Sarah Bergeron-Larouche, elite athlete at XACT & Salomon Flight Crew, became the 2015 snowshoe world champion at the ISSF Snowshoe World Championships held during the first weekend of competition at the Pentathlon des Neiges. We caught up with her the day after her victory:
HAVE YOU SEEN A CHANGE IN SNOWSHOE RACING POPULARITY?
Absolutely, pretty much since last year there has been an increase in the popularity and number of snowshoe races, especially here in Quebec. Prior to that there was just a handful of races, now there’s a race, often a couple, every weekend especially since the www.coupedesneiges.com series started.
HOW DOES SNOWSHOE RACING DIFFER FROM REGULAR WINTER RUNNING?
Well the course itself is very different from a road race, and thats the bit I like most. I feel that snowshoes let you take much more advantage of our winters… the snow, the terrain, as well as the the fact it is much more demanding physically, making it a great training discipline too.
As far as the snowshoes go… they do let you get a lot more grip in the snow or on ice than without, so none of that “my feet spinning and sliding” feeling.… But what I like most is that I feel I get a lot closer to the sensations you get in trail running: freedom, fewer limits, the ability to go anywhere, especially in the downhills and the more snow the more the fun! The terrain and weather become part of the experience instead of something you have to endure…
DO YOU DO SPECIFIC TRAINING FOR SNOWSHOE RACING?
No, not really. My coach, Joel [Bourgeois, finished 3rd in the World Championships this weekend], prepares my winter training programmes so that I hit the summer race season which is 100% running in the best shape possible [Sarah’s a very successful cross country as well as trail racer]. So snowshoe running is a way to build more variety into my cross training which is cross-country skiing, run, skate and snowshoe. The variety also means a rest for the body, taking full advantage of the snow and that’s also good for the mind!
WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED EQUIPMENT SET-UP?
I ran this weekend in TSL305 step-in snowshoes and I also run in the new TSL Symbioz. I chose the 305s for the championships as there was a lot of soft snow whereas the Symbioz may be better suited to faster more handpicked terrain…
WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS LIKE ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON?
Cold! About -20 and very windy. But what made the race was the fresh snowfall we had in the days leading before. That, plus the fact the course wasn’t prepared until the morning of the race meant for a tough, snowy course with little flat ground, about a 200 meter section at the most and soft snow.
THE COURSE HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS AN URBAN COURSE; HOW DID YOU FIND IT?
I loved the course, it was a real change as in trail and snowshoe races we’re not used to seeing spectators. But as the course went through sections of the city where the Quebec winter carnaval was being held that meant there were lots of people cheering. And as I was in my home town it was great to hear people calling my name!
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT THE MORNING OF THE RACE?
Not a great deal… The sport is very young, so apart from the defending champion, Amber Ferreira, from the US, you dont really know who’s who… So I decided to use the free time to settle in a café and study [Sarah is training to be a chiropractor] with a good coffee…
AND THE RACE ITSELF…?
I managed to start as I wanted, not going too fast to start with and I kept 2nd position until we had run the first km. At that point I managed to overtake and take the lead, I managed to keep it for the remaining 9 km. I found it a very tough race, physically demanding, particularly because of the up and down nature of the course, and lots of snow. So the race was definitely slower but certainly challenged the athletes all the same.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WANTING TO TAKE-UP SNOWSHOE RACING?
Enjoy yourself! Do it! The best thing about snowshoes is you can really have a lot of fun running in the snow, no matter what conditions are like… you are not limited, even if its icy or in the middle of a blizzard, you can snowshoe! Technical advice.. you need to lift your knees higher than running, so that you dont trail tour snowshoes along the ground… What I love though is the feeling of playing like a kid in the snow!
You can find out which energy bar Sarah likes to pack for training and racing here…