Monday, June 10, 2013
There are times you come to a fork in the road whether literal or metaphorical and you have to chose. Chose the less travelled one. Not an original concept. But one true New Englanders have always embraced. So when Team Honey p/b Jamison's Irish Whiskey came across this sign at the Raid Rockingham it was an easy decision. We stopped to take photos while a fast group was milling about. They had a look of fear in their eyes. They asked us if we were going down the CX Trail of Death. Of course we are. This is why we came up to this ride was our simple response. And we punched into the trail laughing our asses off. Behind us I could hear the group of gentlemen saying "but you will get wet.." #TWSS popped into my head for a millisecond quickly replaced by my radar lock on the sets of huge puddles that awaited us.
But I have gotten ahead of myself. Which is not unusual if you follow this journal of my and HUP/Honeys exploits. Rides like the Raid are what we live for on HUP. You throw words like gravel, dirt, rail trails at me and I am all in. Basically you had me at dirt. Roger Cadman is my gravel riding sensei at the moment. I have really switched up my usual summer riding plan. Typically I ride my road bike, do a few mtn bike races. But Roger is a huge randonee/brevet rider. He loves doing mixed rides and getting out there. Its pretty easy to get addicted to these types of rides. Just google gravel ride and you will see how popular it has become. It appeals to the cross racer in me. Its similar to cross in that you obsess over equipment choices, tire selection and preparation. The differences are enormous of course. CX requires zero food consideration and is over in 45 minutes. A "short" dirt road ride like the Raid is over in 3+ hours and requires a lot of hydration and food preparation.
I have been real open that I am NOT an endurance rider. I am a HORRIBLE climber. But I love it. I tend to love things I am horrible at. What good is loving something you are really good at? Maybe that speaks to the New Englander in me. We like things that beat us up and that we have to work at to be halfway decent at. I like these rides because it really gives you a glimpse at your true self as well as shows you what your friends are made of. These rides expose you. The more I do these type of rides the more I find myself gravitating towards certain friends. Roger and Nick are two of my friends who I just can count on. They may drive me and produce some hilarious in ride heckles but they know me and know how to bring out the best in me on these rides. So we signed up. Nick became the first Team Honey p/b Jamison's rider ever registered for an event! He did me and Honey proud! And as always is a great wingman driving to these things. He has an uncanny ability to process directions. He has an inner GPS that is unrivaled. And he brings Killer Mike for the soundtrack.
We didn't really know what to think of the Raid. I think we sensed what it would be like but had very little intel on it. My email box was filled with many freak outs about what bike to bring and what tires to run. For me it was a simple choice. CX bike with LAS file treads. I switched to my current CX bike before the Ronde de Rosey and I am never going back. It is the best CX bike I have ever owned. I made sure it had two sets of water bottle bosses just for this reason. The LAS file treads are big meaty cx tires. I knew they would be perfect. Rolling resistance on the road isn't great compared to a 25 but road isn't what I do these rides for. I do these rides for the dirt and mud and gravel. Its unacceptable to me to not be able to rail that stuff. The ride was organized in a parking lot and super chill. The promoter came through asking for who wanted to go in the fast group. We jumped in and it felt like the start of a Cat 3 race at Canton. So many familiar faces. Of course we took off at warp speed. My body was not happy. I had been fighting some scourge for a few days. Ok maybe at almost 50 I don't have what it takes for a 4 game #BROONS series like the one we just got through. Those last two games took years off my life. I was not feeling fresh. But I wasn't here for myself. To be honest I was here for Roger. Sometimes you ride for yourself other times you ride for your friends. This was one of those times where my only purpose was to be here with Roger.
We are flying and I am cracking. And then I see the first dirt section and a switch went off in my brain and I just accelerated into it and got to the front. It was hilarious seeing all the guys on road bikes and 25s smashing off rocks and going into the weeds. One guy came to a complete stop at a puddle. Did I mention we were going 25 mph down a rail trail? Yeah so I avoided rear ending him at speed and just put the pedal to the floor. Half way through Roger and Nick come FLYING by me. It was a thing of beauty. One other rider latch onto us. Did I think of it as the Forest of Arenberg ? Of course I did. That is what HUP is all about. Give us dirt and mud and gravel and we shine. It is like a badge of honor. To not do well in those conditions would be unacceptable. And like Arenberg this first dirt sector had the same effect on our group. We didn't see 90% of the riders we started with until the first water stop. The ride was so well supported. Great arrows showing the route, marshals at dangerous road crossings, they even had a port o pottie at each water stop. Very impressed. The route was fantastic. A great mix of road and dirt. As much as I resist New Hampshire is wearing me down. Its hard to not love a place with such nice roads. I have to say people were great on the route as well. We were bombing down lots of rail trail and gravel roads. Drivers were very careful. Dare I say nice? They really were. We passed through a few towns and the people on the sides of the road would clap and cheer us on. It was really nice.
But back to the bike selection. People who chose road bikes and 25s were disappointed I have to think. Or I would have been. Sure you could do it. And maybe there is a group of riders who feel its more "epic" to do these rides on a road machine. But why do that to yourself? Why not bring a bike equipped to do well on the road but excel on the dirt? I was really impressed by the Clement tires. This was my first ride on them and they worked great. Its opened my eyes a bit. Roger was on his Winterando and 28s and had no problems at all. Nick was on a CX bike like I was. My favorite section was definitely the CX Trail of Death. I could ride that all day. Hub deep puddles, some deeper to be honest. Nick almost took a swim at one point! I wasn't having my best day. Nick pushed me a fair amount both physically and mentally. He even helped drive out the Selena Gomez song that was in my head early on with some Killer Mike. Two of my favorite quotes of the whole day:
First one was as we hit a Strava segment. Roger screams F Yeah STRAVA!!! And just goes full warp speed. I happened to be trying to eat a Bonk bar at the time and almost choked to death because I was laughing so hard.
Second one was as we were descending towards the end. I was completely cracked and fumbling for a gel pack in my pocket. Roger was slightly ahead of me and Nick. He sees the arrow and takes a hard left. Now I am descending at about 30 mph on dirt side to side with Nick. Nick looks over at me and says "Get your shit together Chip!" I bring my hands back onto the bars and barely make the turn. Laughing the whole time of course.
What a great day. And the reason Roger was driving such a hard pace? I had to make it back to a wedding in Boston. I got back to the car completely shattered, changed, pounded a coke and flew back to Boston. The day was literally all about friends and doing your best to be there for them when they need you. I made it back to Boston in plenty of time to make it to Jeff and Lodrina's wedding. It was such a beautiful wedding. The two of them are amazing. I love them both and wish them a lifetime of happiness.