Sunday, June 21, 2009

49th Annual Mount Washington Road Race 2009

     Saturday morning,  June 2oth 2009,  I competed in the 49th annual Mount Washington road race (7.6 miles) up the auto road in Pinkham Notch, NH.  This was my 3rd official attempt at this race and having run in the US Championship edition last year, I knew I was in for a serious test of both will power and endurance.  My goals for the race were sub 1:12:00 and top 30 overall.  Based on my time and place from last year (1:15:28/51st overall), I thought these were reasonable goals for me, but I also had to consider that with my current foot injury and inconsistent training (on top of the fact that Mt.  Washington is probably the most unique race in that predictions can be dicey due to weather and the fact that mountain racing can be unforgiving if one's race strategy is incorrectly implemented) anything could happen.
   After a 20 minute (2+miles) warm up with CMS teammates among many others, including 7 time winner Bob (HodgieSan) Hodge,  I donned on an old CMS singlet once worn by 3 time Mt. Washington winner Dave (double d) Dunham  which Jim (double J) Johnson let me borrow and laced up my Loco Banditos and headed to the starting line.  I wasn't feeling great with all the built up anxiety from the last month of cross training.  Honestly, I was trying to relax but just couldn't help but remember how painful last year's race was for me when at 4 miles my quads tightened up and every climb was so difficult that walking was required.  This year,  I wanted to remain relaxed and stay within myself and concentrate on smooth, short strides and avoid any quick spurts and deny myself the desire to make any unnecessary moves that would take energy away which would put me in early trouble.  Once you are in trouble at Mt. Washington, there is no escape.  Above all, I wanted to finish strong and avoid walking any part of the race.
     As I grabbed a 3rd row position I was right next to CMS teammate, Tim Mahoney and fellow NH resident Ernest Brake.  These were two runners I had finished close to last year so I figured it would be good to hang with them early on and see how things developed.  As the cannon sounded, I felt better and just tried to avoid any trouble crossing the bridge and looked ahead as the leaders took off.  The first 1/4 mile at Mt. Washington is flat to downhill and you could easily forget you are about to attack the largest peak (6,288 feet) in the Northeast section of the US.  But, once you hit the first incline, this quickly changes as you go from running 5:50 pace to 7:15 pace at the bat of an eye.  As the field slowed down with the first incline,  I could see the leaders pulling away and a second pack beginning to form.  I would say I was in about 50th position and went through mile 1 at 7:50.  I was feeling good and was running alongside George (GZ) Zack from Boulder, CO and Tim Mahoney for about the first 2 miles. (Note: I don't have accurate splits as I reset my watch accidentally on the descent down.)
I think I ran mile 2 in about 9:42 so that would mean my time was about 17:32.  I remember mile 3 put me at average pace of 9:11 so I think I hit 3 in 27:33.  I was feeling good sticking to my race plan of steady and smooth strides with no foolish moves and was picking off runners as they slowed.  That is how it happens at this race.   I had hydrated myself well before the race with coconut water and regular water so the humidity was not affecting me like I think it was everyone else.  I took water at mile 2 but not too much.  My breathing was in a good rhythm and my legs were handling the climbs very well.  I maintained my position for most of the 3rd mile to halfway (3.8) which I hit in about 35 minutes.  At halfway I ate a vanilla gel and took some water and just maintained my form and concentrated on the runners ahead of me.  One runner passed me at this point (51year old fromUtah) but I resisted the urge to go with him telling myself to run your own race and don't get caught up in trying to challenge every runner that may pass.  Mile 4 (37:44)  became interesting because the visibilty was about 25 yards at the most.  In some ways this was good and in some ways this was bad.  The positive aspect of the dense fog was that you did not too caught up in the climbs that were ahead and strictly concentrated on the one at hand.  Small steps over a large mountain.  On the other hand, the fog did not allow you to see your entire competition or on the occasion you wanted to see what lay ahead for you, you simply couldn't.
    At about mile 5 (48:44), I was met up with former UMass Lowell teammate and current CMS teammate,  Michael Woodman.  I was pleased to see it was a familiar face and we greeted each other and proceeded to run the next 1.5 miles together.  It was awesome to run with Woody.  He was looking strong and I was trying to hang in there.  I think we hit mile 6 in about 58:30.    I would say he helped me more than I helped him for at about 6.5 miles at the switchback, I felt for the first time the sensation in my quads similar to last year.  The climb knocked me back a bit and Woody gapped me by about 10 seconds.  I tried to maintain contact and hang in there with every climb.  At about mile 7 (1:08:30), I was catching a couple of runners and passed them and knew the finish line was very close. 
      I love the finish at Mt. Washington because it offers everything from energetic crowds to the  natural beauty of the mountain.   This year, with all the fog in the early miles, the summit was clear and sunny.  To the left of the summit the clouds were surrounding the mountain and it looked like you could jump right out on them.  I guess I get pretty emotional towards the end of long races which I am not ashamed to say happened this year.  Maybe its just a sign of getting older and the strain of a difficult race.   I was focusing on "the wall" as I knew it was around the final turn.  The crowds were helpful and offering encouragement every last step.  I kept looking at my watch and knew I had a good chance to break double d's prediction time for me of 1:14:30.  I would, however,  have to bust it up "the wall" which I did finishing in a sprint and crossing the line at 1:14:26.  The effort took its toll on me as I buckled to my knees and was in a serious hyperventilation mode.  The exhaustion made me weep like a baby but I think a lot of it was in the satisfaction of finishing in a PR.  (33rd overall/32nd male/11th master/4th 45-49 age group/12th CMS member/5th masters member in new course record/5th New Hampshire resident/ no walking)

Complete results on www\

Notes:  Just want to thank Jim Johnson, the lovely and talented Kristin Wainwright and John Healy for the ride up and company to the Attitash condo and for Jim for having my bag safely delivered to the summit of the mountain.
Another thank you to Dave Dunham  and his wife Cathy for their hospitality at the condo and for bringing me back home safely to my house Sunday.
Congratulations to all CMS runners who participated in the race.  A particular congrats to CMS master's teammate Francis Burdett for the performance of the weekend in finishing 10th overall in a 7 min PR of 1:06:39.
George Zack it was great meeting you and sharing stories of life during our run down!  Good luck at Pat's Peak!
Thank you to Monica and the kids for putting up with dad during all the training.  I love you.
And Michael Q, thanks for taking care of business while I was away.  Your running the 50th next year!


  1. Dave, Great job!! Sticking to your plan really paid off.

  2. Thanks, Scotty. Great picture of you on Scott Mason's blog. Solid effort!

  3. Dave, I just saw the pictures that Kristin took of you. Great shots!!!!