Monday, June 22, 2009

68 Miles

68 miles. 6.5 hours.

Saturday The Clayton and I rolled out a bit after 9am, headed to try to ride an elusive loop from Concord around Mount Kearsarge in Sutton, and back. With 100 oz of water and 5 power bars we hit the railroad bed on Bog Rd and rode the series of snomobile trails and a bit of road's flat terrain up through Hopkinton to the Blackwater Dam. From there we went into the Army Corp of Engineer's land grab under canopy of old pines along the Blackwater River. It's a beautiful calming place, except for the rooty overgrown trail that meanders along side it. The undergrowth is low and lime green right now. It was wet and humid and dreamlike, a bit surreal as we passed by one meander that affected us similarly- images of naked women bathing- nymphs- in the serene forest's river. A lovely place. I had the Helmet hero in my camelbak- but it stayed there the entire ride so you'll just have to imagine a Parrish painting to conjure up the ambiance.

It didn't last long as we popped out on the class 5 Little Hill road and made our way up, up, up, the not so Little Hill. "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!" shouted a bloated Chris Farley. In that humidity, it was a hard effort to make it up without dabbing- something that eluded us both- mine when after coming to a dead stop- still clipped in mind you, doing a trackstand for 1,2,3,4,5 seconds, simply unable to turn over the cranks on a supersteep while balanced, touching one foot lightly and then clipping back in and riding away. A strange moment. Damn! Almost a no dabber.

Soon we came out on Kearsarge Mountain Road - past the kiosk and rode upward, getting a wave from descenders Sean Snow and tri crew before peeling off left onto snomobile trail 8, skirting Kearsarge and dropping down through a May 2006 wash out to North Road. We came back over Kearsarge via the Winslow Park end of Kearsarge Mountain Road. It's a friggin' killer but we paced it up, taking inspiration from the long views, chatting it up with some horses, and admiring the wildflowers.

Then we dropped into the forest and the descent through more assorted class 6 roads that became streams, and more streams and more streams and more... it was wet and a thrill to go backcountry over whatever is presented- full of rounded greenish coated rocks and closed in with June overgrowth, mud spattering our faces with our arms throbbing. Finally we came out north of Andover at the covered bridge. All that was left was a long Rt4. We rewarded ourselves after the last climb, downing a 16 Molson Ice picked up during a quick watering stop at Salisbury's corner store. Success tasted pretty good while standing at the edge of a field, knowing only Colby's downhill and the flat run in to Concord remained.

It was one long day with good mileage prep for Crested Butte's July demands. I pigged out later on, doubling up on Haddock dinners and then drove to Rochester to pick up a Thule long tray for $15! All Hail craigslist. (TM)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Big Boy Rides

Hey guess what! I didn't make the NY Times like Doug Jansen did, maybe cuz I'm not Hilljunkie and didn't win Sunapee, Turtletown Pond and can't climb mega gap cols like Jure "Robot" Robic of RAAM fame(and I lack a certain special sumpthin' like state sponsorship support from the Slovenian Special Forces.) Maaaybe. These two guys have tremendous positive vision and they live it. Kudos to them and an inspiration for us on a good day.
Which brings me to(sound of THUNDER!!! ) Big Boy Rides!(...echoing sounds of distant Thunder...)...a.k.a last night's ride.
No matter how many miles and hours I log, intervals I drive myself through, or fat sources I deprive my body of, sometimes the trail makes me feel like a lame wuss whose skills went out the window like helpless alien abductees. It's on those rides that I usually ding a shin after coming to a dead stop in some wet lichen covered, eroded rocky water crossing and catch myself from doing a full force face plant by busting out an awkward push up while bending a few fingers into positions that some Chinese contortionista does for money. These rides remind me of what I aspire to, to be a Big Boy(Popeye theme song).
Last night my bud, The Clayton, was carving up some more logs (Chainsaw carving garden spirits while kayaking with a MTB over one shoulder anyone?) and couldn't/didn't make the ride so it was me and 2.5 hours of daylight, a hardtail and all of Concord's woods to hammer.
I stealthed into the quarries and went straight up to the top, over the granite whaleback, past C*nt's 60' water jump and down down down to the bottom - something I've NEVER done in 10 years of riding there, crossing the tweak bridges and popping out by Auburn St, making my way to the base of the techy Hospital trails(Winant Park) and ripping my way up stuff most riders only descend. No dabs folks, just out of the saddle power and chin up in the air eyes 40' ahead quest seeking. Rode down Fisk Hill on the resevoir side at at 1 million rpms, out District 5 trail, clamoring over Beech Hill, rippin the 1 mile DH I use for ridiculous hillclimb repeats, continuing on through Mast Yard, Jim Hill trail,50,60 , and back via Bog Rd railbed in 2.5 hours. 29 miles. My reward: chocolate milk, plateful of spaghetti, a beer, and a restful night of sleep and two teaspoons of confidence.
I'm riding the wave guys: Seems like I'm on a roll. Time to buy a scratch ticket...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Hmmm, the MTB racing gods, er... GODS, seem to have me under their thumb this year. I raced Bear Brook last year with "A" race fitness, only to flat twice and eventually break my chain. The four mile run back was entertaining, but not my idea of racing. I had been the first one to register and had been issued plate #1. Niiice to look at, but perhaps a curse.
Flash forward to this past Sunday. I'm well rested and ready to rip. My race plan is to ride steady the first lap and then go all out on the second lap. I pick up my plate and its, you guessed it #1. I'm thinking positive and am feeling I'm about to have my redeeming race and in the process put others on notice of my fitness and racing prowess, or some such silly pride based satisfaction and affirmation that the intervals and repeats will pay out today.
Lap one: I'm riding steady and away from the other Expert Masters. I feel at ease and that the pace is almost too easy.
Descending Carr Ridge, I come up on a Vet racer and let him know I'm flying and would like to come by when it works. No response. I ask him to let me know when it's good. Still nothing. I ask again as we come into the flattish swale mid way down and if it's "OK now - on your rig.." and begin to go around on his right and he wide bodies a bit and I say "Woah I guess not!" He has been silent the entire time and I wonder, iPod?, when suddenly something in him snaps and starts screaming explitives and insults. He totally lost it. I guess the pressure of someone from behind was too much for him - which he took dramatic exception to. His reaction was so full of Fing ahole fing idiot fing stupid piece of shite that I inform him he was swearing at the wrong guy- I'm on the EFTA board and talk like that'll will get him DQ'd. I pass left and he unloads again. I turn my head to get his number and say "Number **, that's it!" I'm loathe to quash any guys' ride ambitions, but this was the first time I've ever even heard of someone so out of control on the race course, let alone be subjected to it. It has no place in racing. He yells a threat to meet me in the parking lot later as I ride off and away, feeling surprisingly calm and truly astonished at his behavior. As Letterman says: Weird wacky stuff. Deal.
Lap two: I'm riding stronger per plan as I enter Hemlock where I planned to convincingly win the race. When I reach the piney flat section I soft pedal to let a female racer find a place to pull over, which she happily does. As I stand on the pedals to accelerate, my chain snaps. Noooooooo!
Here's when I think "Ok just check it out and maybe you can piece it together." Incredibly, I'm able to bend the bent plate and push the pin back in against a big ring tooth. I start to ride, only to hear nasty grinding and the chain snapping again. I must have twisted the chain when I put it together. Too much. I start laughing at myself and asking racers for a chain tool - for a while. Finally, Ernie Lozeau gives me his and rides off. Thanks Ernie! I spend the next 20-30 minutes fumbling with a chain tool I'm not familiar with that doesn't seem to hold the links in place - meaning I have to have three hands or hold the tool with my mouth while supporting the links. It's a comedy now as I let the chain run through my fingers 3 times with plates and or spacers dropping or pinging off into the leaf piles. I shortened the chain three times as a result and finally got it together when a junior stopped and became my third hand. By then I was thinking about the birthday cookout waiting at home. Beer, food... yum.
I rocked the rest of the last lap - much of it out of the saddle and flying - still some 20 minutes behind the deserving winner, Tom Barton, who had a strong ride and was able to make body and bike work for him, which I obviously was incapable of.
So I'm wondering if it really is the year for someone else to get the palmares and for me to ride with my buddies. Not just wondering really, but just slowly accepting.
The big news is CRESTED BUTTE!!! Yeah, I'll be there for the last week of July for nothing but riding riding riding 401, 403, Monarch Crest, Hartman Rocks. The MTB riding gods are smiling on me after all.