Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mt Ascutney Hillclimb

Well hillclimb enthusiasts, the BUMPS challenge is now half over. It was just announced that Mt Greylock will not be part of BUMPS this year. The Greylock race director has been unsuccessful in getting the state to review and approve the event permit application. I can only guess budget cuts are behind this. There's still a good chance the Mt Greylock race will go on, but BUMPS organizers need to plan for the final event and awards now. They can't wait until the last minute. The Allen Clark hillclimb up App Gap will be the final event in the series, for eight events total. Up to five events will count towards points.

The Mt Ascuntney hillclimb was Saturday. I had high hopes of establishing a new personal best. A new PB on Ascutney is the best indicator for a new PB on Washington. The previous weekend was tough on me though. I did the Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington on Saturday followed by a punishing 3+ hour riding in the mountains on the tandem with my wife on Sunday. We tend to ride at a much lower cadence on the tandem, as Cathy prefers it. She was pretty much cooked 2/3 into the ride, so I pretty much buried myself to get us back. I hurt in unusual ways for several days after that. She reminded me that she warned me that would happen.

With all my big events stacked up towards the end of August into September, I can't afford to be taking too many recovery weeks right now. I have races every weekend, two on some weekends. So I still need to get midweek intensity work in at the potential expense of doing well in some events. Monday was recovery day, then I did intervals on Tuesday even though I wasn't anywhere near recovered from the weekend. Doing intensity work on Wednesday instead would definitely have impacted a PB shot on Ascutney, so I opted for Tuesday. I think I got good value out of the four VOmax intervals I did running from 3-5 minutes. Had a nice 30min block of LT in there too heading back. After my fairly easy MTB ride at lunch on Wednesday, I could tell I over-reached big time. I was fatigued like I haven't experienced yet this season. Thur/Fri were obviously recovery days.

I went to bed early Friday night, only to be awakened a couple hours later by pounding thunderstorms. Two lightning strikes sounded like they were inside the house, they were so simultaneous and loud. This went on a long time. We live on a hill. I'm laying there thinking I'm going to lose half the electronics in my house. How do you fall back asleep after that? I was lucky if I mustered 4hrs for the night.

Saturday morning was still very humid, very high dew point at the base of Mt Ascutney. If you've been a reader for some time, you know that heat is one of my biggest weaknesses. The temp was still mild, probably around 70F at race start, but the dew point wasn't much lower than that I'm sure.

The starting waves were broken down into smaller groups this year. There were about 200 riders there, so that helped. The deal was, we go off by age groups only, no elite or Top Notch wave. I like to know where I'm at overall and it helps to be riding with similarly fit riders for pacing. I did have Gerry Clapper (Williams Cycling) in my field, a sub hour finisher on Mt Washington. That doesn't help much for pacing. I have to let him go from the get go. And I did. Charlie Casey was also in my field, and historically, he beats me at about half of these events. I started to put time on Charlie from the start and wondered if I was going too hard.

With no electronics on my bike, I have no idea how I'm doing during the climb. I don't want to know. I think by now I've learned to not go out too hard. The rest is perceived effort. I passed most of the fields staged 3 and 6 minutes ahead of my field by the 2.5mi mark. But then I started struggling to pass people. I took three minutes out of them to this point then pretty much shut down for the last mile of the race. I didn't feel super hot, but I knew I had to be scary close to my thermal shutdown threshold. I know from a controlled study at UNH I participated in a few years ago that it can take as little as 20 minutes for my core body temperature to reach 103.5F, at which point the researchers pulled the plug on me. Anything higher can be deadly. I was the only subject unable to complete the study. Genetically, I just don't tolerate heat well at all.

Approaching the top, I still had hopes of achieving a new PB. After all, I didn't even use my lowest gear the whole way up and I had to have put a minute on Charlie. But when I saw the clock and did the quick math, I missed my PR by 43 seconds. Bummer. It still was my second fastest time in the 10 years I've been doing this race now. I finished with a 28:57. The winning time was over 26 minutes. I forget exactly what place I finished overall, 6th or 7th I believe. Relative to my peer group, I finished right around where I always do. Maybe everybody was a tad slower due to muggy conditions.

The weather up top was quite pleasant, breezier and cooler than at the bottom. The watermelon totally hit the spot. Riding at between VOmax and LT for 28 minutes straight has a way of parching the throat. I must have had six slabs. Chips and salsa too.

A lot of roadie racer types show up for Ascutney. You could tell by the shaved legs and road rash. Three of my IBC teammates came out. Brett Rutledge tied his PB from 6yrs ago with a 32:01.

Also notable is how many really fast women come out to these things. A few are serious racer types like Clara Kelly (NEBC), but others eschew traditional road races in favor of hillclimbs, like Marti Shea. These women beat most of the guys. Many women are intimidated by pack racing - the risk, the crashes. While hillclimbs are not completely without risk (what is?), certainly the climb itself is one of the most body friendly intense things you can do. Just be careful on the descent afterwards.

Haven't seen the updated BUMPS results yet, but I should still be in the polka dot jersey for Equinox in two weeks. That's all for hillclimbs. In a day or two I'll share how my MTB "fun" race went the next day, if you call sliding on your head in brownie mix fun.


Dave said...

Heat is a killer. May I suggest utilizing the 6 aid stations SM100 has very well. It's pretty hot in VA in Sept. and since there is no chance of making the podium you should enjoy the ride as much as possible. I like your tandem fun. Saturday my better half and I did an easy 40 miles out n back on the C&O Canal trail with the twins in tow. I am amazed at how these easy rides leave me so sore.

DavidL said...

Great ride on Ascutney! I too think Newton's with intensity work on Wednesday left me a little fatigued for the race...but it was expected.

I am amazed how fast some of you guys go. Gerry passed me at mile 2. 3 minutes in 2 miles!!! You came by me at 3.3. The only time I saw John Bayley was at the start.

My chain drop prevented a PR. I finished with the exact same time as last year but I was 37 seconds faster at mile 2.9 when the chain fell off and 9 seconds faster over the rest of the race after I stop to put it back on.

A chain minder has already been ordered. That will not happen again.

Time to recover for Equinox...

Paul said...

Is anyone else increasingly annoyed at how long it takes for BUMPS to update their results?

Hill Junkie said...

Paul - keep in mind this first year effort is operating on a slim to none budget during a challenging economy. Sponsors are scarce right now, sponsors to put up cash are virtually non-existent. One person is handling all of the BUMPS scoring on a volunteer basis, Raina from Penguin Cycles and Ascutney race director. She's put in some long hours to get the scoring scripts working and has a number of manual corrections to make after each event. You see, bike racers don't register at the same place using exactly the same name every time. Thus clones show up. There are other differences between what timers capture and what gets manually fixed at the venue. This often requires additional tweaks by Raina. Different timers use different data formats too. A lot of data massaging is required. There are no BUMPS-only organizers. Each individual race director has agreed to take on additonal work to make the series work. I'm sure Raina has her hands full after each race, and Ascutney is a double whammy as she has to post her own race's results in addition to updating BUMPS points. A lot of road race results take until Tuesday or Wednesday to be posted, so I'd give it another day or two. Maybe with the publicity BUMPS has gotten this year, higher levels of sponsorship can be captured next year. We then could hire a professional service to compute scoring after each event. That was our goal this year, but I don't think we quite got there.