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.