Monday, November 4, 2013

Cycling Ride Reports

I wanted to collate the three ride reports I made of some of my longer and more epic bike rides from this year.

July 22, 2013: Kancamagus out and back from Conway side
70.16 miles
18.69 average MPH
46.02 MPH top speed
5125 feet elevation gain

I had cycled the Kancamagus three times but the last time was back in 2005. Since getting back into road cycling in 2011, I've been wanting to do this route again and I finally got the chance today. It can be tough to get an available day when the weather is cooperative too.

Today was forecasted two days ago as being partly sunny and dry. I awoke today to seeing the radar showing some rain and the potential for more. It looked though that the rain was just south of the Kancamagus. Sure enough, I drove through some rain but then it was dry for my start. There were even a few peeks of sun but it was cloudy for most of it with a great temperature of 68 degrees. I felt a couple of drops during the last 10 miles but nothing to wet the road. But just as I was pulling out of the parking lot to leave, the rain started! Good timing! This is an intense ride. As the elevation profile shows, you basically climb to a peak and then descend, reach your destination and repeat the process.

I started on the Conway side, went to Lincoln and came back. I was hoping to set a new personal record. Back in 2005, I did the out and back in 4:02:12 but today I managed to do it in 3:45:11. Being 8 years older was secondary to my having done far more training and weighing considerably less. Especially with climbing, that's a huge factor. It's a very beautiful route. You follow a river for a long way and then as you climb the peak and go over it, there are many panoramic lookout points showing many of the surrounding mountains. You can see all the way to Mt. Washington. It just so happened that I came upon an organized ride that came in from Bear Notch Road. There were dozens of riders in it. I have a competitive streak and I really think that helped me with the climb on the way out to have riders in front to chase down! The descents, of course, were lots of fun. I especially enjoyed rounding the hairpin turned, which, thanks to the road being nicely banked, didn't require any braking. After the long descent to Lincoln, I stopped and refueled with an energy gel, Powerade, Snickers bar and water. I took extra precautions to make sure I was fully fueled for the ride. Bonking is no fun particularly with 9% grades to climb. I carbo loaded the last two days and then drank regularly while on the bike. My mixture that I find most effective is 40% Coke, 40% Gatorade and 20% water. Good stuff!

September 9, 2013: Hurricane/Evans/16 from Storyland
71.93 miles
17.39 average MPH
44.0 MPH top speed
5614 feet elevation gain

This ride was significantly harder than the Kancamagus ride I did in July. The main reason for that is Hurricane Mountain Road. This is a brutal climb. I had only ridden around 5 miles from my start at Storyland when I hit it I wasn't fully warmed up and it didn't help that both my water bottles were mostly full. Every ounce matters on a climb like this. It is absolutely unrelenting. I'd look up and gasp as it strongly resembled a wall. I didn't walk any of it but was disappointed that I had to stop twice. I made it up 3/4 of it including parts of the 17% grade where on the switchbacks it was closer to 20% without stopping but then stopped twice briefly. My heart has never beaten like this - ever! It felt like it was going to come out of my chest.

The descent was no reward as it was unpleasant due to very sharp turns and very bumpy pavement. The descent was also posted at 17% and I could feel my bike wanting to get air on parts of it. I had to do lots of hard braking. Fortunately there were a few straight parts where I could let the bike go and let the rims cool off. I could smell rubber at the bottom and it's potentially damaging to the wheels themselves.

I emerged on a road with more lousy pavement but with just mild rolling hills. My body was shell-shocked at this point and I wasn't in a normal riding rhythm. I had gone way beyond my anaerobic threshold and extended efforts at that pace usually take a toll later in the ride.

After some miles of this, I emerged on route 113 where the pavement started to get better. What was amazing about this road was just how desolate the area was. At one point I went about 10 miles without seeing a single car. There were more rolling hills and I could feel myself recovering some which was good because Evans Notch was approaching. The road had recently been repaved heading up the steep part of this which was definitely welcome. The Evans climb was the second hardest of the three. It too was quite unrelenting for several miles but the grades were about half of that of Hurricane Mountain Road. I had the whole road to myself as I got into a good climbing rhythm.

I stopped at the highest point where it's marked by a sign showing the elevation of Evans Notch. It was beautiful there and one of my favorite moments of the ride. Again, desolate and perfectly quiet, I enjoyed looking off into the valley. After about 5 minutes, I began the descent. The first part was also repaved and unlike Hurricane, this was a fun ride down. It didn't stay steep for long but then there was an extended amount of miles with a downward gradient allowing for easier pedaling and recovery.

At the suggestion of a cycling acquaintance, I didn't take route 2 at the bottom but rather crossed over it and took North road. In his report, he mentioned how quiet this road was except for seeing a mother bear and two cubs cross it! I also found it almost carless. I only encountered one car in the roughly 8 miles before it rejoined route 2. I didn't see any bears though I heard rustling to my right and saw a deer who for some reason didn't immediately go into the woods but ran alongside me for a bit. I'm glad it finally took a right rather than crossing in front of me.

After about 4 miles on route 2, I arrived in Gorham and refueled at a Cumberland Farms conveniently located next to the turn for route 16. This was 49.7 miles into the ride but I was fueled sufficiently up to this point. It helped that the temperature was coolish.

I then got on route 16 heading towards Mount Washington. It's steady uphill but except for a brief bit near Wildcat, I found it comparatively easy. It was without question the easiest of the three major climbs. It was an all-out descent down the 9% grade on the other side heading back but the wind was against me so I only topped out at 44MPH. The rest of the trip back to Storyland was almost all downhill and a nice way to finish the ride.

I had never been on route 113 and through Evans Notch on a car or a bike so I really enjoyed that part. I was able to capture a feeling of being alone in the wilderness which doesn't happen that often on a road bike. I'd recommend this ride. Loops are always nice. The only part that was questionable was Hurricane Mountain Road. If you're feeling particularly masochistic, this is the road for you!

September 29, 2013: Charlton: 31 to Wachusett & back
68.40 miles
17.71 average MPH
49.0 MPH top speed
5976 feet elevation gain

My in-laws live in Charlton and I had done three previous rides heading north on... route 31 from their house. Today I was able to complete the full ride to the summit of Wachusett and back.

I hit the road at 8:20 with it only being 51 degrees out. I was in shorts and short sleeves but didn't want to have the hassle of bringing an extra layer. It wasn't long before I felt warm enough. The day turned out to be perfect weatherwise as there was little wind and it was about 65 degrees when I completed it.

Route 31 is just okay to ride. Many parts don't have that great of a shoulder but I never felt that uncomfortable. I arrived at the intersection of 31 and Mountain Road feeling pretty excited as I was finally going to enter new territory. There's a good hill right off the bat. About three miles later I saw the entrance to the Wachusett reservation.

As I turned in, I saw a worker there who clearly wanted to talk to me before I went any further. He told me it was okay to proceed but said to limit my speed on the descent to 20 MPH. He said cyclists have been routinely doing 50 there and yesterday a group was pulled over and each given $200 speeding tickets! This was a bit of a bummer as I was looking forward to a spirited descent though I didn't plan on going 50 with all the hikers. Of course, I was glad to have been warned rather than be one of those who ended up with a ticket.

The ascent went smoothly on the perfect pavement. Compared to my Hurricane Mountain Road adventure of three weeks ago, it was only minimally challenging. I cycled up the smaller paved path that goes right to the summit and spent about 5 minutes there enjoying the tremendous view that was in every direction. The foliage around there is already starting to look nice.

It turned out that as I began my descent a car was right in front of me. I decided to just pace myself with the car which ended up going between 30-35 for most of it. Certainly better than going the posted speed limit of 20 but not that exciting either. I knew the real excitement was to come as there are no limits on Mountain Road!

I take the left and after a bit of peddling, I got into a tuck. I didn't sprint into it as this was my first time doing it. I had watched a youtube video of the descent on this stretch several times so I wasn't totally in the dark about it. My bike held well and the pavement was good. There are a couple of slight turns that add to it. I topped out at 49 MPH.

I then came to 140 and the most unpleasant two miles of the ride. There is no shoulder on that section and I was relieved to turn onto Osgood and then Mirick roads which were very quiet. I came out onto route 62 and after another steep but short ascent was back at the route 31/Mountain Road intersection. I would retrace route 31 back the rest of the way.

I stopped at 47 miles to refuel. Given the coolness of the day, I went through less liquid and was okay with two water bottles up to that point. I got a cookie, double Snickers, Powerade and water. The total came to $6.37 and I only noticed at the counter that there is a $10 minimum for credit card purchases. I only had $6 cash with me and asked if an exception could be made. I was hoping that she'd just let me use the credit card but instead she took the difference out of the tip jar which was a nice and unexpected gesture.

I ate and drank as quickly as I could sitting at one of the outside tables. I didn't want to risk cramping. My legs were a little stiff at first but soon loosened up and I could feel the fuel starting to power me. The hill after passing over the Kendall reservoir is the toughest on the return section. I think I actually finished the ride feeling stronger than some of my previous shorter rides on this route.

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