Sunday, April 25, 2010

To Mt Graylock and Back: A Cyclists Story

A ~100 mile ride over two of the most difficult climbs in Massachusetts, including a 2.5 miles beast that averages over 10% grade (Whitcomb Hill to the locals), as well as a ride up the tallest peak in Massachusetts, Mt. Graylock. Not your typical Saturday afternoon, but cyclists are not your typical type of people. Sean and I had been wanting to do this ride for a little while, and once we attempted but when we were in sight of Mt. Graylock the weather forced us to head back home. Today, we would have no weather issues, there was not a cloud in the sky, so today was going to be the day!

For a ride like this I decided to bring my camera along, and because of this I put an awesome saddle bag on my seat, and it carried some tools for me! Below are a few shots of actual bike riding. You can see Sean climbing up the first climb of the day around mile 15, and below I am climbing Mt. Graylock around mile 60 or so (also included is an attempt to get both Sean and I riding along this cool river.)

On good bike rides you also come along some pretty interesting sights. For instance you can see this super cheesy store complete with a tall Native American fellow as well as a fantasticly colored metal tepee. At the top of Mt. Graylock there is a cool tower dedicated to the Veterans of Massachusetts, as well as a neat metal thingy that shows all of the mountains in the area. Sean and I stopped for pictures at the top of Whitcomb Hill, and we also had some dudes that a picture of us near the top of Graylock.

And finally no good ride is complete without a cool panoramic shot (this is a picture near the top of Graylock).

So all right, good ride so far. We climbed up two really tough climbs and the sun in still shinning. We are now planning our way backhome, and on top of Mt. Graylock meet this cool guy who gave us a good route to get back home. So we are on our way back, and we are climbing out of this valley looking for the road the guy told us to find. So we are continually going and going (we are around mile 90 at this point), and then finally we decided to look at Sean's phone which doubles as a GPS. Well what we find is that either we missed the turn the guy was telling us, or the guy sent us the "Long Way" home, the GPS says that we still have 50 miles. It is also about 5:30PM at this point and the sun likes to go down around 7:30 or 8:00. So as you imagine Sean and I start getting a little worried at this point.

Below I have included a map of out route in red (we were traveling counter clockwise), and the blue line is where we actually wanted to go on the way back. All right, so now what do we do. Well we decide that is would be stupid to turn around, and we decide to just bite the bullet and head home on our current way out of the way path. As we are crunched for time we are working pretty hard to get home on time, and lets not forget that we have been riding about 100 miles at this point. We climb two big climbs and we finally feel like we are on the home stretch. However, we look over and it says that we still have about 20 miles until we are at the point where we are half and hour back home. So this is when the phones came out and we started making phone calls to everyone we know to meet us somewhere and cart us home.

Well after about 8 calls went to voicemail without anyone picking up we just put our heads down and kept pedaling. Eventually we did get a hold of someone and they were able to meet us in Northhampton and took us back home. Seen below is Sean sitting down after we finally arrived where our ride was going to pick us up. We were extremely excited to be done riding, and as Sean is showing in the picture, we were pretty much reduced to mush.

I would like to leave you with a few quick stats. We ended up riding 127 miles (my longest ever), and actual pedaling time was 7.5 hours. We climbed just about 9,000 ft and I went through around 5000 Cal. In terms of our "wrong turn" it cost us 15 miles. It may not sound like a ton, however it would have allowed us to return back to where we started before dark, and we also would have been a little more at ease the last 2.5-3 hours of our ride.

Anyway, it was a great ride and defiantly one to remember!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The most recent occurances, including an encounter with a bear

Sorry for the late post here, but things have been busy over here in Massachusetts. For one, I had my first MTB race of the year at Hop Brook Dam (and my first race at this venue). When I entered the race I had mostly been training on the road bike, so I was excited to hit some dirt, however road bike training does not always directly transfer to the mountain bike, so it was going to be interesting. We ended up with great weather, and I also ended up with the #1 plate, so that was a good sign. As soon as the race went off, I jumped to 3rd of 4th wheel, and when we got the the entrace to single track, disaster hit, the loop was not clearly marked and some rider including myself made a wrong turn. Mass hysteria insued and next thing I knew I was ducking under mulitiple rows of tape and running up a hill to catch back up to the group! I caught back on and got to work. However I was pretty tired after all this early excitement and fell back a few positions, but was able to keep about 4 guys in sight. By the time I was on my second of four laps I had caught these dudes and was duking it out wheel to wheel. At this point I noticed a clunk in my bike, and was not sure what was going on. I started to look down at my rear suspension to see if anything was loose, but I could not see anything. At this point I came to the conclusion that my rear shock had died (this was a very fair assumption considering I am already on my third shock!) Long story short, I was bobbing around like a pogo stick, and my seat would kick me in the butt whenever I had to use my brakes down hills. I accepted this fate, dropped these dudes I was riding with, and came across the finish line in 7th out of ~20 guys.

I am happy with this result, it is a good start to the MTB season and I now that I am hitting the dirt more I think my results should only improve. I would like to thank my friend Melissa for her help with bottles at this race, and for taking the cool before and after pictures as seen below (notice the awesome Competitive Edge jersey!!!).

On other notes PowerBar really came through, and supplied me with tons of the best sports nutrition products around. Below is a snapshot of all my energy food, it will take me a little while to go though all of it, but I am trying out lots of new products and I am very excited about that!

Caroline also came to visit me since my last blog post. We had a great weekend, with an awesome 18 mile bike ride on the road [no bike pictures here, but check out the one below ;)], as well as a great cook out with some of my polymer science buddies. Below is a great shot of us at the BBQ (notice the fohawk, haha, I decided to change it up a bit)!

Lastly on my bike ride yesterday I came across a rather large animal during one of my hill intervals. I noticed something moving in the woods, it was very large, black, and had four legs. If you are thinking a Massachusetts Black Bear you would be right on. This bear and I had a stare down, about 20 feet from one another, until I flexed my muscles and he went running into the woods. This is only the second time I have come accross a bear on my bike, the first being up north when I was on a ride with my Dad and my friend Kevin. Along those lines, I have noticed many interesting animals over the past few weeks, some eagles and hawks, a vulture with a chipmunk in his mouth, and now a bear, of the great outdoors!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Rest Week!

This week is a glorious rest week, after four hard weeks I get to tone it down and have some easy riding. This comes at a good time in the weather, as it rained and rained the first half of the week. This upcoming weekend is supposed to be the best yet, and with Caroline visiting I am sure we will make the most of it! For example, this may not have to do with great weather, but Caroline and I will be making our way to the Hadley Sugar Shack this morning. A sugar shack is a New England fixture where they make maple surip on the spot and you can order delicious breakfast items!

On another note, I was reading some articles this week and came across the the winner of the first Tour de France, hosted back in 1903. I was thinking that I should grow my mustache in the style that this man sports:
I mean lets be honest, if a mustache like that can get you around France that fast, I would have to imagine that it would be great for the trails!