The longest day of the year is still twenty-four hours in length, start to finish, much like all the other days. It's not the length, of course, but the light that toys with our perception. A signature trick. But it gets our attention every time.
The Mount Washington race is no extraordinary length either, but running up the 7.6 mile auto road isn't like any other 7.6 mile run. It most certainly will get your attention, and keep it, and hold it hostage until you hurl your corpse across the finish line. It is perhaps the longest day of road races.
There are two types of people who attend this event: Those who have done the race a certain specified number of times already, and those who don't fully understand what they are getting into. Or, the smug and the fearful. Kind of sounds like a really bad teenage Jesus-band's first album.
I managed to assemble an elite, 5-star, world-class crew to help me in my pursuit of $80 worth of false glory. How peculiar that the fat wench would be competing in the overstuffed Cadillac of a footrace, and the Serious runners would be tasked with muling her gear up a rockpile. However, it's best not to worry about any such labels.
Rockpile really is disrespectful though. There is so much more to it than that.
Anyway, our hapless protagonist had done a few intentional hills and a sort of accidental speed workout. Hardly enough to mention. This was in addition to a flurry of over- and then and under-training, the result of my carpe-ing all the diems when my body allowed, and fretting repulsively when it didn't. Such is the nature of nature. Three long, full-day hikes and many shorter ones peppered the (7 weeks of post-injury, starting-from-almost-scratch) running schedule. These were quintessential.
I wasn't necessarily thrilled with the way it all panned out, but the good thing was that I was tuned in to where my body was at, and I was pretty confident about what to expect.
Running among a lot of walkers, as I often do, can sometimes result in a build-up of ambient excessive verbiage. Here at Mount Washington, however, conversations are mercifully short. There's a lot of gasping, groaning, and hacking that makes up for it. It's actually less distracting than the aforementioned alternative. I tried to imagine, when people spontaneously went quiet, what all of our heartbeats would sound like if piled up somehow into one giant, whooshing, throbbing chorus. A thundering arrhythmic circus.
I did a bit of people-and gait-watching and a lot of view-peering as soon as the trees diminished. Coming out up above tree line is my favorite part of this race, just as it is my favorite part of life. Aid stations come and go, the hill just comes and comes some more. The one major shift you get to look forward to, and to put behind you, is at the upper margin of the forest. The surrounding peaks, the Wildcats and Presidentials, are astounding. I pointed at a little patch of snow in one of the ravines and some Bostoners* stopped to take selfies in front of it.
*No clue where they were from. Probably Alaska.
Somehow I was running again for those final steps. After two hours and twenty minutes of ascending, there was suddenly a blanket rippling in the wind ahead of me. Like the bull greets the matador, I headed into it. I tried to dodge getting medaled -- I hate medals -- but the guy was determined. I was captured.
It was probably 40 degrees and windy (of course). Within a couple minutes my crew and I had reunited and we were headed down Nelson Crag Trail, passing a line of rather windblown runners that snaked its way to the summit sign. We stopped at the first relatively sheltered spot lower down to put on more clothes. I was glad I'd followed Rosalea's lead and brought my puffy and favorite wool hat.
|Walking down what I just ran up...|