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.


Paul said...

I think you mean "Boxford-Bradley Palmer-Willowdale-Georgetown Rowley". If you're stringing together a MTB ride from Boxboro to Rowley, well, words fail me.

Is that ride up route 101 to Pack safe? Seemed pretty sketchy to me, doing <10 mph in major climb mode with semis doing 55 right next to you.

Hill Junkie said...

Yep, getting old. And I didn't even screw up correctly, as I was thinking Foxboro, typed Boxboro, when I meant Boxford.

We generally don't ride up 101. We ride up the Burton Hwy (almost no cars back road), then take dirt Old Revolutionary Rd last bit which pops you out on 101 almost at base of Pack. Bombing down 101 is ok, as not nearly as many cars pass. There is a decent shoulder. Where the shoulder narrows, there is passing lane, so semis will generally give you some room. This helps last little bit to top.