Sunday, April 29, 2012

Massasoit Lung Challenge

Overall, training has been going quite well since the beginning of the year. Fitness benchmarks are significantly improved from January.  I've had my share of bad luck though. When heading to Arizona last month, it hadn't rained in 87 days. You expect it to be dry in March in Tucson. It not only rained during our trip, we got sleeted on. The temp was back to 80F the following week.

So I planned to do this race called the Massasoit Lung Challenge at a venue I've never been to. I waited until the last minute to pre-register, as I have no interest in riding or racing in foul weather. This was on Friday. The very next morning, I woke up sick. I hadn't been sick in a long time, so why the day before my first race of the season? This wasn't one of those scratchy throat ordeals either. It was full-on headache and feeling weak and achy all over deals. The probability that I'd be in the mood for racing Sunday plummeted.

I didn't feel awful when I got up Sunday, just kind of crappy.  The weather was going to be stellar. The trails were likely dry. In short, we're lucky if we get one race day this good per season. I couldn't bail. The venue is only about an hour away, so not a big commitment to head down.

I warmed up on the first two miles of the course. Crap, I was going to kill myself on it. The course wasn't technical per se, but at speed it presented many opportunities for bodily harm. The singletrack was fairly wide and very rooty. I break bones on less technical terrain, and my phobia of going fast on stuff like this would get the best of me.

I was amazed how large the Cat 1 fields were. The 40-49 and 50+ fields both had 30+ starters. Stacked too. Lots of roadie power was present. Most guys were on 29" bikes, mix of dualies and hardtails. I brought my 26" dualie Racer-X. Probably the right choice over my 29" hardtail, as my back was killing me by the end of the race with squish under me.

I lined up at the back of my field. I didn't want to be in anybodies way when my apprehension took over in the trickier bits. Plus I was feeling crappy.  This turned out to be a huge blunder. Alby said it better than I can in the first few paragraphs of his recap. In the first two miles I lost at least two minutes. I think I came to a complete stop 4-5 times. First into the singletrack, then at each of the two bridges, plus a couple other pinch points. That was the slowest first 10 minutes of any MTB race I've done.

Once we got to the doubletrack, I started passing riders in ones and twos. Things opened up a bit and finally I cold throw down some roadie Watts. I was burning matches left and right. I started seeing Keith Button (CCB) and Joe Rano (Gear Works) ahead. They started in rows one and two, so I started feeling pretty good about myself. Then we hit the hills. There were three that stuck out. The first was rideable but put a deep sting in the legs. A short while later, a second, much steeper climb was clearly a run-up. I doubt anybody was riding it. Immediately after, another stinker forced me off my bike. I'm sure there were several riders cleaning this one, but I figured I'd get over quicker on foot and didn't try on any of my laps. Bombing down this last one brought us back to the start/finish. My first lap took nearly 37 minutes.

I passed Keith and Joe on the second lap. A bit of tag occurred, as I couldn't hold them off in the techy stuff.  Once we got to the doubletrack and climbs, I gapped them for good. Keith and a couple others raced Quabbin the day before, so I was impressed with his effort.  I caught up with Dave Belknap and Andy Chambers (Nerac Earth) towards the end of the second lap. I could pass and put distance on them on the climbs and open doubletrack, but got killed on the technical stuff.

One thing stood out in this race. I use my brakes way more than my competition. The fear of crashing, or snapping an ankle again, is overpowering. How does one get past that? I was "that guy" in this race for sure. Attack and pass people when roadie Watts could be laid down, but then gum up the works as soon as we went into rooty chicane sections. I had a couple very close calls on lap two. One, a root took my front wheel away. I jambed my right foot down so hard it made my whole leg hurt. How I managed to stay up is beyond me. Another time my Racing Ralphs didn't quite hold around a fast loose over hardpack turn. It might have almost looked like I knew what I was doing, a nice tripod skid around a turn. But I nearly soiled my chamois on that one. I finished the second lap a little faster than my first lap.

I couldn't ditch Andy and Dave. There was just enough techy stuff forcing me to brake where they would let momentum run out. On the third lap, Dave started to fade and I managed to grow a gap on him. I got a third wind and even charged ahead of Andy for a bit. But he was super smooth on the most off-cambered, rooty nastiness. I wasn't. The ratio of roadie friendly to real mountain biker terrain just wasn't high enough for me to stay ahead of him to the finish. We only had another 8 minutes to go or so. I can bury myself for 8 minutes, even at the end of a TT effort like this race. The terrain wasn't conducive to burying though. Andy made an impressive, sketchy pass just before the final hills and held it. I crossed the line in 1:49:22, my third lap time almost identical to second lap.

I had no idea how many from my field were ahead of me. I assumed many. When results were posted, I was fairly pleased to finish 7th out of 31 starters. I probably wouldn't have done much better had I felt better. It was a solid field. My crappy start hurt me more than anything else, killing myself for the second half of the first lap to get back in the game. I thought surely I'd cramp up before the finish from that effort.

It was well worth coming out. We don't get race days like this very often, where its cool enough you barely break a sweat but don't need long layers, and your bike and body are clean after the race. I would definitely do this race again. It favors roadie power. Maybe next year I'll have a 29" dualie and get over my phobia.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Worst DOMS Ever

About three years ago I was on business travel and looking to get an endorphin fix. The DC area hotel I was staying in had a huge vacant stairwell. I ran repeats, explosively up, easily down. Later I developed debilitating DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. I described this as the "worst DOMS ever."

My worst DOMS prior to that episode came after hiking Tuckerman's Ravine with my 60 year old mother about 10 years ago. It took so long to summit that we feared running out of daylight on the descent, so we walked the auto road back down. The next day I suffered debilitating DOMS. I was 40 at the time, and she wanted to visit Boston. I could barely get in and out of a car. My mother found this thoroughly entertaining. She suffered no lingering effects from a full day on our feet.

Today I have a case of DOMS that easily tops both of those. I ran repeats on Pack Monadnock on Sunday. I ran up Pack twice two weeks ago with no issues, although Dave and I took it pretty easy coming back down. So what happened this time?

With the Mt Washington foot race on the horizon, I needed to step it up a notch. I would attempt three repeats on Pack. The 50 mile MTB hammerfest on Saturday left my legs feeling like trash, but I was really after calf and Achilles tendon conditioning, not intensity. Three times up meant three times down. That's 2400ft of descending on 12% average grade, 20% maximum grade.

The first run up felt awful. I almost turned around before the first switchback. But somehow the summit miraculously appeared in about 13 minutes. One complete. I ran back down. Not walk, not jog, not run-walk, but an honest run the whole way. I was only a minute faster than the climb, but running downhill was something I was never able to do in my life.

Second time up felt much better. I was a tad faster at less perceived exertion. I ran back down again. Things didn't feel quite right in my legs by the time I got to the bottom. But walking around a bit to recover, I felt good to go for a third run up.

The third time up still felt pretty good. Even though I beat myself up pretty severely the day before, I felt like I could run uphill at this tempo pace all day. It was the descent each time that was taking a toll on me. My third run up was slower at 14 minutes, not unexpected. Heading back down, I sensed some funky muscle damage. I walked most of it.  Once to the car, I felt fine again and was quite proud of my workout.

There were other nut jobs there. Eric Otto and a friend were doing repeats on bikes, training for Mt Washington. They did "only" five repeats on the cold, drizzly morning. I've never done more than four on the bike. Then there was a Gate City Strider's runner doing repeats, just two. Also training for Mt Washington foot race.

My best on Pack last year was 11:46. I figure I need to break 11:30 on Pack to have a shot of breaking 80 minutes on Mt Washington. At some point I need to get over to Mt Ascutney for a solid benchmark. A sub-35 minute time on Ascutney is needed for an 80 minute finish on the big Rock Pile. Crazy goal? Perhaps. I'd have to beat some pretty solid runners with that time. But Mt Washington isn't your typical foot race either.

When I awoke Monday, DOMS was already setting in. I nearly fell out of bed. This was going to be bad, as normally DOMS doesn't really hit me until 24-48 hours later. By midday at work, colleagues were making fun of me, like what do you expect, running up a mountain three times. I was pretty much immobilized.

It's not the running up. It is the down. Only eccentric muscle contraction causes DOMS. This is when the muscle elongates while it is trying to contract. This happens running down hill, as you have to absorb energy to control your speed. No different than brakes on a bike really. The energy has to go somewhere. I figure the downhill power my body had to dissipate was about 220 Watts. All eccentric muscle contraction. Seems harmless enough. On the bike, I can produce over 370W going up, which is all concentric muscle contraction.

When I did the stair repeats three years ago, I think I did only 1000ft or so of descending. On Pack, I did 2400ft. You'd think with the hours of running I've accrued now, this wouldn't be much of a problem. I seem to be particularly sensitive to eccentric muscle contraction. Wonder what this means?

Anyway, I'm supposed to run 8 miles on Tuesday, and I can't even get out of a chair right now without support. DOMS usually peaks in about 36hrs for me and is gone in 72. I really don't want to lose 2-3 training days because of my stupidity. Studies suggest that DOMS, while painful, is not indicative of serious muscle damage. In fact, running can alleviate the pain, although it may cause excruciating pain starting out. It is getting over that initial five minute hump. I'm skeptical. Will I stay sore inside on Tuesday or try to punch through DOMS?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Faster Fifty

It figures our dust bowl era spring comes to an end just before my first planned race of the season, the Winding Trails Fat Tire Classic in Farmington, CT. I've raced that course a couple times, done reasonably well, as it is described as roadie friendly. Fast as heck, and a bit sketchy with some of the speeds you carry between trees with inches to spare. There's not not many rocks, but there are rooty sections.

I was really looking forward to racing. I actually started tapering for it on Thursday. But the forecast got progressively worse for race day. Clipping a tree at 8mph two years ago was enough to shatter an ankle. I still have the bone density of a 70 year old woman. I think about that all the time whenever I mount a bicycle. It is healthy apprehension. I hope to ride to a very old age. Mix in greasy riding conditions and speed, well, one of two things will happen. The adrenaline of racing will lower my guard to a risk point beyond which my body cannot support, or I'll be overly cautious, and non-competitive. Either way, the cost-benefit analysis my engineering mind came up with said I should not head to Connecticut on Sunday. Bummer.

A couple weeks ago, Dave and I did a fast 40 miler MTB ride in the Chelmsford/Carlisle area. It was a blast, mostly fast, flowy trails that could be hammered. Dave and Isaac St. Martin were both up for a similar ride on Saturday. We needed to keep it very local for all three of us, so the FOMBA-Bear Brook ride sounded like a good option. The perennially muddy spots had long since dried up. The FOMBA trail system had opened just two days earlier too!

For the first time this year, I came into a weekend with fresh legs. I was in the mood for hammering. My Racer-X was tuned up for racing too. I put the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires back on. That took 2.3 pounds off the bike from the Kenda Small Block 8's, amazingly. Snappy legs, snappy bike.

We (I) bolted hard right from the Massabesic Lake parking lot. An adrenaline hopped up caffeine buzz at 8:30am is a wonderful thing. Lots of big-ring speed was to be had on the carriage roads and singletrack around the lake.

We cut into FOMBA, hitting Woodpecker and Hemlock trails at crazy speeds too. Dave was wondering what he got himself into. He did intervals the day before and probably had poopy legs like I normally do on Saturdays. Do you think I would have any mercy? Of course not! All the more reason to drill it.

Coming out of FOMBA, Isaac asked if we wanted to try a different way to Bear Brook than Trail 15, the major north-south state snowmobile route. I was a little doubtful at first, as I assumed there'd be a lot of road in it. Turns out there was zero pavement.  Isaac led us through a network of ATV trails, bony creek bottom doubletracks, gravel roads, and some super secret barely there singletrack. And there was plenty of climbing. Ninety minutes in, I sensed doom later in the ride. I wrote a few intensity checks that my body wouldn't be able to cash in another hour or two.

Dave coming up the barely there, super secret "Candia Drop."
Doesn't look steep, but it's about 30% grade.

We entered Bear Brook State Park by Beaver Pond. It was pretty much all singletrack from there, hitting Beaver Pond, Hemlock, Bear Brook, Alp d'Huez, Catamount, Bear Hill and more. The climb up Bear Hill put a deep sting in my legs. I was surprised I hadn't cramped yet.

Dave, Isaac and Hill Junkie on Bear Hill with the ant mounds.

Isaac and Dave led the descent off Bear Hill. That apprehension I mentioned above, it holds me back on sketchy descents. I ate a plume of dust kicked up by the other two the whole way down.  Popping out by Bear Hill Pond ended our loop through Bear Brook State Park. It was now time to head back via Trail 15.

Plenty more hammering ensued. Even though I was feeling quite wrecked, my energy level was still very good. I hadn't felt this good in many weeks. Sure would have been nice to unleash this during a race. Oh well, it was spectacularly nice on Saturday. Everything was dry. We were making record time around Isaac's variant of the loop.

We got back to the cars with a little less than 50 miles on the wired odometer, so we added a short out and back on the rail trail to make it an honest 50. I finished with 50.7 miles in 4:08 riding time. This was 32 minutes faster than doing an easier variant of this loop last fall with Dave and Isaac, and I thought that was fast then, plus I cramped.  We totally killed the loop this time and had a blast.  About 98% of the loop was on dirt.

So why didn't I cramp during a 4+ hour hammerfest? Two things are different from last fall. One is I've been much more focused with training the last three months. Lots of intensity and interval work has brought me back from the doldrums in January. The other is I've become suspicious I don't eat enough during rides like this. I have a cast iron stomach, so pretty much any food is fair game, even during hammer rides. During the ride I had a sizable ham and cheddar cheese sandwich (first to go), Mojo bar, two granola pastry bars and two gels. I also emptied a 100oz Camelbak of strong Gatorade. I'll have to take a ham and cheese sandwich with me during Iron Cross this fall...

It is an honor to ride with guys like Dave and Isaac, both accomplished competitors. We share a similar passion for long, fast, single loop rides like this. Isaac's alternative is a keeper. It makes the route a true loop instead of many miles shared out-and-back on Trail 15.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strava Whoring

Many readers are now no doubt familiar with the social media website for athletes called Strava.  I first poo-pooed the service when Davis Kitchel of Strava told me about it in 2010. Since then, it has continued to grow on me.

Strava is changing how we train, ride and behave.  When cyclist get in the habit of uploading ride data to Strava, they become keenly aware that their behavior is being observed. They are being sized up by other riders that ride the same roads and climb the same mountains. Knowing your performance is being observed has peculiar effects on human behavior. We try harder. Psychologists call this social facilitation. It has been proven a very long time ago that athletes perform better when someone is watching, be it spectators, fellow cyclists on your ride, or Strava stalkers.

Could there be a down side to this? Some have tried to blame fatalities on Strava. In one case, a rider was trying to reclaim his downhill Strava record and was killed when he hit a car. In another recent case, a pedestrian was killed by a cyclist descending a hill. Could a website change riding behaviors to the point of cyclists taking deadly risks? Maybe.

I see a less sinister influence on cycling behavior. The riding community is marking many segments along popular riding routes and climbs. We know where these are. We try harder when we hit these segments to ensure we attain our rightful place in the KOM listings. This can lead to anomalous behavior in Strava.

Segments are proliferating everywhere. On some of my favorite climbs, there are several segments defined, each presumably defining the same climb. Some riders may start the climb a little earlier or later, or maybe define the summit in a slightly different place. Strava will also auto define climbs. You will sometimes see modifiers like "legit" in climb titles, meaning the rider that defined this segment saw his or her definition as the one and only correct one. So which start/finish is the right one? Only safe bet is to start hard early and let up only after you run out of climb. Unlike a downhill, about the only risk on an uphill is having a coronary.

Strava is getting a bit messy. Everybody is setting up segments for random road sections or sections of local "Tuesday Night Worlds" loops. Anybody can define a segment that they can claim KOM on, just to have a KOM to their name.  Segment density hasn't nearly reached saturation yet. When I ride a new place, a slew of segments appear below my uploaded ride. Most of it is meaningless to me. Any one segment may have meaning to only a couple of people. Strava does let you hide segments, but I'm seeing this proliferation of segments more as pollution. It seems no void is being left behind. This type of use may well bring paying members to Strava. If so, kudos to them.  It will be interesting to see how Stava fares once the KOM listings become stagnant and there are no more new KOMs to be defined.

There are some quality segments out there, popular local short climbs, mountain passes and and big mountain climbs.  Strong riders I know head out perusing for KOMs. I now catch myself doing this. My thinking goes something like this. Warm-up heading out, but not too hard. Gotta hit Pine Hill with fresh legs to make sure I retain my KOM there. Then recover before the Rt 122 State Line climb to see if I can take a KOM there. I'm competing against people that aren't there and I've never met. This changes how I approach rides I've been hitting for over 10 years. It is fun, at least for a while, until the novelty wears off.

Mike Harris recently titled one of his rides "Strava Whoring." I pondered that for a while.  Have we given up a bit of cycling tradition by becoming fixated on virtual riding partners instead of the people we're riding with? A while back at Chipotle's, I noticed four teen girls sitting at a table quietly. All four were absorbed in their smart phones and not talking with each other. Strange behavior, this social media makes. As I continue to ponder this, I may have to do some more Strava whoring myself this weekend, should foul weather make me reconsider a planned MTB race. I'd like to take a crack at Blue Hill near Boston.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Grim

Despite big home projects (like ripping siding and sheathing off the back of my house to fix 15 years of water damage because the builder didn't flash correctly), Dave and I got in another ~5hr trail ride this weekend. This time I introduced Dave to the MIT Haystack trails. It was only my second time there.

Some of the Haystack terrain is sick. I'm hear body armor is the norm here. So what are a couple of spandex clad cross-country weenies doing here? Haystack can be worked into an all-day ride that includes Groton Town forest.

Most places I ride off-road, I can figure about 10 miles per hour, so a 40 mile ride will take 4hrs, plus or minus. Not here. At least not if I want to drive home in my car after the ride. Dave cleaned some pretty impressive shit, stuff I didn't dare commit to. Too early in the season. And I know what its like to be in a cast most of the summer.
Dave sizing up a 5ft drop...

...and executing it.

Anyway, once we got away from Haystack, a nice mix of ATV trails, fast singletrack and roads brought us over to the Groton Town Forest. There is a loop through here where considerable speed can be maintained. Motos used to rule the place, creating the wonderfully bermed, flowy trails. I doubt the trails see much moto traffic anymore. The trails now have a bit more bush-wacky feel to them.

What did suck is the logging operation in GTF. Wherever loggers go, they leave the trails decimated. Can't forest rangers, land managers and responsible conservation groups make access to the timber contingent on restoring user trails to at least a usable condition? I don't think that is too much to ask for.  Part of the loop through GTF was not only unrideable, but completely gone and unrecognizable. Fortunately, about 80% of the GTF loop was still in good shape.

After GTF, we worked our way down the powerlines to the hill called The Grim. I used to ride this frequently 12 years ago. Last fall when I revisited The Grim, I couldn't find the trail up and over. On Saturday, Dave and I tried a promising spur. It went up. I can't say I really recognized it. And no, I didn't clean it like I used to. Seems a fire cleared much of the summit area some time ago, opening it up. Just like 12 years ago, the descent still gave me the willies, supposedly how the hill got its name.

Limited view from the high point of the ride, The Grim

As we approached the Haystack area, more bony singletrack had to be traversed. Four hours into the ride, tolerance of dabs, near crashes, hike-a-bikes, etc becomes pretty low. We still had about 8 miles to go, but our time allotment was already used up. Dave had to get back. The car was just two miles up Cow Pond Brook Rd, so he cut it short.

The last time I rode this loop solo, I cut the ride short at the same spot. We could've walked twice as fast through the last couple miles of trail than the pathetic pace we rode. That wears on your nerves a little bit. I at least wanted to sample the stuff around the Haystack Observatory, as I hadn't ever ridden it.

What I found didn't inspire me enough to keep going. After pulling a deer tick off my arm, I figured I should call it a day. Of what I rode on that side, it seemed more like ATV than MTB material. Still more to explore in there someday.

I finished with 43.3 miles and 4:53 on the wired computer and a little less on the Garmin. For such a slow ride, we sure did get beat up. Lots of punchy, deeply anaerobic climbs embedded throughout the loop. The loop will need some revisions before I attempt it again. A little less boneyard picking and a little more flow would be nice. Not a nit on the techy trails, it's just not my riding style.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fast Forty

With this exceptionally dry spring (which follows a non-existent winter), the mountain bike has been the go-to tool for long weekend rides.  Seems a typical trail ride these days is 40-50 miles.  With judicious route selection, a fine LSD workout can be achieved.  I've accumulated a palette of distinct loops within a short drive from my home. A few of these are:
  • Massabesic-FOMBA-Bear Brook
  • Boxboro-Bradley Palmer-Willowdale-Georgetown Rowley
  • Haystack-Groton
  • Russell Mill-Great Brook-Estabrook
I've probably done variants of the Massabessic route the most times, going back 10-12 years. I used to think it was a big deal to ride over 40 miles on my mountain bike and was lucky if I did that once or twice a year.

In the last few years, it has become much easier to piece these long rides together. It used to be you had to ride with someone that knew the local trails, and then you were lucky to remember half of it after your third or fourth time there. Now with so many riders using GPSs and the proliferation of websites to upload tracks, one can go data mining for ride content. I primarily use Garmin Connect and Strava, but both have poor search engines and takes some work to coerce what you want out of their data bases.

Once I find tracks that hit promising areas, I bring all of them into DeLorme Topo for editing. I keep segments I want, discard everything else. What is left is a track that at each point, has in theory, been ridden by at least one person. There is a lot of junk out there. Some tracks are bush-whack. Others tread into posted private property. A string of GPS coordinates say nothing about the quality of the trail. Is it buff? Hike-a-bike tough? Fun? Muddy? This is where riding with a local is invaluable. They can steer you clear of misery.

Recently, I've been doing long loops just south of my house, usually starting in Carlisle or Chelmsford and looping through Bedford and Concord. Sunday, Dave and I did a variant of this route, using content recently posted by MKR. After punishing repeats on Pack Monadnock the day before (more on that shortly), we sought an endurance workout. The route passed through too many parcels of conservation land to mention. It avoided the most technical trails, not there is much challenging terrain in the area to begin with. Bits of pavement help put the loop together. Most notable were lengthy dirt surface rail trails. With few other users on these thoroughfares, we could hammer to our hearts content.

Turned out to be a great ride, a nice complement to Saturday's intensity workout. Dave and I covered just over 40 miles in 3.4hrs. That was one of the faster 40 milers I've done on a mountain bike.  I was pretty much useless the rest of the day.

Saturday I took a little risk. I eased back into running this week after my left calf seem to heal up. I now doubt I had a muscle tear. Perhaps it was just a bad pull. A successful flat 10k run on Thursday gave me some confidence I could tackle something with a little more intensity and gradient, Pack Monadnock. Pack, as we locally call it, sports an 800ft rise in 1.3 miles. That is about 12% average grade. The last 250m punches you with nearly 20% grade.  Probably not the smartest thing to do after a calf injury, eh?

Dave and I drove up to the Miller State Park parking lot with bikes and running shoes. Plan was to bomb down Rt 101 to Wilton, then warm up by climbing ~1000ft back to the summit road base to start the sufferfest.

First time up Pack was on the bike.  I was looking for an updated baseline here, as my performance a couple weeks earlier was disappointing.  I eased into the climb, trying to keep my power under 400W, as I know I cannot average 400W on this long of a climb.  I crested in 9:46, 40sec faster than two weeks ago, and only 11sec slower than my best set back in 2005. I was pretty happy with that, especially considering it was a pretty hard training week for me on the bike and I wasn't exactly feeling chipper.

Pack on the bike. Exceedingly hard to keep power up
when the grade relaxes.

We left the bikes at the car and laced up our running shoes. Dave has never run up Pack, I did a few times last year in preparation for the Mt Ascutney foot race. Hoofing it up adds another dimension to suckfest. There is no spinning easier when you tire. Each step must lift your entire body weight up another several inches against gravity. Actually, it isn't really a whole lot different than riding up. It just takes a few minutes longer. I reached the summit in 13:15. My best last year on foot was 11:46, which was on fresher legs and not after an all-out effort on the bike.

Neither of us wanted to do back-to-back runs up Pack, so we switched shoes and did another bike up. The wheels started to come off this time up. It was pretty ugly. I told Dave at the bottom "I'll just do 350W this time." Yeah, right. 327W was all I could muster, and that was good for over 11 minutes. Oh well, it was good for low cadence, high force work.

The last nails hadn't yet been driven into our coffins, so we laced up the running shoes one more time for a final run up. Strangely, even though my legs were utterly trashed on the bike, they didn't feel so bad on foot. I managed a 13:25, only 10sec slower than my first run, without putting too much effort into it. Why would I peter out on something I'm highly conditioned for, while running, which I have minimal conditioning, stayed relatively strong?

I noticed a hint of tweakiness in my left calf on the 20% grade during my second run, so it was a good thing we were done. I was pretty psyched to be able to do this without complications. This means I should be good to go for Mt Washington in June, assuming some new running injury doesn't wing me out of left field.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Uphill On Foot vs Bike

On, I've compared running times with cycling times up popular peaks in the northeast. It appears that around 17% grade on a hard surface, runners reach parity with cyclists. Runners have the advantage on grades greater than 17%, as the weight of the bicycle becomes a bigger penalty than the efficiency it affords.

Cyclists use Mt Ascutney as a benchmark to gauge time up Mt Washington. Ascutney can be visited anytime to test one's self, unlike Washington. I've shown with a large statistical sample that it takes about 2.25 times longer to climb Mt Washington than Mt Ascutney. The variance is surprisingly small. I've received many comments from Washington cyclists that they were within seconds of their time predicted from Ascutney's performance.

Last year I did my first uphill running race on Mt Ascutney. This year I made it through the Mt Washington foot race lottery.  I've had a bit of a setback with a calf injury the last couple weeks, but I'm still hopeful to participate in the Mt Washington race.

I got to wondering. Can foot race times on Ascutney be used to predict Washington foot race times? If so, what is the ratio? How does it compare with the cycling ratio?

It turns out that all seven top finishers on Ascutney last year also did Mt Washington. I'll spare you a table with boring numbers, but the average of their Washington to Ascutney  ratios came out to be 2.254! Can you believe it? Exactly the same as cycling. Granted, this is small data set, but the variance was pretty small. I wouldn't expect it to shift by much with a larger sample base from multiple years.

Based on my time on Mt Ascutney last year, I should be able to do Mt Washington on foot in about 80 minutes. This is much faster than I would expect. On the bike, I always fall very close to the 2.25 ratio. I had hoped to improve my 35 minute time on Ascutney by a minute or two this year, since I have a year of running under my belt now. Just have to get past this injury and ease into hill training, which can particularly stress the calves.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Closest yet. Look at the times. One device detects motion relative to satellites in space whiring hundreds of miles above at thousands of miles per hour. The other counts ticks of the wheel. There were numerous stop-starts during this ride, yet after nearly three hours, GPS and wired computer are within 0.5 seconds of total moving time. Now only if they could measure distance as closely. GPS fell about 0.8 miles behind.