Dean's Mt Washington Race Report 8/18/12
1:04:47, 372 avg watts. 23rd overall, 1st place Clydesdale (190+ lb riders)
First off, I can't think about this day without remembering my good friend, customer, and training partner Rich Angelo, who died tragically during the swim leg of the USAT National Triathlon Championship this same morning in Burlington, VT. I learned of his passing on my way down the mountain and was truly devastated. Rich meant so much to his loving family and so many of us. When I think about this day, I’ll always think about Rich and the tremendous impact he's had on my life. RIP my friend.
I felt more prepared for this climb than any of my 3 prior attempts. I raced Newtons Revenge on July 7th and while I gave it my best effort on the day, I honestly wasn't happy. I weighed 206 lbs after a little too much summer enjoyment and vacation the prior few weeks, and my bike form had declined from my racing peak in June. As a result I finished 3 minutes slower than my PR time from last year. I learned from the race, and spent the next 6 weeks as focused as ever on proper diet and training and was able to get down to 197 lbs the day before the start. My course calculator projected me right on the fence of going under 1:05 in the right conditions, which has always been my ultimate goal for this climb.
The conditions race morning were perfect. I drove up through rain that morning, but by the time it started the weather was clear and cool with very little wind. I learned my lesson last year and made sure I was ready to set up close to the front of the Top Notch wave as soon as it was called. I positioned myself in the 2nd row and shortly after the cannon fired and we were off. As usual I had people blowing by me on both sides the first couple minutes as I tried my best to keep my power under my ceiling which is easier said than done with all the temptations to follow wheels that are passing you. The next few minutes I slowly weaved through dozens of riders and relaxed into my rhythm as the road opened up for good. I hadn't taken a heart rate monitor up this climb before, but decided to this time to help gauge effort as the altitude and/or heat started wearing me down. I wanted to keep my HR under 176bpm threshold for the climb, and I paced myself based on a carefully planned power output strategy based on my training tests and what I’d learned from past hill climbs – 400 watts to start, then drop 10 watts every 10 minutes. I hoped this approach would reduce the risk of blowing up due to the effects of altitude and overheating. In the past I’d targeted my 60-minute “sea level” power and found myself blowing up well before the finish each time.
I was passed by Paul Miller about 10 minutes in and after a quick gasping "Hey Paul", I got on his wheel. I've known Paul for 10 years as we've raced together in triathlons, duathlons, bike races, time trials, and of course this hill climb. Paul has always been faster than me on this climb, I knew he’d gone 1:02 last year, so perhaps if he was having a slightly off day I could stay on his wheel for a while and benefit. There's barely any drafting benefit when you're climbing at 7mph, but it sure was nice to take my mind off things and perhaps when we faced the wind I'd save a few watts of energy. For the next 40 minutes I looked at nothing but the back of his rear tire, and kept an eye on my two "Stupid-meters" in my HR and Power to make sure I wasn't overdoing it. It was almost as if Paul was synched up to my power meter and heart rate monitor as staying on his wheel kept my values pinned right at the my pre-determined limits.
I made it through the dirt section road and as my HR climbed to 178 and my power was still pinned around 380 watts it was becoming clear that I couldn't hold his wheel all the way to the top. I started focusing 1 minute at a time to stay with him, and in the back of my mind hoped I could get to the "flatter" section about a mile from the top where I could perhaps rest for a few seconds in his draft. 52 minutes in, my HR ticked over 180, and despite wrestling with my bike as much as I could I watched his wheel start to move away for good. I was completely broken, I mustered a "Go get 'em Paul" gasp, and then did what I could to keep the bike moving. The next 10 minutes were an eternity, my power was dropping off severely and time slowed to a crawl. In the back of my mind I knew I had my best time coming, so I put everything I had into it the rest of the way. I allowed myself to back off just a bit before the steep finishing part of the climb since I knew the last 45 seconds were all-out to get up the steep 22% grade at the finish. As I rounded the final couple steep corners, I was out of the saddle with my HR approaching my max – which is crazy considering altitude always seems to suppress my HR. My mouth was open and my heavy breathing was so loud the sound must have been drowning out the cow bells. I saw 1:04:30 still on the clock coming around the final bend and I knew I had it. I kept on the gas all the way across the line, and then it took several minutes before I could stop panting and get off the bike. My final time was 1:04:47, and I can’t think of any way I could have gone up faster that day. I saw Paul Miller a few minutes later, thanked him again, and told him I owed him a few beers. While they don’t list an official Clydesdale (190 lbs or more) course record on the website, my time bettered the “unofficial” Clydesdale course record by 45 seconds – or at least the best time for the past 14 years listed on the website. I’ll take it!
Here’s a link to the strava file showing all the power, heart rate, speed, cadence data for the climb: http://app.strava.com/rides/18953947
Family History on Mt Washington
I have some family history on this mountain that has always made this climb special for me. On the way back from Newtons Revenge, I visited the New England Ski Museum with my family. In 1933, the first ever downhill ski race down Mt Washington was held. It was called the First American Inferno, and was so dangerous that it ended up only being held 3 times. My grandfather, Hollis Hall Phillips, won the First American Inferno and his trophy is now on display at the museum after being recently donated by my family. I enjoyed seeing the exhibit with my family, and answering all the questions from my 4 kids about my grandfather’s accomplishment nearly 80 years ago. The next two Infernos were won by world-class skiers Dick Durance and Toni Matt in 1934 and 1939, and it was never held again. My father used to say Hollis never got the recognition he deserved after the win, so hopefully this new exhibit (and perhaps this race report!) will help give him that recognition. It sure was something to see his trophy displayed in the same room as Bode Miller's Olympic medals. While my grandfather Hollis died years before I was born, if he were alive today I’m sure he’d remind me that Phillips’ have always gone faster downhill than uphill. J
Here's an up close photo I took of the trophy display at the New England Ski Museum:
Thanks for reading!