Near the Mountain

Distance: 53.9 mi.

Time: 2:48:49

Avg. speed: 18.8 mph

Weather: 56-70º, 57% humidity, wind W-11 gusts 22

Song stuck in head: My Two Feet - Old 97's

Joined Steve K, Gary S, Mark, Ted and Bob C of the MRC this morning to do a ride on the 60 mile Charles River Wheelmen Climb to the Clouds route (map below). Coming off of yesterday's ride that left me with the feeling that I was primed for a really good day, I wasn't apprehensive about joining cyclists that have previously left me in the dust.

The rendezvous point was Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton with a 6 a.m. departure time. I would have rode over except that the early start time would have required me to wake at 4:30 which is just a bit too early for me - especially since we didn't get home from the Lincoln fireworks display until nearly 11 p.m.

<aside> My wife made the observation that we paid a $15 parking fee to see a 15 minute fireworks display while it took over half an hour to exit the parking lot. At least it wasn't a mosquito swat-a-thon.</aside>

We assembled pretty much right on time, with Steve, Gary and Ted pedaling in as Mark, Bob and I got our bikes out of our vehicles and set up. Steve set the agenda: after a warm-up, we were to maintain an "85% effort" with each rider taking 3 minute pulls. Steve did a good job of covering all the bases on how we were to maintain the pace-line as well as spelling out how we would accommodate a rider who started to flag and needed to pass on his pull.

There was a bit of snark along the lines of what an "85% effort" might mean and after some clarification, we set off. The initial 2-3 miles are a long descent, so it wasn't really much of a warmup seeing how the ambient temp. was in the middle 50's. Nevertheless, we were ready to rock.

Over rolling hills we zig-zagged our way west from Bolton to Lancaster. Shortly after I started my first pull, we hit a moderate incline and Steve called out from mid-pack to "ease up, ease up". I'm so used to attacking hills pretty aggressively whereas it seems (correct me if I'm wrong) that tri-guys (all of my fellow cyclists were) tend to keep a steady effort, even if it means a slower pace up hills. So, I eased up. Unfortunately, as the grade increased, I had to shift all the way down to my easiest chairing/freewheel combo and let my cadence drop below 80.

"Uh oh," I thought to myself, knowing that a day of low cadence climbing would not be a fun one. I've been working very hard to do whatever I can to spin up the hills and certainly to go out-of-saddle to help carry speed from the flats up hills as far as I can.

When my 3 minutes was up, I slid back to the rear of the pace-line to recoup. With 5 other people, I could look forward to the possibility of a 15 minute "rest" riding in the draft, terrain permitting. I did worry about one issue: I have a tendency to get dropped right after I take a pull, especially when the group is heading up a climb. I really have to work out the mechanics of grabbing that last wheel as I drift back from the front.

Things were going very well with little chit-chat amongst the group (I prefer that) and good efforts from all as they took their turn in the lead position.

Somewhere around mile 10 or 13, Bob passed on his turn to pull a couple of times and he lagged back a bit on the climbs. Next thing I know, Steve is informing us that Bob allowing us to drop him, he knows his way around the route and will make his own way back to the start point.

15 minutes later we were grinding our way up Mile Hill Road, the biggest climb of our ride and cresting at about 1380 ft. (The road up the mountain is closed until they finish putting the utility lines underground.) It was hard and I was last up but I stayed with the group. Steve commented on how much I'd improved since May and wanted to know the name of my pharmacist. :)

<aside>"Wachussett" means "near the mountain" or "mountain place" <aside>

As Mile Hill turned into Mountain Road and then descended, we reached speeds in the upper 30's but had to temper it a bit for the stop sign and turn at Princeton Center. Another, faster descent occurred after that on Rte 62 leading to Moore's Corners. I maxed out at a bit over 46 mph. Wheee!

The rest of the ride consisted of rolling countryside with no major climbs or descents but as we passed the 40 mile mark or so, just past the southmost rounding of Wachussett Reservoir, I was starting to really lag on the hills. My left hamstring started to give me some "early warning signs" but luckily no cramping. The group soft-pedaled for me a couple of times across the top of hills but I was able to catch up on my own otherwise. I took a few passes on pulling which helped me to regain some energy.

Through Berlin we rode and I kept thinking that Gary was starting to flag a bit because on some climbs, I'd look over my shoulder and see him 6 or 8 bike lengths back. I'd call up to the front, "We've gapped Gary," but as soon as I said that, he'd come pounding past me, looking fresh as a daisy. We continued on into South Bolton where I resumed my turns in the front.

About 5 miles or so from the end, we eased up on the pace considerably and I was grateful for the "warm down" miles. I really enjoyed this ride and hope to keep the route in the regular mix.

I put my bike in the car, scooted home and had a heap of yummy pancakes. Then I reconfigured the roof rack on my wife's car, threw 3 bikes on it and drove she and my daughter up the Ayer to ride the Nashua River Rail Trail, like I needed the extra miles.

We had a good little put-put for a while but then it became evident that my eight-year-old would go no further. We were probably 5 or 6 miles out. We turned back, but she got slower and whinier by the minute. Finally, I found them a shady spot to wait and I sprinted my '83 Bianchi back to get the car and pick them up.

With that ride, I guess I hit my 60 mile target for the day.

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