There was something different in the air, that had been building up for weeks, prior to this year’s ride. It was the weather. The summer had been cooler than prior years and the weather was more of different extremes. It would be dry for a couple weeks then the Berkshires would be hammered with rainfall measuring anywhere from 2 to 5 inches in a 24 hour period. This led to erosion and reroutes. The people from the Franklin Land Trust, who put on this event, kept riders up to date with changes in the routes and some lunch stop locations. They even advised on the road conditions and what tires we should consider.
The week leading up to the D2R2, I kept an eye on the forecast. It was to be dry and cool at the beginning of the week with some rain on Thursday and showers Friday. The day of the ride was to be cloudy to partly cloudy in the low 70’s and only a slight chance of rain. The roads would be rough.
After driving through rain and heavy traffic I checked into my hotel on a somewhat gloomy late Friday afternoon. Outside the hotel was guy from U.K. putting together a brand new (3 days old) Moots Bicycle. We chatted a bit about the rides we planned on doing and wished each other good luck for the upcoming ride.
I woke up early on Saturday morning and looked out my window. It just looked gloomy out. If it wasn’t for the ride, I would have probably crawled back into bed. I made it up to the start parked and made the final preparations to get ready. I registered and by nine o’clock I was rolling out of the gate somewhat slowly. It was starting to sink in that despite all my road bike riding this year (over 1450 miles including 3 metrics and lots of hilly rides) I wasn’t prepared to take a fat tired hard-tail mountain bike over the rough Old Albany Road and when I had nice pavement I had too much rolling resistance. The bike, in its current set-up, was fighting me. It was the equivalent of pushing a chain up a hill and there are a lot of hills in the D2R2.
In years past I had run on narrower 1.75 or even 1.5 x 26 inch tires that were more like a road/gravel grinder tires. For my prior D2R2 rides I had pulled my mountain bike out of storage around mid-July. Then I would make a point of spending more and more time riding it so my body would be familiar with the stresses of day long riding on it. I did not do it this year; my back let me know.
As I rolled out of the start down Mill Village Road, I felt pretty good. I continued on this relatively flat route until turning on to Upper Road. I managed this climb decently as I listened to the hum of my knobby tires on the asphalt. Little did I know that this too was going to lead to my downfall.
I have ridden this route before in 2011 and 2013. Soon the tough part began: Old Albany Road. This road was heavily washed out in places and seemed a lot steeper than in years past. This is when I realized that maybe my lack of preparation during the last three weeks had caught up with me, and maybe a few extra pounds that I put on over the winter and hadn’t worked all of them off was having something to do with it too. Back to Old Albany Road. I was geared down but I couldn’t find the right gear. I was spinning my pedal, but could not find that sweet spot where there was ease of pedaling combined with enough speed to power through the washed-out gravelly areas. So I was off the bike and pushing at a few spots. Finally I hit pavement and was doing good for awhile, but my back was making noises. I hit the rolling hills and enjoyed the downhill parts even though I had to be cautious as I did not want to go too fast and lose control.
More rollers and my back was killing me. I was looking at my GPS and was getting discourage. I was being passed up, my time was a lot slower than in the past and I was figuring I would be lucky to hit the first water stop before it closed. The clouds looked like they could open up and rain at any minute. The real kicker was my GPS screen would scroll by with the upcoming topography and there were places where it looked like a giant vertical wall. I finally had another nice downhill and caught up with some riders waiting to cross Route 2. We crossed and it was more climbing. The pavement, quickly turned to nice hard packed dirt. I was on the bike and pedaling but in pain. I had to stop and walk again and again as a result of my back and neck spasms.
Finally, I made it to the first water stop with about 15 – 20 minutes to spare. One of the volunteers noted my pained look and another had a car with a bike rack. So after a bit we drove down from Patten Hill and back to the start.
Back at the start finish, I checked in and was given some Ibuprofen. Another volunteer help me take my bike back to my car and I got my duffel bag to take back to the tent. (I noted that the muddy field I had parked in just hours before was nicely dried out.) Soon the shower shuttles were running and then I was able to get cleaned up and feel somewhat human for dinner. Dinner was great, and I met some people I knew. It’s always good to have dinner with great company.
Even though I had a giant DNF, the event was great. I enjoyed the hot breakfast onsite and the dinner/lunch was great too.
I will probably do it again next year, but I will have to consider what ride to do.