Thursday, August 25, 2016


I've heard of this race, (for all intense purposes we will call it that), referred to as many things, including Hell. And its not just the name that's clever. The courses are well designed and all the proceeds benefit the farmers and land owners that want to protect it from unwanted development. And without farmers....there would be no beer.

 I must admit, studying those elevation maps, watching all those videos and reading the numerous blogs prior to the event, had me a little terrified.

Time to pick up our race kits and meet a few locals
We arrived on the Friday around six to pick up our race kits and everything was well organized with numerous volunteers and and there was a plethora of D2R2 souvenirs to choose from (jerseys, mugs, posters, arm sleeves, etc).  The maps and cue sheets were printed and waiting.  There were a few vendors too which included, "Dug's Art" , a local artist with an extensive racing background and
his stories were as vivid as his paintings.  "The People's Pint", a local brewery and restaurant in Greenfield attended, serving up burgers and beer.  Plus a few more.  Cornel and I  anxiously grabbed for a cold one, for the carbs of course-it had absolutely nothing to do with that seven hour drive.  Unbeknownst to us, was the group of cyclist that had gathered on site at the People's Pint.  We'll be sure to follow up on that one next year.  Oh yeah, there is definitely going to be a next year.

The starting line
As we were toeing the start line, or wheeling in our case, I for one was happy that we had decided to scale it back to the 100km distance.  Everything about this "race" was very relaxed and casual, except for the actual distances and routes-oh, and did I mention elevation?  We took off shortly after 9:00 a.m. and had a good warm up section, traveling on pavement, before the climbing started.   The first hill I took pretty fast and Cornel worried that I would tire myself out too quick.  I was just thrilled our first climb was on pavement; I had also set a goal of finishing within 6 hours and I was pumped, well, at least for the first half hour.  The asphalt road quickly turned to dirt and the climbing on intensified.  I assured myself that all the climbing must be at the beginning.  Prior to the first water stop, there was a steep paved incline and I had to dismount and walk my bike up as I couldn't see a thing.  The sweat was dripping down into my eyes and stinging with contact and without travelling at any significant pace, my glasses were fogging.  This is huge for me as typically I'm not much of a sweater, mostly just a little perspiration; something that resembles Mickey Mouse. That's all I will say about that.   It was only an hour into the race and things were heating up by 10 a.m.  Cornel easily pumped his way to the top.  The assemblage of road surfaces as we wound our way up the hills of Massachusetts made it quite cumbersome, but, on we trekked.

Pickle Juice
When we got to the first water stop, my time limit already expired as we were an hour and fifteen for the first 20km.  That would add another hour over and above.  It didn't seem like an aggressive goal at the time.  I grabbed my half empty water bottle and headed to the water jug to refill it.  On the jug, was a written sign that said "pickle juice" and I thought how cute. What a great simile.  Not so cute and poetic after all, because after I took a big mouthful of the stuff, I realized it was legit.  I've done a few races, marathons, ultra's, a half ironman and never, not once was I ever provided with pickle juice, flat cola maybe, but, never pickle juice.  If you can get by the taste, that stuff is apparently magical, or so I heard.  Much like cabbage juice on a hangover.  I did end up dumping it out, as I was worried about the mixture of coconut water and pickle juice and didn't want to have any emergency stops.  I was a little unprepared in the kleenex situation.

The stunning views of Franklin County
As we departed from the water stop, we had company and some of the people started to become familiar.   There wasn't a whole lot of conversation going on, but,  I think that was mostly attributed to attrition, better save it for the next climb.  Within a very short time frame, we ascended our way up and once at the top, you had to grab a photo or at least blink your eyes.  The vista was breathtaking and laid down the perspective of all your climbing thus far.   It was certainly worth the view. The distinction between green and blue was truly epical. Now, this is living. Shortly, thereafter, we were halted by a fire truck as one of our fellow cyclists had gone down. Glad that he was okay. This is the dilemma, you are on a paved decent and then the surface changes to gravel.  There was a lot of sections like that. At the end, we had heard, there was only four mishaps of a similar nature, but, everyone was okay.  Lucky for me, my coach, Cornel has always taught me to stay loose and reactive; much to his chagrin, I still take the downhills with not near enough caution, loving that top-speed.

Almost 3 hours in and we had hit our lunch spot.   A captivating little oasis in Vermont by a relaxed river and covered bridge that was currently under construction. We probably spent at least an hour there enjoying the lunch that was provided.  There was also another pickle juice table and they were serving shots this time. I graciously accepted the sour and salty notes for the gains they would provide as the day continued to heat up.  Thankful for what little breeze there was.  Departing from lunch had to be one of my most favorite spots on the course.  The road followed the river and it was pretty much flat and shaded, so a good way to digest lunch and warm back up again.  This was also the section for the family ride and I was impressed with all the youngsters that were riding their bike.  We still have some work to do where my grandson Kingston is concerned.  Hopefully, one year soon, he'll be able to join us.  I was still convinced, quite unequivocally that we must have completed the majority of our climbing prior to lunch.   Cornel also has this sinister side to him, evilly telling you that there is just one more climb.  All in all, I was still feeling good and was still pretty strong on the climbs, relatively speaking. I just preferred not to do anymore.  Unfortunately, the choice was not mine to choose.  By the end, was had a total elevation gain of 1800m, which was just 200m shy of the hike we did in Austria.  The comparison really put things into perspective for me.
Cornel pondering how I beat him up that last hill.

 One of the most significant clambers in my opinion was on the way up to the orchard.  It is appropriately named Apex Orchard. I received the full definition from a cycling perspective from Cornel.  Who Knew? We were greeted with cold peaches and apples, cookies and other hydration.  It was hard to leave, but, knowing that there was only 20km remaining before cold beer was enough to put you back in the saddle.  Upon leaving, Dr. Evil made his usual remark.....just one more climb.

It was a nice descent and although, I still felt good, I was content knowing that the ride would be over within another hour or so.  There was a technical tailspin close to the end and this is where I suspect I broke my spoke.  It was the only casualty, so not so bad.  This last sag was also another concern for Cornel as he felt I was taking it way too fast for my level of expertise.  Poor guy, I can only imagine the amount of cringing he must do riding behind me making sure that I'm safe.Without him, I'm not sure I would have been able to do this journey.  He has taught me so much.  He is my rock. Fortunately, the broken spoke didn't cause any further damage, most of which, I was totally oblivious to anyways.

Following that, it was just a nice flat section where you could sprint to the finish if you still had the legs to do it. It was such a moment to cross the line with some energy left to eat, drink and enjoy some camaraderie amongst the other cyclists.  Each of us giving a full description of the days events and our favorite portion of the course.

Looking forward to heading back up there next year and hopefully taking some friends along for the ride.

Happy trails my friends.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

July Movement

Upon seeing the following quote from Dr. Steve Maraboli and a slight prodding from Cornel, I was inspired to write about the events of the past weekend:

"Yesterday was not your defining moment.  The calendar moved forward; why not you?"

The game plan was to do a trial run of the Hardwood course for the Epic 8 Hour Summer Reggae race the following weekend.  Cornel and Zen are the glue that will hold the team at a respectable time and I am the weakest link.  However, what I lack in experience (only my second year MTB), I make up for in passion and resilience.  I say pliancy due to the shear amount of times that I have fallen, scraped, cut and bruised myself and my ego on attempting to get better at this sport.

I'm ashamed to admit, but, the first miscalculation came prior to getting on the course.  It didn't prevent me from continuing as I came here with a mission.  I've pretty much concluded that long dresses are a must for me during MTB season.  There are also certain other benefits to falling at this age---I have confirmed without the aid of a physician that I do not have osteoporosis as my mother has.  As I rapidly approach 50, this is an important discovery.

The first loop of the course was not uneventful with a few more spills, but, I was surprised to have completed it within the hour.  Cornel has the patience of a Saint.  He carefully rode behind me to watch my technique and offer any guidance along the way.  Zen led the way and already had an extra loop in on us.  The second loop again proved uneventful and lucky for me, the ground was quite soft with the lack of rain.  My confidence was improving as I was able to shave 6 minutes off my previous run.  I'm really not hoping for much better during race day as both Cornel and Zen are just wanting me to arrive alive.

While I cleaned up the extra dirt I had acquired along the course, Cornel let out some steam on his final loop; finishing the course in 37 minutes.  I was amazed by his time and felt that we were in pretty good standing, until I heard from the pro shop that some of the practice runs had resulted in times of 20-26 minutes.  Oh well, if you're not first, you're last.

............then there was Sunday.  The game plan was to do an out and back on the T.H. & B rail trail from Dundas to Port Dover.  I was still suffering silently from the events of the day prior, but, wanted to do this ride in preparation for the upcoming D2R2.  Cornel and I had signed up for the 180k gravel grinder that takes place in Deerfield, MA.  It was a little bit ambitious at best for me, but, I get excited when I first learn of these races.  Then, all of a sudden, we are signed up and I'm trying to get some training in......all the while, pondering what I just got myself into.  

Town of Waterford

The ride was pretty uneventful at least until we hit Scotland (which actually has a nice paved section), where we met up with a couple from the area and followed them back to their place for a nice cold beer and some nibbles.  Now, these are the kind of rides I enjoy.  Saunter about ,saunter about.  Oh, and the cold beer.  After all, the temperatures were climbing, but, the trail was pretty optimal in regards to shade with good tree cover for a significant portion.  We headed back out after about an hour break and our next goal was to make it to Dover for an ice cream.

Once we hit Dover and our ice cream was devoured, Cornel figured out that we would need to maintain a 20km average if we were to make it back within full daylight.  Sleeping in does have an occasional disadvantage, but, I'll take it when I can.  I was committed to maintaining the average, so off we went, into the sunset, me and my blue beauty.  Everything was going relatively well until we hit Brantford; that's when I figured out my legs were done.  The muscles were starting to fatigue and it was everything I could do to keep going.  This is another one of those times that Cornel will doesn't matter if you go fast or slow, the legs are still going to hurt, so you might as well go fast.  If only I could convince the legs of such matters. I believe it was at this moment that I figured the 180km D2R2 route was probably more than I could chew, considering the elevation gains and we had just completed an entirely 156 of flat.  Cornel graciously accepted whatever distance I was comfortable with.  Its a difficult revelation to have to pull back the reigns, but, sometimes it just makes sense.