Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mt. Washington

Friday morning I got out the door at 6:00 am for 4 easy miles to shake out the Thursday night downhill effort at Hollis. Heather got on the treadmill at the same time for the same purpose before the kids were up.

Bagels, juice and coffee for breakfast and we were on the road to Story Land a little after nine. We arrived just before noon, ate a quick lunch in the parking lot, then headed into the park. It was a beautiful day, sunny and right around 70 degrees. We hit up all our favorite rides - Bamboo Chutes, Polar Coaster, etc.

I was ready for a nap by 4:00, but didn't get one. We checked into Nordic Village right down the road, then drove to the base of Mt. Washington for number pickup with my dad. He and I would run up together for the first time (He had previously run in 2009 and 2011; I had my one trip up in 2010 in 1:11:53.)

We picked up numbers then went back to Nordic Village to grab the rest of the family and head out to dinner at the Shannon Door. Saw AJ Migonis and his family who had just arrived in town. Chicken parm, garlic bread plus some pizza and fries that Emma and Grace didn't finish. Decided to forego dessert for the sake of the race.

Ready for a great night of sleep and got a mediocre one. All the kids woke up at 11:15 pm and we had to play musical beds with Ben and me ending up on the third floor and Heather and Grace together in the same room as Emma. Finally settled back down before midnight and slept soundly until the alarm woke me at 5:20.

Early breakfast of fruit, bagel, coffee, juice, vitamins then got on the road for the short trip up rte. 16. Arrived a little before 6:30, because we had to find someone to drive my dad's car up. Hooked up with some helpful folks from the Winner's Circle Running Club, found Sean Livingston and Hannah Zydanowicz (but couldn't connect with Francis, who was tied up in traffic with Dave) and loaded their stuff in the Volvo, then said goodbye to our new friend Sarah as she brought our gear to the summit.

I ran into Kevin Tilton and met up with him and Dave Dunham for about two and a half miles on the trails around the base. Feeling pretty warm, I opted for shorts and singlet and tucked a hat and gloves into my waistband. Doomsday prophets were predicting violently cold summit conditions, although from the base it looked like as clear a day as you can get in the White Mountains.

I had one hammer gel before the start and grabbed one more for the climb. Got over to the start with about ten minutes to spare, well-hydrated and feeling good. After the moment of silence for the marathon bombing victims, I was ready to go, and we went.

My goal for the first mile was to stay in control and come through .9 in 7:00, on my way to 1:10:00. The pace felt comfortable on the flat and the first climb, so I considered working a little harder but knew I had a long way to go. The first split was 6:50 (10 seconds under my goal), and I was feeling good. I was surprised to see Josh Ferenc come by me somewhere around mile one, assuming he would have gone out with the leaders. He continued to march upward through the ranks, and I tried to follow in his wake of utter destruction, without getting too carried away. Mile 2 I was 11 seconds under goal pace (8:29 for 15:19) and thoughts of sub-1:09 started to creep in, although the climb in Mile 2 was a bit of a wake-up call as to what the mountain had in store for all of us.

Mile 3 Josh was pulling away from me and closing on Justin Freeman and another runner I didn't recognize (Gabriel Rodriguez), and I had an Inov-8 runner (Pete Maksimow) in sight. Pete and I exchanged spots a couple of times and I appreciated having someone to work with. At mile 3 they told us that we were 10th and 11th places, and I told Pete I thought it was a little early (for me, at least) to be thinking about that. My third mile was an 8:50 (the goal was 8:59) and I found myself with a half-minute in my pocket in case it got real tough up ahead. It was also around this point, (or just after) that I decided to drop the gel I had been running with. I had opened it and took a small taste, basically just dabbing it on my tongue, but couldn't find the will to ingest it and tossed it aside.

Through halfway (32:19) and Mile 4 (33:06), I was feeling strong and in control. My confidence was high, with an 8:57 4th mile, which was 24 seconds under the goal for the mile.

Mile 5 was tough. The wind was welcome at the start of the mile, cooling me off from four miles of climbing below treeline, but the steep sections felt like I was slowing to a crawl and I checked my watch a few times to make sure I was keeping it under 10:00/mi. pace. I was pleasantly surprised with a 9:29 split (9:59 was the goal), but I was certainly feeling it by this point, well into the reserves and fully engaged in the step by step grind. Interestingly, I had only one or two points where I was tempted to slip into uphill walk mode, but my memories of the Sugarloaf Uphill Run (and a couple training runs up there in the past couple years) kept me moving forward without switching gears.

I was alone in 9th place, although I thought I was 10th, with Justin Freeman a minute(?) or so ahead of me, and no idea how close Pete or anyone else was. I resisted the urge to look back on a couple of the tight turns, mostly because I didn't want to believe that anyone was close. On a couple stretches there was this absolutely divinely inspired tailwind that had me thanking God for sending it, and it was all I could do to get both feet off the ground at once and try to take sail a little bit. The winds were gusting pretty good and I hoped a fifty mile per hour gust might get me a couple extra inches per stride if I let it take me.

Mile 6 was a pretty tough one, too, (although five felt the worst). I had a great boost at the start of each of them (miles five and six), that was short-lived. I am still learning how to really exploit the flatter sections when it is instinctual to use them to slow down and recover a bit from all the steeps. Somehow, it deflates me a bit to try to sprint the flats, knowing that it's just going to get me to the next slow climb that much sooner.

Came through the sixth mile in 9:35 (9:50 was the goal), unable to do much calculating, but knowing I was well under my goal time. Somewhere around mile 7 (9:34; 9:52 goal), Pete Maksimow and then Eric MacKnight both came by me in a short amount of time. I wanted to go with them, but being so used to running my own race, didn't respond dramatically until the final 200m, when I put my head down and tried to close the gap on Eric a little bit. I hit the line in 1:07:41, elated. 11th place at Mt. Washington is something I didn't consider and it makes me wonder if I should start making mountain running a bit more of a priority.

Hung around the top to cheer my dad in in 2:03, then got a couple of pictures with him to commemorate the day.

Ran down the road with Hannah Z. who ended up first 19 and under in her first attempt at the mountain.

Day was concluded with much eating (turkey dinner for lunch, steak and dogs on the grill at Nordic Village) and celebrating with family.

Made the drive home without stopping on Sunday (which is nothing short of miraculous with a 6-year-old, 4-year-old and one-year-old) in under two and a half hours.

Counting down the days till next year's race...

(Thank you to www.farnorthendurance.com for letting me use the picture at the top of the page.)


  1. Great race man! The fact that I saw you towards the end was a good thing. It let me know I was doing well. Debut as well?

  2. Thanks, Eric; you, too! I'm pleased to be in your company at the end of a climb like that. I ran in 2010, but more conservatively (1:11:53). This was my second try, but I don't think it will be my last. I am starting to get bit by the mountain bug.