Try my best to simulate the incline and speed once a week for 3 months. I never got even close to doing more than 60 minutes during the whole training. I was very worried.
Then came the weather forecast, 3-4 days before the race: 28-32 degrees with 50+mph winds. Now, I was scared. How am I going to do this? As it got closer to the actual day, the temperature changed to 10-15 degrees with 100+mph wind gusts. I thought the race was going to be cancelled…internally, I was feeling relieved, but I had the firm resolve that I will complete the race no matter what. However, the weather gods and the race organizers had other plans. They changed the race to half the distance, that is 3.8 miles. Now my goals changed…I needed to complete the race in 1 hour and 7 minutes. Also, there was no more carpool involved; that is; we did not have a ride back down from the mountain, we needed to walk/run the 3.8 miles down. I was definitely disappointed that we would not reach the top of the mountain, but I did not let that affect me, as this opportunity may never come again.
The day arrived…starting point; 51 degrees and cool, but perfect running weather. Running??? No way! As soon as we started, within the first 500 yards, the intense climb began, and wow! It was harder and tougher than I thought. There is no way an incline can be so steep!!! My heart rate shot up to close to the max permitted for a 50-year-old, but it was simply not a big deal. All this training (not for the hill) over the last 2 years of long endurance started paying off, and I walked 80%, ran 20%. That was the trick I learned. The first 2-3 miles of the 3.8 miles are really hard. Maybe because we don’t expect it, but either way, as I took each step towards the finish, it did not seem as hard and my confidence improved with every step. Finished the race in 1:02:29, which is about 5 minutes faster than what I had planned for. The temperature at the end of the race was 38 degrees, with 25-35 mph winds and rainy and misty. I am very sure that if we had done the whole race, I would have completed it under 2 hours and 10 minutes, as there was nothing, I mean nothing that would have stopped me. With each step, I learned how to walk/run/climb efficiently and I know I am ready for this next year. But, wait, I had to walk/run downhill for 3.8 miles. You never train for that, and I personally think it is harder to control your walk or run on such a steep hill. I did not like it even though the heart rate was never an issue, but falling face forward was always a concern. As soon as I reached the bottom of the hill, I had done 7.6 miles in less than 2 hours and the feeling is something that cannot be described, only experienced. The only thing better than this is doing the whole race uphill, which I am definitely going to attempt if given the opportunity. What would be better the next time? Knowing what to expect and knowing that it is the same incline or more throughout and as Bill Belichick would say, just take it one game (step) at a time. Hopefully the weather next year is 70 degrees at the bottom, and 40 degrees at the top!
I would like to thank my running club Merrimack Valley Striders, my running coach Sharon Johnson, MVS Pod Squad and all the other friends that I have made in the last 2+ years especially, to be able to achieve what I would never have imagined!!” –Sushil Motwani