Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rapha Rising - more like Mercury Rising

According to our local meteorologists, a heatwave is defined as more than three days in a row where the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Growing up in the south, a heatwave would typically start in April and end in October! But thankfully I left that weather behind long ago when I moved to Boston. The reward for putting up with long cold winters here is supposed to be a nice pleasant summer. But life isn't fair, and this year, we had a cold miserable winter, followed by a chilly wet spring, and you guessed it a hot humid summer. So careful what you wish for... it's not cold now! We have had many days of 90+F temps along with some brutal humidity this summer. Once every 7 to 10 days, we'll get a lovely 75F day with low humidity, but then the oppressive stuff comes right back... thus multiple heatwaves...

So naturally the Rapha Rising Challenge took place in the midst of our longest streak of 90F+ days this year. I tagged it Mercury Rising!

Redemption Rock 200km
To kickoff the first day of the challenge on Sunday, I planned a route with about 3000 meters of climbing, including the ascent of nearby Mt. Wachusett. This was the same route where just a few kms shy of the end, I fell and broke my collarbone 6 weeks prior. So this was to be my attempt to avenge that defeat. Happy to say that I was successful and had no misadventures with wrong-way cyclists this time. But boy was it hot. We had lots of stops to refill water bottles. Or maybe getting water was just an excuse to stop and go inside an air-conditioned shop and writhe around on the cool tile floor.

Monday continued hot and sticky, but I had a day full of appointments, and made it a bike-rest day.

Harvard Tuesday Ride

I selected one of my hillier routes for the weekly Tuesday ride to clock up another 1300 meters. Fortunately it wasn't brutal in the morning, when we had most of the climbing, but the return leg proved hot enough for water/AC stops every 15 miles! And then I spent an hour or so back at Ride Studio Cafe drinking cold coffees and getting my core temp back down before riding home.

I had a busy week of appointments with a vet visit for the cat, physical therapy for me and followup with the surgeon to check progress on my collarbone, so aside from Tuesday I couldn't really get out for all day rides. But thanks to the nearby climb up to the Arlington Water Tower, I was able to clock up a few meters in very few kms. This was also a good kickoff for some proper Mt Washington training. As I mentioned in the last post, I really haven't been doing the types of rides I should be doing to prepare for this event later in August. But this would all change thanks to the challenge. 
Frenemy X 6 Wednesday
Of course, it was also a real shock to the system to start doing hill-repeats.  An by hill-repeats, I mean repeatedly climbing hills, but not going up and down the same hill the same way. That would just be much too boring and much too much like actual training!

I decided to start slow, and by slow, I mean lanterne rouge notifications were sent from Strava while I was riding. I didn't just get the usual slew of emails proclaiming yet another slut, OK - fast woman, had stolen yet another QOM. I got the emails that I was now positively the slowest person ever to go up this climb!

But it was not my goal to go out and reclaim any QOMs on day 1 of hill-climb camp in 90F temps. My plan was simply to go reacquaint myself with a few of the dozen different routes to the tower. I pride myself on tackling this climb as many different ways as I can - thereby temporaily claiming QOMs for routes no gal had ever thought of taking. So the first day, I did Prospect, Robbins, Rt 2 Access Road, School Street, then Somerset to Concord Ave to Marsh, and finished off with Eastern Ave. I took breaks every time I got to the tower, took photos, tweeted and FB'd my return to visit my old Frenemy. I guzzled water, and washed salt from my eyes. It was great to be back at this place, but it was hard. I love and hate this spot - my Frenemy!

Frenemy X 3 Thursday

I had hoped to get out earlier in the day on Thursday to beat the heat, but of course I didn't. But this wasn't just about hill-training. I need heat-training too! So I can claim, that I did these rides in the heat on purpose. I probably had a worse time with the heat at Newton's than the climb! But in a concession to both the heat and my renewed affair with the Frenemy, I only climbed up three times, starting out gradually on Marsh, then Menotomy/Grandview (an new QOM), followed by Eastern Ave. Later that afternoon, I saw my surgeon and got to see the new x-rays. I was surprised to see that the bones have not yet fused. A growth has started, but it will take more time. Given that I have full range of motion and am able to function normally, I really thought it must be all healed. That plate is amazing! The surgeon prescribed "no full contact football." He did tell me riding was okay. I didn't actually tell him I had ridden up Mt Washington already! Or what I'd done that morning.
Frenemy X 6 Friday
Friday, I wanted to clock up some more meters. So I decided to go for 6 times up. Due to some construction in Belmont, I headed over to do the gradual climb up Marsh again. But then followed that with the second hardest way up on Robbins, then Rt 2 Access Rd, followed by Walnut (another QOM), then Eastern Ave, and I finished myself off on School Street. None of the climbs were fast, but they weren't as slow as Wednesday either, and unlike the first day out, I didn't stop and take long breaks at the tower. Maybe if I keep this up every day, I ... I ... will go insane. Thankfully the weekend means variety.

Hundo - bonus loop

With those short, but condensed climbing days, I had ticked off a few more meters on the way to the challenge, and I only had just over 1000 meters to meet the goal of 7235 meters with 2 days remaining.  I knew with the 2000 meters from Grand Fundo coming up on Sunday that I should be able to make the target. So Saturday, we just decided to head out an explore some dirt roads near Conway. Of course the dirt roads we chose were actually part of the Grand Hundo loop, and I knocked off another 1000 meters, hitting 98% at the end of the day.  

Grand Fundo
The final day brought the planned 2000 meters anda Rapha Rising badge. The challenge came at a great time, when I really needed to get serious about climbing and getting ready for the second ascent up Mt Washington this summer.

Thanks Rapha for the inspiration. But could you pick a season without such extreme weather for the next challenge!


  1. Wow, nice climbing! Could you provide links to some of your Frenemy climbs in the Boston area. I've started adding Park Ave and Easter St to my commute, but would love to have some other options!
    cheers, Geoff

  2. All my so-called Frenemy climbs go to the same place - the Arlington Water Tower. The better known ones are Eastern Ave, up from rt 60 (at rt 2) and Park Street up from Mass Avenue in Arlington, but just travel down Mass Ave eastbound from Park Street, and you'll find many more routes up, like Quincy, Robbins, School, Menotomy, Walnut, and Mt Vernon. I often ride down one and back up the next. I also take Gray down toward Pleasant Street (rt 60) to access the Eastern Avenue climb, as well as the Route 2 access rd up. Descending south across Rt 2 from the water tower, one can also take the Rt 2 access rd down, and cross back over rt 2 for Eastern Ave or the access rd up, or turn right to get to Prospect, Clifton, Somerset (if you dare) or Concord Avenue. Crossing Belmont Hill on Concord Avenue brings you down to Mill Street where you can get to Marsh Street for the easiest way up. There's also lots of roads off Mass Ave west of Park, but they don't flow very well, so I tend not to include them.

    The NEBC Wednesday night ride takes in a few climbs in Woburn and Winchester that are worth exploring if you aren't obsessed with the view from the water tower, or with maximizing meters climbed per kilometer ridden. Further afield, there's a brutal climb directly across from Walden Pond.

    1. thanks so much. perhaps I'll see you on these hills!

  3. For those in the Boston area today, wondering what heat wave Fixie Pixie is talking about, she wrote the above from North Carolina!

    1. At first, I wondered what heat wave F.P. was writing about because I saw, based on the time stamp, that she had published the above while here in NC -- and it has been quite cool here this summer and was a delightful 60 degrees F, with no humidity worth mentioning, at sunrise this morning.

      As I read on in the post, it was clear she was referring to Boston.

      Btw, we're expecting highs only in the mid-80's today and tomorrow in the Raleigh-Durham area; Mars Hill / Asheville will be cooler. All of which makes me wonder if the probable post about wandering about on a geared bike in the Mars Hill / Asheville area will be centered around chilly temps.

    2. Um, "time stamp" should be "time when posted as indicated by the some-other-blogs-Google-widget".

  4. Well of course the heat wave broke, after the challenge and once I left the state!