Mount Washington Road Race

Growing up in NH, the Mount Washington Road Race was never on my "to do" list. It sounds miserable - 7.6 miles with 4,650' of vertical and averaging 12% grade. My friend Pete ran this race in 2010 and his race report would certainly make you second guess even registering for the lottery.

My stance on this race changed this winter after competing in the 'Shoe to the Clouds' snowshoe race where we covered nearly half the auto road and in doing so, won a free lottery bypass. I felt like I had no choice but to give them my $80 and endure the pain that comes along with any uphill race. 

Spring comes and goes. I spent a lot of training focusing on triathlon but after the end of May I would shift focus back on running. It turns out I spaced out and forgot to register for the race in time (I delayed just to make sure I was healthy for race day) and had to email the RD to get in last minute - no custom bib for this guy). It all worked out though and I was locked in. The next few weeks I started to put in some better base mileage (from 20s to 50s) and had the Whitaker Woods Tuesday races to work on speed plus the Blue Light 5K (also on trails). Looking back, training for this race I would have had 60-70 mile weeks with more focused training similar to half marathon. 

As for a goal time? No idea. Apparently for most runners, you're finish time will be a couple minutes faster than your half marathon time. For me this was probably going to be around 1:17:30. I also looked at previous results to see what the clydesdales were hitting. This was the only shot I had at winning anything so I figured I'd go for it. In recent years Tim Stickney was the guy to beat who had dropped times somewhere in the 1:16 to 1:19 range. I knew 1:16 was out of the question this year so I thought somewhere in the middle would be a good place to start. Fortunately there are some awesome running nerds out there who have made split predictions specifically for this race. I plugged in my goal time and voila, I had splits to aim for.

The morning of the race was fairly relaxed. Normal routine but had to get parking and traffic was backed up heading into Great Glen Trails. Plus we had to get a bib tag from Leslie to hand off to my Dad who was driving up. Plus we had to ditch squall with him too so a few pre-race logistics to handle. Everything sorted itself out and we were able to get an easy mile plus warm-up around the flat trails at the base of the Auto Road. I ran a minute up the base of the road just a little to get an idea of my pacing then hit the bathroom before the start. 

With a few minutes to spare I got in the starting corral several rows back. After the national anthem the cannon went off and so were we. It took me a few seconds just to cross the starting line. I stayed calm and just thought about my splits. I was warned to take it easy for that first mile, "start slow like you're doing an ultra". I have yet to do an ultra but I got the message loud and clear. The first mile is the fastest because of the downhill to flat 0.2 start. This was an easy mile because I was holding back making sure that my pace averaged out. I hit my lap button at each of the mile posts so they'd match up with the pace calculator:

By Mile 2 runners who went out too hard were starting to drop. I was working but felt great. My pace seemed to be on point. Not too far ahead I saw who I was pretty sure Tim Stickney. I continued to move up on him until I made a pass around Mile 3. I was pretty sure that he was the only Clydesdale I had to worry about. I clicked through the halfway point around 36 minutes which put me just ahead of my goal pace. I tried my best to not look up at the summit and all the climbing ahead. Instead I focused on my splits and just getting from mile post to mile post. Once we were above treeline I took in the views of Mt Adams to my right and occasional glimpses of the Wildcat Range. As my splits continued to roll off I could finally feel the finish getting closer. I only have a few people around me and hadn't been passed since the first mile. Heading up the last mile I was passed by the third place female finisher and another guy I think. I waited for the infamous "wall" and thought that maybe I had already hit it but nope - It was right at the finish and as steep as advertised. I continued to run though and had the finish in sight. I was fired up to see my time - 1:17:04 - and "sprinted" through the finish. 

I was given a blanked and took some water then found my dad and Squall. We waited for Hilary and cheered on the many runners while we waited. Hilary came across not too long after and we took it all in at the summit and relaxed while we waited for the road to open back up. You really couldn't have asked for better weather. 

I had my dad bring up my Hokas to run down in which was a great idea. But they suggested I take Squall down with me which turned out to be a horrible idea. Within a few miles he stopped wanting to run. I thought it might have just been the heat but I took a look at his paws and he had a couple raw spots from the hot asphalt. I felt horrible and carried him to the halfway marker and we laid down in the shade. 20 minutes later the road opened up and cars started to descend. What seemed like another 20 minutes elapsed before my dad came down and I was able to hand off the Squall (turned out to be Hilary's dad driving as my dad was feeling inspired and thought it would be a great idea to hike down). I ran down the remaining few miles of the road and continued to feel great. Especially passing all the cars stuck in traffic. 

At the base we ate and refuled then watched the awards. Hilary took 2nd for the Fillies and I was 1st for the Clydesdales. Joe Gray crushed and won by a few minutes. I was also impressed by Justin Freeman who ran a 1:05:55 to take home the Crossan Cup (fastest NH resident), Ryan Kelley who was 15th and ran 1:09:54, and Sam Wood who ran 1:13:56. I clearly have some motivation for next year (I won a lottery bypass for winning the big guy award). 

Overall it was a great race. It is a bit of a junk show with so many runners but it creates a big atmosphere. I now have a benchmark for next year, will definitely run down provided I can get some shoes up there, and will try not to forget my phone in the awards tent (whoops!).

Turning up the "Wall". Photo: Joe Viger

Probably looking at the third place female who nipped me at the end. Photo: Joe Viger

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