Thursday, August 23, 2012

D2R2 2012: You Gotta Get Up to Get Down

Get up

The courage to register.
The motivation to ride lots of hills around home.
The forethought to prepare your bike properly.
The discipline to prepare cue sheets. 
Early to drive to Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Earlier to be ready to ride from a field at or close to 6 A.M.
The first climb, within a few kilometers of the start.
The countless subsequent climbs.
Some pain. Maybe more. Get Down
16 hours in a car with fellow bike nerds.
An early start.
Low gears.
Spectacular views.
Countless spectacular descents.
Fascinating riders.
Witnessing, and perhaps demonstrating, raw determination.
Pickles and Watermelon.
The Little Big House.
Minding the 'Slow Children.'
Meeting wonderful volunteers.
Catching up with Sandy, Dirt Road Master.
Hanging with fellow dirt aficionados.
Watering eyes at 75kph.
No flats.
No brakes.
Ejected water bottles.
First timer's euphoria.
Covered bridges.
Beer and terrific food. 
Tall Tales.
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6:00 A.M.
Rodd's Photos
Matt's Photos
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The morning's rain has ended. Post-blazing-descent-smile.
On August 18, 2012, I rode my fourth consecutive Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee. Each year I've written long posts preceding and following the event, so I'll try not to duplicate my efforts here. Rather, I'll tell the story of our weekend, and try to contribute something new to the topic.

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Rodd sent me the link to the D2R2 site in 2007, while I sat in a coffee shop in Montreal. We'd grown fond of dirt road riding, but had not yet done any events in this vein. Intrigued, D2R2 was now on the list. In 2009 I rode D2R2 solo and was blown away. My tires were too small, I missed the 6:00 start, and I chased until the second checkpoint (its far) to make up the 13 minute gap. Pretty much the whole ride hurt, but I loved it.

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Watch out for gorillas.

The next two years, Rodd couldn't make it, despite wishing to. This year everything was in order, Rodd was coming, as was Iain, Pascal, and Chris. From my perspective, the ride was going to be about making sure the first timers and Pascal had a good day. Chris would be riding the 150k route while we did the 180.

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Despite a navigational on Friday, we arrived in South Deerfield in time to pull Iain's, Rodd's, and my bike out of the Impala rental's trunk. After a shakedown ride to the start/finish area, we met up with Chris and family, Pascal and family, Deb, Dawn, and Nathan (fellow Ottawa converts) at the pizza place down the road from our 'hotel,' the Red Roof Inn. A few of us ate large pizzas solo.

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Zip, its Saturday morning, drizzling, and we've ridden to the start/finish field. Topping up with provided food and coffee, we assemble to roll out. No need to leave at 6 exactly, we're riding as a team today. No drop. No inflicting suffering. The roads will cover that.

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"How hard do you think I have to suck this?"

We roll. The 34/34 climbing gear feels good. Iain, Nathan and I are the stronger riders in our group. This is no secret. Its up to us to keep Rodd and Pascal close; basically, don't be dicks. Try not to open big gaps on the climbs, regroup, rip the descents but wait. Don't assume everything is fine behind you.

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The first of two rescues.

Iain is a fast descender. We plummet. We are plummeteers. He drafts me and gets the slingshot. And vice versa. The dirt transitions from somewhat soggy to hardpacked. Its fast. Really fast. Iain rolls on tubeless Clement PDX cross tires in 35mm. I'm on Conti CX Speeds in 35mm, with latex tubes. We roll fast, but the tires are not quite big enough for some of the 'obstacles.' The guy on the Fatback fat bike, with 4" wide tires at 10PSI proves to us that bigger is not gonna kill you. But it might be more fun. We leapfrog all day. He barely pauses at each feed station, while we are take our sweet time. Watermelon.

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The Spooky guys are fun. I rode a Metalhead when this one was 8 years old.
Rodd and Pascal are a couple boobs, two abreast. Pascal is happy, the pace is good. Rodd is loving it, no surprise. The descents....the descents. Euphoria.

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Iain is on a 36x28 (or is it 38?). He's a monster, he does not complain. Nathan dangles ahead and Iain often takes the bait. As do I, but only sometimes. I've ridden this thing with a 34x28, and now a 34x34, and it doesn't really seem that much easier. Percy, our companion on a converted mtb, rides his granny sometimes. He's a fit rider, but its not easy for him either.

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EPO won't make an average rider great. Low gearing won't make an average rider not-hurt.

D2R2 is hard, no matter how you slice it. Know it. Love it.

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Yes, this is real.

Iain and I are not hunting for Strava KOMs. We are ripping the descents because we love it. We are similar in build, long and low on the bike. My stomach rests on the nose of my saddle as I carve unrivaled ancient undulations in the road. Braking is an option, not a necessity. Watch for cars pulling out, I remind myself. And 'Slow Children.' Look at the Garmin for warning of intersections. Blink, blink, blink; dust from my front tire is blowing into my eyes. Glasses help when I put them on.

I told Iain to wear the LONG fingered gloves and white hat, but he didn't!

Hawkes Road will be the final push. I hit it hard, I want to ride fast. Approaching slower riders, searching for a path. Ditch, flat. Dented rim, holding air. I ride safe, with latex. Thank you latex.

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You go very fast from here.

We regroup and begin to reel in Fat Bike Guy. We catch him and welcome him into our train. I pull at 40kph, and he's on my wheel. He is awesome. I nod to let him know I am not trying to drop him. Just hold on buddy. He's still there within Red Kite. I nod, he's there. I want to lead him out to a hero's welcome. 300m to go I look back and he's dropped off. Slow down and wait. Close, really close. Determination.

We eat, drink, are merry. A fantastic end to a day sans drama, avec satisfaction.

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Pascal, Iain, Nathan, Matt, Rodd.

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