Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mount Washington - Part I "The Run"

Let me just start by saying this, from here on out I’m going to refer to the 50th Mount Washington Road Race as a “run”, not a “race” because it simply bears no resemblance to any race you could ever hope to imagine. In fact, referring to it as a run is being extremely generous since what you end up doing most of the time is flail around wildly, as you slowly creep up the very steep and very hot auto road. But, out of respect to the folks who actually know what they are doing up there, I’ll just call it a run and leave it at that.

I went into this year’s run with 6 levels of goals.  #1 - start, #2 - finish, #3 - run the whole way, #4 – set a PR, #5 - Beat Chris Dunn & #6 – Beat Steve Wolfe. My rationale behind setting so many goals is that I’ve invested way too much time in this endeavor to leave completely empty handed at the end of the day if things don’t work out as planned. I figured goals 1 & 2 would be easy since I ran this twice before and knew what to expect. Goals 3 & 4 would be a bit tougher to obtain since the temperature at the start was in the mid-eighties. But, all things being equal, these both were certainly do-able. Finally, if it was a really, really good day I might be able to achieve goals 5 & 6. I’ve been back and forth with Chris at various races over the years and usually end up seeing the back side of Steve at most events. However, at Washington, Steve and I have gone head to head 2 times and I’ve won both. So, maybe I own him at this one? Only time would tell.

Things were crazy at the start as people jockeyed for position up front and others squeezed in behind. At about 1000 runners, this race (excuse me - run) tends to be a bit crowded before, during and after the cannon (that’s right – cannon) goes off. Once we started, I kicked in to a quick sprint up to the first pitch and then grinded to a near halt that would last for the next hour and a half. Mile 1 (the shortest one) passed in 8:26 and during that time I was passed by what felt like the entire field. During my 11:42 Mile 2 I flip-flopped with Cathy Merra for a bit until finally she flipped and I flopped. By Mile 3 I settled into an un-comfortable 12:41 pace and prayed for a quick death. During Mile 4 I realized that I hadn’t seen Chris or Steve yet and (as if on cue) they both promptly blew by me before I could reach the mile marker in 13:08.

Now past halfway, Mile 5 went by in a brisk 13:20 as I caught back up to Steve again. He was clearly taunting me as he walk/ran past me during my 14:10 Mile 6. For those keeping track at home, yes - I do realize that my split times are getting slower and slower - thank you very much. During Mile 7 I put in a “surge” to catch Steve but could still only manage a 13:19 and he slowly pulled away. The final .6 miles ticked away in whopping 8:26 and I lurched across the line in 1:35:17 – 2 minutes slower than my PR and 3 ½ minutes behind Steve and Chris. Oh well, 3 out of 6 goals achieved isn’t too bad.

Once I received my medal (and had a cup of water) I promptly puked my guts out behind one of the many rock piles on top of that god-forsaken hill. Sorry guys, I’m not going to be “packing-out” that particular trash. I gracefully exited the summit, found my ride down and worked on cleaning myself up. Once at the bottom, I came to realize that The Gate City Striders my team (not me) had a very successful day. The final results showed We had 4 teams win national championships, 1 team finish in second and two others finish in third. Most impressive was our Mens 40+ team who beat perennial mountain men CMS by over 2 minutes. And that’s with half the team having to work 2 hot hours (in the sun) parking cars before the race, just to get an opportunity to lace 'em up and run the "hill" with the big boys! Way to go fellas!

In retrospect, I think that this will be the last time I do this race, er – run. I don’t think that at 6 foot 4 inches and 192 lbs I’m really cut out for trying to cheat gravity for an hour and a half. And, I seriously doubt that doing more mountain running or hill repeats is going to change that fact. I did both (on numerous occasions) this time around and all it did was aggravate my calf and irritate my achilles - all the while making me 2 minutes slower than the time before. Yes, I think the next time I climb this mountain it will be without my running shoes and with my boots and a backpack.


  1. i hear you...after doing (that word eliminates running or racing as the verb) washington 8 times and the last 4 or 5 consecutively, i plan to take a couple of years off and come back in 2013 when i hit a new age category...not that i will win anything, but it is always a goal....lisa christie

  2. It'a been a while since I ran the race. Thanks for reminding me to keep away!

  3. Hey, tall time I'm a #5 why don't you give me a fighter's chance and LET ME KNOW! That way I can make you work a little harder. And please, you're being WAY too kind. We've got a "rivalry" going about as much as the hammer and the nail. The rockpile was my first (and last) chance to finish ahead of you.

  4. Chris - That was it. That's all I got. I couldn't have tried any harder if I wanted to. And, I didn't really want to. BTW, I haven't known any nails to bend a hammer the way you did at Washington. Keep up the good work!