Monday, July 12, 2010

Newton's Revenge, A Bicycle Race Up Mt. Washington

Newton's Revenge, Climb up Mt. Washington. I set a new record for women 55-59 -- 1:24:23 and was the 4th woman overall. Stats for the auto road: base elevation 1563 feet, summit elevation 6288, length of the race is 7.6 miles, with an average grade of 12.7% and an extended portion at 18%. Highest temperature ever recorded at the top is 72 degrees, highest wind 231 mph.

The race was postponed from Saturday, due to torrential rains near the top, making the dirt section extremely rutted and slick. After that decision was announced Phil and I went back to our awesome B&B, the Nereledge Inn B&B and had a superb breakfast, then headed out to be tourists and to find a calm place to ride our bikes. Late in the afternoon the weather cleared and we drove back up to the mountain. Phil had earned a free trip up the auto road for the volunteer work he was going to do at the top on race day, so we used that voucher and drove up the auto road. I am so glad that we did, because I saw that there were some sections that flattened out just enough to give legs and lungs a small break. I figured I would need that! And, oh, it is so beautiful up there, we hated to come back down. We have fallen in love with New Hampshire.

Sunday dawned sunny and warm -- the race was ON! By race time it was HOT, which was my limiter of the day. I felt fantastic warming up and for the first three miles of the race. I had great legs and was good to go, but the heat was relentless. I kept waiting for the temps to cool on the way up or for some of that fabled wind but it never happened! The sun was full on -- clouds, where were you??? -- and what breeze we did have was a tail wind giving absolutely no relief. Like climbing in an oven...

Eventually I went into survival mode, especially once I got above tree line at 4 miles. No more dots of shade. I was just boiling by the time I hit the one mile dirt road section, "the 5 mile grade", so I stopped looking up at it while I was climbing. That part is straight along the side of the mountain and steep, and was my slowest mile, average there was well over 15 percent, probably that 18% that I spoke of earlier. Once back on the pavement I took a few seconds to regroup then hit the "Hairpin" which featured another short and very steep grade. A photographer was sitting on the yellow line (!) and I was wondering how I could negotiate that steep kicker and also avoid him at the same time. I managed to, and then it flattened out again to the "cow pasture."

Almost there, but how far? I could see the observatory and hear people yelling, but there was more steep road ahead. After I recovered a bit I went back to getting the ride completed. The last 50 yards did not disappoint. That 22+ percent grade (seemed like much more) was so hard, but thankfully short. Then a left turn and a few feet to the finish line!

The race ends at the very top, so once you cross the line you have to stop. That was equally challenging! I had two people helping me, keeping me from falling over. They put a blanket on me, which made me hotter, so we took that off and my helmet and got me to a chair. Who would think it would be this hot at the top? I was shaking like a leaf, but after some water and a Hammer Gel I was better. Eventually I got up and walked around, and after a while went to my van to ride my trainer. A wonderful person carried my bike for me while I hobbled down the stairs to the parking lot. What a beautiful place to ride the trainer, way above tree line with all the clouds and vegetation far below us. A mystical place and now one of my very favorites. Again, I did not want to leave.

OK, so I did not say too much about the climbing -- mostly because that is what it is all about. You just pedal and pedal and pedal, and if you stop you fall over, which happened to a gentleman I was catching up to who had started in a wave or two ahead of me. I was happy with my SRAM Apex gearing, 34 x 32, which would have been perfect if the heat had not zapped me. However, I just gutted it out. My mountain bike experience sure came in handy on the hairpin and the fabled finish line kicker.

What a marvelously put on race! The race promotion was right-on, with all the right stuff. We had number plates for our bikes with disposable chips that we did not need to return, we were greeted at the top with medals and beautiful souvenir Polartec blankets, we had a full fresh turkey dinner post race (yeah, they carved the turkey in front of you) and awards were prompt. There were lots of door prizes too. Mary and Kelly, their staff and volunteers did a magnificent job.

I'd like to thank my sponsors for getting me to and through this event: Hammer Nutrition, Specialized, SRAM, Terry Bicycles, and Sonne's Cycling. Thanks to my coach, Mark Fasczewski, for priming me up and keeping me going, and to my family for putting up with this! A special thank you to Phil for being support person extraordinaire. What a wonderful weekend we had.

When I signed up for this race in January I set out to break my age group record, which I did by 3 minutes and 7 seconds. By race week I had hoped to come in with a time under 1:20, the mythical "top notch" time, but the day's heat did not allow me to give this my best effort. I've got another chance, out Mt. Washington, I'll be back on August 21!