Hillclimb Feature Presentation 8; Dan Higginson

It was 1993, grunge music had taken over and teased up hair was all but completely gone away and I knew nothing of this because I was twelve. But I was an avid biker and my dad took me to race  mountain bikes every weekend. I heard about the Mount Washington race and wanted to do it, but I didn’t have a road bike. Shortly after that I stopped riding bikes.

Fast forward twenty two years. I had fallen into a rut, going to work, coming home hitting the couch until bed time and eating poorly. Career stress was high and on July 1 a life event that was substantially out of my control left me with more spare time than I have had in a long time. I fell into depression. A day or so into it I decided it was time to turn my life around. I would do it through exercise and eating right and positive thinking.

I started running. It was tough but I needed something to focus on so I stuck with it. Also, I rode my bike every chance I got. This was good but I needed a goal. Of course Mount Washington came to mind. I didn’t think I could do it with only six weeks to train so I signed up for a half marathon instead.

In my training I was riding my bike a lot. I did an extensive ride one night and realized I could, in fact, take on the Washington race. Registration had closed so I emailed Jotham Oliver and he got me in on a late registration. It was on! So I began training.

My training rides were going well and it was looking like I would be ready for the race. Then the Sunday before the race I came down with a sore throat and head cold. I didn’t exercise at all for the week leading up to the race. I rested and tried to beat the cold. On race day I was much better but still under the weather. It didn’t matter because I was determined.

I was improving from my life event, but my mind was cluttered and I needed to get my head back on straight. I decided that I was going to let it all out on the ride up the mountain, reach the top, come down and begin the rest of my life. I didn’t care if I cried the whole way up, it was all coming out and the only two options were reach the top or be carried off on a stretcher.

I put on my back pack, loaded it with a rain jacket, two tubes and tools. Like I said, getting to the top was the only option. I began the ride in the second wave. Up I went. It wasn’t long before my lungs and throat were on fire. I stopped twice before mile four to catch my breath and once to eat some sport beans shortly thereafter. I started to come into it a little after mile four, just in time for the dirt section.

Talk about brutal It was steep enough I wanted to stand, but if I did, my rear tire would slip. I spent the duration of the dirt section slipping to the back of my saddle and shoving myself back forward. Needless to say, I was happy once I saw pavement again.

I am not sure what the mileage was but there was a Gnarly hair pin to the left. At this point I was getting tired. I saw two women standing and shouting encouragements to every rider that went by. Their kindness gave me drive. Then there were more cow bells and cheers. The road became flatter and I got a second wind. I reached mile seven and thought to myself the race is almost over and I haven’t focused on clearing my mind. Overcome with emotion I stood up and started to  pedal.

I saw riders in front of me and more people cheering. I started to pass other riders, the cheers became louder. I passed more riders and I started hearing everyone shouting “go 289” (my bib number). I got to the last steep section, shifted gears and pushed. Some one yelled “yah 289 you made it”. I had my head down and saw colors on the ground from all of the words of encouragement people had written in chalk. I thought I made it but where was the finish line, did I miss passing it?

At this point I looked to my left and saw the finish line, I was spent. Oh my god, I’m not going to make it. I almost collapsed. Then I saw the clock said 1:57, it was under two hours. Everything was in slow motion, I pedaled, then I couldn’t. I looked down and closed my eyes, I pedaled again. Cheers erupted. I opened my eyes to see the finish line under me. I had made it!

I stepped off my bike and one guy caught me, another took my bike. I dropped my back pack and helmet. I was escorted to first aid. I thought I was in serious health trouble. I had never felt like this before. I remember hearing “do you want some water” yes, “a blanket” yes. I heard a woman say “he’s ok just needs to catch his breath”. Shortly after that I opened my eyes and was ok, I had made it. I began to cry. I did it!

I finished in 1:53:01 after only five weeks of training and I proved to myself that I could do anything I put my mind to. I started back running the day after and the next week, in astonishment to myself, I finished the Black Bear Half Marathon in 1:52.

Thank you to everyone at the Mount Washington race for making it an absolutely unbelievable time!




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