File this under ‘better late than never’: our long awaited interviews with the 2017 Mt Washington Road Race champions Joe Gray and Shannon Payne! Conditions were hot and less than ideal for fast times, although one can argue running uphill for over 7 miles is never ideal for fast times. But anyway, Gray went under 59 minutes anyway and won it running away (58:57):
How does this win compared to the prior 3? Did you do anything different in prep for this one?
This win was very special. Having the competition that was there made this event very special. I love lining up with top athletes and that’s exactly what happened. I believe there were so many stories attached to this victory that made it special as well. I had my Kenyan friend whom I met at a similar race in Austria there whom I invited years ago. It was great that he finally made it there. Then you have Sage who is a rival of mine as well as Eric who are both highly talented climbers and former winners of the event. Winning against the level of athletes there was special but I guess none of the 4 wins compared to the feeling of winning my first in 2014. My build up was different this year for it as I had some other goals I was shooting for and also I wanted to run Nationals which unfortunately was right before mt. Washington so id say this year was one of my most unprepared wins.
How bad was the heat?
The heat maybe played to my favor as I’ve been at sea level alot this year. It was pretty tough either way. I recall really sweating through my jersey before the first mile which I had never experienced here before. The heat really zaps your chances of fast times so very early I knew there would be no sub 58s today. I figure there were 3 of us who could break 58.30 given great weather but hot weather at altitude will slow you down exponentially.
And finally… is there a chance you’re not coming back? I read that you were doubtful for making the trip for a 4th win, sounded like you might be on to new challenges. Does this mean I’ll finally have a chance to win the damn thing? ?
As for returning, I had thought about not coming this year because of the hectic mountain schedule for nationals and the world championships but it’s hard to pass up such a great field of runners toeing the line. Next year? I will have to see once this year is over and I get time to look over my goals and aspirations in 2018.
Shannon Payne ran a 1:11:21 and had an even bigger margin of victory than her male counterpart. That time was good enough to place her 12th overall. Here’s a fun/obscure fact: roughly 18% of the men ahead of her had the surname ‘Gray’. We did not dive deeper into that over the course of our Q&A:
Was this the big moment of your comeback or have you had some recent success that made you confident you’d be ready to compete?
I don’t know that I would really refer to anything here as a “big comeback.” Sure, I was out the latter part of 2014 and the majority of 2015 with some injury stuff, but I’ve been running fine since last year. I didn’t race much in 2016 mostly just because the focus and enthusiasm wasn’t really there; lots of relocating and moving around and job changes and life stuff, and admittedly my motivation to really get after it wasn’t what it normally is for whatever reason, so I was just sort of just running and enjoying it. But toward the end of last year I was sort of missing putting myself out there and suffering because it just felt like a something big was missing, so I decided to get back to the grind. I ran the Black Canyon Ascent about a month ago in basically the same time I ran it in 2014 when I was in really good shape, so I figured I’d be ready to take another solid crack at Mt. Washington.
How much more difficult did the heat make it?
It’s always easy to look back and think, “Oh I could’ve run faster if this or that,” and who knows? Maybe you would have, or not. If it wasn’t heat, it could’ve been crazy Mt. Washington wind, or snow, or whatever. It’s so rare to get perfect conditions in any race, but everybody deals with those same conditions on race day, so you just have to show up and throw down no matter the weather, you can’t control that stuff. The times were slower across the board this year, so I guess the heat and humidity likely impacted most everybody, but the race is super tough no matter what.
Was this win more satisfying than the first?
They were both satisfying in their own ways. The first one was just such an unexpected surprise that it was pretty special and always will be. This second go around was sort of a “relief” for lack of a better word-that’s the best way I can think of to put it-not in a just get-the-race-over-with kind of way, because I really enjoy the whole experience and know how lucky I am to be out there, but going in I felt like I had a something to prove to myself, and I did, so it kind of put some “demons” to rest, to sum it up in a very cheesy and overly dramatic way.
If you haven’t seen photos or results from the race yet, then be sure to check these out: