Monday, August 19, 2013

Mount Washington Hill Climb 2013

Welcome and thanks for reading!

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.

Sparky, over and out.


Arlon said...

Steve you nailed it on the hill....and now in words!

JohnnyG said...

Steve, thank you for that very touching account. You write so very well. Not an easy thing to do. Your account comes from the heart for all to see and feel. I do not see your reasons for you time as excuses at all. You were the best you could be on that day period. A fantastic result. Yes, you are blessed with an amazing woman and soul mate, Stephanie. Her photo speaks for itself, beautiful!

Steve M said...

Nice report, Stevo, and what a tribute to your friend. Ever consider doing Newton's or are you committed to August? I personally like Newton's better because it's earlier and it's lower key and less crowded, but that's just me.

Steph Jacques said...

what a great day on the hill with friends and family. I will always remember that day. you're so strong and inspiring me to always ride better, stronger, faster. keep pedaling my love! pete is always with you. xo

Steve said...

Thanks, Arlon, Johnny G, Steve O and Steph. I'm pretty much committed to racing August because it's for the fundraising for Tin Mountain and I love the intense vibe of the race.