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This One Goes to 11!

Success! The 2014 Tuckerman Inferno is in the bag and I, bib #11, finished it. Hillman’s Highway and all.

Carrying Amani’s stuff almost turned out to be a horrible idea. I loved every minute of turning out the second half of the race with little man, but the extra weight and lack of experience on the climbing skins for my skis nearly ended me. The 1pm hike to ski transition cutoff drew closer and closer while we, really I, stood still on the hiking trail. I was out of gas in an awful way. Amani was rock solid, fresh as a daisy, and will certainly be carrying his own ski boots if we ever try this stunt again.

We managed to hit the hike to ski transition area by 12:30. Tearing off my ski skins and getting Amani’s gear off and settled took 12 minutes. At that point I wasn’t rushing. The cutoff was the goal to avoid disqualification. Or so I thought. The climb up Hillman’s was really steep. Yeah, the hike to ski transition tag is a bit misleading. The real climb had only just begun. I have never been afraid of heights, but then I have always had very good balance. 6 hours of racing and carrying extra gear completely zapped me of any self-assurance and ability I ever relied on in situations like this. I started counting 10 steps to 5 resting breaths just to give myself something to think about besides falling backwards or how much my legs hurt. My quads wouldn’t stop doing that wobble, wobble, wobble thing that ruined me in my first triathlon so many years ago in Montauk.

Anyway, before we get to the dramatic conclusion of the race you already know I completed, let me recap the early stages of the pentathlon. Pre-registration the night before was quick and came with a coupon for a free pizza next door at Flatbread. We sat next to the 1,000 degree ovens. They even put the brownie for our sundae dessert in there. Pretty cool and very delicious. Prior to registration we stashed the kayak down by the river. Locked to a tree of course. Apparently the river rose overnight last year and a few boats washed away. 30 extra seconds to unlock a boat sounds super quick compared to that recovery mission.

The race started with an 8.3 mile run out of Story Land in Glen. We stayed the night at the Golden Apple Inn about a mile away so the morning was mostly convenient. We had to drop the bike off before heading to the start. The gates were down at the Glen Ellis Family Campground serving as the transition area so I had to bike in to the transition with my bag. 200 yards or so. A little goofy, but no big deal. Back to the start.

Most of the action at Story Land revolved around the port-o-potties. Otherwise things were quiet. Too quiet. The starting line structure was obvious enough so there was no confusion, but announcements were few and far between. “7 Minutes to the start.” “Two minutes to the start.” “Goooo!!!!!!!” No “take your mark” or countdown of the last ten seconds or anything. On the plus side no one was crammed in jockeying for position. We just started moving our feet and had plenty of room to operate from the get go. After a rousing bout of “try to catch Daddy” in the parking lot with Gracie, I was plenty warmed up.

The climb through the neighborhood where every street has Ledge in the name slowed me a bit but the run back down to Route 302 evened things out. Eight minute mile pace or so throughout the 8.3 mile course to Thorne Pond across from Bear Peak at Attitash. Passed a few people for good measure just before the transition.

Heather was waiting with Gracie and my bag in the parking lot. Amani had carried my lifejacket and paddle down to the boat about 200 yards away. A veteran of the course changed in a camp chair that his wife brought while I sat on the ground. Lesson learned. The transition went quick enough either way. A quick jog to the water in lots of neoprene to meet Amani where I unlocked the boat. Stood in line at the launch for about 30 seconds before Amani shoved me into the Saco River.

My sit-on-top Hobie equipped with its seldom used thigh straps balanced like a champ. Lots of people getting spun around and dumped over the 5.5 mile course of rocks and rapids. Mostly Class II from what I could tell. Nothing too crazy, but cold as cold gets. Glad I opted out of the wetsuit on this very sunny morning, but the neoprene gloves and socks were a must. Otherwise, my vinyl wear for shirt and pants did the trick. An army of volunteers sitting in boats ready to spring into action lined the course. Couldn’t ask for better coverage. And such great attitudes. The constant cheers of “keepin’ it straight, you got this, you got this,” was downright energizing. A quick view of white capped Mount Washington around one river bend helped keep the overall mission in perspective too.

Hand off the boat and hustle to the bike transition. To dress warm or not to dress warm? The sun was beating down on us in the lowlands of Glen, but the climb into Pinkham notch lie ahead. All I could think of through this process was watching the temperature gauge on the Forester change mile after mile morning after morning whenever we approached Wildcat to ski the winter. The other side of that notch can be a whole other universe. But wow was the sun coming down hard on that pavement at the transition.

I opted for warm clothes. Fuzzy windproof vest and all. Just couldn’t chance it. My last few rides going into the race were cold. Couldn’t shake that feeling. Plus my food and extra gloves were in the warm vest. Who wants to change pockets and strategies that late in the game? 18 miles is a long way to freeze.

As soon as I hit the hilly Ledge neighborhood again I wished my bike had a lower gear. Something that could spin faster and lighter. What I really needed was more training and stronger legs, but the race was on and my bike is my bike. I got up out of the saddle and climbed. I flew down the hill on the way to Jackson. I finally eased off the speed and could swear I smelled my brakes begging for mercy. That would be the last downhill portion of the ride. Through the covered bridge, around Jackson Village, and off we went. Route 16 straight uphill into Pinkham Notch. Mount Washington and all that snow loomed larger and larger as the middle of the bike pack and I climbed higher and higher. All in all I couldn’t be happier with my bike time. I have always been slow on the bike but I handle hills well enough. This course favored the one thing I can do on the bike so I held my own well enough.

Bonus, the super sharp turn heading in and out of the notch is more sharp than steep. It doesn’t feel that way in a car. More of a combination at auto speeds. What I expected to be the worst part of the climb was actually pretty tame to end the ride.

Now on to the hike to ski transition. Remember the 30 seconds I didn’t mind spending unlocking my kayak. Well I ditched that theory and paid dearly for it on the hike. My warmest spandex have a rubber strip at the ankle that I turn up and off my skin when I ski in them. I locked and loaded my first ski boot without making the adjustment. I realized it before putting on the second boot but never undid the mistake on the first. Halfway through the hike up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail I could feel the burn beginning to dig in. I wouldn’t make the adjustment until we finally reached the hike to ski transition. Damage was already done and hurt like hell. Yet another lesson learned.

People passed me all the way up to the Hermit Lake Shelter 2.75 miles into the hike. I was out of energy. Amani’s stuff was crushing me. He was a champ flipping my bindings to the best position depending on the steepness of the trail, but his gear got heavier and heavier with each passing step. My Backcountry.com climbing skins were spot on. I didn’t slip at all. Grippy step after grippy step we just kept moving on. Once we hit the shelter by 12:20, I knew I had the 1pm cutoff in the bag. By 12:30 we were switching gear bags. One hour and 54 minutes after leaving the bike behind. Amani stayed below with ski patrol and the race director while I strapped my skis to my bag in place of Amani’s and began toe kicking my way up Hillman’s Highway. Minutes before Amani offered some words of encouragement, “That’s Hillman’s? That’s really steep. You have to climb that?” See #6.

Just over an hour later, I made it to the start of the giant slalom course along with someone’s polar bear of a dog. Very gutsy pup. The race coordinator informed me, “When you drop off the ledge your ski time starts.” Great. I really hope my wobbly legs feel like making that first turn.

They did. Barely. Lots of core twisting to get my less than enthusiastic limbs to go along for each shift in the ride. The snow was unreal. Zero ice. I mean 100% zero. Beautiful slushy spring softness made for a very forgiving course. Exactly what I needed. I pulled off the course just before the final gate to gather up Amani and his snowshoes. He was ready as ready could be.

Boots, skis, poles. Check. Let’s go. I chased Amani down the remaining bump filled 2.5 miles of the Sherburne Trail to the finish line. The occasional break let my continuously failing legs recover a bit. Once I hit pay dirt at the bottom, I collapsed like a gold winning Norwegian in Sochi. I finally understand what those cross country machines feel like when they do that. It’s something just beyond exhausted. Triumphant and “I am never doing that again” all at once.

The race consists of mostly teams, some solo men and even fewer solo women. You name the category, I finished behind just about all of them. But the time on the trail with Amani was worth giving up my decent positioning after the bike. Love getting up there with him. Believe it or not, it snowed up there Sunday morning before we left Joe Dodge Lodge. About 2 inches. Maybe we can hit the Bowl on our own clock this weekend while the snow lasts.

My apologies for the long recap. It’s hard to quickly summarize 6 hours and 40 minutes of alternating physical punishment, unbelievable weather, and fantastic family support. Can’t thank my support crew enough for all the behind the scenes transition work. This sunny, dry pavement, wild rapids, deep snow filled super day was an absolute blast. A dream come true. Thanks again to Heather and the kids for supporting me through yet another event. This one really tested your mettle and you killed it as always.

Just Hoping to Finish – Training for the Tuckerman Inferno

With the snow falling the way it has and the season we have spent across the street at Wildcat, I had to finally throw my hat in the ring for the Tuckerman Inferno pentathlon. Nothing like signing up at the last second. Biking nonstop between now and April 6. That gives me about a week of rest before the April 12 race date. By far my weakest event. No problem. It’s only 18 miles up 2,000 vertical feet. Yikes!

It doesn’t help that the kayak leg before the bike is going to be in a river swelling with the melted result of all the snow from this past month. Those rapids are going to be a blast. Literally.

Very excited to have Amani joining me for the hike up to the ski course in The Bowl. The race permits climbing skins, so instead of carrying my gear, I’ll be carrying Amani’s while wearing my boots and skis. We got in a little practice yesterday snowshoeing the Tuckerman Trail behind Joe Dodge Lodge after skiing most of the day at Wildcat.

I feel confident in the ski leg with all of this season’s turns behind me. Hopefully the run, kayak, bike, and final 2,268 vertical foot hike up to the ski course won’t leave my legs begging for too much mercy.

Can’t ask for a better venue though. Flatbread Pizza for pre-race registration and dinner. Our season long favorite, the Golden Apple Inn, provides luxury bedding near the Story Land start and the race finishes at the AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge, so it only makes sense that we should enjoy one of their  newly renovated, furnished by LL Bean, convertible family rooms once the festivities wrap sometime Saturday afternoon.

Really looking forward to the morning after breakfast buffet in the mountains too. I rarely relax long enough to soak in laid back, aroma filled mornings like that. I’m usually starting the Wildcat 100k when Gracie does her legendary “I ate all of their bacon” trick. Pretty sure the Inferno the day before should finally put me in that “do nothing” mood.

Post race report and pics to follow. Be sure to check out our new 2014 race dates planned at Mendums this summer and fall. AqauRun2 and the Half Marathon are going to be better than ever with additional UNH Campus Rec support in the works.

Pass the Pumpkin Results

Another new race in the bag for Mendums Adventures. The 1st Annual Pass the Pumpkin 10k Trail Relay was a success. 25 teams completed the 4 lap course with pumpkins in hand. A rainy cold morning gave way to a sunny cold afternoon. Luckily we had plenty of hot chocolate. Turns out running the hills at Mendums is also a great way to warm up.

Thank you to Philbricks Sports in Dover for supporting our event. And of course thank you to UNH Campus Rec for continuing to host our adventures.

The freindly and fun vibe of the event can best be summed up by Teams Canner/Joslin & Halla/Messer completing the entire course in unison. These final two teams crossed the finish lines to cheers just as the awards ceremony was getting underway. Great team efforts.

Cool Running Results

Remember to like us on Facebook for continued Mendums Adventures updates. 2014 and our upcoming race schedule are just around the corner.

7 Glorious Laps At The First Annual Mendums Half Marathon

The First Annual Mendums Half Marathon was greeted by a perfectly crisp, sunny autumn morning in New Hampshire. The kind of morning featured in heartfelt Oscar nominated films about simple people in a simpler time when everyone wore wool and knew how to chop wood. Temps quickly warmed up after the 8:03 start. Gallons of water were consumed along with bananas, oranges, and of course Heather’s homemade chocolate chip cookies with and without walnuts.

Our EMS sponsored event featured some choice equipment rental giveaways, a couple stainless steel water bottles, and coupons for all. In addition to all this, EMS also extended an invite to participants for its upcoming Oct 4-5 Club Days Sales event. Great discounts to be had. I encourage everyone to check it out. Donate that day to a featured club on site and get the discount even if you’re not already a member.

The UNH Mendums Pond Rec Area half marathon course is comprised of 7 laps around the facility, including an out and back section up and down the hill leading to and from the dam. This section provides runners an opportunity to see the faces of those heading in the other direction. Lots of smiles and hustle being shared out there. Runners from Sixothree Endurance were among the participants. Nothing like seeing teammates slap five lap after lap as they tackle the miles together. Acidotic Racing and Loco Sports were also represented by way of the UNH Wednesday track group Sinthy’s Runners.

First place honors went to 26 year old Daniel Jackson of Medford, MA on the men’s side with a smoking 1:28:32 finishing time. Another 26 year old, Amy Gregg of Exeter, NH took first place for the women with a time of 1:46:47. Winners in the men’s group also included second place Justin Cole of Durham, NH and third place Jeff Beaudoin of York, ME. Representing Acidotic Racing, second place in the women’s category went to Keri Bassingthwaite of Nottingham, NH. Third place honors went to Kendra Rand of Milford, PA.

Birdman Bob Kennedy, also wearing aR black, finished in a strong 2:05:33 and then treated us all to a Pileated Woodpecker sighting during the awards ceremony.  Delicious cookies, well maintained trails, wildlife sightings, and an incredibly hardworking group of fun runners who supported friends and strangers alike throughout the race. The Mendums Half had it all.

Thanks again to EMS for the great gifts, UNH Campus Rec for hosting us, Heather for timing and cooking, and Amani for doing the photography. Mendums Adventures looks forward to seeing you all again next year.

For complete race results, please visit Cool Running 

The complete photo album is on Facebook.

AquaRun2 Results

The few, the proud, the AquaRunners. Congrats to all of our finishers yesterday.

Please be sure to check out our race photo album on Facebook.

Thanks again to our wonderful sponsors for supporting Mendums Adventures again. Trader Joe’s  provided prizes. Stonehouse Baking Co. supplied post-race goodies. The UNH Sailing Center provided race markers and anchors for the water sections. Extra big thanks to UNH Campus Rec for hosting AquaRun2 for the 4th year.  And of course thank you to our volunteers for keeping the water course safe, the timing accurate, the photos snappy, and the cookies delicious.

Hope to see some you at our 1st Annual Mendums Half Marathon next month (Sept 29).

Seek the Peak – July 21, 2013

On Sunday under beautiful skies with calm winds, Amanuel Harvey climbed Mount Washington with the help of Mendums Adventures as part of the Mount Washington Observatory’s annual Seek the Peak fundraising drive.. His grandfather came along for the hike and managed to bag his first NH 4000 footer. Nothing like starting the list with something easy.

Saturday’s hike was postponed due to strong summit winds and scattered thunderstorm threats. The dinner party and raffle were held despite a lightning strike threat that shortly forced participants into the safety of their cars around 4:30pm. Thirty minutes later we were all enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with all the fixings from Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant.

The highlight of the weekend was Amani’s win in the Snow Cat trip raffle. Amani and one lucky guest will be heading up the snow covered Mount Washington Auto Road on the Observatory’s Snow Cat for a VIP guided day of education at the summit. Amani and his sister had spent the better part of two hours climbing in and around the Cat before his name was announced to his very loud family’s cheering delight.

5th Annual Mendums Adventure Results – July 14, 2013

The weather was perfect all weekend. Plenty of sun, no wind, beautiful water temps. With an extra kayak spotter for the swim volunteering from our spectator crowd, Team Harvey was able to compete for the second year in a row. We are always thankful for spur of the moment volunteers that help make every one of our races safe and successful.

The men hit the water at 9:05am. Three minutes later the women and relay teams, including me, were in hot pursuit. The lead swimmers completed the 1/3 of a mile course in under 10 minutes, sadly not including me. Runners continued to hit the trails for the next 20 minutes. Our three eventual overall winners took control on the run, completing the 3.05 mile course in less than 25 minutes.

Entering the kayak, Alexander Scott of Annapolis, MD led by almost two minutes, but Thomas Philbrick of Candia, NH was the only kayaker to complete the 2 mile paddle in less than 24 minutes. He was able to take the overall spot with a time of 59:30. Scott came in just behind at 1:00:16 followed by third place finisher Mike Barry at 1:02:22.

For the women, last year’s second place finisher, Eryn True of Lee, was able to take the top female spot by improving her running time in 2013 by almost 3 minutes. Last year’s top female and longtime Mendums favorite, Karen Healy of Madbury, captured second place in the female division. Renee Blaisdell of Greenland followed in third.

While no awards were given for fourth place in either division, it was the men’s side for that position that provided the best action of the day. It was a photo finish at the dock as Ron Hoffman of Sumner, ME and Jeff Thorton of Manchester, CT paddled it out for bragging rights. Hoffman is listed as having won by one second but it was much closer than that. Great job, guys. Love the spirit.

For the relay teams, it was the Brave Ones of Merrimack, NH that took home the coveted award certificate. Special congrats to 9 year old Amani Harvey for his second year competing at Mendums Adventure. He not only managed the 3 mile run again, but also put in a mile of the kayak course until I had to take over with his 3 year old sister Gracie by my side.

As always, thank you to UNH Campus Rec for hosting the event. The UNH Community Sailing Center provided floats and anchors for our water courses. Amani will be sailing in two weeks of programs with the Sailing Center in August. Programs are available for both kids and adults. I highly recommend you check them out. Finally, thank you to Stonehouse Baking Co. for all the bagels, donuts, cookies, and pastries. The best donuts around. It’s not even close. A staple of our Saturday morning drive to Wildcat in the winter.

Oh and how can I forget Heather and her chocolate chip cookies with and without walnuts. Delicious as always. Heather also handled timing and the design of our 5th Annual logo. Thank you thank you thank you.

AquaRun2 promises much of the same great course on Sunday, August 11 followed by the First Annual Mendums Half Marathon on Sunday, September 29. Hope to see you there.

Hotter Than Hot: Loon Mtn Race – July 7, 2013

Thank goodness the skies were a bit overcast. Otherwise I would have melted onto the mountain during the big climb to mile 5. I had to take 3-4 breaks sucking wind as it was. The Loon Mountain Race course has an elevation gain of approximately 2,887 ft. Acidotic Racing squeezes every last vertical foot out of this course with a significant downhill stretch after the mile 4 water stop which also doubles as the eventual finish line at the Loon Peak Summit Lodge. This elevation loss is abruptly followed by a climb to Loon Resort’s tallest summit at North Peak (mile 5).

The hustle back from mile 5 to the finish at the 5.7 mile marker is the roughest downhill stretch of the entire course. After my multiple breaks up North Peak, I attacked the downhill to make up for lost time. Almost to a fault. Everyone heard me barreling down. Kind participants did their best to move to the side as I crashed by. I continued to gain speed all the way down. The loose footing made for very few breaking points. My final step into the flat stretch before the Loon Peak climb was violent. Another few feet of downhill and I would have been in trouble.

The home stretch is an uphill slog right out of a Walter Payton training video. I exhausted everything I had left in the tank on this climb, which isn’t saying much. My effort was good enough for a 1:14:27 finishing time, placing me 110 out of the record field of 315 finishers. I now finally feel ready to tackle the Auto Road and after that I’d be ready for Loon. Too bad they are both in the bag already. Definitely need more Mt A training runs next spring.

Loon started out okay at 9am under overcast skies. The starting line along the East Branch Pemigewasset River is as base level as it gets at Loon. The first 2 miles or so are on the resort’s dirt service road. Ups and downs in this section felt great. At mile 2 the road gave way to sort of mowed ski trails. Mowed might be a strong word. Crushed grass is more like it. Dry though so no complaints. Footing was good enough. I opted to wear my Montrail Masochists and their claw like tread so virtually no slips for me on the course.

The real walking started at 2.5 miles under the Kancamagus Express Quad. The course curved up and around back to the top of the quad by way of Lower Speakeasy. A sharp switchback led to a moderate climb to yet another steep section on Upper Speakeasy which eventually led to the top of the Gondola where spectators were gathered at mile marker 4 and the finish.

My shirt was drenched by mile 3. I should have taken two waters at the first station just before mile 3. My shorts were hanging off of me before I could complete the climb to mile 5. I think that happened in one other race, maybe. That is just a scary amount of sweat. The humidity was just too overwhelmingly. The clouds helped keep the sun at bay, but there was no evaporation to be had. Sweat just built onto itself for an hour plus.

A few fellow UNH running group pals were in the mix. I started the course with Andrew Corrow who was suffering from fever on Thursday and Friday. Well off his pace and ready to see a doctor, Andy finished at 1:23:19. Finishing at all under those circumstances is a testament to just how Army Strong Mr. Corrow is. Andy found pacing inspiration in following Bob Kennedy’s sneakers up the numerous hill climbs. Bob finished just in front of Andy at 1:23:05. Celebrity runner Sinthy Kounlasa edged into the front half of the pack in 150th place with a finishing time of 1:20:10.

Overall winner, Eric Blake of West Hartford, CT, averaged an 8:20 mile up the 5.7 mile course. Good enough for a new course record. So if you’re keeping track, the 34 year old Central Connecticut State track coach bested the Auto Road in less than an hour and broke the Loon Mountain Race course record in less than a month’s time.

Congrats to all that finished Runners World Magazine’s “Most Competitive Hillclimb”. This Outside Magazine “Bucket List” event more than earned its reputation in 2013. Humidity and all. Heather and the kids loved riding the Gondola to the finish. Loon Summit includes a mountain top playground, glacial caves, and views from a multi-story tower as well as the Summit Café deck.

Only One Hill: Mount Washington Road Race – June 15, 2013

4:30 wake up. A scrambled egg and 3 blueberry pancakes later, I was out the door at 5am. The sun was already showing strong signs of life. Two hours flat to the field at the Mt Washington Auto Road across from Great Glen Trails. Race start scheduled for 9am. Heather and the kids would follow a couple of hours later. No sense in them sitting around for two hours.

Very well organized set up. Registration took less than two minutes. Bib #643 with my name on it and everything. Fancy, fancy.

Only one complaint, but sort of an important one. Portable Toilets did not have hand sanitizer in them. I don’t put that on the organizer. I can’t believe a company would even deliver units without mounted cleanser. That should be illegal.

Running clubs from far and wide lined the hill next to registration. Windy base conditions led many team members to scramble for stakes or to tear tent tops off in an effort to keep things under control. The wind could not dampen the social environment though. Very friendly atmosphere. I spent most of my time hanging around the Winner’s Circle tent (Salisbury, MA). My UNH running mate, Sinthy Kounlasa is a member. She helped arrange my ride back down the mountain after the race. The all important bag exchange needed to be done. My driver would bring my bag to the top for me including the world’s warmest hooded sweatshirt, fleece pants and a wind/waterproof jacket pants set. The forecast called for 35 degree summit temps with 50 mph winds. Yes I remembered a hate and gloves.

This summit forecast would certainly rear its teeth above treeline at some point in the race, but no matter. Climbing  4k plus vertical feet for 7.6 miles up one really big hill is hard work. I opted to start and finish in shorts and a t-shirt. Glove liner and a headband for my ears would have to do when winds and temps took a turn.

Heather and the kids showed up at 8:45. Just in time for the start. One final bathroom break across the street at Great Glen Trails where they had soap and I’d be ready to go. The start was humbling and emotional. The director of the Boston Marathon was on hand to share words of encouragement as well as a moment of silence. Two month to the day the finish in Boston was bombed. In addition to the moment of silence, the crowd shared a collective roar for a first responder in the crowd. A firefighter in full gear sans the boots he replaced with running sneakers was in the crowd ready to climb. Oxygen tank and all. Very cool.

9am. And we’re off. Well, “off” might be too strong a word. We were moving. Sort of. The start is slightly downhill, then flat then climbs like a mother. All of this happens in a short distance of 200 meters or so and has a bottlenecking bridge jammed right into the middle of it. No worries. I had no intention in competing for a top spot and certainly needed to save my legs for the 90 plus minutes of climbing staring down at me.

I ran for about 13 minutes before taking my first walking break. After a minute of walking, I got back to the hustle. That lasted another 5 minutes or so at an alarmingly slow rate. Might as well walk again. This takes getting used to. I prefer to run roads. I prefer to hike trails. This mix and match is awkward at times. My calf muscles especially did not like switching gears.

The atmosphere was contagious. Even Gracie and her purple LL Bean windbreaker wanted in on the action.

 

Apparently “Ed” reads easier than most names. Whenever we passed spectators camped out in the Auto Road brake cooling turnouts, they would react to and yell my name like I had Bib #1 one or something. They seemed pleased to be able to register it so easily in a sea of moving bibs.

I managed more running than walking for the first half. The race offers multiple water stops. So while I struggled, fueling resources were always just a head. Not to mention to the Hammer gel pack we received at registration. I downed that apple cinnamon life force just before the water stop near the halfway point. This is where walking really became an issue.

My roughly 4 or 5 minute on, one minute off system came to a crashing halt as we got above treeline. The road was actually beginning to flatten out a bit with the help of some sweeping switchbacks, but my legs were at their wits end. I was now doing two on, one off. Eventually walking and running were even at 1 minute a piece.

Luckily the views helped keep my mind off the effort. 85 miles of visibility! Scraps of snow in the Gulf, the Northern Presidential range, Wildcat and its grassy ski trails. Not a cloud in the sunny sky. Wind gusts of course were pounding. This had a lot to do with my walking. Running through these gusts was brutal. Walking allowed me to keep one foot planted at all times so my momentum and foundation was always ready for an extra 10-15 mph of wind to suddenly hit me in the face.

I spent most of the race with James Soucy of Candia, NH who carried an American flag all the way up. I’m talking about a 10 foot long  thick wooden pole with a towel to protect his shoulder. It was huge. The flag in the wind must have added an unimaginable force to the resistance we were all  going though. Like running with a sail. Great patriotic effort.

At mile 7 (0.6 to go) the wind shifted to our backs and I felt a good surge of energy that helped me pass about 20 people before finally crossing the finish line. Impressive to see plenty of people doing the same after I crossed. Lots of inspiring final efforts all the way through the pack.

With a strong charge to the finish I was able to finish 305th out of the swollen pack of 1,086 participants with a time of 1:42:21. Right around my last half marathon time (the general Auto Road rule of thumb). I definitely want to come back next year, but the walking is something I will have to work on getting used to. “Running” 7.6 miles at your 13.1 mile race pace is certainly a different feeling.

I loaded up on the layers in my bag and still felt a bit of chill at the summit. It was damn cold up there. My ride and I waited until the last walker crossed the line before being given the all clear notice from race organizers. We started back down the Auto Road around 12:30pm. Waiting for us was a Thanksgiving feast with all the fixings from Hart’s Turkey Farm in Meredith, NH in the lakes region. Amazing job. The food was delicious and plentiful. Heather and the kids joined me as we watched the award ceremonies that featured runners from all over the country and a 93 year old completing his 15th Mount Washington Road Race.

Congrats to UNH running mate Andrew Corrow for besting me by one minute. I can’t even talk about Earle Smith’s finishing time of 1:34. This fellow first timer and UNH track partner destroyed me. Big ups to Big Earle. Hopefully he’ll be back next year. I want a rematch. Sinthy once again bested the two hour mark with a time of 1:55.

Loon Mountain in Lincoln, NH in July and Mount Mansfield in VT at the end of August present two more significant summer climbs to help better prepare me for the crushing effort and pace these mountain climbs require. Heather and the kids look forward to riding the shuttle van up to the summit next year to see the finish.

Hopefully the weather will be exactly the same minus the wind.

Fun Run coverage:

48 plus 1 at the Wildcat 100k Vertical Foot Ski Challenge

Before I get to the skiing, I cannot emphasize enough how great a job Make-A-Wish NH does. The Make-A-Wish kids and their volunteer wish grantors are the real heroes here. The differences they make helping families find happiness in the midst of awful circumstances sets a positive example we can all learn from. This year’s 100k Challenge raised over $133,000 (a new event record). That works out to about 12-13 wishes. Our pain and struggle on the slopes is all in fun. Positive fundraising fun. We can quit anytime. And even if we don’t, we are done by 4:30pm. Make-A-Wish kids and their families understand and experience both a pain and happiness we can only imagine.

And now for the 2013 Wildcat 100k Vertical Foot Ski Challenge breakdown. After spending a very cozy night just one mile down the road in the Spotted Salamander Room at the AMC’s Joe Dodge Lodge with the family, it was finally 100k day.

6:30am – Buffet breakfast with UNH running partner Tom Milliman whose son and friend were also setting out to complete 48 runs at Wildcat that day. Their plan involved snowboards. Best of luck. The skate across the top of Wildcat to the Lynx trail is already challenging enough for me.

6:50am – Back at the room to wake up my ride, I mean, my family. The clock is ticking, but we’re only a mile away. Next closest lodging options are 10 miles in any direction. Joe Dodge is more than worth a few extra coins for this event or really anything involving a very early start around The Tuckermans area.

7:05am – Arrive at the Wildcat base lodge. As family Sherpa, I had a few things to handle before registering. All of the skis had to be racked across the bridge by the lifts. Of course Amani’s bindings needed some adjusting too. Nothing like cramming everything in at the last second. Heather and the kids plan to snowshoe Great Glen Trails  after breakfast at the lodge. They won’t be back for skiing until after lunch.

7:15am – Finally got my registration materials. Lucky #13. Make-A-Wish also gave us a laminated card with a picture and story of a Wish kid we would be skiing in honor of. Alex played hockey and skated avidly until he was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 8. The illness brought with it treatment cycles and physical ailments that would make skating very difficult for Alex. Even when healthy and able, rink time was not available or too crowded for a recovering 8 year old to jump into. Make-A-Wish brought Alex’s dreams to life by building his family a small rink at his house that Alex can use any time. Great stuff. Better than coffee in the morning to get energized for the task at hand.

7:30am – I stagger out to the lift where most of the day’s record 39 participants are already lined up waiting to go. Homer, creator of the 100k Challenge at Wildcat, gave his usual speech about the event not being a race. Winners are annually decided at the event by fundraising totals, not speed or number of runs completed. Let’s keep it safe.

7:34am – Lift load. Wildcat runs the Wildcat Express quad at max speed for the event since the rest of the mountain is relatively quiet on a Monday in March. 6 minutes 30 seconds to the summit at most.

7:40-9:00am – The clear blue sky above only hints at the sun to come. The slopes face west. The sun in the east has yet to clear the 4,000 foot peak. With warm weather in the 40s and weekend crowds eating away at the snow the last two days, grooming was a challenge the night before. The course is a bit choppy. Still very hard packed and fast. That beats the slop that the sun brings, but the morning’s flat light makes determining the oncoming terrain a bit dicey. Nothing like last year’s foggy start though. Visibility is flat but not blind.

9:20am – 10 of 48 laps in the bag. Or about 21k vertical feet. Still feeling strong. Time to pee. Last year I made the mistake of wasting time in the lodge. This year I used the side of the trail like so many guys I skied past last year. I christened a wide trail turn off just below the Tomcat Triple Lift trail crossing about 1,200 feet down the mountain.  By mid-afternoon this area would see more action than your local fire hydrant. DON’T EAT THE YELLOW SNOW!

10:00-11:30am – The sun begins to fill in most of the course. Things are getting soft but not quite mushy yet. Jamming to some tunes and enjoying my eats (prosciutto on country white and a Cliff Bar). Wildcat provides food and beverage at the bottom. I grab some Powerade but stick with my own food. This is no time to take chances. Long day. Though I did miss cookies as big as your face so maybe I’ll pay more attention to the table next year as a shoot by.

Noon – My legs are beginning to fall apart. Not in a quitting kind of way, but some maintenance is in order. No idea where I am on laps at this point. Waiting for Heather and the kids to read my progress to me. Wildcat maintains a board at the lift but standing there reading my lap totals isn’t going to help ski the trail and the clock is ticking. The lift closes at 4:30pm. No exceptions. There is plenty of time, but you just never know. Take a bad fall, spill Powerade all over yourself. Need to pad your time a bit.

12:30pm – 30 laps. Thanks for the progress sign.

1pm – Heather and the kids have arrived in support. Unfortunately that vice grip feeling that nearly derailed me last year has been setting into my quads on every run for the last hour. Time to manage my minutes like an old NBA veteran looking to stay in the show. Plenty of time to spare between now and 4:30. What’s 20-30 seconds off each of the remaining runs? Surprisingly that’s all it takes to relief that horrible muscle spasm feeling. I implement a 1,000 vertical foot limit. Every run is now broken up with a stop in front of the Tomcat lift pole. Move my legs around to release that locked in feeling and complete the less steep second half of the course.

1:20pm – Clouds begin to blanket the sky, but the sun has already done its damage. Mushy mounds and inconsistent sticky snow make holding race lines very tricky for a non-racer. Time to shift gears and just ski. The dinner buffet does not start in the pub until the lift closes so no sense in being done too early. Taking my turns and my lift pole stops, I never suffered through my runs like I did last year. Live and learn.

1:30-3:30pm – Amani and I shared lift rides on every third or fourth run. I broke left for the Lynx course and he free skied to the right until finding me at the quad again. Turns, turns, and more turns. Many of the 39 participants adopted this system this year. I certainly wasn’t the first. Glad to have some company on the stops. Quick words of encouragement and off you go. The larger pack this year meant more crowd control on the trails, but nothing obstructive. Everyone mostly managed the S turns well enough to avoid spilling in front of oncoming skiers. The lifts weren’t nearly as lonely either though solo rides with music are a nice break up to the workday as well. Somewhere in this timeframe I built in another stop before the lift pole stop. The beginning of Middle Lynx is steep and choppy in the mush. Stop 10 seconds then drop in for another big turn before the standard lift pole resting area.

Gracie helped keep the lift loading area slick and bump free.

3:40pm – 48 runs. 100k vertical feet. DONE! Well almost. Before packing it in, Amani and I took one last ride up together to bang out a few super soft bumps on Catastrophe, Alley Cat, and Panther. Panther runs right under the quad. Thumbs up and words of encouragement for participants still on their mission as I chased Amani as best I could through the mogul field. After that, I was truly spent and ready for a beer.

4:30-6pm – Wildcat food and beverage staff do a great job after the race. Garlic bread, salad, meatballs, tortellini alfredo. And of course, Tuckermans Pale Ale on tap. A former Wish kid turned ambassador brought the house down with an incredible story that started with a heartbreaking diagnosis, chemo therapy, mean school kids, and brothers staying with grandma before ending with a reunited family swimming with dolphins and cancer remission. Make-A-Wish absolutely changed this young woman’s life when, as a girl who was just told she had cancer, she and her family needed it most.

As was the case at the Acidotic snowshoe race on Saturday, Wildcat raffled off about 15 great prizes to the remaining 25 participants in the pub and I got nothing. Luckily all participants received a 100k trucker’s hat. Even #13.

 

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