Monday, September 3, 2012

Burke Hillclimb

What a pristine day it was for a hillclimb on Saturday. Not quite as cool as forecasted, but cool enough to prevent me from using heat as a lame excuse for poor performance.  With a drop in registration fees, I believe a record number showed up for this year's climb, which was encouraging, given several of the regular's were participating in the Green Mountain Stage Race nearby.

I was not going to fret over the Burke race. I wasn't trying to get a fitness benchmark out of it, I had no intention of trying to PR the climb. I had abandoned focused interval training on the bike in preparation for the CIGNA 5k foot race in July/August and never really got back into it after that. I just wanted to "enjoy" a solid 25-30 minutes of suffering. I did at least recover a couple days prior to Burke.

After a solid warmup, I lined up second row. We go off, with guy in front of me missing the clip-in, nearly taking two of us out. You get a couple hundred meters of drafting benefit to start, but then the grade kicks up steep enough that it behooves one to ride their own pace. I can't stay with Erik Vandendries anymore, so I let him go early. The next mile or so, I hoovered in 6-8th place.

The "Wall" midway is merciless. There are some very steep pitches before you get there, putting you at red-line. Then you have to mash up 20-25% grade for what seems forever, putting you completely over red-line no matter how careful you are. Any slower, you'd topple over anyway. After the wall, there is no recovery. Altimeter profile from Saturday's race shows many sections hitting 15% grade after the wall.

Recorded Burke Profile and Grade
Perhaps I overcooked the start. Both John Cico and Greg Larkin caught me and passed me after the wall. John passed me decisively, like "don't even think about staying with me, mf'er." Ask him sometime what the CMFC emblazoned on his shorts means.

I ran my Garmin 500 in lap time mode. As I neared the finish, I realized I was very close to achieving a PR. I drilled it the last few hundred meters. I came up 11 seconds short of a new PR with an elapsed time of 26:50 (posted times were 4sec slower). Oh well. At 50 now, still being in striking range of PR times on these climbs is quite satisfying. Brett Rutledge just turned 50 too and missed his PR by even a smaller margin.

Having completed five races in the BUMPS series now, this result should put me squarely in a 3-way fight for third place overall in the series with Greg Larkin and Kim Ulandt. BUMBS uses best of five out of 10 races in points tally. Unfortunately, I don't think I can do either of the last two races to potentially improve my lowest points finish. Looks like Greg will complete the whole series, having 10 races to draw best five from.

It is interesting to note that half of the top 10-12 finishers are 50+ years old. Also of note is that at least three of the top six finishers were elite runners earlier in their lives. I believe recurring injuries nudged these guys over to cycling. Good chance Gerry Clapper will win the BUMPS series this year. He once ran a 13:55 5k on the track. Goes to show that if you nuture your motor, you can excel in multiple disciplines for many decades.

The hillclimb was only half of the activity Brett and I had planned in East Burke. Brett wanted to try the Northeast Kingdom MTB trails. The Burke hillclimb race comes with a complimentary trail pass. Brett reserved a 29er hardtail from East Burke Sports. I brought my Superfly 29er hardtail. Brett last mountain biked regularly back in the 90's. He still has his Proflex bike. Remember that brand? Brett became wary of trail riding after some bad wrecks back in the day and gave it up. I needed to gradually introduce him to NEK, as he was essentially a noobie all over again.

We went up to Darling Hill, hitting Harp first. It didn't help matters that it rained quite a bit overnight, and even at noon, the trails were still pretty greasy. Brett was quite tentative at first. The tentativeness started to disappear after bombing down Coronary Bypass. Then we climbed up to take Troll Stroll down. Even less waiting at the bottom. Things were looking promising.

Bottom of Coronary Bypass and smiling. Brett on a 29er
hardtail. Who would've thunk?

After I explained Sidewinder to Brett, he opted for Old Web's while I got my half-pipe fix in. On the other side we hit Culvert Cut, up Sugar Hill, down Rim and East Branch. The elevated bridges gave Brett the willies. I sometimes tense up on them too, especially when they are greasy. One particularly curvy bridge sketched Brett out a bit too far. I was waiting nearby but didn't see what happened. Just heard f-bombs. Bike and body got a little dirty. No damage though. We finished on Herbs back to town. Short ride, but still a lot of fun.  Brett said he could get into that a bit more, but not sure if he'd ever like some of the other terrain we ride there.

Coming in to switchback on East Branch.

It is probably no exaggeration to say there were over 1000 NEK visitors on Saturday. All the parking areas were full. The English language seemed to be in the minority. I bet at least 40% of the riders were women, and not just riding with male companions either.

A great day in the Northeast Kingdom

1 comment:

Mike Johnson said...

Junkie, Congrats on your excellent Burke Mt results. I went to Burke to see what BUMPS is all about & compete in my first hillclimb. I found the experience intoxicating! The people, the weather, the mountain, the whole event; it was fantastic! What a let down it was to find I couldn't make it to either of the last two BUMPS events.
My Burke performance was about what I'd hoped for; 29:57,
27th overall, 10th 50-59. Welcome to the largest, most competitive age class! I hope to add to the competitive depth of our class next year! Better fittness, a few bike mods, and inspiration from Gerry Clapper will get me there! Thanks for this great website.