Sunday, August 28, 2011
A dozen or so cyclists from our local area made the trip out to Deerfield, Mass to ride the Deerfield Dirt and Road Randonee, aka the D2R2. This ride is known for its challenging climbs, narrow twisting dirt and gravel roads, scenic overlooks, and believe it or not, great food and drink. Organizers this year added a 115K route to the customary 100K and the 180K loops. I have done the 100K ride several times and i wanted to try the all new 115K ride. Stacy, Liz, Abbie, Brad, Seth, Mark, Tom, Chuck aka Q, Art and i all felt the 115K was the correct ride this year. It was a good choice.
The ride is organized as a Randonee, which means its timed, but its not a race. The challenge is to stay on course by following the detailed cue sheet and to simply finish. Believe me, just to finish feels really good. The 115K route was significantly different from the 100K and it road more like 150K because of all the elevation changes. All the rides start from a 'start chute' that allows all riders to start at their own schedule within a 30 minute window. Simply line up in the chute, sign the book with your start time, and then you are off. Art, Q, Stacy and i were all off and navigating the course at 8:02, two minutes into our start window. The route started easy enough with some road sections through the picturesque Town of Old Deerfield. Soon we were onto dirt and pace lining along South Green River Road, a cool undulating dirt road where you could easily average >24 mph. The Keltic train swept us up here and we picked up the pace. Better than the swift pace was the scenery. The river water flows crystal clear over a rocky bed that parallels the dirt road. Cairns can be spotted here and there if at 24 mph you can take your eye off the wheel in front of you. After a quick stop at the water stop, we were back into the woods and a completely new section for D2R2. This was a 'jeep road' that was steep, rocky and muddy as any MTB trail i've ridden. It took all my energy to clean this section. And then we climbed some more. At the end of a long grind, i came across Q napping at a T intersection on a sun filled patch of grass. Gee, was i that far behind? We climbed some more, descended and then climbed some more.
The cue sheet is interesting reading enough by itself. Notes of caution like, "left at Cowpath # 40", "livestock often in road", "a hard dirt climb", "a very hard dirt climb", "a super-hard dirt climb". The word "climb" shows up all over the cue sheet and is not wasted on small elevation changes. If it says "climb", believe me, you are working very hard. At about 30+ miles, we started a gradual descent on sketchy roads back to the Green River Road area for lunch. Lunch was awesome. 3 or 4 different kinds of subs (grinders for the New Englanders), PB and J, cookies, salads, bananas, energy drinks, soda, and more. We sat and ate. It was remarkable how uncrowded the lunch stop was. Riders came in and out on their own schedule and there never was a crush of people, as the organizers have really spread out the riders with the start schedule.
We left the lunch area (oh, i failed to mention that the lunch area is in a grassy park on the River next to a covered bridge, very cool) and immediately started climbing again. This section of the 115K had three major climbs... the hard, very hard and super hard. The Pennel Hill climb was notable for me because i had to dismount and walk! I was completely gassed. I was spinning in a 36 (front ring) and a 27 tooth rear cog and i could just barely turn over the pedals. If i stood up, the rear tire would spit dirt and gravel and i would be almost balanced at a full stop. I alternated between standing, trying to smooth out the pedal stroke and then sitting to maintain forward motion. Eventually, i lost. The dirt, gravel, and % grade, won out over me, my poor fitness and lack of balancing skills. I got off and walked until my heart rate was back to recognizable numbers. I glanced back down the hill and saw Artie still pedaling up the hill! What an animal. I was to learn later that i was simply hallucinating and he was off the bike too. He told me that he looked up the hill and saw me off the bike walking and thought to himself ... "Holy crap, i should turn around now and go home". Now with Pennel Hill etched into my brain forever, we regrouped and limped towards Patton (the super-hard) Hill. This hill is part of the 180K loop also and has quite the reputation. I was determined not to walk. The Q recharged somehow and was up the hill ahead of me. I road with 4 guys from BHCC. Good company. One asked me if this was the infamous Patten Hill. I blurted out "yes" in between gasps. He asked me how much longer is this hill? Gee, i don't know. We had been climbing for what seemed to be days. Its my first time up the Hill. I have no idea how long. I thought i should stop, pull out my cell phone, call Q, and see if he reached the top yet and then report back to the BHCC guy. Yikes, i was losing my mind. I replied "I don't know". I did make it without a dismount, and at the top collapsed at the final refreshment station. These folks now how to reward riders. They had watermelon, water, energy drinks, fruit, brownies, and more cookies. Yum. We re-grouped and headed off on the fourth and final leg. The cue sheet listed this final leg at 11.9 miles with 1100 feet of ... of course... climbing. Some of this was recognizable to me from previous years. One rocky downhill section was a hoot, with tennis ball and bowling ball size rocks everywhere. The cue sheet called it "gnarly". Yes it was.
Eight, nine or ten miles later, we were on pavement and the BHCC boys decided to behave like the lead out train for Mark Canvendish. My legs were screaming, so i sat in and used every trick and excuse i know in order not to contribute. Finally the tents came into view and i could smell the food. Checked-in, changed, and immediately went to the Berkshire Brewing Company beer truck to get my pint glass and redeem my ticket for a special Franklin Land Trust IPA. The food was great... BBQ'd chicken, ribs, salads, fresh organic grown green beans, and more. What a finish. We re-grouped again under the tents, ate, drank, traded stories, and then packed up all before Hurricane Irene made her appearance. I'll do it again. I want to conquer Pennel Hill.