Festive 500

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Urban Covered BridgeEach year, cycling clothing company Rapha sponsors an event called the “Festive 500” in which riders are challenged to ride 500km between December 24 and 31.  This was the first year I’d heard of it, and while I was pretty sure I couldn’t go the whole 500, I thought I’d give it a try.

I was hampered somewhat by having to work the 24th and 25th, and my wife working the rest of the time, making me daddy daycare for the week.  I did commute to work, but that only represented about 12k in total.  In the end, I only managed two “real” rides, and my total was only 140k, or just over a quarter of the goal.

While I didn’t come close, I was motivated to ride when I otherwise might not have, and it will give me something to shoot for next year.

Vermont Route 100

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Route 100After the NE Randonneurs 100k, I was feeling confident about my ability to ride decent distances again.  My wife and I had planned a trip to Waitsfield, VT for the end of May, and it seemed like a good chance to get a bit more cycling in.

While Waitsfield is probably best known as a cycling destination for Lincoln Gap, Appalachian Gap and the other climbs on Vermont’s 6 Gap ride, I wasn’t prepared either physically or mentally to spend that kind of time biking on this vacation.  Instead, we arranged for my wife to drop me in Hartford, VT and then I would head over to Rt 100 and follow that over the “mini gap” of Granville Gulf and down the other side into Waitsfield, for a total of 108k.  She would drive up and meet me part way and then at our B&B.

RouteI had been nervously watching the weather all week, as it looked like there would be a good chance of rain.  I made an impulse purchase of a light, packable jacket earlier in the week, figuring worst case it staying in my pocket for the whole ride.  Well, just after we finished eating lunch at the Route 4 General Store, it started to drizzle.  Nothing too bad though, so we drove up the road away from the worst of the truck traffic and I set out.  Only to discover a mile later that the first part of my route was on packed-dirt roads.  Thankfully, the road stayed packed and my 25mm tires handled it just fine.

The first 20 miles or so were a long flat, only gradually climbing about 300 feet into Bethel, where I stopped for a cookie at the Bethel Village Sandwich Shop.  From there it was only another 12 miles or so along the White River before turning onto route 100 proper.

Route 100 itself is a nicely paved road, and the section I rode wasn’t too heavily travelled this time of year, as we were in a shoulder season after skiing stopped but before summer really began.  It was steady climbing up to Hancock, where we planned to meet for a snack at the Old Hancock Hotel.

While the milkshake was delicious, the news I received inside about a thunderstorm on the other side of the ridge was not.  Someone in the shop asked where I was headed, and when I said Waitsfield, told me that I probably had an hour or two before the storm hit.  With 25 miles to go and the Granville Gulf still to pass, I had some doubts, but pushed on ahead.  If it got bad I could always call for a bailout.

WaterfallThe road continued to climb steadily upward, increasing in pitch, but never becoming startingly steep.  I actually hit the top of the mini-gap without even really realizing it until I was headed back down again.  Then, just after passing Warren on the final descent into Waitsfield, the rain caught me.  It absolutely poured, and within minutes I could feel my shoes full of water.  It only lasted a few minutes though, and by the time I got to town I was already starting to dry off.

Perhaps the hardest part of the ride was the last little climb to the Inn at Round Barn Farm where we were staying.  After struggling up a short 20+% grade there, I was finally done.  Fortunately no one else was staying at the Inn and we upgraded to a room with a giant tub where I got to soak off all the road grit.

2014 NE Randonneurs 100k

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Back after I started riding again, I set myself the goal of completing this 100k populaire as motivation to keep myself on the back.  After weeks spent on the trainer over the winter and slowly building up my mileage, it was time to actually do it.

The ride started at Hanscom Airfield in Bedford, with a crowd of about 70 standing around and riding circles in the parking lot to warm up.  It was fairly chilly at about 45˚, but was supposed to warm up later in the day.  We started off south from the airfield towards Lincoln, and I think I was a bit anxious as I started a bit quick and had a hard time finding a rhythm.  I settled in eventually though, and it was pretty smooth and flat rolling until the first hill in Bolton.  I was still feeling good though, and descended from there towards the halway point in Sterling.

I had heard most of the hills were to come in the second half, so I took my time to stretch and eat a PB&J and some pretzels before heading out again.  The next couple climbs were surrounding Harvard, MA, where I had always been told was the best spot for riding hills around Boston.  I stopped for at the top of the first on Bare Hill road to have a snack and strip off my arm warmers now that it was firmly in the 60s (I’d lost the leg warmers at the half-way stop).

After the descent, there was one more up and then down into Harvard proper, where I coasted by the semi-famous Harvard General store, just enjoying not pedaling for a moment now 45 miles into the ride.  Outside of Harvard was what seemed like the longest, and for me slowest, climb of the day.  Partway up I heard another rider say “This is the last one, right?” which was all the motivation I needed.

After that last hill, it was a relatively easy ride back to Hanscom.  At least it seems that way in retrospect, I’m sure I was getting a bit sore by then.  I ended up finishing right at 5 hours total time, including about a half hour stopped.  Overall I felt this was a success, and I even had the energy for an Ikea trip (and the resulting furniture assembly) afterward.  While my work schedule will keep me out of the other NER events in 2014, there is always next year.