Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Whiteface Mtn Uphill Footrace: 09/14/2013

Cool temperatures and a touch of early autumn color made for another memorable Whiteface Mountain Uphill Foot Race on Saturday, with around a hundred runners lining up for the start. As usual, conditions varied widely between the starting line (upper 40s, calm, broken clouds) and the finish (upper 30s, gusty, fog, clouds), adding to the challenge of the 8-mile, 3500’ vertical climb to the summit.

Runners lined up at the start...

To me, the hardest part of the race is covering the first three miles. It’s a public road with traffic, houses, power lines. It’s where you find your pace and confront the reality that you’ve got an unforgiving, unrelenting, hour-plus climb ahead of you. By the time you get to the tollhouse at the 3-mile mark, you’ve settled into a pace, the woods close in and it’s just you and the mountain for the rest of the race.

Finish line at the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Footrace, Saturday Sept. 14, 2013.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
...and crossing the finish line in the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Footrace

Every runner sets goals for himself, mine was simply to beat my time from last year. But results can be unpredictable in this race, and I crossed the finish line in 1:27:53, five minutes slower than last year (full results here) and 22nd finisher overall (versus 20th last year). That’s still a result I’m happy with – running well means more to me in this race than net time. The real prize came a few minutes after I finished, when the clouds lifted away from the summit to reveal dramatic views of the course and surrounding peaks.

Fogged-in finish line at 1:30

My buddy Greg finishing at 1:32

Non-runners (and even runners) might wonder, why run up a mountain? Well, because I love this race. I love it for the purity and simplicity of one long, steady hill. For the zen-like focus it takes to persevere and to compete with yourself and with the mountain. For the spirit of the competitors, where passing another runner is more of an opportunity to encourage a comrade than to vanquish a competitor.

Clouds just starting to clear

Views of the auto road and Esther Mountain opening up

And because I love this mountain. I love the way it towers above the landscape, separate and alone, northernmost of the High Peaks. I love it for its scars on every side, reminders of the power of Nature and that the Adirondacks are a changing, dynamic landscape. For the magic of clouds clearing at the Lake Placid turn, surprising a runner or skier with a glimpse of the summit that’s still nearly a thousand feet higher.

Summit in the clear

So, yeah, this is a race I’ll keep coming back to. There were at least two age 70+ finishers on Saturday. I don’t know the age of the oldest finisher in the race’s 36 year history, but maybe it’ll be me in a few decades.

The summit was still in clouds after the race

A few related links of interest:

A report from Saturday’s race that appeared in Runners World online.
My race report from last year.
A report from Sunday’s Climb to the Castle rollerski race.


  1. "The purity and simplicity of one long, steady hill." Wish I'd thought of that. Very nice, well written post.