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Mt. Washington Hill Climb - Ride Report(20 posts)

Mt. Washington Hill Climb - Ride Reportbiknben
Jul 21, 2003 7:46 AM
I have been wanted to do the Mt. Washington Hill Climb for a couple years now. I couldn't justify shelling out the $300 for the race. This year, I learned that there was a "practice ride" a month before the race. It costs only $25 but offers no support or official timing, etc. Well, that was a no-brainer for me. I don't need support and I have a stop watch. My friend "Throttles" and I signed up with two other people we know.

For those who aren't familiar with the climb, it is in New Hampshire among the White Mtns. There is a toll road which goes to the top but it is only open to cyclists two days per year. The road is 7.8 miles long and climbs over 4,700 ft. It averages 12% but has extended sections at 18% and the last rise is at 22%. It is regarded by many pros as the most difficult hill climb. Weather conditions are often brutal. The highest recorded wind speed in the world was recorded at the summit @ 231 mph. Tyler Hamilton held the record time until last year when Tom Danielson got a time just under 50 minutes.

I set the bike up with an XTR Rr. Der. With a 12-34 cassette. Everything else was left as-is so I had a 39 front chain ring.

The bike ended up weighing in at just over 15 lbs.
(Cont.) Ride Reportbiknben
Jul 21, 2003 7:48 AM
In prep for this ride, I went to VT 6 weeks ago to ride Mt. Ascutney. Many of the Mt. Washington riders use it for prep because it is exactly half the distance and elev. gain as Washington. Other than that, I had scanned the climb using some topo software.

We went up form NJ the day before and stayed overnight. The organizers required that all riders depart up the road between 5 and 7am on Sunday. We got there around 6 and began final preparations. Temp. at the base was in the upper 50's while temps at the summit were below 45*.

Throttles got right on the rollers while I debated about what to wear:

I finally figured it out and hit the valley road to warm up:

I returned from my warm up after the others had left. I was hoping to be faster and was starting later to use them as bait. I started my accent at 6:50am. Many other riders were waiting to let temps warm up as much as possible so there were a lot of people together near the bottom.

The run in looks inviting but shows its teeth really quick. This pick show the toll house on the right and the road leading into the trees at the left. This was the last flat section of road I would see for 8 miles.

This is where I was headed. The summit was obscurred by clouds.
(Cont.) - Ride Reportbiknben
Jul 21, 2003 7:50 AM
The lower slopes seemed the most difficult. The trees obscured your view of the road ahead. Around every turn I hoped for some relief but it just kept coming. I was in my 30t very early on. Riders were going 3-4 wide on the road. There was everything from full suspension mtn. bikes to a tandem couple going up the road. At the same time, cars were trying to go to by so things were a little tight. After a mile or two things thinned out. I passed throttles at around mile 2. Between 2 and 4 miles my hamstrings were getting tight from pulling up on the pedals. I had spent considerable time in my 34t.

At the 4 miles mark things changed for the better. I got above the tree line and could see more of the road ahead. It didn't offer any comfort but at least I knew what was coming. The view of the surrounding area made things a little more interesting too.

A large portion of the road was hard packed sand and gravel. This what 18% looks like.

I'm not used to looking down on ski resorts:

The observation building was in sight and the final push was on. We didn't ride up this service road. The other road is steeper so we used that of course.

(Cont.) Ride Reportbiknben
Jul 21, 2003 7:52 AM
Once at the summit, you have plenty of people to cheer you on as you grunt it out to the finish. Here I am nearing the end.

A closer shot while I get up on the pedals:

Now on the 22% section, I'm wishing I had something lower than a 39x34:

I few seconds later, I'm asking for my mommy:

Then a little roll out to the finish line:

My finishing time was 1:21:26. Only a half hour slower than Hamilton :-). My HRM was keeping track of the suffering:

Nice, Ben.KG 361
Jul 21, 2003 9:40 AM
As I told you, I did that on a motorcycle. Perhaps, before I get too old, I'll do it on the Look. Great job!
Great postirregardless
Jul 21, 2003 10:18 AM
What's your lactate threshold? It would be interesting to appreciate fromt he chart how much time you spent above and below it. Thanks.
I don't know...biknben
Jul 21, 2003 10:31 AM
I have never done a LT test. I've been wanting to do Joe Friel's LT test (30 min. TT / Avg. HR of last 20 minutes = LT) but keep putting it off.

Maybe I'll do that later this week.
what's your observed max HR?irregardless
Jul 21, 2003 1:49 PM
Averaging 180 for a hour and a half, that's quite an effort. I have to assume that's less than your LT. And assuming your LT is about 90% or less of your max, have you seen max heart rates over 200?

Congrats on your time. And again, great post and pics.
It's an ever changing thing...biknben
Jul 21, 2003 3:31 PM
At 31 years old, I keep getting higher and higher numbers for max HR. When I first started paying attention, three years ago, it was 192 (actually the same as the 220-age formula said it should be). Last year I saw numbers as high as 198. This year I've seen 202 bpm. I didn't think max HR was supposed to increase.

My average for the climb was 178 bpm. The 172 avg shown in the pic actually includes my warm up. Since you asked I have scheduled an "appointment" with a flat stretch of road for later this week. Joe Friel LT test is a 30 minute race-pace interval while taking the average HR over the last twenty minutes. That average is supposed to be my LT. We'll see what the HRM tells me after that. It just happens to be a rest week (when you are supposed to do this test) so I have run out of excuses not to do this test. I was supposed to do it every month but was lazy.
Mine went up tooirregardless
Jul 21, 2003 4:29 PM
Someone explained it to me this way -- the limiting factor on observed HR max for some people is their fitness. Your muscles aren't developed enough to tax your cardio system to its max. With increased muscle development (particularly seated climbing), your muscles can tax it more, with a higher observed max HR. My observed max HR went up from 186 to 200 in just under 2 years as a result of lots of climbing, and I'm ten years older than you. I'd bet you still haven't found your real max yet.
(Cont.) Ride Reportbiknben
Jul 21, 2003 7:59 AM
After cooling off for a few minutes, I went back down a little to wait for Throttles. He was not having as much fun but remained in good spirits:

That smile didn't last long though. That last pitch was waiting for him:

He worked through it and made his way to the finish:

All in all, it it turned out really well. I had told myself I should finish in 1:25 and 1:20 would be great. It's nice to have things turn out as expected. Throttles has a score to settle and is already discussing "next year". We'll see about that.
Nutter. (nm)Ridearound
Jul 21, 2003 8:00 AM
Are you allowed to ride back down?Picshooter
Jul 21, 2003 1:51 PM
Thats an awesome accomplishment! Are you allowed to ride down?
It's NOT allowed...they are really strict too...biknben
Jul 21, 2003 3:36 PM
They make a huge deal about not riding down. I had to show up at the registration desk with my driver to prove I had a ride back down.

In all honesty, this decent would seriously destroy brake pads. It would be just a mater of time before someone went flying off the edge somewhere. I rode back down a few hundred meters to wait for my friend and it was scary how fast I could pick up speed.
They use to let you run down...bent_spoke
Jul 21, 2003 5:37 PM
but we took a ride & you could smell the car brakes heating up. Some people had to stop....I can't image that the bike would do very well.

Congrats on the ride & real nice post!!!!
re: Mt. Washington Hill Climb - Ride ReportJL
Jul 21, 2003 8:05 AM
Great report. I plan on doing that someday myself, even if it's the "test" ride that you did.

FYI, about the gearing. One of the guys on my Tues. group ride does the official ride every year. Last year he went with a 26 ONLY in the front and I believe a 13-29 on the rear. He finished about 20th on the climb. He said he was a little too small and should have used a 28 on the front, but looks like he did pretty well to me. We don't have hills like that in PA, but he did pretty well considering. Lots of hill repeats from what he said.

Good luck improving if you do the official ride. Thanks again for the report.

Happy riding.

Jul 21, 2003 8:14 AM
Sorry, he finished 54th with a time of 1:12:53.

Happy riding.

Great JOb - Way to Climb !!!!!! (nm)Scot_Gore
Jul 21, 2003 1:22 PM
Jul 21, 2003 8:20 PM
Hey Ben

Thanks for posting the report, gives me inspiration to try it one day (in the far far future, when I'm really strong).

I was curious what kind of cadence you maintained with that gearing. There are some 16% roads near my house and I have trouble keeping up my cadence even with a 27t gear.

Also, what happened with your clothing choice? Were you overdressed? Just curious.

Thanks for posting!
I didn't keep track of my cadence...biknben
Jul 22, 2003 3:30 AM
I would guess that my cadence was in the 60s.

My clothing choice worked out well enough. I was debating about whether to wear knee warmers and a long sleeve jersey. I ended up just using arm warmers and no knee warmers. It turned out to be warmer than expected. the climb is on the East side of the mountain so the sun was helping at that time.

In hindsight, I should have just put my arm warmers in a pocket. I could have gone without them. By the time I pulled them up they were drenched. I also should have used regular gloves. The full finger gloves were soaked too.