Sunday, August 14, 2011
This weekend came down to a choice between road racing three hours in the rain on Sunday or savoring several hours on trails on Saturday. The trails won. My track record of following through with planned bike races is pretty abysmal this summer. I've only raced twice on road, once off-road, and once up hill. I've done almost as many foot races. I really dislike racing in the rain, be it on or off road. Hard on the equipment and risky for the body.
I hit the Northeast Kingdom trails just a few weeks ago. DaveP hadn't been up yet this summer, and it didn't take any persuasion to convince me to go again. Seems others had similar ideas for the day. None other than Mike and Cathy rolled in just after we did. Dave and I had a slightly different agenda for the day, however. We planned to knock off a little climb called Burke Mountain to get the legs loosened up, then head over to Radar Mountain via the back way. When Mike mentioned he's been up Radar Mtn before, it nearly brought a tear to my eye until he clarified it was when he went up there to party in younger years.
We started up Burke on Burnham, then Camptown, before finishing the last 1200ft gain on pavement. It is amazing how much more difficult this climb is on a full squish mountain bike with fat 24psi tires than a road bike with skinny 120psi tires. Dave and I both thoroughly pummeled ourselves on this beast.
We no more than got on singletrack than my fork started clunking. Loudly. I immediately realized I blew the top-out spring. Again. It was still rideable, but even the tiniest bumps caused the fork to rebound with a sharp metal-to-metal clunk. This would send shock waves through my wrists. Very unnerving riding down root gardens like this. What pissed me off the most is this is the bike I need to race at the NH100 next weekend and take to Colorado right after that. I just replaced the air plunger assembly in the fork for the same failure. I will see if Fox will send me one no-cost (fat chance). I will need it next-day shipped.
Next up (or down I should say) was all of the Moose trail network. Some greasy bits in there kept me on my toes with balding Mutanoraptor tires. We popped out on Rt 114, beared right, and immediately began climbing on Victory Rd. It turns to dirt shortly and gains about 1000ft as it passes through a notch in the mountains.
A small descent brings us to the back way up Radar Mtn, a usually gate forest service road. The gate was open today. 4-5 miles of gentle climbing along a stream brought us to Radar Mtn Rd. This is where the serious climbing begins. It is loose gravel and decomposed asphalt to start, then surprisingly good pavement as it gets really steep further up. Grades regularly went above 15%. Felt just like climbing Burke all over again. I definitely wasn't going anaerobic anymore, but close to threshold pace. Had no choice to go at least this hard, unless I wanted to walk.
There's about 2600ft net descent from the summit back to town. With nearly 6000ft of climbing already in the legs, some coasting time was badly needed. It is not all downhill though. We took the more direct route back, staying on Radar Mtn Rd all the way down to Rt 114. This entailed a 500ft climb along the way to go over the same ridgeline that Victory Rd goes over.
By the time we got back to town, I had been out of water a good 45 minutes. Bonking too. Those Starbucks frappuccino drinks are resuscitators. That and a large chunk of beef jerky, which must be 50% salt by weight.
With fuel and fluids topped off, we headed over to Darling Hill. We were running over on time, but there are some must-hit trails over there. First up was the freshly minted Troll Stroll trail. Doesn't quite pack the adrenaline factor of Sidewinder, but it was classic downhill run material that makes NEK so popular. We traversed over to Sidewinder next, Dave and I both taking all the high lines. You can't hesitate there or hit the brakes on the way down each time, else you'll surely peter out at the top and go for quite a tumble. You cannot ride Sidewinder without letting out a yelp.
We hit random trails on the way to the last trail of the day, Kitchell. Kitchell is set up with huge berms, table tops and doubles. I don't quite dare clear a table top or double, but I did manage to get modest air on many of the features. It is an awesome way to finish up a long day in the saddle.
The wired odometer captured 59.2 miles in 5.6 hours, while the Garmin barometric altimeter captured about 7800ft of climbing. It was my biggest day ever in all three metrics at NEK. Needless to say, rides like these bring you to that special place that only a major release of endorphins can. A Thanskgiving sandwich from the cafe started the recharge process. Carved turkey, Vermont sharp cheddar, stuffing and cranberry sauce on a massive sub roll. I think it weighed twice as much as a Chipotle burrito. I made it disappear in ten minutes. Dave had to wait for them to make a second one for him. Seems some dude took his sandwich before his name was called.