Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dubious Success

This weekend saw another big step-up in the road to recovery. The 4NaaP ride the previous weekend didn't kill me, so I figured I should try harder. The Jay Peak double pass/Smugglers Notch loop was looking attractive. I think of all the dubious training value rides I do, this ranks about third in dubiousness, behind D2R2 and 6-gaps. It's not so much the distance (116 miles) or the vertical (over 10,000ft), but how the vertical is presented. There are numerous 100-200ft rollers along the route, many at double-digit grades. Human nature is to power over these things, but this has an accumulative effect.

Looking south. Jay Peak is prominent mountain in foreground.
Canadian border runs along bottom of image.

No doubt all readers from this corner of the country experienced the best riding weather so far this season. It was perfect this weekend. Glen Fraser and I drove up to Stowe, Vermont early to capitalize on the nippy morning air. It was just warm enough up there to not need arm warmers.

Glen was chomping at the bit on some of the early rollers on the route. I held back. I learned my lesson the prior weekend. I still have many weeks of work cut out before I can start riding aggressively again. I had no qualms about letting Glen do much of the work on flatter parts.

The first notable climb is Hazen's Notch. It is gravel up and over. It was recently graded on the climb side, but the tire patches in the center of the road were decent to ride on. The descent was uber hairball though. It is steep and the rock hard gravel was very bumpy. Throw in some random erosion ruts around blind corners and rednecks in pickups coming up, it was white knuckles for sure. We both escaped without flats or getting tied down in the bed of a pickup as a trophy kill.

Glen heading into Hazen's Notch.

Hazen's dumps out in Montgomery, which has a well stocked local grocery store. This would be our first of two stops, about one third of the way into the ride. Next up, we hit some more steeply rolling terrain with great views along Rickford Road. This terminates in a fast descent with incredible views over the border into Canada.

The serious work of the ride begins next, with back to back several mile long climbs. The first climb parallels the Canadian border, skirting the northern flank of Jay Peak. I'm not aware of any name given the pass the road sneaks through. Rt 105 is in rough shape going up, the reason I prefer to ride the loop in this direction. The descent is pure bliss, four miles of monotonic descent on buttery smooth pavement.

We cut across on Cross Road to immediately climb the southern pass of Jay Peak, Rt 242, the main access road to the ski area. This climbs much more aggressively. There's a half mile approaching the peak that hovers in the 10-14% range. From here, it is all down hill back to Montgomery again. You can easily go over 50mph on this one, although the pavement is a bit frost heaved.

Near summit of Jay Peak north pass, Rt 105.

Back in Montgomery, we refueled at the same grocery store. A couple years ago on a 6-gaps ride, Andy Gardner turned me on to Sardines as a way of getting some needed protein in such long efforts. They go down surprisingly well. Must be the sodium.  The deal was, I spilled the oil on my gloves. I smelled like a dead fish. I burped up dead fish for a while too. Only 41 miles to go.

Looking back down Rt 242 Jay Peak south pass.

Up to this point, I was riding quite conservatively. Cramping up like I did the previous weekend after 90 miles would be catastrophic on this ride. The biggest climb started over 100 miles into the ride. I was feeling pretty good though, so I planned to empty the tank on Smugglers Notch.

There is a lot of rolling climbing en route to Smuggs. It is hard to find a rhythm on it. The last time I did this ride, DaveP got somewhat annoyed by the constant up/down up/down. The road has been fully reconstructed, there was negligible traffic, and the scenery was continuously good on the eyes. What's not to like about it?

Finally we reach Jeffersonville, the northern base of Smugglers Notch. One last bite of fuel, then it was hammer time. I went out pretty hard. Maybe two thirds of the way up, I didn't feel so good and thought I made a mistake. I made the summit without bonking or cramping though. The tank was very nearly empty. I saved my hardest effort for the very end of the ride. Solobreak would have been proud.

Coming into Smugglers Notch from the north.

It is pretty much all downhill from top of Smuggs back to Stowe. The top part is the most unique mountain pass road in all of New England. Single lane, weaving around and under giant boulders. Those signs at the bottom stating the road is not suitable for semi's - they're serious.

Top of Smugglers Notch.

I finished with 6:55hrs on the bike computer. Like an idiot, I forgot to restart the Garmin right away after one of the stops, losing about 7 minutes and a couple hundred feet of vertical. Topo gives 12,900ft of vert for the ride, the Garmin gives around 10,200ft based on barometric altimeter. Truth is probably in between 10,200 and 11,000ft. I was three minutes faster than riding solo in 2007 but 17 minutes slower than riding with Dave in 2008. I was thoroughly satisfied with the ride. I'm now thinking I may be able to tackle the full D2R2 ride in three weeks.


Mookie said...

Ah, nothin' better than a little dubiousness. Seeing pics of Smuggler's sparked some bad memories.

Wanted to ask you, what are you going to run for tires this year at D2R2? I'm leaning towards Michelin Jets.

Hill Junkie said...

Tires for D2R2 completely depends on weather leading up to the ride. If we get enough rain to make the roads firm, I may try 25mm Michelin Pro 3 Race tires. I did not like the 28mm Specialized Armadillo tires I ran two years ago with you guys. They are bullet proof, but ride hard as rock and have high rolling resistance. I do not immediately have other alternatives on hand. My Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires will only fit on my cross bike. I'd rather use a lighter road bike that fits me better. Jets might be a good compromise. I'll have to see if they'll fit my road bike.

Nate Lanier said...

Seriously bummed I had to miss this. I had to suck it up and take a Saturday to shoot some senior photographs that I have been procrastinating over for weeks. The fact that I bent a rim in a small crash certainly helped me stay home... Riding ancient cement Bontrager's for 12,000 some-odd feet of vertical = not appealing to the senses.

Figures I picked the best Saturday of the year to do it.

Looks like a great time!

Hill Junkie said...

Nate - there will be a couple more rides like this later this fall. The rest of August is booked out for me - Kingdom Trails this weekend, a weekend in VT with my wife, then D2R2, then Pikes Peak/CO trip at the end of the month. I'm probably joining a large group for 6-gaps on Sept 18.

Mr. P said...

Great to see you back and riding strong.

rick is! said...

man, that smuggler's notch pass looks awesome.

Mike Tierney said...

Smugglers Notch is one of my favorite uni rides ever, loved seeing the picture. Congrats on the recovery.