Saturday, August 3, 2013

Mt Equinox Hillclimb

Continuing my quest of exposing how old I'm getting, Cathy and I drove darn near to New Yawk state for the 10th year of the Mt Equinox hillclimb race. It is a fundraiser for Lyme disease, of which I think half of the mountain bikers I know now have contracted. Some never completely recover from it. Wicked stuff, and I obsess over checking myself every time I visit the wild. The race definitely benefits a cause that is on my mind a lot.

I picked up a bug earlier in the week, probably a virus. Our water well died, and 10pm Tuesday night I went outside to investigate. It took a while to remove the cap. I performed an ice cube test to find the static water level. It was quite good, no more than 50ft down. Our pump is set nearly 500ft down in the shaft. That was actually a relief, as some homes in my neighborhood had to spend $40,000 drilling to find water. That meant "only" the pump was bad, probably the same thing that happened 10yrs ago when sediment eventually chews away the impellers and locks up the shaft. Turns out a lot more than that was wrong, and it set me back more than $4000 when finished. My well is costing me $500 per year in maintenance costs since I bought the house 16 years ago. Cathy is over 55, so maybe it's time to look for a 55+ condo...

Anyway, while working on the well, I must have donated blood to over 50 mosquitoes. I can't use deet. Two days later, I felt feverish, achy all over, sore throat and throbbing headache. DaveP randomly sends me an email about multiple mosquito populations in Pelham testing positive for West Nile Virus. Great. Most of my land is wetlands. I could very possibly have picked that up. 80% of people that get it, never know it. 20% develop mild symptoms just like I was experiencing. Less than 1% develop more severe illness. I'll never know. Symptoms usually clear up in a few days. I still didn't feel right for the race and didn't really know if it would impact me or not.

We spent the night before at the posh Equinox Resort, but in one of the detached inns that mere peasants can afford. They offered discounted rates for race participants.  The room was small, but very nice. Super comfy bed.  The building was not conducive for a good night's rest by a finicky sleeper. Movement anywhere in the building was heard everywhere. I had to turn my noise machine up to maximum, something like 1,000,000 decibels, and maybe it drowned out 80% of the noise. I might have gotten 4hrs sleep.

Enough on ticks, mosquitoes and lack of sleep.  We awoke to chilly temps and rain. That wasn't supposed to happen. I didn't bring suitable clothing to warm up in that. I picked up bib number and finished getting ready. It looked like it was going to clear up. Mountains have a way of making their own weather though. Cathy no more than left for the summit than it started pouring out, at 60F, with no shelter and just a light windbreaker on. I had no choice but to hit the road to begin the warm-up process.

The rain stopped as we lined up for the 8am start. That was sweet, else we all surely would have been shivering. It was actually an ideal temp for a hillclimb.

None of the previous super-studs were there, the guys that bolt from the line and go for the $500 cash first-mile prime. My five minute power numbers are pretty good right now, so this situation was confusing me. Should I contend the first mile prime? I've never done that here before, instead, sitting back and watch it unfold ahead of me. I think I've seen guys have to put a foot down to avoid falling over after going for it in years past. This could torpedo the rest of your climb. So do I go for it in the small chance I could take it and most likely screw up the rest of my race? It would make for good blog fodder, I thought. I decided to see how the Top-Notch first-wave goes off and plan a strategy in real-time.

We go off, and the pace is firm but cordial. Gerry Clapper came to the front and set a pace I suspect he held for the whole 40 minute race. About 6-8 of us stayed with him. At 0.8 miles, nothing is happening. I thought shit, is that all anybody has?  With only a couple hundred meters to go, James Hayes bolts from the group and goes for it. I jump on. Nobody else was coming! I didn't know this kid. I thought surely he'd blow and I'd take this thing. He looks back, sees me clinging on, shifts up a gear and another 50 Watts. I match. He looks back, still sees me there, shifts up another gear and another 50 Watts. I match again. Now we're going really hard, and I'm still hanging on. I kept waiting for him to blow. He didn't. He looks back again, and ups it another notch. He had another gear that I didn't have, both figuratively and mechanically. I could tell he had whatever it took to not let me come around. With a tiny 30t ring up front, I also ran out of gears and was spinning wildly. I missed the prime by 1 second! James is only 18 and is improving on the bike by leaps and bounds. Good for James. Winning a $500 prime at 18 is serious bragging rights!

I was completely wrecked for five minutes after that. Despite drawing a sizeable gap on the rest of the Top-Notch field, many passed me over the next few minutes. I gave up a minute or two right there. I really didn't care that much. Two of us had a real race embedded within a hillclimb TT. Now I knew what it was like to contend the first mile prime.

I eventually got my legs back and found my groove. I started making gains on Joshua Atshuler and Jason De Lorme. Jason is the current BUMPS leader and was wearing the leader's jersey. Mile four is the hardest in the climb. Most of it averages above 14% grade. I think it was along here that I put Joshua and Jason behind me. I was now in 5th place overall, with 4th well ahead of me.

I felt pretty solid finishing the steep last few tenths of a mile. I didn't think I left anything in the tank as I crossed the line in 43:37.  Far from a PR, but not my slowest on this mountain, and certainly a better effort than Mt Ascutney a couple weeks earlier. I was happy with how I felt towards the end, especially given the first mile effort. 43 minutes is far from PR material on Mt Washington in two weeks, however. I just have to get that crazy notion out of my head and enjoy my day on the Rock Pile. Gerry Clapper took the overall by just seconds. 15 year old Ian Clarke had Gerry looking over his shoulder a lot!

Approaching finish. Photo by Mrs Hill Junkie.

At times the summit was really socked in.

The beautifully reconstructed summit house. True timber frame construction, no metal
fasteners, only centuries old joinery techniques. I want my next house to be built this way.

Andy Holzman with the Manchester Rotary Club has been doing a fantastic job running this event for 10 years now. Great snacks at the summit and a buffet with awards at the bottom. Registration numbers were down a bit this year, due in part to the Catskills stage race going on not far away. Even though many road races have gone by the wayside, it seems cyclists still have multiple events to choose from each weekend.

Equinox from the bottom. Summit and base were very different worlds today.

Overall podium, with Ian, Gerry and Erik.

50-59 podium with Brett, HJ and Michael.

I have no goals for the BUMPS series this year. Good chance I'll move up to the 50+ age group leader at Mt Washington in two weeks. Whether I stay there or not depends on whether Gerry does more than four races. Now I have to decide if I want to do the Tokeneke road race next weekend. Haven't raced road in two years. The two times I did Tokeneke, I went head to head with Gerry on the finishing climb. I nipped him the first time for a podium spot, and he was sure that wouldn't happen again the second time.


Patrick said...

Hey Doug, nice job!

Do you have any idea what your first mile time was? It sounds like you guys were not going full tilt from the start? I was thinking about this yesterday since I had to race in the 30-39 instead of top notch. I was wondering if someone could have gone ALL out from the start, with no other prime competition in the group and end up doing the 1st mile faster than guys in the top notch group who might be going slower but stalking/pacing each other.

Hill Junkie said...

Patrick - looking at my data, it is hard to precisely tell first mile time. Somewhere in the 6:00-6:30 range I think. They called it out, but I was too hypoxic to remember. We surely were not going full-tilt from the start, just Gerry's steady race pace. Only James and I went full-tile, and then for only 30sec or so to the 1mi mark. At the risk of making it bug you even more, I think there was sizeable opportunity for someone in another wave to have cleaned up on the prime.