Teddy Marak: My First Mount Washington Road Race

In November 2021 I suffered an ankle injury that left me unable to run for seven months. My return to running was slow and flat to protect my ankle ligaments. Fast forward to February of 2023 and, naturally, I put my name in for the Mount Washington Road Race (MWRR) lottery. Yes, that Mount Washington Road Race: 7.6 miles, 4,650 vertical feet, 22% max grade, average grade of 12.5%. But only one hill.

I ran competitively in high school and college. Since then, I’ve tried to reclaim those glory days, jumping into races from 200m on the track through the marathon. Tempo and track workouts pepper my training log. But too often I was joined by ghosts of Teddy past, the race times and workout times of the past haunting me.

Getting into MWRR turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me.

1. I had a goal, and I was able to train with purpose.

2. My goal was uncharted territory. I’d never done a mountain race. I had no comparable experience. This was not a bad thing. This became freeing. I didn’t have to think about past race or workout times. I had a blank slate to work with and could enjoy running without the baggage of past performances.

3. I found a community of runners eager to help mentor a new mountain runner; runners in RMHCNE Providence Running Club and runners from many local Rhode Island and Massachusetts clubs. Friends of friends of friends who heard about my MWRR attempt reached out to share training and race tips. Where track and road racing can feel ultra-competitive with training secrets guarded, in the mountain, ultra, and trail communities, a different vibe, a vibe of collaboration, definitely exists.

4. I found a safer way to log miles. Yes, hills make you faster. Yes, hills really stink and feel really hard when you run up them. But hills are easier on your legs. For an injury-prone runner, this was a real benefit. Running uphill can reduce the risk of certain common running injuries, such as shin splints and knee pain because it recruits large muscles like the glutes and hamstrings and reduces the pounding impact and load on your bones and joints. The ground is literally closer to you when you stride, and you aren’t just repeating the same foot strike that you do every mile of every run every day of every week of every month that you run.

5. I found some cool new places to run. Where are the 12% hills in Rhode Island? There is not an app for that. But, through other runners and my own research, I found amazing places in Cumberland, Exeter, and West Greenwich to do a quarter mile to a mile uphill.

My workout regimen was fairly straightforward. One day a week I focused on hills. This progressed from short and steep hills like on the East Side to repeats up Mount Wachusett and long treadmill climbs. My peak workout was a 5m treadmill run climbing 3,000ft. I learned that running downhill is hard and hard on the body. My knees struggled to withstand the “down” segments of repeats, so I moved to the treadmill midway through my training. While many of us have disdain for the treadmill, it really is a magical training tool when you want to go up but not down! The other valuable training tool was other mountain races.

In truth, MWRR was my second mountain race because about three weeks prior I ran the Wachusett Hill Race as a prep race. You can learn more about the USATF New England Mountain Running Circuit in the program’s companion mountain running article. The club is ready to support members interested in training for their next mountain race.

Patrice French: Everything you always wanted to know about the Mountain Goat Series

The USATF-NE Mountain Circuit spans ten races over seven months. Points are scored based on each race completed. This is based on place percentage of the winner’s time.

You must complete 7 out of 10 races to earn GOAT STATUS and receive an automatic bypass to Mount Washington for the annual road race.

Races can be all-uphill, or up-and-down courses and the courses may be a single loop, multiple loops, or point-to-point. Footing in mountain races may be on pavement, trail, or a combination. Paths can be wide and well-worn or single-track and require uninterrupted attention.

The races are as follows starting in April:

  • Sunapee Scramble 1: 4 miles vertical to the top of Sunapee
  • Sunapee Scramble 2: up and down for 2 repeats 8miles
  • Sleepy Hollow VT: 10k trail and dirt road, switchbacks
  • Ascutney: 4 miles to the top and ½ the distance and elevation to Mt Washington
  • Pack Monadnock: 10 miles road with last 2miles in the park with an elevation gain similar to Mt Washington
  • Loon Mountain: Named “The Most Competitive Hill Climb” by Runner’s Magazine, Loon has a reputation as one of the country’s toughest mountain races. This is due in large part to the kilometer ascent of North Peak via the black diamond trail known as Upper Walking Boss. ‘The Boss’, as it’s affectionately known, is roughly a kilometer of grassy slope with angles that exceed a dizzying 40% grade!
  • Greylock: 8 miles paved road to the top of Greylock mountain
  • Waterville Valley: 7 miles to the top with a series of switchbacks before descending to the base for the finish
  • Cranmore Mountain: This consists of 2 loops to the top and bottom for approximately 8 miles. This race involves some technical running as well as a steep ascent up the face of the mountain.

I have been running the Goat series for about 8 years. I have had some years when I was not healthy enough to run and other years when I felt fantastic. Before the Goat series, I had always loved running the Mt Washington Auto Road Race which is 7.6 miles with 11% average grade and 22% grade at other points. However, it’s based on a lottery, so I learned the only way to guarantee a spot was to run 7 out of 10 Goat races to get the coveted automatic bypass.

The first race I entered was Wachusett. The course itself didn’t seem too daunting as it is a 4-mile road race to the top followed by a 3-mile trail/road downhill. However, as I nervously joined the pack at the base to begin the ascent, I started to see the excitement of running these races. First off, I was stunned by the lack of Lycra and flash. This was a ragtag team. There were elderly men in short shorts with WWII knee bandages on. There was no way to tell who was good and who was great. Everyone was friendly and happy to be there. What I loved is that there was a sense of camaraderie without the fierce competition because you couldn’t really tell where your place was overall.

After that, I was hooked. As I conquered each mountain, I started to make friends and see familiar faces. We would run together, talk together, breathe hard together, and laugh together at the end. We were genuinely proud of each other’s efforts. At the same time, I was getting in the best shape of my life which was the best preparation I could have for Mt Washington.

What can I say about Mt Washington? It is the “mother of all mountains”. It has become a metaphor for me of what you can accomplish no matter the odds. It is fondly dubbed “just one mile”, yet the sense of joy at finishing is like nothing I have ever experienced before. There are times during the ascent you question your strength both physically and mentally and wonder why you are even out there. But to balance those times are the incredible views and unpredictable weather conditions that make this a standout race.

When I got to meet Teddy Marak last year, our club president, it was a real thrill. I knew he was an experienced runner, and I was excited to see what he thought of the experience. To see the look on his face as he crossed said it all. His wife Anna and I were volunteers which was also a grueling but rewarding experience due to the wild weather at the summit.

I would love to have more RMHP runners explore something outside of their comfort range and join me whether in training or at the races. It is truly an incredible experience.

Patrice French is a long-time member of the Ronald McDonald Running Club. 

Leslie Battle: Multisport Athlete

Leslie Battle is a proud five-year member of Ronald McDonald House Providence Running Club, who one will (more often than not) catch running the ‘extra mile’ at the end of practices. Her primary athletic focus, since 2009, has been multisport, which includes, for example, triathlon (swim/bike/run), duathlon (run/bike/run), aquabike (swim/bike), and aquathlon (swim/run). Leslie is unique in that she races competitively in all the various iterations of multisport, including winter triathlon (run/bike/x-ski), gravel duathlon, off-road duathlon, and in all of their distances: super-sprint (~5 miles), sprint (~15 mi.), Olympic (~31 mi.), long course (70.3 mi.), extended (100 mi.), and ultra-distance (140.6 mi.).

She is even a member of multi-time, national champion winning, mixed relay triathlon and duathlon teams, where each member completes a full triathlon before handing the baton off to the next member. To date, she has raced in over 300 multisport events across the globe and was inducted as a member of USA Triathlon’s Century Club as early as 2013 for completing 100 triathlons by the induction date. Along the way, Leslie has earned 26 USAT National Champion titles across the spectrum of multisport events, earning Event All American status from USAT for her performances. She has qualified to race internationally numerous times at World Triathlon Corporation events, including the 2015 Standard Distance Duathlon World Championships in Adelaide, Australia and the 2017 Aquathlon World Championships in Penticton, Canada.

Currently, she works to promote the interests of athletes as a member of USAT’s Age Group Committee, which includes weighing in on rules development and enforcement and advising with respect to hardship waivers for athletes interested in competing as part of Team USA internationally, or at USAT National Championship events. Leslie has earned Ironman All World Athlete (Bronze) status for successive years from The Ironman Corporation and qualified to compete in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships twice (Nice, France 2019 and St. George, Utah 2021). This all is in addition to competing in local and large stage run only events; she qualified (3:49:40) to run the Boston Marathon in 2017, and earned medals in shotput and the 200 m in the 2020 New England Masters Indoor Track and Field meet.

One might think that with a resume so robust Leslie has always earned accolades for athleticism; this is not the entire story. Though she was a member of her high school track team, competing in hurdles, she was consistently a back of the packer then. You may ask, how did she get from there to who she is today? In the years after high school, while a Stecher and Andrews Scholar for classical violin performance at Wellesley College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Leslie studied European history, Medieval/Renaissance art, and music performance, then at Syracuse University College of Law, Brown University, and the American Institute of Insurance she studied law, business, and insurance, finally making her way to practice as Corporate Counsel in Warwick, RI, for MetLife Auto & Home and now for Farmers Insurance.

Exceeding expectations of others’ perceptions of her ability has always been a driving force ever since running her first half marathon in 2008, before having lost 100 pounds through moxie and gumption alone. The drive that took her from then until now, competing among the country’s and the world’s best athletes on some of the most challenging courses, is the same thing that fuels her passion today. For years now, Leslie has built community among, and advocated for, broader competitive opportunities for non-traditionally sized athletes, who, in the multisport world, are referred to as Athena (female 165+ pounds) and Clydesdale (male 220+ pounds) athletes. Leslie’s mantra: #dontcountusout, acts as a reminder to not prejudge anyone on the start line. Helping Athena and Clydesdale athletes build self-esteem through sport all while engendering respect from other athletes and the sporting community as a whole is what drives her to exemplify her one-time coach’s reminder that “one cannot lead where one does not go herself.” This vision continually motivates Leslie to lead by example, and to not just hit the snooze button when the 4:45 a.m., twice a week, RMHPRC alarm sounds off.

Peter Sedgwick’s Come Back

by Peter Sedgwick

I am writing this open letter to discuss what I have been doing this year to improve my running times and abilities.

First off so you all understand until this year I had not broken my PR from my first half marathon run in Hartford in October of 2008 until my 26 attempt to do so at New Bedford this year, a four and half year of coming up short and just not getting it done.

I also had until 18 months ago had issue with my calves I would pull them very few months and be set back three weeks each time. Now I run always with CEP compression socks and that issue appears to have gone away.

This year I have broken my 5K, 5 Miler and half marathon PR’s all within the past few months, some of them several times. My practice run’s pace have all been reduced by 1 minute per mile or in longer runs more.

What change happened, is very simple one early morning practice at the Brown indoor track, Walter a gentleman who is always there at 6 am was talking to me and then did something that got me going. He simple tapped me in the stomach and said that is what happens at our ages, meaning 50 and overweight

Not so fast, I then started a exercise program. My goal was to burn between 1200 and 1500 calories a day.

Monday AM – Track work out

Monday PM – Incline machine and steeper total time 80 minutes   high resistance

Tuesday AM – Elliptical at 60 minutes at level 14

Tuesday PM – Spinning class 60 minutes

Wends day AM – – Elliptical at 60 minutes at level 14

Weds day PM – – Incline machine and steeper total time 80 minutes   high resistance / now track

Thursday AM – Track work out/ or Elliptical at 60 minutes at level 14

Thursday PM – Spinning class/Rooster Ramble now

Friday AM – – Elliptical at 60 minutes at level 14

Saturday AM – Long run depending on weather if not gym

Sunday AM – Boot camp class or race day

That was the winter schedule and started on Feb. 1st and kept at it with Modifications to do the better weather.  My weekly mileage is around 60 miles per week, of course 60% or more is not on the roads.

I would say that by not injury myself, losing the weight, track work outs and all the resistance training that I have been doing I’ve increased the strength thru out my body. The results speak for themselves last Sunday May 5 I ran the Navigant Credit Union ½ marathon. I not only PR I beat New Bedford by nine and half minutes. At this point I do not know what my limits are, but I am going to take it slow and let the races just happen without pushing my limits too far. Coach Bob warns me at least once a week, be careful don’t overdo it. Trust me I’m going as careful as I can.

Thank you

Peter Sedgwick

100 on 100 Relay

by Ellen Foley.

I ran the 100 on 100 relay with five friends last Saturday (Aug 13th). Here’s the website: http://www.100on100.org/. We came in 6th of 12 women’s teams (we were something like 89th overall however). This is a great race that starts at the stunning Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT and travels down scenic Route 100 for 100 miles, to Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, VT. You won’t be surprised to hear that it’s very hilly but also very beautiful, including waterfalls, mountain scenery and 2 covered bridges! Most teams include 6 people, but there are a few “ultra” teams of 3. There’s a lot of spirit on the course, with decorated vans, costumes (at some points) and fantastic organizers and volunteers. There are 18 legs to the course, with total mileage for each runner ranging from 15 to 19 miles. We started at 7 a.m. and finished at 10:20 p.m.; I think the winning team beat us by about 5 hours! Of course the point was to be challenged and have fun, and we did. It was a GREAT time. I highly recommend it, especially if you like hills.