As a biochemist, I know that anaerobic exercise cannot be sustained for longer than a minute or two. How then is it possible that I felt completely anaerobic for almost two hours during one particular race? The event was the grueling “run to the clouds” up Mount Washington in 2009. This was not a race that I chose to run. Instead, a member of my running club begged me to be the final member of their women’s team. “How bad could it be?” I thought. Well, it was worse. The route follows the auto road, a steep 7.6-mile climb, uphill the entire way. (The grade is comparable to the hill by the gym, which is tough even on a good day.) In my extensive collection of training logs, I even have my mile splits for the race: 10:30 (I was still optimistic here), 12:57, 13:44 (this is where I got tired), 14:03, 15:45 (this is where I started to power walk), 15:32 (clearly, I surged here), and 15:55 (last legs). My finishing time (1:48:21) was good for 387th out of 917 finishers. The first question here is why so many people choose to pay good money for this kind of unimaginable torture. (I still can’t answer that one!) The second question is whether there’s anything that could be worse. If there is, I suspect that it’s the bike race up the same road. (FYI, Tyler Hamilton won this race four times. I suspect that EPO would make the whole experience less painful!) A comparison of the records reveals that 49:24 is the top bike time and 56:41 is the top running time. Personally, I don’t see how a bike could possibly help!
Besides a huge dose of lactic acid, I did get some street cred out of the experience. And every time I see a bumper sticker that says, “This car climbed Mt. Washington” I smile to myself because mine says “The driver of this car ran up Mt. Washington”!