Saturday, June 28, 2008

Okemo Race for Grace Hillclimb

5.8 miles, 2100ft gain in last 3.8 miles
Despite rigorous attempts to fight off a cold, I was unsuccessful dodging the bullet this time. We're not talking the full-blown, knock you flat out kind of cold here. But the throbbing head, sore throat, achy-noodly legs were enough for me to contemplate bagging this hillclimb. It was a "C" race for me, and I did encourage many others to give Okemo a try, so I felt obligated to race anyway.

My warmup was brief and rather hard from the start. I did a couple repeats up the lower portion of Ridge Rd that took just over 15 minutes. Rain was in the area, and the summit of the mountain was completely socked in with clouds. It was hard to say if it was wet up there or not. It was very humid out, but the temp was manageable around 70F. For such a short event, I wasn't too worried about thermally blowing up.

Before getting sick, I thought I had a chance for an overall win when looking over the pre-reg list. Of the names I recognized plus a few I researched, there appeared to be no threats. Then the morning of the race, Brett Rutledge calls and was wondering about the kid. I looked up his USCF results. Crap. A few years ago Ross Krause placed 2nd in the P/1/2 prologue hillclimb at GMSR. So much for an overall.

This race is unlike most other hillclimbs, as it starts out like a regular road race with a pack and drafting. There's two miles of flat before the climb begins. Us faster guys got to line up at the front, a semi self seeding with some race director guidance. Nobody was willing to hammer those first two miles. There were about six of us rotating in paceline with the remaining 50 riders of the race in tow. We cruised about 23mph and were talking. Once rounding the corner for the 3.8mi climb to the summit, the hammer dropped.

Many riders went way too hard on the first two walls right at the bottom. I was about 8 back. The deal was, I couldn't be sure if it was me from being ill or the others just going plain stupid hard into the climb. Turns out it was not me. Slowly but surely I began reeling guys in. I went from 8th to 5th position in about 5 minutes. Rider in number four position dangled in front of me for half the race. This was Jeff Johnson (Battenkill-United). On a flatter piece halfway up, he took the bait and let up a bit. I passed him, but now I had a shadow. With tail wind on this part, he had no drafting benefit whatsoever, so I was confident eventually he'd roll off my wheel. He did ever so slowly. I'm still holding my pace as we ascend into the clouds. Just as sight of Jeff became obscure, I could barely make out another rider behind him. Could this rider be gaining on both of us? There was no way I was going to pick up my pace to be sure to hold my position. Hillclimbs don't work that way. What I could be sure of though, is to maintain my power output on the less steep parts. I have lots of gears on my bike, and I used them. Too many hillclimbers, even experienced ones, let up on the less steep parts. If you've been holding a given power for the last 5 minutes, don't give seconds back to the clock by dropping your power by 30% when grade eases a bit!

With a mile to go, no riders were visible behind me in dense cloud cover, and guy in number three spot was just slipping out of visibility in front of me. It looks like my position in number four spot was secure. With the visibility down to about 50ft, I had to keep the power up because I really couldn't be sure how far back anybody was. I didn't let up until I passed the 250 yards (yes, yards, not meters) to go sign. I finished in 32:29.9 minutes. I had estimated the race would take me 33-35 minutes depending on how slow the first two miles went. I was near the verge of puking for the last five minutes, so it was so nice to stop.

So who were the guys in front of me? First place went to David Glen from Warren, VT. Really can't find much on this 29 year old kid. I already mentioned Ross Krause, age 28, Cat 1, finishing 2nd. In third, who dangled just in front of me for most of the climb, was Ethan Gilmour in USA National Team kit. He is only 18 and represented the USA at the 2006 'cross worlds on the junior team. Skinny whippett kids. Sick or not sick, I doubt I could have done any better placing in this race. Quite happy with the result.

Turns out five riders from this year's 6-gaps ride were here. Four of us made age group podium. Brett was second on the podium with me for 40+ group. Dave Penney and Glen Fraser also made their age group podiums. Perhaps rides like 6-gaps are not of dubious training value after all.

As the awards were wrapping up, the skies opened up. Buckets-o-rain. We drove two hours non-stop in this stuff heading home. Looking at radar, Claremont, NH could get a couple inches. Combine this with feeling icky, the planned EFTA mountain bike race there ain't going to happen for me Sunday morning.

The Okemo Race for Grace went off without a hitch. The open roads portion of the race were well marshaled. BBQ after the race was excellent. We were under huge metal roof over tennis courts for the food and awards. Nice bathroom facilities too. It is an excellent venue for a hillclimb race. Next year the race may be held earlier in the day. Hope this draws a bigger crowd. Many thanks to organizers Jack Dortch and Glenn Deruchie (who ran the Killington Stage Race years ago).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

When work interferes with riding

Don't you hate it when work interferes with riding? Maybe a fortunate few don't have this problem, but from time to time, it is unavoidable. As a custom integrated circuit designer, design deadlines are viscious. We call these tapeouts. The tapeout date with a foundry is fixed. If you miss it, your project could be set back months. Missing the tapeout is not an option. If you are running behind as the date nears, your punishment is very long days and weekends. Industry surveys regularly list IC design as one of the highest burn-out rate jobs. Tapeouts are always stressful. I have one of my worst tapeout dates ever on Monday, July 7. What kind of sadistic planning picks the day after a holiday weekend for this? Factor in that we are working a proposal at the same time, well, it is just stress squared. Barely having enough time to ride is behind sparse blog posts lately.

Enough ranting. I recently put up a complete Arizona trip report here. The narrative was lifted from April's blog posts, but numerous additional photos were added with detailed captions.

A few things were touched up on the small hill climbs page. Great Blue Hill is now represented the way folks ride it, not starting on Brush Hill Rd across 138. I had to make an exception to my rule that any climb worth showing be at least 500ft net gain. But this one at around 420ft is so popular, it must be included. I also added Mt Tom to the chart and descriptions. I had opportunity to ride this after the Jiminy Peak road race this spring. It's a real spanker.

Hope to race Okemo hillclimb and Moody Park MTB this weekend. Between work, forecasted bad weather, and feeling like I'm coming down with a cold, I'll be lucky to get in even one race.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ride of Dubious Training Value #5

Jay Peak/Smugglers Notch Double Metric
When a ride crosses the threshold of becoming a death march, you have to wonder if there's any training value in it. After all, it can take several days to recover from such rides, and during race season, training efforts should be short and intense. But it is truly liberating to not be bound to a rigid training regimen. One of IMBA's ad slogans is "Long Live Long Rides." I agree whole heartedly, even if the ride is on roads.

Today Dave and I were able to hit northern Vermont for a Jay Peak/Smugglers Notch epic. I did this ride solo last year on a scouting mission and thoroughly enjoyed it. The ride has it all, non-stop views, rip your legs off steeps, a dirt road pass, and make your eyes tear 50+ mph descents. The forecast was a bit sketchy, but we escaped with only a mile or so of wet road at Jay Peak.

Dave has been experimenting with a shift in training technique lately. He's focusing on spinning a smaller gear instead of incessant mashing he's known for. I think this is beginning to pay dividends. Early in the ride, I'd hear a downshift or two at every steep pitch we came to. Normally he'd just stand and mash a monster gear. The next thing I know, I was struggling to stay on his wheel. His pink socks made a whirling blur.

This went on time and again. You wouldn't think this ride is that hard, but it differs from other hill rides like 6-gaps in a significant way. The hills are very peaky. There may even be many downhills on the way to a pass. You don't ever quite get in a groove, and since most of the steep bits are quite short, you punch them hard. After you do this about what seems like 500 times, you start to not feel so good.

Beginning Hazen's Notch climb from Eden on freshly graded gravel

When we started on Hazen's Notch Rd, the only dirt notch in the ride, the surface was in good shape for road tires. But horror of horrors appeared before us. They were actively grading the road. How much worse timing could you have? We hunted in vain to find a firm surface. Most of the width of the road was soft as marshmallows. But strangely, only the lower mile or so was graded. The grader turned around before the steep stuff started. This was good, as I think there's around 8-10 miles of dirt. The long descent into Montgomery was nice. I topped out at 40+mph on the lower gravel portion.

At the center of the figure-eight route in Montgomery, we stopped at the grocery store. We had done only two of the seven major climbs so far, yet our legs were already reeling. Perhaps the hard ride we did on Wednesday (non-dubious training value) hadn't yet cleared out. We were planning to stop here again in 3hrs after hitting three more climbs circumnavigating Jay Peak.

Looking back towards Hazen's Notch from Montgomery side

Heading north out of Montgomery towards the Canadian border, we hit yet another climb that came only in fits, like 100-200ft vertical at a time, but really steep with lots of flat in between. The tendency is to go too deep into the red on these without realizing it. It eventually catches up to you though.

One of the biggest climbs of the ride was up the north pass of Jay Peak, Rt 105. This parallels the international border. Finally we hit a steady, very long climb. This one must have taken 40 minutes. There were probably more cyclists on this road than cars, which doesn't say much because there weren't that many of either. The descent was nice, good pavement, only one or two cars passed us, and 40mph for the longest time.

Jay-North summit looking east towards Troy

After cutting across on Cross Rd, we went right into the next climb, the south pass of Jay Peak. Not too steep to start, but after you pass the popular ski area, you get that nasty half mile wall to the summit that must be over 12% grade. My 38x27 minimum ratio was not nearly low enough on my rapidly fading legs. A dark cloud moved through here as we approached the pass. Just a few drops landed on us, but it soaked a mile or two of road ahead of us. That was the only wetness we encountered. The descent from Jay-south was also nice, the biggest plummet of the ride I believe. Heading straight into the wind did temper the speeds some.

The steep wall on Rt 242 above Jay Peak ski area entrance

We now had five of the seven climbs in the bank. After refueling at the same grocery store in Montgomery, we continued south on Rt 118. Last June, this road was total crap to ride on. Since then, the entire section of Rt 118 from Montgomery to Rt 109 has been reconstructed, even with a 2ft shoulder. Didn't make the 800ft climb straight into the wind any easier though. Like many of the other climbs on this ride, most of the time you hardly perceive you're climbing until you hit the punctuated bits that you end up going too hard on. At the top of this climb, a very large bull moose ran across the road in front of us. He charged into the swamp along the road and then chilled.

Moose off Rt 118 south of Montgomery

I rather enjoyed the protracted descent to Jeffersonville. It starts on Rt 118, then continues many more miles on Rt 109. You couldn't get too comfy on this though, as every now and then the road throws a 100ft blip at you. Dave was getting rather annoyed by these with nothing left in the fuel tank. This followed a valley for about 15 miles. The open farm land afforded great open views all the way.

Once in Jeffersonville, the ominous wall looms to the south. This ride saves the best for last, and that is Smugglers Notch. This is also the biggest net gain climb of the ride at about 1750 vertical feet. With trashed legs, it gets way too steep for the last couple miles. The traffic sucked up to the Smugglers Notch resort, but after that, it wasn't too bad. I like this notch. It is my favorite of all gaps, passes and Notches in New England. It is truly a deep notch with towering 1000-2000ft cliffs almost directly above you.

Single lane dodging small house sized boulders at Smugglers Notch summit

Saving Smugglers for last wasn't to satisfy my sadistic hunger for suffering, but rather it offers a nearly monotonic descent back into Stowe where we started the ride. Even on the lower, flatter part, soft pedaling was enough to hold 25mph back into town.

We finished the 116 mile, 12,800ft vertical ride in 6:38 riding time. This is about 17.5mph avg, a little faster than last year. I guess it's not quite a double metric, but close at 186km. Total elapsed time was 7:24 with only two water stops. I would like to experiment with variants of this loop. Particularly, I'd like to find a route around the busy section of Rt 100 we take into Eden. The traffic was light to almost non-existent on many of the other roads. Definitely a satisfying ride. I got at least a week's worth of endorphins out of it. Other people pay good money for that feeling.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Housatonic Humidity

No, this is not my favorite beverage. Actually, my palate hasn't sampled an alcoholic beverage in over 22 years. Fat Tire Ale was the color of my pee hours after the Housatonic Hills road race today.

When I left home this morning, the temp was in the 50's and it was drizzling out. I had no idea the temp would rise 20 degrees, taking the dew point up with it. It wasn't that hot out, but just kitting up for the race had sweat pouring out of me. I had to fill empty Gatorade bottles before the race in a desperate attempt to stay hydrated. I mixed up only two bottles with Endurolytes for the race, and I knew trouble was down the road.

Lining up, I noticed many riders had three bottles, and several had four bottles. I lose more electrolytes than most, so I started freaking out before our race got underway. The course was modified from last year, removing the ratty section that took out carbon wheels in each field. This also meant we would not finish up Constitution Hill, but it was still in the race. The neutral start went up Constitution Hill. The second time around was going to be a ball buster.

Early in the first lap, at least 5 or 6 guys got off the front. I was playing this race a little more conservatively than the last couple, so I was buried in the field when this occurred. With prominent teams represented, the blocking was overt. We coasted down every little hill and soft pedaled the climbs. This was nuts. Surely there were other teams or individuals that weren't ready to throw in the towel just yet. I wasn't. Myself and teammate Brian Anderson started taking some good pulls. This motivated others to come around the blockers, especially that persistent Deno's guy. Paul Wonsavage (Onion River Sports) put in some serious chase effort too. As we got to the steep pitches in climb three, we shut the break down. I think Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic), Tom Luzio (Deno's), maybe Dave Kellogg (Arc en Ciel) and others were in this initial break.

After some serious descending at 50mph, we hit the KOM blip on the way down. This was nasty, as you go from full tuck to all-out grind in seconds. I actually led the field almost all the way up this 200+ft rise. With John Funk (Cycle Fitness) breathing in my right ear, I had no intentions of going for the KOM. I just wanted some margin cresting the top, as I suspected a split could form there. It didn't. I did not feel so good after this climb - a bit nauseated from over heating. I was almost through my water already, and we weren't even half way through the race.

Next up was Constitution Hill. This was the hill I believed before the race would be the main selector. What was left of our field at this point (30 guys?) hit it hard. About a third of the way up, my thermal cork popped. I was getting abdominal cramps from overheating. Past experience tells me that muscular cramping is just around the corner when this happens. I seriously contemplated dropping out at this point before having a complete meltdown. I have never willingly dropped out of a race though, so I became relegated to the fact I was not going to make this selection. I was amazed how nimble Gerry Clapper (Benidorm) and Dzmitry Buben (CCB) came flying past me to join Funk and others as they pulled away. I was in good company though with Todd Buckley (Arc en Ciel), Joe Rano (Bike Alley), Mark Luzio (Cycle Fitness) and others. But the deal was, most of these guys had someone up in the break, so they weren't going to work too hard.

This pretty much shut my race down. With Funk, Buben, Clapper, Eric Pearce (Bethel) and a couple others in the break, they would surely be gone. In my group, the first chase group, guys bridged up to us over the next several miles. Our pace was relaxed. Then we'd hit the next climb and shell a few. After climb three, I think we were down to less than 12 guys. I figured if I can just hold off totally seizing up, I might make top 2o. Then we hit the KOM hill again. I had so many muscles cramping in my legs I thought I was going to fall over like I did at the Everest Challenge race last year. There were several riders from other fields on the side of the road here that were cramped up. Mark Luzio was setting the initial pace up this little prick of a climb. I told myself if I can just make the summit, I should be able to finish the race. I cleared the top without a cataclysmic meltdown with Luzio, Tom Officer (also Cycle Fitness) and one other rider with a small split behind us. The split didn't last long though. I certainly had nothing left to contribute to the effort. I was looking for wheels to sling my bungee cord on to.

When we got to the bottom we have a couple miles of flat to the finish. Buckley launched early here and held a slim gap to the finish. There were a couple other fliers here, but we pretty much came together making the corner into the finishing area. Officer made a nice attempt and gave me a great wheel to be on until about the 200m sign. Then I went. I'm pretty sure I was first from the group to cross the line, a few seconds behind Buckley who launched earlier.

We had conflicting reports of how many were in the lead group. We heard 4, 5, and 7. So I should have made top 10. But when preliminary results went up, I was not in the top 10. I protested, and apparently they missed me. They revised the results showing me as 9th. I'll take it for a race I nearly abandoned.

My legs were so messed up I couldn't even walk right. I drank 4 bottles of water, 1 lemonade, and 1 chocolate milk at the finish area. I drank more when I got down to my car.

I'm enjoying road racing less this year. It is so disruptive to riding. We had beautiful weather Fri/Sat, yet I had to take it easy on those days. I get every other Friday off, and I would loved to have gone up to the Kingdom Trails in northern Vermont for an all day MTB ride. But instead, I worked Friday anyway, I slept poorly the eve of the race, got up at 4-something in the morning, burned $40 gas round trip, payed $30 registration fee, only to cramp up in oppressive humidity.

After the race, I got my dirt fix in at Case Mountain near Hartford. I had never been there, so I had no idea what to expect. I did not know the route I embarked on would take me up a 350ft wall in 0.5mi (you do the math). My legs felt like death starting out, but I knew with hydration and carbs back in the system, they would come around. They did. The conditions were challenging. I would have trouble riding some of the stuff in dry weather. It was so humid that all the rocks were wet with condensation. They might as well have been coated with motor oil. I had one crash, and I wasn't even on my bike. I was standing on some off-camber granite to take a picture when my feet went out from under me. Camera survived. I rode from Exit 4 off 384 to the southern boundary of the reserve on ridgeline singletrack and back on fireroads. Going out took 1:15hrs, coming back took 30 minutes. I finish this long winded post with a few pics from the trail ride.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Colorado Trip Planning

I'm bad. I spend about as much time planning a trip as I do on the trip. Anybody else guilty of this? About a month from now Dave Penney and I will head to Colorado. First up will be the Mt Evans Hillclimb Race on July 19. The race starts in Idaho Springs right off I-70, climbing from about 7500ft to 14,200ft. It is the highest paved road in the US.

Since the trip will primarily be a mountain biking trip, trail rigs will be pre-shipped out there. This means we'll probably be doing the hillclimb on rented road bikes. Haven't worked these logistics out yet. My philosophy on this is low landers are not going to be very competitive with the high altitude mountain goats from the Rockies, so why fret over having a perfectly dialed, gram shaving road bike? I'll save that for the Rock Pile in my neck of the woods. At most, a rented bike might cost a couple minutes and knock me down from 12th to 15th. BFD. The climb should take around 2hrs, 15min for me, 27 miles, almost all up. The decent is pure bliss, no brakes, except for the upper switchbacks where there isn't enough air to slow you down much.

There's been much debate over whether Mt Evans or Mt Washington is "harder." Mt Washington is certainly less predictable. Out of two July dates (Sat/Sun) and two August dates (Sat/Sun) last year, no race was held up Mt Washington due to weather. I think this might have happened once in 30+ years on Mt Evans. Like most Colorado climbs, Mt Evans is very gradual. I may want compact gearing, but not for the grade. I'll need it for going 40% of the way to space. That's right, at 14,000ft, you lose 40% of the oxygen. A 7% grade might as well be a 12% grade at New England altitudes. I won't have enough oxygen at 14,000ft to turn a modest ratio over at a decent cadence. Those that live at 7000ft will not have this problem. Some riders believe that these people carry the same advantage when they compete at sea level. They don't. The playing field is much more level. Sure, they can transport a little more O2 down here, but it makes a big difference at altitude where somebody like me will be O2 starved. It's a very asymmetrical problem. Mainly, it is just us that are disadvantaged at altitude.

Several people have asked why I would go to Colorado for a hillclimb if I don't expect to be competitive. It's simple. Like our Mt Washington, the Mt Evans climb has an air of mysticism about it, something like cult status in the fringes of the cycling community. I've biked Mt Evans once before on a mountain bike. Nearly had the mountain to myself since the upper gate was closed for the season. I shared the upper road with only a few other cyclists. Now I want to try it with 1200 cyclists on race day. Ought to be a festive occasion. Hope to see Ned Overend there kicking butt at 52 years old. If it weren't for a suspended doper, he would have taken the top podium spot on Mt Washington two years ago.

The real meat of the trip will be trail riding afterwards. Dave and I have sampled various parts of Colorado on previous trips, once together, other times on solo trips. We'll spend more days this trip and cover a bigger swath of SW Colorado and part of New Mexico. Here's a tentative list of what we plan to hit:
  • Monarch Crest Trail, Salida
  • South Boundary Trail, Taos, NM
  • Hermosa Creek Loop, Durango
  • Juncton Creek Loop, Durango
  • Colorado Trail, Molas Pass to Cascade Creek, Durango
  • Alien Run, Aztec, NM
  • Flight of Icarus, Fruita
  • Bookcliffs Trails, Zippity-do-da and Kessels Run, Fruita

End of July is a dicy time to ride in the Rockies. It's monsoon season, and in many parts lightning storms can pop up out of clear blue sky in less than an hour anytime after noon. You simply cannot be caught on an open ridgeline at 12,000ft. So rides will have to start early to finish before storms pop up. In June, some of the high altitude riding is still under snow. In September, early snow storms can shut you out. The riding season is a sliver of a window.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Exeter Blast

I try not to make it a habit of blathering about training rides here. Tonight's ride was too much fun and a confidence booster, so I have to comment on it. It's tough for me to get over to Exeter Cycles these days for the Wednesday night training ride. When I do, it is often something special for me. I'm on the email distribution for these rides and have noted that they have been very fast lately, even this spring they were riding at mid-season speeds. With this weekend's race on Sunday, I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to swing by.

Talking to Jeff Palleiko before the ride, he said he's been doing Wednesday night since '93, and they've never been faster than this year. While we were talking, I noticed Josh Lipka there and pro Robbie King rolled up. Oh crap. Plus there were the usual mix of UNH kids, Nor'East elite and masters guys, and several elite Metlife guys, about 30 in all starting the ride.

These rides start single paceline soft pedalling 2-3 miles out of town. Then the hammer drops. You rarely see less than 26mph, and often the speed will hold well above 30mph on the flats. The pack quickly sorts out to those working the double paceline rotation in the front and those hanging on for dear life. It is wicked fun, it's not a race but rides like a smooth race, and there's no pressure. Nobody is keeping score who gets dropped or "wins" the sprint back to town.

Our route tonight took us over the Rt 4 double hump. I wasn't sure what this was. After we got on Rt 4, Lipka and King started drilling it. This caused some fragmentation in the pack. We got to the big rotary and had to wait for traffic. Everybody got back on. But after we rounded the rotary, all hell broke loose. I was hanging on for my dear life. In New Hampshire, when you see a passing lane on a state highway, you know a climb is involved. Lipka, King and two MetLife guys drilled this climb. I might have pulled through once. I crested the top with them, looked back, and freaked. It was just the five of us and the next splinter group was waaaay back. There was no way I was going to be able to finish the ride at this pace with these hammerheads and I contemplated falling back right there to realize the inevitable.

But no. We bomb down the descent and they are still drilling it. I actually pulled through a couple times, getting some recovery now. But wouldn't you know it, we pick up a passing lane again, the second hump of the "double hump". Now I'm hurting so badly I was ready to cuss out loud. I think Lipka was driving this one and the rest of us had bungee cords on the verge of snapping. I was on the back behind Robbie. Robbie backed off, and I buried myself like I never have going around him to catch back on. I caught the other three just as the next descent began. We made a right hand turn shortly later, and I guess Josh had enough fun with us and decided to wait for others to get back on. Thank God.

To be sure, I came with fresh legs tonight. Guys like Lipka and King probably rode 5hrs before joining the Exeter ride. Plus Robbie raced the International Triple Crown in PA this past week and was no doubt still recovering from that effort.

After a minute or two of waiting, we picked up about 8 guys and started to roll again. The rest of the ride was mostly hard paceline work with most of us taking pulls on rolling terrain. There's a slightly uphill sprint to finish the ride just as you reach the edge of Exeter. I stayed with the 6 or 8 guys that went for it without unnecessarily killing myself. The rest of the starting group came stragling in over the next 15 minutes.

For the out of town portion of the ride, we averaged 25.8mph. It was not flat, and we had to stop for many intersections. These rides are always harder than Masters races. About half the riders are young P/1/2. It is superb race training. All the riders are super skilled. Wish I lived or worked closer to Exeter so I could join them more often.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Waterville Valley Time-Trial

31.5km, ~1300ft climbing
Saturday's riding was characterized more as a long hillfest with an embedded 0.8 hour interval. The day started out cool, but you could tell the air was soggy, a sign of things to come. Over 60 riders were pre-reg'd, and it looks like others signed up day of. It was very calm and comfortable warming up.

TT course profile. gives over 1400ft of climbing.

After spinning around for 7 miles, I went off at 9:52:30. I caught my 30sec man in 6 minutes. Then around 12 minutes, I passed a whole group of riders as the grade picked up a bit. I expected this. I was not using any aero equipment. Many riders were fully decked out in aero - full TT bike, skin suit, pointy helmet. Before the TT, another rider on a Ridley said "dude, lose the gloves!" I don't think he understood that I was already riding at a 100 glove aero handicap. I do have 50mm deep dish wheels, but true TT wheels are deeper with disk in rear. What surprised me is nobody passed me on the climb to the turnaround, an 800+ft net gain in about 9 miles. Speed going out reached 27mph on the flatter parts.

I probably went out just a tad bit hard, as around the 2-3 mile mark, I perceived a little deflection - a forced back-off due to lactic acid build-up. But I got into a nice rhythm after that and must have passed a dozen riders before the half-way turn around point in the village.

I fully expected riders to pass me on the decent. Two did. To my dismay, they were riders I steamrolled past heading up. One of these riders looked quite a bit less lean than myself and probably had several years on me. He had the aero goodies. All I can say is that stuff really works. Another rider (Brad Ek, NHCC) similar in fitness and leanness to myself hit speeds in excess of 40mph on the return. I never saw 38mph. Haven't seen the results, but I may have come in faster than him. This means I had to be considerably faster going out. Speeds going out averaged 20-23mph (less than 15mph on one blip) and 28-32mph on the return.

I came through the finish in 48:30 per my computer. That is good for 24.3mph. Normally this would suck, but considering there was about 1300ft of climbing on this course and I rode cannibal (no aero), I was quite pleased. I don't think I left anything on the table on this course. It was a good effort. I think the TT bug has bitten me. My Ridley could easily be adapted for TT use, but its mission in life is hilly road races. I will have to start researching my options. It would be really cool to come back here next year with all the aero goodies to see how big of a chunk I can take out of my time.

Post TT ride profile, with Gonzo, dirt Long Pond, Kinsman, and partial dirt Tripoli climbs

Time-Trial reports are boring enough, and a long ride report crosses the threshold I'm sure. Ride reports always generate email however, so somebody out there is reading this stuff.

After the TT, Ryan Larocque (Bicycle Alley), Bob Tyszko (NHCC), Dave Penney and I went for a ride. We took hilly Rt 175 to North Woodstock. At junction of Rt 118 (Gonzo Pass), Ryan and Bob decided hills weren't in their best interst that day and headed back. Dave and I pressed on. We no more than started climbing then a rollerskier came barrelling down. He was going about 20-30mph and SKATING. I did not see any speed reducers on his rollerskis. This was on the less steep part near the bottom. It gets much steeper further up. I'm pretty sure it was Justin Freeman, but it might have been his brother Kris that looks a lot like him. They are both Olympians. You can hit speeds of nearly 50mph on a bike coming down this. What if a moose steeped out? I train on rollerskis too and have done repeats up CLOSED Mt Wachusett, but even with speed reducers, I did not dare try to ski back down. We hiked back down. Hill repeats on Gonzo has to be an incredible workout though. I suppose if anybody has the skill and cajones to pull this off, Justin does.

The Pemi Valley from near summit of Gonzo Pass. You can see the opressive heat.

Gonzo sucked for Dave and I. With little air movement, it was like riding in a sauna. I hit this near threshold pace. Dave commented after the TT that he thought he pulled his a$$. I had some funky soreness back there too. Plus my left calf was in knot. When I reached the top, I had blown most of the way through a 100oz Camelbak. The ride was going to get cut short. We decided to cut out Franconia Notch. At the bottom of Gonzo on Rt 25, we made unplanned stop to top off water reserves in Warren.

Looking up at Long Pond Rd (aka North and South Rd) pass. Mt Moosilauke peak on right.

Long Pond Rd (aka North and South Rd) was nice. Shaded, firm gravel, but persistent steep grade. At best, I could hold tempo pace. Not one car passed us in the 45 minutes or so we spent on this unnamed mountain pass. The decent was the smoothest I've seen yet on this road, and I've ridden it at least 5 times now. Stretches of road like this are why I ride. Racing could vanish and little would change in how I train and ride.

This one is for Ryan. North and South Rd does exist and this is what it looks like about 0.95mi up from Rt 25.

Kinsman Notch is a killer climb from North Woodstock, as it is 12% grade and into the wind. From the west though, it's not much of a climb. It is in full sun, and the heat was taking a toll. We were pretty much relegated to soft pedalling by this point. The descent into North Woodstock is always sweet. You can gain ridiculous speeds here. I hit my all-time fastest here last year. Today I went only a little over 50mph.

North and South Rd near summit. Descent had very few embedded rocks.

We stopped in North Woodstock to fill our empty water stores again. We had no idea how we were going to climb mostly dirt Thornton Gap (aka Tripoli Rd) given how trashed we were. Dave really wanted to do it though, as he never biked it. I really wanted 100 miles for the day, so we both got a liberal dose of mental toughness training. The climb actually went pretty well for me. Again, the gravel was nice and firm 95% of the time. The grade was not as steep as I recalled from a few years ago. The decent down the paved side back to the Waterville village was ratty. There were many frost-heaved, pot-holed mine fields to pick your way through. We skirted the village and popped out on the alpine ski area service road. The ride finished along the TT course gradually down hill to Campton. The wind was now vicsiously strong, and my hamstrings were starting to mis-fire. Had I started cramping going into Tripoli Rd, I would have been doomed.

Part way up Tripoli Rd. Smooth as butter here.

It was a great ride, with about 14 miles of dirt climbing. For the day, we logged about 110 miles and just over 10,000ft of climbing in 6.4 hours. Given how hot it became, I was very glad I did not do the Balloon Festival race in NY. It was even hotter there. There was some attrition in that race, and I would have added to it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Heading for the Cool Mountains

Signed up for the Waterville 30km TT. It's not your typical TT with 800+ ft gain going out. Coming back will be down, but probably into the wind. I'll be going cannibal (not commando like I posted earlier). This probably won't hurt me that much heading up the valley, but it could be very costly coming back down into wind. I would like to do a 40km flat(ish) time-trail with aero sometime. It is a benchmark all serious cyclists should establish in their careers.

Choosing not to do the Balloon Festival race in NY was tough. It is a long, very hilly race. Leaving so early for a big race just makes a stressful day. Plus it is going to get hot this weekend. No feedzone support for a three hour race in 90F weather is a sure recipe for cramping.

It could be 10 degrees cooler in the mountains Saturday. Post TT, I hope to explore some new dirt roads like Sandwich Notch, and maybe hit a few favorites like Gonzo, Kinsman, and Franconia.

Got in a primo hill workout on my lunch break today. Hottest lunch ride so far this year, which really still wasn't that hot. Hammered 12 miles out to Chestnut Hill and then went right into climb. Had adverse wind most of the way there and for most of the climb. Finished in 8:31, tying my second best. Factor in minimal recovery after a hard weekend, it was a good effort. Good chance I'm in PR shape right now and I might want to go for sub-8 minute finish on Chestnut. Chestnut is my number one benchmark tool, with a current PR of 8:14. Legs pretty much gave up the ghost climbing Uncanoonuc Mtn later in the ride. Maybe a thermal breaker popped. When I started coming back, the wind had shifted. Seems a front was coming in. The wind sock on the tower in front of our facility was pointing in 120 degrees different direction from when I left. Head wind both ways was maddening.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Itching to Race Again

Got in some fantastic riding over my three day weekend. After riding 100mi/13,000ft with Dave on Friday (prior post), Saturday was recovery day. Just as well. Weather-wise things were quite unpredictable. Cathy and I did a 25 mile tandem recovery (for me) ride on the Nashua River Rail Trail. She pretty much pushed my sorry carcass along.

A couple of teammates raced Auburn on Saturday. It seemed like a long drive for a race that didn't interest me that much. There were only 35 finishers in a combined 35+/45+ field. It sounds like the real racing took place on Sunday. I regret not doing the EFTA Bear Brook MTB race. That was one of my favorite courses, and now it's back after a hiatus. Dave Penney raced in a sizable singlespeed field. Conditions were great. Colin R also raced at Pats Peak in warm, dry conditions. Two missed opportunities.

Birch Hill with descent to Rocky Pond in wee distance

Instead, I slept in, then hit Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH. I rode there only once last year. Used to hit it frequently. The deal with the place is most of the legal trails are not singletrack and don't make loops. I had reservations about riding in there on such a nice day, as there would be many hikers. I do poach a few goodies.

I used my Ellsworth dualie. Beaver Brook is quite brutal on a hardtail, as it is about as rock and root infested as any New England trail system can be. I started my normal loop which hits the north side first, then continuing out of Beaver Brook for the climb over Birch Hill. This gains 450ft on very steep gravel service road to communication tower up top. The ATV trail down to Rocky Pond is a riotous descent, downright scary on a dualie riding solo. The urge to really rip is strong.

Birch Hill across Rocky Pond. Tower at top is 200ft tall for scaling

Back in Beaver Brook, I hit many of my favorites. On one particular trail (I can't name without incriminating myself), I encountered group of hikers. I was ready to get yelled at. Instead, they screamed at their loose, young blonde Labrador. I like dogs. Apparently the lab thought my pale legs were salt licks.

It was a great ride. Logged 20 miles, 2150ft climbing, in 2:08 hrs. Legs definitely came through with some hammering. Could have raced, but wouldn't have been in peak form.

Typical terrain in Beaver Brook

Next weekend will be a race weekend. I just don't know where yet. Choices are Balloon Festival in NY or Waterville Valley TT much closer to home in NH. I'm leaning towards the TT. The Balloon Festival race is logistically challenging, 3+ hours away and starts early. An overnight stay is probably required. WV is close and the TT is short. There'd be time to do a real ride afterwards in the Whites and explore some more dirt notches. Only downside is I don't own one iota of TT equipment. I would go in commando cannibal, probably the only rider to do so there. I see at Charlie Baker riders regularly go commando cannibal in the results. My goal would not to be competitive in my class, but see how I do against a few people I know with TT gear. I've never ridden the course but have driven it a hundred times. Should be an excellent ~45 minute interval.