Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hurts Just Like Weston

The High Point Hill Climb is one of the longest running hill climb races in the northeast, second only to Mt Washington. It was about time I got down there to check it out. This was an "exploratory" race for me. No goal, no taper, and barely even any sleep. I left the house for New Jersey shortly after 4am. I was not about to stay overnight for a 21 minute race.

Do you think I could sleep for the few hours I was in bed? Instead of pre-race jitters, I stressed over the need to fall asleep right away. So after a couple hours, I get pissed, and it was all over. I think getting up early is more detrimental to sleep than stressing over some big event the next day.

High Point is a USAC sanctioned time-trial. This mean one rider goes off every thirty seconds. First rider went off at 9:30am, I went off at 9:38am. I had hoped my start was more like 10:30am so I could have more time to sleep, but no such luck. The drive down was wicked fast. Google said 4:15 driving time. I did it in 3:30hrs without going crazy fast (can't see cops when it is dark out). So I had lots of time to chill.

High Point is also unique in that you park and register at the top. Then you have to ride down to the start. We start right at Exit 1 off I-84 in front of a Dairy Queen. The first four miles of the course climbs steadily on SR-23, which has a climbing lane most of the way to the High Point State Park entrance. In the park, we pick up a skinny single lane road the remainder of the way to the summit. The course is not monotonic. There are multiple downhills on the way up. On the upper part, the downhills were followed by some uber steep uphills, probably over 15% grade. The average for the whole climb is only ~5%, gaining nearly 1300ft.  Doesn't mean it is easy, you just go faster.  Scaling some High Point power numbers from another rider I know and bouncing that against my estimated fitness right now, breaking 21 minutes would be a stretch. This gave me an idea on how to pace.

Warming up, I inhaled no less than three black flies. They were thick up top. I also was dismayed at how ill fitting my hillclimb bike was. It was the first time on it this year. I thought to myself I should have logged a few hours on this bike to get reacquainted with it. I could barely reach the bars without scooting forward on the saddle. I'm normally really fussy about setting all my bikes up the same, so I was surprised by this.

I'm pretty sure it was already over 80F queuing up at the start. First a bunch of juniors went off, then us old fart masters 45+. I caught my 30 second guy in 80 seconds. What, me go out too hard? Naw. My one minute guy seemed to always stay one minute ahead. Ten minutes into the climb, I was passing many riders. Not my one minute guy though. I caught my one minute guy as we turned into the state park. Now we had the most technical portion of the course to go. The pitch would change from -8% to 15%+ a couple times along the ridgeline. I easily put time on my one minute guy on the steep parts. He had a much more aero setup than I did and held his ground on the fast parts. I do not own a single piece of aero equipment.  Many riders here used aero wheels and helmets. There were multiple places on the course where you would cruise 30-40mph. I spun out my biggest gear twice up top. A compact crank didn't quite cut it here.

The High Point Hill Climb course. This is NJ's highest point.

I think I had passed all but one rider staged ahead of me when I crossed the line in 21:53. I could have used some cross country ski poles to help prop myself up like after finishing a 20 minute Weston sprint race. It hurt that bad. My one minute guy was Kevin Haley (Signature Cycles). He asked what age group I was in. He was bummed I was in his age group then told me I won. I figured there were several staged behind us, so there was no way to know this yet. He said he won the 45's last year, and I just beat him by a minute and a half. Ok, that sounded a little more convincing.

From monument, looking down at finish area.

I stuck around for awards. Scored some nice Bontrager gloves and bar tape, both things I can really use. Cash is paid out only to top three Pro/1/2/3 finishers. I thought about registering in that category, but top three here would be tough. I finished 6th overall.

Racer on the rolling ridgeline section.

In the results, I noticed DeJay Birtch listed. I wonder if this is the DeJay of Niner singlespeed fame, who raced locally last weekend and other local bloggers have mentioned. What would a singlespeeder be doing in the realm of pointy helmets, $3000 tubular wheelsets and shaven legs? If he did High Point on a singlespeed in 23 minutes and change, that would be mighty impressive.

After awards, I swung by Bear Mountain/Harriman State Parks for a post race road ride. I had a 46 mile loop mapped out, all climbing, including the summit of Bear Mountain. This peak is another I've long wanted to check out. Due to it's proximity to NYC, it is a very popular cycling climb. It gains about 1300ft from the Hudson River, mostly gradually, except for one short piece that goes double-digit.

Scenery on Rt 106 just off 7 Lakes Dr.

It was now at least 90F. I died a thousand deaths coming up the south side of 7 Lakes Drive. It was in full sun with no wind. When I dropped down the other side by the Hudson, I got a little respit from the heat. Funny how a 21 minute TT can destroy your legs for the rest of the day. I was determined to make it to the summit of Bear Mtn though. Even late afternoon, there were hundreds of people up top. I'm sure the ethnic diversity matched that of the big city. The view to the south was fantastic. I did not drop down to catch the view to the east, as I didn't want to climb that little bit to the top again. Riding here was mixed. At times, I could have sworn I was riding the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Others times, like roads outside the park to link things up, it sucked. A good portion of 7 Lakes Dr has been repaved, but other roads in the area were 10 years past due for repaving.

Southwest view from summit of Bear Mtn. 7 Lakes Dr in distance.

Descending the upper part of Bear Mtn (Perkins Memorial Dr), I got mixed in with some motorcycles. I'm not sure what they thought of some pasty looking dude in spandex drafting inches off one of their bikes at 40mph. When we got to the stop sign at 7 Lakes Dr, one of the guys said he was impressed. My post race ride went 46mi in 2.7hrs with ~4000ft of climbing in oppressive heat.

Bear Mountain on the Hudson (3x vertical exaggeration).

When I hung my bike up at home in the evening, I felt like an idiot. My saddle had slid all the way back on its rails. It was off by 1.5"! When did this happen? Had to be last fall.  How could I not realize this? It's a wonder I didn't injure myself with 4hrs in the saddle on that setup. I wonder how much power that cost me on the climb?

You can see two faint black marks where I marked where the seatpost
clamp is supposed to be. The saddle should be all the way forward on
the rails.

I might go back again sometime. The event was very well run, the course well marshalled, good swag, and great views.   I'd take a MTB for post race activities, spend the night before locally.  Who knows, maybe with some sleep, tapering, and a properly adjusted bike, a 21 minute stretch target is achievable.


Lanier said...

Hey Doug- Nice ride. Surprised that one look at the seat didn't tip you off so you could fix it.

Anyway, I used to have some of the same sleeping trouble you have. Then one day I read somewhere that you'd be surprised how much sleep you are actually getting when you think you're not sleeping. I thought about it and realized that it must be true, because even on nights where I thought I couldn't sleep I seem okay the next day, at least way better than if I hadn't been in bed. Now when I can't sleep I just think of that and don't worry about it. It has helped me a ton.

plum said...

Doug what's the name of the government program you used to weatherproof that seatpost clamp?

Nice pics - seems like a neat event. A little far for me but neat.

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug, congrats on your Highpoint ride. Just think, next year you can ride a proper-fitted bike, race for money...and finance your trip with the winnings!
You've got great roads by you. Don't "waste" your trip next year on the NY/NJ roads. You were so close to dirt nirvana - Wawayanda State Park on Vernon/Hewitt NJ. With a good guide or GPS track, I guarantee you'll agree.
Rode the Kingdom this weekend. Trails were perfect. Also hit a new place - Pine Hill Park in Rutland VT. Tons of fun (assuming you dig totally buff, bermed single track...). Not a destination place. But great if you're in the area. (
Be well,
Brian from NJ

CB2 said...

I was wondering about that seatpost too.
Just think how much faster you'll be next year if you fix your position and eat 4 flies!

Hill Junkie said...

I got sick of pulling bottom bracket everytime I got caught in rain on that bike. The frame would fill with water and destroy the unsealed D/A BB. Perhaps I could lay a discrete bead of silicon around the clamp to improve the asthetics.