June 15, 2013
Mount Washington Auto Road
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
– John Muir
One mountain. 7.6 miles. 4,727 feet of climbing.
For the past week I’ve been struggling to put my run up Mount Washington into words. I went into the race having no idea what to expect. Although much of my training involves mountains and distance, in all of my years as a runner I’d never run continuously uphill for more than 3 miles (~2,000 feet of climbing). The mere thought of running twice that uphill mileage – at an average 12% grade! – downright terrified me.
In the week leading up to the race, I (somewhat frantically) sought out every bit of information I could on the Mount Washington Auto Road. Knowledge is most definitely a curse in certain situations, and the more I read the more I started to question my ability to run well at such a tough event. Eventually, I settled on the goal of simply enjoying the experience. My plan was to run light (a tough decision as I always feel most comfortable carrying my own water with me), pace via heart rate, and not let myself get wrapped up in how I finished.
Yet even with a plan in place, a small but persistent voice inside of me yearned for something greater. Washington is a peak that is extremely close to my heart. I’ve stood atop its summit more than any other mountain in the Whites. I maintain a beautiful trail that winds along its western slope. It’s the home to many happy moments in my life.
While combing through blog posts, I noticed that people often described the race as a battle with the mountain. It was something I just couldn’t relate to. In my years of hiking and running in the Whites, I’ve embraced the deep connection that ties me to this rugged landscape. I truly believe I run well in the mountains because I work with them, not against them.
Thus, as doubtful as I was in my abilities, I set a secret goal of running every step. I knew that if there were any place, anywhere in the world where I could accomplish such a goal, it would be here on a mountain that I love and respect.
Photo courtesy of Mount Washington Auto Road
…and somehow, I did it.
My quads never burned. My heart never failed. And even though it might have been faster to hike some of the steeper sections, I managed to run every step. The mountain watched over me, and helped me achieve something that I didn’t think possible. Reaching the summit in 1 hour, 26 minutes, and 59 seconds, I ended up placing 7th woman overall. As the first female finisher from New Hampshire, I was also awarded with the Crossan Cup.
A huge thanks to Martha for kindly bringing me warm clothes and food at the summit, to Al and Doug for the encouragement and laughter, to Amy for the fun run down the auto road, to SFH for keeping me strong and healthy, and to all of the wonderful folks who made this race possible. It is an experience that I will never forget. I am honored to have represented my state well on a mountain that I love, and hope to have the opportunity to run the race again next year. Fingers crossed that the lottery gods remain in my favor…
Some fun facts…
- Gels consumed – 3 VFuel
- Water consumed – 4 clumsy sips. Note to self: It’s time to learn to drink from cups on the run…
- Calories burned – 898
- Average HR – 162
- Max HR – 170
- Polar FT4 heart rate monitor
- iPod Shuffle
- YurBuds headphones
- Flag nor Fail “Work Is in My Blood” pink tank top
- Pearl Izumi Infinity Run skirt
- Voler Artico Thermo arm warmers
- Hoka Bondi Bs
- Darn Tough socks
- Dirty Girl gaiters (rainbow leopard) – because I like to be colorful…
- Headsweats race hat
- Julbo Dust sunglasses