Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Whiteface Mtn uphill footrace: 09/13/2014

Whiteface, Saturday morning 09/13/2014.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.

There’s not much that I haven’t already said about the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Footrace (2013, 2012), except that if there’s a race that I have to run each year, this is it. Because it’s New York’s fifth highest peak, because of its Olympic heritage and skiing history, because of the pure challenge of running 3600 vertical feet uphill in 8 miles.

Two runners crossing the finish line just below Whiteface's summit

36 degrees on my car's thermometer Saturday morning.

The Saratoga Skier and Hiker, first-hand accounts of adventures in the Adirondacks and beyond, and Gore Mountain ski blog.
Summit conditions for race time Saturday morning were in the 30s to low 40s (36 as I drove into Wilmington), with south winds forecasted to increase to the 35+ mph range by afternoon and an increasing threat of showers. Balmy, by Whiteface standards. If the race had been run 24 hours later we would have encountered this (and I still would have loved it, probably even more).

The view from the bottom, just outside of Wilmington, before the race

The view from the top, after the race

I’ve often said that the hardest portion of the race is the first three miles from Wilmington to the Toll House. Usually, once I clear the Toll House and start up the Whiteface auto road proper, a steady, sustainable pace feels more natural. Maybe I was just less competitive than other years, but this year the pacing seemed easy right from the start. If that means I left a couple minutes on the table, so be it. I ended up crossing the finish line in 1:29:43, 29th out of 87 finishers (results), but this is a race I run to finish, not for a time. Two 70+ runners and one 80+ runner finished as well – how’s that for inspiring?!

Lake Placid, from the finish line

Another view of Lake Placid

The "tourist path" leads 300 vertical feet and a quarter mile from the Castle at the end of the auto road to the summit

After finishing, I climbed the quarter mile trail to the summit. As if to show who’s really in charge, the cloud level dropped and engulfed the summit. Even in swirling clouds and a 30 mph wind the summit’s a cool place.

Summit weather observatory

Limited visibility

The tourist path follows a sharp arete

Clouds blowing in over the upper reaches of the auto road after the race

I never really upped my training for Whiteface or Moreau Lake (the week before), I just ran my usual 4 miles on the bike trail three times a week with the occasional trail run thrown in. No speed workouts, no hills, no distance. I want to run for fun and to stay in shape and still have time for biking, hiking and other activities. Those two races left me pretty wiped out for 24 hours or so, yet if anything, I’m now feeling stronger than I felt all season. That’s a good thing – the Gore Mountain Leaf Cruncher trail 5K is this coming weekend.


  1. Nice story. I enjoyed. Great mountain, that Whiteface!

  2. Hi Jeff. Looking forward to following your adventures in the ADKS on skis. Do you do any XCD skiing, touring and turns on skinnies with 3 pins? My fav!

  3. Nice post, and a congratulations on a great time Jeff. Thinking that now I have to run this as well as roll it, for the full Monty.

  4. Paul: yup, I do a lot of what I call out-the-backdoor touring on my Madshus Epochs. Love that kind of skiing and want to get back to doing more - it's really where my skiing roots are, touring & turning thru the High Peaks, Siamese Ponds, etc.

    Peter - yeah, you need to do the run. Have you ever biked the toll road? (I haven't).

  5. Jeff, I haven't biked the toll road. The up... I could do it. I think I'd die of a heart attack from the descent though.