On February 1, I committed to what would be my 11th and 12th ascents of Washington. I was very serious about approaching this in a structured way, so on the 7th of February I bought a Tacx Vortex. For the first time in my nearly ten years of doing this, I was training with power.
One week later, my Aunt was admitted to DHMC, where we learned she had advanced stage cervical cancer. Having an already complex medical history, she decided not to pursue treatment and moved into an extended care facility.
Days later, Stella became very ill. She had developed a dangerous abscess between her spine and airway which resulted in some of the most stressful weeks of our lives. She underwent several surgeries and the better part of two weeks in CHaD. By mid-March, she had a clean bill of health.
By the end of March I was able to figure out a structured FTP building program. For the first time in, maybe ever? I was waking up and heading right to the basement to spin before work.
My grandmother decided in early April that she was going to stop taking her medication for congestive heart failure. This would result in treatment for pneumonia, during which it was discovered she had advanced stage lung cancer.
On May 7, I made my way out to race the Bear Brook Classic. I didn’t place well, but it felt like a good preparation effort for next weekend’s Crank The Kanc, my first A race of the year. It would turn out to be the worst Crank The Kanc performance of my life. I had nothing. Racing the week prior was a huge mistake.
A few days afterward, clearing my head by riding some dirt up north. Jefferson Notch was closed for repairs so this was a nice little detour up Cherry Mountain.
A few days later seemed like the right time to get back into hillclimb mode with a few repeats of Mt. Kearsarge. I went back the following week to see where I was at with a single all-in effort, which wasn’t bad, but it was mediocre.
The following week I lined up in the three man singlespeed field at Pat’s Peak, which I would later learn was the state championship event. Through a miracle that really deserves its own race report, I finished second. Unbelievably, by virtue of being the only New Hampshire resident who raced, I was declared single speed state champion.
Near the end of June I returned to Mt. Ascutney for the first time since 2010. With only a few weeks to go before the practice ride, this would be a solid benchmark for where I was at. I barely broke my PR.
Closing in on a week before the practice ride, I set a PR up Mt. Uncanoonuc. It’s only an 8 minute effort, but it was the spec of confidence I needed in the face of a lot of demoralizing results this year.
Finally, the day before the practice ride. I woke up with a migraine and then towed our camper to Jackson, where we’d spend the night. I was able to visit my grandmother along the way, which would be the final time we would see each other.
Morning comes early on the day of the practice ride.
It rained start to finish. The dirt was like peanut butter.
Despite a very average result for me, compounded by a lot of bad circumstances, it produced one of my favorite photos of all time up there. Stella chasing me up the final pitch in the rain.
Everyone was completely wiped.
Here, my grandmother is reunited the dog she was forced to leave behind as she entered hospice. Two days after the practice ride, my grandmother was gone.
The next day I reached out to MWARBH to cancel. I couldn’t do this anymore. I was physically and emotionally done. This year was full of moments to quit, and I never took one of them, but now I was ready.
By August 1st, I hadn’t received an answer about getting my registration refunded, so I made a decision. I was all in, and was going to finish this thing. I had one hard week left before my two week taper, so I devoted it to running a 5k every night for five nights. I don’t run anymore, so this was unbelievably hard for me.
On the third day of this commitment, I got a call from the race director. Free and clear, I can get out. I probably should have, but I couldn’t take it.
Morning comes a little later on race day, but not by much.
My go-to race day breakfast is Biju’s oatmeal from the Skratch cookbook. I cook it the day before so I can just reheat and eat when I need it.
You never know what you’ll get for weather, but it doesn’t get better than this.
Just as Kristen is about to drive up to the summit, I realize I don’t have the key to unlock my bike. I forgot it back at our campsite, which is an hour round trip away. Just like that, this whole thing is over. The season ends with me standing in this field, watching the final cars go up before the start of the race.
My friend from Jackson arrives with a pair of bolt cutters. We liberate the bike from the rack, and they let Kristen up the mountain. I’m completely shaken, but I will at least make the start.
I shouldn’t even be here, so I take the front row.
I took off with everything I had and gapped the field for about half a minute, after which I stopped pretending and sat up. I finished in 1:40, about two minutes slower than my practice ride.
I’m sobbing into my daughter’s shirt.
I think #12 is our last trip to the clouds for a while. For now, we just need to live.