Sunday, August 19, 2012

D2R2 2012: "I Suck!"

I nearly had to back out of D2R2 this year. A week before, I got tagged to attend a DARPA workshop in Washington, D.C. the day before D2R2. I'd have to go to DC from work on Thursday, then straight from airport to Deerfield late Friday night. The hassle and potential lack of sleep didn't seem worth it.

My flight was late getting back to Boston Friday night. DaveP reserved a room at the Red Roof Inn in South Deerfield. I figured maybe I could be in bed by 11pm. Having a terrible time sleeping in strange places, that didn't leave many hours to try to get some sleep in with a 6am event start time.

Heading west on the Mass Pike, I ran into torrential thunderstorms. Traffic slowed to a crawl. I couldn't help think about those camping overnight at the venue. The good thing was this front would clear the hot, humid air out.

En route, Dave sends me a message saying the hotel over-booked rooms, and all they had left was a single bed smoking room, and they would not allow a roll-away into the room due to fire regulations. I sometimes have trouble discerning when Dave is being facetious.  I had dealt with planes, trains and automobiles over the last 36hrs, so surely he was joking.

Dave left a room key at his car so I wouldn't have to wake him. Sure as shit, the room was a single. Dave was totally zonked, so I went to the office to fix the situation. I had a lot of pent up stress from the last 36hrs and was ready to unload.

At first the desk clerk told me there was nothing they could do, D2R2 cleaned them out of rooms, and unless you pre-pay with credit card, they don't guarantee room selection. That sounded like BS to me. I thought it was a rhetorical question, but I asked them to give me my own room. They in fact just had a cancellation and a room opened up. My stress level dropped a few orders of magnitude.

I managed to get nearly 5hrs sleep, which was 2 more than the night before. So in two nights, I got about one night's worth of sleep. Better than nothing. I had picked up a quart of milk and Cheerios in a bowl for breakfast on my drive in. Little did I know, the cereal bowl was cracked top to bottom in two places. I filled it up and milk spewed all over the place. Son of a bitch! I thought the stress of the last two days was behind me. Kitting up and a quick cup of Starbucks Via had me on my way.

I wasn't sure who I was hooking up with. At least Dave, Alex and Paul I thought.  Paul's loaner bike fell through last minute, so we heard he wasn't making it. It would be just a four-some, Dave, Alex, Alex's friend Bill and I.

It was raining and overcast at 6am. It wasn't cold enough to warrant long layers though. This was perfect for me, a chronic overheater. It was expected to clear and be very pleasant later in the day. We rolled out at 6:15am at a cordial pace. What a change of pace going from the urban jungle that DC is to dirt paths, cows and cornfields in 12 hours.

The gravel was quite spongy from the heavy rain over the last 12hrs.  I regretted packing bike with aggressive 35mm tires when Sandy sent update out on Friday stating course was firm and fast. The other three had 28mm road tires. But my tires pressed much less deeply into the soft gravel, so I suspected I had to work less hard in these conditions. Soon we learned that even though conditions permitted good traction and control with skinnies, there are other benefits of going with larger volume tires.

Spongy gravel

Let the flats begin. The East Rd descent is one of the best parts of the course, a couple miles of swoopy, one-lane, totally white knuckle descent. Dave and I absolutely bombed it. The rain meant tacky surface, no looseness. The descents this year were the fastest ever. Bill didn't fare as well, pinch flatting near the bottom. It didn't take long to get going again, but a slug of riders passed us in the process.

Alex after bottoming out on East Rd.

Maybe this was the way to go this year. He did the whole 180k
with 10psi and 30# bike!

Just before Archambo Hill Rd, Dave's rear tire exploded just riding along on pavement. Not sure why. Almost looked like a tube failure, but could have been a latent pinch flat or maybe tube was caught in tire bead. Tear was more perpendicular to rim bead and on inner side of tube.  So we quickly put a new tube in, only to find Dave packed short valve stem tubes for deep dish rims. Argh! He was so fortunate Alex and Bill packed long valve stem tubes even though they had shallow rims. I was running balloon tires, so my spare tube was way too big. We essentially had to fix this flat twice, killing way too much time in the process. I think it was Clara Kelly that flew by saying it was not a good place to stop (right before Archambo). Legs were nice and tight heading into the 27% grade. I think I saw Clara again later in the ride, fixing a flat.

Not gonna work

A little while later on Deer Park Rd, there was this nasty little plummet with fist sized rocks scattered about. Dave and I bombed it with reckless abandon, but Dave flatted again. Same rear wheel, clearly a pinch flat this time. Pressure after first flat may have been on low side.  Lucky for Dave, Alex packed multiple LVS tubes. We were suspicious of tire and rim at this point so we gave it a careful go over, completely removing the tire, which was almost impossible to get on and off (requiring heavy lever use putting bead back on). By now, we had killed more than an hour fixing flats, and the ride wasn't even half over yet! One rider flew past yelling "Carnage!" There were several riders fixing flats after that little plummet.

Hillman Rd

I felt tell-tale signs of cramping coming on. This had me deeply worried. This last flat stop helped recharge my electrolyte battery or whatever gets out of whack in me and causing cramps. The lunch stop was just a bit up the road too. We took a fairly long lunch lunch break. As always, the sandwiches and other food were awesome. There must have been a few hundred riders there, as all the route options converged there around noon. Over 800 riders were pre-registered.

I felt like a new man heading up Stage Rd from the lunch stop. Short lived though. By the time we got to the top of Sweet Pond Rd, I was hanging on by a thread. Then there was the Alexander Rd climb that just wouldn't end. How I stayed in contact with the other three is beyond me. I should know better than trying to hang with much younger slow-twitch freaks who weren't slowing down at all. We still had 30+ miles to go with two spanker climbs.

N. County Rd

When we turned onto Nelson Rd, I was done. No cramping, but I couldn't turn the pedals any harder than a light endurance pace. Dave, Alex and Bill were out of sight in minutes. Dave and Alex killed the climb, leaving me for dead. I wouldn't see them again for a long time. Bill waited up for me. This was a good thing, as Bill wasn't navigating by GPS and later depended on me for guidance. I was dreading Patten Hill.

I was sure this would be the year I failed to clean Patten Hill. I came close to stopping in years past due to cramping, but this year it seemed fatigue would do me in. Turning 50 the next day, I concluded I was getting too old for these shenanigans. Once we turned onto Patten Hill Rd, Bill bolted and was gone in a heartbeat. The grade approaches 20%, paved at first, then gravel. At times, the only way I could push my 34x32 minimum gear was to stand. The bike nearly came to a stop between each down stroke. There were walkers, and I didn't want to join them, even though I made little to no progress on them by riding the climb. I could handily slay Alex and Dave on this climb in a fresh-legs scenario, but the slow-twitchers slay me 7hrs into a hill-fest ride. I thought to myself how badly I suck.

As I approached the summit, there was a pretty good crowd up there at the food stop. Volunteers were ringing cowbells for arriving riders. I was so deeply into deathmarch territory, I was surprised I was still even alive. After being complimented on how awesome of a job I was doing, I blurted out "I SUCK!"  That drew a few chuckles. I'm sure I looked like death. I was surprised my ride mates were still there after taking an eternity to climb this last beast.

My stomach was in a major funk by this point.  The watermelon was the only thing I could stomach. Two pieces and the others were already rolling. I had to hang on for dear life for the last ten miles. Somehow, on the uber bony Hawks Rd, I found a little mojo. Maybe it was the horse smelling the barn.  We hung with three other riders maintaining a solid pace over the rutted rollers through this section. I was having a little fun again.

Square Lot Rd. What is Alex afraid of here?

I rolled in with 7:57 moving time on the Garmin, three minutes faster than 2010, the last time I rode D2R2. Not my fastest, and definitely one of the slower total times due to the flats earlier in ride, but who cares.  The weather could not have been more ideal for me. Other than a little sponginess early in the ride, the course was in mint condition too. It was probably my most enjoyable D2R2 even though I can bank on suffering immensely towards the end of the ride.

This event continues to grow in popularity. Sandy Whittlesey and the army of Franklin Land Trust volunteers continue to put on a stellar event. The post ride meal under the beer tent lets riders reflect on the all-day challenge.  Bill commented how rides like this let him down a pint of Ben & Jerry's guilt free. This seed grew bigger in bigger in my head on the drive home, until I capitulated and picked up a pint of Cherry Garcia. A fine way to cap off an awesome day.

Icecream headache! Nearly 1000 calories and two days worth
of saturated fat.


Bill said...

Great day, and happy birthday!

Mr. Quindazzi said...

I stumbled across your blog a while ago and find it inspiring. I noticed the D2R2 link last Sunday and signed up for the 115K. What a fantastic ride- the weather, the organization, the scenery, the food, the friendliness. Thanks for the inspiration and the tire advice as well.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday and thank you for an excellent blog! Always great information. When planning your rides and participating in these events do you download a course file to your Garmin to follow or are you only using cue sheets? I'm starting to experiment with the course function on my Edge 500 and am finding it useful, but curious if there are any limitations with regards to length of ride? Thanks, Tim

PyZahl said...

Love the cow picture, she was standing on the right side as I came rode by. Missed to say hi again. Even so all you missed sleep, looks like you had a great ride.

Hill Junkie said...

Tim - I generally use a .GPX track file, display it on my Garmin 705 screen as a "breadcrumb" trail to follow. This is the only way to navigate off-road on unmapped trails. I believe some people are using a route or course with a Garmin 500. The deal is, not all of the roads are in the base map, so the Garmin will fail to give some cues until after the fact. I've never used that mode of my 500. Maybe other readers that have can comment. I don't think there are any limitations to length of ride, but some earlier Garmin GPSs had trouble displaying very large track files correctly (say over 10,000 points).

I haven't used the cue sheet for D2R2 in many years now. Some say that is not the spirit of randonneuring, but I don't like having to stop to figure out cues, signs or where I'm at.

CB2 said...

Happy Birthday!!!

David Penney said...

Happy Birthday Douggy!! Anyone who rides the way you do does not suck!!! I laughed so hard when Dave called to say you had a king bed in the room. Glad you had a great D2R2!

solobreak said...

Maybe the ice cream came from that cow.

Mike Pida said...

180 k in under 8 hours? sick at any took me 10 hours to finish 180..I SUCK MORE.

Brian B said...

Another great ride & write-up Doug & Happy Birthday.
Any idea what kind of fat tire bike that was? Doesn't appear to be a Pugsley. Thanks, Brian

Hill Junkie said...

Brian - That was a Fatback. Real big in Alaska, and there are a few other riders around here on them too.

Brian B said...

Fat Back - real cool. This would be crazy fun on the Vermont VAST trails. Endless riding. Thanks

Anonymous said...

hi there, I was on the fat back, I was looking to see if there were any pics of it. It was one of the best D2R2's using that bike. Also it is a ton of fun on the VAST trails, and it turns a lot of heads from the snow mobilers, Great blog, Christopher