Monday, July 25, 2011

Riding Smuggler's Notch (on a road bike)

I was hoping to get another bigger road ride in this year after our Gonzo/Kinsman ride earlier this year and Shaun and I decided our Thanxmas planning trip to VT was a good time to put a loop together.  I was looking for some NH100 training miles and Shaun was looking for his first big mileage/gap climb ride.

I randomly spec'd a loop leaving from Jake and Tara's house heading north and east on mostly state routes and then heading back south up and over Smuggler's Notch down to Waterbury and back over to Williston.  Ended up being a great loop just shy of 70 miles.  And I stuck with our now new tradition of accidentally picking a road with a short dirt section without realizing it.

We left early to try and beat the heat.  It was the correct strategy.  Things were quite manageable early and we were more than halfway done before things started to get a bit oppressive.  The climb was perfectly located in almost the exact middle of the loop so we had a nice 20ish mile warmup before the right hand turn onto route 108.  The climb sort of starts right at the turn in Jeffersonville.  Somewhat mild at first and a bit rolly but gets more aggressive as you get closer to the ski resort.  To be honest I thought the climb was going to be harder.  This climb actually was the type that suits me fairly well.  Pitches were decent but nothing too crazy with a few areas where the slope shallowed out a bit so you could recover a tad.  The terrain was really cool.  The actual gap was completely overgrown like a jungle with some exposed rock faces and small waterfalls.  The road is closed in winter and narrows down to about a lane and a half (if that) as youre going up and over.

We stopped at the top for a quick gel and then got to descending.  This is where things got a bit loose.  I did enough recon and research to know there were steep switchbacks on the Stowe side and with the narrow roads you had to be really cautious but I of course wasn't quite sure just how technical it was going to be.  I have done some fast descending in the past but I have never done anything quite like this.  There were several places where I really wanted to be in more control of what I was doing and it just wasn't happening.  Brakes were maxed and starting to chatter and skid a bit.  Very exhilarating.  I made it through the switchback section unscathed, Shaun was not so lucky.

He laid it down in the 3rd or 4th switchback after a few Hail Mary recoveries it finally came undone for him.  All things considered his crash went fairly well.  Bike escaped relatively fine, minus a bunch of pedal scuffing.  And he picked up some rash on his elbow and ass and ripped his brand new race kit.  We're devising ways to appropriately patch them.

Luckily the rest of the ride was a bunch more descending and then just rollers and flats.  So it was mostly a cruise home from that point on.  We traded short pulls a bit on Route 2 so we wouldn't bonk with the headwind and heat.  Struggled up the last little Cat 5 climb right before home and snuck in with a time around 4hrs for the day with an average speed of 17mph.  Not blazing, but decent for the ride that it was with a crash in the middle.  I'm sure Shaun is now ready to start racking up all the major New England climbs.

Next up (pending some testing of gear configurations) is a massive ride up into the nose bleed section of NH and Maine...stay tuned.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Horror at Harding Hill EFTA NECS #7

The Tale of Two Gear Ratios.

In the words of that wicked old knight from Indiana Jones...I chose poorly.  I was feeling strong after our big KT trip last weekend and confident about trying to run a bigger gear this year for this race.  I ran the 32-19 last year and gambled on the 32-18 this time around.

The good news is I am strong enough to push that gear for a long time up some decent climbs in some oppressive heat.  A few years ago I don't think I would be able to say that, so there's a win.  The bad news is I can't push that gear very fast up some decent climbs in some oppressive heat.  Couldn't get the leg speed up and was having a lot of issues generating momentum let alone keeping it.  Course was a lot more chattery than I remember as well which also created some issues maintaining speed for me.  Course and conditions were pretty identical to last year so I was able to pull some decent comparisons of my data from both races.

This year is on the left and last year is on the right.  1st lap times were somewhat comparable but things fall off pretty quickly after that.  I'm bummed I made this goof because I feel much stronger than last year, if anything I think I should have (and would have) been 4 mins faster not 4 mins slower.  Its surprising to me the difference one tooth on that cog can make.  I spent some time looking back at results and comparing things and I'm beginning to think this course and me are not a good match.  Each year it is typically a low spot for me as far as how I compare with my competitors.  This year I was beat handily (15+min) by a rider who I have beaten several times this year.  Oh well, it was a good training ride.  Felt like 2hrs in the gym doing squats non stop.

Things got going with the mass start up a grassy hill...WEEEEEE! I was about mid pack sucking dust from the dry fireroads kicked up by le peloton.  Just like the tour, nervous first lap jitters caused a pile up.  Fairly hilarious...looked just like the tour too.  From my point of view I just saw a bike shoot up in the air and then a bunch of dudes tip over.  Everyone started screaming pile up! and trying to find weird routes around the carnage.  Initially things felt good, gear was good on that first flatter high speed portion of the course.  Then we hit that first doubletrack climb after a sharp right hander.  And I immediately knew I was in trouble.  I got up it just fine but my cadence was too slow and I knew I was in over my head and looking at a long day in the saddle.

Shaun caught me shortly after and we cruised together for about a lap and a half.  There was still one other SSer off that back with us so I decided my new goal was to race that one guy and forget about everything else.  He was good on the climbs but I could pass him in the small techy sections so I figured if I could keep him close enough I could pass him late in the last lap.  Heading into the third lap I was getting a bottle when Shaun came through.  I asked where Shaun thought he was, I was fairly certain he hadn't passed me but Shaun claimed he was about 30secs in front of him.  That was all I had left keeping me going so I took off trying to find him.

Then about 10mins later the guy catches me from behind.  Thanks Shaun!  You'll get better with that whole who am I racing and where are they compared to me stuff next season maybe haha.  I was able to hold him through two more climbs but the one that killed me every lap allowed him to get out of sight and I couldn't claw him back on that descent and that was it.  Last lap was solo just out for a cruise, a really hot horrible cruise.

Came in just under 2hrs and snagged 10th for a few points.  Yippee.  Gonna change gears a bit and start training for the 100 for the next few weeks.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Long Weekend

**UPDATE** - Here are some pics

Oh good lord.  There is no way I can recap my last 4 days in any sort of manageable bloggular form.  So I'll just let a few pics and the data do the talking.  Started things off with a great NEMBA ride Thursday evening in Concord.

bet you didn't know you could get vert like this in Concord

Natalie dropped Shaun off in Concord, I picked him up and we escaped up to East Burke, VT and the Kingdom Trails for a long weekend.  Shaun and I set up camp at the Burke Mtn. Campground before the rest of the horde arrived.

soon to become canopy village '11

This is where things get a bit too awesome to translate so here is all of my ride data since Thursday:

Even as awesome as all of that was we had to turn things up a notch before heading back to the real world.  Lake Willoughby is basically off the charts and borderline fake in my mind.  Just a little too unique/grand/amazing to truly be real.

I mean c'mon