Thankfully, this weekend running up Mount Washington was the exact opposite - wicked awesome. I left work early Friday to drive up to NH. I thought there would be a lot of traffic because it was bike week and a friday afternoon in the summer time which usually means giant back up at the Hampton tolls. There was no traffic and I got to my hotel around 3:00, checked in and got some lunch then drove around exploring the area before heading to Mount Washington to get my race packet and have the pasta dinner. I took a bunch of pictures and talked to a few other runners then went back to my hotel and settled in for the night to try and rest before running 'just one hill'.
Saturday morning I got up and went to the base of the mountain with about 1200 other runners and a couple hundred volunteers and spectators. It was very well organized. I had bailed on my pre-arranged ride down the mountain (a prius jammed full with 5 adults and a child) and found a new ride with a guy there with his dad (driving a ford explorer with only 3 people in it). Hung out with some friends from the Merrimack Valley Striders and tried not to get too nervous about the race. I had no idea what to expect and just planned on having fun. I wore my costume as planned and it was a big hit, but I was a little nervous about being too cold at the top. The day before it was sunny and warm at the bottom, but people coming down from the top said it was raining and cold so I had no idea what it would be like. And it was really windy even at the bottom so I wondered what that meant for the weather conditions at the summit.
Before I knew it, it was time to line up and start the journey up the hill. The race director Dave McGillivray (also the race director of the Boston Marathon) said a few inspiring words and then a quick joke requesting no emails be sent to him saying the course was too hilly. And we were off. There is actually a short downhill before the 'one hill' starts so that was pretty much the only section of the course I was able to go fast on. The first mile went by faster than I thought it would - 14:56. I had talked to a girl in the port o potty line before the start about strategy and she suggested doing a regimented run walk approach. So, I took her advice and tried to count to 30 running and if I felt good, pushed on to 45 or 60, then walked for 20-30. It worked until the really steep sections. Even trying to run was stupid because I could power walk past people that were attempting to run.
Best comment on my photo all week goes to Mark Remy of Runner's World:
"the hills are alive ..... with the sound of AWESOME!"
I reached the halfway point and the clock said 1:04!!!! Going into it I figured about 8 miles should take me 1:20 normally, so if I doubled that (2:40) that's sort of what I expected for a finish time. 1:04 at the half indicated I was doing a lot better than that. I couldn't believe it and I was super excited. Plus, I was stopping to take pictures the whole time and chatting with people and handing out cards for the stair climb. My pace for miles 2-4 were slower, but a solid 17 minutes per mile. Miles 5-7 got really steep and it was above the tree line so the wind picked up. The wind was occasionally at our backs and felt like it was pushing us up the hill, but then we turned and it was in our faces. Uphill into a headwind, was challenging to say the least. And I started to get a little cold. Overall I felt really good, just my hands were getting chilly.
Towards the end I could hear all the people cheering and I had forgotten that my name was on my bib so I sort of thought that it was weird that so many people knew me, I didn't remember that many friends at the start. It flattened out for a little bit and I started to jog a little, then I turned one of the last corners and it just went straight up at a 22% grade for the last little section before the finish. Brutal, but awesome. I made it! I crossed the finish all smiles in 2:15 and collected my polar fleece blanket. It was AWESOME!!!!! I bundled up and put on my warm clothes and then got a quick picture at the summit before driving down to the bottom for the lunch and a celebratory beer.
It was an absolutely beautiful day. The weather could not have been any more perfect. We ate and drank and laughed and talked about how he race went for everyone. The drive home seemed really long probably because I was really tired, but I got there eventually then fell asleep almost immediately on my couch. I wasn't even really sore afterwards, just tired and a little dehydrated. I even ran 7 miles along the Charles Monday and was totally fine. I determined I WILL definitely try it again now that I know what to expect and I think I will try to break 2 hours going without taking pictures and a definite game plan of run walk.