Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fabulous Day in the Whites

I had hoped to do a 50 miler off-road somewhere on my off-Friday, but heavy rain over the previous couple days nixed those plans.  A CX loop in northwest Connecticut on dirt roads I've wanted to try for a long time looked good until I realized I'd have to fight Friday rush hour traffic there and back. Six hours of driving for 3-4hrs riding wasn't going to meet my efficiency criteria. So I settled on a safe standby, a ride in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. About 100 minute drive to Lincoln and no traffic to contend with.

Since the advent of GPS and topo mapping software, I occasionally apply an artistic filter to route planning. Sometimes the track on a map is visually stimulating. Sometimes the ride profile promotes goosebumps. I wanted climbing on Friday, as it would be my last big training day before the Ironcross race next weekend. So I started poking around in DeLorme Topo to see how I could populate the fewest miles with the mostest vertical.

I looked at all the climbs in the Lincoln area. Vertical gains vary by nearly 2:1. I also noticed that there was about 250ft difference between the climbs. Generally, in a workout, you are freshest at the beginning and and can hold the highest intensities for short efforts. I wondered what ordering the climbs from smallest to biggest would look like. This is what I got:

Kinsman Notch, Thornton Gap, Gonzo Pass, Kancamagus Pass.
Pretty, eh? Gives me goosebumps.

My plan was to ride these climbs as out and backs, coming back down to Lincoln each time.  I nearly left the house with my SPD shoes for the CX bike still in the bag. You have no idea how pissed I would have been to get up there without my Speedplay shoes for the road bike. Parking at the WMVC, there were several other cars in the lot with bike racks. The sky was clear, and it was uncharacteristically warm for the last day of September. How often can you go short sleeves this late in the season? I enquired about the condition of Tripoli Rd. It had been closed for two weeks after Irene but was repaired and open again. I was warned it would be choppy.

Just before 13% grade plummet on Kinsman, looking east,
sky still clear.

I hit Kinsman Notch pretty hard, especially that half mile of 13% near the top. I had a strong headwind coming back down and barely broke 50mph. During this short climb, the sky went from turquoise blue to heavy overcast. I panicked a little, fearing I would get robbed of a full ride if it poured out. I continued to Tripoli Rd next, which crests at Thornton Gap.  The gravel was in mint condition. Only a few cars passed me during my time on this dirt climb. I was able to bomb back down at speeds approaching 40mph. There was nothing choppy about it.

Tripoli Rd. Fall riding doesn't get any better than this!

[begin soapbox] I noticed these anti-powerline signs everywhere. So I checked out the website. Americans keep getting stupider and stupider. I can understand rallying against a gigawatt powerline being run through wildlands on aesthetic grounds, but to claim your health will be destroyed from radiation? Hypocrites and fear mongerers. A cell phone next to the head will give you 1,000,000 times the radiation living near power lines will. And besides, the proposed power line is DC - no alternating field whatsoever. This organization proposes that a 140 mile (225,000 meter) section should be run underground using superconductors cooled with liquid nitrogen. Oh yeah, that will definitely work, because a company has a 600 meter prototype working somewhere. Long-haul superconducting power transmission will eventually be reality, but not economically viable right now.  I made some YBCO superconductor samples in college and have an appreciation for how temperamental the stuff can be.  The technology is progressing, but slowly.  We have a failing grid system in this country, especially on the east coast. Being able to bring in excess power from Canada now sounds like a good idea to me. Americans are the biggest energy hogs on the planet, yet we continually protest energy development, be it new nuclear plants, wind farms, oil exploration or even grid infrastructure. [end soapbox]

The cloud deck had now dropped well below 4000ft, socking in Cannon Mtn to the north. I feared rain was imminent. Instead of refueling at the car, I headed straight into the third climb, Gonzo Pass, which is Rt 118 or "The Sawyer Hwy." This climb ups the ante by another couple hundred feet and gets much steeper. It took me around 33 minutes to reach the top. A couple warnings shots were fired across the bow on the cramping front. This was precisely the territory I wanted to visit during this ride. I rarely cramp in training rides and needed some HTFU conditioning. The NH-DOT had scraped some new asphalt on the rough bits, making the descent a little more enjoyable.

I swung by the car before my final climb. Still no rain. This last climb up the Kanc would be interesting, as it was nearly twice as big as my first and I was on verge of cramping. I had eaten next to nothing too and was starting to bonk. I pressed on, into a rare east headwind.

I got into a good tempo groove. I was surprised to see how high up the section that got washed away by Irene was. I thought it would have been by Loon Mtn. The bridge over the Pemi into Loon was being rebuilt. As I crested the top, a few other riders came over from the other side. One called out my name. I keep running into Bob Treadwell in random places. His group was heading back down into Lincoln too, just finishing up a 78 mile loop.  I stopped for a couple photos up top and then drilled the descent. I didn't want to leave anything in the tank.

Looking up the Kanc.

I got back to the car with 77.2 miles in 4.4 hours riding time on the computer. Topo says this ride should tally 8000ft of climbing. I felt almost as wrecked as after the Vermont 50 last weekend. Mission accomplished. DOMS should be peaking for the Allen Clark TT on Sunday morning. That ought to be interesting. I'll probably get girled.


mkr said...

Awesome route choice for a questionable/threatening day. That is going on the short list for sure. Tripoli is seasonal, right?

Hill Junkie said...

Yep, gates on Tripoli close in November. Then it is still fair game until snow makes it not. You may know the east side of Tripoli (only 800ft of vert) is paved and WV grooms it for XC skiing, one of my favorite interval workouts in the winter. Tripoli is usually better maintained in the summer than Jefferson, at least better than the south side of Jefferson which sees a lot of traffic. When I last looked at the state road closure map, Jefferson was still closed.

Rich said...

Junkie as a property owner in Thornton. I have a problem with your comments about the power lines. I am not a tree hugging enviormentalist or am I afraid of getting fried! But what they are proposing to do is crazy. Do you understand how large these towers are going to be? Or how many people that are going to be displaced? Or how it is going to effect one of the most beautiful parts in New England. Before you make comments or pass judgement maybe you should read the whole plan! Or maybe we should just run the power lines right over the top of your house!

Hill Junkie said...

Rich, I mentioned I can understand the aesthetic problems with high-tension power distribution. I was primarily reacting to fear propaganda some of the anti-Northern Pass websites try to instill. There is no evidence power lines can damage your health. In fact, the wiring in your house produces higher EMF than living say a couple hundred feet away from high voltage lines. Same for cell towers. Trasmit powers are quite low. You will absorb many orders of magnitude higher radiation from handset because it is zero inches away. Anti-powerline groups lose credibility when they play the "radiation card."

There are HVDC powerlines running through my town, less than two miles from my house in Pelham. They are often referred to as the "Hudson Powerlines" in the trail user community, as they also cut through Hudson where they go over the Merrimack River. I ride the trail that runs under these powerlines regularly.

Argue on aesthetic and wilderness grounds. A study linking ill health from powerlines was discredited long ago. Fight to use existing right-of-ways rather than create new ones in uninterupted wildlands. Then I could support this fight.