Monday, June 23, 2008

2008 Mt. Washington Road Race / US Mountain Running Championships

On Saturday I competed in the 48th Annual Mt. Washington Road Race (results) in Pinkham Notch, NH. This race was also the U.S. Mountain Running National Championships for 2008. It was the largest turnout in the history of the race, with 855 total finishers. It was also the deepest field ever with 32 men under 1:10. As Dave Dunham pointed out in his pre-race predictions/writeup, the record for sub 1:10 finishes in the same race is 20 (in perfect conditions in 1999). He predicted that 30 runners would break 1:10 this year. He was just about spot on. 32 men broke 1:10 and 5 others (including myself) were in the 1:10s. In a typical year over the last decade, the number of sub 1:10 finishers is 12. The field this year included 2006 winner Eric Blake (BAA, 2004 Olympic Marathon Trials), Clint Wells (Colorado), Rickey Gates (US Mtn. Team), Joseph Gray (former Oklahoma State), and three time winner Simon Gutierrez. Also, one of the most impressive feats of the day came from local Plaistow NH resident Craig Fram, who will be 50 this year. Craig placed 10th in 1:05:45, beating the likes of Ryan Carrara (NB), Mark Larosa (BAA), Kevin Tilton (CMS), Dan Princic (WHIRL), Ben Schmeckpeper (BAA), Matt Ely (BAA), Eric Morse (CMS), Michael Wardian, Ben Nephew (CMS), Matt Clark (CMS), and Dave Dunham (3x winner, CMS) who all ran extremely well, under the 1:10 mark. Fram was the 1997 winner and to date has won over $10K total at this race. The top 4 overall men and the top woman were all selected to the Teva U.S. Mountain Running Team that will compete in the World Mountain Trophy race in Switzerland in September.

As far as my race went, I probably went out just a little harder than I should have, but honestly, once you hit that first incline, its actually hard not to put the breaks on because it is such a shock to the system if you aren't used to it. In the back of my mind, I thought about Dunham's pre-race predictions and the fact that he had me pegged at 38th with a 1:11:45. From about mile 2 on, all I thought about was 2 things... Not stopping to walk, and beating both my predicted time and place. I was given #43 as a seeded number, but I knew 38th was the goal...otherwise I don't think I'd hear the end of it :) on our 3:26 runs... I made all my goals on the day, which was to run under 1:11:45, finish ahead of 38th (and 43rd), and not break my stride and start walking. The latter was the toughest. Even the guys who finished directly behind me walked (and one who was less that a minute back, but who shall remain nameless, stopped to puke and then still just about got me)... Even some of the sub 1:10 guys stopped to walk just a bit through the water stops and periodically when it was just too much to maintain the forward motion of a running stride. For those who have run this race, you know exactly what I'm talking about...for those who haven't, it is impossible to imagine. Even after having a couple of months to mull it over, I still wasn't prepared for what I would be doing until I actually hit the first of the hill after the brief downhill start.

I took water at every stop but the last one (I believe the one with Santa Claus handing out water and the obscenely loud Christmas music playing). I barely drank any though...but instead just splashed myself in the face to try and wake myself up from this nightmare... At the third water stop I accidentally grabbed a cup with some sort of light green sports drink and almost splashed myself in the face, but the green hue caught my eye at the very last second and I threw it down just in time to grab water out of the last person's hand as I went by.

By mile 2 I was pretty much alone after Ben Nephew and a few others straggled by me. I came up on USATF-NE 6K champ Ben Ndaya (GLRR) who had gone out a little too quick and was paying the price...he just shook his head at me and said 'this is silly...I'm just going to run the last 2 miles'. Shortly after that, Dave Dunham (3 time winner, CMS) motored on by me with nothing but determination and focus in his eyes... I tried to crack him a little bit with some in-race wit, but he didn't bite and kept right on chuggin. After Dunham at about 3 miles or so, only Sean Livingston (BAA), Henry Scollard (Cambridge Running Club), and John Gleeson (Coastal) went by me over the last 3.6 miles. Gleeson took me over the last 100 meters up 'the wall'.

This race proved to be probably more mentally tough than physical in ways. You end up fighting little battles the whole way. Before you hit the tree line, you only see up the hill until it either hooks left or right behind trees and rock. But once you get to the top of that visible crest, you turn to see another hilly stretch that is just as bad if not worse. This continues until you hit the tree line. Then it gets really bad, as you can see much further, and know you are just in for more of the same. I haven't gotten married yet...and I haven't had any children yet... so I can probably say that other than meeting the lovely and talented Kristin, seeing the finish line was probably the happiest moment of my life...

What I did noticed most of all was my heart rate going through the roof. I have never had my pulse up that high ever before. My neck was actually sore from my pulse beating so hard. I could still feel it at dinner that night. My legs on the other hand were fine. Even now I don't feel any different physically, than I did on Friday. I had no physical side-effects from this race other than just being pretty tired afterwards and needing a nap. Mentally though, it's a killer. Running 9:15 pace and barely being able to breathe or lift your legs more than an inch off the ground is definitely a new experience for me and not one you can relate to until about 1 minute after you hear Bob Teschek remind you that "there is only one hill"...

Heading up the 'Wall' at the end...or should i say 'hitting it'...

2008 Mt. Washington Road Race / U.S. Mountain Running Championships:

34th Place Overall - 1:10:06

7.6 Mile Splits:
  • Mile 1: 6:52
  • Mile 2: 8:32 (15:24)
  • Mile 3: 9:04 (24:29)
  • Half Way: (32:58)
  • Mile 4: 9:23 (33:53)
  • Mile 5: 10:06 (43:59)
  • Mile 6: 9:52 (53:52)
  • Mile 7: 9:58 (1:03:51)
  • Last .6: 6:14 (1:10:06)
Now I am no mountain running specialist or great hill runner by any means, so I cannot technically speak about this race with any sort of authority, but I couldn't help but wonder where my performance this weekend would have put me in the past (non-championship) years...
Conditions, weather, common sense, and logic aside, my time: 1:10:06 from this year would have placed me over the years:
  • 2008: 34th (US Mountain Running National Championship)
  • 2007: 12th
  • 2006: 18th (USATF National Mountain Running Championship)
  • 2005: 15th
  • 2004: 17th
  • 2003: 10th
  • 2002: NA (Race only run 1/2 way up)
  • 2001: 6th
  • 2000: 8th
  • 1999: 21st
  • 1998: 15th
  • 1997: 9th
But being my first attempt, even though I picked the year with the deepest field and the furthest chance of getting in the top 10 or 15, I am extremely happy with the outcome. I now have a new goal in potentially trying to come in top 15 and/or breaking 1:10 next year (if I get in) as a 32 year old. It wasn't about the place or time for me this time around, but rather about the experience, accomplishment, and enjoyment of competing in the toughest road race in the world. It was about getting out there and getting it done for me this time... Looking back on where I was 2 years ago, I am completely overwhelmed with the feeling of accomplishment and closure on what has been a tough 'uphill' (no pun intended) climb for me. While local races, random 5ks, and non-conventional mountain and trail races may seem unnecessary and low-end to some, this is what it is about for me. It is about getting out there and competing and having fun. It is about getting out there and experiencing the thrill and excitement with your friends and teammates. This was the epitome of all of that for me. While I still tend to shake uncontrollably and dry heave at the thought of the actual race itself, I've had the past couple of days to mull over exactly what I went through on Saturday, and I'd say each and every step I've run up until this point was in preparation for the moment I hit that wall at the end....and it was all worth it.

Thanks to Greg C. for allowing Kristin and I to stay at your lovely condo in Barlett, NH and thanks to Terry, Ben, Matt, Mark, and their ladies for inviting myself, the lovely and talented Kristin, and Brad K to dinner and drinks...we had a great time and hope to see everyone next year!

Pre-race strider photo opp... JJ, Chris Chetsas, Sarah Prescott....

Merrimack Valley Strider finishers:

JIM JOHNSON - Time: 1:10:06 - Gender Finish: 33 - Div. Finish 22
BRAD KLINEDINST - Time: 1:10:16 - Gender Finish: 34 - Div. Finish 23
CHARLES NASSER - Time: 1:32:17 - Gender Finish: 164 - Div. Finish 22
NEIL AMIDON - Time: 1:35:06 - Gender Finish: 189 - Div. Finish 35
ROBERT LUSSIER - Time: 1:36:52 - Gender Finish: 216 - Div. Finish 27
DAVID DARGIE - Time: 1:40:17 - Gender Finish: 274 - Div. Finish 40
ERIC CUSHING - Time: 1:40:18 - Gender Finish: 275 - Div. Finish 42
SARAH PRESCOTT - Time: 1:43:28 - Gender Finish: 65 - Div. Finish 14
CHRIS CHETSAS - Time: 1:49:03 - Gender Finish: 375 - Div. Finish 60
JOELLE MICHIGAN - Time: 2:00:37 - Gender Finish: 132 - Div. Finish 20
STEVE WEITZLER - Time: 2:04:28 - Gender Finish: 545 - Div. Finish 94
JOCELYN MARION - Time: 2:09:55 - Gender Finish: 163 - Div. Finish 25
BARBARA ALEXI - Time: 2:30:57 - Gender Finish: 198 - Div. Finish 23
JAMES LAPREL - Time: 2:33:41 - Gender Finish: 632 - Div. Finish 112

As a Team:


MVS Men's Open (top 5 score) - 8th out of 23 teams:

1:10:06 1:10:16 1:32:17 1:35:06 1:36:52 (1:40:17) (1:40:18) = 7:04:37
James Johnson, Bradford Klinedinst, Charles Nasser, Neil Amidon, Robert Lussier, David Dargie, Eric Cushing

MVS Women's Open (top 3 score) - 16 of 18 teams:

1:43:28 2:00:37 2:09:55 (2:30:57) = 5:54:00
Sarah Prescott, Joelle Michigan, Jocelyn Marion, Barbara Alexi

Post-race strider photo opp at the summit

Also, special thanks to Marshall, Herb, Charlie, and the rest of the water stop crew at mile 2.5... It was very helpful to have some teammates out on the course cheering us on and supporting the Striders!


SmugMug Gallery

All images by the lovely and talented Kristin.


Pre-Race Video including some shots as Kristin ascended the Auto Road in our rental (strongly recommended that you don't take your own car up this thing), and also some shots around the summit as she waited for the 855 brave souls to get to the top...

Photos: The lovely and talented Kristin
Music: Midnight Oil - "King of the Mountain" (1990)
Video Production: Me.

In-Race Video - Sub 1:10 runners

Photos: The lovely and talented Kristin
Music: - The Shamen - "Move Any Mountain" (1991)
Video Production: Me.

Post-Race Video including Striders at the summit, on the way down the Auto Road, the festivities at the post race party, and the awards ceremony...

Photos: The lovely and talented Kristin
Music: - Jane's Addiction - "Mountain Song" (1988)
Video Production: Me.

Other Links:

Eagle-Tribune Article:

Coolrunning's race report:

Coolrunning official results:

YouTube Race Start:

...more to come...I'll update as I come across other photos/videos...


  1. Love your blog.

    Great report on Mt. Washington. Awesome time! I ran the race for the first time last year, having never run 7.6 miles before in my life, much less uphill.

    I hadn't planned on walking, and didn't until about half way up when I noticed everyone in front, next to me and behind me were taking walking breaks and going the same speed as me "running".

    In retrospect, it was a big mistake. My heart rate would come down and it became tougher (both physically and mentally) to get going again.

    The amazing part is how fresh your legs feel after the race and even the next morning.

    I entered the lottery this year, but didn't get a number. Hopefully next year.

  2. Congratulations on the milestone Jim!


  3. I was gonna start off saying this is how we know you're crazy...but there's too many other arrows already pointing that way...;-) I'll state the obvious- you definitely did a galliant effort on this race, and did an amazing job- but I am CRINGING, literally C.R.I.N.G.I.N.G. that you are gonna run 4 races right after on a bad calf- JIMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tell Kristen to grab her purse- ur going to Bal'Mer- you need Steve- !

  4. Getting fired up but this post freaked me out. You might want to re-tag it with the Mount Washington category. Everyone I talk to speaks to how F*CKING tough this mother is.