Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hottest Mt Washington Ever

This year's August race proved to be a greater test of will than I expected. I knew it was going to be hot. When they announced before we lined up that it was already 60F at the summit, I knew I was doomed. I was sweating waiting for the cannon at the start line.

A very large contingent of pro's from around the country and Canada were present. It was cool to line up behind Ned Overend (Specialized) again. Several riders from the Colavita and Excel Sports teams were there. The state of Colorado was very well represented. It was likely the largest Top Notch field I've started in too, nearly 100 riders.

My strategy was to go out my normal pace and take the thermal body blows when they hit me. Nothing I'll be able to do about it. It was pure damage control in an attempt to keep the leaders jersey. The cannon goes off, and no less than 30 riders bolt on ahead of me. In a minute or two, Ned and others were out of sight. I had to keep tabs on Jeff Johnson (Battenkill-United), currently my closest rival in the BUMPS series. Another rider in my age group I expected to beat me by a few minutes was Stu Abramson (OA/Cyclemainia). Erik Vandendries (NEBC) and Charlie Casey who both beat me at Equinox were also present. I had lots of guys to guage my pacing by.

A mile in, I'm still hanging with Stu and Erik. Jeff is ahead by a small margin, but I figure he goes out too hard anyway, so I should be behind him at this point. I was rapidly heating up. The deal with the leaders jersey is it doesn't fully unzip like my team jersey does. Riders who did have full zippers used them right away.

Two miles in, the temperature was actually RISING. This was putting me into a world of difficulty. Charlie rolls past with with ease as I muttered something about that being pretty much it for me. The temp is supposed to drop as you climb on Mt Washington, not go up. As I've done for every Mt Washington race, I took no water. For an hour effort, often with bone chilling temps up top, I don't need it. Today, the water might not have kept my core body temp from going thermal nuclear, but it could have staved off what was to come later.

2.5 miles in, I was into full thermal shutdown. I felt awful. I come around a bend and see a long stretch in full sun. I was cussing. There were no shady bits to dodge back and forth across the road to hit. Sue Schlatter (Stevens Racing) passed me at this point. I hadn't been girled in some time on Mt Washington, and the way Sue decisively passed me meant I was getting girled today. No honor lost in getting girled by Sue though. She is a phenomenal athlete, and my age even.

The next couple miles were a mental blur. I was so hot. My eye sockets were cesspools of electrolytes. I could hardly see. There was nary a breeze for the first half of the climb. A steady stream of riders began passing me. To my astonishment though, Erik and Stu were still dangling just in front of me. Erik beat me decisively at Equinox two weeks earlier, and Stu beat as decisively a few years back on Mt Washington. I knew I was doing poorly, so I could only surmise I'm not alone in struggling with the heat today.

When we got to the "five mile grade," the heinously steep gravel section that you can see all the way up, we picked up a slight breeze. It was here were the temperature finally started to drop, around the 5000ft elevation level. I was still in a deeply heat suppressed mode, but I felt I might be able to get my core body temp back in check before the finish. I passed Stu here with Erik just in front of me and Sue ahead of him.

Spinting up the 22% grade to the finish. I look as dehydrated as a raisen. Photo by Kristen.

About the six mile mark, I got on Erik's wheel. There are some less steep bits along here with slight head winds in places. By drafting, I might have saved 0.1% Watts. So I shamelessly stayed stuck on Erik's wheel. I found he is a superb pacer. At Equinox, he was behind me for most of the race yet beat me. That means he probably started at a more optimal pace. Staying on Erik's wheel put good distance on Stu in no time. We also inched closer to Sue. Nobody else was near us.

Finally we come around the flattish part where the summit buildings come into view. Erik did not let the power drop here, which meant I had to accelerate hard to stay with him. We start hearing the ruckus spectator crowd. I get all set to start ramping it up for the last 300ft of vertical when both hamstrings seized on me. There was zero warning. It was instant, full on spasms. I have never cramped on a hillclimb before. Climbs aren't long enough to bring it on. But apparently today, I lost enough electrolytes along the way to bring it on. I found if I stayed standing, I could keep going without cramping. Erik ramped it up good too. We passed Sue, then I passed Erik on the 22% grade. I crossed the line in 1:07:02, one of my slowest times in several years. Erik was 8 seconds behind me. Sue was a little further back, but she crashed on the 22% grade, cutting her elbow open.

Talking with Ned Overend at the summit. He still uses Q-rings. My Q-ring was smaller than his. Photo by Cathy.

This was good for 20th place overall out of over 500 finishers. Last year I was 10th. I definitely had a PR in my legs had it been 15-20 degrees cooler. Talking up top, most riders were put into heat stress. Most times were off by 2-5 minutes. It hits everybody differently. Some are not impacted at all. Charlie Casey had a phenomenal race, winning my age group. I took second and Stu third. I've beaten Jeff Johnson at all the BUMPS races so far this year, until today. Jeff has been inching closer to me at each race though, so maybe he's improving his fitness too.

Ned Overend came in 2nd overall, just behind Phil Gaimon (Jelly Belly) with times in the 54 minute range. Ned at nearly 54 years old is simply phenomenal. He hasn't slowed down a bit. Sue Schlatter won the woman's field with a time of 1:07:43, a new PR for her. Local rider Marti Shea finished second a few minutes back.

I should keep the leaders jersey for now. Jeff took a couple points out of my lead, but he won't be able to gain enough points in the remaining two races to take if from me. John Bayley could come close though. He usually does Burke and does well there. I think after Burke, John could be second in the standings. Too soon to say if I have the series win in the bag. It will take some number crunching when the points are updated.

As always, Mary Power and crew does an outstanding job pulling this event off each year. With racers, spectators and support crew, I bet there are upwards of 2000 people involved. This year there were by far the most spectators at the summit in 10 years, and they were going nuts. The Harts Turkey meal is never to be missed with Ben and Jerry's ice cream afterwards. Richard Fries entertains the start, finish and awards.

I was originally bummed when D2R2 was schedule the same day as Mt Washington this year. In hind sight now, it was just as well. It is unlikely I would have even finished D2R2 in the 90 degree heat they had. We even had people passing out from the heat on Mt Washington 200 miles north and much higher up. I hear Dave Penney and crew finished the ride even more quickly than last year's blistering pace. That amazes me. The roads were in pretty rough shape I here. There were some mishaps.

So as I type this at 36,000ft on my way to Colorado, I still don't feel right. The heat screwed me up somehow. Not only did I not sleep before the Mt Washington race (seriously), I could not fall asleep in my own bed Saturday night. Heart continued to pound hard all night. Two nights in a row. What's up with that? Now I have to try to sleep in another strange place Sunday night. Looking forward to some high country riding. Just hope I get out of this funk I'm in right now.

Uploading in Durango now. The drive from Denver is worthy of a post in itself. We're talking 3hr detour. I was livid. Seems everybody is on a single wireless node at once right now at the Best Western, so I'm only going to upload three pics for now. Monday should be a better day.


dyana said...

Good one....

Every one should read this ....
thanks for sharin with us......


Online Marketing of your brand

Kevin said...

All things considered you had a monster day! Well done.. The heat crushed me too and left me about 5 minutes away from where I thought I should be. But at least I made Top Notch so I can start with you next year :) Have fun in Durango.

glen said...

Doug, congratulations on another great performance. Have fun in Colorado.

Anonymous said...

Just moved to Maine and considering riding in the Mt Mansfield event. Any thoughts? Nice blog by the way. Really cool detail on lots of cool stuff. Enjoy CO.

Raineman said...

No sleep, severe dehydration, and altitude are a recipe for becoming a patient.
Glad you're alive enough to upload. Chill bro.

Mookie said...

I think you would have experienced a bit of thermonuclear meltdown at D2R2 this year. Look on the bright side, at least you didn't have to deal with the heat for 4.5 hours. The sun was merciless. Report is coming.

Luke S said...

I was hiking up the Webster-Jackson trail from Crawford Notch on Monday morning...and hiked the ridge to Lakes of the Clouds on Tuesday, both nearly as hot, and I was going through water like it was my business. Tuesday was warm enough to be able to sit for a long time in the lakes without discomfort.