Only one hill…
OK, I’m over 1 month late on this race recap, but better late than never, right? In June, a bunch of CRCers headed up to New Hampshire to run and volunteer at the Mt Washington Road Race. Mount Washington is the highest mountain in the Northeast, and the run takes place on the auto road that winds up to the top of the peak. The race is 7.6 miles long and climbs over 4,500 ft! This gives it an average incline of 12%, and the last 50 yards is a very steep 22%. That’s one big “hill”!
After volunteering at the summit with the club for 3 years, I finally decided to enter the lottery and run the race last year. I can honestly say it’s the hardest race I’ve ever done. It’s hard from the first mile, and just stays mentally and physically hard the entire time. For most people, it takes almost twice as long to run as a flat 7.6 miles – they say it’s typically your half marathon time + 5-10 minutes. My prep last year included some incline runs on the treadmill, but living in the city doesn’t allow for much in terms of mountain/hill running. My 2011 race included a lot of walking – but I managed to finish 17th female with a time of 1:27.
This year, I was a little more prepared to what to expect on the mountain, and in better shape. I didn’t do much in terms of specific race prep (no treadmill workouts), but I have been running stronger and incorporating cycling into my workout routine. My legs feel a lot stronger with consistent running and hard cycling/spinning work, so I hoped they would carry me a little faster up the mountain.
The day was beautiful – the bottom of the mountain was around 60 at the start and in the 40s at the top of the mountain (very warm conditions for the top of Mt Washington). I started the race more conservatively than last year. The crowded start made it difficult to tell where I stood among the women, but I just tried to stay in my own race. I ran the first two miles in 8:50 and 10:00, with no walking (last year, I had to start walking after only a mile!). I passed a couple women and was passed by one woman during the 2nd mile. Mile 3 I started to feel some tightness in my achilles / lower calf. I tried to slow a bit to stretch it out, but I couldn’t seem to loosen it up. I took my first walk break in mile 3 and stretched out my calf a bit. I started running again after about 20-30 seconds, and did this a few more times over the next mile. At the first water stop, someone called out that I was the 7th female.
Mile 4-5 is when it started to get really hard – mentally and physically. I had to take periodic walk breaks for about 30 seconds each to get my heart rate back down to a manageable rate, but I was able to run in 5-10 minute stretches, which was significantly better than last year. I kept trying to remember to keep my steps short and steady. Mile 5 was my slowest at 12:07. I was really excited that I was in the top 10, which kept me motivated over these tough miles. Mile 6 brings one of the toughest inclines of the course, but at this point, you are above the tree line and know you are getting close to the top! I got a second (or fifth?) wind around the mile 7 mark, and I finished the last 0.6 miles in under 10:00 min/mile pace.
I ended up finishing 7th female overall, in a 1:20. This was a 7 minute PR from last year, and 10 places better in a competitive field. Even better, my team, Cambridge Running Club, came in 1st place in the female team and the USATF team competitions! We celebrated with food and beers at the bottom of the mountain. A bunch of us camped overnight and did some hiking and trail running on Sunday. Overall, it was a great weekend!