MANNSVILLE The thick snow. The quick incline changes. The thin trails.
Even for those who run regularly, the terrain at Winona Forest Sunday upped the stakes for the fourth annual Stone Wall 5k Snowshoe Race.
Steven C. Mussi, a Syracuse native who has completed an ultramarathon and a marathon, found himself with sore legs after his trip over the course.
Its pretty grueling, he said. Being a runner, youre used to using a lot of different muscles.
Benjamin D. Harper, 17, a senior with track and field experience at Mexico High School, won the race with a time of 27:55.
He said finishing the course was all about mental focus.
I think of how youre going to be able to do this, how youre going to be able to make it, he said. All of a sudden your legs just die. Youve just got to put that aside and tell yourself you can get through it.
Despite the challenge, the event had its biggest turnout yet.
With about 130 racers this year congregating at the Civilian Conservation Corps camp off County Route 90, the total doubled that of last year.
I think people want to get out in the winter, race director Matthew G. Westerlund said. To get out with other people, its camaraderie.
A big key to the turnout was getting the word out about the accessibility of the course, despite its challenges. Though plenty raced the course, many others went through at a more leisurely pace.
Its challenging enough for experts, and easy enough for novices to walk and learn snowshoeing, said Carolyn K. Rees, president of the Winona Forest Recreation Association.
Even before the race, Karen Y. Richmond, Henderson, admitted she was nervous. Its a little more work, she said. Oh, God help us.
Despite the daunting challenges, she said, it was worth it to go with her friends Julie A. West and Sherry L. Ruoff. The three in September completed a Tough Mudder obstacle course run in Toronto.
Its our bucket list, Ms. Richmond said. We just keep adding things to that.
Rounding out the top three finishers were Elliott B. Megquier, of Fort Drum, with a time of 28:39, and Eric T. Hulbert, Mexico, with a time of 28:58.
The top female finisher was Rachel Yerden, who finished with a time of 33:43.
Video from the race can be seen at http://wdt.me/winona-snowshoerace