As I head out on this adventure, I am filled with a number of emotions. It is with excitement and anticipation of a real difficult challenge ahead of me. I feel jubilation at the thought of completing my 6 year adventure to climb to the top of the 100 most difficult climbs in the US. There is also a sense of sadness as this adventure has taken me to some incredible places, with some incredible friends, on some wonderful bike climbs; and it is kind of sad to see it coming to an end. I am also feeling nervous as this trip has some logistical problems along with the obvious pure physical challenges.
Since I have only 2 days of personal leave I had to place the trip around the two days we have off for Memorial weekend. It is an attempt to finish the 6 climbs left on my list in New England and then go to Toronto to race to try and qualify for AMATUER WORLDS. This led to a real tight schedule. I flew out of Sea-Tac and was scheduled to arrive in Albany at 11:30 p.m. to pick up my rental car get a few hours of sleep and then start my climbing. Contrary to Southwest’s normal on time record; my flight was in Baltimore and my arriving at Albany airport after midnight. Enterprise rental car company closes at midnight. Was I going to have to put my bike together in the airport and sleep there until morning to get my car? Thank goodness I could get ahold of the rental car company and get them to stay until I could arrive. After gathering up my stuff my first challenge was getting Conor’s bike box into the rental car. The Ford Focus I rented was slightly smaller than my Corolla and it took two of us to fit it inside. After a short trip to my hotel, I got busy putting my bike together and getting all my gear ready to go. It took me two hours to accomplish that.
My schedule for the trip was to do 3 climbs on Wednesday, 2 on Thursday, 1 on Friday; then drive 7+ hours to Toronto, have Saturday off the bike and then race on Sunday. Obviously a very tight schedule and not a good way to prepare my body to race. Without making two trips east, it appeared to be the only way I could do it.
My first scheduled climb in was Mt. Equinox in Vermont. The climb is on private property, and the gate for cars to drive up opens at 9:00 daily. That meant going to sleep at 2 a.m. getting up at 4 a.m. having some breakfast and then driving one and a half hours to the start of the climb. I took off early to avoid as much traffic as possible.
Mt. Equinox (# 11 on Summerson’s list of climbs) is a rather short climb of only 5.2 miles but you gain 3,157 feet (over 3 x the average gradient of our Climb) with an 11.5% average and a 17% maximum gradient so quickly the difficulty of the climb took over my attention. After my adrenaline slowed down, my riding fell into a rhythm. Soon, pitches of 20% start to show up on my Garmin, and my attention quickly returns to the task at hand.
|Mt. Equinox - forced to go down only 0.3 miles from the top...|
Only .3 mi from the top with just 400 ft. of elevation to climb, one of the proprietors of the private land came by in a truck and told me that I had to turn around and descend (apparently for insurance reasons). This was disappointing, but I complied. The ride down was quick, and I was relieved when I reached the bottom. I quickly put the bike back into the car and got ready to drive to the next climb.
Climb #2 is Okemo Mt. (# 76 on the list). It is a 3.9 mi climb 2,190 ft of gain and 10.6% average and 17% max. The climb went pretty smoothly. To make up for the climbing I was denied at Mt. Equinox, I headed back up the climb a second time until I made up over 450 feet of elevation gain.
|Okemo Mountain - the view from the top...|
After an hour drive, I arrived at my third climb for the day, Ascutney Mt. (3.7 mi. 2,250 ft with 11.5% average and max of 18%). As I was unloading my bike, two bike racers came by and sprinted up the start of the climb. I wish I had that kind of energy in my legs. With over 5,300 ft in my legs that morning, I will be happy with a much slower pace. It was a pretty climb through a pine forest and is part of a state park. My legs were clearly getting tired and getting the pedals turning over when the pitches hit the 18% was a challenge. As I approached a right curve near the top my head was down just trying to keep a rhythm going I heard someone shout “ohh” just as one of the two cyclists I saw went racing by me. He was cutting the curve and came within 2 feet of me. It happened too quickly to scare me, but his partner sure saw the danger. After making it to the top and then riding down, I loaded my bike up and drove for 3 hours to Jackson, New Hampshire to get ready for the biggest challenge yet! Mt. Washington #1 on Summerson’s list.