Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Cycling Wedding Celebration

Dave and Beth finally tied the knot. Nuptials were exchanged in a private ceremony earlier this month, and they held a reception this past Sunday. I've been to quite a few wedding receptions, but none like this one. You see, Dave and Beth are both avid cyclists. In fact, a few years ago Beth completed a trans Rockies tour (Canada to Mexico) with minimal support, riding solo for much of the ride. She also does an occasional MTB race. Dave participates in all manner of cycling - road and off-road racing, hillclimbs, epic rides, you name it. So it is only fitting that cycling be a central theme to their reception.

The reception began with a bicycle procession from Mile Away Restaurant in Milford, NH, down to Milford center for a couple laps around the oval before heading back to the reception at Mile Away. I'll let the pictures do most of the talking. They were on their tandem replete with tin cans dragging behind and a "Just Married" sign on the bars. Over 60 riders joined in the procession. Cathy and I were on our tandem as well as one other couple. Motorists on this fairly busy Sunday afternoon seemed to be quite receptive to our taking a lane. It was a sight to behold.

The rest of the afternoon was quite entertaining with yummy eats. I'll have to ask Dave about the cake when he gets back. They found a perfect replica of a Cannondale TT bike. The groom character appears to be reaching for the bike, but the bride character is restraining him. I wonder who came up with that?

Anyway, Beth and Dave are touring upstate New York right now on their tandem with a BOB trailer. I'm happy for both of them and wish them the best on their journey though life together.

Wedding Cake

Center Piece from our table we won

Cards in the pannier, gifts in the BOB trailer

Saturday, August 23, 2008

D2R2 (Detrimental Death Ride Report)

We had pristine conditions for this year's D2R2 ride. About 300 riders were pre-reg'd among the different ride lengths. 144 were registered for the full treatment, the 112 miler. Per Topo, this contains about 15,800ft of climbing, most of it on dirt. This ride is touted as being harder than anything out there, including some of the California epics. Here's a nice description of it.

This year I spent the night locally so I could start with the main group at 6am. The sun is nowhere in sight at this hour. In fact, it was still pretty dark, especially under the trees. Lining up, missing were Dave Penney, Solobreak, and one of my IBC teammates. My other teammates thought for about a millisecond before deciding we weren't giving up riding with the main pack for for tardy individuals. I didn't get up before 5am just to start late like I have in the past either.

Starting out, I immediately recognized I was going to have a tough day. I was on a heavy bike that rolled slow, and my legs were just dead. I should have been recovered from the hard efforts last weekend and earlier this week, but I wasn't. Almost from the get go, my legs felt crampy. I could not get my respiration rate up. My legs were limiting my output big time.

We still had a sizable group rolling into the first waterstop. My legs felt like they rode 100km already. This stop was only about 32k into the ride. Dave Penney started about 15 minutes late and amazingly already caught us riding solo. The terrain between the waterstop and first official check point contained a brutal 15%climb. This pretty near killed me and I had trouble staying with the gang.

Between checkpoints one and two, there were multiple big climbs, including the dreaded Archambo Rd climb at a claimed 27% grade on loose grave. A couple riders capitulated immediately going into this and resorted to walking. You at least have to try. I cleaned it, probably with a little more margin than last year when I rode bigger gears. Dave Penney was riding a 34x27. I don't know how he managed that. I was quite sure I was not going to be able to sustain the pace the group was riding. I was already sucking wheels every chance I could get. After the first checkpoint, our group had dwindled in size some. In it were Jay Gump (Incline Training), a CCB rider, Tim Coleman (Incline Training), Dave Penney, Alex Combes (Cycle Worx), Jason? (NCC) and a couple others with just one off the front I believe.

The lunch break stop at the Green River Covered Bridge was brief. Jay was late coming in, and I think I heard he flatted. After gorging on watermelon and PB&J sandwiches, we headed right into the next climb, a biggie. It takes a sick sense of humor to put the biggest food stop down in a deep valley where the only way out is up, up and up. I wonder how many part with badly needed calories on this climb. I could no longer hold wheels of the faster guys in the pack but somehow managed to claw my way back on during descents. A couple of the riders were really good descenders on the nasty stuff, like Jason and the CCB guy. I managed to hit 43mph on dirt on one of these. A little later, I hit 53mph coming down into Colrain.

The next section became a blur. We were down to just four riders (Dave P, Alex, Jason and myself) by the time we hit Green River Rd. This is my favorite part of the ride. It runs four miles with slight downhill bias. I was too wiped out to take my share of pulls though. Before we went into the next climb, Tim got back on and we were five strong.

Turning onto Nelson road is a shock to the system. You go from bombing 20-25mph on gravel along the river to an incline that strains your neck looking up at it. I'm glad the other guys didn't kill this one, as I surely would have been riding solo the rest of the ride. This climb has a double hump to it. You think you're done, but the course slaps you with another dose of vertical. There is some really nice descending from here, mostly on pavement I recall. Dave Penney was fearless on these. I have done the ride twice before now too, but I don't trust my memory well enough to bank 50+ mph around these turns.

The climb I was certain would be my doom was next. This is the feared Patten Hill climb. It starts uber steep pavement, then continues on for an eternity as wicked steep gravel. Tim was having cramping issues and dropped back early. Dave, Alex and Jason left me in their dust. Eventually Jason faded too, and I nearly caught him before the top. Some friggin redneck in a pickup buzzed all of us on this one lane road at about 40mph. I'm wobbling all over at 5mph and he missed my elbow by about 2". It would have been great if five angry cyclists caught up to the a-hole. Dave and Alex graciously soft-pedalled up top to let the rest of us get back on just before the third and final checkpoint.

This was our briefest stop. With only about 13 miles to go, we assumed fumes in the tank would get us there. I was completely done by this point, getting popped from the group up even the tiniest of hills. And there were still a couple sizable ones too. But I kept clawing my way back on. Tim lives very close to here and knows the roads well. He bombed down Cooper Ln. We didn't realize how abruptly it ends. I left skid marks coming to the stop sign. I think I felt my rear wheel hop up a few times. It was that close. Four of us nearly piled into one another. The only thing left at this point was a gnarly jeep road climb and even gnarly descent. Riders from the 100k ride were flatted along here. With my nuke proof Armadillo tires, I had no worry of flatting, but at 100psi they were beastly to control on rough stuff. Jason had full cross tires on his rig and utterly ripped this descent. He and Tim were gone, leaving Dave, Alex and I to snort dust. We didn't see them again until the finishing tent.

It was such a relief to finish the ride. My riding time was 7:43:30, which is about 45 minutes faster than last year. The course was shortened a little this year though. Not sure of elapsed time. Forgot to check clock, but I think it was around 8:30hrs. The markers this year were a real blessing. Riding with folks that knew the course, like Tim, helped too. It was just starting to warm up as we finished around 2:30pm.

Dave had to split, and I went down to the river to wash up. Coming back out on two track, I commented to another rider going in he had the same idea as me. As I turned to say this to him, my front wheel nailed a big rock. Before I knew it, I was bouncing off rocks and hard packed black dirt. I hit hard, tweaking my wrist, wearing no helmet. I was pissed. The other rider stopped to see if I was alright. I was now dirtier than before I went into the river and I had blood running down my leg. He quipped "and I supposed you just finished the 180k and then this happens?"

The food this year was not comparable to last year. We had catered burritos last year that were out of this world. This year, burgers that were prepared earlier, put on buns and wrapped in foil. They were soggy. Sweet corn was good. I stuck around for an hour but still no sign of my teammates or Solobreak. Can't wait to here his D2R2 tale.

Next year? Maybe. Each time I say I won't do it again. I'm a glutten for punishment. One thing is certain if I do it again. I will come back with a decent bike, faster tires, and fresher legs.

Friday, August 22, 2008

D2R2 Jitters

Each time I've done the D2R2 ride, I said I probably wouldn't do it again. But I keep coming back. D2R2 is perhaps the king of sufferfests here in the northeast. It is harder than 6-gaps of Vermont. It has more climbing and takes longer to finish. About 80 miles of the course is on gravel roads, two-tracks, or even bits of rutted out ATV trail. Hit this with skinny tires and you have the stuff epics are made of.

I am equipping similarly to last year. I'm using my winter beater bike (Specialized Allez) with 28mm Specialized Armadillo road tires. The only thing I'm changing is gearing. Last year I used standard road triple, a 30/25 minimum ratio. I utterly died by the time I got to Patten Hill. This year, despite climbing a little stronger, I'll use a 28/26 minimum ratio. I'm hoping the gravel is a little less loose this year too. Last year had many sections loose as marbles. There were some serious crashes as a result. My setup is heavy at 23 lbs. I'll be sport'n a full Camelbak too, and with clothes my total riding weight will tip north of 200 lbs I'm sure. Great strength training, or more likely another one of those rides of dubious training value.

I don't have any goals for this ride. It is a timed RUSA event, but I have never bothered with getting my passport card signed at each checkpoint in the past. I believe record numbers have signed up this year. I will also be starting on time at 6am. Plan to hook up with Solobreak, Dave Penney, and several IBC teammates. I'll spend a week recovering from this ride just in time for my next hillclimb event.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Weekend by Pictures

As promised, here are a few photos from the past few days, starting with the Mt Washington race. This year's race could remain as my most memorable race on the Rock Pile. Ideal conditions to start, PR pace, mechanical, setting a PR despite adversity, then hail and lighting just after finishing. How whackier could things have been?

Myself finishing on 22% grade

Coming by the camera woman (my wife) into finish, broken spoke induced strain in the legs

Ominous cloud forming over summit area

Beginning of hail and lightning

The business trip to Minnesota went well. Monday was a long day, but I was able to squeeze in a ride at dusk on a wonderful paved rail trail called the Douglas Trail. It heads 13 miles out of Rochester to Pine Island, a small village. During this ride, my front derailleur kept rubbing in big ring. I kept backing out the shifter barrel adjuster, but then in another mile it would be rubbing again. I thought for sure the cable was ready to snap. This was my winter MTB, and I hadn't checked the cables in a while. But it was fine. Hmmm... Start riding some more, rubbing gets worse and now I'm out of barrel adjustment. I recalled hearing a little bottom bracket creak earlier. What if crank was coming loose. I checked it, and it was on verge of falling off!! I was standing up hammering some of the overpass bridges. I shuddered thinking about the consequences of losing a crank arm hammering at 20mph. I torqued it down and was good for the rest of the ride.

Last night testing wrapped up a little earlier, so I was able to get up to Red Wing, MN. It is about 50 minutes north of Rochester. This place was wicked cool to ride. They have MTB races there on purpose built singletrack. I had map, but with no signage on the ground, it was hard to follow. I essentially did a lap backwards from race route. Then I saw a local rider head in the right way, booking it. I followed. There are several areas that flow like a half pipe in gullies. You experience about 3G forces in the bottom with nearly weightlessness on the upper bows. I passed the local rider where the trail widened to double track. A little while later I stopped to look at map and he came by again. I follow up a hill and he asked if I liked a good climb. I said yep, and he said a really good one was coming up, in an almost taunting way. I cleaned it in my middle ring, but barely. I nearly hurled on this intense 3-4 minute effort. The elvation change here is around 500ft, a little more than the other three places I rode out there. This loop contained all the best stuff that folks head up to the Kingdom Trails of Vermont for. I turned 46 this day, and guys my age should never be allowed to have this much fun. I was able to get in nearly 8hrs of riding during the trip.

Decorah, IA: Steep switchbacks on bluffs above Iowa River

Decorah, IA: Ice Cave

La Crosse, WI: I believe this was on trail called Hill Pig

Winona, MN: One of the bonier switchbacks

Winona, MN: Mississippi river and bluffs in background

Rochester, MN: The Douglas Trail

Red Wing, MN: Town of Red Wing, Mississippi river in background

Red Wing, MN: One of the slalom sections. This one was so steep that I wussed out on the latter part around the log. It had a little kicker (jump) just before the 180deg turn, and it appeared the only way to negotiate it without falling and sliding all the way to the bottom was to turn in mid air. It put Sidewinder at Kingdom Trails to shame.

Red Wing, MN: The area called The Quary

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Straddling the Mississippi

Nice day here in the Midwest. Hot, mostly dry for a few days now. I've been on a mission ever since I became a mountain biker to ride trails in all 50 states. I'm getting close now. Even though I am more roadie than off-roadie these days, the dream of riding in every part of our great country has not subsided. I flew out here a day early on business so I could ride. From Rochester, Minnesota I can reach Iowa and Wisconsin. Today I hit all three states.

Ice Cave Park
Decorah, IA

This is straight south of Rochester on highway 52. This park, actually called Dunning's Springs park, is accompanied by Van Peenen and Palisades Parks. There are many miles of purpose built singletrack here. I rode most of it. The climbs probably don't exceed 300ft, but they are sure steep. I got in numerous VOmax intervals first thing this morning. These trails are cut into the bluffs that hug the Iowa River. There are many places a fall to the outside would result in a serious tumble. Being dry and of clay base, the trails were wicked fast. The corrugated landscape allowed trails to be built that induce as much adrenaline rush as a rollercoaster. Except here you have to earn your plummets. There is a real cave here too. I went part way inside it. Without a light and being alone, I did not venture far. You don't think of bluffs and caves when talking about Iowa. Took photos, but I don't have any application on this computer to reduce image sizes. I'll post a few after I get back. I rode about 14 miles in 1.6hrs here.

Human Powered Trails
La Crosse, WI

It is interesting as you approach the Mississippi River. The land becomes very deeply corrugated. I dropped down to La Crosse in what seemed like a canyon. From the bottom, you could just as well have been on Rt 100 in norther Vermont. The peaks and ridgelines were simply the height of the land that wasn't yet eroded away, not hills or mountains. The area away from rivers looks just like where I grew up in Michigan. Rolling hills, corn and soybeans as far as you can see. After crossing the Mississippi into Wisconsin, I had to deal with a P.I.A. detour to find my trail head. The Human Powered Trails is a small trail system. The large map at entrance says 6+ miles, but I bet there is at least twice that here. I rode about 95% of the singletrack. It was even more fun than Decorah. The trails were meticulously maintained and signed. The black rated trails (expert) were very tight with steep climbs and more than a few natural features I bobbled on. Tails like OB-1, Dark Side, French Connection, and boB Trail were my favorites. Many more 3 minute climbs to leave you gasping here. I rode about 12 miles in 1.3hrs. With about 3hrs of very peaky riding, my legs were about toast.

Holzinger Lodge
Winona, MN

I had planned to drive all the way up to Red Wing to hit the very popular MTB trails there. But it was a long haul, I was tired, and I was getting burned out on the driving. Winona was on the way and I decided spur of the moment to ride this place instead. I had no map. A map does not exist. The place is small though, and it overlooks the Mississippi River. It would be hard to get lost for any period of time. I started by going up. It became clear my choice of trails was wrong. Clearly I was going up a hiking path, as I had great difficulty carrying my bike up the thing. Later, coming down, I would find the way mountain bikers get to the top. Up top is a maze of trails. I was a little disappointed that there were only two marginal vantage points. There were a couple places that are shear cliffs, but trees and brush obstruct the view. The bluffs must be about 500ft above the valley. Heading back down the right way, I nailed a rock with my pedal. This was on trail benchcut into an extremely steep slope. I had just thought to myself "don't look down now." Next thing I'm careening over the edge. Thank God for grapevines. I could have tumbled a ways. After getting bodily limbs and bike untangled, damage assessment showed I had blood running down both legs in two places. Apparently my chain ring ripped through a sock and cut me good right along side the Achilles tendon. I had a knob the size of a golf ball on that shin too. It was time to call it a day. I was uber trashed from over 4hrs of riding.

So when I get back, I can color three more states in. This image is a bit dated, as I completed Nevada and Ohio last year. Looks like I have only eight states to go. The east and west have been canvassed well. Finally the Mississippi River has been straddled to connect to the two sides. I have secondary goals in the back of my head now. It would be cool to ride in each of the provinces of Canada as well. I plan to hit several areas of Canada over the next several years anyway. Might as well hit all of them. Mexico? Some parts aren't so safe, but mountain bike tourism is catching on there. I do plan to ride in South America (to 17,000ft) and in the Himalayas some day too. The highest motorable road in the world is there, over 18,000ft.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mt Washington Emotional Rollercoaster

The August racers finally got a pristine day. Well, most of the racers did. There were some brief sprinkles in the area before the race, enough to make the roads wet. But the summit was visible and winds practically non-existent. Temp was about 60 at the base too. We hadn't had it this good in at least 6 years.

I had no goal for Mt Washington this year. Having just PR'd at Mt Equinox and seeing favorable conditions, I thought prospects were decent for a PR here too. I had bike setup a little differently than in past (see prior post).

The race started an hour later than prior years with Top Notch going off at 8:40am. Several guys lined up across the front were from Colorado. The loud cannon goes off, and there wasn't the usual insane attack from the get go. Everybody pretty much eased into the climb, surprisingly. I settled into 13th place as the grade got steep. Gerry Clapper (Benidorm) and Steve Gatzos (BRC) were well ahead of me, Steve setting a blistering pace hanging with overall contenders.

By mile two, I had moved into 9th place overall. This started to mess with my head. I knew there were a lot of strong local and out of state guys here, yet I was looking at potentially a top 10 finish. I didn't feel like was even going that hard.

Approaching mile 3, I was gaining on Ian Gordon (Arc en Ciel) who beat me at Equinox. Now I'm starting to think I'm going too hard. I thought there's no way I'm going to stay ahead of Ian and take 8th place or better on this mountain. I was getting fairly warm as the sun was coming out and there was no wind at all. But I never felt better on this climb and was beginning to believe I was going to have the climb of my life.

Then it happened. A heinous loud snap from the rear wheel. This was the same sound when I snapped a spoke at Burke Mtn last fall. Sure as shit, my wheel was rubbing both the seat and chain stays badly. My bike was unrideable. I had no tools. The wheel was so badly out of true I couldn't even turn it by hand. Limited spoke wheels do this when high tension spokes pop. I didn't have brake pads on the rear to contend with this time, but the chain stays are quite narrow at the bottom bracket. I was utterly devastated. At first I tried to bend the wheel into true with my hands and then offset it in the dropouts to keep it from rubbing. It did not work. The wobble was so bad it would hit both chain stays. I stopped again. I've built and trued wheels many times now. I have a knack for how they behave. So how do you true a stubborn wheel with no tools? You use your carbon frame as a truing jig and slam the crap out of the wheel against the pavement. Oh, do this while letting out a verbal tirade too. All the riders passing me stayed well clear. I'm sure they thought I was having a shit fit. I was, I suppose, but the bike slamming was a "precisely" calibrated attempt to make my bike rideable again. I had to get to the top, as my wife is way to scared to drive back down the mountain. The slamming worked, marginally. When I got back on the bike, it was just clearing the chain and seat stays. It did starte rubbing again after a mile or so, but not badly.

So the race was back on for me. I had pretty much written off any respectable finish. At least 8 guys passed me in the 60 to 90 seconds I spent stopping twice to mess with bike. I gave the rest of the race my best shot, figuring I tapered for a hard ride and I had a lot more frustration to vent. Might was well vent it with my legs on the bike. I started passing guys again, for the second time. One or two I never saw again.

I did not run any electronics on my bike. I figured I'd be looking at something like 1:08 crossing the line. I was flabbergasted to see 1:05:33 crossing the line, a new PR. Plus Cathy told me I was 8th from the Top Notch wave. There must have been faster riders in waves further back, as I came in 10th overall out of nearly 600 finishers. This too is my best placing in this race. So either my fitness has taken a quantum jump this season for no apparent reason or the conditions were just so fast. I think its a little of both actually. You see, some lengthy stretches of gravel from the 2006 race (my previous PR) are now paved. Asphalt always rolls faster than gravel. But this year's gravel was almost as good as riding pavement too. Factor in negligible wind and ideal temps, you have a recipe for PR's. Several riders I talked to in fact PR'd today.

I predicted Steve Gatzos and Gerry Clapper would come in under and hour. Both did. Steve gave the fastest guys on the course a run for their money, coming in third overall with a 57:33, only 2:36 minutes back. Gerry came in 5th overall with 59:48, winning my 45+ age group handily by over 4 minutes. A couple other fast guys in my age group knocked me off the podium, one from Colorado.

So the race was only half the story today. The weather as last finishers were summiting was the other half. Shortly after I finished, a dark cloud began to form at the summit. Bits of rain could be felt. The temp dropped. It got darker, visibility went down, then it began to really rain. But that ain't enough on Mt Washington. You got to throw in hail. Buckets of hail pea to marble size. Where there were once hundreds of racers and spectators became wide open space. It must have hailed for 20 minutes, making the walk down to the car dicy with all the ice on the road. While we're walking down, lightning split the sky. Terrific, we're on the highest peak in 2000 miles in a lightning and hail storm going hypothermic. It was so cold. Yet there were many racers still coming up in this stuff. Many were walking, some in short sleeves. I heard from one later at the bottom that tires were slipping in the hail.

It was warmer at the bottom for lunch, but the rain and thunder continued for a while. The lunch was excellent as always. Hart's does an awesome job with this. As soon as results were posted, I had to split to catch a plane. Four more storm cells, one with extreme hail on the Kanc, made for slow going. I get to airport a little late, get boarding pass with no seat number on it because flight is over booked, and the girl does not know how to check a bike in. I stood at the ticket desk for 45 minutes. My plane was boarding by the time I went through security. Like I didn't have enough stress for one day. I was quite sure my bike was not going to make it, but I saw it go up the belt into the plan. Boy that was close. I'm in Minnesota now and Sunday looks like a good day to ride here. It will be at least 40 degrees hotter than the summit of Mt Washington.

I should have known better than to risk those Velomax Ascent-II wheels again. This is third time I broke a spoke in the rear wheel. Only drive side are crossed and thus transfer power and this is side breaking. First time, it's a fluke. Second time, the design is faulty and I should have gotten ride of them. Third time, I'm a loser for not getting rid of them. Anybody want a Velomax wheelset cheap? Actually, I think the rear wheel is beyond repair now. I may consider a set of carbon (gasp) tubulars for climbing next year.

This race put me through the ringer today. I go from abysmal forecast to conditions looking best ever. Then I'm having my best climb ever and the bike craps out on me. Recover from that to claim another PR. That just led to the next stress riser trying to get everything on a plane in time.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Final Preparations

The Mt Washington hillclimb has traditionally been the high point and finale of my cycling season. After last year's disappointing cancellation, I no longer put that many expectations into a single climbing basket. I didn't establish any "A" race hillclimbs this year. I'm taking what I get. The PR on Equinox two weeks ago was a true bonus. It could happen on Washington again this Saturday, but it certainly isn't a goal. The weather is not looking the greatest either.

There will be a lot of fast guys there this year. I've had email correspondence with a few. I'm looking for local riders Steve Gatzos (BRC) and Gerry Clapper (Benidorm) to break an hour. Drew Miller from out west will be there. He gives Tom Danielson a run for his money on climbs out there and could be the overall winner. There are other sub-hour candidates coming in from far away. It would be nice to make my age group podium this year. I spent 6 years in the 40-44 year old age bracket since they go by age on race day, unlike USCF. I think I made the podium twice in that time.

My 45-49 year old age group is huge and diverse. Men and women total about 140 riders, are from 19 states plus the District of Columbia and multiple provinces of Canada. Many come out just to see if they can do it, but at least a few come expecting much more.

Hillclimbers are always curious about how each other trick out their climbing bikes. Some treat it like its top secret. I don't get too carried away. You reach a point where each second saved costs many dollars or makes your bike unreliable. Here's the main features for this year's Mt Washington:

Frame: Trek 5900, about 1kg weight
Rear brake and front derailleur removed (with cables)
Wheels: Velomax Ascent-II's
Tires: Michelin Pro2 Race clinchers, 23mm
Tubes: Michelin Latex
Crank: FSA carbon left side, Ultegra triple with spider chopped off drive side
Ring: Single 30t elliptic Q-ring
Cassette: Ultegra 27t, 9spd
Rear Derailleur: Shimano XTR

The other stuff doesn't matter. This gets the bike down to about 15 lbs (6.8kg, UCI legal). You can buy a bike right off the shop floor these days at this weight with all the gears and brakes. My weight penalty on Mt Washington is in the 15sec per pound range. My body weight going into this year's event is the highest in many years, around 165 lbs (75kg). But Equinox has proven despite weight gain, I managed even bigger percent power increase for a stronger W/kg output.

Another rider is adressing the W/kg equation with body weight reduction with less than two weeks to race day. Personally, I feel any weight loss should have been dealt with many weeks ago and then work on power at the reduced weight. The risk is losing power with the weight and actually hurting W/kg. Another risk is coming to the race with less than 100% full glycogen tank. It will be interesting to see the power data from this experiment.

I've never built my Trek in this exact configuration before. The minimum ratio is slightly less than what I used for Equinox, and the gear spacings are a little tighter. It is bigger min ratio and spacings than when I PR'd Washington in 2006. The elliptic chain rings can mess with ratio calculations, as a 30t Q-ring actually peaks out at an equivalent 31.7t. At minimum ratio, it is less than 29t through the "dead spot", and it is this aspect I believe reduces fatigue.

I pretty much have to high-tail it from the race to the airport. Heading out to the midwest for a couple days work related business. Going a day early with a bike in the hopes of sampling some midwest dirt. I'll be in the Minnesota/Wisconsin/Iowa tri-state region with some great riding prospects along the Mississipi River. It is not flat there, and 500ft climbs with views are possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tokeneke Road Race

Masters 45+. The Tokeneke Road Race was my 100th bicycle race. This includes many MTB and hillclimb races. I've only done 27 USCF mass-start road races. Some masters will do this in a season. The more road races I do, the more I learn how little I know about racing tactics. Today I learned how teamwork can turn a race around whose outcome seemed certain to me. I anticipated a hard race, and hard it was.

If you had asked me at the starting line who was going to take the top three positions, I would have said John Funk (Cycle Fitness), Dzmitry Buben (CCB), and Gerry Clapper (Benidorm), but not in any particular order. Read on to see how these three took the top three spots.

Almost from the get go, Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic) and Frank Jennings (Gearworks) got away clean. Normally, I would fret over something like this. Thompson has won several races this season. But Cycle Fitness had three other guys in the race besides Funk, including Mark Luzio, Tom Officer, and Randy Kirk. I figured they weren't going to let this get too out of hand. Clapper had a very strong teammate with him too.

Jennings dropped back and Thompson kept going solo. Then we got to the climbing on 181. The pace got serious. I went into an anaerobic stupor and stayed there for the rest of the race, so some details might be sketchy. Around the second or third wall on 181, Buben launches off the front. He quickly caught Thompson and they worked together on the descent. Buben dropped Thompson on the climb to the KOM (also the finish line on lap two). Buben grew his lead. I've been told he wins this race every year. Buben won it decisively last year solo from first lap. I figured he had clinched the win half way into the race. Our chase effort up the finishing climb was hard with sizable group, yet Buben continued to gain on us.

Beginning lap two, Cycle Fitness guys came to the front repeatedly to keep the pace up. Often these would feel like mini attacks, the acceleration was so sudden. This certainly started to wear me down. Beginning the stair step climb on 181, we begin to bring down the time gap to Buben. Luzio and Clapper put in some killer efforts here, and I was sure I was going to get popped out of this dwindling chase group.

After the Cycle Fitness guys with help from Benidorm brought the gap to Buben down to manageable size and softened the rest of us up, Funk came to the front. I was quite sure I was going to hurl after an effort he put in. We were down to five guys with sizable gap to next splinter group. Funk pleaded for me to keep it going and pull through, but I was completely gassed. I wasn't trying to be a dink by sitting in on another's hard effort. So it was just Funk, Alec Petro (Team Psycho, who won Bow last weekend), Paul Wonsavage (Onion River Sports), Clapper and myself.

With the rest of us gassed, Funk made his move. He took off like being shot out of a mortar. I had absolutely nothing to respond with. I can only assume the others were equally gassed, as nobody tried to go with Funk. I've witnessed John make this move in several races now, and I'm amazed each time. He's a whole different level of rider and one of the nicest guys you'll meet in the masters field too.

Funk quickly caught Buben while the four of us worked to maintain our feeble gap to the next chase group. We got caught by another 5-6 riders on the descent. With Funk and Buben up the road, I figured we'd be going for 3rd place. I was hoping I had enough left in my legs for a top 10, as if I came in last in this group, I'd be looking at around 12th place.

We hit the finishing climb and everybody sat up initially. I didn't want another five riders latching on, so I picked up the pace a little bit, still in an anaerobic stupor. Clapper pulls along side and asked how I was doing, not even breathing hard. Oh, was I in trouble. Last year I went head to head with Gerry up this hill for second place and nipped him at the line. This year it was for third. Gerry and I quickly found ourselves separated from the rest of the 10 guys in our group. The gap grew nicely, but Gerry has no limit to how many times he can upshift while standing, climbing a big hill. He rode me off his wheel. I figured I was going to do no worse than 4th place at this point anyway. Amazingly, Clapper caught Buben before the line and took 2nd. Funk dropped Buben beginning the finishing climb and claimed a solid win. I held on for 4th as riders were gaining on me. The time splits weren't posted, but I assume we all came through one at a time. Clapper had at least 20 seconds on me, and it was at least that to the next guy behind me.

So the Cycle Fitness guys claimed a well-earned win today. The combination of wearing the rest of us down, thinning our ranks, and bringing Funk close enough to catch Buben without taking others along was a winning strategy. I was very happy with 4th place. This was the hardest race I've done so far this season in terms of percentage of race I spent in the "red zone." Cool temps were a huge factor in not blowing a thermal fuse or cramping up. This will probably be my last road race this season. I have three more hillclimbs lined up, including Mt Washington on the 16th. Then it's time to break out the roller skis.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Carbon Credits or Indulgences?

I'm probably going to take some flak on this one. It seems I can't do anything anymore without the opportunity to "offset" my "carbon impact." Signing up for a race? For a $1.50 more, I can offset the carbon impact of my participation in said race. I can now subscribe to wind generated power for my home for $15/month. But this does not make one iota difference in my payment to National Grid. It is essentially a voluntary "green tax" in addition to my regular electric bill with a promise from organizations that I completely fail to understand how the equivalent of my electricity usage will be wind generated somewhere in the country. What if one million people subscribed this year? Would tens of thousands of wind generators spontaneously spout across the nation like mushrooms on cow pies after a thunderstorm? It takes years and years for this capability to grow. Vermont, claiming to be one of the greenest states in the union, repeatedly denies permits for wind farms. Now I hear how green the democratic convention is going to be in Denver. The whole think is going to miraculously be offset somehow.

One way carbon credit proponents say emissions are offset is by planting trees. Where are all these trees being planted? Who's planting them? Will they be there 100 years from now or will they get harvested? It takes decades for a tree to begin harvesting significant carbon from the atmosphere.

So when we buy carbon credits or pay for offsets, where does all this money go? Somebody out there is undoubtedly getting rich off this. This brings back some things I remembered from medieval history: the practice of indulgences by the Catholic church. I found this from Washington State University that summed it up nicely:

"Church officials argued that clergy were doing more good works then they needed to; they had, you might say, more than good works in their spiritual accounts than they had sins to pay for. Why not sell them? So selling the good works of the church was precisely what the church did. With the approval of the pope, individual bishops could sell indulgences which more or less paid off any temporal punishment or good works that the individual believer had accumulated in the previous year. It substituted the good works of the Catholic clergy for the good works required of the individual believer. Proof of this substitution was in the indulgence itself, which was a piece of paper, like a piece of money or a check, that certified that the good works of the clergy had paid off the "good works debt" of the individual believer."

This sure smells like what is going on right now. The similarity is even spooky. There's a different type of fear mongering going on with folks capitalizing on it. You might call this the Green Church. Now don't get me wrong, our environment is a delicate thing, and there is no doubt human impact is changing our environment. We can be doing a better job now. But this whole carbon credit thing lacks transparency and reeks of fraud. If paying offsets makes your conscience feel better, by all means do it. But I will hold off until somebody can explain the complete money path to me, how quickly my "offset" is instantiated, and how buying "green" electricity today puts more solar or wind power on the grid today, not 20 years from now. For now, I will continue to live frugally, as I always have, with its inherent reduced impact on the environment.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Training Hills and PR's

This past weekend threw a pleasant surprise at me in the form of another PR on Mt Equinox. Equinox, like Ascutney, is great for baselining one's fitness because these climbs are relatively immune from the wrath of Mother Nature. The same cannot be said for Mt Washington. Thus you can compare year to year climbs on Ascutney or Equinox without conditioning it on the weather.

My training has been anything but peaking oriented lately. The trip with massive "junk" hours of riding in Colorado should have torpedoed the rest of my season. The inverse seems to have happened.

This evening I went out for a training ride from work. I had planned to join the Exeter Wednesday night ride, but when it's wet and drizzly, there can be a poor showing. I don't particularly like group riding on wet roads anyway. So I hammered out towards the Uncanoonucs near Manchester. Got in some good 30-60 second intervals along the way on top of threshold pace I was maintaining. I figured I might as well time myself up Summit Rd, despite being on my overgeared, heavy training bike.

On the steep bits, I noticed I was not dropping down to my 27t cog. That was unusual. I used to always need a triple to get up Alpe d'Unc without my cadence getting bogged down. Not tonight. I hit the top 23 seconds faster than my prior best set last year.

When I set my best last year, I ran a Power Tap. I averaged 417W for 6:03 minutes that time. If I do simple scaling of time, I averaged at least 445W tonight for 5:40 minutes. I say at least because going that fast means wind resistance starts becoming a factor. It's not a straight linear MGH calculation (mass, gravity, height). I might have been more like 450W, which is 6.0W/kg for about 5.7 minutes.

So then I thought back to Solobreak's invite/challenge at Blue Hill. What would these numbers translate to there? Just using the 450W estimate from Uncanoonuc with lighter bike setup nets:
MGH = 83.7kg * 9.8 * 129.8m = 106.4kJ
Rolling/wind loss on steep grades is about 7% empirically determined on many climbs with my Power Tap:
106.4kJ * 1.07 = 113.9kJ output to reach top
So if I assume 450W, this gives a time of:
113.9kJ / 450W = 253 seconds, or 4:13 minutes.

Thus Solobreak's magic 4:20 threshold should be readily achievable right now. But wait, that's not all there's to it. I average approx. 450W for 5:40 minutes. 4:13 is much shorter. I should be able to average quite a bit higher power for say 25% less duration. There's no way to calculate this, as everybody's power vs. time curve is shaped differently. But let's for a moment say I can break 4 minutes even:
113.9kJ / 240s = 474W

This really isn't that big of an increase, only 5.3%. I'm intrigued now. I know a lot of folks train on this hill. I'd love to hear what Steve Gatzos' best time is. Hard to say when I can get over that way to try it. The rest of the month is booked with races and business travel on weekends.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bow Road Race

Masters 45+, 43 miles
Goggle Analytics tells me I get more readers on Mondays than any other day of the week. Must be folks come into work, not really wanting to be there, so they go blog hopping. Well, fill your coffee mug, this could be another long one.

This is the fourth year continuing my tradition of racing Equinox/Bow on back to back days. Seems to be working. I generally win Equinox (see yesterday's post) and podium Bow. I know well now the feeling in my legs getting up for Bow. It sucks. But I also know that if I go into this weekend with light volume and just a little intensity, I do alright. It just takes the first lap or so of the race for my legs to come around.

Only 40 Masters 45+ guys were pre-reg'd. But John Funk (Cycle Fitness) and teammates Tom Officer and Mark Luzio were in. So was Paul Wonsavage (Onion River) who nipped me at the line for a win last year. But many other fast guys showed up day-of, like Bill Thompson (CCC/Keltic) and Dave Kellogg (Arc en Ciel). We may have had close to 60 starters with a fairly stacked field. I don't really have any goals when I do this race the day after Equinox other than to just enjoy the ride.

We kept the modified course from last year thanks to rave reviews. It makes it just a tad more of a climbers course. We were neutral this time up the first portion of the climb. But when we got to the second portion where the KOM line is, things heated up quickly. John Funk and Paul Wonsavage got away. Terrific. The strongest climber in masters racing and last year's winner gone. The dual of Mark Luzio and Tom Officer pretty much shut down any attempt to bring John back. These guys are the consummate teammates. They selflessly spend themselves to ensure John's success. It drove me friggin bonkers. Every time I came to the front to do some work and motioned for the next rider to pull through, it was Mark or Tom. These guys followed me more closely than my shadow. This was totally disruptive to chasing the 2-man break.

Another rider, Alec Petro (Team Psycho), recognized this and made many valiant moves around the blockers to put in some serious pulls. Many other riders just wouldn't come up. Not sure what it is. Maybe you'd see a few guys up there and think you're comfy back there, let them do the work. But half the guys you see up there are not only not doing any work, they are disrupting those trying to do some work. So Alec and I put in a disproportionate amount of work, much to the chagrin of my two teammates.

As we wrapped up the first lap, it poured briefly. This was a mixed blessing. It greatly reduced my probability of overheating, but I don't like the mess it makes of my good bike. I wasn't sure how well my carbon wheels were going to work wet either, as I've never ridden them in the rain.

Apparently John dropped Paul, and we brought Paul back in on the second lap. I didn't talk to Paul after the race, but in hindsight, I wonder if this was a mistake on John's behalf. With John still up the road solo and teammates blocking, the race was very well controlled. Attacks were futile. There weren't any, really. That suited me fine. I moved up to the front on lap two and led all the way up the first climb. Speed is low enough there that drafting benefit was negligible, and I could ensure blockers would not be setting the pace. I went pretty hard, but not 100%. Most of the field seemed content with that pace and nobody tried to come around. I took pleasure in a sadistic sense that only cyclists can appreciate, that if I was hurting by setting the pace up this thing, the others behind me probably weren't too comfortable either.

Lap three played out just like lap two. John was up the road still, but working by himself, he started to lose time. Alec and I continued to spend a lot of time at the front of the pack. I set pace again up the big hill. Clearing the KOM hill, I started to not feel so well. On the descent, Alec was just off the front when Bill Thompson launched hard and I followed. We drew a gap. We caught Alec. But Tom and Mark would have none of it and we were viciously reeled back in. Dang. There went a match or two for naught. We had John in sight most of the time now and his wheel van fell back behind us. Spectators were yelling out times like 35 seconds. Bill commented that we should "let John simmer out there a little longer" before shutting him down. Good plan.

Just as we crossed the start/finish for our bell lap, we caught John. Alec commented to me that we pretty much singlehandedly shut down what looked like a winning break at one point. A couple others contributed to the effort too. Kellogg, Dave Foley (BOB/Stonyfield), and Jon Eichman (Quad Cycles) also pushed the pace a few times.

Alec was still riding amazingly strong going up the climb on the fourth lap. He rode away from the pack of 25 or so riders left in main group. He crested the KOM hill about 10 seconds up. I was really feeling it at this point and started to think putting in all that effort to chase John down was stupid. But boy, it was fun. Not sure it would have happened if Alec and I didn't step up to the plate. Then John, a teammate or two and one other rider gapped me at the KOM. I was cooked. Fortunately, Kellogg and a few others were right there to ensure we got back with John's group.

Now we had a different guy just up the road. Is anybody besides me going to go after Alec? I must have this terrible reputation for chasing everybody down, such that the pack can pretty much count on it. But I've been in too many races lately where nobody works and breaks fly clean out of sight to the end. We had maybe 15 guys left just as we began the big descent. Everybody sat up. Since I was at the front, I didn't know they sat up and I accidentally rolled off the front. I figured if they are going to do that, I'm not going to let Alec win this race alone. I put my head down and discretely ramped up the power. The gap began to grow. I guess Mark and Tom didn't know what to do without John up there. I entered no man's land hoping to bridge up to Alec. I killed myself, spinning up to 47mph for about 2-3 miles. I finally caught him with maybe 10-15 seconds gap to the pack. Alec was very agreeable to work together.

I was pretty much cooked, however. Alec did about 60-70% of the work in our two-man break. The pack was never far behind. We continued to TT drill the remaining 3-4 miles in the race. All those turns (hard left where I almost took Alec out on wet road), all those steep blips, and all those short descents where you could not for one second let your power drop. Once we crested the final blip with sizable gap, I was pretty confident we had it. I still took no chances and took one more good pull down towards the fire station. Crossing the intersection, we both knew we had it. Now it got interesting. I can't sprint for shit. I didn't really care if I won or not at this point. Alec certainly deserved it more than I did. Rather than play cat and mouse games, we lined up side by side and ramped it up together with over 200m to go. Alec slowly inched away from me to the line. That was all I had. He was maybe a bike length ahead of me at the line.

After the finish, we learned the pack wasn't just letting us go. They were drilling it at times too but perhaps not on the descents. You can almost bank on nobody in a pack wanting to work on a descent. Alec commented how fitting it was that the two guys that did most of the work shutting down a dangerous break got away in the end to take first two spots. It usually doesn't happen that way. I was very surprised myself I found the reserves to bridge up to Alec. The pack of around 15 guys came in only 16 seconds behind us. I heard that with even a modest group size, the sprint was very sketchy. No crashes, but apparently some close calls. Glad I was clear of that, as I would have just gotten out of the way.

Alec Petro is relatively new in the masters road racing scene. I believe he comes from a triathlete and mountain bike background. The bar to win a masters road race just got raised a little higher. He won his race last weekend too.

It is spooky how similar this weekend has played out two years in a row. In 2007, I won my age group at Equinox, took 4th over all, and set a new PR. Then the next day in 2007 at Bow, I get in a small break on the last lap and took second place, just missing a win. This year, same... exact... deal. Win age at Equinox, 4th overall (with Ian Gordan in #3 spot both years too!), and set a new PR. Come to Bow, get in small break in last lap and just miss the win with second place finish. I think I should do more hillclimb races before hilly road races. Maybe there's something to that "opening" concept elite riders talk about. I was going to do the Agamenticus TT next weekend, but now that I had a decent road race finish, I just may have to participate in the Tokeneke sufferfest.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Equinox Hillclimb Race

After coming out of my hardest week ever on two wheels a week ago, I pretty much wrote off the rest of the competition season. The hole I dug myself into in Colorado was massive. Last Sunday in Boulder, I took it fairly easy up Flagstaff Drive, which was a sub-threshold (barely) 52 minute climb from the hotel. So that was an easy day compared to rest of the trip. Monday was recovery day. Having a double race weekend coming up, I wanted to get at least a little intensity in during the week. I hadn't had any for almost two weeks, not VOmax work anyway. Wednesday was too close to the Equinox Hillclimb, so I opted for some 3-5 minute VOmax intervals on Tuesday. I thought it was ludicrous even planning such a workout, but I figured if it didn't work, I'll finish the whole week as recovery.

I felt pretty bad as I ramped power up in prep for first interval. But I easily dropped Dan, an elite triathlete in the process. I thought hmmm, that doesn't happen too often. Then we got to the first hill. Dan lasted 30 seconds on my wheel. I haven't been using any HR or power feedback lately, so all I had to go by was my speed going up this hill which takes about 4 minutes. No record, but it was one of my faster climbs. There seemed to be a disconnect between how I felt and what I was actually capable of. So I went with the workout plan. I proceeded to get four more high quality VOmax intervals in. I was rebounding nicely from my week out west.

After tapering from that workout the rest of the week, I arrived at Equinox apprehensive. I really have no "A" races this year, except maybe for wanting to do well at Battenkill, which went so-so. I certainly wasn't planning to PR any hillclimbs. My Mt Evans hillclimb race in Colorado was a disaster. I like to blame the rental bike that was ill-matched to the task, but I can't be sure it wasn't me either.

For Equinox, I warmed up on the same bike I was going to race up this time. Last year I had a solitary 24t ring up front that precluded warming up on the road. You'd just spin out at 10mph. So last year I brought a second road bike along to warm up on. This year I didn't feel like messing around with my bike that much, mostly because I wasn't going for any PR's and such. I put a compact double with an elliptic 36t Q-ring on up front. On the back, a 32t MTB cassette. I pulled the rear brake off. That's it. The setup weighed around 15.5-15.6 lbs. I've never raced Equinox with such a big ratio, but I've become less of a spinner the last couple years. Riders with carbon tubulars sport rigs that weigh much less. Last year I also removed front derailleur and excess chainrings for about 15.0 lbs.

So the Top Notch wave goes off at 8am, and like most years, the starting gun misfires. I let about 12 riders bolt away and kill themselves for the $500 first mile preem. These included the usual suspects like Ian Gordan (Arc en Ciel), Eric Tremble (Kenda) and others. Mark Luzio (Cycle Fitness) was there too, and he's beat me in the past up this beast. Not last year when I PR'd. Mark took off faster than me too, but not like the $500 contenders. I was somewhat disheartened by how fast so many riders bolted away from me. It is so hard to mentally block that out, knowing that last year I was 4th overall here. I don't use a power meter for hillclimbs, so it's all perceived exertion.

At about the half-mile mark where it started to get steep, I inched past Mark. We watch each other closely here. He stayed right behind me for a while, and I wondered if I just accelerated into a zone I didn't belong and he'll soon pass me again for good.

It is fun watching the action up front play out for the $500 preem from second or third row seats. Eric Tremble bolted well clear of the next closest contender. He was taking no chances. Last year he missed it by 0.5 seconds. Ouch. But later I would learn his primary reason for drilling it so hard for the first 5.5 minutes of the race.

After the first mile action was over, most of those player's were cooked. I was in 12th place. Slowly but surely I began to pick off riders. This started to build my confidence. Mark was now gone out of sight behind me, nobody else was gaining on me. I was riding my pace. By the halfway mark (2.6mi), I was quite sure I had ridden the race on borrowed energy to that point. I thought there was no way I could continue to hold that pace. Then I'd pass a couple more young whipper-snappers, including preem winner and last year's overall winner Eric Tremble. This gave me another shot of confidence that I hadn't popped yet. Now I was in like 6th place out of Top Notch wave. From mile 4 to mile 5, I passed three more riders. Holy crap, I was now potentially in third place overall. How can this be? Everybody else having a bad day? I really don't try to pace by mile or know where I need to be time-wise at mile so-and-so to have a good finish in hillclimbs, so I still believed I was going to have a mediocre finish. Approaching mile 5, I could see that some of the recent kids I passed were attacking each other. Good and bad I thought. Good, in that each attack will take more matches out of their books and hurt their ability to bring me back. Bad, in that if one of them gets second wind and carries a surge to the finish, they'll surely pass me. Ian did this too me last year. After all, I was only about 20sec up the road from this silliness going on. As the finish line came into view, I knew I had clinched third place. It didn't take long to realize I had a minute and a half to my PR time to cover about 0.2 miles. Another PR was inevitable. I crossed the line in 41:15.9 minutes, nearly 30 seconds faster than the PR I set last year. I was psyched.

A couple minutes after crossing the line and no longer seeing cross-eyed in an anaerobic haze, a rider from the second wave crosses the line. New course record at 37:46.8, breaking Joe Moody's record from 2006. Cool. But dang! That meant I just got bumped off the overall podium. I killed myself to hold third place in my wave. This rider was Steve Gatzos (BRC). His racing age is 32, and he recently started transitioning to hillclimbing after successful road racing. The funny thing here is, Steve sought my advice on gearing for Ascutney and this race. I recommended, even for a strong rider such as himself, going close to 1:1. He put a single 24t granny on up front with standard 23t road cassette on the back. He won Ascutney overall two weeks ago, just edging out formidable climber Gerry Clapper (Benidorm), who won Ascutney last year. So Steve brought the same setup to Equinox, and he not only won the race, he broke the course record. I jokingly quipped with Steve at the summit, "no more gearing tips for you!" Steve is a great guy. He does the bulk of his hill training on Blue Hill. It goes to show you don't have to climb 30 minute hills to do well in 30 minute or 1 hour efforts.

Eric Tremble knew Steve was going to be at the race and knew he'd be starting one wave back. Eric knew Steve was a contender for the $500 first mile preem too. Apparently you don't have to be in the Top Notch wave to win it. Fastest time from any wave wins it. So Eric bolted clear of everybody in our wave as insurance that Steve wouldn't nip him with a faster time. This paid off. Eric had huge margin on the next closest Top Notch contender but beat Steve by mere seconds for the preem. So Eric met his objective in winning the preem he barely lost last year, but forfeited the overall win. I think if Steve had been in the first wave, Steve would have won both the preem and the race. With a qualifying time of less than 50 minutes, Steve will be in Top Notch wave next year. Ought to be interesting.

As usual, Andy Holzman and crew do a fantastic job putting this race on each year. The first thing that crosses your mind after crossing the line are the yummy donuts and coffee at the summit. The post race meal is excellent, especially the premium icecream. I went up for seconds of Moosetracks. The awards purse exceeds $5000 value. For my first place 40-49 year old finish, I have one night's stay and breakfast at the posh Reluctant Panther Inn ($329-$429/night) in Manchester, VT. The weather held up nicely. It started to thunder as the awards were wrapping up, and it rained the entire drive home.

Competition wise, this season has not gone that well for me. Riding in general has been fabulous, especially three cycling trips so far. But mediocre finishes in road races at best have left me a bit disenfranchised. I turn 46 this month, and each year I wonder if its the year I start going downhill. But that is what is so cool about hillclimbs. They are personal fitness tests. This is my fifth year racing Equinox, and to pull off yet another PR shows I have not yet gone over the age precipice. Taking 30 seconds off last year's time, which I thought would never be bested, more than makes up for the disappointing road race and other hillclimb race results. Mt Washington is in two weeks. I'm not planning or even hoping for a PR there, but it isn't entirely impossible. I'm not going to stress over it.

Today's race marinaded my legs nicely for tomorrow's race. The Bow road race with John Funk and other punishers present will completely charbroil my legs. I did well at Bow last year after racing Equinox the day before, but other years I got killed. A lot depends on how hot it gets. Looks like Eric and Mark will be there too.

Long post already, but I have to plug this exciting news for the hillclimbing world next year. A hillclimb championship series has been planned, called the Bumps Challenge. This is something I'll definitely participate in. Also, I just learned there is a new hillclimb race up the highest peak in Vermont, Mt Mansfield. It is called the Race to the Top of Vermont. What makes this race doubly cool is the private toll road is dirt. I always thought it was paved and such a shame they never allowed cyclists on it. Now we have a chance on August 31. All riders must be on MTBs, 26" or 29" wheels, and tires must be 2" wide. They don't want any "cheaters" on cross bikes for this one. We will also be allowed to ride back down after the race, thus all bikes must have two brakes. I may look into converting my singlespeed into a rigid platform for this race.