Saturday, August 27, 2016

Kearsarge 2016

This has been the summer of having fun.  Any thoughts of structured training have been abandoned. I ride for enjoyment and mental health. Up until last summer, I primarily cycled in the summer months with touch of running thrown in. The running was never really much fun. I did it for bone health. This summer however, cycling has been diluted with hiking. Hiking is fun. The pace is slower for sure, and most hikes don't involve adrenaline spikes, but endorphin enhanced flow states are surely attained.

So why sign up for a hillclimb race then?  I hadn't even been on a road bike in like two months. It's fun to test yourself once in a while, see how bad you suck or if you still have it. You get to ride and socialize with good peeps. Testing yourself against a mountain is one of the safest forms of cycling competition. Plus I like to support small, local events.

The Kearsarge hillclimb race is put on by the Hopkington Rotary Club. They do a fine job with all aspects of the event. Hillclimb races are falling off the calendar like road races have been for a while now. Seems gravel grinders are all the rage these days. Still though, I was encouraged to see many first-timers at Kearsarge today. Registration numbers went from 40 to 80 in the last week with some day-of registrants. Enough to bring this event back next year, but we'll have to grow that number to keep it going.

A few asked about my website. Lycos hosted it for 15 years. I kept my domain name registered through them. Somehow in May, they lost my domain name. They insisted they were working on it and to sit tight, they'll get me back up in no time. Days turned into weeks turned into months. They told me I should contact a third party non-US registration company to get it back. I did, and they wanted ridiculous fee. I have no idea how this can happen, and if this was a business domain name, it would have gone legal. But alas, was just a self-funded overflow of my passion for cycling. I was not going to be extorted, nor did I have the time to mess with it. So after a two month battle, I told Lycos to go f*ck themselves, in so many words, and cancelled my account. I filed a nasty review with the BBB and protested two months charges with credit card company, which I got back.

But wouldn't you know it, the same day I told Lycos to get lost, another north easterner bought my domain name at auction and started a new website. Former visitors pointed out some of my original content started appearing on this new website. What?! I was able to get in touch with the new owner and mentioned he needed permission to use it. He meant no harm, noticing all the failed requests to his new domain name, realizing that it was pretty popular before. He put archived pages up with same URLs so people could find what they were looking for. Not sure what direction he will take yet, but last check my content has been removed. You can find most of it archived on the Way Back Machine. I will likely resurrect some form of the original website under a new domain name.

Back to Kearsarge. I worked through last weekend to meet a deadline and took Thursday through Sunday off this weekend. With a huge cycling trip to Colorado coming up in a week, I wanted to get lots of trail volume in. How would that work out going into a time trial up a mountain? Good "training" for Colorado, I figured, where you get up everyday and do a big ride or hike in the mountains.

We lined up at 9:30am. Temp came up way faster than I expected. It was humid. My goal like last year was to do whatever it took to stay with the young studs over that first 200ft wall, then sit in until getting to the steep toll road to the summit.

Well, they didn't totally kill it over that first wall near the start. That meant I and about 30 others were still part of the lead group. Not much of a selective advantage there. But then the attacks started on the many rollers over the next 3 miles to the mountain road. Lack of VOmax work this summer and tiredness from two days of trail riding left me with nothing to respond to these efforts.  I gave up half way to the real climb, thinking any seconds I gain by staying with the kids would more than be lost going against the mountain. I'd burn way too many matches before the real work began.

I was dismayed at how quickly the lead pack of 10 or so riders vanished. I was in no man's land for a bit, eventually trading places with Mark Virello and one other rider. Peter Megdal, who is in my age group, made an effort to stay with the leaders. He was gone. I wondered if I had just made a tactical error.

The first mile after the toll gate is the steepest mile in the eight mile race. It averages about 12% grade. It didn't take long before I started seeing Peter again. Getting reeled in quickly, he was.  Maybe sitting up during all those explosive efforts was not such a stupid move after all.

We passed Peter. I still wasn't feeling very competitive. After the first steep mile, there are bits that level off and even a couple slight downhills on the way up. There was a bit of cat and mouse going on, like nobody wanted to give anybody more draft benefit than they deserved, no matter how minuscule it was. I was certainly guilty.

Then I started pondering. Do I go all the way to the finish with these two and trust my mad fast-twitch Watts to not lose a couple spots? I knew Mark but wasn't sure what age group he was in. Then I thought naw, I might as well see what I could do now with two miles to go. I didn't feel like I had mad fast twitch Watts anymore anyway. It worked, just barely, finishing 8 seconds ahead of Mark. Turned out he's in next age group now.

Only 18 seconds slower than last year, which is nothing to be disappointed about. I turn 55 next year, which bumps me into the next age category at some events. I may actually get back into training mode and do more races. I find that passion alone gets you 95% of the way potential fitness. If you have lots of passion for your sport, you don't have to rely on regimented training programs to maintain a high level of fitness. I may not do the 5x4 minute VOmax efforts I used to, but passion pushes me to ride hard every week. Achieving that last few percent performance is costly. I haven't been in the mindset to go there this year. Yet in the bigger picture of the general population, just riding for enjoyment will easily put you in the top few percent of health and fitness. Isn't that what matters most?

It was a gorgeous day, and no climb is complete without the summit. The toll road parking lot stops a few hundred feet shy of the summit via a ledgy hiking trail. I sent up hiking shoes ahead of time, quickly changed, then sprinted up to the summit.  I was amazed at how agile I felt without backpack and without poles. I could actually use my arms for balance hopping across boulders! I took a couple photos up top. I learned how idiots taking selfies die. I wasn't paying attention (not taking a selfie), took a step back without looking, not realizing there was nothing to step onto behind me! Go for a tumble, I did. My second best camera went bouncing down the granite dome. Knee got bloodied up. Mostly just granite rash. I was lucky hip and shoulder checks didn't brake bones. Camera didn't fare well. Have to take apart to see if salvageable.

Part way up trail looking down on parking lot/finish line

Summit looking towards the Whites after I dropped my camera. What is black spot?

Finish area after short hike

Heading back down the trail, again I felt so light on my feet with no pack or poles, like I could almost run on that crud. Maybe I was just hopped up on race endorphins and it was all in my head. Did make me ponder possibilities.

50-59 podium

No big hike or ride after the race this year. Some home projects have been neglected for too long. One day remaining of my four day weekend. Hike or bike?

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