Remember last year?  I was recruited to run the snowshoe leg for a women’s team from Victoria. Although they called themselves a fun, recreational team, they turned out to be super intense and competitive. In fact, at the post-race beer garden, the team captain started rattling off the stats for each leg, telling us who had let more teams pass during each leg. It was a bit of a nasty shock for me – especially since these stats were not available anywhere!

So this year, I reclaimed my free-agent status and waited to see if a better option came about. And the better option soon appeared.

Just before Christmas, my friend Rae texted me, asking if I’d like to be on her long-standing (15 years!) Snow to Surf team. It soon became apparent that she was hanging out with those teammates as she texted. The whole team was on Denman at a Christmas Craft Fair, in the throes of purchasing costumes for this year’s race. Costumes?! Now this sounded like the kind of team that I desired! I said yes immediately.

Tie-Dyed, Thigh High Socks - locally sourced here in the Valley!

Tie-Dyed, Thigh High Socks – locally sourced here in the Valley!

As race day approached, the emails were flying between all the members of the team. The inside jokes and comradery were fun to read and I simply sat back and enjoyed being an outsider peaking in on a tight-knit group of girlfriends.

The night before the event, we all got together for homemade chili and the annual ‘forging signatures’ party. We donned our costumes – consisting of sateen capes, colourful wigs and thigh-high socks – and headed to the race check-in and costume judging, complete with a group cheer and bundles of spirit.

One of our 10 team members, decked out in super-hero style.

One of our 10 team members, decked out in super-hero style.

In the morning, we met up and carpooled to the starting lines. Krista, our downhill skier started the race off. As I waited in the snowshoe corral, I was struck by the grace and beauty of the downhill skiers as they sailed effortlessly down the mountain.

Graceful, Smooth and Speedy! The downhill skiers made it look easy (even though they had to start their leg with a grueling uphill run in ski boots).

But, turning my head, I was confronted with the agony ahead of me as I saw those first snowshoers reduced to a walk as they regained lost elevation in a one kilometer hike. Even those frontrunners were walking within minutes of the hand-off.

The Snowshoe Death March – Up, Up and Away!

When Krista appeared on the downhill slope, I readied myself to grab the wrist band and pass her the car key. Once the hand-off was complete, I turned and ran out of the chute and up the mountain. In no time at all, I was reduced to a walk. Although it was a short leg, the route went up a ski run for one kilometer before flattening out and eventually easing downhill for the remaining 1.5 kilometers. By the time I began, the spring snow was well-trodden and slushy, providing no traction at all. For every step I took, my foot plant would skid back to its starting place. I mentally focussed on all the hill training I have been doing recently with my Cumberland Grinders and told myself that this was no tougher than hiking/running Pity The Fool, Stub and Grub up to 620 meters. The snowshoers around me were all struggling too. Many had stopped trailside with their hands on their knees, gasping for air. Could the 1590m (5200 ft) elevation be more of a factor than fitness for all of us seaside dwellers? It was easy to pass people simply by continuing with a determined walking pace, although my lungs were screaming and I could taste that tinny, metallic taste of blood! A speedy woman passed me and I mentally attached a bungy cord to her, allowing her to pull me along. Soon enough, the incline eased and we were treated to a flat section where I tried to get my breathing under control. I tried to stick to the untracked, groomed parts of the trail that provided a firm footing. As the route snaked more steeply downhill, I would move onto the slushy, tracked snow which allowed me to glissade farther with each running step.

Suddenly, I could hear the cheers from the next transition area. I couldn’t believe that the snowshoe leg was already coming to an end. I managed to push around the last corner and figure out the transition chute. Barb, our nordic skier, was exactly where I expected her to be and, with a quick wristband exchange, she was off and I was free to stumble around, gasping for air and trying to get my eyeballs looking the same direction. I didn’t time myself but I guess that it took less than 20 minutes to complete.

I found my way to the parking area and saw Krista waiting for me. Together we drove down to watch the nordic to road runner to trail runner to mountain biker exchanges before heading off for lunch and a costume adjustment. We rejoined the festivities at the road biker to canoe transition and then moved on to the finish line.

Our team finished in 5:45.31. In the official results we were 100/142 overall and 7/7 for women’s masters.

The results board has us in 104th position (Sno2Slurzz) but we ended up in 100th place in the official results!

The results board has us in 104th position (Sno2Slurzz) but we ended up in 100th place in the official results!

The costume contest, which was our real goal, unfortunately ended up being awarded to a less-deserving team. All the same, we made a good showing at the beer garden, having the largest pile of bags in the whole area and having our photo taken many times over by adoring fans. One of those photos even made the local newspaper the next day, in spite of our obvious beer consumption.

One of our many team photos. Perhaps being featured in the local paper is a better reward than a silly costume contest!

One of our many team photos. Perhaps being featured in the local paper is a better reward than a silly costume contest!

Not only did I luck out in being with a high-spirited, truly recreational team, I think I have found a new group of friends to hang with. Go Slurzzz!