Thursday night after work I headed over to Pack Monadnock for my weekly fix of endorphin. I brought two modalities of fix means with me, a bike and running shoes. Traffic sucked heading down 101a during rush hour. I had no idea. It was nearly 7pm when I got to the mountain with barely an hour of good light left. It was pretty frigid too, and I brought only short layers.
I struggled with how to plan this workout. Do I run first? Bike first? How do I warm up? I figured traffic on Rt 101 sucked, so why not do a warmup with the bike up Pack itself. There were just a couple other cars there and the gate was locked. I just put a new compact crank on my climbing bike, so I had reasonably low gears. I sauntered up in about 13 minutes, a moderate tempo pace. The digital weather display up top said it was 52F and 25mph wind.
Bombing down, I first passed a Team BOB guy that I saw on the highway while driving up. Then I passed two more guys, running while pushing bicycles. My first thought was what a couple of Freds, they have to push their bikes up this. They looked like a father-son pair, the younger in a T-shirt and no helmet.
At my car I quickly swapped over to running shoes. Does a bike warmup work for running? I would soon know. I went out hard from the gate, hitting mild deflection a minute later. When I got to the first really steep pitch, maybe >15%, I was gasping, but still breathing very deep and slowly. It was a most peculiar sensation. I don't think anything I do on the bike drives my respiration so intensely. I came with fresher legs than last time, so I was intent on achieving a foot PR.
After the first switchback, there's a sustained section of 12-15% that is just brutal. I wanted to stop and just walk so badly. That is another sensation I never get on a bike, wanted to give up. There's really no way to go easy on foot on such a steep grade. Backing off at all means walking.
When I got to the final wall, 0.2mi at nearly 20% grade, my running stride had diminished to little more than baby steps. Even on the bike, I probably don't go much faster on this section. I thought surely I'd go over my previous best, which was on wicked trashed legs, so I was bumming and ready to give up before reaching the top. Glad I didn't. I managed to take 20sec off with a 11:46 time. Had there been a patch of grass up there, I would have flopped in it.
The run/walk back down sucks. It is very hard on the knees and quads. I walk the steep parts and lightly run the less steep parts. With so much tree debris on the road, I was afraid of slipping if I let my speed run out. Wouldn't you know it, father-son team came running up with their bikes again. Ok, now my brain was hurting processing that information. Freds would never push their bikes up a second time. Plus, they were hauling-A. No time to exchange pleasantries on the mountain.
One run was enough for me, so I traded shoes again and went up with bike at race pace. My best bike time from several years ago was 9:35. I figured I should be good for at least a sub-10. My legs didn't feel right at all starting out. It wasn't until half way up that I started to feel like a cyclist again.The father-son pair came blasting down on my ascent.
I reached the top in 10:25. I was bummed. Did the run really take that much out of my legs, or is my VOmax still off that much, as it was earlier this spring? Don't know. The temperature was now 50F and I had to get down fast, as I was soaked in a short sleeve jersey.
The father-son team were loading up bikes, so I swung over to talk with them. It dawned on me that I was going about my runs on this mountain wrong and they had the right idea. I told them this. Funny how at first I questioned their training mode, when in fact I was the wacky one on the mountain. Turns out they are both runners. The son is into ultra running. The father has been doing hillclimb running for many years. They train together, bringing their knee preservation devices up with them on the run. I would like to do repeats on Pack, but the hikes back down are far more abusive than the runs up. I will probably forgo worrying about PRs next time I go there and run up with my bike so I can do it at least a couple times. The father-son team did four repeats, although they didn't go quite all the way to the top each time! I was humbled.
The sun was setting. After our talk, I had just enough light left for one more ride up. Threshold pace was best I could do on this fourth ascent. It was now 48F up top. A quality, compact workout. 3200ft of climbing in 10.4 miles. I need to do these more often leading up to the Ascutney hillclimb run. Anybody interested in a Pack Attack Challenge? This would be a bike and run on same day, combining uphill times. A triathlete friend from work has accepted my challenge, maybe early July. Could do in the evening of a work day too.