Sunday, March 9, 2008


I'm kind of sad.  Sad that the Yeti snowshoe race series is over for another year!

Last fall I was super curious when Justin & Carey started talking up the Yeti's.  I love running and I love the snow, so was this going to be awesome or what?  Then I tried running my first snowshoe training sessions and races.... and quickly learned that, in many ways, it was nothing like running, it was way (holy cow WAY) harder!   However, once I got that little difference figured out the Yeti's started to grow on me and now here I am preparing a blog report for the last race in the series, and feeling a bit sad that it's over!  

The series went out with a bang at the Cypress Event, with the Yeti series final and the Canadian National Snowshoe Championships combined, it was another stellar event from start to finish.  The course was fabulous and I heard many veteran racers refer to it as a favorite.  The conditions were a bit sloppy in the open sections, kinda felt like you were running in a giant slurpee, but when your doing it with 175 other people and Dave Norona's emcee'ing is cheering you on somehow you still get through!   Luckily the slurpee sections were few, and the shaded single track was in great running shape, which allowed speedy performances to dominate the day.

Our fearless leader Justin lead the team (and most of the field!) into the finish line, placing 3rd in the open men's category and wowing us all.  Jeff who's usually hot on Justin's heals was instead hot with flashes of his week-long-fever-hell, and had to throttle-back on the intensity and focus on finishing.   Throttling-it-up was 'Big Jay' Latiff; he had his best Yeti finish so far this season in an awesome performance and laid down a very impressive finishing sprint (see photo documentation below).   I had a great run, loved the rolling single track and managed to hold off a few girls hot on my heals to hold 4th place in the open women's category.  Also running with us at Cypress were Trevor Davis and Norm Barmeier, who, in their third time on snowshoes, also had super strong runs and huge smiles at the finish!.... how does the Yeti do that to people?.... hammer them to the ground, max out their heart rates, put them nearly into respiratory distress... and yet still have them smiling at the finish line?!  It's awesome.

The smiles carry on through to Taylor's Crossing Pub where the awards have been held after each of the last three Yeti races.  An awesome venue with great service and free Sleeman's Beer for the racers, not to mention quality food deals!  The sponsors showered us with door prizes and awards, and allow us the backdrop to forge new friendships and foster old ones.  Good times thanks to the Yeti experience!  

A huge thank-you to all the sponsors for supporting an outstanding race series.  An extra special HUGE thank-you to Helly Hansen for keeping us warm in some exceptional gear and for continuing to sponsor the Yeti Snowshoe Race Series!  We're looking forward to next year already!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Riemer and Mark take 1st and 2nd at Dirty Duo

Teammates duking it out!

Kim and Jason 3rd in Relay

Defending a title blows. If you don’t win it’s considered a failure and everyone seems to be gunning for you. I was trying pretty hard to downplay my anticipation of the 8th annual Dirty Duo, one of the best North Shore events. Although the Duo offers up a full menu of racing options, 50km run, 25km run, 15km run, 30km mountain bike ride and relay the title event is the solo category, where athletes first run a 25+ km loop of Mt Seymour’s finest trails including Ned’s Atomic Dustbin then transition to the bike to repeat a similar 30km loop. I’m a huge fan of the technical nature of the Seymour trails. Riding Ned’s on a xc bike is an amazing rush and truly extends the bike and the rider to their limit.

Kim Steed of Steed Cycles, had given me a good pre-race talk and said that after looking down the list of participants that I had a good chance. After racing all these years I’ve come to realize that there’s always some unknown athlete a lot faster than you waiting to make their mark. In 2007 uberathlete Wendy Simms put the boots to me, and I was only able to win by seconds as she chased me right down to the finish line. This year I knew that my chances of winning were going to be slim as my training partner and team mate Jeff Riemer was in great shape. For the past two months he had punished me on our weekly training rides. Competition between close friends and teammates is a strange thing. On one hand, you have your own personal desire to succeed, yet on the other side if you’re going to get beat it might as well be by a good buddy.

The race started quickly with Mark Bennett racing in the relay category taking the lead and pushing the pace. Jeff and I settled in with 50km athlete Jen Segger, who set a great pace. The first two and half hours went by quickly. I felt pretty shattered entering the transition, but I was anxious to get on my bike. Jeff was right behind me, incredibly since it was only his 1st year of running and the first time he’d competed at this distance. I told myself that if I could get to the top of Ned’s before he did that I could win. The entire time I was on the bike I felt like I was being chased by Satan. Every time I felt myself slowing down I stood and hammered on the pedals, I knew Heffay was coming. Near the top of Ned’s I thought I was home free, no sign of any riders until I heard this big whoop, freaking Riemer. I rode Ned’s fast and loose, probably having my best ride ever down the classic trail. I didn’t come out of my pedals once. Praying I wasn’t going to flat I finished the Camp Brick trails cautiously and sprinted for the finish. It wasn’t until that final minute that I realized how much I had wanted to win this race. This little race, that the big time pros ignored was my race for another year. I was stoked crossing the line, my sponsor and friend Kim Steed, who finished 3rd in the relay after a great run was there as well. I was super happy to win wearing the Steed colors. Riemer finished 60 seconds behind me. Jeff had put 35 minutes into the next competitor who had started the bike ride at the same time. With twins expecting in August I know that this might be my last season of competitive racing. As I take Jeff on a tour of all my favorite races I can only hope that he’ll win next year and for years to come, but for 08 I get to be the Dirty Duo champ one more time.

As always we'd like to thank the fantastic volunteers, sponsors and organizers for hosting an amazing event.

Written by JMark