By Keith Iskiw
But only for those with true grit. And we are chock full of that, man. Hunter S. Thompson
I think, as a runner anyways, I could be described as gritty. I will destroy myself to keep moving forward, to not lose ground. For some, it is an innate ability. I have had to endure some awful experiences over my short career in ultramarathoning to hone this mentality. I relied on it heavily at the Whiteface Uphill Road Race.
Two weeks after winning Haliburton 50 mile I signed up for this race in Lake Placid. I told everyone that would listen that I was just going down to give it a try (lie), that I had no expectation (lie) but deep down I know that once the race starts I am going to grind out pace, coaxing every ounce of strength from myself till I’m spent. Its part of the magic of racing, that moment when you realize you bit off more than you can chew but you still put your head down and get the job done.
Whiteface Mountain is the 5th tallest mountain in the Adirondacks and the race takes place on the Memorial Highway from Wilmington. It winds its way up the road for almost 8 miles forcing the runners to gain over 3500 feet in the process. Although the footing is excellent the challenge is in the elevation gain. Which for a guy from Ontario makes for an interesting day.
The start of the race is always a nervous time for me. I am sizing people up for the most part. Every one here looks fit. Really fit. I feel a bit out of place with the triathletes and road runners. I know I will have to work hard to place well in this field so I station myself close to the start, not right out front, but close, and wait for gun.
With a fire of the pistol we are off and the initial slope of the road makes it easy to get into a rhythm and I settle in before the grade steepens.
I will be honest; I don’t really recall much of the race. I put a lot of effort over the first half of the race to be in the lead group but was dropped by the top 4 guys in the middle. My goal for the final 3 miles was to try and gain on 4th and 5th place but having slowed during the middle miles I lost contact with them.
I found the wind the most challenging thing of all. Gusts of 70km an hour pelted me, forcing me to walk as it was futile to try and fight it. The real pleasure of this race is when you start to ascend high enough out of the tree line to enjoy the absolute beauty of this area. It was nice to focus on something else during those last 2 miles of switchbacks.
As I rounded the last turn on the road I could see the finish line. I attempted to speed up but that simply wasn’t going to happen. I enjoyed the final 400 meters as it was lined with people cheering and although I was spent I sprinted, just a little, through the finish line in 6th place.
I loved this race. So much so that next year I am going back as fresh as possible to give it a true effort. If anyone feels like a running challenging course in a spectacular place, I have room for 2 in my car.