Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tour de Dirt

With rain encroaching on southern New Hampshire this morning, I headed north in the hopes of getting at least an hour or two of rainless riding in. A few of us had originally planned to do a hundred miler in the Catskills today, but moisture spun off hurricane Kyle just off the mid-Atlantic coast convinced us otherwise. I assumed I was going to get wet, taking only long layers with me. Recently, I learned of some more dirt climbs to try sometime, so I took the hardtail MTB.

Starting in Campton, I was going to repeat a loop I tried to do a few weeks ago and botched it up. This was the Sandwich Notch/Algonquin Rd loop. I missed Algonquin Rd last time and added something like 25 miles of pavement to my ride. Google Maps doesn't show Algonquin Rd going all the way through. DeLorme Topo 7.0 does. I figured worse case I would have to backtrack 12 miles or so back over Sandwich notch if the road peters out.

Starting out, I immediately got too hot. Temp was in the 60's and 100% humidity. I left the tights in the car, but up top all I had was heavy weight long sleeve jersey. At least it had a full length zipper. I also brought ear band, not simple sweat band. I was so sure it would be cold and rainy. It was anything but starting out.

Sandwich Notch was in much better shape now that we've had a lot of rain. It was probably road bikeable. No loose gravel, but it was a tad soft. I drilled this climb, as I often do starting rides like these so I get at least one high value interval in. After cresting the Notch, I knew where I had to turn right this time. Algonquin Rd is unmarked, but it is clearly a maintained road. A couple miles in, it was gated. The surface went from smooth gravel to slightly bony fireroad. A cross bike would have been fine on it, but risk of pinch flat would have been extreme for road bike. Algonquin Rd is one of those dream roads. It drops hundreds of feet in five miles, following the Beebe River. With little effort, you could cruise 18-20mph along a rushing stream and tunnel-like canopy of fall foliage.

Campton Pond

All good things come to an end though. Algonquin Rd pops out on Eastern Corner Rd, also mostly dirt. I recalled that Google showed Page Rd cutting back to Campton, but DeLorme did not, which is opposite that of Algonquin Rd. Go figure. These things are never consistent. I didn't look at profile info for this road. The sign said dead end, privately maintained. Whatever. It is a public road. It went up. A lot. It petered out to a bush-wacky ATV deal, especially parts of the decent. A MTB was definitely nice to have here. Unfortunately, I was hoping to bomb the remaining vertical I earned back to my car, but instead was riding brakes the whole way and getting messy from the wet vegetation. This popped out not far from my car. I now completed about one and a half major climbs and almost 20 miles on the GPS.

Looking up Sandwich Notch Rd

After scarfing down a Starbucks old fashioned glazed donut (rocket fuel), I headed out northerly this time. When I last rode Sandwich Notch and posted about it, Matt K. responded via email with some more climbs to try. One was Hubbard Brook Rd, which climbs west of Rt 3. The first mile or so on Mirror Lake Rd is paved, but then it turns into well groomed gravel. Not sure how this road is during drier months, but it certainly could have been road biked today. It is never steep, and it has a couple false summits near the top. From Rt 3, it is over 7 miles and 1300ft gain to the top. The descent is sweet. I did not check any of the side roads out in this experimental forest. One of them may reach a higher elevation. I saw two cars for the hour-plus I was on this road.

Algonquin Rd along the Beebe River

Legs were feeling pretty cooked by this point, and I still had the biggest climb to go. This was Tripoli Rd over Thornton Gap, gaining 1600ft mostly on gravel. I have biked this one several times, and I have climbed the Waterville Valley side dozens of times on skate skis. There was just a touch of drizzle in the air now, and I was amazed I made it over three hours and still no rain. There were intermittent cars on this road, as many popular hiking trails are accessed by it. After going 10-15 minutes with no cars, I thought I'd try to get a self portrait shot with the camera in the road. Wouldn't you know it, every time I sat the camera down and ran to hop on my bike, a car came. After 4-5 attempts, I gave up. Then I went the next 20 minutes with no cars again. Near the summit, there was a nice post next to the road to set the camera on, allowing me to successfully capture a shot.

Looking up Hubbard Brook Rd. What's not to like about this?

The paved descent was an opiate for my trashed legs. I didn't pedal this one. It appears many of the open potholes were patched since the last time I was through here. Ought to help for winter ski use too, as sometimes the groomer pulls up loose asphalt with thin cover. Rt 49 below the alpine ski area was dry. The drizzle seemed to be only at the higher elevation. Rt 49 drops another 800ft in 10 miles, and with no wind, it was an easy cruise back to the car.

Climbing Tripoli Rd near Thorton Gap summit

The ride went 67.8 miles in 4:51hrs riding time, with a majority of the time spent on dirt. Topo says the vertical is 7030ft. My Garmin GPS has another bug with latest firmware revision. Others experience this too. It starts at correct elevation, then jumps to 6000ft as soon as I start moving. This makes the profile and accumulated vertical all messed up. I wish Garmin could get their act together. The other thing that really bugs me is my data is held hostage. I have no way to get a GPX track file out of the GPS. I can only upload it to Garmin's new Garmin Connect website, and unlike their Motion Based site, I cannot export a GPX track file from it. DeLorme does not work with the new Garmin GPS's at all. DeLorme wants you to buy their GPS product. DeLorme GPS do not have all the features I need, and Garmin does not have a viable mapping product. Can't you guys play nice with each other? Time to consider an alternative that is not hell bent on making you buy or subscribe only to their products. This alienates customers. End of mini-rant.

While a 6hr ride in the Catskills would have been nice today, I managed to dodge the rain and sample new terrain with negligible traffic. I hear it pretty much rained at home since I left and rained the whole drive back. Life is good sometimes. Can't wait to hear reports of the Vermont 50 taking place on Sunday. It will be S-O-U-P-Y!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Velo-Cross Race Report

Get ready for a lame race report. I think it was back in 2006 when USAC changed rules for cross categories. They used to follow road, now they are independent. This was when I was still a Cat 4 roadie. After petitioning for upgrade to Cat 3 road early this year, I was upgraded. But this still left me in Cat 4 cyclocross. Probably not that big of a deal, as I have only done one USAC cross race, and that was a few years ago. I really am a Cat 4 as far as skill goes. I might have Cat 2 fitness on the road, but cross is very different.

The Velo-Cross masters categories were Cat 1/2/3. So I was stuck with Cat 4 or 3/4. The 3/4 race was at 1pm and I did not want to wait until this afternoon to race. So I signed up Cat 4/45+. Lame, I know.

I chose to do this race primarily to learn and observe. It was not something I was going to stress over. I can always tell how much importance I place on a given race by how well I sleep the night before. Don't sleep at all: A-race, very important. Sleep intermittently, half normal amount: B-race, somewhat important. Sleep like a baby: F-race, where F is for fun, result is irrelevant. I slept like a baby last night.

Yesterday I picked up a Ridley Crosswind bike from a teammate to try out at this race. He's selling it, and I was always unhappy that I couldn't put bigger than 30mm tires on the back of my Dean Ti cross bike. The Crosswind can accommodate some really big tires. I set it up with some burly 38mm Conti's. I was going to race a bike I had near zero time on.

Dave on mandatory run-up

So the Cat 4's 35+, 45+, and Juniors lined up together. When asked if we wanted separate starts, enough guys said yes, so you could "tell who's who." I thought this was silly. There were all of what, less than twenty 35+ guys, and ten 45+ guys? WTF. We had different number series, so it was obvious who your competition was. So the younger guys went off 30 seconds ahead of us older farts. In my tiny wave, I was 4th into the woods. That first run-up off the track was rideable if nobody was in your way. I didn't bother trying first lap. In the woods, I quickly started catching younger guys. Most were really cool and let me pass. Others made me work for it. I also passed the three 45+ guys that got the hole shot into the woods. I didn't know how many 35+ guys were in front of me.

In the woods, there was a screaming descent that you could barely brake to a stop on. After rounding a 180, you went right back up. It was tacky loam and quite rideable, but with traffic, a dismount was required on first lap. I cleaned it easily on all the remaining laps. They had a big wall of car tires around the outside of this downhill hairpin so out of control riders wouldn't eat red oak. Half of this course was more of a mountain bike course than a 'cross course.

By the 5th lap, a single 35+ guy was ahead of me. This was nice, as the only riders I was passing now were a couple lapped riders going really slow. I could focus on nice, steady TT effort. Hard to say if I was gaining on the 35+ leader in the end or not. He finished less than a minute ahead of me completing our 6th and final lap, after taking the 30sec lead start into account, he was only 12 seconds up.

I noticed that most of the riders were much more proficient at running up hills or over barriers than I. Starting out, I didn't think I would gain any net ground against several guys. I'd pass them on parts I could put the power down only to lose it at the barriers. But the pace I was going... I can do that for an hour on Mt Washington. This was a 33 minute race, and you could tell which riders were popping in the first 10 minutes of the race. I wish the race went a couple more laps. A larger field would have made it a more realistic training race too.

video
Video credit: Beth Penney

I did have an entertaining moment when the results were posted. John Coscia finished 2nd in the 45's was sure he won the 45's. I was standing behind him and he was like "who's this Jansen guy, how did he get in front of me," questioning the accuracy of the results. I said "that be me." We started talking. I mentioned I flew past the three guys that got the hole shot on the first lap. He assumed that when he came back on the track on final lap and saw no one there, that he was in front. We talked a while, moving on to hillclimbs. He's done Washington a number of times several years ago. When I told John I just did it in 1:05 on a broken bike, he was like, "ah, no wonder you were ahead of me." We had a nice talk. The cross world doesn't overlap much with the hilly road race or hillclimb world. In the hillclimb world, many people know of me through my website. In masters road racing, riders get to know you after several strong finishes. Before my race today, Eric Marro yelled at me "Jansen, what are you doing here? There aren't any hills!"

I'm planning to do one more serious race this fall. Not sure if it will be an A or B race. It is the Iron Cross race in PA, dubbed America's Longest Cross Race. It is not a USAC sanctioned race, however. They have that the day before on a traditional cross course, called Iron Cross Lite. Iron Cross does draw some talent. Chris Eatough won it the year I did it. Andy Applegate won the masters last year. Iron Cross covers around 64 miles with 7500ft climbing. One run-up must gain upwards of 500ft. When I did this race a few years ago, I think it took 20 minutes of hard hiking and grabbing trees to help pull yourself up. This year's race will take over 4hrs for me. There will be hills. Those that have done D2R2, Iron Cross is similar, a little more than half the distance with more ATV/jeep road content.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Northeast Kingdom Rant

Having scratched my racing itch Saturday (report forthcoming), I decided on a whim to head up to the Kingdom Trails Sunday. There are only a few good weekends left to ride the best trail system within a thousand miles of here before it closes for the winter. I went up solo, getting to East Burke at 10am. It was cold and dreary, but dry. The parking lot was nearly full already, mostly Quebec plates, but a lot of Mass and NH plates too.

In Hill Junkie tradition, all good MTB rides start with a brisk climb to "open" the legs. At the Northeast Kingdom, this means summitting Burke Mtn before getting to the meat and potatoes of the ride. To my dismay, there was a constant stream of fully laden cars heading up Mountain Rd. Odd, I thought, as folks that stay at the campground would already be up there for the weekend. But many of the same cars were coming back down empty except for the driver. As I passed Upper Dead Moose Alley trail head, it became clear what was going on. Girlfriends or wives were dropping the guys (and some gals) off half way up Burke to start their ride. This is all of what, maybe 1000ft gain from town? It appears a lot of mountain bikers are gravity challenged.

So while I was anticipating a quiet, clean ride to the summit of Burke this Sunday morning, I had to endure a noisy caravan of vehicles, exhaust fumes and stinky brakes for the first two miles. Once I got past the drop-off point, I never encountered another vehicle.

Riders should earn their vertical. Not doing so is admitting defeat. Might as well stay on the sofa and watch Kranked DVDs while sucking down Bud. So here's my proposal to the girlfriends, wives and significant others carting your gravity challenged bretheren up. The next time you hit the Kingdom Trails, drop everyone off in the village. Then drive to the summit of Burke and leave the car there. Heck, if you ride too, bomb on down the toll road to join them. I bet you'll be waiting a while though. Then after 4-5 hours of riding, it's time to pay penance. The car is at the top, and that is where everyone's ride will end. Do this once for each time unearned gravity was taken. 'Nough said.

When I reached the summit, it was completely socked in with clouds, and it was so cold you could see your breath. All I had for layers was a soaking wet wind breaker. I froze on the descent. I bombed into the Moose Alley trail system. I was not nearly as successful at cleaning everything as a couple weeks ago. It was just a tad greasier in the woods than last time, but not really muddy. After finishing all of the stuff with "Moose" in the name, I went north on Rt 114. I had heard rumors of a "secret" climb out that way to the summit of East Mountain. It gains more vertical than Burke, but not as steeply.

Radar Rd. Pretty, eh?

The road to the summit is called Radar Rd. It is named so because there used to be a large radar installation at the summit. It was disassembled and abandoned decades ago after the cold war ended. All that is left now is a deteriorating one lane asphalt road and massive concrete and steel platforms that once supported radars. The climb gains about 1200ft in the first few miles cresting the East Haven Range. Then you lose 500ft of that gain before the real climbing begins. Large portions of the asphalt have completely deteriorated or washed out. The climb would not be suitable for road bikes. Cross bikes with some decent tires, certainly. The last two miles of the climb average nearly 11% grade. Above the upper gate, the pavement is quite good. The section through the switchbacks nearly killed me, having raced the day before and drilled Burke first thing in the morning. I had brought only about 70 ounces of fluid, a Gu and a Clif Bar with me thinking I'd be back to my car in three hours. It was three hours and counting before I even reached the summit of this beast. On the way up, a pair of enduro style motorcycles passed me. Not sure where they cut in, as there were gates further down.

One of the not so nice parts.

When I started this climb, the summit was buried in clouds. By the time I reached the top, the sun was coming out. How sweet. There wasn't as much of a view as I hoped for up top, as the trees have pretty much regained the summit area. I'm sure it was open a few decades ago. The structures all had asbestos warning signs on them. You could see the asbestos hanging from ducts and other places. Generally the stuff isn't too dangerous unless you disturb it to release fibers into the air.

The descent was nice. It was just warm enough now I didn't completely freeze. It was 10 miles back to Rt 114, but there was that pesky 500 footer half way down to deal with. Was glad to have the wind to my back on 114, as I was beyond bonk stage. Out of water for an hour and counting, and no food. I still was going to end my ride in tradition though. I could have just taken 114 back to town, but no. I popped onto White School trail, hit Nose Dive, then followed the river and cornfield. Crossing over next road, I continued on White School, then climbed to Darling Hill to pick up top of Kitchel. It is such a fun trail to finish a ride on, and it pops out right in the village.

Summit structures.

All together, I logged about 43.5 miles and upwards of 8000ft of climbing in 4.4hrs riding time. Hoping to get up there one more time before the season ends. Once the snow comes, pilgrimages to the Cape will satiate the desire for dirt.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fat Doug

Warning: This one ain't going to be pretty. A while back a colleague commented that I should put more "Fat Doug" pictures on my website. Many Hill Junkie readers have read my story how I got into cycling at Northeastcycling.com. I included an early photo there. A few more follow.

April 1995. Receiving Kohrman Scholarship at Western Michigan University. Look at that double chin! Five Hot-and-Now cheeseburgers, large fry and 44oz Mtn Dew were typical lunch fare. Pushing 230 lbs here.

When I first started riding in 1996, I weighed at least 230 pounds. I had an old 10spd (really a 5spd in today's terms) my dad gave me. It was rusty and had wobbly wheels. Occasionally I'd hop on it. I remember averaging nearly 18mph one time on flat farm roads and thought that was really something. I was 33 years old.

A friend from work talked me into getting a mountain bike if I was really serious about getting back into shape. MTB was all the rage back then, although I did not know any names in the cycling world, road or off-road. I bought a rigid Trek 820 with a 7spd drive train and Gripshift shifters. I didn't dare ride with the guys. I did a few forays into the woods by my house on 4WD roads. Mostly soft, sandy stuff, not very inspiring. Finally one day mid summer of 1996, I dared to do a group trail ride. I probably still weighed over 220 lbs and got pommelled. They were quite nice about my complete inability to ride anything steeper than a 2% grade. I was done 6 miles into a 12 mile loop.

December 1996. Tsali Recreation Area. Probably down by 10-20 pounds here. Still almost as big as the van!

The trail ride planted a seed though. It grew quickly and became a huge motivator to lose weight. I continued to lose weight into the fall. I was periodically travelling to Georgia for work. Just over the border in North Carolina, there is a pristine trail system called Tsali Recreation Area. Another work friend had heard of it before hand and brought me there. We were there over a weekend and rented bikes. Mine was an Ibis. This might have been December 1996. Conditions were spectacular, scenery incredible. I was amazed how much riding I was able to do without getting tired.

I didn't do a whole lot of riding the rest of the winter, and bad habits don't die easily. I put a good portion of hard lost weight back on by spring 1997 when I moved to New Hampshire. My passion for trail riding was hotter than ever though, and that was one of my reasons for moving to a mountainous region.

Summer 1997. Seductive, eh? I went back to well over 200 lbs by the time spring rolled around.

The rocky, rooty terrain here prompted me to buy a Specialized Stumpjumper. It had a suspension fork and 8spd drive train. This was the summer that saw persistent, permanent weight gain. Riding five times a week and having no knowledge of proper nutrition sure did make for some memorable bonks. All those bedtime fables your parents told you - I met all those characters on these bonk rides. Weight came off at about a pound per week for weeks at a time. This was real weight loss, not some whacked out diet fad weight loss program. Over a couple years, I lost 70 lbs, or 30% of my body weight. Fat Doug faded into history, hopefully never to return again.

August 2008. Mt Washington Hillclimb, looking back to make sure 11th place finisher wasn't going to pip me at the finish on the 22% grade.

Fast forward to present. This time of year my calorie expenditure tends to go up. While many riders are looking for reprieve from a summer of training and racing, I look to capitalize on all this fitness without any structure or races to dictate how and when I should ride. Mountain hillfest epics? You bet. Multi-hour trail rides? Absolutely. Daily fartlek rides at lunch? Why not. Snow will be here soon enough to put a damper on this excess. This increase in intensity drives up fuel demands. Some days I can't find enough to eat. Riding isn't the only thing driving up the appetite. What used to be rest days are replaced with rollerski workouts. There's really no way to "soft pedal" those things. Weight bearing and use of multiple muscle groups drive up the heart rate. To sum it up, I get to eat to ride and ride to eat. Life is good.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Asthma, What Asthma?

Since I can remember, I've been an asthmatic. My youthful problems with asthma were primarily allergen induced. Growing up in farm country west Michigan didn't help. I was allergic to most kinds of grass pollens. The worst antagonizers were tree pollens in the spring and mold. I remember helping a farm friend bail hay. I'd lose my voice, get tight in the chest, and break out all over with rash.

Grade school students in Holland, Michigan all took swimmers ed. Each year I just managed to pass beginners to advanced beginners, only to fall back to beginners the following year. Meanwhile, my classmates all progressed to higher levels of proficiency. My asthma was a primary culprit, but having a much higher specific gravity than my classmates didn't help either. I have always sunk like a rock in water.

Later in my teens, the asthma got worse. This included multiple emergency visits to either the doctors office or emergency room for adrenaline injections. Adrenaline acts as a bronchial dilator. I also started taking asthma maintenance drugs like theophylline. This stuff was like binging on Starbucks. It couldn't be healthy to take this the rest of your life, and it was not without potentially dangerous side effects. This prompted a series of allergy tests in preparation for allergy shots.

The theory behind allergy shots is simple, if not completely understood. You are injected with purified allergens at increasing doses, in effect toughening you up. The serum is custom made based on test results. The first vial is clear. The second has slight tint to it. The third looks like tea, and the fourth looks like coffee (not Starbucks dark though). Each vial is 10 times stronger than the previous. Injections were one to two times per week to start. A tiny amount of first vial was used for first injection. Then you wait for 30 minutes to make sure you don't go into anaphylactic shock. Next shot is slightly bigger dosage. By the time you finish the fist vial, amount in syringe is quite large. Then you start second vial that is 10x more potent, so dosage goes way down. You then ramp up through this vial. You keep doing this until the forth vial, which is dark colored with allergens. I could never get to very big dosage in fourth via, as my arm would swell way up and get hotter than blazes. I was on verge of having a much broader reaction.

After many years of injections, I was able to come in less frequently, maybe once every two weeks at maintenance level on fourth vial. A dramatic reduction was noticed in allergy induced asthma, although I still couldn't bail hay or rake up moldy leaves without problems. I was also still dependent on my rescue inhaler, although only sporadically.

Fast forward a few years. I started cycling and moved to New England. I discovered I still had asthma problems, but not allergen induced. They were exercised induced, called EIB (exercise induced bronchoconstriction). I still needed to use my albuterol before exercise to lessen the severity of EIB. Later when I started XC skiing, EIB was even worse. The cold, dry air was brutal on my lungs. I learned that many world-class XC skiers have this problem. I had many bike and ski races where asthma impacted my performance. Using the inhaler didn't always work.

A couple years ago, my doctor noted the imbalance between my "good" and "bad" cholesterol. My total cholesterol has always been low, typically less than 150. But the ratio was poor. He recommended I take Omega-3 supplements in the form of fish oil capsules. I started taking one a day. Subsequent blood work showed no improvement in HDL to LDL. Last fall I did a little research and learned that one capsule of generic fish oil is not enough. It has little EPA and DHA in it, the two Omega-3 fatty acid constituents. I also stumbled across references [1], [2] linking fish oil and asthma, particularly fish oil and EIB. Multiple recent studies suggest that Omega-3's can reduce EIB in some elite athletes dramatically. Other studies show Omega-3's do little in general asthmatic population. It seemed to benefit highly trained athletes the most.

I switched to a high potency fish oil supplement and started taking two a day this past winter. This tripled my EPA and DHA dosage. I did this primarily for HDL and LDL benefits and gave it little thought until half way through the cycling season. I was not having any issues with asthma. Typically, I would always use my inhaler before interval workouts and races. I completely stopped using it for training rides and even forgot to use it before a couple races this summer. I essentially became asymptomatic, probably to the point of having no worse bronchial constriction problems than someone who never has had asthma. Could it be after 12 years of cycling my asthma just abates all on its own? Asthma is not well understood, and it does come and go in people. There's no way to prove it, but I can't help but believe the addition of Omega-3 supplementation to my diet is behind this.

So this winter will be interesting. The cold air puts additional stress on the respiratory system when exercising. If ski training goes well without use of albuterol, I will probably let my prescription lapse. It would be really cool to be free from this scourge after 46 years if all it takes is simple, safe dietary supplementation.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fall is for Centuries

White Mountains West
114.0mi, 10,800ft vertical, 6:07hrs

It was a pristine day for riding in the White Mountains of New Hampshire today. Overnight rain cleared out early this morning, leaving patchy fog and damp roads. Dave, Glen and I started from the visitor center in Lincoln, completing a variant of a loop we've done a few times.

Gonzo, Long Pond, Franconia, Crawford, Bear, and Kanc

We headed west through North Woodstock, bearing left on Rt 118. This is known as "Gonzo Pass," although you won't find this name on any map. The National Forest Service does not know where this name originated either, other than us spandex clad folk call it that. It passes on the southern flank of Mt Moosilauke. What better way to start an epic ride than with the biggest climb of the ride, gaining close to 1800ft? Part way up, I ratcheted up the pace to threshold. I would pay for this later. The descent is as enjoyable as the climb, dropping monotonically for miles and miles.

Glen cresting Gonzo Pass just poking into cloud deck

A short jaunt on Rt 25 takes us to the next climb, Long Pond Rd. This mountain pass does not have a name on any maps either. It flanks the western side of Mt Moosilauke with 9 miles of dirt bliss. This climb gains about 1200ft on a surface smoother than many paved roads. We encountered only one vehicle on this narrow one-laner. With Dave hugging my wheel part way up, I decided to drill it the rest of the way. I dug a deeper hole. I have a tendency to overcook these long rides at the beginning and suffer at the end. The endorphin juices were flowing freely now. Long climbs with no cars around put you in your own world. No need to put controlled substances into your body to experience this. We tend not to talk much on our rides, as the climbs entail hard breathing, the fast descents too noisy, with not much flat terrain in between. Instead we soak in the beauty around us. The descent was a tad choppy and made for some serious wrist fatigue by the time we reached the bottom.

Regrouping at Crawford Notch

Rt 116 took us to the village of Franconia. This was our first of two food stops 42 miles into the ride. Our route in the past has climbed a notch past Mt Agassiz with descent into Bethlehem. By adding two miles, I figured out we could add more vertical with a much more respectable climb than Agassiz. This is Rt 18 up to base of Cannon Mountain. It gains around 1000ft at 10% grade. With no compact crank (which Dave had) or MTB cassette (which Glen had), this climb was cruel to my legs. My minimum gear was 38x27. At the top of Franconia Notch, we picked up the bike path and headed north on the last two miles of it. Rt 3 then took us down to village of Twin Mountain. The Casco Bay Century was going on, and we passed many riders going in the opposite direction.

Heading east on Rt 302 over Crawford Notch is really not much of a climb. After the first three major climbs, you barely know you're climbing on this road. The descent is a hoot though. I went well over 50mph, careful to avoid tourists who don't hear you coming. Just a touch of color on the trees in this area. Four climbs were down, two biggies to go. I had no idea how my quivering legs were going to haul my carcass over them.

Top of Long Pond Rd

Our second and final stop was at the Bartlett store 82 miles into the ride. It is right at the base of Bear Notch, the fifth major climb of the ride. Baked potato chips, Red Bull (they didn't have those Starbucks Frappaccino drinks), and an icecream bar were the fare.

Resuming the ride, it appeared Davie was getting tired too, or so he was leading me to believe. We had a bit of town line shenanigans going on throughout the ride. This was compounding the damage by the climbs. It is fair to say that neither of us can sprint. It basically was a case that whoever jumped first got the town line. Dave got the next three in a row. Glen was starting to cramp up on this climb, so we waited a bit at the top before turning onto the Kanc (Rt 112).

We had several miles of flat to slightly climbing terrain before getting to the steep stuff. I knew there was only one more town line left in the ride, and that one was mine. It was at the Kancamagus Pass summit. I didn't care how trashed or close to cramping my legs were. I ramped up the pace, digging to depths only encountered on 6-Gaps or D2R2 rides. Dave was no where in sight when I crested the summit (and the town line). Each of us enjoyed the last 20 miles of the ride essentially riding solo at our own pace up and over the Kanc. We passed many of the same century riders again, but we had done twice as many miles and vertical as they did since the first time we saw them. It is only fitting when beginning a ride like this with the biggest net gain climb, to finish it with the biggest descent. The 14 miles down the Kanc to Lincoln couldn't have come soon enough.

Since the racing season is essentially over for me, there is no fretting over whether rides like these are of dubious training value. They have high fun factor and satiate the need to go long periodically. It is very satisfying finishing a ride like this. How many guys in their 50's (like Glen) can hop on a bike any weekend and hammer out 114 miles with over 10,000ft of climbing in 6+hrs riding time? A couple more epics are in store, possibly a Catskills ride later this month and the Great River Ride next month.

Cresting Franconia Notch in front of Cannon Mtn Ski Area (off right of image)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cross Training Begins

Before any of you flip out over yet another blogger spewing the virtues of 'cross season, note the title to this post conspicuously omits the apostrophe. This is the actual word cross, not the 'cross as in cyclocross. We're talking about training in the off-season here, or training that in some sense is orthogonal but complimentary to in-season training. For me, cross-training is cross country skiing. XC, not CX.

I have nothing against CX. I plan to dabble in a race or two in fact. It's a ruckus workout, and like a good hillclimb, the suffering is over quickly. I suck at CX though. The only CX race I did that I did not suck at was the Ironcross race in PA several years ago. It was more like a 60 mile MTB race on dirt roads and ATV trails through the mountains. A 500ft vertical run-up made it a 'cross race.

I still suck at XC skiing too, but not as badly as a couple years ago. Progress is slow but steady. It really doesn't matter what kind of engine you have. If you don't have the technique down, you will squander your precious kJ. I know I should be doing core workouts and get some professional coaching. Maybe these will start and happen this winter.

Cycling and skiing continue to become more blurred, as in which sport is real cross training. Is skiing cross training for cycling, or the other way around? When I first started skiing, it was something to do on the days it really sucked to ride. I rarely use an indoor trainer. So skiing was something to help maintain fitness over the coldest months. But my fondness for the sport continued to grow. I now ski 5-6 months out of the year, conditions permitting. I haven't quite made the leap to maintaining ski fitness year round like others do. From a cardio fitness perspective, skiing is far more rigorous than cycling. It draws on many muscle groups that atrophy over summer just cycling. It's a tough choice to make come March, do you keep skiing or start pouring on the miles? The cardio will certainly be in peak form, but cycling specific muscles give up some strength over winter. It's all good. Having two endurance based passions is good insurance should one ever become problematic.

To come into ski season with some semblance of ski fitness, I begin rollerskiing in the fall. For a skate technique skier, rollerskiing actually comes fairly close to emulating the real thing on snow. Last week I did 11km on Tuesday at work. My hips hurt for three days. That's what I get for not skiing all summer. Then foolishly I did 40km on Sunday. That destroyed my back for a day. But I felt pretty good on the rollerskis. I've never been able to do 40km getting right back into it early in the fall. Hope this is a sign of good things to come this winter.

This blog will slowly morph into a skiing blog as snow arrives. But posts will be true to the Hill Junkie theme. Like cycling, XC skiing is all about vertical, 40-50k epic ski sessions, and a little competition. Having already purchased a season pass for Waterville Valley, I'm looking forward to the 800ft Tripoli Rd or Cascade Brook climbs. My goal is to have fun while sucking a little less than last year.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Burke Mountain Hillclimb

Another fine day on the hillclimb circuit. Tropical storm Hanna threatened to put a damper on the Burke Mountain hillclimb race. Leaving the house before 6am, it was already raining. We soon drove out of it. Warming up, a few sprinkles started to fall. I figured it was just the beginning, as surely we'd be finishing the race and returning from the summit in a deluge. But no. It stopped before the pavement even got wet.

A shity Easton Ascent II wheel was not going to ruin this race. I repaired the rear wheel that failed for the third time during the Mt Washington race, but it is barely rideable. There is 2:1 unevenness in spoke tension and the wheel still is not true. More spokes will surely snap. I will use it as a winter training wheel. I still used the front Ascent II wheel. It is radially laced but transfers no torque. I never had a problem with it. For the rear, I used the Rolf Prima Vigor off my training bike.

Approximately 50 riders showed up for the climb. When I first arrived, I thought I had good shot at overall win. Then somebody said "Hey Doug, Steve Gatzos (BRC) is here." Great, now I knew who had the $500 prize cinched. Steve has won many hillclimbs this year and was third overall on Mt Washington. Then I saw Charlie McCarthy (Metlife). He won Burke overall last year. Now I was bumming, as that left only one spot left for cash payout. Surely there was some other fast guy here to fill another top-three spot. There was. John Bayley showed up on a beautiful new De Salvo. Then I ran into Charlie Casey. Charlie beat me here last year when I broke a spoke, and he beat me more recently on Mt Washington a few weeks ago, again when I broke a spoke. But my Mt Washington time was a PR. Strangely, I beat Charlie on Mt Equinox by good margin the last two years. Hard to say how this was going to play out, but I was pretty sure I was looking at 5th place overall. It's funny how hillclimbs are like this. You can look around the parking lot before the race and pretty much know how its going to play out. You really don't have to do the race. You can just survey the competition, claim where you'll finish in that group, then go home without actually having to do the race to prove it.

On the women's side, Karen Smyers was present. She has won numerous gold metals, including Ironman Hawaii. She brought some monster gears to the race, I think 34x27. I would stall out on the long 18% section with this gearing. I did not know who she was before the race, other than she told me she was a triathlete. At 46, she beat most of the guys there. Doh! Despite being a small, somewhat obscure race, a lot of talent certainly was present.

We started on Mountain Rd this time, taking out the neutral finish down the base area access drive. The clock didn't start until the Moose Crossing sign last year. Now we were lined up about 50 meters before the sign. Thus the race was slightly longer for comparison purposes. The first half mile or so is very gentle, starting out at a few percent grade and gradually hitting 8-10 percent before the Toll Road. Once bearing left on the toll road, it is all steep all the time.

The 18% section with most riders names written on it. Nice touch!

McCarthy, Gatzos and Bayley pulled away in a three-some when the going got steep. I traded places with several riders for a while until we got to the 0.3mi long 18% grade section. Chalk on the road said it was 22%. Regardless, my 30x27 min gear did not seem to go low enough on this. I was pretty much doing linked track stands for an eternity. After dropping a couple young guys that went out too hard, Charlie Casey started to ride away from me. Now I was in 5th place and struggled to hold it for a while. Eventually, the two closest guys behind me faded out of sight.

The summit came unexpectedly fast. I crossed the line in 26:39, a nice PR with 44 seconds off last year's time. Charlie Casey was less than a minute ahead I believe. A new course record was set too, with Charlie McCarthy breaking 24 minutes. Steve Gatzos was just behind him, with John Bayley following to fill the top three spots. McCarthy actually signed up as part of co-ed team, so that bumped me up to 4th in the solo rider division, just one spot shy of cash payout. Co-ed team winner gets $2000 cash and prize award. It is simply the fastest combined time of a man/women team. I didn't stick around for awards, but I suspect McCarthy and his teammate won it. This put Gatzos in for $500 first place solo prize.

It never rained during the race, descent, or lunch afterwards. In fact, it was partly sunny and quite warm. The food at the Tamarack Grill was excellent. Race organization and support was superb. I honestly believe more riders aren't doing this race simply because it hasn't been "discovered" yet. It is one of my favorite hillclimbs on the New England circuit. Many thanks to Keone and his team for putting on such a wonderfull event! Burke will be part of next year's Bumps Challenge.

On White School trail with clouds socking in summit of Burke.

With skies still partly sunny, Dave Penney and I skipped out on awards in favor of riding the famous Kingdom Trails. It hadn't rained in a while up there, so I suspected trails were going to be in the best shape I've seen them in some time. They were. I was so psyched to be riding in primo conditions when I expected rain earlier in the day, that I was rejuvenated from the race. The legs had tons of snap left in them. Most of my KTA rides start on Burke, go up Camp Town, then ride all of the Moose Alley stuff, dropping about 1200ft of vertical in 10 miles on singletrack. Not only did I clean everything (first time), I did it all in the middle ring (first time). Despite these trails becoming more technical as the years of use wear on them, the path seemed to flow with magical smoothness under me. Some days you have those rides where you are just on. This was one of those days.

Burke Hillclimb route in green, singletrack fest in red.

About an hour into our ride, we noticed you could no longer see the summit of Burke Mtn. Overcast was getting heavy. This was followed by patters of rain. Davie was getting tired, and I knew I couldn't ride on my emotional buzz forever either, so we worked our way back. In tradition of all my KTA rides, we finished bombing down Kitchel. The roads were getting wet as we rode back up Mountain Rd to the ski area. That was my most enjoyable New England trail ride this year. Probably the most fun I ever had at KTA. We did a big 17 mile loop with a couple thousand feet of climbing in less than two hours. It pretty much rained the entire way back home, often torrentially. East Burke was just far enough north to stay out of it for planned activities.

Close up of Camp Town going up on right side of Burke Toll Rd, Moose Alley coming down on left side.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Mt Mansfield Correction

Posted results for the Race to the Top of Vermont have been revised. There was a minor timing snafu that had everyone's time one minute slower than actual. I finished in 39:08, 1:56 back from overall winner Jesse Downs who finished in 37:12. For the women, Susan Lynch finished in 45:37. These will be the records to beat next year.

Myself near summit. Everyone's expression is the same at this switchback: horror at the steep pitch around the bend. Photo credit Wadsworth
In the combined bike/run race, I actually came in 8th place overall. This means five people ran up this mountain faster than I biked up it. Humbling.

2550ft gain, 4.3mi/93% gravel, 12% average grade

I incorrectly mentioned in my race report that #2 finisher was an Olympic hopeful. It is actually Jesse Downs that hopes to make the 2010 US Biathlon team. More can be read about the race at the Catamount site.

I'll get the details (profile, stats, etc) of this event up on the Northeastcycling.com race page soon. Next up is Burke Mtn Hillclimb on Saturday morning. Hope tropical storm Hannah holds off a few hours.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Specialists

Most riders have something they feel is their strong point. Even if they don't, riding partners will still attribute something to them as their strength. We all have things we suck at too. The differences in strengths among guys I ride with have become quite apparent in the last couple weeks.

Today, Steve Gauthier, Dave Penney and I went out for a lunch ride. We didn't really have any plan for this ride, not even a route. Steve had his fixed gear and wanted a little intensity. Dave did some intensity yesterday. I was still reeling from 9hrs of racing and riding my MTB over the holiday. See where this is going yet?

The last time the three of us got together for a mid week lunch ride, we averaged 24mph. That included hills and a lot of stop lights. These rides can best be described as fartlek. Attacks from stop lights, sprints over small hills, killer pulls and bits of recovery here and there. One of my lunch ride trademarks is to string Steve and Dave out up a modest hill at very high intensity, then not let up on the power over the top. Even though my power doesn't change, the other two are not expecting a dramatic acceleration over the top. Then I relinquish the pull. I get paid back for it though.

Steve is the sprint specialist. I wouldn't be surprised if he could peak upwards of 2000W on his track bike. He is all Type-II (fast twitch) muscle fiber. On an equal basis (fresh legs), he'll gap me in humiliating fashion in anything under a minute. Anything over a couple minutes, well, he tries at least. What is most impressive is how quickly Steve's ATP battery recharges. It only takes a minute or two, and he can unleash another explosive rip-your-legs off 10 second burst. Perfect for crits, as long as he doesn't stay up front too long. His specialty is the track, where most events are very short. The only way I have the remotest chance at taking Steve in a short effort like this is to work him over good on a few big hills first, like 600ft Chestnut Hill.

Dave is the endurance specialist. Dave doesn't have the explosive power of a sprinter. Rather, he is more like a diesel. If an event goes more than several hours, few riders I know can hang with him. Dave has proven this time and again on our 6-Gaps rides. More recently, Dave unleashed his slow fury on me at the D2R2 ride. Results show he was second fastest rider completing the 112 mile route in 8:07 total elapsed time. Interestingly, he started at 6:15am, 15 minutes behind main group, yet caught us in about 75 minutes. He must have hammered. Our pack was not poking along. Towards the end of the ride, I could tell Dave was bored with my pathetic pace. He was just getting warmed up. I was a cooked krispy kritter. Dave must have both very high cycling economy (efficient calories to kilojoules conversion) and well adapted ability to burn fat during endurance events. He should really get into 24hr racing.

So then there's me. I have neither sprint legs nor all-day endurance. I have something in between. My sweet spot falls somewhere in the 5 to 60 minute range. I surmise I have developed good ability to both process and tolerate very high levels of lactic acid. Having a very high tested VOmax helps. My mother, who does not regularly exercise but cross country skis in the winter, readily outskis others that are younger and try to stay more fit. The genetic code for mitochondria are encoded on the X chromosome we inherit from our mother. Perhaps my mother is genetically blessed with copious mitochondria in her muscle tissues, and I inherited this from her. Mitochondria combusts glycogen and oxygen to make ATP, which in turn fuels muscle fiber contraction. Because my aerobic power production is quite high and my weight moderate, I'm a decent climber. In fact, climbing is really the only thing I don't suck at. I may have to give time-trialing a try though. I might find I don't suck at that too.

So now for the quiz. Can you match the riders to power vs. duration profiles in the graph? Of course you can. Steve is the blue line, kicking everybody's butt in the short distance. Dave is the red line, starts low, but drops slowly, and after 8 hours he is not loosing any power. I didn't plot Steve out to 8hrs, as I'm pretty sure he's never ridden that long. I'm green in between Steve and Dave to start, then pop out on top in my sweet 5-60 minute zone, then fall back in between Dave and Steve again after 3hrs, except now Dave is on top.

It is amazing that we can ride together at lunch at all, given the disparities in our abilities. But somehow we know each others strengths and weaknesses to a tee and we play off them. Wicked fun.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Hit List

We're not talking pop music Top 20 here. This Hit List is different. It consists of things you'd like to do sometime, maybe from when you read about a particular destination, traveled through an area and noticed something cool that required further exploration, saw it on TV, etc. A hit list is not a bucket list, a list of things you have to do before you die. Rather, it is a mental checklist of mostly lesser important things. Do you have a cycling Hit List?

Looking down Pegwood Dr from near summit of Campton Mtn

This past weekend I scratched six items off my Hit List. All of them involved a mountain bike. On Sunday, I hit the first two. These were the Mt Mansfield hillclimb and riding at Millstone. I've biked to the high point in many states now. Most state high points are either not legal or unaccessible by bike. I've known for years that Mt Mansfield (aka Stowe) had a perfectly bikeable road to the summit but it was verboten. When a northeastcycling.com enthusiast (Peter) dropped me an email about the race, I got all giggly and excited. I immediately signed up. I was not only going to ride the highest mountain in Vermont, I got to race it as a bonus. Check.

After race awards, I hit the Millstone trails. It's a bit of a stretch to say this was on my Hit List, as this place is so new and I didn't really understand how developed their trail system had become until receiving the NEMBA newsletter in the mail just days before the Mansfield hillclimb. I jump at any chance to ride the Green Mountain State, as so few riding destinations exist. Millstone was an obvious post race choice. Check.

Sunday, I scratched four more rides off my Hit List. These were Campton Mountain, Sandwich Notch, Gyroscope Trail in Plymouth and Franklin Falls Dam trails.

I started my ride from the Campton school where the Waterville Valley TT registration was. Campton Mtn rises directly behind the school. Another northeastcycling.com devote (Matt) told me about this climb a couple years ago. It rises nearly 1000ft with sustained grades approaching 12%. I chose to go up via Pond/Hodgemans/McLaren/Pegwood. A private ski area drops from the summit, but it looked like I would have to tread through people's yards to get to it for the view. McLaren was gravel and nasty steep. I took Pegwood instead of McLaren back down to Hodgemans, which is fully paved. This 20 minute threshold effort nicely tenderized my legs for what came next. Check.

Looking up Sandwich Notch before it got rough

Riding a couple miles up Rt 49 towards Waterville Valley, I picked up Sandwich Notch Rd next. This starts as a friggin wall from Rt 49. It moderates a bit, then turns to gravel. I was on my MTB with 2" knobbie tires and thought a road bike would be perfect on this. I had planned to ride this with my road bike after the WV time trial this summer, but Hill Junkie reader Chris cautioned me against this. Now I know why. The road kicks up in pitch again, but with a twist. It appears the "road" has not been maintained for years. Some cars probably would not make it through here. Deep wash outs, slabs of ledge jutting out, even sections of river bottom-ish kinds of surface were the norm for the next couple miles. Just when I thought I crested the summit, more vertical presented itself.

Finally the highpoint was reached. The descent toward Squam Lake was no better. Even with my fat tires, front suspension and disk brakes, I experienced fear of death much of the way down. The steepest parts, strangely, were paved at one time. Maybe 50 years ago. Now they are cratered remnants of asphalt. The washed out gravel actually rode better. I had planned to bear right on Algonquin Rd, but somehow I missed it. It was another dirt road, gradual downhill, almost all the way back to Campton. Instead, I continued through big rolling climbs and descents thinking I should have seen Algonquin by now. Then the grade points down with a vengeance and keeps going. I hit pavement, then Rt 113. Hmmm... I kind of knew this went back towards Campton, but not how far it would be. After 10 miles of heinous up-down rollers and 40mph headwind (4.5mph up one climb), I asked a resident at Squam Lake how far to Campton. He said oh, at least 20 miles. If I wasn't so bonked already, I would have gone ballistic. I had been riding three hours hard and did not take enough food and water for four hours. It turns out he was wrong, it was only 12 miles. But this was another 12 miles on fat knobbie tires into a vicious wind. I logged 48 miles in 3.5 hrs when I got back to the car. I covered Sandwich Notch, but not exactly to plan. Check.

Gyroscope where it pokes out along edge of the Pemi

After nearly buying the complete junk food contents of the Irving station in Campton, I headed three exits down I-93 to Plymouth. Skiing and cyclocross extraordinaire Ryan told me about a sweet piece of singletrack right off Exit 25 when we did the WV-TT. Why not check it out now? Online reviews sounded tasty. The conservation lot is very small. I think it is called Marrell Park. There was about 3 miles of trail in there. The Gyroscope Loop is aptly named, as it twists around something fierce. No rocks, no roots, no hills. Just twisty river bottom trail sandwiched in between the Pemi and Rt 93. I rode all I could find in 23 minutes, except for the jump track. Great place to bring first timer or if you are at Plymouth State and need a break from homework. Not really worth a dedicated stop off the highway in my opinion. Check.

Another three exits down I-93 is Franklin. I read a couple years ago in NEMBA Singletracks that the Army Corps of Engineers had granted NEMBA permission to build trails in the flood control plain. This area too has gotten more publicity lately, so I figured it was due time to check it out. Like Gyroscope, it is nestled against the Pemigawaset river. There are 5-6 miles of new, purpose built singletrack here plus several miles of doubletrack. Not much elevation change, but fast, super flowy stuff. This would be ideal place to singlespeed. My legs were completely cooked by this point, so I was pretty much relegated to soft pedaling. The flood control dam is quite a structure. I'd like to see it some time during peak snow melt. After about 1.1 hours of riding here, I called it a day with 60.1 miles, 5:00 hours saddle time on my mountain bike. Check.

Singletrack in Franklin Falls

All avid cyclists should have a hit list. It's always good to see and experience new sights, smells, sounds and terrain. It keeps cycling fresh. I always prefer the mountain bike for this. It goes anywhere, including paved roads. Nearly 1/3 of my cycling hours this year have been on dirt. Ironically, I've not given anything up on the fitness scale as evidenced by PRs on some of the toughest climbs. It seems many riders are burned out this point in the season. Not me. I'm just getting warmed up for my most enjoyable part of the riding season.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Race to the Top of Vermont

What a weekend for riding here in the northeast, eh? I got in so much riding that I have enough blog fodder for a week's worth of posting.

Mt Mansfield Hillclimb
Saturday was the first annual Race to the Top of Vermont hillclimb in Stowe, Vermont. It ascends the toll road to the summit of Mt Mansfield, a 2550ft/4.3mi climb. Bikes have not been allowed on this road until this event. Local riders may get away with poaching a climb every now and then, but this is not something I would risk. The first 0.3 miles is paved, the remaining 4+mi gravel. It is very steep in spots and can be loose and wash-boarded up. Most riders are expected to ride their bikes back down after the race. For this reason, race organizers required fat tire equipment, minimum 2" tire width. This kept the playing field equal and the decent safe. One finisher was penalized for having <2" tire width.

The wall at the start. No mercy for those not warmed up.

I warmed up on Smugglers Notch road for about 30 minutes, getting in only a couple hard efforts for 60 seconds or so. The rest of the time I was soft pedalling or tempo pace at best. The race was both bike and foot. The cyclists went off at 10am, the runners at 10:10. Riders went off in single, big wave. I went to front. I recognized only one rider here, Diana from the hillclimb circuit. It seemed weird lining up with MTBs on pavement that aimed straight up the fall line of Mt Mansfield. Pavement soon gives way to dirt, however. With GMSR going on, I would assume most here were mountain bikers. Not too many roadies MTB anyway. There were many full suspension bikes present, a few rigid rigs, and a number of carbon hardtails. I was on my Dean Ti hardtail with Fox fork that locks out. It weighs at least 25 lbs I believe.

The race starts and over a dozen riders go ballistic. I thought I had shot for overall win here, but I kept my blinders on to ignore this foolishness. I told myself "I'll see you guys later," as in when you implode and I pass you. This is typical MTB race style. The race is backwards. The sprint is at the start, and they wind down (bonk) for the finish. Mountain bikers would benefit by taking Time Trialing 101.

A mile or so into the dirt, I was picking off riders. I quickly moved into 6th position overall. Catching guys in 3th and 4th proved to be hard. I passed them somewhere around the half way point. Then I was on 2nd place guy's wheel. Apparently he would have none of it and picked the pace up a tad. I figured the race would take about 32 minutes or so based on Ascutney time. I was way off. Knobbies on loose gravel with heavy bike is way slower. I was pacing for an Ascutney duration but soon realized I went out too hard. If I didn't want to implode and lose many positions, I had to back down a notch. I figured 3rd overall is not a bad place to be anyway.

Looking down towards Smugglers Notch.

Having never done this climb, it was all new and full of surprises. It was more punishing than Ascutney. The grade varies something fierce. It seems it was either 12-15% or 5%. Never steady, and I could not find a steady groove to get into. It was deep into the red zone on short, steep pitches or sub threshold on less steep pitches. I really couldn't shift gears fast enough. I must have made many hundreds of gear transitions during the climb. About 3/4 of the way up, we get into some serious switchbacks. The grade was all steep here, maybe 14-15%. The claimed max grade was 10 degrees, which is over 17% grade. There were many places it could have been this steep. Number two guy (who wore no shirt and was 100% lean muscle mass) dangled not far in front of me. To my horror, guys in 4th and 5th position were gaining on me. I was now past the 30 minute mark and still had a long ways to go. I definitely over cooked this one. I was still managing to stay out of my granny ring.

Finally I hear the crowd up top and I knew the end was near. A couple more nasty steep chicanes brought the finish into view. I crossed the line at 39:08 on my computer (40:08 on timing clock). This was about 2min back on winner and less than a minute back from 2nd place. I easily won my 40-49 year old age division. I finished the climb never using my granny ring, going down only to a 32:32 ratio. Other riders noted a one minute diparity between posted time and their own recorded time. Wonder if this will be corrected in final results?

To my surprise, runners were only a few minutes behind me. They started 10 minutes back. Yes, I got beat by runners. I did an analysis a while back that shows runners achieve parity with cyclists at about 17% grade. That is, the best runners will match the time of the best cyclist when the grade reaches 17%. Less steep, cyclists are faster. But this was for paved surfaces with road bikes. Mansfield was a loose dirt surface, with heavier mountain bikes and wide tires. The fastest runner almost beat the fastest cyclist. It seems parity on dirt is achieved at a much less steep grade, more like 12%.

The talent here was impressive. There were Olympians, masters world champions, and 2010 Olympic hopefuls, all from the Nordic skiing world. Most of the talent was in the foot race. Apparently a lot of them run for cross training. The guy that came in second ahead of me is a biathlete and hopes to make the 2010 team. That explained his upper physique. He was big too, I'd say at least 180 lbs.

The food afterwards at the Matterhorn was excellent: two kinds of fresh pizza, two kinds of pasta, rolls and salad. An entertaining incident at our table occured when the guy across from me made reference to that "crazy guy" with the climbing website. Diana pointed out to him that "crazy guy" was me. It took a long time to get awards going. I had planned to mountain bike nearby in the afternoon, but I wanted to see what the prizes were going to be. Top three in each age category got Darn Tough merino wool cycling socks and a mug. Nice stuff. With our race packet we also got a Pearl Izumi running jersey (great for rollerskiing or hiking) and a Catamount Trail guide book. This event appeared to go off without a hitch with around 200 athletes. Very impressive for a first time at this venue. I'll definitely be looking for this on next year's calender. I was now way late for phase two of the day's plan, trail riding at the Millstone trails in Barre.

Millstone Trails, Barre, VT
I had heard new trails were popping up in various places in Vermont, including here. The deal with Vermont is this. They simply don't allow mountain bikes on state or federal land. Yet smoky snowmobiles have pretty much free range in the winter. Go figure. Vermont is supposed to be a progressive "Green" state, but not when it comes to bicycles in the woods. So associations of private land owners are popping up to develop trails and the tourism that it draws. The Kingdom Trails are a prime example. In fact, this is where I planned to go until the latest issue of NEMBA Singletracks showed up in the mail a few days ago. The feature story covered the Millstone Trails. This was right on my way home and claimed 70 miles worth of riding!

The Grand Lookout.

When riding private association trails, you generally need to buy a trail pass. At Millstone, this is $8 for the day. I got there at 3pm and quickly hit the trail. The map and markings on the ground are superb. Generally, fee areas provide this. Public lands often have poor to non-existent markings. The trail network here is nearly overwhelmingly dense. Many intersections, many options. Map and markers are color coded, green=easy, blue=intermediate, and red=expert. I found the trails here to be much more challenging than the Kingdom Trails. Expert trails had features I wussed out on, while there are no features on the "Black" trails at Kingdom Trails I wuss out on. You could die here too. The whole area winds through 1500 acres of quarry. There are shear drops of 100ft or more in places.

I rode for 2.5hrs but only covered 17.8mi. Yeah, it was that technical. Dark shades and running out of sunlight didn't help either. My favorite trail was Fellowship Ring. It is several miles of addictively fun stuff. It is a "Red" trail, but there was only one section I did not attempt. There were a few sections of ledgy slickrock I cleaned but should not have attempted riding solo late in the day. Don't tell my wife. I'll definitely have to come back here, bringing more riders in tow. This is a destination park, where you can make a full day out of it. One group I encountered were French speaking, so folks from Quebec are going the extra distance to come down this way. There is a big race here next weekend, called the Millstone Grind. I could not imagine doing 35 miles on this stuff. It would take me over 4hrs.

That's a wrap for Saturday. I hit three more riding areas in NH with the MTB on Sunday for 60 miles and 5 hours of riding bliss. These too, were new to me. Details forthcoming.