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.

No comments: