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Q&A: Snowshoe racing great cross training for trail runners, others

Races compete in the White River Snowshoe race
Races compete in the White River Snowshoe race
X-Dog Events

Winter may mean rain and sometimes windy or iffy conditions on the trails in the Pacific Northwest but it also means snow and the opportunity to try a new adventure.

Its' finally snowing on Mt. Hood and the timing couldn't be better as outdoor enthusiasts prepare for the largest and oldest snowshoe race in the West on Sunday. caught up with the White River Snowshoe race director and asked him why snowshoeing is good crossing training for runners. Turns out it's a fun option for all.

Here's what Kevin Foreman of X-Dog Events had to say about the pros of snowshoeing, as well as some helpful hints for first timers.

Why is snowshoeing a good cross training option for trail runners?
Snowshoeing offers a nice alternative to running and trail running. For many, it seems to be away to break things up and add some variety to their training. Similar muscles are used and the intensity level and terrain can be chosen to meet the runners goal/plan.

Is it comparable to trail running? How?
Participants use similar muscles. Some choose to run on snowshoes when possible, and many are fine just hiking. Either way, it is a good leg and core workout.

What adjustments might a trail runner need to make? Anything to watch out for?
Just like in trail running, surface conditions can vary and obstacles may come in play. Snowshoers need to be aware of changing surface conditions, and potential obstacles. Because most snowshoeing takes place at altitude, runners tend to start easy and shorten their strides.

Can you describe a snowshoe race? How does it compare to running races?
A snowshoe race is similar to a running race in that there are a wide range of abilities. Many come to purge endorphins while many are satisfied just going for a brisk hike. One thing you may find different in snowshoeing, is that participants try to give themselves a little more space.

One other thing that is a little different, is that participants will often work together. Depending on conditions, trail may be deep and challenging or it could be hard packed and fast. With deep and challenging conditions participants will often work together to break trail and follow markings. As you might expect weather and course conditions can vary tremendously. Depending on conditions, course navigation can be a part of the challenge!

Do you get a lot of runners at snowshoe races? What other type of athletes compete in snowshoe races?Most participants are runners, adventure enthusiasts, or people just wanting to try something new. In past years, a good percentage of the participants entering the race were snowshoeing for the very first time. The demographics can be quite interesting. We have had world class runners show up and compete and we have had people doing their very first 5K of any kind. Most people racing have limited snowshoe racing experience, if any.

Do you have any tips for first timers?
Pace yourself! Go out easy with small controlled steps. Let the fast dudes break trail and pack snow for you. When you are at altitude and go out too hard and go into oxygen debt it is extremely hard to recover. Most importantly, have fun and make friends! Second most importantly, FOLLOW THE COURSE NOT THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU. Often people see someone and just follow them, or get on a packed trail and assume that is part of the course. Courses are marked with an abundance of markings. If you have gone 50 yards and have not seen a course marking, you are likely off course.

Any other advice/tips for race day?
Always plan to arrive to a snowshoe race plenty early and bring water. Most race directors will supply refreshments. However, you are normally at a mountain, and weather conditions, remote locations and aliens (many times beer has just randomly disappeared) can sometimes impact the refreshments and amount of them. Many forget that others will be using the mountain too, and traffic and travel can take longer than normal. You do not want to be rushed putting your gear on.

The number one "mistake" new snowshoers make is over dressing. Snowshoeing is exercise, and you get warm fast. Layers are recommended.

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