Yesterday was the 6th annual CCCP Memorial Day ride in the White Mountains of NH, and my third year participating.
I was very excited for this almost 85 mile ride with almost 6000 feet of climbing for a few reasons: this ride always makes me stronger, I love the people on this ride, my husband was driving the sag wagon, and the weather was supposed to be perfect. Well, except for the fact that it was windy as all get out, which I didn’t realize until we started. Predicted gusts of 30 mph – not fun, but I was on my way and not turning back.
4 of us piled into the car and left our house at 7:30 for the 1+ hour ride to Fryeburg, the start location of the ride. Upon arrival I realized that I had forgotten my kit jersey at home. What a bonehead move! Instead of wearing it to the event, I decided to wear a t-shirt instead and change when I got there but I forgot to throw the jersey in my bag.
This is what I was supposed to be dressed in:
This is actually how I looked:
Luckily another rider had brought extra jerseys – it would have sucked to have done the ride in a t-shirt!
After a brief “meeting” and group photo we were on our way.
There were about a dozen of us that chose the alternate route that took us in through North Conway to rendevoux with the main group that rode up over Hurricane Mountain Road, which averages 10% grade with a maximum of 16%. They traveled up the steeper side and it’s a two mile climb. Yeah. I’m never going to try to bike it. It’s not so much the climbing as it is the descending for me.
Taken by my husband as he followed the group up over Hurricane Mountain Road.
After a brief stop at the Red Jersey we were on our way. The group stayed together with a moderate pace until we turned onto Route 16. I struggled early on when so many riders passed me. A club member, Fred, asked how I was feeling. I said I should be this spent so early on. Then somehow I found my legs and I was able to stay with the group. Or at least until the same spot I lost contact last year.
The wind was brutal on the ascent of Pinkham Notch. However, it seemed nothing compared to the descent. I have never been so tired from a descent in my life. The wind would either blow you to one side or another, or even bring you to a hault from the head wind. Not only was it physically taxing, but mentally taxing, too.
I was happy to get half way down the descent of Pinkhams Notch to realize I had gone down the steepest section already. The same section that terrified me the past two years didn’t seem so bad at all. I’m definitely getting more comfortable on the descents!
50 miles in I had a friend that flatted. He grabbed a tire from the sag and everyone went by us when he was changing it. I chose to stay back with him, as we had talked about riding together. After such a long break it took me a while to get my legs under me again. By the time we got onto Evans Notch they were back and ready for the climb.
Evans Notch is my favorite climb I have ever ridden. We acsend the Gorham, NH side and descend the Maine side. It’s a small incline for most of the way. I just found my rhythm, as I often do on this climb, and just held a steady pace. My friend was struggling a bit and I made him sit behind me. He dropped off a couple times and I soft pedalled until he was back on my wheel. (On a side note, the header photo of the top of this blog was taken of this same friend, James, on Evans Notch two years ago.)
Right before the grade kicks up, he told me to go ahead, to catch and pass the few riders in front of us. I asked him if he was sure, I wouldn’t have left him but I would have told him the same thing if the situation was reversed. So I forged ahead alone, passed three riders, and finished the climb strong. Though I didn’t remember the steeper section being quite so long.
Again, I handled the descent off Evans better this time around. Then it was a long trip back. It’s always the last 15 miles that are the worst. There are a few rollers that seem to just kill the legs. Then you have the long flat sections along the potato fields where the wind blows. This time it was gusting and a few times we had to lean hard into the wind to avoid getting blown into the road.
I finished the day beating my average mile per hour slightly from last year. Not too bad considering all the wind. I also suffered no cramps on the ride – not even any hint of cramps. I tried to eat properly on the bike and did that a bit with the help of some shot block type chews. I made sure I drank a full bottle between stops and alternating between water and electrolyte drinks. Lunch consisted of a tuna sandwich because I knew it would have a good amount of sodium, though it was hard to choke it down. I find that during and after hard rides I can’t eat, even though I know how important it is. So it’s a matter of forcing myself to eat. I remember hearing a professional bike racer state that the worst part about racing is eating enough after the race. I could never understand that until now.
I simply love this ride every year. It’s one of the best rides I do all year. And I’ll do it again next year if it’s not raining. So far we’ve been lucky with three consecutive nice weather rides and I hope it continues.