Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ready for Tucson

I've always been keen on preventative maintenance on my bikes. It is pretty rare something breaks on my bike while riding. Something is far more likely to break on my body! This doesn't mean I obsess over keep my bikes clean though...

With a trip planned to Arizona in a couple weeks, it was time to address a few things on my daulie I plan to bring. First, the tires. The Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires are great for smooth hardpack, but the onion skin sidewalls are no match for sharp rocks and cactus thorns that are plentiful in Arizona. Even though the tubeless ready tires were not even halfway used up, they came off. I decided to go full UST tubeless, with real sidewalls. I've not ridden Kenda's Small Block 8 tires before. Reviews claim they are fast. They are also the heaviest tires I've bought at over 850g each. This will add over 1.5 lbs to my bike. I hope the low rolling resistance helps compensate for the extra heft.

My rear shock, a Fox RP23, holds air flawlessly. I can't remember the last time I even checked it. Maybe 6mo ago? Anyway, I'm noticing more greasiness on the shaft these days. Fox sells seal kits cheap and no tools are really needed to rebuild the shock. It seemed like a good idea. Turned out to be really easy. Other than an Allan wrench to remove the shock and a small screwdriver to pry out the seals, no other tools were needed. The shock screws apart by hand. No weight penalty here. Going on 10 days now, shock still holds pressure, so I didn't botch it.

The rear pivot bushings were picking up a hint of play. These are some type of polymer material. Also cheap and easy to replace. Took just a few minutes to pop four new ones in.

It's been a while since I replaced the shifter cables. We've all ridden with somebody that's lost one. They end up with one gear in back and two or three up front if they are lucky. Turns out my front shifter cable was badly frayed at the derailleur and I didn't know it. Disaster averted. A section of rear shift cable housing was delaminating too. It flexes with the suspension, so it will last only so long. Replaced.

Then there's the drivetrain. I subscribe to the philosophy that you let the whole works gracefully wear out as a set, then replace the whole thing as a set. Foolproof this way. I've had too many instances in the distant past where I tried replacing just the chain when it started showing signs of wear, only to find it would skip over cog teeth in hard efforts, nearly sending me over the bars. Never again. Chains aren't cheap anyway, so replacing many chains to squeeze a little more life out of cassettes and chain rings isn't worth the risk. So the small and middle rings, chain and cassette were all replaced. XTR rings are not cheap! Fortunately, the largest, most expensive ring, usually lasts 2-3 drivetrain replacements. I go with CN-7701 (Dura Ace) 9spd chains but XT cassettes. XTR cassettes are stupid expensive and seem to wear out faster than XT cassettes. I just added 700g in tire weight, I shouldn't fret over a few 10's of grams cassette weight.

A pad check showed the front brake pads were too thin to make it through a trip, so new onces went in. I noticed the rotors were getting pretty thin too, so new Shimano Centerloc rotors were ordered. I should be good for the trip, but next time I replace pads, I need to put new rotors on to be safe.

Complete overhaul

My daulie is a bit of a behemoth now with the new tires. It weighs over 27 lbs, which is a lot for a 4" travel, 26" bike. I contemplated bringing my Superfly hardtail, which weighs 4 lbs less with 29" wheels, but not sure my taint can take that much abuse in a week.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Nuttin' but hills weekend

Trail of Tears
Continuing increased focus on the bike, it was a ride first, ski second weekend. With local heavy rain on Friday and snow at higher elevations, riding off-road locally was out of the question. A road ride didn't look very attractive either, with 40+mph winds expected, some areas potentially seeing 60mph gusts. The Cape received less rain, has no frost in the ground, and its sandy soil drains well. So on Saturday, Dave and I headed down to the Trail of Tears in West Barnstable.

I had plotted out a 30 mile loop that hit everything, including the wicked hilly 10 mile long moto loop in Sandwich and the small Otis Attwood parcel loop. Conditions were quite good. Some of the run-outs at bottoms of hills were a tad greasy under the leaves, making it very risky to let speed run out.

You have to search hard to find a flat 100 meters on this part of the Cape. My guess is the deeply corrugated land was formed by glaciers, as the gravelly ridges look a lot like eskers in other parts of New England. The moto loop in particular has many fall-line grades that are easily 30%. These require max efforts to go just fast enough to not fall over. Then it's death grip on brakes plummet to bottom, just to go up again. Repeat a couple hundred times. This is riding the ToT system. People ask how you can possible get 4000-5000ft of climbing in a 30 mile ride here. Come try it sometime. You'll swear you've done way more than that.

I came with fresh legs and didn't plan to leave anything in the tank when finished. We hit the moto loop still pretty fresh. The soil was packed and tacky, providing considerably more traction than last time I rode here with JB. I was also on my Superfly 29er hardtail this time. With the longer chain stays, that bike remains stable on crazy steep pitches. I was cleaning everything and having a blast. There was only one hill I botched on first attempt but cleaned it on a retry. I cleaned everything else on the moto loop. Never came close to that before. Dave is still running tubes with much higher pressure, so he didn't fare quite as well. He has some nice tubeless wheels on order, hopefully getting them before we head to Arizona in a couple weeks.

Bomb down fall line. Suspension bottoms out at bottom of these things.

Then grind your brains out up the other side, or...

... push your bike up if you slip traction.

It got surprisingly warm out. We both overdressed by about 30 degrees. It was almost shorts riding weather and I had AmFib tights on. A light weight base layer up top was all that was needed.

Back on the Trail of Tears, I was cruising along on a stony esker when a rock kicked loose under my front wheel, completely taking it out from under me. Without warning, I was bouncing off a bed of embedded citrus sized rocks. How I managed to not smash any bony bits on my body is beyond me. I don't think I ever crashed at ToT before. Most of the terrain is quite tame. It just requires considerable fitness and finesse to clean the climbs.

We finished with 30.7mi and 3:49hrs on the wired computer. 4200ft vert on the Garmin. Strava gives 5400ft of climbing. The Edge 500 has a barometric altimeter, which tends to under measure vertical by a lot when there are frequent grade reversals. I wonder if Strava recognizes this and adjusts for it? Regardless, nearly four hours of frequent, hard mashing left me pretty wrecked. Dave and I were both zombies on the way home. A good ride.

Waterville Valley Full Perimeter
I felt 90 years old when I got up Sunday morning. I wanted to ski. It was wicked cold and windy out. Wasn't sure if the ground refroze or not. Trail riding seemed risky still and road riding would have been a freeze fest. Then I looked up conditions for Waterville. All open? Seems they got a nice snow dump, and for the first time this season, opened up the rest of their trail system. That clinched the deal, baby!

I waxed the skies and headed up. It definitely was the most wintry looking yet as I headed up the valley. The wind was really moving snow around too. Sign off the highway said 10F.

I thought maybe I'd do a loop around the south end trails that were finally open, then see how I felt before heading over the the much bigger climbs on the north end. The snow was squeaky and abrasive. Not full-on sandpaper snow, but definitely slow. Soft in places too, since I think it was the first time some of the trails were goomed.

I went up Jennings Peak. The descent was frightful. I stopped twice to regain my composure. Ice moguls poking up, dirt, abrupt divots, not the kind of stuff a timid descender likes to see. Once on Fletchers, it was smooth climbing. I turned off on Upper Fletchers for the full treatment. Felt just like I was back on the Cape again. Grinding up at 4mph, skidding down to control speed, all fall line stuff. At least the infamous hairpin turn wasn't too terrifying. Criterion was open. That puts a good hurt into the legs too. Crazy grades up and down. By the time I finished the southern perimeter, I had over 1000ft of climbing in less than 6mi. Yep, just like the Cape.

Heading down Drakes

Cutting across the golf course wasn't too bad. Had to remove skis only once. Three of the drives had enough snow to ski right across. The extra special treatment was coming right up, skiing up Beanbender on grippy snow. And did I suffer. Snow was drifting across, as if it wasn't hard enough for shear grade alone. From the summit, I finally had 1-2km of pure descent before the next climb, Cascade. Cascade had been open part way for a while. Now the full one-way loop was open. The descent was pretty sketchy. Grooming left some pretty serious ruts around the numerous hairpin turns.

Looking back down Beanbender

I was now torn between continuing, which meant hitting the 800ft Tripoli Rd climb or heading back. I have a knack for burying myself each weekend, which takes half a week to recover from. But the conditions were just too good to quit just yet. I'd take each climb one at a time.

Tripoli was a slog. I was almost 30% slower than my PR time. I wasn't pushing the pace at all. Sometimes these things seem harder when you don't go hard. The conditions were sweet though. There was nothing sketchy at all coming down Tripoli Rd.

I figured I made it this far, I might as well head further in and hit Upper Osceola too, another few hundred foot climb. From the summit of Osceola, I figured I could manage just a bit more and head further back yet to hit Moose Run. At this point, I was so close to skiing a full perimeter, I had to do it. Had to include the Pipeline Trail climb on the way back too, of course. Not sure where the kilojoules came from, as I was past three hours moving time and running on fumes.

View from Bob's Lookout. Still can't get over that sky.

Since Lower Snows was still closed for some reason, I took connector back to the golf course, which meant a 5-10min walk on the road to close the loop. Been a long time since I did that, but there was no way I was skiing back up Snows and down Beanbender.

I finished with 43.1km, 4000ft and 3:19hrs on the Garmin. A slow day, but not unexpected with lead legs and slow snow. 7+ hours and 9000+ feet of climbing, all off-road, made for a solid weekend. Interestingly, my average speed for the two activities was almost identical. My run will be interesting on Monday...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Tuesdays are normally one of my hard training days. Over the last several weeks, this has been on skis at Weston. I'm about ready to give up on the ski season. With some very warm temps and rain in the forecast this week, it might not be worth any additional investment in the ski season. It will suck to have a whole season pass without a single ski marathon. Might as well shift focus to the bike. I opted for wheels instead of skis Tuesday.

I wasn't expecting much for my lunch ride. I hadn't taken a rest day since the weekend. Yet I had a window to ride and the weather was decent. I chose to do one of my frequently ridden hilly loops through Hollis and into Milford and back. It hits a series of small hills that are perfect for 2.5-5 minute VOmax efforts. This would be a good opportunity for another bike fitness benchmark.

I was surprised to break five minutes on the first climb, considering there was a headwind and I was wearing winter layers. That hurt awfully bad, but it was a good morale booster. I didn't have my Garmin setup to show average power for the interval, but I knew it had to be pretty decent. I'd find out when I got home.

There's a second climb on Pine Hill Rd I also hit hard with barely a break between the two. Even coasting, there's not much recovery time. Tyng Hill Rd comes in quick succession, a much shorter climb. Then the orchard climb on Rt 122. Recovery time was less than interval time for each hill. Masters road races are often like this, where different teams will attack on recurring hills. Either you recover quickly from VOmax efforts or you get dropped.

After a several mile break, Ponemah Hill is hit. Given I was quite ragged by this point, I was surprised to break five minutes on this one too. Riding with a power meter after several year hiatus was quite revealing. It was incredibly hard to keep the power up on the less steep parts and almost as hard to not go too hard on the steep parts.

At home, I was pleased to see I averaged 410W for nearly five minutes on the first interval. My weight is back to pre-Thanksgiving weight (73.0kg). This equates to 5.6W/kg for five minutes. In my best form, I can do about 6.0W/kg for five minutes, which is 440W at my current weight. So I've made pretty good progress in regaining bike fitness since my test up Uncanoonuc a few weeks ago.

A ride I did last Saturday didn't quite kill me, thus it must have made me stronger. I hooked up with some local strongmen, guys who've claimed national titles and even an overall win on Mt Washington. The 100km ride was chocked full of VOmax hillclimb efforts. Fifteen times during the ride, my power went over 600W. Twenty minutes from finishing, pretty much everything in my legs started seizing up. Had we gone another mile, I think I would have had an Everest Challenge incident. This is where I seized up still clipped in, toppled over and laid in the road for at least twenty minutes, unable to move. I hadn't push myself on the bike that hard in a long time. It was exactly what I needed.

You've heard of that 5 Hour Energy drink stuff, right? Well, there's a new craze now, inhalable caffeine! It is called Aeroshot and comes in a lipstick sized dispenser. All the energy, none of the calories! Kids are going to die on this stuff, and the FDA is already investigating.

Anyway, I felt like last Saturday's ride was an Aeroshot of fitness boost. I need to get kicked out of my comfort zone more often like this!

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I feel a bit left behind lately. This wacky winter has everybody putting in huge cycling volume, outdoors, on the road and on the trail. I read about riders riding every day outside in January, 10 hour weekends, and centuries on mountain bikes.  But not me.  Over the last several years, I've developed a passion for skate skiing in the winter months. I'm not very good at it, but it offers an alternative way to achieve a fine endorphin buzz. Some would call this cross training. High levels of cardio fitness can be maintained on skis.  Most winters, there are periods where you can't ride trails or even on the road safely. I detest trainers. I do not own one. Thus it is outdoors all the time for me. If there's too much snow to ride, that can only mean skiing is superb.

Perhaps I've been too hopeful this winter. I've tried to ski whenever I could, thinking winter will really arrive any day now, and I'd be all set, snickering at my friends sweating on trainers in the basement. Well, winter is almost over, and we still haven't seen snow. Now I fear my cycling friends are snickering at me, as they are fitter than ever in February, and I've only been on my bike at most a few times per week since Christmas.

It will be interesting to see how the cycling community fares this summer. Will there be a lot of early burn-out?  The older I get, the more I learn there's more to fitness than Watts on a bicycle. Cyclists on average tend to have pretty out of wack bodies. How many push-ups or sit-ups can an average cyclist do? How many can't touch their toes with locked knees? Cycling is probably one of the most muscle specific activities a human body can engage in. A very small subset of muscles are used, and only over a limited range of motion. We cyclists become highly unbalanced as we get older, and all kinds of maladies set in.

I learned this the hard way in 2010 when I shattered my ankle. Later I learned my bone density was very low, no doubt a factor. Total lack of impact weight bearing activity over many years of cycling and desk work contributed to this. Now I run to combat low bone density. Even though I run only 10 miles per week, my legs have changed shape as new muscles have been brought into play.

Skiing brings all of the body's major muscle groups into play - legs, core and upper body. To support my skiing passion, I began doing sit-ups and push-ups a couple years ago. Some say the upper body generates more than 50% of your power while skiing.

My hardest workouts since the beginning of the year have been on skis. I've been hitting the Weston "Tuesday Night Worlds" regularly. Thankfully we've had enough cold nights for them to make snow.  These 6-10km sprint races drive heartrates I cannot achieve on the bike. Unfortunately, skiing Tuesday night greatly diminishes the value of doing intensity work on the bike on Wednesday. Some days I'm left with no choice but to just back it down. Come weekends, I like to get in a 3hr ski in the mountains. 15-20min climbing intervals have huge cardio training value. But come Sunday, I have limp legs on the bike. The beauty of skiing is it doesn't tax any one muscle group like cycling does, yet you can hit crazy high heartrates. This also means it doesn't build cycling specific muscular fitness.

Almost half of my training so far this year was not on the bike

I tend think cardio is king in this situation. I hope so anyway. With a solid cardio base, the cycling specific fitness comes back quickly.  I've come into spring in past years very strong with few hours on the bike, hitting the podium at Battenkill in April three times. Should I be worried everybody else is pouring on the volume right now? If I were racing Battenkill this year, I would be a little worried, to be honest. It all depends on what my goals are.

One thing is certain.  I cannot continue to be a cyclist only. My body will not let me get away with it. Thus it is important that I gauge my fitness in ways other than simple bike benchmarks. I turn 50 this year. I can run 10km faster now than any other time in my life. I can do more push-ups and sit-ups now. I can ski 10km faster than ever. So if my Mt Uncanoonuc time on the bike is off by a minute, does this mean I'm less fit? I used to obsess over such narrow definitions of fitness. I still do sometimes. A diversity of benchmarks suggest I am more fit than at any other time in my life. That should be more important than cycling benchmarks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Doubling Up

After a solid weekend of training, I did manage to reward myself with a rest day on Monday. I'm sick of feeling like I'm in a training hole most of the time. So Tuesday rolled around, and I felt great. Best in a long time. I threw my bike with new Power Tap wheel in the car along with running shoes and skis. I wanted to cover all bases. I'd like to start focusing on the bike. When I saw that the Rangeley Loppet is definitely on again, I figured I might as well head down to Weston to ski. Tuesday night "worlds" is always a great cardio workout, just not very bike specific.

So at lunch, I decided to run, else I wouldn't meet my two runs per week objective. I felt like I was flying and fought hard to restrain myself. Most notable was my breathing. Even at a 7 minute pace, I was still four-stepping. This means while breathing in, my feet would go left-right-left-right before I started breathing out, which again would be left-right-left-right. My cadence was around 170 steps per minute. So I breath seriously slow while running. I've run with accomplished runners from work, and they say my breathing is freaky. It seems I have ample cardio capacity for running. This drives my what-if curiosities, like what if I really trained for running, where could I go with it? Anyway, I finished by running nearly a 7 minute pace the last couple miles, which I didn't want to do if I was ski racing several hours later. I figured we did a 10k race the Tuesday before, so it will only be 6km this night. I was wrong.

I got out of work late and had time to do only two laps of the course at Weston for warm-up. Conditions were amazing, pretty much as good as they can get. Tons of new snow were made and perfectly groomed. It was like mid-season packed powder conditions. My skis were a lot slower than last week though, and they got progressively slower during the night.

Pre-race instructions informed us we were doing five laps, for a 10+km race. No sense in letting the spectacular conditions go to waste, right? I felt impending doom, as I was feeling the run from a few hours earlier. I lined up same as week before, 8th row, but some row crowding went on and this put me back into at least 30th place.

We did the usual NASCAR neutral half lap before race went live. On the last hairpin before going live, crowding around the barrel boxed me in. I think 10 people got skis and poles all tangle up. The train I wanted to hang with was gone. So now should I kill myself in the first five minutes of a 30 minute race to get back on, or do I hope others around me try? I didn't recognize anybody near me, so it was doubtful they'd be able to close the large gap.

I buried myself for the next several minutes. I did catch back up to Victor and a few others. If I finish with Victor, I usually have a good race. I drafted and recovered for a while. Skiers kept getting shelled out of our group. I think it was Maddy that pulled for about two laps. Victor came up for a while too, then I took a partial lap pull. We were down to just three of us with nobody in sight front or back.  Maddy was doing a fine job "master blasting," and she put the screws to us in the last half lap. It seemed Victor and I had nothing to contest the sprint. I finished with 31:33 on the clock, good for 23rd place overall. Wicked fun. I skied about 22km in 1.2hrs for the night.

That made for two solid workouts in the same day. Feels like my fitness is starting to come back around, as I rebounded from the weekend overload rather nicely. I do need to start spending more time on the bike, else Dave will destroy me in Arizona next month.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Still eking out ski-bike weekends

On Saturday, we had a nice posse of skiers at Waterville Valley. Despite no new snow, WV still managed to hang on to their base on north-end trails. I had hoped for speedy conditions, but we didn't quite get them. The base seemed to be saturated with moisture, and this wicked up into a dusting of snow that fell overnight. It made for some pretty serious viscus friction. At least the grooming was flawless and the temp was mild.

I came with reasonably fresh legs and wanted to crank up Tripoli to see if I could best my fastest, which was 16:35 back in 2008. that was on ball bearing snow. This Saturday, I wouldn't be able to touch that, but I thought I could at least post my best for the season. We warmed up with a couple laps around Moose Run/Wicked Easy then headed down to Tripoli. It is a lot of fun to tool around with a five-man paceline on well groomed trails. I was joined by K-man, Buff Dave, Brett and Isaac.

I suffered mightily drilling Tripoli. Felt just like a Weston sprint race, except I was going half as fast. I reached the top in 17:18, easily my best this season, but nearly a minute slower than my PR. Had the conditions been like two weeks ago, I could have broken 16 minutes. I'm not getting fitter, my form is getting better. I was happy with the quality interval.  The descent was slow, with many patches of suction snow that transpired to send you into a faceplant.

After that we headed to Osceola. As expected, Dave drilled this one.These VOmax efforts are usually my specialty.  I did my best to stay with him, which I sorta did. We reached the picnic table at the end gasping with drool wrapped around our chins. Without poles to balance our hypoxic bodies, we surely would have toppled over. Good stuff. We did another lap around Moose Run before heading to the Livermore Rd side of the North End.

We tempo'd up Livermore road to Cascade Brook Trail. Dave bolted again on Cascade. This was approaching the two hour mark, and I had nothing left to respond to his attack. We bombed all the way back down, did the loop near the parking lot, then back up to Upper Snows. A truce was called on this one. There were a few rocks poking through approaching the chairlift. Other than that, coverage was good everywhere else. We met up with Colin at the summit, who's training for the American Birkie in a couple weeks.

We finished with 47.1km, 2800ft, in 2.9hrs on the Garmin. It was easily my hardest ski workout this season.  I was planning on doing only one marathon this season, the Rangeley Lakes Loppet. But now it looks like the event is in jeopardy due to uncertain snow conditions.

A solid ski workout needs to be topped off with a long trail ride the next day. The temperature plummeted about 30F overnight. Why does that scare some people off? This meant the trails would be frozen hard. No snow, no ice, brilliant skies. So what if the windchill is below 0F.

I planned a big loop I've never done before. I went data mining for GPS tracks on Garmin Connect and elsewhere to put a Boxford, Willowdale and Georgetown loop together. Goal was to minimize road content. I started at Boxford and rode the longest road segment starting out by heading towards Willowdale. From toasty car to 15F with 30mph wind in face brought instant icecream headache and teary eyes. Could have used more junk protection too. But given the choice between junk frostbite and riding an indoor trainer... I'll risk junk frostbite any day!

I had mostly tailwind to Willowdale and was there in no time. Once there, I knew my way around and planned to ride the full perimeter singletrack loop. Wish I had something in my legs. The ski workout left them lifeless. They refused to cooperate, but I kept insisting they perform. Eventually my legs realized I wasn't giving up and they half-heartedly caved in and started putting out a few measly Watts. Frozen Willowdale was like riding a rollercoaster. Wicked fun. I encountered a couple large packs of riders in there. Some appeared to be wearing ski goggles. It wasn't that cold out.

I hooked up with the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) to head over to Georgetown-Rowley State Forest. This was all new to me. Mostly flat, nice flow. It crossed over I-95. It has been >10yrs since I last rode Georgetown. I remembered it as an ATV/trailbike park. Not anymore. I was pleased to find a super fun, recently built singletrack loop in the norther part of the forest. I encountered another pack of riders on this loop.

Glacial eskers riding in Georgetown

From Georgetown, it was more of the BCT south to Boxford State Forest. This part of the BCT was mix of singletrack, ATV trail and roads. I was following a mined GPS track which didn't stay on the BCT the whole time. Apparently the track I used for this part of my ride was dated, as cul de sacs now exist where a trail must have once gone. I had to hunt through many dead ends to find a way to connect my route. Eventually I made it into Boxford.

Boxford is another area I've not visited in over 10 years. I didn't remember much of it. Seems the motos have been kicked out of here too. Much of the riding here, at least what I rode today, was lightly used abandoned ATV trail. Kinda wide, lot of derailleur sucking tree debris, but a few bits that rode like nice singletrack. At least the open trails offered nice flow. I had planned to do a loop and a half in Boxford, but my energy level was rapidly collapsing, and the terrain wasn't stimulating enough to make up for it.


I got back to the car with 40.2mi in 4.3hrs on the wired computer. The GPS measured less distance with all the twisties in the ride. This is a loop I'll definitely do again. It can easily be expanded to 50 or 60 miles. The BCT connection from Georgetown to Boxford needs a little work, but other than that, it was a thoroughly satisfying route. 7.2hrs of skiing and riding in two days put me in a hole. Wonder if I'll listen to my body and reward myself with some rest Monday?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Full Monty

I've been hitting Weston the last few Tuesday nights but been too busy with work to blog about it. Weston has amazingly been able to hang onto their base. A compact 2km course is raced. The previous two weeks were in sloppy corn snow. One night, many of the kids were skiing in t-shirts... in January! This Tuesday wasn't quite as balmy. Just before the race, the temp dropped enough for the base to crust up. I'm utterly incapable of skiing Weston crust. My skis refuse to stay under me. Yes, my technique sucks.

At the pre-race meeting, Andy said we were doing the Full Monty, five laps around the course for just over a 10k race. I feared certain doom. The course was getting more solid by the minute. Should I even start? I could always bail out of the race if it got too sketchy.

I lined up about where I thought I'd finish, 8th row, or around 24 back. I got a really good start. Marv Wang was ahead of me and told me to hang onto his "wheel." That lasted all of about a quarter lap. The group I can normally hang with when conditions require power, not speed, just walked away from me. I could not find traction, and without traction, I couldn't even get my heartrate up. It didn't help I had my rock skis with worn edges either.

After about a lap, I half threw in the towel. No sense in risking injury. I backed off as another string of skiers latched onto my draft. I think I went around the course twice, 4km, towing the line at a comfortable pace. I didn't know it at the time, but Todd Brown was the next guy on my tail. He did try passing me a few times on the climbs, but there was traction there, so it was easy to hold him off. On the fourth lap, I was getting a little sloppy and sketched out. Todd passed me and I was more than happy to sit in for a while.

After a lap of recovery, and perhaps Todd realizing it was more work to pull than draft, Jamie Doucett came around both of us. There was still a string of skiers behind us. I wasn't about to let all of them blast past me on the finishing sprint. With "Mt Weston" coming up, I figured I'll dig and see if I could bolt free. Jamie had the same idea. Jamie picked the pace up a notch or two, and I shamelessly stayed glued to his ski tails. It was a clean break, a minor victory during an abysmal performance for me. Some skiers excel on crud snow. How, I don't know. Anyway, Jamie towed me to the line. I finished 10.3km in 30:38, another sub 3-minute pace night at Weston. I placed 25th out of something like 66 finishers, which is further down than I normally finish, but only about 17% from the winning time, which is better than the previous two weeks. Go figure.

Can you see a race in there? Started kinda hard, became afraid and
backed off a bit, then with 2k to go, hit my highest HR of the race
over Mt Weston to stay with Jamie to the end.

Skiing a bunch of laps after the race with Todd gave me 26km in less than 90 minutes for the night.  A great workout, but not quite the intensity level I was hoping to hit. Might be my last time hitting Weston this season unless we get a big natural snow dump. Still hope to do the Rangeley Loppet in early March if snow holds up. A week after Rangeley, it's off to Arizona for a little "spring training."

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sketchy, Sketchy

I debated a good while on my off-Friday morning about where to ride: local 4-5hr trail ride, or take a little risk and go for something more training oriented in the White Mountains. It nearly came to a coin toss. I couldn't decide. Eventually the disappointment of my recent fitness benchmark result won over a trail ride. Let's face it, the local terrain tends to be quite technical with no sustained climbing. It is hard to maintain steady, sustained efforts. Mountain roads it would be.

I figured the roads would be ok, as it hadn't snowed in a few days. When I got to Lincoln, I was BS. An overnight dusting messed everything up. Turns out it was only in Lincoln, as within a quarter mile radius of town. Any direction away from town was ok. Sort of.

My first climb would be the Sawyer Hwy 118, aka Gonzo Pass. I nearly abandoned my ride after turning onto 118. Ice patches blended in seamlessly with patchwork asphalt, deep sand, giant wheel crushing frost heaves, and cracks deep enough to swallow rims whole. Climbing might be ok, but I'd have to come back down that afterwards.

I climbed near my threshold pace. It was freaking cold and windy. I doubt it was over 20F at altitude. My rear shifter stopped working. I could only go to harder gears as the climb got steeper. Mashing a bigger gear than I wanted did some damage. I made the top in decent time, sub-30 minutes.

Ice encroached into my lane in many places on the descent. The good thing was I saw a car about every 10 minutes.  At one point, I'm taking my lane on the way down when a car was coming up the opposite way. I was well within where a car would be in my lane. Yet the driver motioned for me to get over. Last minute, she swerves right at me, presumably to send me a message. Had I been just another car, probably even closer to the centerline, I wouldn't have even registered in this driver's mind. I was livid. She didn't come all the way into my lane, but I could easily have swerved, hitting ice on the edge of the road and crashed. She has a right to question my wisdom riding in February, but she has no right to intimidate me, threaten me or endanger my life with her auto. Fortunately, no cars passed me in my lane on the descent.

I stopped at my car by the visitor center to pick up a water bottle before heading up the Kanc. The wind was really kicking up in places, mostly cross wind. I hit the Kanc at a steady, comfortable tempo pace. When I got to the top, my water bottle had turned into a Slurpee just that quick. The wind about blew me over up there. The plummet back to Lincoln was an endurance test in icecream headaches and shrinkage.

Last up was Kinsman Notch out and back. This was straight into the fierce wind. At one point on the 12% grade section, I nearly had to put a foot down to catch myself. Just crawling. The Kinsman descent was just as dicey as Gonzo, not for messy road, but for unpredictable wind. I could easily have gone over 60mph with the tail wind, but I could easily have died too. I was braking hard at 46mph down the steep part and still getting pushed all over the road. Semi-aero wheels didn't help.

After crossing I-93 with half mile to go on slight incline, both inner thighs seized up on me. No warning. I guess you could call that a perfect workout - train until failure just as you get back to the car. I finished with about 58mi, 5500ft in 3:28 on the Garmin. Wicked slow average, but riding death grip on the brakes on most of the descending will do that. A sketchy day on the bike, but exactly the training stress I need right now.