are very stubborn about finishing things.  We didn't care if we were last, and I didn't care if I ripped all my heel's skin off (more about this later), we came up for a 10K and dammit, we were doing one.

Jason and I push on into the second 5K loop with only each other and the snowy woods as company.  We lost the trail a few times and had to stop and look for the next orange/pink marker to know where to go, because it all looked the same at this point, and we had nobody ahead to follow.  About halfway through, the nut on one of the bolts on Jason's snowshoe found its way off, and he was down to only his boots with one crampon still strapped to it.  We made a couple "Cool Runnings" references about having to finish the race and continued on.  We climbed that steep hill again, and came running in the wrong way to the finish line, until my wife marshalled us back over to the left path.

We tried our best to fake a good-looking finish, despite the fact we walked 90% of the second loop and it took nearly 2 hours for us to finish the 10K, finishing dead last in our age group.  When I got in, my wife told me she had been waiting out in the cold and listening to Jack Johnson (that the PA was playing), two things she hates, so she could see me finish. I grabbed some water, some of that awful HEED stuff, took off the snowshoes, and went inside the lodge.  I was hoping for coffee or hot chocolate, but had to settle for a chili to warm me up.
I wore my Dad's old coat up there to kind of sentimentally bring part of him with me for the race to his favorite old spot, and it was soaked from both sides.  I was soaked everywhere, so we didn't stick around very long because I got really cold, really fast.  Basically as soon as I got that chili down and got a photo of the winners' Bigfoot trophy (there were 4 for each gender winner of both races), we were out of there.  I cured the cold by putting on the new Bigfoot long-sleeve and taking a short trip to Speedway for the hot beverage I so craved (and gas for the Vibe).

Bigfoot Winners' Trophy
We went back to the hotel, and I peeled half of my heel skin off in one motion, like it was a band-aid.  My toe looked pretty gross again, but I didn't feel that because it was frozen.  My calf was on the pulling borderline.  My legs were just beat to hell.  So I showered, and bandaged up a bit.  I did more hot tubbing, and we went back out in the world for some food.

After that we went to Right Brain Brewery, which was much more my speed.  Their bartender gave us a couple additional samples based on what we initially chose, and threw a couple suggestions our way.  She was very very helpful, and hooked me into a couple pints of beers I may have picked around.  They also carried the Black Star Farms Celestial hard cider, which was really smooth, dry, and tasty.  It's really high up there on my cider list now.

There were quite a few styles I really liked and appreciated (some too much), like the Firestarter Chipotle Porter.  Plenty of places have tried to make a beer like this and failed miserably.  Right Brain's is very impressive, with a great roasty taste on the trip down and a nice slow tingling burn in the aftertaste.  I haven't had better.  The tamer, staple beers are also done really well, so well that I was impressed and could have sat with pints of them all night as well.  Even some of the crazier brews, like the amber made from sweet potatoes, are accessible in their tastes.  It was a really great place and is fitting somewhere in the top 3 out of breweries we've been to for me.  Jason and Jessi both loved it too, so it was a clean sweep.
All in all, I'd call the weekend a great success.  I was able to do the race despite my toe, and despite shredding my other foot during the race.  Prices are really depressed up there this time a year, so it didn't cost very much to do this trip and get a really nice hotel.  I think this may become tradition.  The bar for this race has been set very low, so there's little chance we won't do better next time.  Besides it's fun to go to the beach in winter...right?
Are we doing this beach thing right?
Before you find your way into a snowshoe race of your very own, I have a few pointers:

1)  Make sure your snowshoes are on completely correct and tightened properly.  Even if the race is starting without you and there's no time to spare, you'll have better luck in the long run just making them right.  Don't believe me, and you'll learn the hard way too.
2)  Bring an extra coat with you so you'll have a dry coat to change into
3)  Even if you have zero access to snow, walk around in them on some grass and get used to the feel.  It's not a normal step that you'll be taking
4)  Wear shoes that leave a good deal of space between the end of your toes and the front of the hole in the shoe.  That way you won't get a clog of snow stuck under the front of your foot that can't fall through the snowshoe.
5)  Don't wear a sweater under your coat unless it's pushing near single digit (F) temps.  You won't be that cold.
6)  Make sure your pockets are zipped closed or are empty.  Anything in them will get lost with the bouncing about.
7)  When going up any steep hill, if you're not really good and balanced, wait until your shoe catches and sticks until you take the next step.
8)  Tape your heels and/or wear thick socks.  Your shoes will be moving around on your feet much more than they usually do, especially if you didn't put your shoes on properly.
9)  Be thin, because they don't even make the racing style rated for my weight (that I saw anyway).  I'm guessing it's because there's a very limited population of fat running snowshoers.
Shirt, Bib, and Button


  1. I give you mad props for doing this race with your toe all jacked up. It looked scurry as hell and there's no way I'd have risked it! Also, I would've given up after the first 5k, way to man up. I hope the toe, heel, and calf are feeling much better!

  2. i'm super impressed. i would have ZERO clue how to walk in those things. and i love the big foot award thingy. lol!

    i'm coming to see the Redhead in two weeks and we're doing a 5K in Traverse City. you all should join us! there's a winter wow fest, apparently it's got a lot of cold weather activities...i'm from Florida so this sounds fun to me. LOL

  3. You've given me a great vacation idea, Brent. Craft Brew 10K's! Visit a different Brewing pub everyday of your vacation after going out for 10K. Now where do I want to go . . .?

  4. thanks for the tips! sadly it looks like this weekends race will definitely be a trail run, but there is still hope for next week. I'll be sure to bring an extra coat and keep my pockets empty!

  5. how fun!! the bf rides that trail for the Iceman, and it's brutal without snow!!

    hope you feel better soon!

  6. Whoa! I think this is a comments PR!

    M: Thanks. The toe doesn't really hurt much now, but it does make weird cracking noises, so I don't know what to think. The heel has a new layer of skin, and the calf screamed at me for 4 miles the other day, but I made due. They'll all be force to fall in line, don't worry.

    B: I'd like to, but I don't see it happening this month. Somewhat because of dollars, and because we just got back from there. I think our paths will have to cross at some other destination(s).

    G: I like the cut of your jib, sir. I'd love to see a race that requires a beer at every mile marker. A 13 beer Half-Marathon would be wicked. Maybe a mile and a shot? Maybe I'll host my own pilot version of this at some point.

    (C): I hope you get your snow and I hope I gave you something that can help. I thought I should get it out there before you do yours, just in case.

    R: Thanks, that Iceman is kind of a big deal, I hear. There were a few of the people referencing it all throughout the race and afterwards.


Locations of visitors to this page