Wow, that hurt. Once again, the Mount Greylock Century lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest rides on the east coast. This year the weather conspired against us; we had temperatures in the mid 90s and humidity to match. Here’s how things went down (and up, and down…)
Mile 23.1: Rest Stop 1, Summit of Mt. Greylock I’d forgotten how tough the first two miles of Greylock are. The countdown mile markers start about a mile above the visitor’s center, with eight miles to go. By the time I saw the first marker I was thinking “I can’t take another eight miles of this,” but the last eight aren’t like the first two. The grade flattens out and then turns into a brief descent before the final climb to the summit. As with last year, the mountain was wrapped in swirling mist, so I didn’t even have a nice view as a reward. I stopped to refill my bottles and pushed on, feeling strong. The descent was all nasty pavement and no visibility so I took it at my own pace, which is more like “Il Pollo” than “Il Falco.”
Mile 40.6: Rest Stop 2, Whitcomb Summit, Florida – The climb out of North Adams wasn’t as bad as I had remembered, but I still didn’t try to keep up with the guys who passed me on the way up. When I arrived at the stop, the sag wagon crew was just setting up shop. A small group of us stretched and checked out bikes as we waited for the driver to break out the cookies and sports drink. After a few minutes we clicked back into our pedals and tucked in for a nice descent.
Mile 56.5: Rest Stop 3, Hawley – After zooming through a river gorge that’s more reminiscent of Colorado than Massachusetts, we turned onto Route 8A and started the climb up to Hawley. This is the stretch of road that got me last year, so I was prepared for a battle. Fortunately, the hill provided some comic relief along the way:
- As is usual for rides like this, the course is marked with arrows spray-painted on the road. These let us know when we need to turn without needing to consult the cue sheets that we have stuffed in our jersey pockets, usually below the energy bars. On Hawley Hill, the road was marked about halfway up, nowhere near any intersections. The arrow pointed straight uphill and had a smiley face next to it. Thanks for the tip, guys.
- The local club had grafitti’ed the road in the best Euro-pro style. As I inched my way up the steepest section, this slogan went under my wheels in a slow-motion crawl: “BRAIN…TO LEGS….MORE…POWER!” At that point I was thinking “LEGS…TO…BRAIN…GET…BENT!”
- As we went around the last hairpin and the road pitched upwards yet again, I heard a voice behind me shout “Oh my f*cking God!” A few seconds later a very sweaty guy on a bright yellow Pinarello came past me, pedaling in slow motion (yet still going faster than I was). If I’d had any breath to spare, I would have laughed myself off my bike.
This year, I made it up the hill without cramping, flatting or crashing. Yay me.
Mile 70: Rest Stop 4, Rt 143, Worthington As I turned right onto Route 143 in Worthington and encountered another rise, my legs decided I needed to take an unscheduled break. The last few miles had been mostly uphill and lacking in tree cover, leaving me exposed to the sun and wind. My left leg gave me enough warning to get my foot out of the pedal before it told the rest of me to stuff it for a while by cramping from hip to ankle. The ensuing fall didn’t hurt a bit, but did leave me sprawled across the travel lane still stuck to my bike. My right leg had also turned into a solid but useless mass of overcooked meat and I was unable to move my heel enough to release the pedal on that side. So much for not cramping this year.
I wasn’t tremendously worried about traffic; my body had selected a nice, straight stretch of road to call it quits. Before I could get myself out of the situation, a couple of motorists stopped and helped me get to the side of the road. I sent them on their way as soon as I was upright, though as soon as I tried to get going again on that hill I wished they had stuck around long enough to give me a push start.
Mile 80: Rest stop 4, Peru I wasn’t feeling great after the cramp episode, but I did make progress. I actually stopped a little short of this rest stop to eat a gel, then pushed on to the real stop. At this point my GI tract was signaling that it didn’t need any more input, despite what my muscles might think. I drank a couple of bottles of straight water but couldn’t choke down any more food.
Mile 101: Start/finish, Lanesborough After some more up-and-down immediately after the final rest stop, the last nine, mostly downhill miles through Windsor and Dalton felt like I wasn’t pedaling at all. I attribute this to the fact that most of the time, I wasn’t pedaling. I finished in about 7:20, 80 minutes faster than last year but about half an hour slower than I needed to get back to Boston in time for my date. With my wife, smart guy.
I didn’t have any major equipment issues this year; I rode my usual road bike with a 34×29 low gear, which suited me well. I did develop a nice hotspot on my right foot, and I think I’m going to ditch the saddle for something a little wider. I’m not sure what to do about the cramps other than work on strength this winter. I tried some extra electrolyte replacement after the halfway point, but it didn’t seem to help much.
As of Tuesday night, my legs still feel like Guido worked me over with a baseball bat. I’ve done a couple of short recovery rides, but my calves and quads still hurt when I go down stairs. Maybe by Thursday I’ll be ready to train again, and in a few more weeks I’ll probably be ready to think about next year.