Sunday, April 20, 2014
The local trails are finally drying out after an epic, old-school winter. A week in Arizona at the end of March kick-started the process of getting back in good cycling form. Nordic skiing in the mountains was still going strong when I got back, and local trails were closed for mud season. I was relegated to the road for midweek riding, not entirely bad. The term "roadie fitness" that pure mountain bikers often bemoan comes from hours put in on the road.
As the snow line slowly recedes north, so too does the mud line. Weekend off-road rides started south, then worked north as things dried out. Over the last few weeks, long trail rides have been scored in Uxbridge, Foxborough and then Chelmsford. Today, I rode with my son Aaron three miles from my house in Lowell. Trail conditions and weather were both about as good as it gets.
Saturday's ride was the first 50+ miler of the season. I met up with Soups, Paul and Dave at Russell Mill. We'd be linking up Great Brook and Land-locked with numerous other conservation parcels along the way. Some road and dirt rail trail in there to make it all work, but that is exactly what helps make the loop a great training ride in addition to lots of fun-factor.
Despite punishing efforts on the bike Wed/Thur, I felt pretty good Saturday and set a brisk pace. Paul questioned whether my pace was a "5-hour" pace or not. Dave on a rigid hardtail was getting slinkied off the back.
Dave went about his blood doping all wrong. You see, on Thursday he did doubles. That's about 20% of his red blood cells. It takes a month for your body to replace one unit of blood. Two months for two units? Riding 20% down on hematocrit is probably comparable to riding at 12,000ft elevation unacclimated. I see cross-eyed riding at any pace at 12,000ft. Here's how blood doping is supposed to work. You siphon off a unit of blood a few weeks before you need it, then you put it back in for the big event. Of course, everybody knows Hill Junkie rides are big events (ha-ha). So siphoning off TWO units of blood right before a Hill Junkie ride? That's whacked. Maybe Dave is on to some secret blood training program. You've heard some coaches promote riding without carb intake to force the body into burning fat. Maybe if you train without blood you force some other oxygen carrying mechanism nobody knows about to get stronger! Dave needs to patent it!
All kidding aside, donating blood is a noble act, something I've struggled with each time the Red Cross team comes to our office. Seems like it is always a bad time of year, have a race coming up, peak training season, etc.
In no time, we found ourselves in Land-Locked Forest in Burlington. Lots of good trails in there, and on such a big loop, we can only sample a portion of them. Don't know any of the names. There is one section that plays around on eskers. On a particular dip that turns left with falling camber, I must have hit the only two small, loose stones on the otherwise wide, hard-packed trail. In the blink of an eye, I was bouncing off what felt like concrete. Hip, ribs, shoulder and head all slammed into terra firma with zero reaction to break my fall. Nearly knocked the wind out of me, and I didn't get up right away. Blood was running down my shins too. I was lucky there were no sharp rocks to splay me open right there. Damage wasn't too bad. It only hurt when I breathed...
That took some wind out of my sails. We still had 25 miles to go. A quick water stop at the CVS in Bedford had us back hammering away on the rail trail to Estabrook. The water crossings in Estabrook were all rideable.
The only sustained wet area we encountered on the ride was wrapping around Acorn Hill in Great Brook Farm State Park. It can be wet there most of the year, so no surprise, really. The group was holding up well, but time commitments were encroaching on adding any additional singletrack towards the end. We finished going up and over Indian Hill. With a wheel sensor on my bike, I logged 51mi in 4.5hrs on the Garmin. A great ride on a nice day.
On Easter Sunday, my son came over with his new Motobecane 29er Hardtail. The Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro (LDT) state forest is just three miles from my house and is in prime condition for riding. Aaron hasn't been doing as much cardio work since finishing his tour of duty in Korea and coming home in January. He was running up to 16 miles at a time in Korea. Now full-time study at UNH is keeping him busy.
For just getting into riding, Aaron did extremely well. He did ride with me some in his teens, and he's romped around in skate parks with BMX bikes in the past too, so he's not totally green. We covered about 75% of the singletrack in LDT, including much of the most challenging material. I have no doubt in no time Aaron will be schooling me in there. We rode 22mi in 2.2hrs before the Easter feast awaiting us when we got back to the house.