These Runners Climbed Mount Washington

La Sportiva Mountain CupIn deciding to cover the La Sportiva Mountain Cup (iRF’s coverage) there was one race that stood out as falling outside iRunFar’s normal scope – the Mount Washington Road Race. While this race is neither far nor on trail, such labels are superficial when it comes to the mother of all US mountain road races. For those of you unfamiliar with the Mount Washington race, “there is only one hill,” as the race self-mockingly notes. With nearly 5,000′ of climb in 7.6 miles that’s one heck of a hill! Not only is the Mountain Washington Road Race a calf-locking, lung-burning run, it’s “probably the most competitive mountain race in America,” according to mountain running guru, Buzz Burrell.

This sign is self-explanatory (photo by George Zack)

The Race
Wow, this must have been quite the race to watch. Not only were some of the top runners from earlier La Sportiva Mountain Cup races in attendance – Matthew Byrne, Jason Bryant (La Sportiva), and Shiloh Mielke – but so to were dominating mountain runners like Rickey Gates, Eric Blake (BAA), Joseph Gray (Inov-8), and Simon Gutierrez. In the end, Rickey Gates beat all of his formidable competition. In addition to breaking his competitors, Gates broke an hour barrier… by 2 seconds (59:58) and is now only the second American to do so. Eric Blake was the second man atop the mountain just a minute and change behind Gates (1:01:19). Gray (1:02:35) just edged out Byrne (1:02:45) to take third and fourth respectively. Simon Gutierrez (1:04:16) took the top masters slot and placed fifth overall.

Runners above the clouds and still climbing (photo by George Zack)

While the top twenty men crossed the finish within 10 minutes of one another, women’s winner Brandy Erholtz (1:10:53) had only one competitor finish within 10 minutes of her. Brandy’s mercurial effort had her within a minute of Magdalena Thorsell’s decade old record of 1:10:08. Tara Cardi (1:19:52) barely managed to stay within 9 minutes of Erholtz, but won the women’s masters division by more than 4 minutes. Jennifer Campbell (1:20:58) and Alison Bryant (1:22:08) finished third and fourth among the ladies. Lisa Goldsmith (1:24:58) improved upon her sixth place finish two weeks ago at Mount Diablo (iRF race recap) with her fifth place at the Mount Washington Road Run.

For those eager for more race info, the official race report is now up. As for unofficial looks at this year’s race, take a peak at George Zack’s race commentary and photos and videos as well as Scott Mason’s photos (not the Wasatch Speed Goat SM). Although he wasn’t present, we enjoyed reading Buzz Burrell’s take on the race.

La Sportiva Mountain Cup Standings
Men’s winner Rickey Gates jumps up the overall standings in his ’09 LSMC debut by picking up 26 points (20 points for the win and 2 points each for beating Byrne, Bryant, and Mielke). Among returning ’09 LSMC runners, Matthew Byrne made the biggest move by capturing 17 points (13 points for 4th and 2 points each for beating Bryant and Mielke). Byrne now has 34 total points. Shiloh Mielke picked up a scant 3 points (for 13th place) in his third La Sportiva Mountain Cup race of the year and yet he retains the overall series lead with 40 points. [Remember, only a runner’s 5 highest scoring LSMC races count towards the series championship, so Mielke can erase this effort if he races 6 or more LSMC races. However, note that his entry into the race results in two additional points each for Gates, Byrne, and Bryant, so Mielke’s showing aided some of his LSMC competitors.] Jason Bryant picked up 10 points (8 points for 8th and 2 points for beating Mielke) to give him 25 for the series.

As with Gates, Brandy Erholtz won her ’09 LSMC debut. By beating Lisa Goldsmith along the way, Erholtz earned 22 points on the day (20 points for the win and 2 points for beating Goldsmith). Fellow Coloradoan Goldsmith moved up the overall standings by picking up 11 points (for 5th place) on the mountain. Keri Nelson retains her series lead while taking the race off. Erholtz moved into a tie for second with Caitlin Smith, who won the Mount Diablo 25k two weeks ago. Goldsmith moved herself up into sole possession of fourth in the La Sport Mountain Cup standings.

The official La Sportiva Mountain Cup standings will be available here. There’s no LSMC race next week; however, be sure to stop back in two weeks when we cover the Barr Trail Mountain Race. La Sportiva Mountain Cup Contest
La Sportiva SkyliteWith the running of Mount Washington comes the second drawing for sweet La Sportiva kicks and with it Ty Walters of Portland, OR will soon find himself speeding around the Pacific Northwest in a new pair of La Sportiva’s Wildcats.

In toeing the line for the MWRR, we’d have recommended the featherweight La Sportiva Skylite. This lightweight racer provider more than enough support for a couple hours of racing while providing enough traction on the unpaved sections of the course. For more info on the Skylite, check out iRunFar’s Skylite review. If you want to climb your own mountains in the Skylites, just leave your name and town (in the US or Canada) in a comment before we write about the Barr Trail Mountain Race in two weeks. As a reminder, if you enter to win the pair of Skylites, you’ll automatically be eligible to win the grand prize at the end of August.

Final Thoughts

  • Who among you tested yourself on the slopes of Mount Washington this year? Who’s done so in the past? If so, what did you think?
  • Anyone else run up mountains just because they’re there? (See Trail Goat Note below)

[Trail Goat Note: I’ve never run the Mount Washington Road Race and after my own run this past weekend it may be a long time before I do! In an effort to try and understand what Mt Washington competitors were undergoing, I staged my own road hill climb from Mono Lake to Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although I had nearly 15 miles to climb 4,000 feet en route to the pass, the climb left my calves screaming and thighs feeling like they had refrigerators strapped to them. My lungs and attitude followed my legs’ lead in their discomfort. It was only after my own misery ended that I could begin to contemplate and then feel for those who earlier in the day had climbed an extra thousand feet into the New Hampshire sky in but half the distance. I admiringly nodded my oxygen starved head in their direction!]