Hi-Ho, off we go to the expansive and vast Maine North Woods. Three Million plus acres of forest and timer lands, a massive commercial working forest with public access controlled by North Maine Woods Inc., who also manage and care for over six hundred campsites throughout. With hundreds and possibly thousands of miles of gravel roads, it has become a goal of mine to drive through and see these lands and since I have started riding a snowmobile, it's added a new twist to scout out areas where I can ride and link up roads and waterways for long adventures and amazing back country travels. I like to drive, so I don't really think too much about spending 10-12 hours behind the wheel traveling these roads and taking it all in. If only we were able to ride bicycles in this area, wow how amazing would that be? Sadly, unless the forestry industry completely pulls out of the NMW or the landowners, management and public users can come to some agreement on how to charge for and allow expanded access for other shared uses like cycling, it's unlikely I or anyone will ever be able to ride these roads. I can only think the Maine North Woods would certainly benefit from the added economic benefits of expanded multi-use access.
On this trip the main goal was to get to the St. John river at Red Pine campsite. My trusty copilot Mike always secures his spot quickly, so the planning began. We had started an email thread about where to go, what to see, so I really started developing a good driving plan. I had traveled with my Uncle back in my teen years and we had been to a place called Spider Lake off the Churchill Dam road, so I set this as our first nights camp. I methodically summed up that we should head in at Oxbow and travel the Oxbow road for scouting Libby Camps main entrance as well as campsites along the way. We arrived at the Oxbow gate and we were warmly greeted by Lisa Sherman, gate operator and self proclaimed writer. She was a spit fire of a woman, with an amazing wealth of knowledge on where we had told her we intended to travel. She had quite a few opinions on the way things run in the NMW, good, bad, interesting and funny. I probed and pleaded to her my thoughts on allowing bicycles into the NMW, but as per above...that's a negative on the topic.
Lisa had warned us about commercial traffic within the first six miles of the Oxbow gate and to be careful, but as we were talking with her at the gate house most of the workers drove out, including the foremen, so she predicted they were done for the weekend. We didn't see any log trucks, but only minutes from the gate, in one of the operations zones, we were greeted by our first 'mud hole' of the trip. That was a deep one, but we got through and rolled on. A few miles down the road we spot two big cow moose running off into the forest, yup, Maine.
Munsungan Falls at the headwaters of the Aroostook river. Munsungan Falls campsite is also at this pretty little spot.
We stopped off at a few campsites to scout for future journeys and just in case it's a not to be missed spot. From the Oxbow road it was a few clicks north and east on the Pinkham road and then a left hook back north and west on the Pell & Pell road. Off Pell & Pell is a beautiful little campsite on Chase Lake, which was where we had to clean up the fire pit after some careless visitors left their paper plates and plastic forks, including a few other pieces of trash in the fire pit. I plan on ranting about this nonsense further down the post.
Yes! Camp for the night.
After a little more than 500 miles of driving from Kittery, Maine, it was nice to get out of the car and set up camp. Eating was a second priority and we started with the warm up course of veggie chili, homemade from my lovely wife Stephanie. It was so.damn.good as camping food usually is when you are miles and miles from civilization.
Does this fire look like a kitty?
We also brought kayaks and since we were camped at Spider, we paddled there. It was a cold morning and probably the coldest conditions I have paddled in, but dressed appropriately we were fine. Spider had a lot of rocky shoreline and not many options for popping out of the boat. From the campsite we paddled out left around the cove we were in. This went on for a bit then between a couple of islands for a little shelter from the winds, then we kept paddling up the inlet from Upper Portage Pond before getting into a little ice jam.
Winter's icy grip is showing early. Spider Lake ice - Maine North Woods - 10/25/13 Just so some of you who may not know can get an idea of where the heck I was, here is some of the GPS track from my Garmin Connect account. I started it about 8 miles after the Oxbow gate, then it stops at Kelly Brook Campsite. I would encourage every Mainer to visit even the smallest part of the North Maine Woods. It's amazing to me to be in such vast wilderness.
We had around 45 miles to drive before getting to our next camp spot for the night at Red Pine. A few notable spots along the way included Churchill Dam on the Allagash Waterway, Clayton Lake, yup, that place far and away where the weather reports come from and as always Mike was calling out landmarks and side roads like the finest Rally Car Co-Pilot would. Arriving at the junction of Realty road and the Ross Mountain road, I choose to take the road less traveled which actually wasn't too bad, a few rough spots, but the Subaru Forester was handling everything so far extremely well. After making our way through the hardest sections, we actually kept joking that we would get to within feet of the destination and would be forced back by an overflowing beaver dam, stream or washout of the road, but we rounded the bend at the site of the former bridge to Daaquam and then it was the sign officially for Red Pine Grove campsite.
The Red Pine Airfield along the St. John river
Arriving at Red Pine, I proceeded to blast down the airfield to the opposite side. I see how they could land a pretty large plane here, it's almost a mile long and fairly wide, but probably not wide enough for most commercial airliners.
The Dubie is not the fastest vehicle out there, but I did get up to 70 mph before backing off for a taxi into the campsite.
Just a little rant...
I'm an outdoors person, whatever it is, riding bikes, hiking, climbing, snowshoeing or skiing, snowmobiling, camping you get the point. What I am not is a hunter, but I have complete respect for hunters who like to enjoy the outside and their sport, or thrill of the pursuit of game or the benefit of feeding your family. What I can't really understand is how some hunters, bird hunters in this case, can be so ruthless and gross. As I pull into the site we decide would be ours, it wasn't ideal and there were other folks who had a camper set up just a few cells away. I noticed what looked like a dead bird on top of the tarp pole over the picnic table, sure enough as I walked over for a closer look it was a dead grouse and they had just left it, so carelessly in an area one would camp out and perhaps make a meal. How unsanitary! A little further away was the headless body of another bird who had been skinned from the spine and neck up, lower body still intact and full of feathers. To say we were disgusted was an understatement and I sort of felt let down by the complete lack of respect for wildlife and other folks who also like to enjoy these areas, so and we decided to at least check out the river then move on to another campsite. Ok a little more ranting about people who leave trash at campsites? What is wrong with you?
The beautiful St. John river, so peaceful and unaware of the crudeness man can relent upon nature.
I recently started reading Nine Mile Bridge a book of a woman's journey to teach school and live in the woods of Maine for three years, so part of our plan was to try and visit the site of the former bridge. Since we were headed away from Red Pine, I went against Mike's voice of reason and decided to make the effort to possibly set up camp at the site there. Off we go, left turn on the Thibodeau road due north when all of a sudden the road just dropped to the valley floor and this...
14% grade on either side of an amazing gravel road - gravel riders dream.
Another view a little closer to the valley floor.
At the top of that hill was another man made road cut through a valley just like this one. I was in absolute awe and thought about riding bikes, but the closest I'll get could be a winter snowmobile ride if it's not plowed....hmmm...
Getting close to wrapping this one up, but not before we get into the epic part of the trip and since it was a close one, no pictures were taken! We took a left on East Nine Mile road heading for another spot on the St. John river. We figured it was about 8 miles to the end and we soon put the easiest miles behind us passing Nine Mile Bruce's house just before the road narrowed to two tracks and some taller grass up the center. I noticed his door was open when we went by and if he saw us he must have chuckled thinking two things, we'll either be back to visit needing a tow truck or he'll see us turned back having come to our senses. The road description above, how it narrowed down to two tracks and tall grass up the center is just the kind of road I had wanted to travel on in the MNW, which we had done, but this one was getting technical and difficult and I kept going against my better judgement approaching every difficulty with optimism and confidence. We actually got out to walk as we had in other sections in our travels and I quickly announced I thought I could get through it. Back in the car and down the trail, one obstacle at a time, into the mud hole I had walked alongside and probed with a stick, suddenly it became deeper under the weight of the car and we got close to getting stuck, I even heard a few bumps and grinds from something hitting the earth and I though it couldn't possibly get worse until I began a drop off three sets of small logs that eased you down a steep incline and I hit my trailer hitch at the bottom, I kept trying to ride the high side of the double track since it was much wider than the contact patch of the Forester, but due to the muddy conditions the tires wouldn't hold the line and I kept getting sucked in and very close to bottoming out the undercarriage of the car. Not good to rip critical parts out of the car and have to get a tow truck to get us out. With my heart rate accelerated we quickly scout out an area to perform a five point turn. With the fresh scent of clutch coming from the air vent I quickly became only determined to get the heck out of there and fast! I turned the beast around and arrived at the mud hole. Mike got out and guided me through a different line which apparently was deep and from his perspective everything appeared as if we'd be camping right there...stuck in the mud! I am happy to report the scent of burnt clutch quickly went away and we just left the area, not even considering parking the car and taking a hike to the river, what now turns out to be a regrettable lack of thought, clearly disturbed by the muddy holes we encountered on East Nine Mile road. Someday I'll get there and be redeemed, maybe from the official Nine Mile side of the riverbank, I am always thinking about another woods road drive.
Just a couple more pics from the woods of Maine.
Cold fall morning light on McNally Pond, along the Realty road, North Maine Woods
The mountainous view from the western shore of Pratt Lake.
Before I get to the race details, it's been a busy couple of months. I ended the month of July going from a 12 Hour race in Vermont, to one of my favorite ares of the country, Boulder, Colorado. I had an opportunity to see the band Rush in Denver with my Bro from another Mo, Rofo. So I conveniently scheduled some "work" appointments and the timing was perfect to introduce some new products. Roland and I planned to adventure some as well, so I stayed on a couple of extra days. We rode mountain bikes at Heil Ranch in Lyons and the super cool trails of West Magnolia in Ned. Most notable on this trip was getting to the summit of Quandry Peak at 14,265 feet.
On the summit.
Roland Fortin climbing the Ponderosa Loop, Heil Ranch, Lyons, CO.
As I lead into racing up Mount Washington, I'll start with my descent off Quandry Peak. It had only been people and way too many dogs on the summit, but in my left field of vision I saw a Raven flapping wings to get a lofty swoop around the summit, he was vocalizing loudly and made a pretty close pass, as he rounded the peak I was trying to grab my camera, when he wildly flew down the edge of the mountainside and disappeared into the vastness of the Rocky Mountains. Roland told a tale at a memorial service we had for our friend Pete Roux in Huntington Ravine on July, 18, 2008, six months to the date of his plunge down Odells Gully. He told the group that when you see a Raven in the mountains, it's the spirit of climber in the afterlife. After the Quandry Raven flew away, I said to Ro, You know what that was all about, right? We agreed we had just been visited by our dear friend. It might sound corny to some, but we believe.
When I committed to racing Washington on my bike every year after the MWARBHC back in 2009, I had only quietly dedicated my personal suffering on race day to my friends memory, but as I learned about the Tin Mountain Conservation Center's fundraising beyond the entry fees paid by all the riders, I was motivated further to help the cause more publicly. I tell the tale every year when I send out my emails for your donations and you always respond. This year was the biggest year for our contribution to the overall goal. The total is still being tallied, but I believe we will be around $1700 or so all said and done. The story I tell is real and motivations pure. Thank you to all my sponsors and well wishers, it all means so much to me.
Good Energy on the Hill. Photo and artwork by Stephanie Jacques.
Fast forward to the 2013 event, I had set the bar last year with a 1:15 finish, but my fitness to date was less than last year and race day weight +3 pounds. Having ridden the practice ride back in July (just for fun) on the heels off one of my biggest training weeks of the year, I felt confident I could match the time again or come real close. I recorded a very unofficial 1:19 moving time with a couple of stops to take pictures. The rest of July was super busy with work, travel, play and life in general, so my training was fairly minimal, but fun at the same time.
Steph and I - 230 miles into our biggest training week ever before the climb up Lincoln Gap, Lincoln, Vermont.
The day I registered for the Hill Climb, I had also committed to punishing myself the very next day by racing the New Hampshire 100 miler mountain bike race. Thankfully I came to my senses around the first of June and downgraded to the 100 kilometer event. The stress of tapping such energy in one big weekend is not something I will do ever again as I type and reflect. Mount Washington is much more of a priority and important personal journey to dilute the hill climb mission with another event.
Serious mental mistakes & one minor mechanical fault -
Race day eve, I forgot my heart rate chest strap sensor for my Garmin at home, this would not be good for my psyche. I train by my HR numbers old school style and it works for me. Not seeing this data would have me relying on how I would feel while climbing, which was below possible effort. As it turns out, I was too cautious to throw myself in the red zone and post race analysis of my speed mile by mile, it shows I turned my second and third fastest times. I was immediately distracted on the first pitch when I threw my chain off the front chain ring. I stopped, dismounted, told myself not to panic, got the chain back on and got back on the bike. This was an amateur 'Top Notch' mistake and one that will hopefully not happen ever again. I was distracted out on course worrying about the NH100k, I was distracted by my lack of ability to turn the wick up and settle into a groove at my possible power output. These mental blocks were costly in time and energy. My finishing time was 1:20:29 and I thought I had blown the top notch status. I later learned that you need to be within the 1:20 and below 1:21, so I will be starting in Top Notch again in 2014 with a goal of 1:18:08.
Coming into the seven mile stretch. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Jacques
More excuses? Okay, it was windy and cold. The winds were blowing at 25-30 MPH with higher gusts and it was the windiest conditions I have felt while on the bike. The 42 degree temperature wind chill did not help and when I crossed the finish line, even with the fleece blanket the volunteers wrap you up in, I was freezing instantly. Add the sweat layer, soaking wet jersey & shorts, I was shivering and borderline hypothermic. Thanks to Arlon's wife Peg who helped me find our car when I was clearly in tough shape.
This year when I registered, I inspired friends of mine to also jump on board and tackle the hill for their first time on the bike and I was glad to be able to share such a rare weather day and see them all do so well. Nice ride up the rock pile, Arlon, Rich and Bob. Hope to see you next year! I am grateful to have had shared this day with very special friends Ann and Rob. Ann was married to Pete Roux when he was killed. It must have been a little difficult for you to be back on the hill, but I know time heals our wounds especially when we know we're being watched over and there is much love and support that surrounds us. My longtime friend Johnny G was at the start, other than genuine friendship, we share a common loss, Johnny's good friend Tom was swept to his death in 1991, in the very same gully as Pete. Finally, I couldn't have done any of this without the ongoing support of my incredibly beautiful wife, Steph. Thank you so very much for being you and loving me. She tirelessly rang the cowbell to the point of blisters for all the ambitious hill climbers. I love this picture!
A Steffie selfie in the wind with her hair flying free.
On Saturday, August 17, I will again ride my bike up Mount Washington, a 7.6 mile bicycle race to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeastern United States. The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb is the largest annual fundraiser for Tin Mountain Conservation Center.
Why do I ride? I'm forever dedicating my bike rides up Mount Washington in memory of one of my best friends, Pete Roux, who was ice climbing in Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington, and was tragically killed in an avalanche on January 18, 2008. This will be my fourth ride up in the last five years. In 2009, I completed the race in 1:30:42. 2010 was an off year for me and I did not race. In 2011, I took over seven minutes off my previous personal record and came very close to my time goal finishing in 1:23:06. In 2012, having turned forty that March and feeling like 40 was the new 20, I crushed it! I knew what I had to do mentally and physically and I exceeded my 1:18 time goal, finishing in 1:15:25. I had Finished Mount Washington in TOP NOTCH time and what an amazing feeling it was!
For this year's race, I have again set a personal time goal of 1:18:08. That's one hour, eighteen minutes, eight seconds. The seconds might be tough to nail down, so I'll go for within the eighteenth minute.
Getting up this beast of a climb is 90% mental and this mental game may be the toughest challenge of all, but this year starting with the elite Top Notch group, along with all the energy leading right up to the cannon blast start and the personal motivations will get me up that hill. When I'm digging deep in my soul at mile five and the view of the top of the southern gullies of Huntington Ravine come into view, I know that I will have a great burst of spiritual energy to continue the push to that time goal. When Steph is at mile seven yelling at me and running by my side for a few feet, I will surge forward to the finish with great force and speed.
Your donation, small or large, will help me with the motivation to achieve my time goal and it will directly impact the Tin Mountain Conservation Center's continued efforts to teach and inspire so many with incredible knowledge and insight into our environment in the White Mountains. In the link I have provided below, information about the TMCC can be viewed, along with the ability for you to securely and conveniently donate on-line right from my pledge page. Just click on this link - https://www.pledgereg.com/39709
I politely ask of you, in memory of Pete and in honor of an amazing organization, please help me support the Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which has provided environmental education to over 75,000 students, campers and individuals throughout schools and communities in Northern New Hampshire, western Maine and beyond for over 30 years. Please feel free to reach out to family and friends who you think would want to be a part of my ride. I want to make this the biggest year ever for fundraising. After all, I just have to ride my bike. You all can feel good about your donation. I will make you proud on race day!
Well, since the last time I posted, what's been happening? Too much to tell in two paragraphs, so I'll start here for now. In the last three and a half months, I've traveled eleven hundred miles by snowmachine, anywhere from Greenville to Jackman to Ft. Kent to Frenchville, Maine. My first snowmobile ride of the season was 316 miles and 12+ hours in the saddle. My friend Andy and I blasted this one out only to rip another 95 miles the next day. That's a good start!
Big Spencer Mountain on a cold early February morning.
Two thirds around the big loop we saw the Trains in the Allagash.
This is the loop Andy and I did for my first real ride on the new sled.
One of the best things about Facebook is finding friends and relatives you haven't seen in years. Life and a big, busy, world can sometimes cause us to become disconnected. A couple of years ago, I reconnected with family from the Ft. Kent area that we used to visit when I was a child. The memories are so very grand and to this day, this family is so loving and inspirational. My mom tells me that when I was a child, I used to be able to pin point to the day when the Theriault family would visit, more specifically I used to say..."mommy Laurie's coming to visit"...sure enough within the next day or two Laurie and her parents Norm and Pat would show up. There is certainly a connection there between us and showing up at her house after thirty years or more of not seeing each other, it was like we hadn't missed a single moment. (Thank You, Laurie!)
After 30+ years I am reunited with my amazing cousin Laurie, who loves to ride sleds as much as I do, but she definitely rides much better than me!
Sunset from a 'little piece of heaven' - Cross Lake, Maine
After two glorious days of riding in 'The County' at the tippity top of the state of Maine, I drove south and on my way home I stopped in the Baxter State Park area for another ride. I planned to make the trip up through the park tote road to the North entrance. After some cooling issues with the machine due to the firm trails and poor lube for the sliders, I headed into the State Park. Along the way, I saw several groups of climbers who appeared to be headed in to Chimney Pond, some waved in excitement and kindness, but unfortunately, one guy I saw out solo skiing, gave me a real nasty look when I waved hello as I passed him very respectfully. I kind of shrugged it off because I knew he was pissed to see me on a snowmobile. I had to laugh to myself and think, if he only knew me, he would maybe understand, but honestly it didn't bother me. The rest of the ride up through the park was actually really nice and I didn't see a soul or machine until I hit the ITS trails way north. That park road thought was fifty miles of ungroomed and a lot of whoop de doo's!
My mental plan turned North and West instead of South and East when I changed course as I envisioned this could be the last ride of the year, so after leaving the state park, I headed up to Libby Camps for some amazing food and fuel for the machine.
Libby's opened this winter for snowmobilers and the folks there are incredibly nice and have a beautiful spot on Millinocket Lake. I was hungry and pressed for time, so I ate, fueled up, then headed out across the lake and into the Allagash. I knew the trails in this direction had been ridden hard all winter and that the ice on the lakes was +3 feet thick, so traveling alone, I was able to minimize the objective hazards and make a go of it. Traveling alone, on a snowmobile you ask? Yeah, I had days of food supply and plenty of outdoor equipment to keep me comfortable for a very long time through potentially some pretty miserable conditions, which I didn't need to use, but be comforted knowing I was fully prepared for anything to happen. After 9 hours and 210 solo miles though, I was ready to be done when I arrived back at the car. What a rip that was!
Wa What...Done sleddin' for the season? No freakin way dudes and chicks! My snowmachine buddy Andy and I rallied our mutual friend Kevin for one more weekend of throttling through the forest. You might remember from my reports last year the three of us ripped out 500+ miles in three days, so I knew this would be a good adventure. This season I had hit all my goals to date on the sled, but one more was looming, only to go down on this very trip, another ascent of Coburn Mountain!
Team Blue on the summit of Coburn Mountain.
What a rush it was going up this one, high winds, 3-4 foot drifts from some fresh snow overnight made for some very steep and deep riding. My Yamaha Nytro XTX 144 inch track handled it without issue. There were no good views as you can gather from the photo above, but that's how the cookie crumbles in the mountains, sometime you see them, sometimes you don't. We ended up ripping up to Jackman for fuel, then over to Pittston Farms for lunch and continuing on for another big loop around Moosehead Lake, then back to the Forks where we were staying at Northern Outdoors. Great food, accommodations and snowmobile trails. Our second day and warm temps meant that this would surely be the last riding of the season, but not before hitting some amazingly STEEP and DEEP logging cuts off trail around Moxie Mountain area on the Northern Outdoors/Forks area maintained trail system. That was wicked good fun. I'm definitely going to seek out more of this type of terrain and riding next winter.
Below is our ride, the little dog legs out and back are where we rode up the logging cuts
Steph and I also did some amazing skiing this past winter, one of the best days of the season was blowing off work for a powder day at Bretton Woods. Steph's really coming into her own with DH skiing, so it's really getting fun now. She's skiing powder, moderates, steeps and doing it all really well, with some amazing style and control. She's a natural! We also skied a really amazing day at Saddleback (our favorite ski area) Here's a couple of pics from that day.
Made the obligatory stop at the 'Sneaky Pete' sign and skied the trail a few times.
That smile really says it all...
So what's happening right now with spring in full bloom? Well lots of rolling on bicycle wheels. I'm just below a thousand miles on the bike, combined mountain and road, having my biggest mileage week last week at 185 miles. Steph and I rode with our friends Matthew and Olivia last Sunday up in the White Mountains. Matthew promised a bunch of uphill miles and he did not disappoint. We started in Jackson, NH and did a short loop up the now infamous Switchback Road loop, over and just below Black Mountain Ski Area, then back through downtown Jackson heading North and West toward Bear Notch road. After a quick flat repair, we were ascending Bear Notch and I jumped my pace up to get a nice personal best time up the climb. Matthew said we were pushing 400 watts of power for a long time. Before too long though, he passed me and I tried to chase him up, but he was on his game. A quick rally at the top and we were headed down, continuing to our next climb of the day, The Kancamagus! This one is so nice and Steph had just done the Crank the Kanc time trial hill climb up the Kanc the day before, so she was feeling strong. I held just below the limit, but slightly on the conservative side, as I really wanted to do well on the return climb up Kancamagus Pass from the Lincoln side.
Ride bikes to the top of mountain passes!
Another rally of all the troops at the top and down we go into Lincoln for a little lunchie! The descent in to Lincoln felt longer than I remembered since there was a decent head wind, but we arrived safe and sound at the Half Baked Fully Brewed Cafe. We all grabbed our fuel of choice, which for me, was a small cup of coffee and an everything bagel with cream cheese. That bagel was quickly absorbed into my system and the coffee lit a fire under me. When we mounted the bikes to head back, I quickly broke from the group and hit it hard. I absolutely love the climb up the Kanc from Lincoln and on this day, I was primed for a good time on the ride up. While I rode, I would look back for any signs of my riding companions and after a good 10 miles, on the steeper slopes of the climb, Matthew appeared in my view. I began to fear him catching me, so I made a few strong stand-up accelerations and secured a little more time between us. I arrived at the top of the pass only 30-45 seconds ahead, but I felt strong on the climb, actually, exactly right where I want to be with fitness right now. The lovely Queens, Steph and Olivia arriving at the top, they had a good ride together all the way up with plenty of single file and chatting.
Pete Roux leads on steep, but fun, and easy terrain while climbing Gelsa 5.4 at the Gunks, NY
The objective dangers in the winter mountains are many, which are
contrasted by their extraordinary beauty, and the rejuvenation and
peacefulness they can bring us. These factors together create the
challenges that give us the intense fulfillment as human beings and keep
us coming back time and time again. We must be ever on the lookout for
all the hazards we face while pursuing our mountain passions. The
mountains will be here another day. Written January 20th, 2008 by ~ Chris Joosen USFS Lead Snow Ranger on Mt. Washington
Interesting thoughts at the moment, seems I've just witnessed life in so many ways. Was it the lights of Vegas? The hundreds of bicycle wheels and bicycle minds meeting in one gigantic room? The smell of smoky, potentially cancer filled casinos? Ding, Ding, Ding! Keno!
Naw, give and take I say.
More to the slightly long or short, thought filled point...
Eternal Life? Maybe...Evolution while in revolution? I like ice cream.
You see there's this Black and Yellow Garden Spider or more scientifically known as Argiope aurantia. This poor little beauty passed on today, but not before making a special appearance, even if it was in the face of death. My point may be lost entirely, but for the last several summers we've had one of these incredible spiders in our small flower garden. It was as amazing as it was creepy to see. Admittedly, I am not a fan of spiders or snakes for that matter, but I can appreciate the beauty of such a creature while being completely fascinated by them and their existence. This summer though, Stef and I hadn't seen one return to the garden and we might have even expressed some sadness with the lack of such a pleasurable and interesting view of nature. Last night as I was opening the barn door, literally within inches of my head, in the dark, I saw her, she was slender, long legged and looking beautiful. I ran to Stef inside and rushed her outside. Stef was happy, creeped out, and impressed all at once to see our spider friend of various generations make a return to us. I suppose it's possible she could have been around all season, yet we hadn't seen her. Makes you wonder what you're missing on so many different levels without some reflection.
Kindness and Proper Respect...
I found her this morning, motionless and webbed up against the bottom of the barn door. A place I couldn't allow her to remain. She was here for a few months or less and weathered the earth, such a short but incredibly vast life. Maybe there is life bigger and far beyond what we consider it to be?
I found a stick outside and butter tub out of the recycle bin and gently moved her into the plastic tub (at a stick's distance!) then I quietly brought her directly to the area we've had her family members reside over the years. Intent? My intent was to protect her and allow her to litter the garden with her spirit, or become nutrition for some little critter, either way it seemed a more life enriching way to continue to eternal life. She gave, I took, I gave, she took.
What am I talking about? I'm not really sure if you can get it, you'll have to determine if there is a lesson for you or if I'm blabbering on about nothing (to you). I see things in a different light than some.
She remained in these luscious greens all day long, though she had pretty much faded in color significantly over the course of 8 hours while I was away. I'm forever learning about the cycles of and circles or life. It's what you give and take from it. Seems we may have evolved to remain eternally.
Racer Bib number 286 for the 2012 Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb.
Here I am reflecting upon one of the greatest rides of my life. For you, I share a few photos and thoughts. Saddle up!
Firstly, I would like to say a special thanks to all my sponsors who generously donated their hard earned cash toward my ride and for the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, NH. Early fundraising estimates are looking like over Two hundred and Thirty Thousand dollars raised, which includes our awesome contribution of $1173 dollars. In the 40 years of hill climbing on Mount Washington they've raised over 30 million dollars in support of the Tin Mountain Conservations environmental and outdoor education efforts. Whether you donated or not, a lot of you sent words of encouragement to give me energy needed for such a physical effort and I thought about a lot of those comments while riding. Again, thanks, you all had to work for the money you donated, I just had to ride my bike.
Leading up to the start of this years race, I have been riding quite a bit. My year to date mileage is 2,000 plus with combined road and mountain biking. That is well above last years miles prior to the event and nearly all of my training and racing has been ultra, superb, quality. Though there was that one hard ride on April 1 with the Big Chair crew, that was quite the April fools joke on me! I lasted about 65 miles, but had made some key errors in clothing choice and nutrition. I had to drop, and I dropped hard with major leg cramps. After slowly limping in a homeward bound direction, I actually had to break down and have Stef pick me up in the car about 10 miles from home. Then just a couple of months ago, I had similar leg cramps on a big ride in the White Mountains, again Stef to the rescue! This time she rode solo back to the car about 30 miles and then turned around and drove back up to Crawford Notch and picked me up. That was a brutal day, but as a good friend suggested to me via a facebook post, "take it to the bank for Washington", and that is exactly what I did. In both events, I lacked a key element to my riding nutrition plan, I went without an electrolyte and carb sports drink that I normally use and it hit me hard well into a big effort. I know now I can't do that ever again.
Aside from all the time spent riding this season, a lot of other things have changed since last years ride, all for the better. My race day body weight was about 10 pounds less than in 2011 and my diet has changed significantly. For this and a lot of mental inspiration, I owe the credit to my super awesome wife Stef. She's transformed her life in the last eight months and rode a brilliant first time up the hill just back in July, finishing in 1:32:02 with a win for her age group! Seeing her finish SO amazingly strong gave me some pretty incredible mental strength to pull off what I did on Saturday. I learned a lot from her on that climb up. Thanks Stef!
Then there are the dietary changes I mentioned that we have made which have have been very beneficial. It's sometimes hard to walk by that fresh, hot, out of the oven bread at the super market, but I honestly don't miss it on a regular basis like we used to indulge ourselves in. All of the other foods I have taken on are much more satisfying than things I used to eat, and I thought I ate a pretty healthy diet before!
How about we go straight to the race report so I don't continue to blabber on. After a late and only so, so, dinner on Friday night, I restlessly fell asleep and ever so quickly the alarm went off for a 3:30 AM wake up. It had rained hard with thunder storms all night and I only wondered about the possibility of the race getting postponed. Which we wouldn't know until actually driving from home to the event. On the ride up my spirits were slightly dulled by pretty heavy rain falling and my bike was getting soaked, which I am never psyched about anyways, but the further we north we went and closer to the hill we got, the skies started to clear, when we headed up route 16 into Jackson and I could see the summit, I knew it was game on.
Just about to cross Mile 7 with a repeat offense of dropping a bottle.
Don't worry Stef hiked it back to the car for me.
I had about an hour before my start so I spent some time visualizing and trying to balance out my thoughts, then I rode up route 16 toward Pinkham Notch for about twenty five minutes to warm up. I stashed my wind jacket and a few things I didn't want to carry with me at a friends car while I watched the Top Notch group start. Then I rolled over to the starting line and positioned myself near the back of my age group. There was still a wave of riders to go ahead of me, but before I knew it, they had gone and then my one minute warning came, then thirty seconds, TEN seconds....and CANNON BLAST! Just picture a tiny little Civil War Cannon replica with a super loud shot blast - unfortunately no cannon balls are used.
From the starting line you race across the flattest tenth of a mile for the next 7.6, usually you hit your max speed in this stretch, which was 17.6 mph for me. The climb starts immediately after and in earnest! Before you know it, you're at twelve percent or more grade. As I hit the initial slope, I had made it to the front and rushed up and away from all the other riders in my wave with just two or three others. A random memory I have of this was about a half mile up, looking back and seeing a huge peloton of riders strung out across the whole road, slowly crawling up the slope and all bundled up together. I was happy to have escaped that mosh pit! One guy who I rode with all the way up, stood while riding for most of the climb, he was pushing a standard set of road bike gears! Surely I though he would crack, but he managed to hang it and we kept passing each other the entire way. The other guy we also stayed with for most of the way up, but just after mile seven he surged ahead very rapidly, but further down low, the three of us were passing the slower riders in the wave that started five minutes ahead of us. I finished mile one in eight minutes with a 7.4mph average speed, my second fastest time. Aside from the first mile, I set personal records for every mile after, keeping my heart rate under control the whole ride. My breathing was rhythmic and my mind focused, legs spinning efficiently ticking the pedals over like a finely tuned set of valves in a Porsche driving up the Autobahn. Not once on the ride up did I even question why I was putting my body through such physical difficulty and it honestly didn't feel as hard as the year before. I'd say I finished quite strong and feeling like I could have kept climbing for another 7.6 miles. I was keeping track of my distance and average speed along with the elapsed time and I knew around mile five that I would at least achieve my time goal, but I had a pretty good feeling that I would finish with an even better time than I ever imagined I could finishing the ride with an official, 'Top Notch' time of 1:15:25.
Unlike last year where I started out way too hard and maxed out my heart rate from the start then never really recovered, this year I've discovered my optimal power output in certain gears, at a certain heart rate range, on a particular grade of climb. This whole hill climbing thing really comes down to science for me. I've really learned so much about my physical ability this season and I know that I can continue to improve from where I am today with continued training. Below is a stats comparison from 2011 to 2012 taken from my Strava training logs.
2011 Stats were 83 percent Anaerobic and 17% at threshold.
Quite the opposite in 2012 with 81% threshold and 18% Anaerobic.
Sharing a few photos from the ride and a final thanks to you all and my support staff for the day. Stef, Heidi, Kathy, and Brian. It was awesome to share this day with you all and thanks for taking the time to enjoy it with me.
Embracing the awesome mile seven crew with an unexpected arrival!
With a flash I was gone, so pumped from all the cheering coming from mile seven.
It's the place to be you know.
Showing a little "game" face on the final stretch.
*Photo courtesy of Heidi Spiller.
Sparky, rider in the center of the photo rounding onto the final 22% pitch!
*Photo courtesy of Heidi Spiller.
Happy to have accomplished a brilliant ride and time goal.
Finally, check out this raw little video Stef made. It's going viral shortly!