Saturday was my third year doing the Mt. Washington Century as a warm-up for the Pan-Mass Challenge.
Although it was my fifth century of the year, I also viewed it as a big test: my first 100-mile ride since my most recent crash, where my arm was badly injured in the emergency room. My hematoma had been healing, but was still pretty colorful (as you can see in the photos), and the arm was still a little weak.
My buddy Paul and I left the start at 7am in cool but clear weather. There weren’t a lot of other riders as we made our way along the rocky Swift River up to Bear Notch, a 1300-foot climb over the first of three named mountain passes. The climb went well and the four-mile descent was just fabulous.
After the first rest stop, we tackled Crawford Notch, a beautiful ride flanked by rocky escarpments, climbing another 1100 feet and ending in a lengthy, steep pitch up. Paul and I stopped and took a couple photos in front of the lake at the top of the ridge.
During the next rolling segment, my arm started aching and my shoulder/neck went into painful spasms, but I nursed it in to the rest stop at the top of Randolph Hill. In previous years, the temperatures had been boiling by this point, but the day had stayed mild and pleasant for a change.
After a screaming descent down into the town of Gorham, we turned onto the long, steady grade up to the base of Mt. Washington. My buddies always find it to be a brutal segment, but I don’t; it’s short, really straightforward, and the climb is a moderate 800 feet.
After another rest stop, we climbed the final 400 feet to the high point of Pinkham Notch, followed by another screaming descent that eventually degraded into a road that—lacking any shoulder—is uncomfortably narrow.
The final rest stop featured facecloths in ice water and Lindt truffles on ice. Then we enjoyed a flat roll down West Side Road back into Conway… but not before a final kilometer of sandy gravel where the road had been completely torn up for construction. Then a short but absolutely brutal climb back up to the starting point.
The cooler weather and partial cloud cover made a huge difference in our perception of the difficulty of the course and the time we were on it. We finished in reasonable time, with only minimal aches and stiffness. I was especially glad that my neck and arm were fine after that brief period of difficulty halfway through.
Although we saw fewer riders this year, we seemed to chat with them a lot more, including one guy who had picked Mt. Washington for his first (ever) century ride, and Joe from Newburyport, whom we’d ridden with during the ECV Tour d’Essex County back over Memorial Day.
Another result of the cooler weather was that we didn’t feel compelled to go jump in the frigid waters of the Swift River after the ride, so we hung out at the lodge a while before finally piling in and pointing the car back toward Boston.
That will be my last really long ride (and this my last training update) before the PMC. I’m pleased that my body has recovered as much as it has, since the PMC—this year being three days and 290 miles, rather than two days and 190 miles—is barely more than a week away.
But it looks like I should be able to proceed with the bonus-length PMC as planned, with the only variable left to fall into place being the weather. It would be nice if we could squeak in one more really fine weekend this summer…
The GPS data is below, but if you want to see something really cool, check out the Strava Activity Playback, where you can view the ride unfolding, including my position and that of other riders near me along the route (check the guy named “P” to see my buddy Paul too).