Monday, June 20, 2011

Mount Washington Road Race Over the Years

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeast. It has some of the worst recorded weather in the world. It has an auto road from the base to summit which allows people of questionable fitness experience the beauty that would have otherwise(due to the strenuousness of the hike) been out of their reach. It also, every June, hosts a 7.6 mile uphill running race. Amber and I have been running this race since 2008 and have had many great memories that we thought we'd like to share.

2008-After dating for a couple years together and having the most fun that I had ever had in my life, I knew that I had to spend the rest of my life with Amber. I knew I wanted to propose during a meaningful race. I had planned originally to do it at the Boston Marathon but I started far enough back from her that I never caught her during the race and it didn't seem right to do it after. When we got into the Mount Washington Road Race, I knew that that would be the perfect time. In addition to be able to catch her when she was anoxic, Mt Washington was also meaningful as we had hiked it on several occasions and had it as the background to many of our trips up into the White Mountains.

We ran the entire race together, Amber crossing the finish line a second ahead of me. I cross and fall down to my knees faking a heart attack so Amber would come back to me... What actually happened was, I fake the heart attack, medics rush in and Amber rushes to get herself a water. Only after shrugging off the medics and calling over Amber, am I able to propose. She begrudgingly says yes. We celebrate by taking the Cog Railway down the mountain. We finish in 1:33:45.

2009- Amber has started her triathlon training and thus thinks biking 50+miles from Bethlehem, NH to the start of the race would be a good idea. We get to the start of Crawford Notch, hit some railroad tracks which causes Amber to slide out. She lets out a yelp which causes me to turn back, which doing so causes me to slide out too. I rush over to Am to make sure she is okay and to get her to the side of the road. After a few shaky moments, Amber decides to continue(despite my recommendations that we go home shower and have a nice leisurely morning) to head towards the race. I follow reluctantly. We make it to the race but cannot find a place to store our backpack with our bike shoes and helmets so we decide to carry it up with us. After a mile or so of me carrying it, complaining and slowing down the pace, Amber graciously takes the backpack for the remainder and STILL has to wait for me. After a brief stay at the top, we hike down via Lion's Head Trail, get a ride from Pinkham Notch back to our bikes, then bike the 50+ miles back to Bethlehem. Due to my hip hurting from the bike crash, excessive whining and a lot of walking, we finish in 1:52:24.
Danny Turning the last corner
2010- We decide this year that it wouldn't be such a great idea to bike to Mt. Washington, we decide to, instead, drive there, help out with parking and soak our legs in the river. After having to get a ride the three miles from Pinkham to where the auto road last year, we decide this year to park the car at Pinkham so when we hike down our car would be at the end of the trail. This lets us also get a nice three mile warm-up before the race. This will be our first year we don't run the race together. Amber has been having an excellent season so far, most recently coming off an exceptional Mooseman finish. I, on the other hand, am just coming back from six weeks of no running due to the stress fracture I sustained during the Flying Pig Marathon. I had no illusions of being able to keep up with Amber and told her not to let me slow her down. Within thirty seconds of the start, she's off and I don't see her until the finish line. She ends up finishing up as the first NH resident finisher and seventh overall in 1:19:47. Also it is her first year running under the name Amber Ferreira, instead of Cullen. I spend a lot of the second half of the run walking but still finish with my fastest Washington time in 1:31:16.
Rich and Danny at Tuckerman's Head Wall

2011- This year we have figured it all out. We are joined by our friend and teammate Rich Lavers of aR who with his wife, Christen, and brother-in laws will hike down Lion's Head with us. We park the car at Pinkham, get our warm-up in(in the pouring rain) and get to the start line. We both have been in better shape this year than in the past but also both had hard work-out weeks(Amber is at the tail end of an 18 hour training week) so we aren't sure how we'll fare. We take off together and I can hear Am breathing as we hit mile 1 in 7:38. I continue to lead for about another half mile until the pitch steepens enough to put strain on my calves to the point where I have to slow my pace. Amber quickly passes uttering brief words of encouragement before taking off. I continue to run until my calves cannot take it, at which point I turn and walk backwards to take the strain off them for a while. As I'm facing backwards, I see a ton of racers who will eventually pass me. The rest of the race pretty much consisted of me running all but the really steep sections, at which point I would have to turn around a walk backwards. I finish in a time of 1:24:06 and Amber finishes in 1:22:37 which is good enough for 10th female overall. We spend the afternoon in N. Conway after hiking down Lion's Head again(and Am rolling her ankle).
Danny Smiling? Only because there's not enough oxygen to his brain
2012? It will be the US Mountain Championships next year again and Am hopes to make the team(I know she can). My goal is to increase my ankle range of motion where I can be able to run the whole race and in doing so break 1:20. We will see.

UP NEXT: Amber- Lake Placid Training Camp; Danny- Chip's Wedding in Chicago


  1. Great stories! Also, I noticed there is no race from Minnesota yet? I am from Minnesota and I highly recommend Grandma's Marathon in Duluth (my hometown!). It is a beautiful scenic run and a great place to visit in the summer.

  2. Laura,
    Thanks for the recommendation. We are also on the lookout for great races as well as fun new places to see, so we may have to check it out.

  3. Like your stories, and glad you "figured in out."
    If you want to read about another competitor's impressions, and what could stop a marathoner's legs from running at 3/4 miles, read my G4S Q+A with M. Sullivan after Mt. Washington road race.