Kris Freeman may not have won Saturday’s Mt. Washington Road Race, but he did run quickly enough to win the next best thing: the title of Fastest Freeman.
Kris held off his brother, Justin, to finish the uphill running race in a time of 1:07:56, good enough for 15th place out of a field of over 900—just over seven and a half minutes back from the winner, Chris Siemers of Colorado. Justin was 16 seconds and two places behind Kris, in 17th.
The road race is 7.6 miles of pure pain—the grade averages 12 percent—and to add insult to injury, the temperature at the start was sweltering.
“Those switchbacks—usually you take the shortest line, but I was trying to take the shadiest line,” Kris said.
Justin, a former national cross-country ski champion and accomplished runner, said that he led his brother for the first two miles of the race before Kris passed him at a water station in the middle of a steep pitch, “going significantly faster.”
“He reeled me in, and then put some distance on me,” he said.
But given the slow, grueling nature of the climb, Kris was never out of sight.
“I could see him pretty much the whole way,” Justin said.
By six miles, Kris had roughly 40 seconds on Justin, who at that point was doing battle with the top female, a 23-year-old Ethiopian named Shewarge Amare. (Amare was on the way to setting a course record despite running in a pair of borrowed shoes—she locked hers in the car.)
A Gatorade feed from the Freeman parents at mile six gave Justin a bit more gas for the finish, and by the top, he had closed the gap back down to 16 seconds and held off Amare—“the power of sexism getting me up the hill,” he said.
In an interview, Kris said that he’d been traveling for the last week, visiting camps for children with diabetes, and that he “wasn’t feeling great.”
Going in, he’d had two goals (or three, if you count beating Justin): to place in the top 10, and to be the first New Hampshire resident over the line.
While he didn’t quite accomplish the former, Kris’s victory over Justin ensured the latter, earning him a $100 prize and a trophy, Justin said.
The race also offered Kris a chance to hone his protocol for insulin dosing during races. After getting equipped with a new continuous glucose monitor this spring, Freeman, who is diabetic, has used the information gleaned from it to develop a new blood sugar management strategy.
For past races, Freeman has administered a big insulin dose directly before the start. (Insulin is the hormone that reduces blood sugar levels.) But the information he got from the glucose monitor showed him that the insulin was taking nearly an hour to kick in, leaving him with still-dropping blood sugar levels at the end of a race that took a toll on his body.
So for his last two trials, Freeman has given himself a smaller dose of insulin 45 minutes before the race. With this new method, the insulin kicks in just as the race is starting, and is essentially out of his system by the finish—which Freeman said has worked much better.
“I definitely think this is going to be the future of how I do it,” he said.
Both Freemans said that they would like to return to the mountain next year; Kris would like to break 1:05:00, which he said was possible “on a different day.”
After the weekend, Kris said that he was going back out on the road for two more weeks for more diabetes-related work, before heading out on the U.S. Ski Team’s trip to New Zealand for on-snow training.
While the recent travel has been slightly distracting, Freeman said, he hasn’t been neglecting workouts—he still put in 77 hours in the first month of the training year.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.