I beat myself up during the week, maybe subconsciously paying penance for slacking off and abysmal performance on Mt Washington the weekend before. I have a big cycling/hiking trip coming up too. I can't rest the month of August for a couple hillclimb events when I'm looking at back-to-back 25-30hr weeks with copious climbing at altitude. Intervals Tuesday (what were those again?), 32 minute run up Mt Monadnock Wednesday, then 2hr fairly rigorous MTB ride on new terrain the day before the race. Felt tired getting up, head not into pushing myself at all. I just wanted to stay in bed.
But the weather was fabulous. I was thinking more about the short hike to the summit than the race. Sneakers were going up in the support vehicle. Warming up, my legs felt like poo. I wanted to get the bloodbath over with.
We take off at 9:30am. Unlike last year, the young guns didn't go ballistic on that wall right near the start. Staying with the lead dozen guys or so was much more manageable. Erik V was in that group, who is in my 50-59 age group on Kearsarge but not 55-59 age group on Washington. He's untouchable. I didn't know if any others of the dozen were 50+ or not. Mark V, next age group older was with us. He handily beat me on Mt Washington the week before. I beat him on Kearsarge last year.
The course is rolling uphill first four miles. There was a cash prime at the toll gate where the real climbing begins. The young guns went for that as I found my pace for the next mile of 12% grade. I put a very small gap on Mark but didn't expect that to hold. I was so deeply anaerobic.
This short climb favors my C/C gene. The climb is over before you know, maybe only 20 minutes of real work. I can suffer with the best for that long. I didn't feel the temptation to capitulate like I did part way up Mt Washington a week earlier. I stuck with the program.
|Yep, pretty much how I felt the whole way up. Photo by David Smith|
The hounds were always right behind me, keeping me honest. If I had let up even the slightest, Mark and two others would have passed me in a instant. Optimal time-trial strategy in many situations is even splits. But so many go out too hard, hit deflection in the middle, recover some only to get a second wind towards the end. It is a classic bathtub curve function with a large, junky middle where many seconds are lost against the clock. I think I faded a little in the second half of the climb, but so did the three chasers right on my wheel. In the last few hundred meters, the hounds smelled blood and Watts seem to be miraculously produced holding them off. When I crossed the line, I think I was within three pedal strokes of puking. Yeah, it was that good. It was the same feeling and similar duration to when I PR'd running up Mt Monadnock a couple weeks ago. Love that stuff. The endorphin buzz can last for hours after.
Anyway, that was good for 9th place overall, same as last year except more riders this year. Only a few seconds slower than last year, which may be attributed to a less aggressive lead-up to the climb. Nobody older than me beat me here, unlike on Washington last week. At least that's a metric I use to rationalize not sucking too badly.
I quickly changed into my trail runners and headed up to the summit. I was blown away to find not another person up there. Have never had this summit 100% to myself. Sure, the auto road was closed for the race, but the north side has a popular hiking trail up to the summit too.
On the descent, my front tire flatted just before the toll gate, 4mi from the starting area. Ugh! Not just me, but at least two other riders flatted there too. I didn't hit anything hard, don't think my rims got too hot. It was a slow leak, taking a while to go completely flat. What was on the road? Chris P came by with a bicycle version of fix-a-flat. He offered to let me try it. I was skeptical, but it worked. Thanks Chris! After awards, I found my rear tire had gone flat too. WTF. Haven't pulled the tires off yet to see what the failure mode was. Glad it didn't happen heading up.
Hope this race keeps going. Increase in numbers this year is encouraging. Always great to see such a diverse group of riders show up for uphill bike races.
|View southwest, summit parking and race finish in center|
|View northeast, the White Mountains faintly visible|
|Not a single person up here except me|
|A moment of quiet after the storm|
|Food and awards|