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Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Mt. Washington duathlon

Ironically, the rides and races that go smoothly and completely according to plan are often those that are quickly forgotten. Instead, those which involve unplanned adversity - be that weather, mechanical, navigation, terrain or something else that I can't even think of right now - are the ones that lead to tall tales of heroism and derring-do.

Speaking of tall tales, Mount Washington seemed determined to feature in my unforgettable list for 2012. In July, the Newton's Revenge race featured wind gusts of almost 70 mph/110 kph, conditions that I thoroughly enjoyed and revelled in. The extra challenge somehow inspired me and allowed me to explore the depths of the "pain cave" a little deeper than I think I might have otherwise managed that day.

I was determined, though, to do a faster time in the Mount Washington Auto-Road Bicycle Hillclimb in August. I even have a distinct memory of doing a few rides that a coach with no self-respect might allow me to call "training", but that could be wishful thinking on my part. Furthermore, the outstandingly generous and (erstwhile) trusting Rob and Patria at Ride Studio Cafe were kind enough to again lend me the lean, mean climbing machine that is a Seven Axiom SLX.  I rode the same bike in Newton's Revenge and loved its lively, responsive feel. Dan V. set it up for me with millimetre accuracy and made a couple of weight saving tweaks to boot.

However, and there just had to be an "however", Alberto Contador was hogging the world supply of SRAM Red long-cage - err, WiFLi rear derailleurs, so I left the regular Red rear derailleur in place. This was noteworthy because I planned to use a 12-32 cassette on Mount Washington and the bike was configured for rather more normal riding with a smaller cassette. However, dear reader, I knew that if I paid attention to what I was doing, I would be fine. Indeed, my similarly equipped ride at Newton's Revenge was completely trouble-free.


Copyright, Leo Kenney Photography.

Thus it was that I found myself on a beautiful, windless Saturday morning, tearing up Mt. Washington. I had risked a faster start than at Newton's and was feeling good - bear in mind, though, that is a very relative statement - as I approached the right-hand bend at the end of Five Mile Grade, the relentless dirt section on the climb.

I changed onto the big chainring to take advantage of the milder gradient at the bend, but apparently was not paying sufficient attention to what gear I was in in back. The unhappy combination of an overly large sprocket and the big chainring caused the transmission to jam. The only coherent thought that my oxygen deprived brain was capable of, was the self-defeating, "Don't stop, don't stop!" I tried to switch back to the small ring but what I thought was ginger pedalling caused the rear derailleur to blow to smithereens - a ginger snap, you could say.

I freewheeled to a stop and tried to coerce the transmission back together by staring at it, hoping that I could mimic Uri Geller in a moment of need. No such luck! Next, after removing the derailleur detritus from the chain, I tried hopping back on and pedalling, but the chain immediately skipped down to the smallest sprocket. Stopping again, I tried placing the chain in the big-big combination, in which the chain would be at its tautest. However, the result was the same when I tried pedalling again, so I had to give up any hope of cycling to the summit.

Still, it was a nice day for a walk and, given that I was now on the steepest dirt section of the road, I wasn't making terrible progress relative to those pedalling by me. On subsequent less steep parts, though, I began to think that it was going to take an awfully long time to get to the top at my current rate of knots. I tentatively tried to run while pushing the bike, but I quickly decided that it felt awkward and, given that I haven't done any running in years, I would almost certainly injure myself.

Copyright, Leo Kenney Photography.

So, I settled back to walking, but I must have been missing the endorphins or something because I started questioning myself. "What am I saving my legs for? Mt. Washington, right?" I threw caution to the wind and started running again. Despite advice from many passers-by to remove my shoes, I kept them on on because a Morton's Neuroma in my foot doesn't approve of barefoot antics. After a while, I actually got into a pretty decent rhythm as I clip-clopped along.


(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

On one of the flatter sections though, I felt I wasn't terribly efficient. I remembered that someone had ridden (?) the 1200km of Paris-Brest-Paris on a kick-bike, so I thought I would give that technique a try. It obviously works on a kick-bike, but it didn't feel too good on a regular bike, but it gave my legs a little relief.

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

(C) William H. Williams

Nearing the top, the support from the crowd was outstanding. "Number 14" (that was me) slowly clipped and clopped his way up the 22% section through a cacophony of cow-bells and cheering - it's definitely no easier on foot than on two wheels! I rounded the final corner and was surprised to see the clock reading 1:19 something. A time of sub 1 hour 20 minutes qualifies as top-notch and I was apparently just within reach. The closest thing I could muster to a sprint saw me cross the line in 1:19:40 - shattered! However, it's a race I won't forget in a hurry!

Copyright, Leo Kenney Photography.

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Still standing, with the aid of a bike-crutch, after the race.






SRAM's new ShRed superlight rear derailleur



My "road" shoes after 2.5 miles of the Mt. Washington Auto. Road



4 comments:

  1. You wouldn't have this problem if you rode fixed!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Holy Cow, I've got three Kickbikes and one foot bike and your feat leaves me speechless, no small feat itself:)!

    ReplyDelete