Monday, 27 March 2017

I was an RD this year! -Rookie Snowshoe Race Directing

     This past winter, I had the amazing opportunity to be a Snowshoe Race Director.  The planning was in the works since last summer, and the Dion Winter Goose Chase at Shades Mills Conservation Area in Cambridge, ON became reality on February 4th, 2017.

     I was excited to bring snowshoe running to Cambridge.  The majority of the snowshoe races in Ontario are a few hours away, so the thought of a snowshoe run in my hometown was wonderful.  I teamed-up with Derrick Spafford the organizer of the Dion Ontario Snowshoe running series, and my race was part of the series.  This was really helpful because being part of a series helped with things like web exposure, registration, insurance, prizing, and Derrick patiently answered my MANY questions about putting on a snowshoe race.

    It was an interesting winter to organize anything that depended on snow, since we got very little snowfall.  Leading up to the race I was stressed.  When I was in the initial planning stages of the race, a few pessimistic individuals would say things like, "Good luck with that - we don't get enough snow here".  They were remembering past winters where there was very little snowfall.  But we do get snow.  There are winters were we just get dumped on!  I was hoping that this would be one of those winters.  But nope.  As the race approached we had absolutely no snow.  I was hoping so hard that the pessimists would be wrong and we would get enough snow to have a snowshoe race.  7 days before the race it began to snow and it continued to snow all week leading up to the race.  We had enough snow!!! I joked that as an RD, I control the weather, but the race date fell on one of the few weekends that we had snow.  So maybe I do :)

     The week leading up to the race, I was consumed with the details of the event.  I was doing many snow dances, as the snow kept coming down.  On the Thursday before the race, a City of Cambridge Outdoor Labourer strike happened, and it was all over the media that outdoor parks in Cambridge were closed.  I started getting emails wondering if the race was cancelled because of the strike.  Luckily I was using a Conservation Area not a public park, so the race was unaffected.  Phew!

     My husband Greg (and co-race director) was able to tweak the course at the last minute, and we could use the back trails for our race.  This changed our original plan of a double loop course, to a single loop - woo hoo!  Greg marked the course on Friday morning.  I had the opportunity to run it Friday afternoon, and I was so impressed by the course Greg made.  It was a rolling course of mostly double track trail through the beautiful forest.  He was even a bit mean with the last large climb in the final kilometer of the course.

    Race morning, I got to Shades Mills just before 7am and ran the course to make sure the markings were up and everything looked really good.  I was full of nervous excitement.  As I ran I was hoping that I had remembered all the important things and the things that I forgot wouldn't matter.  Soon the Nature Centre was buzzing with people before the start.  The Registration crew was busy getting everyone checked in.  My food team was busy prepping for the pancake breakfast and making pre-race coffee.  My amazing husband was gathering the marshals and having a meeting with them to direct them where to go.  The start/finish was all set up by Ed from Running Room - the inflatable banner looked great.  Time ticked away,runners gathered. I bounced from place to place making sure all my volunteers were good, and the runners were set to go.



The start was funny.  Everyone was gathered under the Running Room inflatable start/finish line to hear the final instructions from Greg and myself.  Since I named the race the "Winter Goose Chase" I had chosen a male and female runner who I thought would be close to the front and the other runners can chase them down.  Well, I chose Greg to be the lead male runner, and I had no idea who to pick for the female to be chased.  I asked my friend Jen to internet stalk the women who were registered to get a feel for some of their race times.  Jen told me that Vicki Zandbergen had some speedy times earlier in the season, so I approached her and asked if she would be my lead female.  She was surprised that I asked her, but said OK.  They were given shirts to wear with the words "GOOSE" and "GANDER" ironed on.  When I was making the shirts, I mixed up the genders and made the male shirt the "Goose" and the female shirt the "Gander".  Oops :) Luckily both Vicki and Greg didn't mind.  I apologized to them at the start during my little pre-race speech.  Soon after I was done talking, I checked with my timing crew and they were ready to go, so I counted down and rang the cowbell and the runners were off!  As I watched the pack dash off into the woods, all I could think was, "Everyone have fun and find your way back!"

 It wasn't too long before I could see the lead runners approach the finish.  It was Greg and Jeff Rowthorn running neck in neck.  In the end Jeff edged out Greg by a second at the finish.  Jeff is our next year's Gander - Congrats Jeff!  On the women's side, Alison Douma won the race, and our Goose Vicki was 2nd.  Full Results can be found here  Every runner finished the race, many with big smiles on their faces.  It was a lot of fun watching everyone run in.


 One of the things that people really liked about the race was the post-race food.  We served a pancake breakfast with all the fixings.  The smell of the nature centre was amazing....when really it should have smelt like stinky snowshoe smelled like delicious fresh roasted Baden Coffee and fresh pancakes.  After everything was over, I had a plate of those pancakes, and a cup of amazing coffee and couldn't believe that I had pulled it off.  30 of the 46 runners registered had never tried snowshoe running before the race.  They had such a positive experience, that I was asked many times if I would organized a Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race again next year.  Yes! Mark Saturday February 3rd, 2018 in your calendars for the second Dion Winter Goose Chase Snowshoe Race!

      The big thing that I learned here with my first Snowshoe Race directing experience is that I wouldn't have been able to pull off such an amazing event if I didn't have the help and support of many fantastic people and companies.  I have listed them below, but I will post a very specific Thank you email as my next blog post.  Such fantastic support.  I am so thankful.

And finally - The Cambridge Harrier's Running Club - provided so many volunteers.  Best running club ever! Thank you.