Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mt Kearsarge Test Run

The Cambridge Sports Union ski club is running two rollerski hillclimb races up Mt Kearsarge on Oct 31 and Nov 14. Since I already committed to doing the Wicked Ride of the East on Halloween, I had to settle for getting just one timed shot on the mountain in on the 14th. This didn't stop me from heading there this past Saturday though. The state park website said they'd be open through Sunday the 31st. Cathy was willing to drive up so I wouldn't have to hike back down.

Upon arrival, the gate was locked. Ugh. There was no notice or anything about it opening this weekend. This sucked for two reasons. One is I didn't want to hike 3.4 miles down a paved road. The other was I feared that with no auto traffic, there could be lots of tree debris on the summit road.

My wonderful wife is willingly adaptive in these situations. She would get a head start up the road with some dry clothes and sneakers for me. We'd then hike the trail from the upper parking lot to the summit and walk all the way back down to the car. We'd both get a superb workout.

I brought my Pursuit rollerskis with no speed reducers and really slow wheels on them. Even so, I found I could not get any warmup in, as the road in either direction from the gate was too steep to control speed on, especially coming down into a locked iron gate. I gave up and went right into the climb with no warmup. To compound matters, I did nearly three hours of tough mountain biking the day before and an hour of rollerski drills the day before that. I was feeling pretty beat up and tight.

There is a mile long stretch at the bottom that averages nearly 12% grade. There are many sustained sections over 15%. With no warmup, this truly put me in a hole from the get-go. About 0.2 miles into the climb, I nearly gave up. I was ready to pull the phone out to call Cathy to abandon. The road was covered in slippery oak leaves and I could get no traction. Double poling on 15% grade just doesn't work, especially for a upper body cycling wuss like myself. I slipped so badly once I barely got hands down in time to keep my face from hitting the pavement. I persevered a bit longer though. I was glad I did. The leaf density thinned out about a half mile into the climb, and a mile into it, the road was bare. This was due to altitude, as trees there had dropped their leaves much earlier and there were more fir trees and fewer oaks.

Lower portion of road. Strip in middle was too narrow to skate.
Push-off was in the deep stuff on sides.

Cathy snapped photos of me as I passed. I surely have some technique deficiencies to work on. I went out too hard on the steep lower portion and had to back down a bit as the grade slackened some. There are a few minor downhills to recover on, if you take the bait. On a bicycle hillclimb, I never take the bait. You tend to go too hard again after a brief lull and hit deflection, which always costs seconds on the clock. Today was exploratory, so I didn't care. The final downhill has a steeper drop in it with a turn at the bottom. I actually scrubbed speed on this one because I didn't know how fast I would go. I realized this was completely unnecessary. Good to know come November 14. After reading about Alex's downhill mishap, I take even less chances on downhills.

I nearly ran over a porcupine. I failed to keep my head up on a steep section, then realized a porcupine was in the middle of the road and was in no hurry to get out of my way. He didn't seem very afraid. Cathy came within a few feet of him a few minutes later too. And no, porcupines cannot throw quills. This is a myth. It would suck to fall on one though.

Probably 17% grade here

From the last dip to summit is less than a mile at moderate grade. I ramped the pace back up again, going deeply anaerobic.  From toll gate at the bottom to end of pavement at the parking lot took me exactly 36 minutes. It is about 1500ft net gain.  This was the hardest effort I put in since the Allen Clark bicycle hillclimb at the beginning of the month.

For the CSU timed event Sunday morning, I hear they took a leaf blower to the course. Based on some of the finishing times, I should be able to break 34 minutes when I come back on the 14th. I'll come with fresher legs and I may put the faster tires back in my Pursuits, although then I would lose my apples to apples comparison.

Soaking wet in howling wind, I nearly froze waiting for Cathy to reach the upper lot. I put dry uppers on, laced up AATD's (ankle anti-taco devices) on both ankles, puts sneakers on, then headed the rest of the way to the summit. With the gate locked, we were the only ones out here on Saturday. This was a first for me.

Cathy on summit, taken from fire tower

I wanted to climb at a brisk pace, maybe even encroach on trail running pace. With ankle supports on both ankles, I was quite confident I wouldn't sustain a serious injury. I need more impact time on my feet, and the technical climb would offer lots of agility practice. It took me upwards of 8 minutes to reach the summit at a steady aerobic pace. For the first time in many years, I actually felt confident on my feet on a steep, technical hiking trail. It was bitter cold up top. The water in rock crevasses was frozen solid. Heavy overcast diminished the 100 mile view.

Snow capped Mt Cardigan (I think) in distance

Now it was a four mile hike back to the car. Cathy has no trouble staying with me on the descents. There was a steady stream of walkers coming up on our way down. The porcupine was still milling about too. The descent hurt far more than the TT up. The front of my knees got very ornery on the paved 12-15% grades. Overall, it turned out to be a great morning. Cathy and I both got a workout. At least with the gate locked, I had no auto interference during my climb. We got to enjoy the summit without a soul around. Normally, this summit is crowed on weekends.


plum said...

Thanks for the pics Doug. Hoping to squeeze one more bike effort up the road before the end of the year. Good to know what to expect in terms of leaf drop.

Alex said...

It was very nice having had the leaves blown off the road for us, although I think the fact that they'd dried out a bit on their own helped matters. I think the next race is classic? But you'll probably be able to skate, if you ask nicely.

I'm impressed that you were able to ski that fast with no warmup and after cooking yourself on the steep first climb with wet leaves. Nice work!