Hillclimb Feature Presentation 9; Chip Walter

I decided to enter the MT Washington Auto Road Race late Spring because I had great memories of climbing MT Washington as a young boy and was looking for a challenge.  To be clear, I am, at best a BB rider, but I decided what the heck at 54 I’m not getting any younger so might as well add it to the bucket list and get on with it.  I live in MD so training on hills was a challenge.  I found several hard, but short climbs in Frederick, MD.  Needless to say, I trained consistently but probably not as hard as I could have.  Around mid-May I had the opportunity to drive up the auto road to the tree line the rest was impassable and thought …Wow, this is going to be hard, but hey I can do this.  So, training continued and the family was getting psyched about the trip.  Friends were going to come up and my cousin was going to fly in and climb with my wife, son and daughter while I did the race.  Everybody, including friends, family, coworkers and the bike shop, where I bought a new bike 2 months prior for the ride, thought it would be hard, but since I was training I could do it.  I was not so positive, but played along.

This is where the story gets interesting.  The day before the race the family and I drove up to get a good look at the entire road.  My 25 year old daughter was in tears by mile three because she, come to find out, is not a huge fan of heights.  My wife is continually telling me not to get so close to the edge.  My son (junior at Penn State) is quiet.  So we get to the top, buy a couple of tee shirts had head back down…. the car is quiet.   Until about half way when my daughter says… “Dad, we are just proud of you that you thought you could do it.” My wife says “it took guts just to enter.”  My son is just quiet.  So, the day passes.  The next morning I wake up and get ready.  The conversation is about anything but the ride.  The climbers, wife, son, daughter, cousin, who flew in the night before, head off to climb via the Bootts Spur around 6:45 giving them enough time to get to the top before I did… if I made it.  Rick, my brother-in-law, who also arrived the day prior, and I head out around 7am.  We get to the parking lot and unpack by 7:15am.  As the parking lot fills up I ask a rider, who had a very small single chain ring in the front, if this was his first race. He says, “Nope…this is my 6th time.”  I asked about the chain ring as it was the first time I had seen one so small on a road bike.  He mentioned that it made it doable and then looked at my set up and said… “Oh, you are in for a challenge.”  By now I am hoping I can make it to the tree line.  Rick tries to keep me calm and then gets in the car and drives up.  Rick’s task is to walk down a little and take pictures as I go by…if I make it.

The ride starts, I’m in the green group and one of the last to go across the starting line.  I am in my lowest gear while still in sight of the starting line.  Needless to say, I am wondering what I got myself into.  The best advice I received was not to stop…so I didn’t.  First mile goes by, second mile goes by…I make the tree-line…then the dirt…then I see the top and I’m PSYCHED!  I start getting close to the top and I see Rick…he is so excited, he starts running along side me…not the best thing since he recently had hip replacement surgery.  Oh, and no pictures, he says in the excitement he forgot. I hit the 22% portion and my right leg starts to cramp…I let out a yell and sprint to the top…(heart rate pegs out at 189).  I hear a lady on the side say… “Did you see his eyes!!!”  I cross line in 1:46.02.  Rick finds me and still can’t believe that I did it.  Twenty minutes later the climbers get to the top and are shocked that I made it and even more surprised that I beat them up. Thirty minutes later I think I can do it faster next year…with a small single chain ring, of course.



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