Cold, blustery weather no match for snowshoe racers
BY MARGARET CALDBICK
Staff Nick Best of Ottawa, his eyelashes and eyebrows painted white with frost like Old Man Winter, flew over the finish line with a time of 36:41, 25 seconds ahead of fellow frontrunner Charley Murphy of Toronto and Gatineau’s Alexandre Michel ( 40: 22) to capture First Overall Male in Saturday’s 7.55-kilometre Summerstown Forest stage of the Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series.
It was Best’s third victory in the championship battle that ends this weekend on Feb. 21 in Napanee with the Red Barn Snowshoe Race.
Best and 28 other athletes braved the frigid temperatures (-14 °C with a windchill of -24) and slippery driving conditions to get to the race.
There were 10 no-shows because of the weather, and a group of five racers from Ottawa arrived almost half an hour after the start of the race, but ran the course anyway.
For those who came, it was a great day in woods, and first-timers at the picturesque site were impressed with the fast and technical course, the beauty of the woods, and the race’s organizers.
“I am here because Gilles did a great job at Morrisburg, and I wanted to do it again,” said Best who was racing in Summerstown for the first time.
He was referring to race organizer Gilles Parisien who inaugurated an exciting and new Jan. 10 nighttime race for the series at Upper Canada Village (Morrisburg). It was the first race in the series with a course that looped through the site’s historic village, its buildings lit up by close to a million lights. Best won that race too. “I’m getting OK at it,” he said about snowshoeing which he took up three years ago. “I’m a runner at my core and it does translate reasonably well,” added the understated marathoner and trail racer.
The race turned out to be very much a family affair in keeping with the Family Day weekend. Celine Best of Gatineau was on the same winning streak as her brother, finishing first in the women’s category. And Charley and Katy Murphy, a couple who drove in from Toronto for the race, grabbed second spots.
Local favourite Rob Lefebvre, who lives just down the road from Summerstown Forest in Williamstown, had to settle for fourth place this time, after mounting the podium the previous two years.
“Once you got warmed up it was beautiful,” commented Lefebvre, who said that the race was very fast this year. This was the second Dion race this season for Lefebvre, who has been competing in the Mad Trapper races in Wakefield, winning second and third spots. That series winds up this weekend.
In the women’s division, Joan McCuaig from Newington, finished fifth, just ahead of Jennifer Gareau of Williamstown, and won the Masters Female class
The race was organized by the Friends of the Summerstown Trails (FOTST) with 12 volunteers on site.
“It was beautiful; I can’t believe it, the trails are amazing here,” said women’s first-place winner Celine Best. “This series of races has been a wonderful opportunity to discover all these parks across Ontario. We’ve been racing in a different place every weekend, and it’s been fabulous.”
Something new this year was the involvement of Bryan Lambert from Kingston-based Running By Design, a race management services company. Lambert coordinated the race results and on his way back to Kingston, posted them from his laptop.
at 8-15-1. Char-Lan did not have a team in this division this year.
Playoff matchups set
The UCMHL playoff format is first to four points in a series. NGS will play sixth-seeded Smiths Falls, starting in Finch on Feb. 21 at 12:30 p.m.
The Glens are matched with second-place South Grenville. Game two is in Alexandria on Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. –
SNOWY SPRINT: Jennifer Gareau of Williamstown, front, and Lynn McCuaig of Lancaster were among the good turnout of local runners in this year’s snowshoeing race.