It’s funny to me. I can line up behind some of the best climbers in the world at Mount Washington and have almost no hesitation about the 7.6 miles that lie ahead. I almost enjoy it. Yet this weekend was Okemo, a shorter event, really nothing at all like Wash, and it put my guts into a blender. Incidentally there is a public restroom at a marina in Sunapee, and when the chips are down and some joe blow commandeers the john right ahead of you and it’s 5:30 in the morning and your eyeballs are about to eject from their sockets, take matters into your own hands and storm the ladies room. It’s the practical option.
I hadn’t been riding much over the past few weeks for a variety of reasons, and it showed. I ran a compact up front, mated to a SRAM 11×34 with an XTR short cage rear derailleur. I knew it would be enough to get up the mountain, and it wouldn’t leave me spinning wildly along the 2 miles of gentle downhill runup to the base of the climb. But while I had decent speed for the runup, the 1:1 ratio just wasn’t cutting it. I was hopelessly locked in Zone 5. I couldn’t find a preferred cadence, and I suffered almost the entire way. On the singlespeed I have great strength, but I felt like I couldn’t tap into any of it. Maybe just too tired, maybe too nervous, really didn’t have a good breakfast, all of the above, who knows.
The organizers were kind enough to lay out mile markers. 1 mile to go and I’m thinking, okay, that’s not bad. I hate myself right now but I will finish. Half mile to go, I’m thinking about how around this point on Wash I go for broke and go all in. So I step it up a bit, and I am really working now. Please, please be over soon. 1250 feet to go. I gamble, thinking this really isn’t that far, and I am way, way, way wrong. 500 feet to go, and it feels like I’m barely moving. Not knowing the hill is just killing me. Also killing me is the extra 20 pounds this year, the fact that I haven’t ridden consistently all season, and the fact that I’m barely making a cadence of 50. I finished 3rd of the three clydesdales, who whipped me by 10 minutes. I finished last in my age group, and was within range of finishing last overall. Definitely an eye-opener. I’ve got some work to do. I climbed like shit.
I did finally get to meet Doug Jansen. Over the past few years I’ve emailed him here and there, and we chatted a bit at the top. He had a great day, finishing 7th overall and 2nd in his age group. Read his recap for the other side of the coin, knowing I’m 20 minutes behind, mashing through a headwind that cements the futility of my efforts.
The next morning I was positively spent.
So like a moron, I head to Vermont with Gramps and Todd. I have no idea what I’m doing up here. After 30 miles, I am whipped and out of water. I’ve already drained the 80 ounces I had on my back. Our water stop, a happy ‘ol country store in South Strafford, closed an hour before we arrived. I’m on the verge of punching a ticket to bonk land. I am really hating life right now. About 10 minutes prior I realized that I wasn’t getting home any time soon, and now I knew it. Temps on the climb out of South Strafford were over 100 degrees off the pavement. This is not the place I needed to be after yesterday’s effort. I could really, REALLY use some water right now.
As we descend the other side, approaching 15 miles to go, some Deadheads are blasting tunes and working in their yard. We stop to ask directions, wanting to make sure we’re headed in the right direction, and they kindly offer us some water. They wouldn’t let us in their house, but honestly I would have traded a testicle for cold water at this point. Fortunately the water came free without bartering, we chatted for a few, and off we went. The sun went away, the skies opened up for a little while, and somehow I came back to life. I rocketed down Beaver Meadow Road into Norwich, hitting up a lemonade stand along the way. I love paying kids $1 for a 25-cent glass of lemonade. It made their day and boy did I need it.
We wrap it up back at the Packard Hill covered bridge in Lebanon, and all told we put 52 miles and about 4500 feet of climbing in the books. The last thing on earth I needed today. Or was it. I guess we’ll find out. July is here, and looks very busy. The singlespeed Prouty Century, Ascutney, the Wash practice ride…I have no idea what to expect. But I don’t think we’ll be chasing 1:20 this year. I think it’ll be a miracle to be in the 1:30s. I’m 190lbs right now, and while there is some fat to lose, there isn’t much. There is a lot of new muscle. I may need to spend this season just getting used to it, building up the leg and core strength to accommodate it. It sure looks like the undereating waify 173-pounder of last year is a distant memory.