Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mt. Washington road race

I don't know if I've ever picked an "A" race to train for.  Usually, I have a "season", and I'm trying to hold my form through the entire thing.  When you're peaking for an entire season, when you have bad races, you just sort of forget about them and wait for a good race, which inevitably comes.  That said, I tend to be fairly scientific about recording what affects my good races, and what I've done to cause my bad races, and at this point I have a good handle on what my body needs prior to a race to make it a good race, from training sessions months ahead of time to what I eat for breakfast.  So, signing up for a race and choosing to make it an "A" race - one that you train specifically for, that you care about a whole bunch - that didn't seem like that big a deal.  I'm good at this stuff.

Mount Washington is high, and while I've been up it a few times before, I've never raced up it.  Rob's done this race 29 times, and I figured if he's done it that many times, it's either totally awesome or he's a total nutcase.  I entered the lottery, my name got pulled, and I started training for this beast.  Maybe I was TOO mentally prepared - I had input from a bunch of different people about what it would be like, how much you suffer, or how much you can't let yourself suffer because there's no coming back.  Everyone has their own theories.  The best was the guy I met in the porta-potty line who makes his own shoes for this race, by adding an extra sole to his existing shoes in order to raise his heel, to put less pressure on his calves.  Wacko, but not totally implausible.  Anyway, after doing a good bit of hill-running this spring, I felt like I had a good idea of how hard I could go up the big hill, and how fast I would do it.  I was a little nervous, but pretty excited to see what I could do.

The day dawned sunny and warmer than I'd anticipated.  Hopefully it would be cooler above treeline, but unfortunately it wasn't.  I was most scared of starting too fast, since that is typically what I do, so I lined up somewhere in the middle of the 1200 runners.  The gun went off, and it took 14 seconds to get to the start line - that's a new experience for me!  There wasn't room to run, just jogging, and it was hard not to get too excited passing people.  Once we hit the hill things spaced out a bit.  Within a few minutes I had room to run my own race, so I did.  No different than my training runs, heartrate hovering in level 2, this was comfortable.  Now it's time to just hurry up and wait, legs ticking over and over and over and eventually I'll get to the top.


The sun was hot, though.  By the second water stop, just before mile 3, I already had heat shivers.  Took two glasses of water and walked through until I'd drunk both of them, poured a third on my head.  Things kind of started to get bad around there, though.  My legs started to burn, despite a relatively low HR.  I started to do some walking, and people started to pass me.  My mile splits were getting more and more pathetic, way outside the range of what I'd expected for time.  This was pretty disappointing.  Mile 5, where you're just chugging along the dirt bit on the eastern side of the mountain, and it just goes straight forward and straight up forever - that part sucked.  Who am I kidding, pretty much everything from mile 2 onward sucked.  It was down to a mental game of counting steps, forcing my plodding self onward.  Because not only do I not drop out of races when I've got nothing worse than a blister, there was nowhere to drop out TO in this race.  The only salvation would be at the top.

I got there eventually.  Three minutes later than any of my predicted times, which spanned a 12-minute range.  I really hate it when I don't meet my own expectations, and it's taken a few days of self-loathing to decide that yes, I am still an athlete.  I don't know why I did so poorly in this race, but stewing about it isn't helping anything.  I'll probably be back some day, because I feel like I have something to prove, but I sucked enough at it that I'm not jumping into saying I'll enter the lottery next year.


It's always so weird to get to the top of Mt. Washington and find all this civilization.  At least this time it was less weird, since I did go up a road.

Jess was there with her team, and she did great.  So speedy!

After running up, Jess and Graham and a friend of Jess's coach decided to hike down.  We went down the Tuckerman ravine trail, and that hike went a long way toward restoring my sanity.  

Clouds moving in on the headwall.


 Moonscape!



Cool waterfalls.  I skied down that shit??



Snow!!

One last remaining snow bridge.  So cool!



Hi tucks!



Jess and Graham

me and Jess

Then we sat around a campfire drinking home-made apple wine, and life got even better.

More Hurricane Irene damage - all sorts of braided rivers where we used to have channels.  

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