Hillier Than Thou Century (long ride and post)
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  1. #1
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    May 2006

    Hillier Than Thou Century (long ride and post)

    “Talk is cheap.”
    Jim Friel

    I was riding with the Hammerheads on the Wednesday before the 2006 Hillier Century and after the ride told the lads that I couldn’t ride Hillier because I had a girls soccer game to coach that same day of the Century. One of my hardcore buds from the group said that that was fecked up because I had been working so hard all year. I explained to him that it could be worse and my bike mentor, for example, had terminal cancer.

    The two days later at 2:15am on Friday morning my son calls home: “Dad, the car broke down.” “James, is that the same car you agreed on Tuesday and Wednesday that you weren’t going to move and I was coming up to Montclair State to check it out?” “Yeah, Dad, I’m really sorry.” I found out later that day that the engine had seized.

    So I called my assistant coach to let him know that he was coaching. I miss about a game every two years and the girls have a better winning percentage when I am not there.

    I showed up in Port Murray NJ at about 7:15 for an 8am start. Hillier is not your charity century. If you look on njbikemap.com near the town of Montana:


    you can see Fiddler’s Elbow, the steepest ride in NJ. This guy Eric read somewhere that it has a 38% grade. The cue sheet actually says that, too. Note the 638 vertical feet and the short distance.

    That 2006 ride crystallized my commitment to cycling.

    Over the past year, I have put in over 4k miles which I used to prepare for the 2007 version of Hillier on Sunday September 23. My goal this year was to ascend Fiddlers on the bike as opposed to on foot and to time trial the century in 7:14 hours. That time is halfway between the times the owner of the bike shop and the assistant manager had ridden the Hillier Century in in the past when they were in their thirties and mid forties. It also was the number of one of the guys on my Ultimate Frisbee team in college.

    We had 15 guys last year from my local group in Westfield participate in 2006 but for 2007, not many people signed up. Super Dave had family obligations, the boys from the shop had bidness and the toughest guy I know had a new puppy.

    I started breakfast at about 6am with OJ, a cup of blueberries and a yogurt. I followed that up with two Dunkin Donuts and a cup of coffee. Then we had a McDonald’s pancake and sausage with more OJ.

    I parked at Camp Birney and walked over to registration. When I got to the tables, T-Bone, who rode with us last year, called me on the cellaphone. He used to work in the bike shop in the summer of 2006 and has been racing with Rutgers Cycling and is quite strong this year. With so many strong riders out, it was good to see a friend. Especially good to see the Rutgers kit out in the sun.

    The weather was perfect. One of those September 11, 2001 type days with a cerulean blue sky and cool but not cold temps.

    At the registration table Jim whose son I had coached in Little League about 10 years ago was taking cash and giving out shirts. He said something like: “You’re going to suffer today.” Don’t I know it. Laurent Chambard, the ambassador from PBP, was also at the bidness side of the registration table. Good to see people you know and like before a challenge.

    After registration, I changed into my kit, topped my tires and drank 12oz of Gatorade and 16 oz of water and rolled down to the start. After the ‘controlled roll out’ on which two riders crashed last year, we started the ride. The first climb is Stephensburg Rd at 1.3 miles long and climbing 480 vertical feet. It separated the killer and pack filler from the swiller as usual. I started almost at the back of the pack after the roll out, so began passing quite a few people. About halfway up the hill, I passed Mike from Short Hills who had been doing hill repeats up Summit Road with me eight days before. Before I ever talked to Mike, I knew that he was riding Hillier 2007. You don’t do 300 vertical foot hill repeats on a rainy Saturday morning for the South Jersey MS150. He had a white and blue Orbea Orca and was climbing strong.

    I dropped in behind Joe 33 from Scotch Plains who is a Cat 4 cat and very strong sprinter. He towed me about 10 miles to the Snyder Road climb of 350 vertical feet where I lost contact with him and joined a grupetto of six. We hammered the next 10 miles pretty well into the first rest area.

    There we lost three of the guys when we left after validation and filling the bottles. I had brought two 24 oz. extra large bottles for this ride. We coalesced into a new gruppetto with seven members including two strong riders out of Marty’s near Morristown. The stronger of the two whose name was Hector was on a white Look frame-a very serious looking bike. Another guy named Chris who lived in the mountains of north west NJ was riding a four week old Trek Madone-very bling. We began to make very good time now through the 550 foot climb in Jenny Jump State park. Finally we caught the lead group at Mountain Lake about 37 miles into the century and hung out in the back for three miles to the second rest area at Four Sisters Winery. At that point the big kids kicked it in, never to be seen again.

    After 10 quite flat miles that were in part along the Delaware River we climbed Roxburg Station Road which climbs 180 feet in a third of a mile. It is the introduction to Fiddler’s Elbow. At the top of that short climb, I saw one guy with his bike against a silo repairing his crank arms. An omen if there ever was one.

    A minute later we turned right up the gut of Fiddler’s Elbow-the steepest paved road in New Jersey. Most riders begin to climb it for the first time and think to themselves that it is the steepest hill they have ever tried. They are wrong. The section toward the top is much, much steeper. The lowest pitch that I have ever heard attributed to the latter is 28% so that is how I describe it to other riders. The cue sheet says 38.4%. The climb is 638 vertical feet and deserves to have a book written about it by itself.

    Toward the top, on the steep section, I was traversing back and forth and maintaining my power and momentum well. Several riders were walking there bike up the mountain ahead of me. One guy was walking up right in the middle of the road. I yelled for him to ‘get out of the way’ but instead he gave me some ‘bro’ talk like “Go for it man.” When I did an irregular traverse around him, both my wheels came loose and I fell on my uphill side. Oh well. Thank you for playing, take your prize at the door. See you next year. So I walked the final hundred yards with the rest of the pack fillers.

    At the top you go right at the stop sign and begin a 780 vertical foot descent on Brass Castle which lasts for miles. It is an excellent county road with engineered turns and wide, clean macadam. At the bottom we turned left to climb Wester Road for 520 feet and on the first steep pitch at the bottom, both my quads cramped up. Fiddler’s Elbow kind of does that. I dismounted, walked 50 yards, and climbed back on to start attacking the ten switchbacks slowly and carefully.

    At the rest area at the top of the Fox Farm Rd. climb, I saw my first broken rider. After 60 miles he was in the shade under the edge of the trailer that the drink coolers were on with his arm over his eyes asking the eye candy volunteers how long the wait was for the sag. I snarfed half a PB sandwich, filled my bottles and belted out a twisted, baritone version of the Rutgers alma mater as T-Bone and I left quickly so I could continue to talk smack to him. After a couple of fast miles and one screamer of a descent, the 21 year old spit me off the back like a pumpkin seed.

    I crossed Rt. 57 headed south by myself and sucked down Clif Shot #8 of the day. When I crossed under Interstate 78 on CR 637, I pulled off the road for map and cue sheet reorientation and a very quick men’s break. Just after that Hector on his Look frame and Jesse, who is also out of Marty’s, caught up with me, remarked, “Good, we’re not lost.” As passed me an ambulance passed us. Fortunately it wasn’t for us in the peleton.

    After I pulled to catch them we made good paceline progress with Craig, a 26 year old Cat 3 from Philly doing most of the work. A couple of miles into it we did another long, nameless climb and I rode up to Jesse and Craig to tell them that they needed to slow up because Hector was off the back.

    I mentioned to Jesse that I remembered him from last year because he had said to me before the 2006 ride that the Specialized Roubaix Comp I was riding was an excellent choice of steed for Hillier. I explained to him that it was funny because my other choice at the time was my 30 lb. Schwinn Voyageur 11.8 that I bought with my last student loan.

    Then we turned onto Ironbridge Rd and it was like the movie went from Pleasantville to Psycho, baby. Jesse’s water bottle hit the ground at the bottom and Craig hit the gas. I never saw Hector until he finished. Jesse somewhat effortlessly caught us and told us that Hector was hoofing it. After climbing to the top covering over 500 vertical feet in one tenth of a mile (is that even possible?), we had another screaming descent at 50.1 miles an hour. Otto had hit 58mph on some of the screamers. I was losing my enthusiasm for those, too, but they were more fun than the climbs.

    At the last rest area, Craig recommended the banana and the electrolyte drink (as opposed to say, the double Jack Daniels Black Label on the rocks.) T-Bone was pulling his jersey ten feet up the road when we rolled in to chat with Laurent who assured us that the last 18 miles were dead flat. My stomach hurt from Gu overdose. I wanted vitamin I for my quads. I was running out of vanilla and mango Clif shots and might have to do an Espresso.

    Buffalo Hollow Rd 180 feet
    Observatory Road/Hill Acres (Craig’s comment: “This can’t be good”) 360 vertical feet
    Herman Thau Road: +260’ down 150’ +200’-make up your mind
    Cokesbury Road: the crest is at Bissell Road is one of the three places that I have bonked in 8,888 miles. +460 vertical feet

    I am beginning to detect a pattern here. Now I lose Craig’s interest entirely as my ability to main the appearance of keeping up is gone. At least I am on familiar ground. I trained three times in the last six weeks in this area including about 50 miles in the rain on a Sunday afternoon after some rather bad golf at Fiddlers Elbow. We are near Califon and headed north by west.

    Now I climb Long View Road for the first time in my life. After 0.7 miles and 340’ vertical feet I am toast. Fortunately, two things happened. I found some dark chocolate in my jersey pocket and we came to Philhower Road which I had been on before. This is a pretty stiff little climb by itself but in the context of Hillier it doesn’t even rate having the 88 vertical feet mentioned on the cue sheet.

    As I descended quickly to the center of Califon some fat 68 year old guy slowly pulled out in a five year old sedan directly across me path. Nice. After passing through the center of Califon and climbing the Northern bank of the Raritan, I passed about 5 little kids on scooters and big wheels. They mocked my climbing ability as I turned right on School Street which viciously turned into Sliker Rd and climbed 500 vertical feet to the finish. How appropriate.

    Unfortunately, both quads started to cramp up about halfway up so I had to massage them alternately as I climbed. A short while later, I noticed a rider about 88 vertical feet behind me. I shifted to second gear and stood on the pedals as coach Troy always requests that we do. Then I shifted to third and stood harder as the chaser disappeared down the rearview mirror. There was no one behind me for at least three minutes when I finished and Craig was the last finish before me, nine minutes ahead at the line.

    After refueling with a banana and a bottle I began to climb the couple of miles to the parking lot at Camp Birney.

    I had two Advil and two Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest biers when I got back to the truck and served Craig two Molson’s Golden to pack onto his 145 pound frame.

    I also had 3 or 4 delicious London Broil sandwiches, talked to some of the guys from the various riding alliances I had made and supported the CJBC financially.

    I had ridden good miles-a lot of quality workouts-before Hillier. I had about 50 hours on the trainer from January onwards. And I wasn’t screwing around on the trainer. The Endurance Guru (wife: “Why do you need a trainer?”) who visited about once a month (when he remembered) pushed me. My neighbor’s vapid wife inspired me when I started to ride seriously a couple of years ago. I bumped into her at the grocery and she said that my knees would go and I would have to quit. The boys on the Sunday ride provided an opponent every Sunday at 8am out of Quimby Street. Don, Clavicle, Jonathan and Adrian were good to hang with after the rides. And Donna taught me to be a social climber on Wednesdays. The Bonz provided my psychological warfare strategy. My master mechanic, Chris, at my LBS in Westfield carefully built me a Colnago C-50 in 38 day beginning May 1 that was dialed in, now. Super Dave told me to lose weight when I was riding in April at my 2006 riding weight and I lost 8.8 more pounds. Arch and Jay embarrassed me on climbs in March and I paid them back. The Squeaky Wheels Boys taught me what little humility I had. Mario and Manny showed me what a pro could do. CR and Sam taught me to eat the young, not fear them. Stanimal, the Termite and Trey taught me how to knock people off their bikes. And Dave Flood, my late bike mentor who was watching me from heaven, taught me to manage me attitude.

    I finished in 6:48 which was 26 minutes faster than my goal and I think second for the over 50 crowd. The 21 year old winner from Colorado weighed 135 pounds and did a 5:30.

    I noticed that my legs had lost some snap when doing the Wednesday night shop ride this week. The owner of the LBS told me that I had 365 days to bask in the glory and I explained the concept of leap year to him. I also told him he could have 10% off on my autograph or appearance fee.
    U gne n'e' par niseun'

    CAAD 10 Black, Di2 Ultegra 10 speed, Ksyrium ES, two tail lights

    Colnago Superissimo steel 1992, 9 speed Chorus, Ksyrium Equipe, dented top tube

    Colnago C-50, 10 speed carbon Record compact, Reynolds MVC 32's, Salsa skewers, Acros headset, Dura Ace pedals, Conti 4000's, Barmac integrated bars, white, red, and green tape, LED on NiMh AAAs, Dorkly left barend convex mirror

  2. #2
    MB1 is offline
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    Jan 2004
    Cool, great writing.
    Quote Originally Posted by the_dude
    these are better than i was expecting, and my expectations were already rather high.

  3. #3
    The Wanderer
    Reputation: kyler2001's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
    That's about as detailed as you can get...5 year old sedans, color and make of other peoples frames, street names, heading north by west, etc...You're over 50 and have a much better memory than I do at 31. I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast before my last race. My rendition would be something like "I did a century with some friends. It was hard. I stopped a few times and I was tired afterwards". Well...maybe a bit more detailed but you're all over it. Thanks for the post. Oh yeah...for all of those who don't know...ultimate frisbee rocks!

  4. #4
    Beatchin' Technology
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    May 2006

    Talking Did OK in that

    Three National Championships in four years for RUTGERS!!!
    U gne n'e' par niseun'

    CAAD 10 Black, Di2 Ultegra 10 speed, Ksyrium ES, two tail lights

    Colnago Superissimo steel 1992, 9 speed Chorus, Ksyrium Equipe, dented top tube

    Colnago C-50, 10 speed carbon Record compact, Reynolds MVC 32's, Salsa skewers, Acros headset, Dura Ace pedals, Conti 4000's, Barmac integrated bars, white, red, and green tape, LED on NiMh AAAs, Dorkly left barend convex mirror

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