D2R2 is one of the most beautifully brutal sufferfests on the planet. And I grossly underestimated how hard it was. I blame my current status as a gravel specialist. I feel like I am some kind of self appointed gravel expert. I mean I worked for a company that specialized in gravel bikes....what the hell is a gravel bike anyway? But I digress. I have artisinally curated adventure routes all over the Boston area. I can ride the woods like a fiend! But you know what I really suck at? Climbing. Yeah that would sense as I am a complete flatlander. Living in the metro Boston area you really need to work to find climbs. Or climbing. What I think is a climb is not a climb. Its a bump. Or maybe a hump. Sucking at something and knowing you suck at it should equate to working on said sucking until it is no longer a weakness. But come on. That is not the #CBL. That sounds way to Type A for the Dude to abide by. Training a weakness sounds like a lot of work. And not really fun.
I am on a mission to make August the Triple Crown for Adventure Rides. The NEBRA ride a few weeks ago was phenomenal. Perfect. That ride was 46.6 miles and 2,800 feet of climbing. When I downloaded the file it probably should have occurred to me that 77 miles and 7,500 feet of climbing is a bit of a step up from the previous ride. No one has ever accused me of being the smartest tack in the yard. I honestly was not worried. I won't say I disrespected the ride but I certainly wasn't freaking out. Which is a sign for anyone who knows me that I am not taking a ride seriously. I was looking at the weekend as a nice opportunity to go Glamping. I have never gone Glamping. And was curious what it was all about. Myette offered to drive and to bring his pop up trailer tent Flipper. I was bummed that 24 hours of great glen was canceled this year and this seemed a nice opportunity to camp out and hang out with friends. Rosey was in as well. That is a pretty solid crew right there. But they are waaaayyyy faster than I am. Like not even on the same spectrum. I am old and slow. But we were all sort of on the same page about just riding and enjoying the day. We chose a pretty manageable distance in the 115k. It sounded perfect.
We got up there the night before on Friday. As we were pulling into the camping area my friend Chris from Shimano texted me to tell me where he was set up. It really reminded me of what I love about 24HOGG. A ton of rad bikers camped out in a field with a little tent city. Bonfires, beer and BBQ...wait BBQ? Yeah Chris knew a great BBQ right near by. We drove over and had a fantastic dinner. It was great hanging out and talking shop. Chris was doing the Mystery ride. It sounded pretty insane. Full on adventure ride. We got back and had a beer or two with Rosey and then crashed out. Sleeping in a pop up off the ground is the only way I am camping from here on out. I actually got a good night sleep. The weather was perfect. You could hear the coyotes off in the distance. I had a good feeling about the ride. Part of what was lulling me into a false sense of calm was that the time I did it two years ago with Roger Caddy Man it really wasn't hard. Looking back it was the pace. We rode super chill. Took our time etc. I never felt in any spot of bother that year with Roger. In sort of a moment of foreshadowing I was sort of joking about how we cut out a certain climb the previous attempt because one of our group was struggling. Oh how I would pay for that bit of hubris....
We roll out of the camper and grab some breakfast. We get back and pull the bikes off the roof rack of the Pilot. Rosey tells me my tire is flat. I oddly didn't even get too excited. I have been having some bad flat karma of late. But have been lulled into some odd state that Stan's will always save me. Even though it clearly did not in July at Adam's Farm. But that happens. I should have been a bit more concerned I guess. Rosey and I look at the tire. It seems fine. I shake it and inflate it and it seems ok. Its not like I was totally not taking this ride seriously. I knew it would be a long day. I had a couple of tubes, a tire boot, pump etc. One of the things I think I like the most about D2R2 is the staggered starts. You can really chose to go out when you want. The different ride distances have set times to depart but it is very chill. The polar opposite of some mass start rides. I personally hate mass start rides that are not a race. In a race you know what to expect. But on a ride you just don't know how the person next to you or in front of you will ride. It makes me nervous. And twitchy.
We rolled out at 8 am. We got absorbed by a fairly largish group of masters type riders. Some with sleeveless jerseys which always makes me very nervous. Some odd bike choices. And they seemed to be very hyped. I wasn't that comfortable. So when we hit the first dirt sector through a corn field I hit the gas to get away from them. In doing so I must have hit a rock or something and gashed open the small puncture that was already in my front tire. I mean Stan's starts shooting out of the tire. In alarming volume and rate of speed. Granted its probably because we are rolling at 25 mph but I am getting sprayed with Stan's. As is the bike. Then it would seal. Then it would rip open. Rinse and repeat for the next 15 miles. I was in equal parts denial and equal parts not wanting to stop. We were rolling at a good pace and feeling fresh. Stopping always messes with your flow. Especially early on. But I was starting to worry about the front tire failing on a descent. So on River Road I pulled the plug and pulled over to put a tube in. Stan's is disgusting. There I said it. Putting a tube into a tubeless tire is NBD but it is messy. I dumped what sealant I could out. Pulled the valve out. Booted the tire. Tube in and we were on our way in under 10 minutes. Rosey was a big help getting the bead on right and making sure I hadn't messed up the tire any worse than I had.
At the next rest stop we bumped into a bunch of people from the NECX. Ian, Cindy, Charlie a great crew. I won't lie that is probably what I love the most about these rides. You just get to hang out with friends and people you haven't seen in a while. I tried to get my act together. For some reason the front flat threw me off my game a bit. But the tire was holding great. Not losing any air so I just put that thought out of my mind. I was being very diligent about taking Endurolyte caps. I had four for the ride and was trying to space it out so I didn't have any issues with cramping. I am usually ok but when it is hot like it was today I can get into trouble if I am not careful. I did not want this ride ruined by some horrible cramps. It was great riding with Rosey and Myette. They are such great riders. We were a funny crew. Myette was on his road bike with Panaracer Gravel King 26s, I was on the RoboZank with 33 file treads and Rosey was on some kind of Monster Cross set up with 40s. We of course were all on Zanks.
Things started to unravel a tad right before the lunch stop. Maybe I went out to fast or maybe it was just the heat but Rosey and Myette started dropping me like a bad habit. They were trying NOT to drop me which was sort of concerning. I could tell by their body language up the road that Myette was assessing the situation and trying to figure out how to keep me at least in contact. But it worked itself out. They would ride their pace—a greatly reduced pace from what they were capable of I will add and much appreciate. And I would ride my pace. A chill full survival mode tempo. We would regroup at the top of the climbs and then just BOMB the descents. Riding with two guys who you know really well makes for some hilarity. We didn't need to worry about someone doing something unpredictable and taking us all out. We just went full gas on every descent. Myette started outriggering some turns and that turned into just a hilarious outrigger contest.
Right before lunch I had probably my darkest moment. It was pretty funny. I rolled up to Myette and Rosey at the top of a climb. They were checking the map and chilling. I was like "ummm yeah I am smashed." Myette was like "Nah you are good" I told him I think I am done. He went full hockey coach on me. "dude, look at the map. We are the furthest point away from Deerfield on the course. The ONLY way back is to ride. Hahah that snapped me out of it. Lunch didn't pull me back from the ledge but it helped. The pickle juice and enduralytes were keeping me moving. After lunch things got better. When we got to mile 52.5 we checked the map and it said in bold letters DECISION POINT. It wasn't a decision for me. I was still a wreck. Myette and Rosey chose to go up Pennel Hill Rd. One of the harder climbs of the ride. I chose to take 112 South and get my act together. Thank god I did. It really saved my ass. Rosey and Myette could get their yayas out while I took a tour of scenic 112. It was a bit odd at first going from survival mode into just touring mode. Rolling along the farms on a reasonably flat paved highway was a nice relief. I saw a great farm stand and stopped. And bought a cold coke. It was the best cold coke of my life. I bought some peaches. And a water. And sat down and had a nice talk with the farmer. That stop saved me. And frankly that is what D2R2 is all about. Not just picking your adventure but about the land and preserving the farms we all rely upon.
Team Zank regrouped on the top of Patten Hill. We ate watermelon and drank more pickle juice. Rosey and Myette assured me that the rest of the ride was all downhill from here. It wasn't but that was ok. I had come back from the Darkness and was now feeling pretty good. I rode in solo with a guy who had "Kill your Couch" on his back panel of his bib shorts. I thought it said "Kill your Coach" at first. After the ride we had a cold beer and heading down to the river. It was so good soaking in the cold river after being out in the hot sun all day. What an amazing ride. I have a whole new respect for it. I will be back next year. A bit more prepared for sure. But this ride is not to be missed. All of the good photos in this post are from Rosey. I was way to smashed to take photos. Ok I did take the MA state sign photo. That was part of my pick your adventure on 112.