Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Big Test Every Year

GORHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Six weeks ago I broke my collarbone and immediately tried to withdraw from this event. But I was past the cutoff time and after trying to sell my entry unsuccessfully, it was with great trepidation I decided to go to the mountain. Riding with the collarbone hasn't been bad the past six weeks but it has prevented me from doing real hill training - not that there's anything that compares.



The last group to start at the Hillclimb

Last year, the Gubinski family gave me a ride down and asked me if I would come back if they signed up. And so I did. Had I not signed the pact it would have been easy to skip this one.



It was cold at the top

My heart wasn't in this climb and even as I was driving towards New England on Thursday I often thought of turning around. I didn't bother with finalizing hotel reservations until Wednesday.


The finish line
The collarbone is pretty good. It doesn't effect me as I ride except occasionally out of the saddle if I twist the wrong way. It does, however, effect my sleep if I turn on my right side.


The flags, the blankets, the coats

But once I contacted the Gubinski family and asked if they still had a place for a rider (to bring down after the race) I felt more energized. We met yesterday at registration and were all set. Still, I wasn't 100% sure I'd race.


The Cog Railway

It was a gorgeous day. Sunny and temperatures in the mid 60s at the base. I decided to ride.


The flag whipping in the wind
As usual, I started last in the last group, the age 45 and older riders, which was so large it was divided into two groups. I started up the mountain with the usual thoughts. This hurts. Shut Up Legs. Keep the legs moving.


A rider near the top

At times I thought about abandoning (aka quitting) but then thought about cancer. I am not a quitter. I will keep going unless I can't. And even then I would find a way.


Looking out from the top

The beauty of this ride is that time wasn't important. Simply finishing would be a victory because there was no way I thought I'd be here after breaking my collarbone. I heal slowly.


Lucas (165) and Alexa (in black) at the start

I always remember a flat section but never found it. Every time I looked up, which wasn't often, the road just kept going higher. The dirt section is still the dirt section. At the hairpin turn on dirt I was hit with a pretty vicious headwind. Hard to measure but we were told 40 mph winds.





Soaked with sweat it was as though someone opened the freezer and turned the fan on high. Turbo high. I tried to get as low as possible while grinding up the dirt section.


I never checked my time. I just kept turning over the pedals. As I came to the final section a man I met at breakfast called out "Virginia." I stood briefly then as I turned the corner to the last 22% grade I stayed seated. Although I had alternated my position throughout the climb I guess it was just time to sit. I looked at the clock and saw 2:05 which was really 1:45 - less the 20 minute difference for starting later than the clock did.



My time, always consistent near 1:45, was just a time. I was quietly pleased that I had finished; I had fought off my own inner doubts about not being able to make it.

Within a couple of minutes I began to realize how cold it was. Just 41 degrees and with 30 mph winds, the windchill was 29 degrees. As the race organizers tried to cover me with a grey Polartec blanket, it was blown off. Before the woman could retrieve it I asked for a blue one. I have four or five grey ones already. I knew my wife would like blue.
 

Alison Gubinski found me and had my bag of clothes. I put on my jacket to keep me warm long enough before finding a nice place to change out of my sweat soaked clothes into my dry ones.


Ramp before the 22% finishing climb

It was a fun day. My friend, Jeremiah Bishop, took third overall. The Gubinski's, riding, for the first time, all did well; Lucas made Top Notch (sub 1:20) and Alexa got on the podium in her age group. I wish I could take credit for their great results.


Alexa, Barry, Vic Gubinski, Lucas
It was 1300 miles for an 8 mile race. But it seems to be the big test I face every year. Can I climb Mount Washington? And for this year, the answer was yes.


Alexa (L) on the podium



 

2 comments:

  1. My first draft was "never again" but that was just too much whining. So I didn't write it.

    ReplyDelete