Monday, June 22, 2015

"Because It's There": Mount Washington Road Race (6/20/15)

Jon, Kieran, me, Susannah, Bill, Scot and Dana on the top
photo by Christine Sweeney
Why are you climbing Mt. Everest?
Because it's there. ~George Mallory

BIG 20
Race: Mt Washington Road Race
Distance: 7.6 miles (12.2 km)
Elevation Gain: 4700 feet (1432 m)
Goal Time: 1:30:00
Actual Time: 1:33:45

Mile: 6.12 (6.85 km)
Elevation: 5423 ft  (1653 m)
"Wow, what the $%&@ is this?" I asked rhetorically.  From mile 6.12 to mile about 6.15 there was a downhill.  I hadn't seen one of those in well over an hour.

Mt. Washington is unrelenting.  For 7.6 miles the Auto Road climbs 4500 ft (1372m), averaging about 12% grade through most of it. Some long sections even average 18%.

Mt Washington elevation profile
Notice, just one hill

Mile: 0 (0 km)
Elevation: 1577 ft (480 m)
An hour and 15 minutes earlier, I'd been standing at the bottom of the mountain and start line.  Scot, Kieran, Bill and I talked with the runners around us.  After some spurious and questionable (which we only found out later) advice, the four of us were about as ready as we could be.

People ask why I would want to do this race.  I would point to the famous George Mallory quote: "Why would you want to climb Mt. Everest?" Mallory answered: "Because it's there."  Of course no one ever mentions that after he said that, in 1924 Mallory died trying to climb Mt. Everest and his body wasn't found until 1999.

The first person ascended Mt. Washington in 1642.  Since then, apparently hundreds have died on Mt. Washington.  Fortunately none of them have done so running the Road Race.

The race started with a bang - a cannon bang.  The 1200 or so of us were off and running.  Bill, Scot and Kieran were quickly out ahead of me.  I decided to take it as easy as I could.

Mile: 0.89 (1.43 km)
Elevation: 2000 ft (610 m)
At the 2000 foot mark, I looked down at my watch.  I had taken it easy, but not easy enough.  I was still on pace to break 11 minutes for the first mile.  WOW, gotta slow down, I thought.  I found it difficult to find that pace for the start of the race.  Maybe it's something that comes with experience from mountain races; but since I have NO experience with such, I wouldn't know.

Mile: 3.8 (6.11 km)
Elevation: 3911 ft (1192 m)
I hit the halfway clock at 45:01 - exactly on pace to do 1:30.  I also knew that I had been slowing down.  Most distance races you don't go through series of personal crises throughout the race.  I've always noticed one goal of the marathon is to deal with the mental challenge. As tired as my legs were at mile 3.8, I knew I would have to do the same with this race.  It wasn't going to get any easier. In fact, it was going to get harder.

The race was so far out of the comfort zone of most people I was running with.  So much so, that in the next mile I actually passed Jim Norcott and Scot, who I would never pass in a non-mountain race. 

Mile: 4.5 (7.24 km)
Elevation: 4355 ft (1327 m)
By mile 4 and a half, the trees are getting stumpier and the road turns from asphalt to dirt.  And all I could think was, "Oh, now it's dirt; that will make it easier."  Within seconds I realized I had no data or even logical theory with which to defend such an outlandish hypothesis.  Within the next mile, where the dirt portion ends, I had walked twice.

The first time I walked, I had convinced myself that it was good "strategy."  But the second time, I was reasonably distraught.  Could I run again?  Would I be walking for the next three miles?  Like mini-crises in marathons, I had learned not to give into them. I didn't give in and eventually started running again, but that was definitely the slowest part of the race.

Mile: 0 (0 km)
Elevation: 1577 ft (480 m)
Meanwhile at the base of the mountain....
Urvi and TM were directing the kids race.  The kids ran only about 200 yards but they still ran up and down a reasonable steep part of the Auto Road

The last 1/2 mile or so stretching stretching along the ridge
photo by Christine Sweeney
Mile: 5.5 (8.8 km)
Elevation: 5026 ft (1532 m)
The dirt ended at mile 5.5.  This time I was not silly enough to think that somehow this would make it "easier."  We were now full above the treeline and exposed to the wind.  It was more a breeze than wind.  Kieran and I had agreed that if we were only going to do this race once, this was the year.  The weather had been perfect.  It was 59°F (15°C) at the bottom and 52°F (11°C) at the top with no clouds and full visibility.  It was the perfect day to run up a mountain.  Especially one that claims to have the worst weather in the world (including winds of 231 mph - 372 km/h once).

Mile: 6.0 (9.7 km)
Elevation: 5352 ft (1631 m)
At mile 6, I don't know how clearly I was really thinking.  I had walked one more time after the road went back to asphalt.  But, for some reason at the mile 6 mark, I decided: "I'm not going to walk again."  And I didn't but there were definitely places where people were walking faster than I was "running."

At about mile 7.4; Jim Norcott (in gold/orange) closed that whole gap
photo by Christine Sweeney

Mile: 7.35 (11.8 km)
Elevation: 6133 ft (1869 m)
After running for an hour and a half nearly alone, suddenly near the top there are spectators and you can see the buildings on top and hear the Cog Railway as it steams to the top.  Only a quarter mile left, I decided to drop the proverbial hammer.  For the next 1/8 of a mile, I was running a blazing speed of 8:00/min mile as the road still wound it's way up to the top.

Mile: 7.47 (12 km)
Elevation: 6179 ft (1883 m)
You make a right at the parking lots and then you see the brutal last little bit.  It's a 22% grade!

I'd seen all the pictures from this last horrid section.  The grade forced even great runners to walk and hold their quads as they climbed.  I think this is where 6 weeks of the Harvard Stadium Stairs came in useful.  So I charged up what was about 50 feet of elevation over about .1 miles and then oddly didn't have much left in me to sprint at the end.

Jim Norcott caught me and yelled at me to go. So I found some last bit somewhere.

Mile: 7.6 (12.2 km)
Elevation: 6276 ft (1912 m)
Jim and I sprinted and finished within a second.  There was an awesome fleece blanket and medal waiting for me.  We gathered the finishers from the club as they came in.  Eventually we got about half of us at the summit itself for the obligatory stand-by-the-sign picture.

In the parking lot we celebrated with champagne and a Newburyport Pale Ale.

Shoes and medal

Mile: 0 (0 km)
Elevation: 1577 ft (480 m)
After getting a ride down the mountain with Dana's family (including a stop en route when the brakes started smoking), there was an awesome turkey dinner from Hart's Turkey Farm and the awards.

While I was the third fastest Clydesdale, they give the awards in age-graded percentage.  So, I took 5th in the Clydesdales instead.  I probably would have made third if I had run the 1:30 that my goal was - but I didn't.
SRR Men finished at the 8th Place Team.
My friend Denise Sandahl won the Crossan Cup - as the first New Hampshire woman up the mountain.

Why are you running up Mt. Washington?
Because it's there. ~Me

Monday, June 15, 2015

Speed Along the Road: Tour de Cure (6/14/15)

Team Cyclotrons at the start of the 100 miler: Andrew, Sara, Amie, Ryan (100k), Rob, Derek, Dean, Emma, Urvi, Lisa, TM, Jen and me
photo from Andrew Scholte

Ride: Tour de Cure Kennebunks
Distance: 100 miles
Sights: Maine Coast, Kennebunks, Maine Woods, Rachel Carson Reservation
Goal Time: 6:30:00
Actual Time: 6:15:04 (16 mph, PR)
Pivo Index: 2

There's a poem from Tagore that one line of often gets stuck in my head while I ride: "greet me and speed along the road."

Gitanjali #44
Rabindranth Tagore

This is my delight, thus to wait and watch at the wayside where shadow chases light and the rain comes in the wake of the summer. 

Messengers, with tidings from unknown skies, greet me and speed along the road. My heart is glad within, and the breath of the passing breeze is sweet. 

From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door, and I know that of a sudden the happy moment will arrive when I shall see. 

In the meanwhile I smile and I sing all alone. In the meanwhile the air is filling with the perfume of promise.

As I rode on the empty roads on Sunday morning, felt that sweet breath of the passing breeze: the ocean with a gentle kiss of sea breeze with nothing but dog owners and surfers along the way.

15 people joined team Cyclotron for the Tour de Cure Kennebunks.  12 of us were doing the 100 Miler and three did the 100K.  So at 5:30 am, we left our vacation place in York for the Wells Reservation.  And by 7:00 (not before we had an awesome free breakfast from the Lions club and Emma won Sox tickets from Dunkin) the 12 of us for the 100 miler were lined up and ready to go.

 I had my plan of breaking the ride into fifths.  The first twenty I would take easy; then the next twenty a little faster and then 40-80 I would generally race.  And the end I would do what I could do.

I picked the perfect ride for that plan.  The first 40 or so miles of the ride is along the southern Maine coast.  It starts in Wells and follows the coast through Kennebunk and Kennebunkport and all the way up to Scarborough before heading up the hills off the coast. And it's just so beautiful and so relaxing as the "messengers, from unknown skies" greet you. 

The second rest stop was mile 38.9.  So that's where I started putting it into race mode. I put the camera away into my pannier bag and made sure I had enough food to get me to the mile 58 rest stop (and maybe beyond). I got my legs warmed up after the rest stop.  I hit mile 40 right at 2:40 (15 mph).  That's when I started a long fast tempo.  

Over what was the hilliest part of the course, I went from doing 15mph to 18mph.  As I rode through Buxton I looked for hayfields: "One in particular. Got a long rock wall with a big oak at the north end. Like something out of a Robert Frost poem. It's where I asked my wife to marry me. We'd gone for a picnic. We made love under that tree. I asked and she said yes."  I was hoping to find a piece of black volcanic glass that maybe Red left some of the money Andy had hidden for him.

By mile 60, I had caught up with Jen, Dean, TM & Derek and then left them at a rest stop.  I might have taken a longer rest at that stop, had I known that I wouldn't find the mile 77 stop.  (in fact, nobody found that stop except for Andrew and that was only after he had been driven there with a busted tire.)

Bush Compound, Kennebunkport

100 km Cyclotrons - Karen, Sara and Ryan
Photo from Karen Serafin

Near the end, around mile 85 or so, there was the turn off for the 50k ride.  Unfortunately, the 100K and 100 Miler had to keep going.  This loop was probably the worst. I ran out of water.  This forced me to stop and go into one of my panniers for my emergency water bottle.  I switched out bottled and grabbed my back up Garmin since I was unsure I would be able to make the end with my main one. Of course right around the corner from this impromptu stop was - the last 90 mile rest stop.  I just filled water and Gatorade and left.

The last ten miles, I averaged just under 20 mph.  And, at the very end I was passing 50K riders and 100k riders.  We were greeting each other with elation: "Almost there!"  I rode beneath the big red finishing arch and then up the hill (even though I didn't have to but I wanted a mountain top finish).  

Old Orchard Beach

It was a beautiful and fun day; I destroyed my previous century PR by 45 minutes.  I got to celebrate with the 100K riders and Robby who had finished before me.  I had two Peak Organic IPA as we cheered in the rest of the group as they finished in pairs and triples.  And then Andrew came in strong as Cyclotron's lantern rouge despite his popped tube, tire blowout and personal need to ride backward to get the whole 100 miles.

Team Cyclotron raised over $6000 for diabetes research!

Emma with Sox tickets from her spin on the Wheel of Java.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Yak and Scurry: Glen Doherty Cup (6/7/15)

Photo Finish of the Kayak Race - I was third
photo from Cambridge 5k and Tamagini Visuals

Cambridge 5k who puts on Yulefest and Craicfest put on a 5k in June - Freedom Run.  Part of the Freedom Run is the Glen Doherty Cup, which is a .75 mile kayak race and then the regular 5k race - best total time wins.

Part 1 - Kayak 
Distance: .75 miles
Course: Kendall Square Kayak Rental to Cambridgeside Galeria
Goal Time: 8:30
Actual Time 8:16

I thought I was in trouble.  As the 25 people in the kayak race lined up at the start line I was stuck in the second row.  On the start, sure enough, the two women in front of me started paddling but weren't actually going.  And, four guys took off into the lead and had 50 yards on me by the time I got through the traffic.

As you leave the Broad Canal, the course turns left into the Charles River.  Here there are two ways to go: Right around the marina or left along the wall - inside the marina.  Until recently I didn't even know you could go that way.  It's much faster.

Since I was in 6th, I was watching those ahead of me play out.  Two guys went right and three went left.  I kept behind the three who went left.  Fortunately the wind and waves were low. (The disadvantage is that on a choppy day, the waves will double on you by rebounding off the wall.) I passed one of the three guys who went left and tried to catch up with the two leaders.

Ahead of me there was some full NASCAR going on as the two jockeyed for position and the leader cut the other off when we went under the little bridge that goes to the marina.  I had settled into a comfortable pace that was slightly behind them.  As we approached the last turn at the Science Museum down the Lechmere Canal, I determened my plan was to pull out a hard sprint in the last 200 yards.

Unfortunately the other two guys had the same plan.  There was no change in position or even distance between us.  I pulled in in third place, three seconds behind going into the run.

Part 2 - Run
Distance: 5 km
Course: Lechemere - Kendall Square - Inman Square - East Cambridge
Goal Time: 19:00
Actual Time: 18:31

The kayak race had started at 8:30 with 25 people,  and an hour later was the 5k with 1500 people.  But I was only worried about the 24 others from the kayak race.   On the gun I took off with the lead pack.  However, that meant I was taking off with Jake Barnett and the Antunes.  By the time we got in front of Helmand Restaurant, I made the smart move of slowing down.  When we took the right onto Binney, I noticed my watch hadn't started.

So, now I decided to go on place rather than pace.  Ahead of me were two masters runners - Jim Normile and a guy from Forest Hills (David).  I spent the first mile catching up with Jim.  I caught him on Hampshire Street.  He kept looking back while I tried to catch my breath and look to the next step in place.  As we approached Inman Square I left him looking toward David.

We made the big right in Inman from Hampshire to Cambridge Street.  By the time we got to the second mile mark, I made my way up to the guy between me and David.  Finally, by the school on Cambridge (where Andy and Joe were cheering) I made my way up to David and by him.

The last challenge is the hill up to the courthouse.  It's three blocks long.  I was going to use Ryan Hall's stratey on hills.  Take the first 2/3 reasonbly easy and then take the last third hard.  Well, that's two blocks easy - where David passed me.  Then when we hit Scirappa I went hard and passed David. Now, I just had to make the goal to not let him catch me.  I took a huge breath down the hill and turned on whatever juice I had left in me.

With the turn on First Street, there were three blocks left.  I looked back and saw David still behind me and 3 20-somethings charging at me. I let them do what they were going to do.  I was able to sprint the last block beating David.

Finished with a Personal Record - 18:31 as First Masters and combined 26:47 for First place in the Glen Doherty Cup.

Masters and Glen Doherty Cup Champ

Shoutouts -
Jake Barnett won
Bev was first woman
Jake, Bev and Chris Antunes were the first place team.