Monday, June 17, 2013

Mount Washington Road Race 2013

I lost the lottery again this year for the Mount Washington Road Race, which meant for the fifth year in the row I got in. It is amazing to me that year in and year out this race has to have a lottery system to fairly delegate the available entries. I cannot believe that there are that many people that think that running 7.6 miles up hill is a good way to spend a Saturday. And yet, the Mount Washington Road Race sells out every year and has me hooked(see my top ten reasons to run Washington).

It does hold a special place in my heart because five years ago at the finish line, I proposed to Amber. She was so oxygen deprived that she said assented after the ascent and has been cursing Mount Washington since:)

Mount Washington is actually one of our favorite hikes(behind Lafayette of course) and this year was the first that Amber wouldn't be hiking down with me after. With Eagleman last weekend and Mont Tremblant this coming weekend, it didn't make a lot of sense to risk an injury by coming up. Luckily, my buddy Rich would be joining me. However due to a late start made later by getting pulled over by a kindly police officer(no seriously he was very nice) on my way to the start of the race, I didn't get a chance to meet up with him before the race. So I decided I would carry my phone with me so we could connect.[Side note: the logistics of MWRR are, in themselves, daunting. Since Rich and I were planning on hiking down, we needed to park our cars over at Pinkham Notch then run back to the auto road, and then find someone to bring our backpacks to the summit(it was in the low 40's on the top). Suffice to say, having a phone was a good idea. Also-it allowed me to take some pictures along the run.]

Looking back at the long winding road

Typically, Mount Washington is a battle of declining goals. I start out by aiming to run the whole thing but by the first mile I end up walking. Then I am for shooting to finish under 1:20 but by the half way mark I usually am well over. I then look to finish in the top ten women and am soon passed by numbers 11-99. I then further lower my expectations to finishing before the old man in the wheelchair whose on oxygen and we usually finish neck and neck. This year I decided to have just one goal: Run the whole thing.

People unfamiliar with the Mount Washington Road Race may be wondering why this is such a big goal. It is a race right? Shouldn't you always be running? A combination of steep pitches, sustained climbs and more steep pitches have prevented me from doing so in the past. While only being 7.6 miles long it's average grade is 12% with long stretches at 18%, with a pleasant 50 yard wall of 22% grade to meet you at the finish.

So that was my goal. The problem I usually have is that the race is downhill to start. It's only 1/4 mile but in that time I always take it out to hard so that when I start climbing I get really winded really quickly. So this time I settled in to a far more comfortable pace knowing that I had 7.4 miles of uphill ahead of me. Last year I went through the first mile in 7:15 and this time it was 8:04 and it made all the difference. I was actually shocked to find that most of the second and third miles were comfortably runnable with only a few steeper grades mixed in for good measure.

I had run into Brandy Erholtz before the race and she and I ran together for most of the race. Usually this would mean that I was running WAY out of my league but now that she's five months pregnant, she and I are pretty compatable running companions. Yes 5 months pregnant! Just a few weeks before she won a 50k! That's 31 miles. Just being around her was enough for me to keep from walking. Thanks Brandy!
Brandy and USATF mountain running director, Paul Kirsch at the start of the race

So long story short, I started to creep closer to Ernie Brake who was in front of me and who I had been tracking the whole race. I finally caught him around mile 7. Here's how our conversation went:

Danny: Hey Ernie!

Ernie: Danny?!? What are you doing here? This must be a PR!

Danny: It is. I decided to try to run the whole thing.

Ernie: [after a few moments of reflection on how to best convey his thoughts] No offense, but this is my worst time at this race!
Ernie and Danny

And with that Ernie starts his kick to the finish, pulling me along at a pace considerably faster than I would have chosen to go had it not been for him. He ended up nicking me at the line beating me by a second.

Ernie ahead of me on my least favorite part of the race

But I had met my goal of not walking so I was happy. However, it is highly suspcious that I only beat my previous best time by two minutes while walking A LOT!!!

After cheering finishers on as they crossed the line, I bundled up in everything that I had packed and Rich and I started our hike back to the cars. Within a half mile away from the summit, the wind died down and become a beautiful day. It was a nice way to end the trip. The hike down is the reason that I keep coming back to this race, because it is always so pleasant and it gives me time to forget about the ascent:) And luckily for me Amber didn't meet me at the base expecting me to bike ride with her as she had threatened.
Tuckerman Junction

However, Amber did come up that night and did expect me to run and bike with her the next day. We went for a great trail/road run then got on our bikes to ride the White Mountains Triathlon bike course. Mid-race. We rode along cheering on competitors. It was a fun way to pass the miles and it made me want to do the double next year. Not sure my quads would have appreciated a 70.3 the day after Washington, but in my mind, it seems like a good idea. We will see.

After having a great lunch and a nap, Amber and I headed to Franconia Notch bike path where Amber proceeded to run another 10 miles while I waddled along heckling her as she'd yo-yo in front and behind me. A nice dinner at Gordi's in Lincoln capped off a great weekend.

Up Next: Mont Tremblant 70.3 this Sunday!

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