Wednesday, June 20, 2012

B2B 148 miles

The last couple hours of seven hour ride at race tempo is an interesting space.  I know a lot of guys that train to excel in this area all the time and I admire them but I don't do it at all.  Competing at those distances has never been my thing; it seems too tiring and lonesome or something else foreboding like that.  However an opportunity to ride the 148 mile Harpoon B2B came up on Friday evening to fill in for a guy that couldn't make it at the last minute.   I was scheduled to race in Harlem NYC but I decided to do the B2B instead for no reason other than everyone saying that it was an epic ride and a lot of fun. The whole thing came down in serendipitous way too, so I didn't want to ignore that.  And I'm glad I didn't because the experience culminated for me in the last 2 hours with renewed stirrings of journey and drive.

The B2B is organized, sponsored and incredibly well supported by The Harpoon Brewery Company.  B2B stands for Brewery to Brewery which is the ride's format, sending riders from their brewery in the Seaport district on Boston Harbor to their other brewery in Windsor Vermont located 148 miles away.  Yeah it's tough...mostly an uphill ride the whole way.  There are some flats and descents but the ride is earmarked by a copious extended uphill grinders that keep coming at you.

I don't know how many riders there were total but it was a large number.  Lets put it this way; driving into Boston 15 miles out, I already saw a steady stream riders from the early heats (wearing B2B jerseys) pedaling their way North along the route.  There were a ton of heats of about 50 riders each.  I think the first started at 5:30 am.  The heats were categorized according to ability and pace w/ less advanced riders going early and faster riders (Triathletes & Cyclists) going off in later heats.  The last heat was fastest scheduled to leave at 8:00am which was my grp.  I was also the very last guy to stage in the back but this gave me a good vantage to survey the riders and predict the ride dynamics likely to unfold and plan my ride accordingly.  There were guys I knew and a lot I didn't but everyone looked sturdy and game for the effort ahead so I paid close attention to everything.  I saw a couple pro/elite triguys and Mark (The Shark) McCormack (2003 US Pro Road Champ) and also Dean Phillips (World U23 Crew Champion, turned cyclist) to mention a few.  Dean won the State road race last week so I knew he was ready to rage.  In winning the championship he pushed a 'normalized' wattage of 377 for the last hour (holding off Mark & Frank McCormack, among others).  Dean also holds most of the regional TT records.  Dude goes 30+ mph in every TT using an Aero-bike and goes 28 mph cannibal.  Recognize.

Mark Mmack. has ridden B2B a few times & told me that the 100 mile mark; while only 2/3rds of the distance, is really more like the halfway point.  He said the course gets brutal and people start blowing apart from that point on.  I respect Mark's race experience, accomplishments and abilities so I paid attention to his insight and formulated it into my pace strategy accordingly.  Basically I decided to make it to the century mark with the least effort possible while remaining with the front guys and then assess my form for the last 50 miles.

This plan seemed to be working okay until the the second fuel station which was at about mile 60-70.  As I was fueling (along with the whole group) 4-5 guys rolled onto the course and started riding hard while the rest of us were still in the station.  I was a caught off guard and a little surprised but there wasn't any rule or agreement around the time riders need to hang around so I just rode as hard as I could (solo) for about 10-12 minutes before rejoining them.  A lot of other guys got 'caught out' as well.  The move fractured the group in half for good, so I a decided to ride in the top 5-7 guys from that point on but still not push too hard.  I took a couple pulls just keeping pace but that was about it.  Guys still kept attacking though but their kick was waning.

At around mile 90 I tested my legs and they felt strong so I was confident heading into the last 50 miles. Unbeknownst to me this was also a point on the course just before the longest climb (5 miles) of the day.  I watched two guys attack at the bottom and wondered what was ahead.  After about 5 minutes they were just about to float out of sight but my legs were good so I decided to try and bridge up to them.  After a couple minutes the two guys up front were coming back to me and the remnant riders behind were out of sight on the grade below.  As I rolled close to the two guys I noticed one (Dean Phillips) had split a pretty good gap the other guy.  As I passed the gapped rider,  he jumped on my wheel and I brought us both up to Dean and rode past him over the crest of the hill.  Over the top there were a series of shorter but sharp rollers across a false flat section heading up the 100 mile fuel station that we rode together.  I rode second wheel on one decent then punched it up into the rollers dropping the two guys in the process and rode solo for the remaining few miles into the station.

At this point, with 100 miles behind me and 50 ahead I didn't want to get caught out 'again' coming out of the fuel station.  I hung around for about 5 minutes, looked around for the other two guys but didn't see them.  There were hundreds of riders standing around, all wearing the exact same jersey and I could not find them,  So I rode onto the course and soft pedaled for a couple miles then settled into TT mode for the next 30 miles solo.

'might have known what you would find'
Along the way some funny things were going through my mind.  I was passing a constant stream of riders from the earlier heats and they were really supportive as I TT'd along. The Harpoon sponsor van w/ ride guru-organizer Skip Thomas, also pulled up to me a number of times to pass along hearty encouragement. All of this got me super motivated and I just committed to the effort 100%  but still knowing there was a long way to go.  This is a unique space, physically, mentally and dare I say, spiritually as well.  Sparing too many details, all of these were in balance for me as I tapped out a vigorous tempo and embraced a completely channeled, calm and assertive focus. 

A mile from the final fuel station (130 mi mark) a group of three, Mark Mac, Dean Phillips and  Elite/Pro Tri Pat Wheeler caught up to me and we rolled into the final station together but I was still feeling pretty sturdy and actually didn't want to stop.  However the ride requires that you stop at each station and ride over a 'tracking pad' to make sure they know where everyone is on the course.  It's a safety thing more than anything else.  Anyway, the final station was a sea of B2B jerseys just like all the others and I lost track of my guys again...or they lost track of me?  After a while I began thinking they had left (like station 2) so I rolled onto the course to look for them.  I didn't see them so I rolled back into the station and looked around some more.  After about 10 minutes a few remnant riders from our grp arrived, rolling in slowly & looking totally smashed.  One rider in particular looked so shelled that several onlookers/volunteers recommended he go to the medical tent.  After I knew these guys were going to be okay I decided to get riding again; all the while thinking Dean, Mark and Pat were already way down the road so I settled into TT mode again and quickly got back into the same mantra state as the previous 30 miles and continued this solo all the way to the end to learn I was the first guy to finish.  Turned out Dean, Mark and Pat and others were actually chasing me which I thought was pretty funny.  It was a really great day.  One in which I discovered some new dimensions within this beautiful sport I had not experienced in quite the same way before.

Peace and roll strong!

2 comments:

  1. *heats of 25 (hence the long line for lift off)
    *1000 riders total (where were the women?)
    *Can't forget Team Psycho (we started this!)
    "Eleven years ago, a small group of elite riders from Team Psycho made the inaugural ride after Harpoon purchased a second brewery in Windsor, VT"
    *Dean is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet and a damn good bike fitter.
    *Skip is the Bomb.
    *Last aid station is 126, where pickle juice drinking is the norm and so is the familiar shelled look on many faces.

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  2. Thanks for filling in the gaps Elaine. Great info.
    Clarifying Skip 'Thomas', race organizer, is the bomb!

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