Check it out

What: U.S. Snowshoe Nationals

When: March 15-17

Where: Bend, Ore.

More info: http://visitbend.com/Bend_Oregon_Activities_Recreation/US-Snowshoe-Nationals/

During the day, Andrea Kinzey-Wheeler is a math teacher at Nederland Middle/Senior High School. But once the bell rings, Kinzey-Wheeler puts on her snowshoes and heads outside for her daily workout. Away from the chaos of the classroom and school day, Kinzey-Wheeler relishes in the silence of the cold and snow near her Nederland home.

"It's a really good release of energy," she said.

This weekend, 52-year-old Kinzey-Wheeler travels to Bend, Ore., to compete at U.S. Snowshoe Nationals.

What's your snowshoeing background?

I started just for fun and used it as training in the winter for running. I realized I liked it more than I did running, so I switched and now I do more snowshoeing than I do running. I've been snowshoeing for about 10 years.

What do you like most about snowshoeing?

I like to be out in the woods and the solitude. It's just the snow and the cold, and I enjoy being outside. It's a really neat way to be outside in the winter without getting really cold. If I'm out there working really hard snowshoeing, I don't stay cold. I like the exercise. It's really a lot of exercise for a short amount of time. I prefer snowshoeing because it's less impact than running.

Do you see yourself as a competitive person when it comes to snowshoeing?

I didn't really think of myself as that way, but I have learned that I am. I've learned through (snowshoeing) that I am competitive. I'm not out front, not one of the top ones, but I've learned to say that I'm an athlete and I push myself pretty hard and do the best I can. It's neat to be able to have goals and challenges and meet them. Over the years I've learned that having nationals as an "A" race, or the best race, has been a good goal. I've learned that if I make that the goal, each of the pieces leading up to that goal really matter.

What's one of your more memorable races?

Last year I was able to race in Fondo, Italy, at La Ciaspolada, which is the largest snowshoe race in the world. I went with two other women and represented the United States Snowshoe Association. I came in 27th for women. Last year the total number of snowshoers was 5289. It was an amazing experience to race in another country with so many other people.

What are you looking forward to at nationals, and what are your goals?

I don't know what Bend is like, but the course looks like it goes through a lot of trees. Starts out flat and goes up very steep, and then levels off and goes down again. It's lower altitude than here and that is always a plus. I would like to podium. Two years ago, I was third in my age class. This year, (the race) is pretty full, and there are a lot of really good athletes in the age class (50-54), so it's a tough field.

Nationals has always been really fantastic. The goal is to try to get as many people to compete and get out there. They encourage people to get there. I have met the most incredible people snowshoeing. Some of them have become my best friends. It's been an incredible camaraderie between people who do similar things.

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.