Only One Hill….

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This weekend it was off to the White Mountain region of New Hampshire for the Mount Washington Road Race. This has been one of the “bucket list” runs I have tried getting into the lottery for the past few years and when I received the email this year telling me I was accepted there was a mixed emotion of “I can’t wait to do this” and “What the heck was I thinking when I signed up for this lottery.”

Number pickup took place the night before the race at the foot of the auto road and runners were able to grab their bib number, some electrolyte gels and toothbrushes thanks to sponsor Northeast Delta Dental. Technical running shirts were the race schwag for this race and a table also sold other racing gear such as hats, tee-shirts and long sleeve shirts. I opted to purchase a nice race tee-shirt and a bumper sticker that says, “The driver of this car has run Mt. Washington.” Best $2 I have ever spent!

One of my running friends told me that about a mile and a half into the race I would know if this is a once and done sort of race or if I would ever want to come back. He was right.

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The race started at the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road and needless to say was a rather uphill challenge. There was basically no flat terrain and only a slight dip as you rounded a turn then made its way into an uphill trudge once again. As we lined up at the starting line we saw a firefighter who was going to make the run in full gear (complete with oxygen tank) and a 93-year old man who like the rest of us was geared up to tackle the Mountain.

There were four water stops along the course which absolutely was needed and greatly appreciated. Though the race was 7.6 miles the challenge of the course was hands down one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Though I have run marathons before, this race beat me up far more than a marathon did as the muscle groups used were under such constant pressure it really made for a different race experience.

Along the way, there was a sort of out-of-body experience that took place as I made my way up the mountain. As we made our way above the tree line, runners began to almost run  amongst the clouds and had the ability to look down upon the smaller mountains around. Some of the imagery was absolutely amazing and with clear conditions runners could see for miles. Though it was June and at the base the temperature was in the 70s, a few patches of snow could still be seen on some of the peaks along the way.

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Right around the 4 mile mark the wind really started to pick up and gusts were measured around 45mph. I started the race with my racing shirt and shorts at the base and tied a long sleeve around my waist but did not change into it until post-race.

Though a road race, even for moderately good runners such as myself it was near impossible to run for a good portion of the race. Some of the hills burned the calves like you wouldn’t believe and even when you thought it was time to start running again the ability to change the legs from walking mode into running mode seemed like a task that the mind simply could not comprehend.

As I made my way toward the finish line the end was in sight but so too was basically a hill that resembled a wall climb to keep the course honest for good measure. I don’t know if the pain was making me delirious or not but this last 100 yards seemed as though I was running straight up. Fans at the finish were cheering names since they were on our bibs and the healthy amount of “Go Kevin” perhaps is what gave me that final kick into the finish line. I probably was moving at a snail’s pace, but man did it feel awesome to cross the finish line. Getting the medal placed around my neck for this race felt a little extra special and the fleece blanket that was wrapped around me was simply put: divine. After all, temperatures at the top with the wind-chill were hovering around 25 degrees.

Runners were required to have ride back down to the base already pre-arranged and since 12 other members of my running club took part in the race we had rides already figured out. A huge thanks to our driver who had to make the trek up the Auto Road alone in the morning and then had to drive four of us down post-race.

After we made our way back down to the base, a turkey dinner was served for the runners thanks to Hart’s Turkey Farm.

I finished the Mount Washington Road Race with a time of 2:18:49, which equates to 18:16/miles. Though the rule of thumb is to try and run the 7.5 mile race with a half-marathon time in mind, I was indeed a bit slower than my half-marathon time but after all, crossing the finish line was the only goal I had in mind. I was glad to be able to partake in this race, but know that it is crossed off the bucket list will probably not make my way back to tackle the mountain anytime soon. I earned that $2 bumper sticker!

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