Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 Mount Washington Hill Climb Race Report

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!

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

Matt Tirabassi said...

A kickass time and, yes, the diet is the thing.. I haven't pulled the cord yet.. but it drops a f**k load more time than latex tubes.