Sunday, July 19, 2015

Mt. Washington Century "The Toughest Century in New England"

Somethings start out as a good idea and end up as an awesome time. Somethings start out as a good idea and end up with you blowing off your head with a mortar shell.  This was one of those former those times (I won't make you wade through all the consonants, vowels, blather smattered with random punctuation to get to the punch line)!

The stats!

First - this is put on by the Tin Mountain Conservation Center

The Mission of the Tin Mountain Conservation Center is to promote an appreciation of the natural environment among children, adults, and families, through hands-ob programs in the schools, at camp, and in the community and to demonstrate responsible stewardship of natural resources through land protection, research, sustainable forestry, agriculture, and energy.

It was amazingly supported, the volunteers were fabulous!  The aid stations were perfectly timed.  The bike mechanic was top notch!  This was an amazingly well put on event!!!  I highly recommend it!

Back to the recap - 

The weather prediction for Saturday was rather gloomy, scattered thunderstorms/scattered rain storms it switched up day by day.  The day of, I woke up at 5 a.m. to rain.  Crap.  That sucks.  The weather looked like it would stay rainy all day.  Crap.  I'm still doing this.  Confirmed the Marine was still in and we met up at the start.

Well that looks depressing
After the gloomy start to the day I realized it was time for new contacts!  Yippiee.  I promptly put the right in the left eye and the left in the right eye and couldn't figure out why I could not focus.  Hoping this was not a harbinger of the events of the rest of the day I got my eyes all sussed out and all came in to focus!

When I picked up my package on Friday night I had to drive a mile up to the start/finish.  Oh hell no I told the Marine, I was going to end at my hotel, he said, well how do you plan to get to the start you are going up that hill one way or another, besides I will NEVER let you live it down you didn't do the whole course.  OK fine....  I can always walk my bike up the mile hill at the end of 108 miles, right?

The course is as such (red is the century ride):

With an elevation profile as such:

That middle spike wasn't all that bad...

It is hard to know how best to describe this ride.  It was a difficult ride, however it wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done.  Perhaps the 87 miles the weekend before is topping that list.  I actually don't know what is the hardest thing I've ever done. Wait I do.  Dropping out of Seven Sisters, that was hard and haunts me.  I've been processing that over the last few months and it haunts me, how it haunts me.  Mostly how easy it was to drop, and how difficult it is to come to terms with it and the whys.  And all the memes about  how quitters don't win have really gotten under my skin.  Apparently I need therapy or to not have regrets.  Of the two this regrets I do have, Seven Sisters is fixable.  Not climbing that part of the Great Wall is (probably) never fixable.

Editors note:  I think racing 5K's are actually the hardest things I ever done...  what a tough question I've asked myself.  How about you, whats the toughest thing you've ever done?  (Athletically, lets narrow it down to athletically)

So the ride.  Let's break it down by the Notches, I was told "notch" is New Hampshireese for mountain pass.  There are 3, I'm also adding in the big climbs.

The start is a mile down hill!  That is lovely! Even in the rain.  That pesky rain slowed down the first 1/2 of the ride.

The climb starts pretty quickly, up the Kancamagus Highway along the Swift River.  You enter the White Mountains not to many miles into the ride.  

Well that's a little ominous, very concerned about the environment and 3rd party emissions?

Then it levels out for a bit, and Bear Notch assent starts, you peak about mile 18 and make a thrilling 4 mile decent.  Well it would have been more fun 1) had it not been raining and I was on my breaks the whole way 2) some car passing on a curve didn't scare the crap out of me. (um yes, I do believe they had Massachusetts plates)

The first aid station was in Bartlett, and very welcome.  It seemed like it was going to stop raining, but it was still chilly.  I left my rain jacket on.  

Next Notch was Crawford Notch, starts about mile 35 and is a mere 2 miles, and quite the climb!  It doesn't look like much on the elevation chart, it was killer steep and sharp and I was rewarded with the most spectacular view at the top.  Well worth the pain.  

Crawford Notch in the background!
Mile 41 was aid station 2 and a welcome site.  The weather kept threatening to get sunny!

Through Jefferson Highlands we were treated to gorgeous mountain views and the spectacular Mt. Washington Resort, holy guacamole, gorgeous!

Not my picture, from the Omni hotel site... but wow...

Not a Notch, however a good climb was Randolph Hill, mile 65,  we came around a bend expecting more delicious downhills and view and BOOM  1/2 mile 500 foot climb.  Maybe, it was a quick hard climb but not like Crawford, or maybe I was getting used to this climbing?  I'll never earn a polka dot jersey (a true Queen of the Mountain), however I was beginning to feel a lot less like a hill climbing newbie.

Aid station at the top of this hill (hill, ha) I took off my rain jacket and stuffed it away.  Forgot my sunscreen and I have a few pink areas as a result.  Crap.

At this aid station the Marine requested I slow down my pace a bit, he was burning energy and we were going above my predicted 12 mph.  Well 12 is the average, not the only speed.  I was considerate, because I know how much I hate it when Dave takes off on me. Off we went, donning sunglasses and happy for completely dry pavement.  

Lemme stop here and tell you about the Marine. I've only met him a few times, here and there at different running events.  Super friendly guy, enjoys life.  All that said, he is a Marine, and hoo boy things have to be planned and precise, he backs into parking spots and had both a sports watch and a Garmin 1100 to keep track of miles.  His elevation was about 1,000 feet or more than mine.  Feh, all depends on how these things get calculated.  Garmin and Strava gave me 4,600 of elevation gain and I'm fine with that.  I think 4,875 was what was advertised,  I know Gazelle has explained this elevation difference to me, I've read about it.  Nothing sticks, so it really isn't important to me.  

I did figure out why he double, triple, quadruple checked with me on if I was going or not.  He makes plans to do races with people and they bail.  The nerve!!!  I mean I know I bailed on Nicole when I slept through my alarm, but all in all.  If I say I am going to be there you can trust I will be there, or I have a damn good reason not to be.  He is doing Timberman as his first 1/2 Ironman, the swimmer in the Rhode Warrior tri is also doing this as her second, maybe third 1/2 Ironman.  I'm worried the friend who signed up will bail on him and I'll introduce them virtually so at least he has someone?  I think those who have followed me for a while know I do a lot of my runs / rides / races alone.  I'm totally ok with that and am enjoying company on a limited basis. It was fun to chat through each of our personal quirks when it comes to managing our lives.  

Back to the story, we took a good break at this point and the Marine checked out what we could expect before the next aid station.  Centuries are a lot like ultras, you break it down from aid station to aid station.

It was at this point we both broke 40 MPH on the down hill!  me 42, the Marine 43.  SO cool!!!

Mile 71 was going to start a torturous 8 mile grind and we would be rewarded with views of Mt. Washington at the end.  The aid station would be at the Auto Road.  How cool!  I was just there last month!!

I think we were both apprehensive about this 8 mile grind between the Crescent Range and Mt. Washington (this one didn't have a name that I could find).  Thinking about it we had already had quite a few grinds, they were of less elevation gain, however longer miles.  

The grind started after Gorham, even with it being a grind it was so freaking gorgeous.  I have been trying to talk Dave into a vacation house.  Wouldn't the Whites be a great place for one?  We could bring the dogs and maybe actually vacation together? 

So cool to get to the Auto Road, Mt. Washington was clouded in, which was a bummer, the Marine had never seen it.  We did get our chains cleaned and greased which made dealing with Pinkham Notch, much better!  Chris Krug, Eastside Bike Guides, was the mechanic on duty.  Pretty cool gig he has, a mobile bike shop, catering to all sorts of cyclists.  If you are biking in the Whites, look him up!

The next was Pinkham Notch, and the last notch, we were assured it was about a mile and a half grind, nothing worse than Randolph Hill.  It was as advertised.  Remember we are 80 miles into this 109 mile venture and 6 hours on the bike.   After the last grind it was nearly 15 miles of all down hill, sweet reward, it was in to the wind so there wouldn't be any 40 +, bummer.  At this time even little rises were cause for groans!!  How silly after what we had just accomplished.  But then at the 97 rest area, the Marine reminded me of the last mile, one full mile of a climb, a mere 330 feet. He was baiting me, torturing me.  He'd become a good friend, this is what friends do, right?

We eased along in the last 13 miles, I kept the speed low and enjoyed the views.  We saw a couple covered bridges through Intervale/North Conway these were fairly busy areas, however we were rewarded with the lovely West Side Road, before the final grind.

The last mile, hoo boy...

I looked at that hill and said, (JFDI) just fucking do it.  We did a little back and forth across the road and I really needed to hammer up it and I did that for most of those 330 feet.  Passing the Marine.  I wanted to be done and off the bike.  I love my bike and I love riding, I was done.  My whole me was just done and wanted as shower and a bed, nope, not even a shower beer, I wanted the dirt, grime, grease, and sweat off of me and to wash my hair and collapse.  Once in a while I can be such a girl!!

We ate the fantastic Bar-B-Q and socialized a bit  I was done, cooked, I needed to go.  I made the Marine promise to text me when he got home.  He was throwing a house warming party for his new place the next day. And people think I'm cray cray.   Oh  yeah, to add the cherry to the top of crazy, this was his FIRST century ride, and he's been biking barely a year.  Next year I predict he will be leaving me in his dust if he does this with me again!!

On my way home, after a fitful nights sleep, I never sleep well the night of a big exertion, it takes a while for my body temperature to drop to normal, this is the biggest thing I notice, sometimes a racing heart, but really I feel super warm for the next 12 - 24 hours after finishing.

The next morning, after an actual breakfast,  I did some sedate hikes around many covered bridges.  So peaceful. 

Beth, apparently in 'beast mode' and very happy to be home and in her own bed for the second time in 7 nights.


  1. What a great read :)
    Your passion and determination is inspiring! See you at the Blessing?

  2. Great report, Beth! Congratulations!

    As far as most difficult thing I've done athletically:
    It's a toss up between racing the mile or racing the Pisgah 50K.

  3. Great job. I love it up there but I don't think I'd want to bike it. Yeesh!

    And I agree, 5ks are really hard!

  4. Wow great job! 5ks are tough but I think the marathon I did was tougher, but only from miles 22-26.2. and that is why I still have only done one. 5ks are tough but at least they are over fast!

  5. Great job.....did the MW100 in 2012 and it was just as described. For another great ride you have to check out the D2R2 in Deerfield MA. I did the metric century a month after the MW100 and the climbing is relentless. Plus it is back/dirt roads in Franklin County MA/Southern VT. You'll need at least 25 mm tires but well worth it. Plus the post ride eats and beer are the best I've experienced.