The Okemo Hillclimb is this Saturday. I was up bright and early at Kearsarge this weekend to get some climbing in, as it’s actually been a while since I took a bike up a mountain.
I was there at 8am, and met a tri guy just coming off the road. He’d been out since 4:30, and was still planning on another 3 hours on the bike. These people are mutants and we must watch them closely. Keep an eye on the Statue of Liberty; I’m just saying.
I made three trips up the auto road, and I now after 15+ runs worth of experience I can say decisively that “warming up” with a trip up the mountain is a waste of time. The first trip up is always going to be the freshest for the legs, even if you resolve to “go easy”. Hold back all you like, but you’re still somehow dipping into the well of super special well water that cultivates PRs. My best times ever have been pulled off after minimal warmup.
My second run was full-tilt, all-in, and I blew it. I went out way too hard, my legs felt like ass the entire way as a direct result, and I put up a stinker that was 5 full minutes off my PR. As well, I’ve determined that I really need my actual Mt. Wash gearing setup to kick ass here, which I did not take. It probably didn’t help that the humidity was 80% when I started, and the temps were climbing through the roof.
The third run was just drawn-out masochism – I took my time, sweated buckets, and pedaled circles. Reaching the summit felt like it took forever. I started to wonder if running 22×22 fixed up Washington in July was going to be a good idea after all. As it was, I was turning 24×26 and not feeling particularly frisky.
Okemo is a weird animal. It has a 2 mile flat/downhill run-up that you can crank at 30+ mph, and then you take a right hand turn and climb a shorter version of Washington. How the hell do you gear for that. You need both ends of the spectrum. Last year I took a 50×34 compact mated to an 11×34 mountain cassette, did fine on the run-up, but found that 1:1 was nowhere near enough to make optimal cadence on the climb.
I vowed that a wide-range triple had to be the answer, so that’s what I tested on Kearsarge, and that’s what I’m taking to Okemo this time. 52x39x24 up front and 12×28 out back has some absolutely poisonous gear combinations, and there’s a real technique to shifting it and keeping the chain on the bike. But I don’t know of any other way without making a sacrifice.
My prediction is that this will be a disaster, I will never try it again, and decide that since the run-up is the statistically shorter portion of the event, in the future I will sacrifice top end gearing for a stable setup on the climb.