With considerable ignorance of what was to come, I trained in the spring & into the summer. My summer focus for the past few seasons has been a steady diet of trail running & a few series races tossed in w/ Reach The Beach relay in the early fall. This summer was different as I was also training some sprint triathletes & would serve as a pacer about once per week.
Early June hit & 2 events that would alter the entire race occurred between training myself & a triathlete smack in the middle of my kitchen. I twisted awkwardly on my foot & in an instant fractured my cuboid bone plus realized that I was in fact geriatric. Of all the places to injure, damn in front of the fridge. No wanting to let down my athlete, I tapped my foot up & went on a 4 mile tempo run.
I was seen by Ortho a few days latter & informed that 'runners are just crazy'. Unable to walk normally, I asked about Mt. Washington & was reminded about 'crazy', but consoled that I was an adult & could do just about anything I wanted. In one of the most bizarre physician questions I've ever been asked, the doctor when on to ask about my plans for my athletic career..........that ship sailed sometime in the early 90's. I was told to 'rest up' & if my foot fractured further, the office would still be there. The race was 8 days away.
At about this time, I also read up on their event to realize that it finished on the top of a mountain & that I would need to plan a way down. Running down was not permitted via the organizers & that pesky foot was still a consideration unfortunately. Enter Cheryl..........I met Cheryl on the Race website forum as I was desperately seeking a ride down the hill & after a few emails + agreeing to provide a case of beer, gummy bears & Margarita mix, I was set w/ a ride down w/ her crew.Her driver was also going to bring a drop bag to the summit for me. As w/ most female runners, she was highly organized & tactical in her planning / preparations.
3 days prior to weekend & I entered, then won a trail 5k in brutal sloppy / pouring conditions.
I met Cheryl for the first time at bib pick up. Limping along, she nor her crew were none too impressed. I remember the odd moment when her sister asked what my half marathon time was looking like..........most people run this event at about their half marathon pace. The laughter sorta came to an end when I had to admit that my longest race was a slow 10k. I could see that the group was attempting to make a visual memory of what my corpse would look like to pick me up on the way back down from the summit.
I did learn that this was also crew from Boston that participated in the annual Reach The Beach relay.
What I have to say about organizers & what any ski area GM should learn will start about here: On the day prior to the race, I arrived at bib pick up to be greeted, parked, walked over to the table & engaged by the friendliest, most organized staff I have ever encountered. Each aspect of the event was highly coordinated on a superb level. More to follow....
The day of the race I hit the base area w/ a series of good lucks & encouragement from my family. Foot taped & highly OTC medicated, I set off for the race. Again, parking attendants were out, volunteers were everywhere.......they even had staff directing traffic at the Port-A-Potties....just an unbelievable level of service!!
I warmed up & the field was freaking massive. Runners everywhere! I recalled what one of my friends told me about not hitting the wall & going into oxygen debt too early on the race. Mary Beth warned that it would be misery if this occurred & I was listening.
Warming up I noted the overwhelmingly friendly atmosphere & the courteous nature of the group.
Closing in a 8:45, announcements started about lining up. 1200 people organized themselves in a matter of minutes & then as if out of a Norman Rockwell image, pure Americana took over. The national anthem was played, a Marine w/ a huge flag & staff that he would carry to the top popped up & a large cannon was rolled out..........
The Start: with the firing of a cannon, 1200 of us started up a rather large, yet singular hill. I soon realized that I had made a terrible mistake in giving the field an excessive amount of credit. I lined up middle of the pack & was now simply stuck.
Mile One: Carnage ensued all around as about 500 people realized that they could not sprint to the top. This revelation to many appeared completely surprising. Many were sprinting right up to point where there had their hands on their thighs.
Mile 1.25: Uh......WTF there is already a water station. I may be in too deep if there is H20 at this point.
Mile 2: Massively struggling to find a path to run in & dodging the collapsing bodies, I almost went off the road attempting to stay on a steady pace. I was greatly pleased to have my cheesy teen beat hits blasting in my ipod!I love corny music while running & rocking out to Gym Class Heroes, Nick Minaj & B.o.B. I was playing asteroids with the field. Still remembering that I wanted to stay within myself, I was thankful to be heaped up in the masses.
Mile 3: I only remember that I was surprised about the level of shade on the course & how technical the footing was. My foot hurt, yet I tend to have an over striding, pawing gait & as long as stayed on smooth road & avoided camber/cracks......this worked rather well. About this point I was finally clear of the packs of people & was settling into some solid work. Smaller groups of 2-4 runners were forming & helping each other pace. About this point, head-to-toe spandex gu man appears. This was quite a site, a gentleman clad in Lycra & gu packets: his strategies appeared complex: eat, sprint, sprint backwards, slow to grab another gu packet & repeat. Katy Perry blaring, I was content!
Midway: Hit the half way point @ ~35 minutes & was inspired to hear that the leaders were on record pace!I was still measuring myself & was looking to kick at mile 4. It would only be a 5k to the finish.
Mile 4: We're above the treeline, despite snow in the distance & it being cooler...I was on fire. Like Africa Hot ( Thinking of this, I went on post race to purchase tiny runner shorts - while cooler, my wife informed me that there are no winners when I wear short shorts.) I felt the sun searing me & I was pouring sweat to the point where my ipod locked on a repeat of Carly Rae Jepsen. This was the beginning of the end.
Mile 5: Baking in the sun & still jamming out to Carly Rae, the wheels started to come off as the road changed to dirt from pavement. Frost heaves & mud everywhere, I lost my traction from my pawing gait plus I was now passing & being passed spandex-gu-guy 3 times per "Call Me Maybe". My mojo was pummeled & I just Keep telling myself how disappointed I would be if I stopped.
Mile 6: Sweltering in sweet & sun, my ipod finally died, Lycra-dude made a final sprint before collapsing & stepping off the course & I latched onto a smaller group of runners that would carry me for a while. I contemplated stopping & dunking my head in the emergency radiator water station on the side of the road.
Mile 7: Everything hurt & I felt like I was running through a wall. At least we were solidly back on a paved surface. I strong fashion, I was passed by some steady runners that I recalled last seeing around mile 2 & a young teen (14 - I would latter learned) was driving past us completely loosing form & clearly in pain beyond my comprehension. His father cheering & running along side, the young man doubled his pace & was gone!!! I could only see flailing limbs ahead. I just remember thinking that I was unsure if I would reach the top & that perhaps this was beyond me.
Finish: IT WAS AS IF I WAS RUNNING A WALL @ A SNAIL'S PACE.
I would finish in the top 10 in my age group, yet I have never been so broken.
Up top in 80 some minutes, I watched some of the most inspiring accomplishments: a 97 year old man reach the summit & at almost 3 hours, a couple stagger & pull/slingshot each other forward over the 22% grade to reach the end.
At the completion of the event, we shuttled down & were treated to a complete Thanksgiving feast from the local turkey farm! Pure Americana - one of the best events I have even done. My wife picked me up & at the time I was so spent when she asked how it was I could only utter "steep". I had inquired of the organizers about the army of staff & was told they only had 14 people working that day.
Everything was just orchestrated perfectly, from the personalized bib, the website, the directions, organizing the field, start, toilets, amenities, meal...........
My only regret is not my gimp status, but that I may not gain entry next year.
So, If you want to be fit to ski - consider entering & training for this lottery!