By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Many people have made it to the top of Mount Washington – some drive, some hike, and some take the Cog Railway. It’s the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,288 feet above sea level. On Aug. 19, Northborough resident Lisa Ludwig biked 7.6 miles as part of the Mount Washington Autoroad Bicycle Hill Climb and placed first in her age division.
The event is known as one of the toughest hill climbs in the world with an average grade of 12 percent and the last 50 yards of the course with the steepest grade of 22 percent.
Ludwig is no stranger to facing tough obstacles. This race was her comeback after being involved in a very serious bike accident in 2014, which resulted in a severe head injury and a recovery that took two years. She had entered the event in 2015, but did not make it to the finish line realizing that her body was just not recovered enough from her accident and injury.
Mount Washington is known for its winds and colder temperatures. Race day weather was quite the opposite.
“It was brutally hot,” Ludwig said. “I was afraid of overheating and cramping up. All I did was look at the road in front and count every 100 pedal strokes.”
Due to the steep grade of the race course, Ludwig said that once you start pedaling you have to keep going.
As she approached the last 50 yards of the race, which is at the steepest grade, she said it is scary when the bike is at that type of angle and it takes a lot of strength and energy. She felt the excitement and encouragement as she approached the finish, which was lined with cheering spectators and the sound of cowbells.
Ludwig placed first in the 55- to 59-year-old division with a finish time of 1:41:10 – 244th overall.
“It’s a great bucket list item,” she said.
Ludwig said her entry into this year’s race was by accident. A member of her bike club couldn’t race and the registration was transferred to her just one week before the race date. She didn’t have time to research other participants and didn’t know what to aim for because there was not a lot of time to think about it. She felt she was in good shape and this would be good practice for next year.
She started biking in 2009 and racing a year later. She calls herself a late bloomer. After years of running, she decided to train for triathlons as she considered herself a strong swimmer, too.
“I thought everyone can ride a bike; that’s the easy part of a triathlon,” Ludwig said. “Wrong. Racing competitively can be intimidating at first. Most people are pretty into it and are hardcore.”
She knew that in order to excel in triathlons she needed to improve her biking skills and joined a bike racing clinic. She never went back to triathlons.
Ludwig now belongs to the Northeast Bicycle Club, and typically rides 150 miles each week. She often rides to Mt. Wachusett and to New Hampshire and enjoys discovering the backroads of towns and little coffee shops along the way.
“I like to explore and be outdoors,” she said. “It’s not all about racing; it’s about the enjoyment of it.”
She recommends to those interested in biking to attend a race clinic and to join a bike club. Both teach good riding skills and create a great social outlet.
More information on Northeast Bicycle Club can be found at www.nebc.us.