Saturday, April 26, 2008

Training Weekend 12

Here is our big weekend: The so-called Franconia Notch ride. This time there will be no Franconia Notch, because the bike trails there are still snow-covered, and are not open for that purpose yet. So, instead, we will go directly to Kinsman's Notch on the Kankamagus Hwy, and will return by the same route, going up and over twice! What a course.

The first photo shows the team that will participate in the ride, including Paula who will drive SAG for us for the first portion of the trip. She appears to be in good enough shape to do 100 miles already! But thanks to her for doing the truck-driving!

Some of us were fortunate enough to spend the previous night at teammate Jack's house in Waterville Valley. I think I got the best accommodations! The loft bed on the stairway landing was so comfortable, I felt like I'd had two nights' rest by the time I got up Saturday morning.

I discovered that I'd left my Camelback bladder at home, even though I'd brought the Camelback pouch. Lot of good that'll do! Improvising, I put some bottles in the backpack, full of diluted Gatorade, and then filled my two bike bottles with plain water. While this was not as easy an hydration method as water-in-the-tube, it kept me from drying out or buying a new water bladder, and saved $40 or so.

Having this experience, I didn't forget to pack my food supplements, including the usual four gel packs, and two Cliff bars. (I also keep spares in my bike saddle bag.) So I never got hungry on the ride, and never let myself dry out.

Here is the ride path Coach Don mapped out for us:
[There will be a map pic here soon!]

You can see how we have been slated to climb the peak of Kankamagus Hwy (called Kinsman's Notch) twice, once going out to the west, and once coming back. There is a breeze from the West in the morning, becoming southerly on the way back in the afternoon. So we will have the wind in our face at the Notch when we come back to the base.

We finally started out the long ride at about 08:45 out of the Hobo Railroad Junction mini golf parking lot, just to the east of I-93. After going under the highway, and leaving Lincoln, NH behind, we began the long climb.

From this side, the climb is actually about 2 miles long, and is at its steepest near the top of the hill. The climb is shorter and steeper from the other side, however. It may have taken us about half an hour to get up to the top of the hill from the base, and you could certainly see a lot of the local White Mountains from there.

I confess I had to stop three times as I approached the summit at the steepest point. My heart rate was too high (193) and kept jumping back up over 190 every time I rode 50 more feet uphill. I finally got it under control as we approached the hilltop, and the grade became more relaxed. I may say part of the problem was my caffeine intake at breakfast, and that I might do well in the future to cut down on the stimulants I use, including the amount of coffee in future rides, no matter how high the hills are.

I am getting better at hill-climbing, with the practice on Mile Hill Road at Mt Wachusett on Thursdays, so there is no need to think I need to overstimulate to get up to places like this.

And a loverly place it is. You can see that we are not at all at any "summit," here, as the Notch goes between the more glorious peaks in the area. We are probably at about 2000 feet of altitude, having come up from about 500-600 feet at the base area.

So enough of that; down we all go toward Rte 116, which will take us north to near the Franconia Notch State Park, but we will not be going in there.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fund-raising Update

I have just collected my 3500th dollar, and have only $600 more to go before I've reached my fund-raising goal of $4100. So, I'm at 85%, and in need of about 20 more $41.00 donations to get over the top. It's been a tough year to get responses. People are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, and trying to pay taxes on last year's investments from what remains after the January market downturn. Still, tax season is over, winter is leaving us, and we all know about where we stand now. Hopefully my gentle readers are feeling some relief at this point.

The fight against blood cancer goes on. We all know or have known people that are in the trenches, taking the medical treatments, or paying for them while they watch a loved one suffer away, often bravely fighting for their lives. My team and I mean to be there for them. So, if you find yourself thinking about charitable contributions for your 2008 tax year, I've got a good place in mind for you to consider! See my donors web page, and please contribute now! (You can believe it feels a lot better than chemotherapy.) Thank you for your support!

Training Week 11 - 65 miles planned out of Boxboro, MA

Okay, here we are at week 11, so it is high time we are putting in some serious miles, and getting some reasonable hill-climbing into our workouts. As I check with last year's schedule by comparison, we were ready to do a mini-Tahoe at Franconia Notch, NH by April 28, 2007. This year, the Frank-Notch ride is scheduled for next week Saturday (April 26), which means we are right on schedule--at least for training plans! Now what am I really ready to do?

I finally get a photo of ME taken on one of these rides!

If this week's workout is any indication, I should be fine at Franconia Notch on the 26th, but I'd feel a lot better if I'd gotten in some serious work on the Arlington Round House hills during the week before. I've never gotten there yet this year. So, this week I mean to get there at least once per day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and maybe Friday morning. So, I'll need to check back in here daily this week, to tell you what I did, and to post some pics of the work as proof.

At the start of the ride, we were all focussed on the hot sun and the need for lots of food and water.

No need to prove we were out on Saturday (for the first time this year I get a Saturday bike ride outdoors). The sun was out and the weather was even a little bit hot. I had to shed my yellow wind shell, and dump my middle layer jacket in order to stay cool. I even needed extra water for my Camelpack. The bike needs a little touch-up in the rear-dérailleur tuning, since it was hanging up on the sixth gear when raising (but not dropping).

I have been promising you all photos of the Wachusett Reservoir near Clinton, MA, and now I finally have some. See more of them in my photo album for this ride, which includes more than seventy shots, and linked below.

We had plenty to do to keep up with the lead crew this time, as Steve Mauro and his son J.C. were joining us, and about nothing non-mechanical can slow them down. With the sun out, the reservoir lake was very lovely, and I would have stopped for more pictures. Only thing, we had such a head of steam getting around and over the lake that I didn't want to stop too frequently and wind up getting behind. Again, I suspect I'm not getting adequate cross-training and mid-week riding to cover me for these long weekend treks without needing to play catch-up when I'm winded.

But I never really got winded, which means I'm getting too used to the Res trail. I need a change, so I'm hoping we opt for Franconia next weekend, and I'm hoping I can get to Arlington Heights for some hill drills this week. I probably need humbling, and Franconia Notch will be just the trick.
Here is the enormous dam that holds up most of the water in the Res. You are seeing the back side of the thing, which must be about 125 feet tall, though I haven't checked the official numbers. Too bad we aren't allowed to walk across the top of it, which would make for a great photo-op.

Steve and J.C. finally did suffer a flat tire that took a lot of work to get fixed. Steve decided to use a new tire, I think, and there was some trouble getting the assembly together, which caused a short delay in their finishing. Luckily we were most of the way done and heading back from Clinton by that time. On-the-road maintenance is tough, and we all have to be prepared to do it, even though we mean to avoid breakdowns at Tahoe. New tires were a good idea for me this past week (see week 10 below). Now I just need some minor fixes to be fully ready for the trip, at least mechanically.

BTW I did make it down the Rte 111 hill this time with a max speed of 39 mph, and no irregularities, though I did not try to maximize the speed. Traffic was a little heavy at the time, though no one passed me going downhill. I suspect I could have made 45 mph if I had tucked more and just lennerrip, and that is about as fast as I want to go in traffic the way people drive around here. Also, the drivers this week were much more pleasant. Either it was the weather, their tax returns, or just that we looked prettier out there this week. Thanks to the local drivers.

Check out my photo album at 20080419 Training for more pics of this lovely 64.1-mile training ride.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Road Ahead -- Fund-raising deadline approaches!

Hello, TNT cycling fans! Today, on the cycling program we're going to look at money. Lots of it. Most of it on my donors web page at There you will see I'm at almost 80% of my $4100 minimum.

On May the 1st, TNT will have its $4100! That is because I have promised them I would supply the difference between what I had at that time and what they required for the minimum. So...if you were planning to help me out with a nice donation at some point (or even a mean one ;-) ) now would be a good time to check out the above link and kick in with a 1% contribution of $41.00, or more if you can spare it.

I've bought my own plane tickets to Lake Tahoe, and I'm taking my wife Carol along with me, at no cost to the program. So, do like the MOOSE does! (See Training Session 5 below.) Help me to help those suffering with blood cancers and their families. Help me to help the researchers find the cure!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Training Week 10 -- Boxboro to the Res for 53 miles

Jack Sanders joined us for the first time, and Katie from the TNTMA office was there to provide smiles and encouragement for our soaky wet ride.

I'm healthy again, and that is for sure. And just to make sure that didn't last too long, nature threw the toughest week yet at us, for daring to cycle around the Reservoir again. It was cool, below 50 and part of the time below 40 degrees, and the light to moderate rain was relentless.

The team getting ready at Boxboro Holiday Inn parking lot. Clouds threaten from the west.

We set out to cover 53 miles, going around the Boxboro warm-up leg near the ball park, and then heading out west and south to the Reservoir, one of our favorite rides. Lots of rolling hills and usually very beautiful scenery. But the emphasis today would wind up being technique, endurance, and grit. Heavy on the grit, because we were getting it in our mouths the whole way around the Res and back.

A moderate rainfall set in. The roads were never overrun, so we weren't in any danger, but the trail was wet and dirty. Wheel-spray kept us from slip-streaming or tandem riding much.

The weather today: Cool, wet, and crappy!

The rain started when we got to Clinton, and it kept on keepin' on. So did we! One of us took a spill in traffic, due to a bad pot hole, which was the toughest obstacle we faced today. Road conditions in the area are the worst ever after a winter. We really have to keep our eyes on the road in front, and be sure to point out hazards to following riders.

Now here's another point: Drivers today were extremely touchy, and ready to lean on the horn at the slightest provocation. Even when they were coming from the opposite direction and were not waiting for us. Come on, folks, what do you think we are doing out here? Is it really that important to get around us so you can wait at the next stop light? Nobody cycles on a day like today just for the fun of it.

The SAG vehicle (soak vehicle?) provides some liquid and solid refreshment for us, but we find it is better to keep going rather than wait anywhere today!

Well, like we always say, it wasn't chemotherapy. But it was about as sucky as you could want it to be training in the weather. We're all better for the experience, and unless Tahoe throws a curve at us with snow or something, we're expecting some improvement in the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Training Week 9 -- Graessle out sick!

Well, it wasn't a good week to miss, since the cold windy weather was quite a challenge for the MA team Sunday April 6th. But I was way tired from some malady that lasted all weekend. I put in some road time during the next week on my own, but missed this 47 miler.

On the fund-raising front, notice the Bullwinkle gang has been helping keep me on pace. Rocky the flying squirrel one-upped his buddy with $100. The ever-heroic Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties then put me over the 50% point with $129! Don't believe it? Check out my donor's page right now!

Now, unless I'm going to rely on cartoon characters to keep this thing going, I'll need some real flesh and blood sponsors. Otherwise I'll have to start romancing Natasha Fatale, and we all know where that could lead.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Training Week 8: 40 Miles around the Res

Taking a photo of myself before the ride. Didn't freak the camera, anyway.

Back to work! This time it is a Ride Around the Res--at Wachusett, MA. 40 miles were on the agenda, and 41.04 were my count on the bike computer by the time we got back. Lovely day, and I had no trouble at all getting up Rt 111 at the start. Must be those new vitamins. :-) Or maybe it was the pleasant and brave company of NH Coach Don Lamothe and Danielle Miller. Great to see both of them again!

Here's Danielle's happy face before the ride.

Anyway, I know better what I'm doing now, so I can get up a hill if I have to. And with last week's skiing foray, I seem to have my legs under me, and standing is no longer a viable option, except if my butt gets sore.
Here we are at the start, not a bad-sized group with about 15 participants.
Some got past me before I could get the camera out.

We got out to nice sunny start, even though it looks warmer in these pics than it was. The chill didn't bother us once we got going up the Rt 111 hill, and the wind was very kind this week. Last week's ride, I'm told, was badly assailed by gusts. I wouldn't know. I was up Sugarloaf Mountain in 30-mph winds, on skis.

Our first stop at Clinton, MA, 12 miles along.

We look a little colder in the 12-mile stop at Clinton, but the sun was very nice. My blood meter got a little cold sitting on my shoulder the way I had it, so my checks didn't make much sense. I might have been a little high, but I didn't notice any problems physically.

Well, folks, the Res was beautiful, and just to prove it I'm going to have to go out there another sunny day to get some photos. We were moving so well, I didn't stop for a single shot. Guess I have MY priorities straight, but that doesn't do the gentle reader any good, does it?

When we got back to Boxborough, no one wanted a group photo. Maybe the ride left people feeling a little pressed, or just hungry. I'll say it was fun to sit down and snog pizza and pop for an hour, just to go over everything and swap a few stories with the northern crew. I hope we're having this much fun when we get up to NH for a mini-Tahoe around Franconia Notch in a couple-three weeks! Bad weather's already aloft for Saturday again. (Who knew?) But I'll be sure to get some hill climbing in this week!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Training Week 7: Gone Skiing

Well, I suppose it had to happen once this year that I miss a bike training session, but I had two issues: My roadie needed a tune-up, and I needed to get up north at least once this year to do some downhill skiing. So I dealt with those two issues by driving my friend John up to Sugarloaf in Maine, and trying out the huge slopes.

I took the camera along, but didn't bother to snap a single photo. Not that either of us is that much to look at :-) but the weather and the snow were striking. Maybe the best I've ever been on. The only problem was wind at the summit, which kept some of the lifts off-line for part of the time. 40-50mph and gusting, you could see it blowing clouds over the peak from anywhere in the area. Should have taken some short movies of it with commentary. It was really movin'.

So were we! I wore my quads down to the femurs over the two days, and had a lot of fun. Wish I could have taken a whole crew up with us! There was plenty of open space and wide, wide trails barely being used. It was cold all right, but it's snow, you know? And evidently it was enough training (cross-training anyway) that I didn't lose any conditioning for my next training ride.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Training Week 6: 03/16/2008 Sunday Again!

Well, we actually got snowed out again early Saturday morning, but this time we were ready with a Sunday ride of about 30 miles. While the weather wasn't a factor, we didn't have much sun, and the Boxborough-Littleton-Harvard ramble we took turned out to be good conditioning for the cool weather we'll see early in the day at Tahoe. The crew included some of the New Hampshire team, with Bruce, Sue, Ann, and Dave joining us for the first time. The ride really didn't take all that long, and this time Martina passed me up on the hill into Harvard Center.

My trip down the Rt 111 hill back into Boxborough resulted in another shimmy, but this one was self-induced, as my pecks were too tight coming down the hill. The instability vanished when I relaxed them. My top speed was only 30 mph this time, so the problem I had last week is indeed solved. Now it is just a matter of getting relaxed again and trusting the equipment on the downhills.

Some day we may even get to work out on a Saturday, but for now, at least we are outside every week. For other photos of this ride and the training crew, see my Picasa2 album at this link.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Training Week 5: 03/09/2008 Cycling outdoors!

Note: Check out my donors web site NOW, and you'll see that even Bullwinkle has donated to support my ride. like the MOOSE does. Please stop by and donate to eliminate blood cancers today!

Well, it rained like a %&*^$# Saturday, again. But we were able to get out on Sunday! And man was this a special day. We had seven riders from the MA team along with us, including three of our mentors. Big Ben came out to see us, and the very lovely Katie Brown, our LLS team representative, was along to drive SAG for us. None of us wound up needing a motor-lift, but it was special to have her come along!

We cycled for what my bike computer logged as 23.4 miles from Boxboro, through Littleton, and then up the big hill to Harvard.

Chugging up the hill to Harvard Center, MA. I was sure beat trying to get up that thing; happens every year. But this time I was even one of the first to get up there, although I was pretty winded when I arrived!

We mostly had a great time. Everything would have been perfect if I'd been aware of a small, but serious mechanical problem. When we headed down the BIG hill on Rt 111 going back into Boxboro after a good ass-kicking ride, I thought I'd coast to my max speed and see how well the new frame on my bike would handle the higher pressure. Well, that didn't go well at all. Could have been a lot worse, but as I reached 39mph, I got the worst kind of shimmy in the bike I'd ever felt. Reminded me of a tooth-breaking fall I'd had as a nine-year-old--but that was 38 years ago, in the street gravel. This was a lot different, and the stakes were higher. I fought that thing wiggling and twitching all the way down the hill! Hollering at myself not to die out there, I finally got the beast to stop wrestling with me as I approached the bottom.

Turns out, and I hate to admit this, I had a loose head assembly, which I could have detected before I started, but what I was doing during my check-out didn't reveal the problem. Well I feel silly, but I know better now how to check for that problem. I just hold the bar down with the front brake on and push forward. If the fork seems to move or slip, time to tighten!!!

Well, I'm still here, I'm not dead, and I'm training for Tahoe.

Where to go after the ride? You bet!!! Check out Di Capri's in Acton, MA next time you're in town!!! Here am I, Coach Mike, Anna, and Krazy Keith.
Posted by Picasa
See the rest of the photos from this training ride at my Picasa site.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Training Week 4 03/02/2007

All right. No more complaining. We DID get snow on March 1, Saturday. But coach Mike Hill arranged to set up an outdoor ride the next day, Sunday, from Boxboro, MA to as far as we were willing to go. There were only four of us: Coach Mike, Jason from down under, Brian, and me. We wound up with a LOVERLY day, no question. So I like an idiot brought the camera, but didn't take any photos. (Ach!) We did about 15.4 miles total, under a very friendly sun, and some steady breezes. It was a good chance to get some mild conditioning in. Why was I the only one tired at the top of Hill Rd and Middle St? I guess I just atrophy a lot faster than most people. It got plenty chilly, but the ride really wasn't a hard one. I'll try to get more outdoor work this week, before we meet again for team training on the weekend.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Training Week 3: 02/23/2008 Spinning, Spinning, SPINNING!

Tell you what, folks, this indoor training gig is getting old. We had another snowstorm yesterday, and we still can't get outside. I tried to get out by myself on Wednesday 2/20, and failed to do so, despite clear, dry conditions. Let's face it, we are behind the eight-ball getting early conditioning here. The indoor spinning class is working for me today, as I find I'm a little winded and my pulse, which usually runs between 160 and 185 for a good stationary bike session, has gotten as high as 193. (Don't tell my personal trainers, okay?) Here I am (photo above) at Longfellow, indoors of course, cranking away next to teammate and fund-raising-leader Maureen M.

Clearly I need some more cross-training, or I'm going to get my butt kicked next week on the road. Snow or no snow, I'm putting my knobbies on my old mountain bike and skitchin'...

Note: Recommitment is three weeks away now. Please donate as quickly as you can using my web page at Thanks!

Training Week 2: 02/16/2008 Spinning, spinning...

It was so warm this week we figured we take advantage of the break and get outside today, but yesterday evening it snowed to beat the band. So, we are spinning again this week, this time for 1:15 at the Longfellow Athletic Center. I was happy to see Lindsay M training with us, though she says she'll be doing the Mad River Valley ride this year, and not Tahoe, so I'll miss her on the mountain in June, and on our numerous long training runs in March, April, and May. We ramped up our expectations only a little this week, and I'm going to need to fill in some cross-training sessions before we meet again next Saturday.

Training Week 1: Spinning 02/09/2008

Well, Coach Mike Hill has decided that we won't try to get outside for training too early in February, so instead I'll get to meet the new MA cycling team members at Longfellow Athletic Center in Natick, MA this morning. We'll be riding stationary bikes ("spinning") following instructions and tunes set by our fearless leader. I got to meet some strong riders! Among the better-looking are Moe, Lisa, Martina, and Anna (returning from last year). Also returning are the irrepressible Ben Levine, the unstoppable Dave Morris, Rich Wilson, and "Dr Keith" Foster. Newcomers John H, Brian A, and our new head coach Mike Hill rounded out our first training session.