Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mt Washington

7.6 miles and 4600ft of climbing greeted runners lucky enough to win the lottery to get an entry into the Mount Washington road race.  Just a few minutes after the gun sounds just about everyone's luck runs out. 
View from the Start
I'd had my eye on this race for years.  Partially because of the challenge and partially because of the prize purse.  I've been doing mountain races over the last 2 years and I felt I was ready this year to tackle the challenge.  I felt I was prepared to grind out the 7.6 miles because I've had the experience climbing Squaw Valley (3.6 miles/2000 feet), 14 x's the bear run (4.75 miles/1500ft), a handful of trails up and overs, and a more regular training regime covering Elk Knob (1 mile or 1.5 miles/1000ft) and Mount Jefferson (3 miles/1400feet).  I felt I was mentally prepared to keep one foot moving in front of the other ignoring the burn in my quads and calves.

I was wrong.
Nothing I had done had prepared me for the length of Mount Washington.

First 3rd of the race
In review of the race I can break it down into three 2.5 miles sections.  The first 2.5 miles went according to plan.  The rain that started an hour before the start let up and left the air thick with humidity but it was still fairly cool out.  Shortly after beginning the one hill I found myself in a pack with Matt Byrne and fellow Inov-8 runner from Colorado Peter Maksimow and we had a short visual to the spread out leaders of Glenn Randall, Rickey Gates (eventual winner), and Tommy Manning.  I was patient, felt good, and stuck in that group for about 2.5 humid and warm miles.  I have had a lot of experience racing Matt so I was confident that I was with the right group.  According to the garmin I went through the first third of the race in 20:01 and climbed about 1450ft.  Towards the end of this segment my legs were getting heavy and in order to keep them from going lactic I decided to walk a few steps to keep my legs under me.  That's were things fell apart.

Middle 3rd
I could see Randall coming back and Matt had caught him with Peter shortly behind.  I thought I'd still get past him and be running for 5th place the rest of the race looking to pick off anyone else that had gone out too hard.  But I was the only one doing any walking.  I wouldn't see anyone else walking either. 

Shortly Eric Blake and Simon Gutierrez had caught me.  Each time I walked I lost ground and my legs weren't getting any fresher.  Once Simon and Eric caught me I ran with them as it was much easier for me to set a pace with others around me.  But Simon had a gel is his shorts which he sucked down at the half way point and proceeded to surge ahead as if he were floating on clouds of caffeine.  At this point Eric (a former champ struggling with injuries) was trying to set an even pace up the mountain while rookie me kept surging past him, walking, then surging past again.  It was pathetic and I could tell he was annoyed but I couldn't find a rhythm and kept on sloppily making my way up the mountain in that manner even after Eric said "if we keep an even pace we can hold on to our position."  A very polite way to say "screw you newbie."  Those middle miles were a mess.  I ran my middle third of the race in 23:24 and climbed around 1700ft.  That was the slowest section of the race.

Final 3rd
The final third of the race actually got better for me.  As I got closer and closer to the finish my confidence grew and I walked less and less.  I didn't walk at all in the last 1.5 miles except for two steps on the final 22% percent grade wall greeting finishers.
The 22% grade wall to the finish (Courtesy of Inov-8)
 I covered that section in around 22:53 and pulled away from Eric in the 6th mile to finish 7th overall in 66:18.  It was this last section of the race which added confidence that I can mentally and physically improve those last miles. 

Final Thoughts
Going into the race I'd hoped to have run 63 minutes and finish in the top 3.  I felt I could run 65 minutes and finish in the top 5.  I was a bit off but not too much considering how disappointed I was with the middle miles.  I feel that another attempt at the race in two weeks would results in minute or two improvement and with a few tweaks in my training I expect to take that time off next year.  I also learned that nothing I had done adequately prepared me for the length of the hill.  Truth is there's very little that can be done anywhere to prepare for that grade over that distance.  I suspect the Rockies would be a good place to look though as 5 of the top 6 men were from Colorado.  Next year I expect to prepare better and improve my performance by a couple of minutes. 
Male and Female winners with Matt and I at the Summit

Next week I'll be back in the White Mountains of NH for the Cranmore Hill Climb and a shot at running for the US at the world mountain championships.

Post Race Beverage
I went over to check out the Cranmore course and on the recommendation from Chris, my ride down the mountain, I swung by Moat Mountain Brewery and had an IPA.  Delicious!

Next Day's Run
The legs weren't sore but my head was woozy after a few short miles at Bass Lake.  As I crested by the manor house I shortly found my legs to be wobbly on the downhill back towards the lake and a long run quickly turned into a shorter run.  By Monday I was feeling back to normal.  Overall a good outcome for a ridiculous climb.

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