Sunday, June 09, 2019

Hills, Hills, Hills

Last year, the weather was not cooperative for getting enough long rides in before the 100/200. I felt that I just made it in terms of preparation. This year's spring was even worse. In January and February, I rode less than 200 miles each month, and March and April were under 300 miles, each. May was much better, but it was the final week of May before I got in a ride over 100 miles. I stretched this to 130 miles last weekend, and hoped that this would be enough preparation to do a true training ride this weekend. I don't think it's wise to put in an extreme effort the final week before the big event, so this was really my last chance.

The weather cooperated with temps in the 70s and light wind. I had ridden most of the northern and middle sections of the 100/200 route and thought it would be wise to cover the southern section. I prefer to ride the route backwards, so the actual ride won't feel like a re-hash of something I've just done, so I mapped out a different route to Readsboro, with the return leg on the 100/200 route. The problem is, it's darned hilly in the southern part of the state and there are only so many places one can put a road, so the options are sparse and full of climbs.

Windham Church sits at the top of the hill
I started in Ludlow a little after 8 am, and headed down VT-103 through easy Proctorsville Gulf to Chester. Luckily, they had laid the pavement in the ongoing road construction, leaving a very smooth surface. I started the climb up VT-35 towards Grafton, turning onto Popple Dungeon Rd. just where the climb really kicks up. After 2 miles, this road turns to dirt, but it was firmly packed and quite smooth in most places, with very little traffic as it presents a long and not difficult climb, passing over one-lane bridges. At the end, I made my way to steep Hitchcock Hill Rd, crossed VT-121, then another steep, but short climb up Windham Hill Rd, before dropping down to VT-30 in West Townshend. The final drop is like a precipice, and the rough pavement lit with mottled sunlight through the trees made for a very sketchy descent. I wonder how many vehicles slide through the stop sign into Rte. 30 in the winter, it was that steep.

Williamsville covered bridge still carries all traffic
I rode down Rte. 30 past the Townshend Dam to Grimes Hill Rd, and started the climb to Williamsville. spotting the first of two, similar, light-duty steel truss bridges. I also unexpectedly crossed a covered bridge I hadn't known about. Then, it was a steep climb to Dover. It's actually 1,600' in 10 miles from Rte. 30 to Dover, but the last 1,000' is climbed in only 2 1./2 miles. The pavement was much better, likely due to a larger tax base, judging from the upscale homes I passed.

These light truss bridges were once common
replacements for covered bridges. This one's in
Williamsville and is still in use.
A quick drop to VT-100 and then south to Wilmington, where I took a right onto VT-9 and headed west for Searsburg. I wanted to take Sleepy Hollow Rd, which I had seen on the map, but had never been able to find the
The Medburyville truss bridge has been bypassed
by a concrete bridge, likely due to the need to
carry truck traffic.
southern end. I knew where the north end came out on Rte. 9, so I tuned onto it and was surprised to see signs indicating that it didn't go through. Undaunted, I forged on past the barrier, slogging up the soft, but smooth gravel on the steep grade. At the steepest section, near the top, I had to hoof it past a washout and around downed trees, and as I progressed, I was surprised to hear what sounded like voices off to the east. I figured there must be some kind of park or swimming hole over there, but I had thought it was just a hilly forest.

I eventually came out at the wind farm at the top of VT-8. This answered the question of why I hadn't found that end of the road, as the gate blended into the fence at the wind farm entrance. It also explained the voices, which were actually the noises coming from the turbines, slowly turning in the light breeze. I doubt it was groans coming from the nearby tenants of the ancient cemetery that shares the top of the hill. I don't really think they care at all.

The gate at the lower end of Sleepy Hollow Rd
Washout on Sleepy Hollow Rd
Graves & turbines share the peak in Searsburg
I enjoyed the descent to VT-100, though annoyed by a truck that insisted on passing me at the top, only to slow my descent on the way down. Dumb drivers. I had previously noticed on maps an abandoned bridge behind a barn as the road dropped to Readsboro, and I took the time to stop and check it out. Sure enough, it was there, and in much better condition than I expected, though closed to vehicle traffic. Judging from the number of cars parked on the other side, it is a popular swimming hole, and there were signs of an old dam, indicating that there was once a mill there.
South Branch of the Deerfield River Swimming Hole
Remnants of an old dam
I enjoyed the rest of the descent into Readsboro, and headed down Tunnel Rd, though I only went as far as the spring to fill my water bottles. I was concerned that the delays caused by all the climbing and the slow ride up the Class IV road were putting me behind schedule and I was starting to get both tired and sore. I had over 70 miles and a whole lot of climbing to get back to the car and only one way to get there. The climbs up out of Readsboro, and up the south side of Mt Snow took most of my reserves. I recovered a bit on the 12-mile descent through Wardsboro to VT-30, but I was pretty much running on empty on the long climb out of Jamaica. I learned a lesson about saving the cold Coke until after the ride is done, after a rest stop in Rawsonville and I probably should have skipped downing one more cereal bar, as my digestive system had pretty much shut down by that point. I popped a spoke climbing out of Londonderry, the second in that rear wheel, which means I should give it some attention. The break to get the wheel rideable was actually appreciated. I slogged through Weston with sore butt, sore feet, and too much sun conspiring to take all the "fun" out of the 2-mile climb up Terrible Mountain.  I will say that the IceBug insoles did a decent job addressing the hotfoot issues I had experienced on last week's 130-mile ride.  I was happy to have the long descent back to Ludlow, and briefly tipped 50 mph on the final 12% drop.

The 100/200 is only two weeks away, and I am hoping the suffering of this ride will be enough to prepare me for it. There is 1,000' more climbing in that route, but it's spread out over 60 miles more distance. It's not going to be a walk in the park, but I think I'll be ready.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Old Goals, New Goals

2018 was the lightest cycling year for me in over a decade, just squeaking out 5,500 miles. That's not to say it was a loss, and that's not a shabby figure, but substantially below what I had set out to do. A good deal of that drop in mileage was from a very meager July, in which I focused on other projects and didn't get out as much as I might have. I'll fit my record of the year into the context of my stated goals, from last January:

+1. Strategically train for the 100/200: Although the early season was cold and wet, I stuck to my reduced commuting regimen and was (just barely) prepared for the big ride. The arc of my training worked out very well, with increasingly longer rides that all seemed to fit in at their last possible dates. Weather was the big factor, but it all worked out. I ended up riding most of it alone, and the weather was among the worse we've ever had, but I don't recall bonking at any point. I wasn't dancing on the pedals on the long climbs, but I didn't have to dig as deeply as I have often done in the past. A big dud was the idea of painting arrows at the turns. I didn't realize how obnoxious it would be to drive around with the fumes from paint-coated stencils in the car. I may need to bite the bullet and buy a roll of Road Arrows, but then riders getting lost hasn't been a major issue in the past.

0. Explore more dirt roads that I haven't yet ridden: Before the 100/200, I was primarily road riding. Afterwards, I just wasn't motivated to take a day off to explore. I missed that. I still do. The reason I gave myself a pass was that I did fit in an exceptional ride that I've wanted to do since I saw on Google Maps a few years ago that there is a dirt road that goes over Stratton Mountain on the east side of the ski area. I rode this the week before the 100/200 and it was both tough and rewarding. My biggest surprise was when I met another cyclist coming the other way in the middle of the 10-mile dirt stretch that wasn't much more than a logging road up the side of a mountain. I tacked up a few new roads on this ride.

-1. Keep my annual mileage to at least 7k: At times, weather conspired to keep me off the bike for over a week, but I was fairly consistent in my riding. I just need to do it more often and farther.

0. Drop at least five pounds: While I didn't meet this goal, I didn't pork out, either. I also didn't get skinny. Since I didn't significantly alter my eating patterns, my weight stayed fairly stable.

0. Drop my pulse rate a few beats: I just checked and my resting pulse was 57. I can't say if that was up or down and one needs to check often in order to notice any real change. I didn't do those checks.

0. Pay a little more attention to what I eat: This one was worded loosely enough that I'll give myself a pass. Truth is, I stayed on my usual diet, which tends to be pretty good. There is still room for improvement, however, and I'm never one to follow eating fads.

+1. Ride the Prouty on the tandem again: Total score! Not only did we ride the full century, but we paced ourselves well and felt good all the way to the end. The tough thing about this ride is that it's far enough away that we don't know most of the people who show up. This year, we didn't see anyone we recognized. It makes you feel a bit isolated while in the company of thousands. The best part was finishing in time to eat, relax and get in the car, all before the rain started. The thing that makes us keep coming back is that it provides an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the lives of the many people we know who have had to fight cancer. While we could go for a different route, it is tandem-friendly and has its pretty sections. We toyed with the idea of doing the gravel option, but didn't. We also thought about perhaps starting with the group but then taking our own route. The tough thing is to find one that is not too hilly, but we may revisit these ideas this year, especially if we can get in more miles before the event. On a tandem, we ride the Prouty solo, anyway.

-1. Complete at least one "epic" tandem ride: Not only did we not get in any epic rides, beyond the Prouty, we only accumulated a bit over 400 miles for the season. A pleasant caveat was a ride we did from Castleton that looped on unfamiliar roads, many dirt, and a rail trail, the latter being mildly engaging, but not enough to want to do again. The old slate quarries we passed were more interesting. I could probably give myself a pass on this one, but it's tough to call a 50-mile ride "epic".

0. Complete a LAMB or six-gaps ride: I'll give myself a pass, because I did a ride in March that covered three of the four LAMB gaps, but I didn't ride Lincoln at all this year. I did Roxbury once in August and it was tough, partly because I had ridden to the base with the GMBC on one of the few group rides I did this year, and the pace took a bit out of me.

-1. Sell off at least a couple bikes: Nothing went out the door this year, but I have a couple of bikes and frames ready for when the season starts approaching. I pretty much finished a Raleigh International that I bought purposely to sell, a Litespeed that I never should have bought and will be lucky to get my investment back from, the aluminum touring frame that was replaced by the Marin, and the GIOS frame that I bought several years ago and only rode once because it's just too nice. I did finally build up the 60th Anniversary Paramount last week and look forward to putting some miles on it this season. The Paramount already has its paint chips, while the Gios wears a pristine repaint. I prefer to ride bikes that I don't feel guilty when they inevitably suffer cosmetically.

If there's a cumulative score here, it looks like I come out at -1! I didn't do any randonneur rides. I also didn't engage in any of the things that I said last January that I wasn't into, including buying (or even wanting) new bikes and equipment, the local bike scene (though I did re-subscribe to the local club's listserv, which has been refreshingly quiet), and large group rides (except the Prouty). We still think tandem rallies are a thing of the past for us.

Last year, I said that I just want to be a competent cyclist, enjoying the ride, doing my own thing, staying healthy. That continues to be my primary goal. I recently read a piece in which the author wrote that he didn't believe in resolutions because they require willpower and that is no substitute for motivation in effecting real change. This is the reason that most resolutions are broken quickly after they are made. Still, it's good to have goals, so I am going to reprise these 10. I'm going to print them out and hang them on the wall as a reminder that these are self-motivating goals, meaning that if I engage in achieving them, they will bring their own incentives. As my grandmother was fond of saying, "A job well started is half-done." The biggest obstacle for many rides is getting on the bike. I think if I improve the consistency of my riding, take more initiative on getting in some longer rides in the summer, and work in more tandem rides, I'll see my mileage rise, fitness and weight improve, and have more fond memories at the end of the season.
1999 60th Anniversary Paramount, brazed by Curt Goodrich
at match Cycles. Reynolds 853 tubing, Campagnolo Record
components, mostly appropriate to the era.These were sold
only as frames and most were built up with Dura Ace 7700.
The trick aspects of this bike are indexed downtube shifters,
Campy Record carbon brake levers, sewups, and a Brooks
titanium Pro saddle. Should be a sweet ride!