Our Sweet Carol

Peter Forbes recently published a book about his mentor Bill Coperthwaite. In the first chapter he describes losing his mentor. When I start to think about a way to honor Carol, I have to echo his words from that first chapter. There were those who knew her better, and those who knew her longer. All I can lay claim to is that she changed me.

Carol, amongst so many other things, was a naturalist and a teacher, she was a historian, a writer, and a fabulous story-teller. She was a true renaissance woman. Over the past year she has been a friend and a mentor to me. I have observed and participated in many of her classes, and early on in our relationship I realized what a magical person she was. She had so many stories about each town we teach in. She knew the location and sources of the cut pieces of granite in the town center, where the old town pound was, the last names in the cemetery, and who owned the first lumber and grist mills in town. She would artfully and suspensefully weave legends in front of enraptured children looking upon glacially carved mountains and valleys. She shared with me what she had researched about forest fires, quarries, and cellar holes. When we would share lunch we would excitedly chat about whatever either of us happened to be researching or teaching. Carol would always have some gem hidden up her sleeve for me, no matter the topic. She fed my own curiosity and passion for the natural history of my town and community.

Since I started teaching with Carol’s mentor-ship something started to come alive in my lessons. I started investigating the little hidden special spots around town, barely visible in our everyday life, yet rich with clues about the people who lived here before us, and how they lived their lives. A small memorial, a hidden graveyard, an all-but-buried cellar hole. They tell us their stories if we are willing to listen and look for them, about the lives people carved out of this land, who they were, and their connection to this place that we share in common.

Carol and I were in the middle of teaching a Native American unit at a local elementary school, when she passed. We still had one-class left to teach together, when I heard she had had a stroke. The last time that we spoke I had asked her about Lovewell’s battle, as I had been reading about the Native Americans that had lived in Western Maine for this class. Although we were just in passing in the hall at Tin Mountain, she stopped to tell me what she knew.

Lovewell’s battle was known for being a bloody battle. It was a fight in a series of fights between the Abenaki of Western, Maine and New Hampshire and early American colonists. As Carol tells the story, about 80 Pequawket tribesman were returning from a fishing trip to the area which is now Fryeburg. A duck-hunter was upon land, and shot at a duck. A band of colonists had been gathered in the south and led by Captain Lovewell had travelled deep into an area heavily used by the Pequawket tribe. The colonists had made it to the shores of Saco Pond (now Lovewell pond) and were alerted upon hearing the gunshot. They searched out the duck-hunter, and in doing so ended up starting a fight with the nearby returning Pequawket warriors. The famous Lovewell’s battle ensued that supposedly lasted from sunrise to sunset. The leader of the Pequawket tribe, Paugus, as well as Captain Lovewell were both killed along with many of their men.

While not particularly uplifting, this was a tragic account of an important piece of our local history. What Carol taught me is that our local history and the story of our land is inextricably tied together. With each story we learn we become more connected to the place that we live and each other. Our natural heritage is not only the resources inherent in our environment, but also in our own understanding of our connection to it and the people who were here before us.

The day I received the news about Carol I felt my own tragedy. I had to grieve but I didn’t know how. I found myself searching out the memorial she had told me about near Lovewell’s pond that commemorated the battle that we had last spoke about. I didn’t do it because I felt like a memorial site was appropriate for grieving. Afterall, the memorial was erected in the early 20th century and only listed the names of the white people who died that day. Carol would not approve! I went there to honor Carol’s tradition of researching and remembering the stories of those who were here before us. In some small way, it made me feel close to her again.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to live side-by-side with amazing and inspiring people. And they change us, they change the course of our lives. They touch us deeply in a way that is so genuine and real it doesn’t seem real at all.

And sometimes, we only hear about those people through their stories. I know we all have Carol stories. I hope that we continue to share those stories and cherish those stories, the way that she taught us to.

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Written by Teacher / Naturalist, Corrie Blodgett
Photos taken by Teacher / Naturalist, Lily Morgan

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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 14; JD Hale

My story starts with Tuesday of race week. I had been dealing off and on with ankle pain since March and it actually was feeling better after the Pan Mass Challenge, my 15th.  But I had a hard time walking on my ankle in bike shoes so I got an MRI and wanted to confirm I would not do any damage to the joint by doing MT Washington, my favorite  bike ride each year (would have been my 9th).

I went to Brigham and Women’s ankle specialist Dr Jeremy Smith – and after reviewing the MRI and consulting with a colleague he said I needed to be booted and off it for a month.  No race, no weight on it, no fun. (Bone bruise in my joint – we think initially from a ski crash at Sugarbush).

It was really weird to leave the doctor’s office in Boston – and have folks open the doors for me.  I was ready for Washington! – I felt I had a 1:31 to 1:35 in me based on my training depending on weather/conditions. (My PR is 1:30:36 in 2012 at age 53)  So the mind shift was really intense to go from a totally pumped feeling to on crutches and booted.  I was not a happy camper on the car ride home.

But by the time I got home. My head had cleared and I had a different plan. Get better, do everything they tell me – and get my ass to the top of MT Washington to cheer all the riders and especially The Rippers (18 were racing) – bring cow bells, drive someone’s car up and be really, really loud!

It all worked out so well.   I had a nice dinner Friday night with a bunch of our crew in Gorham. I got to drink more beer.  I got to drive up (really cool to mentally review the whole course on race day with normal heart rate and breathing). And then when I arrived – the volunteers saw my crutches in the back of the pick up – and gave me a special spot to park –and view the race from. So great. I love being on that mountain.

I ended up moving more to the base of the 22% but we established a nice beachhead along with some other Ripper fans – and as each Ripper finished our “Ripper Wall” got bigger and louder. But the time we were cheering our 1:35 plusers – we were really loud.  Each Ripper said it made a huge difference as they attacked the 22%!

The weather was great – fab ride down – Incredible turkey from Hart’s Turkey Farm – and great friends, and stayed until the very end – saw every podium finisher.  The only bummer was not being able to bump my entry to next year – but hey Tin Mountain is a great cause.

On the way out – I was crossing the auto road and start line – to get to my car – on crutches.  And a racer car stopped to let me cross – the racer – who I did not know – looked at me and said “You will be back and better next year!” AMEN! You got that right!

Great race, great people, great mountain.  Love it, the whole thing, except the actual race (kidding, sort of). LOL.  See you in 2016!

jd1 jd3 jd4 jd2

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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 13; Chris Kvam

My name is Chris.  I rode the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb for the first time in August 2015.  Like everyone who registered for the race, I’m a cyclist.  I also happen to be living with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system.  I was diagnosed at the age of 4, and as new treatments and therapies were developed over the last 30 years, I have integrated them into a daily healthcare regimen that consumes about 2 hours of my day, every day. I don’t consider myself sick.  I have to work really hard to maximize health.  Setting big fitness goals is a huge part of how I motivate my adherence to my treatment regimen, and maintain a positive mindset about my life with CF.

I ran competitively in high school and college, have completed a half-ironman, marathon, cross country ski marathons, cycled the French Pyrenees and Canadian Rockies, too many century rides to count, and am always looking for unique endurance events to test the limits of the possible.  Like all of the racers this year, the 7 miles up the auto road represented months of training, hundreds, if not thousands of miles, and a consistent dedication to a lifestyle of fitness and health.

When I arrived at the start area, in a very real way my race had already been won.  I was in excellent shape, and my lungs were feeling good.  In July alone, I ran 130 miles, and biked 500 miles, much of it hill specific intervals.  The race was the celebration and actualization of all of my work, and no matter what the outcome, it was all icing on the cake.  Arriving at a race knowing you can’t lose is a powerful feeling.  I wasn’t afraid of the Rockpile, I was ready for it.  I wasn’t riding to merely finish, I was riding to see how fast I could do it.  I wasn’t going to beat the field, but I was racing against myself.

I typically don’t listen to music while riding.  But, I rarely ride on closed courses, straight up a 7 mile 4,500 ft, climb.  I put together a playlist that would represent some of the things that knew I wanted to hear and feel while suffering up the mountain.  Obviously I’m in my 30’s, and miss the days when rock music was awesome. Here are some of the highlights.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Can’t Stop” got me going.  Besides Flea’s killer baseline, the lyrics “Chose not a life of imitation/ This life is more than ordinary/ This life is more than just a read through” were good to hear as I set out up the mountain.

Mother Love Bone – “Chloe Dancer” Nice and mellow for settling into the next 90 minutes. “Life is what you make it, and if you make it death, while rest your soul away. This is my kind of love” – this was my kind of ride.  Life is to be lived.  I’m no more or less mortal than the next person, and I’m not going to waste ability while I have it.

Eddie Vedder – “Hard Sun” from the soundtrack of Into The Wild –  I’m not a believer in setting off unprepared into the wilderness, but I am interested in the search for myself, for meaning, and for an inner strength,/peace, and/happiness.

Rage Against the Machine – “Killing in the Name of”.  Because it’s a really big mountain, I’m riding up it on the limit, and I never got anywhere listening to the voices saying I couldn’t do something.  F*** That.

Smashing Pumpkins – “Today” “Today’s the greatest day I’ve ever known.” I try to live intentionally.  I care about maximizing my ability and potential. I was doing that biking up Mt. Washington, I did it today in my work as a prosecutor, and I will keep doing it as long as I possibly can.

Mike Doughty – “Light will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future” Most of the lyrics don’t make any sense, but the rhythm is perfect for climbing, and the chorus/title of the song reflects the positivity and drive that carry me when I’m not feeling well.  Nothing can take away what I’ve done.

Pearl Jam – “Release” – “I’ll ride the wave where it takes me. I’ll hold the pain, release me” Not a bad lyric for suffering up the mountain..  A parent of a young child with CF who had some cycling experience once asked me, “what do you think about when you are in the middle of these rides, hurting ?”  I responded: “In that moment, I’m smiling, thinking THIS IS INCREDIBLE, I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I meant it. It makes me feel incredibly alive. I’m so thankful to have had the ability and opportunity to ride Mt. Washington, and I am always mindful of the many people with CF living with more severe CF genetic mutations, more advanced lung disease, or less supportive environments that make many parts of life extremely difficult or impossible.

Bruce Springsteen – “The Rising” The perfect summary of what this ride was for me. Difficult. Joyous. Empowering.  I will never forget it.

Like all of us, I didn’t complete the ride alone.  My wife drove 1,100 miles over the race weekend, including the 14 miles up and down the mountain as my race day driver.  She also enabled the hours of training and is my daily support in all things. My sister-in-law and 18 month old niece were the loudest cheerers on the mountain (I think).  My brother has been a critical part of my ongoing fitness, from our days of sibling rivalry to our adulthood weekend adventuring. He raced as well, finishing in an awesome  1:20:12 on his first attempt.  I’m sure he’ll be back, and won’t let 12 seconds stand in his way.

With 1.5 miles to go I took out my earbuds and tucked them into the front of my jersey. I listened to my breathing, the wind, and finally the valley of cheers that awaited me on the top of the mountain.  I believe I’m the first person with CF to bike up Mt. Washington. That doesn’t mean all that much to me – I hope I’m not the last, and I know at least three cyclists with CF who would have destroyed my time.  I hope as treatment options continue to improve, that the idea of someone with CF doing a ride like this becomes less remarkable.


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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 12; Ernest Wang

As a flatlander from Chicago, I entered this event with some trepidation and concern. Concern about fitness, finishing, and, after reading a lot of stories online about the climb, coming to a stand still and falling off my bike on the final 22% grade.

I asked the guys at Velosmith Bicycle Studio (www.velosmith.com) to outfit my bike with some really low range gears. What they came up with was this. They installed a SRAM X9 derailleur on my bike and a Shimano Deore 11-36 cassette. They took out the 15T and installed a Wolf Tooth Components 42T cog so that I would have 11-42 on the back. On the front, I had a 50-34 compact ring set up. This allowed for a full range of gearing options.

Kudos to Velosmith and SRAM because the shifting was flawless from 50-11 to 50-28. Shifting down from 50 to 34, even under load, was fine, so I could ride around the local area without problems. Of course for the Hillclimb, I never even considered the 50 ;-).

I started out the race in the back of my wave because I didn’t know how my body was going to react. I was impressed that the road turned up right from the get go and never relented:



I started to worry a little when the first few people dismounted their bikes and started walking. At mile 0.5… At that point, I decided that the best thing to do is to just take photos with my iPhone as I went along to chronicle the experience.

I received lots of helpful advice before from the friendly folks at Destination Cycling (http://destinationcycling.com/) and from people before and along the way, “Listen, pal, just chill for miles 2-4. You’ll need it later…” I kept spinning as it got steeper. There were all kinds of bikes on that road.



At Mile 5, the gravel started. As did people dismounting and walking. Around the corner, the gravel looked like it was going to continue forever:




It was getting colder too. After that, the tree line disappeared and we were exposed to the wind, albeit a very gentle one that day. Lucky for us:




Near the top, the sight of the Mount Washington Observatory was a welcome site:


But before the end, I had to make it up the last 50 meters at 22%. I put it into low gear and took the corners wide:



(Thanks @joevigorphoto – http://www.joeviger.com/Events/2015-Mt-Wash-Bicycle-Hillclimb/)

The relief getting to the top was truly overwhelming and satisfying. 5 miles per hour never sounded so good to me!


After I recovered, I took some obligatory shots from the top and had the opportunity to watch others grind the last leg:



The lunch party was a great finish to a fantastic day. What a well run event for a great organization.



Thanks for the memories!




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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 11; Henry Huntington

Ballad of a First-Timer on the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

In May it seemed a lark

In June I paid the fee

July my training hit the mark

Then August came to be.


I had an early meal of eggs

Then drove to Pinkham Notch

With time to stretch and warm my legs

And fasten on my watch.


The volunteers had things in hand

And got me set to race

The toilets were in high demand

As bikers swarmed the base.


My bike, a rental, pedaled fine

Red Jersey did me proud

Now crowded at the starting line

My heartbeat seems so loud.


The gun goes off and so do I

Amid the bright-clad throng

The first hill’s steep, but spirit high

I’m feeling good and strong.


The first mile’s quick, the second too,

(I drop my bottle, have to stop)

But soon am back and climbing true

I hear I’m halfway to the top.


Alas, the pace begins to tell

My shirt is soaking wet

Above the trees a long steep spell

I hope I’ll get there yet.


The bikes ahead they look so small

And so much higher still

I wonder if I’ve hit the wall

And hope I don’t take a spill.


A flatter part, I have a drink

The road’s no longer rough

My chain keeps moving, link by link,

My low gear’s (just) low enough.


I see the railway’s gray-black cloud

The summit’s coming near

I hear the cheering of the crowd

Why won’t the finish line appear?


I’m at the final, chalk-marked climb

My breath is nearly out

My vision’s closing in and I’m

There! At last! I wish that I could shout!


My wife appears, I get a kiss

I drink a quart, two, three

The true reward is lasting bliss

The mountain’s part of me.


henryhuntinton1 henryhuntinton2

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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 10; Aron Carpenter

This was my third year climbing the “Rock Pile”.  In my first year, I finished in 1:40:17, riding my old trainer bike, a Bianchi Giro, using the a 30:32 bottom gear.  Even though I think I did great, I immediately recognized that “There is no such thing as a ‘low enough’ gear for this climb.”.  A fact that I let my friends know repeatedly, during the months prior to my 2nd climb up the Rock Pile.

I returned the next year on my carbon bike, using factory gears, as my Bianchi frame around the bottom bracket cracked a month after finishing the first climb (how did that happen?..).  My friend rode on factory gears the year before and I didn’t want to fiddle with my carbon bike, so I rode on a 39:34 bottom gear.  I apparently forgot all my advice to my friends about using low gearing for the climb.  Strangely, the climb didn’t go so well for me on the 2nd year and I had to get off the bike a couple of times to walk & recover.  This hurt my time and I finished in just over 2 hours (but I felt great at the finish, thanks to my “rest periods” on the climb!)

This year, I built a bike for the climb from scratch, taking a 32 pound GMC Denali bike & stripping it down to the fork and frame.  I kept the rear derailleur & brakes (who needs them anyway?), but replaced the bottom bracket & crank with a 44:32:22 triple and my 32:11 tooth cassette.  I also added alloy handlebars, Sora STI shifters, and my Vuelta aero rims.  I didn’t replace the seat (but perhaps I should have, as we shall see next).  After my upgrades, the bike was a svelte 22 pounds.

The night before the ride, I had a bad headache.  I drank some water & took some ibuprofen, but did not drink a lot of water.  Therefore, I believe I was slightly dehydrated before the climb.  Even so, I started the climb strong, averaging about 5.2 mph after mile 2.  From my calculations, I averaged 4.5 mph in year one and every 0.5 mph faster than this equates to a 10 minute time savings.  So, 5.2 mph is good, as I needed a buffer to stay over 4.5 mph at the finish.  I find the first two miles are the hardest, as I need to find my pace for the climb.  After then, the ride gets easier; at least for the next 2-3 miles.  I continued to do well at mile 4, still averaging around 5 mph.  I had some trouble on the dirt, as my seat was starting to bother me and I wanted to stand up & stretch a little.  Unfortunately, my idea to put a hybrid tire on the back wheel was never fulfilled and I didn’t want to risk slipping on the down stroke.  So, I remained seated until I got back onto the pavement.  Now, at mile 5, I started having difficulty, as my butt was getting sore and I was experiencing stiffness in my gluteus maximus muscle group.  I was still averaging more than 4.5 mph, though.  So I thought I was still OK (I couldn’t have been more wrong…).

Just before mile 6, with about 1,000 feet of climbing left, my butt started to hurt a lot.  I decided it would be better to get off the bike and rest a minute and possibly walk a little, before finishing the ride.  I was 1:20:00 into the ride at this point; averaging just about 4.5 mph.  I knew there were a short flatter section at the cow pasture, so I reasoned I could make up a little time, if I had to.  When I got off the bike, my leg flared and I found I could barely stand.  The gluteus maximus was locked into place and I literally could not lift my leg back over the saddle.  I tried to take a step, but was only able to shuffle a little; each step more painful than the last.  After several minutes of leaning against the bike, going nowhere, I shuffled over to a large rock and leaned/fell onto it.  I stayed there for about 20 minutes, before a SAG crew came by.  They gave me some water and helped me stand, but I knew I was going nowhere.  Finally, I said I would wait until the SAG wagon came by and either get back on the bike, or hitch a ride.  I went with option “B”.  I recall thinking “never again” on the way up.  Even sitting in the car was painful and I had to recline the seat all the way back, so I could keep my legs as straight as possible.  I got to the top just in time to hitch a ride back down.

By lunch time, I was a little better and could walk around, but sitting & especially standing back up were very “ahem” challenging.

At first, I thought I was just dehydrated, but my gluteus remained sore for several days and now, two weeks later, I still feel a little twinge when I climb stairs.  I believe I pulled a muscle on the climb.  That, combined with (due to?) my getting dehydrated before the ride, caused my issues.  Though I failed to conquer the mountain this year & did not beat my PR, I am happy to say that I also failed to remember how painful it was to sit on the side of the road, watching the other riders pass me by while my legs screamed at me.  I will be back next year, if for no other reason than I refuse to finish this challenge with a “Did Not Finish” on my shoulders.  I will train a little harder for next year and more importantly, I will make sure I am fully hydrated.  Also, I might want to put a better saddle on the bike, just in case the cheap Denali seat caused me to pinch a nerve…

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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 9; Chip Walter

I decided to enter the MT Washington Auto Road Race late Spring because I had great memories of climbing MT Washington as a young boy and was looking for a challenge.  To be clear, I am, at best a BB rider, but I decided what the heck at 54 I’m not getting any younger so might as well add it to the bucket list and get on with it.  I live in MD so training on hills was a challenge.  I found several hard, but short climbs in Frederick, MD.  Needless to say, I trained consistently but probably not as hard as I could have.  Around mid-May I had the opportunity to drive up the auto road to the tree line the rest was impassable and thought …Wow, this is going to be hard, but hey I can do this.  So, training continued and the family was getting psyched about the trip.  Friends were going to come up and my cousin was going to fly in and climb with my wife, son and daughter while I did the race.  Everybody, including friends, family, coworkers and the bike shop, where I bought a new bike 2 months prior for the ride, thought it would be hard, but since I was training I could do it.  I was not so positive, but played along.

This is where the story gets interesting.  The day before the race the family and I drove up to get a good look at the entire road.  My 25 year old daughter was in tears by mile three because she, come to find out, is not a huge fan of heights.  My wife is continually telling me not to get so close to the edge.  My son (junior at Penn State) is quiet.  So we get to the top, buy a couple of tee shirts had head back down…. the car is quiet.   Until about half way when my daughter says… “Dad, we are just proud of you that you thought you could do it.” My wife says “it took guts just to enter.”  My son is just quiet.  So, the day passes.  The next morning I wake up and get ready.  The conversation is about anything but the ride.  The climbers, wife, son, daughter, cousin, who flew in the night before, head off to climb via the Bootts Spur around 6:45 giving them enough time to get to the top before I did… if I made it.  Rick, my brother-in-law, who also arrived the day prior, and I head out around 7am.  We get to the parking lot and unpack by 7:15am.  As the parking lot fills up I ask a rider, who had a very small single chain ring in the front, if this was his first race. He says, “Nope…this is my 6th time.”  I asked about the chain ring as it was the first time I had seen one so small on a road bike.  He mentioned that it made it doable and then looked at my set up and said… “Oh, you are in for a challenge.”  By now I am hoping I can make it to the tree line.  Rick tries to keep me calm and then gets in the car and drives up.  Rick’s task is to walk down a little and take pictures as I go by…if I make it.

The ride starts, I’m in the green group and one of the last to go across the starting line.  I am in my lowest gear while still in sight of the starting line.  Needless to say, I am wondering what I got myself into.  The best advice I received was not to stop…so I didn’t.  First mile goes by, second mile goes by…I make the tree-line…then the dirt…then I see the top and I’m PSYCHED!  I start getting close to the top and I see Rick…he is so excited, he starts running along side me…not the best thing since he recently had hip replacement surgery.  Oh, and no pictures, he says in the excitement he forgot. I hit the 22% portion and my right leg starts to cramp…I let out a yell and sprint to the top…(heart rate pegs out at 189).  I hear a lady on the side say… “Did you see his eyes!!!”  I cross line in 1:46.02.  Rick finds me and still can’t believe that I did it.  Twenty minutes later the climbers get to the top and are shocked that I made it and even more surprised that I beat them up. Thirty minutes later I think I can do it faster next year…with a small single chain ring, of course.



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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 8; Dan Higginson

It was 1993, grunge music had taken over and teased up hair was all but completely gone away and I knew nothing of this because I was twelve. But I was an avid biker and my dad took me to race  mountain bikes every weekend. I heard about the Mount Washington race and wanted to do it, but I didn’t have a road bike. Shortly after that I stopped riding bikes.

Fast forward twenty two years. I had fallen into a rut, going to work, coming home hitting the couch until bed time and eating poorly. Career stress was high and on July 1 a life event that was substantially out of my control left me with more spare time than I have had in a long time. I fell into depression. A day or so into it I decided it was time to turn my life around. I would do it through exercise and eating right and positive thinking.

I started running. It was tough but I needed something to focus on so I stuck with it. Also, I rode my bike every chance I got. This was good but I needed a goal. Of course Mount Washington came to mind. I didn’t think I could do it with only six weeks to train so I signed up for a half marathon instead.

In my training I was riding my bike a lot. I did an extensive ride one night and realized I could, in fact, take on the Washington race. Registration had closed so I emailed Jotham Oliver and he got me in on a late registration. It was on! So I began training.

My training rides were going well and it was looking like I would be ready for the race. Then the Sunday before the race I came down with a sore throat and head cold. I didn’t exercise at all for the week leading up to the race. I rested and tried to beat the cold. On race day I was much better but still under the weather. It didn’t matter because I was determined.

I was improving from my life event, but my mind was cluttered and I needed to get my head back on straight. I decided that I was going to let it all out on the ride up the mountain, reach the top, come down and begin the rest of my life. I didn’t care if I cried the whole way up, it was all coming out and the only two options were reach the top or be carried off on a stretcher.

I put on my back pack, loaded it with a rain jacket, two tubes and tools. Like I said, getting to the top was the only option. I began the ride in the second wave. Up I went. It wasn’t long before my lungs and throat were on fire. I stopped twice before mile four to catch my breath and once to eat some sport beans shortly thereafter. I started to come into it a little after mile four, just in time for the dirt section.

Talk about brutal It was steep enough I wanted to stand, but if I did, my rear tire would slip. I spent the duration of the dirt section slipping to the back of my saddle and shoving myself back forward. Needless to say, I was happy once I saw pavement again.

I am not sure what the mileage was but there was a Gnarly hair pin to the left. At this point I was getting tired. I saw two women standing and shouting encouragements to every rider that went by. Their kindness gave me drive. Then there were more cow bells and cheers. The road became flatter and I got a second wind. I reached mile seven and thought to myself the race is almost over and I haven’t focused on clearing my mind. Overcome with emotion I stood up and started to  pedal.

I saw riders in front of me and more people cheering. I started to pass other riders, the cheers became louder. I passed more riders and I started hearing everyone shouting “go 289” (my bib number). I got to the last steep section, shifted gears and pushed. Some one yelled “yah 289 you made it”. I had my head down and saw colors on the ground from all of the words of encouragement people had written in chalk. I thought I made it but where was the finish line, did I miss passing it?

At this point I looked to my left and saw the finish line, I was spent. Oh my god, I’m not going to make it. I almost collapsed. Then I saw the clock said 1:57, it was under two hours. Everything was in slow motion, I pedaled, then I couldn’t. I looked down and closed my eyes, I pedaled again. Cheers erupted. I opened my eyes to see the finish line under me. I had made it!

I stepped off my bike and one guy caught me, another took my bike. I dropped my back pack and helmet. I was escorted to first aid. I thought I was in serious health trouble. I had never felt like this before. I remember hearing “do you want some water” yes, “a blanket” yes. I heard a woman say “he’s ok just needs to catch his breath”. Shortly after that I opened my eyes and was ok, I had made it. I began to cry. I did it!

I finished in 1:53:01 after only five weeks of training and I proved to myself that I could do anything I put my mind to. I started back running the day after and the next week, in astonishment to myself, I finished the Black Bear Half Marathon in 1:52.

Thank you to everyone at the Mount Washington race for making it an absolutely unbelievable time!




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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 7; Marc Cecere

Mt Washington took my soul …. or at least borrowed it for a couple years. It’s not an honorable story, so people who know me will know it’s true. Two years ago, I signed up for the 41st annual Mt Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb. I know  the exact name because it’s on the jersey I was given … more on that soon.  Long and short of it, I didn’t do the ride. I was going through a divorce, my job was sketchy, my dog peed on the carpet, there’s the debilitating incident with a hang nail …. but I don’t like to burden people with my problems . Let’s just say that my superpower is my ability to come up with lots of excuses. But don’t be disappointed with me yet – we have a ways to go.

Well, the organizers sent me the race jersey. The web site, Velominati (“keepers of the cog”) clearly state “Championship and race leader jerseys must only be worn if you’ve won the championship or led the race”. Though not directly violating this rule, I’m not exactly conforming to its spirit. Anyway, I wore the jersy. I only had a couple proper bike jerseys, was riding a lot and didn’t think people would notice (remember my superpower?). Occasionally people in the pack would ride up to me and ask about the ride. Initially, I’d be honest and empty my truckload of excuses on them, but they seemed disappointed and who am I to make them sad. So, the next time this happened, I lied, “yeah, it was tough” then I quickly changed the subject. This worked fine as most people figured I was still getting over the trauma and needed time to heal.

Well it stopped working in San Diego. Who knew that Southern Californians could be so nosy? Over the winter, I rode with the San Diego Bike Club a few times – once with “the jersey”. During that ride, someone pulled up next to me and asked about Mt Washington. I gave the usual “yea, it was tough” and figured that’s the end of it. Sadly, he was the ride leader. Over the next 20 minutes he rode person to person and told everyone that this guy ahead rode the “toughest ride in the country … maybe the world”. And one after another, each rider had to bask in my stolen glory with questions like “what gearing did you use?”, “was it cold at the top”, “what was the last 200 yards like”. Anyway, I just kept digging a deeper and deeper hole. “35, 45 – whatever it took”, “black ice at the top”, “the last 200 was like going up the side of a barn”. At least I got one right.

At that point, I decided to get my soul back. I put Sauron’s jersey in a drawer til I’d earned the right to wear it. And last winter, I signed up the minute the web site opened for applications.

To be honest, I never worried that much about the climb. I’m an ok climber and having the athletic build of Steve Buscemi.  I figured with a bit of training and a rear cog that could double as a family sized pizza pie pan, I’d make it to the top … eventually. Course, I hadn’t yet heard about the time limit “you mean I don’t have the entire weekend to get to the top? Well, why then start on Saturday?”

To make a long story short, though it may be too late for that, I did the practice ride and given a scheduling conflict with race day, figured I was done. As it turned out, I was able to fit in the real race and experienced 1 hour and 45 minutes of bliss and misery (blisery?).  I may get around to writing up the ride itself when I have time or when I find enough meds to face that demon again. But for now I’m just going to sit back, have a beer in my “I swam the English Channel” mug and think about signing up for the 44th hill climb.


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Hillclimb Feature Presentation 6; Scott Livingston

Yesterday’s Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb was a fun event. It was the sixth time that I’ve ridden the race. I returned in 2014 after a 13 year hiatus, and wanted to do it again this year. Two weeks after I rode the race last August, I crashed and fractured my scapula. It took a while to heal, but figured this race would be part of my comeback. I’ve now raced it in 2015, 2014, 2001, 2000, 1999, and 1997. My best time was 15 years ago in 2000. I was in my late 20’s and at the peak of my road cycling fitness. My 2015 time was almost the same as my 2014 time, though I don’t know the exact time because the official results have not been posted. I rode 1:17 or so for the second year in a row, which is not bad considering I rode my commuter bike, worked all day on Friday, and we drove up late, arriving around 11:00 P.M. My Seven Axiom SL is my favorite bike, a great bike, and my best option with  a 39 x 27 gear ratio. I rode within my limits for the entire 7.6 miles, choosing not to throttle myself. The race is hard enough without blowing a gasket. Before the start, I knew I was going to hike the mountain again on Sunday with  my son, and that the final Winding Trails Summer Tri Series race is Tuesday. I couldn’t afford to be hammered for the last race of the season because I’ve got a lot on the line.

2015_Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb 5

In the end, the few images that professional photographer, Joe Viger, captured say it all. The race is sheer suffering and the final 22% pitch is one of my favorite stretches of road on Earth. I was happy to pay for a few of Joe’s photos. He was in the right spot at the right time and I couldn’t take pictures of myself. I had this idea that I was going to ring my handlebar bell on that final pitch, but with the noise from the assembled crowd, no one would hear a thing. Plus, I was pulling on the bars so hard, they could have snapped right off. I totally forgot to try. I’m not sure if I could have even got my thumb into position. The road is that steep.

We had the best weather of my six races on the rock pile. It was mild and partly sunny on the summit, which was a far cry from last year’s cold and damp weather. There was a light breeze and that cooled things off a bit, but it was very tolerable. On the lower slopes, it was warm. Debbie and the kids opted to stay in the valley. I got a ride down from Bill Houle, a fellow I met at the “need a ride” board before the race. After the finish, I hung out on the summit, remaining in my shorts and short sleeves for quite some time. I didn’t even bother going in to the visitors center. I carried my vest and arm warmers up with me, but after the finish, I only put them on to be a bit more comfortable. My teammate, Tim Wern, had a fine ride. We were briefly together after a mile or so, and then he was gone. I also saw Bolton friends, Kevin Glenn and Andy Chambers. They had their own Bolton fan club, including: Laurie Brooks, Bruce Christensen, and the rest of the Chambers Family. Laurie was joined by her sister, Jane Chauvin, and her husband Marc. I saw a bunch of other friends from the New England cycling community.

2015_Mt. Washington Bicycle Hill Climb 1

After we drove down, I rode the 3.5 miles back to our campsite at Dolly Copp. I had ridden to the start early in the morning. The whole round trip with the hill climb sandwiched in the middle of my warmup and warm down was loads of fun. I’ll have to think about returning in 2016. It’s hard to imagine not doing it. I love the road. Maybe I’ll have to get a larger contingent of Horst Engineering Cycling Team mates to join me. Of course, I’ve always wanted to do the Wildman Biathlon, and I think it is the week before Mt. Washington. If I don’t return for the bicycle hill climb next year, I’ll do it again in the future.

I missed having Debbie and the kids on the top this year, but it was great to have the support from these friends. Bruce was particularly fun to be with. About two turns before the finish, he ran alongside me screaming encouragement at the top of his lungs. I felt like a pro for a moment. Of course, that is the point of riding Mt. Washington. It is a glorious hill and an amazing road. Plus, proceeds benefit Tin Mountain Conservation Center, which is a noble cause.

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