Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chasing Waterfalls

Ok, I'm a wuss. I signed up for the BRC Shedd Park CX race and bailed on it. It's even just 8 miles from my house. It rained three straight days here. My only asset racing is putting power down. Crashing once per lap trying to do this on slimy off-camber grass is no fun. I figured the cinder track part of the course was under water. The last time I raced there, I ruined a jersey. That black substance is harder to wash out than diesel motor oil run 10,000 miles. I have only one IBC jersey.

So I got up this morning to assess my options. I few teammates were doing a long road ride in the afternoon. Hmmm... the rain was supposed to stop, but the wind was supposed to pick up something fierce along with plummeting temperatures. That didn't sound too appealing to me either. Fortunately, with an assorted quiver of bikes, I had plenty more options to consider. Trail riding was pretty much out of the question. How about a dirt forest service road ride? Last weekend I offered a couple options to Dave and Glen. We picked the road bike option over the 'cross bike option. So today I headed north with the 'cross bike. Wind and cold temps are not nearly as much of an issue grinding up climbs in the woods.

Eastman Brook along Tripoli Rd

It's only 80 minutes driving time to Campton from my house. I parked at the school where we register for the Waterville Valley TT. My plan was to ride dirt Sandwich Notch and dirt Thornton Gap. I had several options to throw in more along the way. Roads were just starting to dry as I headed out.

Sandwich Notch Rd was a little soft, but not muddy. As I usually do, I hit this first climb anaerobic. I had ridden this twice before, only with MTB. I never used the granny ring, but I must have underestimated how low I went in the middle ring. I died pushing a compact double up the steep parts. Probably just as well. I haven't been doing much other interval training and a little low cadence/high force once in a while is a good thing.

Heading back towards Campton on two-track Algonquin Rd was a little bit more dicy. No mud, but lots of standing water. It continues downhill along the Beebe River for many miles. The tendency is to rip 25mph, but risk of pinch flat was too high. It was much colder here than at home. I saw a few snow flakes.

Pretty much everywhere I rode, the sound of rushing water drowned out my deep breathing. Generally, the water was ripping downhill faster than I could rip downhill. There were waterfalls everywhere I looked.

Campton Falls on the Beebe River

I went past my car on Rt 175 without stopping, heading for Tripoli Rd next. I thought about doing the Hubbard Forest climb too, but Sandwich Notch took more time than expected. I told wifey I'd be back by 4pm. A little ways up Tripoli, Russell Pond Rd forks off to the left. I've looked at it in Topo and noted it climbs a butt load further. I had never ridden it, and it was gated now. I gave it a whirl. It stays paved and climbs a persistent 7% grade to the camping area by the pond. From the Pemi, net gain is 1200ft. The bonus was a clearing near the top offering a killer view of Thornton Gap, which I was heading over next.

Looking down white birch tunnel on Russell Pond Rd

It started to sleet heading down Russell Pond Rd. Sleet in face at nearly 40mph really hurts. Makes my eyes tear up all over again just thinking about it. Tripoli Rd climbs a lot higher than Russell. From the Pemi, it is more like 1600ft, mostly on gravel. It had been graded since I was last through here a couple weeks ago. It was softer, but smooth as butter. I was pretty much cooked upon reaching Thornton Gap. With any luck, I'll soon be skiing up the side I was about to ride down. I hit speeds in excess of 40mph on this rough, skinny road. I've never broken 30mph on skis. Mostly too scared to go any faster, plus skaters coming up take most of the lane.

Looking across to Thornton Gap from near top of Russell Pond Rd

When I was approaching the summit of Tripoli Rd, I saw movement up ahead. A fairly large animal hopped off to the left. As I passed that point, I kept looking up the steep bank. I almost missed him at first. The biggest coyote I ever saw was standing still maybe 20ft away and looking down on me. I stopped and we just stared at each other for a moment. When I went for my camera, he disappeared. I did look over my shoulder for a few minutes after that. Winter fur no doubt made him look bigger than he probably was, however Eastern Coyotes are much bigger than the western variants. I bet he was over 50 lbs.

The last 10 miles were straight into a hellish wind on Rt 49. I couldn't even tell I was dropping 800ft in those 10 miles. The wind totally dominated any gravity benefits. I had three layers on up top too, and I still got chilled. Not the nicest way to end a ride, but the nearly 4hr ride was well worth the trip.

Sandwich Notch, Russell Pond Rd, Thornton Gap


Mookie said...

If you didn't want to get absolutely covered in oatmeal- thick mud, you made the right choice. Two of the guys I ride with went up and one of them said it was epic cross conditions. They started the 45+ 2 minutes after 35+ and K. Hines passed my buddies halfway through the 2nd lap! And let me tell ya, they're no slouches. Amazing.

Luke S said...

Just gotta get in the tracks and let 'er rip coming down Tripoli on the skis.

NH biker chick said...

Actually Shedd Park was a lot of fun. As Mookie said, epic 'cross conditions with a big mud pit in the woods. I almost rode through it last lap except for another rider off the bike at the end. Rest of the course including the track wasn't that bad though I did have to hose the bike off twice after and its still dirty :)