Mt. Washington Race Recap:
My decision to move to Boulder to train at altitude in the mountains became more solidified after this past weekend. I’m not sure if my red blood cell count had actually increased, but when I took the lead about 2.5 miles into the 2012 Mt. Washington road race last weekend I was aware of one big thing: I wasn’t gasping for breath!
Going into this race I really had no idea what to expect. I figured that a 1:02 might be a fast enough time to place in the top 6, which would be good enough to represent the US team at the World Mountain running Championships this fall. My pre-race goal was more about placing well than running a fast time. I was a little apprehensive after hearing horror stories about how 2:15 marathoners have struggled to finish near the top the field at this brutal uphill race.
The night before the race, Max King and I enjoyed a bountiful dinner (thanks to the wonderful hospitality of our host family, the Girouards) and each drank a pint of Guinness [Max was sick with a cold and someone told him a Guinness would be a good remedy for his symptoms]. Since Max is one of my mentors I follow everything he does – so if he was going to have a beer the night before the race, then I was going to have one too!
When the cannon fired at the start of the race I watched as former Ivy League competitor Glen Randall bolted for the lead. Being accustomed to Glen’s racing tactics over the years this was no surprise to me. I felt like I couldn’t sustain such a torrid pace given the severity and duration of the climb so I was content as a follower. As we hit a very steep grade about a half-mile into the race I found myself about 30 feet behind a lead pack of a dozen runners. Glen was slowly getting caught, and I was confident that I could still close the gap and put myself in contention.We passed the first mile in 6-something. This seemed way too fast, although the first 400m of the race was flat so I was thinking that that factored into such a torrid split.
As the second mile approached I slowly caught up. I figured that staying in the lead pack would be my best strategy early on as I could size up the competition and hopefully finish strong. However, I suddenly decided that taking the lead as soon as I caught up would give me a favorable rush of adrenaline. That suddenly sounded like a good idea…so I went for it just after 2 miles. I could hear Joe Gray’s footsteps behind me for a minute or so, but then I couldn’t hear anything.
It was tempting to look back, but I told myself “you can’t look back until you atleast reach the half-way point.” I ended up not looking back until the 4.5-mile mark, but it really didn’t matter because I was still paranoid that someone was catching me. I had heard mixed reports from spectators that my lead was “really big” to only “150 yards.” [In retrospect it was hard to tell who was jogging/hiking up the mountain as a spectator and who was actually in the race – so some of those people following me closely were not even in the race!]
Photo by Dan Szczesny
The long uphill grind (the hill climbs at an average grade of 12%) was hurting my legs, but in terms of oxygen consumption I was still keeping things under control until the final two miles. I was able to keep it aerobic and hold form without being reduced to a walk. I guess training solo, hitting up the treadmill a couple times, and doing some ultra marathon training has helped me build some strength. One of my key workouts was the “Trail Runner Magazine Uphill Challenge” which I did on my treadmill in Oregon about 3 weeks before the race:
As I plodded my way up the steep 22% grade “wall” during the final 100m of the race I became overwhelmed with excitement and emotion. My brother and his wife had driven all the way from Cleveland to watch me race and they were cheering for me on this final turn. I was pumped because I knew I was going to win and crack an hour. The last race I won was the Detroit Turkey Trot 10k over 2 years and it didn’t quite compare to this. Winning is a pretty rare thing for me nowadays so breaking the tape in first place was a cause for celebration:
Photo credit: www.DennisCoughlin.com
My time of 58:27 ended up being the 3rd best time on the course (although I will note that we had perfect weather conditions this year). It’s an honor to take down Matt Carpenter’s American best on the course – I am in awe of Jonathan Wyatt’s course record as I heard he did it in dismal weather conditions. This time will still be extra motivation for me in the future.
I want to give a big thanks to John Stifler, Paul Kirsch, Nancy Hobbs, and all the volunteers for welcoming me to the race and making everything possible. I am excited to represent the US at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy this fall. Also, I am thankful for my brand new sponsors: Smith Optics and Drymax Socks. Thank you for seeing potential in me!
In the meantime, I will be training for the White River 50-mile trail run (in the state of Washington) in July, and the Pike’s Peak Ascent in August. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue to build my strength and improve my trail/mountain running skills. I’m still seeking sponsorship from a shoe and/or apparel company. Having some energy bars and a GPS would be nice as well as I am still a free-agent in that department. (I’m looking at you Powerbar/Clif Bar and Garmin!)
Thanks for the support and best of luck with your running.
See you on the trails,
About the Author (Author Profile)2-time Olympic Trials Qualifier, Mountain runner, Author of "Running For The Hansons," trail runner, videos for Vo2max Productioins, LLC.
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