Yesterday I embarked on what I had considered for many years (many years being the years I had heard all of Rob's epic stories about it) to be the ultimate test: a road race up Mt Washington. If I was a sensible person, I would have reconsidered when malox was one of the first things on Rob's packing list for this event. But, by the time I was going over the packing list Friday morning, I had already put in too many hours of preparation to shy away from a challenge just because it was becoming clear that I would probably feel like puking at the end.
And I did feel like puking at the end, but let me explain this a little bit. I'm assuming that most readers of this post have probably ski raced before. Juniors, you, like me, are all used to racing 5-10ks which take between 12-40 minutes depending on the snow, technique, course, weather, wax etc. At the end, your head is spinning and you want water and sometimes to be dramatic you collapse over the finish line. So, yesterday's race was like that for me except that it took an 1:42:30, so at the end I was somewhere between 3-8 times more depleted. At two miles, I wanted water, at three I ate a Gu but didn't have enough fluids along with it which left me feeling dehydrated, at four I got water but was still dehydrated, by 5 my legs were shaking and although I was running as fast as a could, I realized there were people around me walking faster. By about 7, I couldn't bear the peppiness of my mom and Jamie's cheering as I passed them on the side of the road (which for me is saying a lot because I usually love hearing people cheer). By the time I crossed the finish line, Rob found me, walked me over to a corner because apparently I looked like I was going to puke (but I didn't, probably because there was nothing left to puke up at that point).
Chocolate milk, a banana, and dry clothes have never made me so happy. And by the time I was warm, dry, and fed cruising down the mountain with my mom, Jamie, Lisa, and Rob, I was saying, "That was fun, I'm glad I did that." Which, to me even sounds weird after the race description I just gave you, but like other races, despite the mental and physical challenge, it was also rewarding. Despite the depletion and fatigue, Mount Washington also offers spectacular views and running or not, there is something I really love about scaling mountains.
Things got even better when back at the start it was a beautiful day in the mid 70s, sunny, and a Thanksgiving feast and ice cream were being served to all racers for lunch. Then a nearby stream provided the most scenic and welcome ice bath of my life.
It was fun to take part in the allure of this crazy thing the coaches (and many other crazy skiers including Kris Freeman who I met waiting around by the start) go off and do each June. So, will I do it again? Well, I won't be making a tradition of it each year like Rob, but I probably will race it again at some point. After all, it is just one hill. :)
After I introduced Hannah Smith to about the 10th old Nordic ski racer that I knew, she said, "Sure are a lot of fitness junkies here". The Mount Washington Road Race is such a pure test of aerobic fitness that anyone who takes a little pride in the work they have done to build up their aerobic engine wants to give it a test at the race that has "only one hill". She got to meet Kris Freeman from the USST before the race, and we waved at Keith Woodward from Craftsbury (multiple past race wins), Eli Enman who can still run 75 minutes in his 40s, Sue Long Weymess, former USST, Bob Treadwell, former USST, Charlie Kellog, CSU, Williams, and USST, and we saw the event organizers induct Mike Gallagher, USST and 4 time winner of the event back in the late-60's, into the race Hall of Fame. This running race is definitely Old Home Day for Nordic skiers.
Hannah had wanted to do the race when she was 14 and a very enthusiastic, but not yet fit J2. I told her it was too tough and she had to wait till she was a senior in high school and had few years of serious aerobic conditioning written in her training log. As a much wiser senior she was a little less sure she wanted to do the race, but I wasn't going to let her get away now. So instead of relaxing for spring of senior year she found herself doing 90 minute runs on the treadmill at full incline, hard intervals up Prospect hill, and running up Mt. Kearsage for "fun".
She was rewarded with an excellent result and a strong performance. Her time of 1:42 would have won the under-20 age group last year by over 10 minutes. However, you never know who will show up and Carolyn Stocker from Westfield MA won the age group this year with a blistering time that set a new record and in the process took away the record from CSUer Evelyn Dong. Still, Hannah was on the podium and dutifully wore her CSU jacket up to receive her medal. Nice work!
We lucked out on the weather this year. It was raining at 8 AM as we huddled under the big tent at the base, but at 8:30 when we wanted to start warming up the rain let up and it was just humid and cool for the start. By the halfway point the skies started to clear and we had views down to the parking lot and across to Madison and Adams. As we approached the summit the top cleared off and we could see the summit building perched on the rocks in the sunshine.
I had struggled with a few injuries this spring and hadn't been able to train to my usual level so I had my worst time (1:36), but was able to run a steady pace and do better than I feared I might. The CSU Masters women were awesome, easily winning the team contest thanks in part to Lisa Doucett and Donna Smyth. Marshall Randolph, Fabio Schiantarelli, and I were part of CSU men's Masters team that made the top 10 for teams.
Lisa, Hannah, and I were lucky to be supported by the Amie and Jamie team who drove up to the summit with our post-race gear bags and then hiked down to cheer us on when we most needed it. Hannah was ready to puke at the finish, but recovered pretty quickly. She said she was glad she followed my advice of using her heart-rate monitor as her guide and maintained a disciplined pace the whole way. She felt she was going too slowly for the first two miles, but was glad she had something left for the final two. The post-race experience is more like a ski race than a running race. You are soaked, dehydrated, depleted, the air is cold, and at 6,000 feet you don't have enough oxygen. We went inside and completely changed into dry clothes including warm-ups, down vest, wool hat, and ski gloves. And had some chocolate milk for recovery of course.
For any CSU Juniors who think they might like to run this race, the same rules still apply. It's a very tough effort and I think only seniors should do it and only if they are willing to do the preparatory workouts. It's a suffer-fest as is, but really is no fun if you are not ready for it.
With the welcome addition of Jackie Shakar to the women's senior team to run the Mt. Washington Road Race, we planned an assault on the team record for the division established in 2008 at 5:05:31. We would all have to average 1:41 to break the record. If each of us ran what we had in 2010 when Jackie was not a team member, we would also break the record, so we knew what we had to do.
It poured rain while we prepared for the start and many of the runners spent time on the all important clothing decisions. At the base, the air temperature was warm and it was humid, but we all know how Mt. Washington can be very unpredictable at the summit. Luckily, the rain stopped just as we lined up for the start and it cleared out for most of us until we reached the summit which was still in the clouds.
Among the seniors, we all bettered our last year's times, with Jackie turning in a time of 1:33:54 for second place in the 50-54 year olds, Donna Smyth running a 1:37:25 for 4th in the same division and I managed a 1:38:02, for 4th place in the 55-59 division. Hoping we grabbed the top prize, we stayed for the award ceremony to pick up our hardware. We were announced the winners and we were told they will verify our 4:49:21 as a new team record for the race.
Along the way, with CSU'er Suzy West winning the women's masters 45-49 division in 1:23:19, the club also won the Women's Master's team award. Suzy was also recognized for an age graded award for her stellar time. Also on the Master's team was Jackie, Donna, me, Deb Thomas (1:57:02) and Jennifer Ray (2:06:06).
Hannah Smith ran the mountain for the first time in a great race performance of 1:42:35 for 2nd place in the women's under 20 years of age division.
A good day on the mountain for the CSU women.
The first two runners in the fog
Suzy West had a great race
Amie Smith cheering
Rob looking pretty darned good!
Lisa towing a pack of men
How does Marshall smile while suffering at 6000 ft?
Hannah questioning her sanity while Amie cheers
Rob and Hannah all smiles after a good effort!