Snowshoeing and Diving: the same?

Shutting out everything but the trail
As the date of the US Snowshoe Championships draws closer, I have been struggling to define what I enjoy about snowshoeing. On the surface it just seems like it's just trail running with heavy shoes at a slower pace, but when I think of it that way it seems silly and pointless, and is not a satisfying answer.

I truly enjoy trail running, but in a different way from snowshoeing. When I am cruising along a dirt trail I find satisfaction in the agility it takes to move quickly over rocky terrain and I love how quickly I can move from meadow to forest to tundra. That sense is not there snowshoeing. I can still get up to a beautiful ridgeline, but it will take me two hours longer than in the summer. There is nothing fast or agile about that.

Snowshoeing is different. I still get the mythical runners high, or whatever it actually is, when running on snowshoes and during races I still enjoy the thrill of competition. But while snowshoeing I also experience a deep sense of quiet calmness. The snow dampens all noises in the forest. There are few birds chirping and no rocky footsteps to be heard. Even though I am out in the cold working just hard enough to stay warm, I feel like I am in a warm blanket of solitude where nothing else matters. There are no distractions and I become part of the landscape.
Christmas Tree worms that I had to drift up to before they hid

The only other time I have consciously noticed this phenomenon is while diving. While diving the water shuts out ambient noises and dulls other sensations. My breathing is shallow and every move is calculated to save oxygen. I try to drift with the current along a reef looking for sponges, worms, and shrimp, rather than swim against the motion. It is a very calming experience for me.


Calm, but ready to jet away, like a squid
Despite snowshoe racing being adrenaline filled and aerobically taxing, I still experience that same calming feeling partway through the race that I get when I am diving. Everything aside from what is on the trail falls away from me (except for moose prints in the trail, that snaps me back). That calming feeling is probably why I have enjoyed strapping extra weight to my shoes this winter and I hope I can find a short spate of calm during the frenzy at Nationals. Or maybe I should just move to Hawaii where I can dive every day.

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