The last in-person race I had done was in March of 2020. That is until February 13th, 2021, when I found myself “duck walking” up to the start line in snow shoes at Level 32 Racing’s Snow Lovers Loop 5k/8k. I had forgotten how much I missed what a start line felt like, with actual people there all excited for similar journeys, the anticipation, the fresh legs and unwrinkled race bibs. Of course, it’s not exactly the same. There are no longer mass huddles of people, no big start or finish line gatherings. We are all aware of the world we live in, and we are all taking whatever we can get right now. And in my opinion, everyone did a good job of staying away from others for this event and still making it fun. The race director staggered people in their family/friend groupings, and everyone was bundled up so it never felt unsafe.
The Snow Lovers Loop is a snowshoe race, and everyone has the option of running a 5k loop or an 8k loop. The 8k follows the same 5k as everyone else, but there’s an additional smaller loop for the final 3k of the race. The race takes place in Crescent, OR at Odell Lake Lodge & Resort. It’s a beautiful little spot off the beaten path. I opted to sign my husband and I up for this race to celebrate his upcoming 40th birthday as well as an early Valentine’s Day getaway. Covid has hit us all hard, and we needed a weekend to focus on ourselves and to get away from our kids. I called the Lodge and fortunately they had just ONE room available, so I snapped it up. It turned out to be the absolute best medicine we could have hoped for.
A storm blew in just before we were to leave town, but luckily there wasn’t enough snow and ice to stop our 4Runner. We got to the lodge without incident and the staff was very friendly. Our room housed a queen-sized bed and a bunk bed as well as a small bathroom, and though it was small, it served our needs well. We were grateful we didn’t need to go far for the race the next day and the restaurant downstairs had just opened due to the new Covid regulations and guidelines. Everyone we encountered was friendly and down-to-eart, and we started talking about how fun it would be to come back in the summer months to truly enjoy the lake.
The race started on a Saturday at noon, so we had a lot of time to get some breakfast and coffee and test out our snowshoes. Snowshoes are available to rent at the lodge, as well as skis and snowmobiles, but I would strongly advise you arrange for this in as much advance as possible. As mentioned, we got the last room available, and I heard people inquiring about rentals and unfortuntately finding some slim pickings, if any at all.
The weather was absolutely perfect for the event. There were some snow flurries but also patches or sun poking through the sky and it had snowed a good deal the night before. We had some beautiful crunching under our feet and a gorgous blanket of crisp white everywhere.
The trails were wide, groomed, and easy to navigate. The course was marked with cones and signage at every turn. There were a couple of aid stations for us and some volunteers out there to cheer us along. I noticed that a lot of the participants were out there running on their snowshoes, which seemed impossible to me with the weight of my winter clothes and the awkward heavy feel of my feet, but they made it look easy. In addition to this, there were people like us, clearly just out to have a good time and in no rush to finish. There were families out there, kids that were super excited to get to trek around in the snow. Almost all of them were doing the 5k. What is great about the course is that you can always bail on the last 3k if you don’t feel up to a whole 8k, which is exactly what my husband opted to do. His hip flexors were screaming and he was getting a nasty blister on his right foot, so he called it quits after the first 5k. I kept going, and by the time I’d reached the turnaround and found the last volunteer, she cheered loudly and handed me a piece of chocolate and a beer to enjoy for my victory.
If you’ve never experienced this course, I’d tell you it’s more challenging than expected if you aren’t used to snowshoeing. It takes a lot of energy to get through the snow on snowshoes and it also takes a lot longer than a typical road race would. There were a few hills too, and those definitely slowed us down. I will say, however, that I did bring my snowshoe poles and I really didn’t need them. I will also say my hamstrings and glutes hurt the next day, and I consider myself to be a pretty active person.
The volunteers and Level 32 Racing were wonderful and very accommodating. This event was really fun and my husband and I decided we want to make this a tradition every year. We are also looking into taking the boys to Odell Lake Resort sometime, as they offer all sorts of fun activities all year round.
I highly recommend trying this event yourself, but be warned.. if you decide you want to stay at the lodge, plan early, as they book up fast!! Next year’s event will be on February 12th, and we are putting it on our calendar.