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This unicycle climbed Mt Washington



 
 
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  #1  
Old August 21st 05, 12:20 AM
Ben Plotkin-Swing
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


Man, what a day. I guess Iíll just start at the beginning.

I got up at 6AM and got to the base of the auto road a little before
7:00. I did about 20 minutes of easy pedaling around to warm up, and
than waited in the crowd for the race to start. We left in waves. Joe
Merril was in a different wave, and left first at 7:50

I started at 7:55am. Mike and I were next to each other in a large group
of bikers, and I pedaled past him and stayed with the bikers for the
first several hundred feet of downhill and than flat course. When we got
to the beginning of the hill, it was sort of surreal for me. Iíd been
told that the course gets very steep right away, and this didnít seem
that steep to me. After months and months of anticipation, I had managed
to overestimate the slope. Mike caught up to me pretty quickly on the
hill, and we rode together for the first couple of miles. I still
couldnít really believe that I was actually riding up Mt Washington. It
seemed like just some road with a lot of bikers on it. Mike and I were
passing bikers at a pretty steady rate, and I was riding at a pace I
felt like I could maintain. We passed Joe.

After two or three miles, it became clear that Mikes pace was a little
faster than mine. He slowly worked his way away from me in the crowd,
and I eventually lost sight of him. Around this time I also started to
get a stomach cramp. I drank some water and tried to pace myself a
little more.

At about four miles, I had already passed the halfway point, and was
feeling pretty good. The road passed above treeline around this time.
Spectators told me that Mike was about five minutes ahead of me. I
realized that I could maintain a slightly higher speed than I was
riding, so I set out to see if I could catch Mike again. There was a
long steady uphill straightaway at this point, and I passed a bunch more
bikers. The running joke among the riders was ďyeah, this is hard, but
at least there is only one hill!Ē

Around 4.5 miles is when we first passed in to the wind. Iím not sure I
can describe how much of a factor this wind was. It changed my riding
from comfortably riding up a hill and making decisions about how fast I
wanted to go, to just trying to stay on the unicycle and move forward.
It was ok when it was a sidewind, but brutal as a headwind. There were
hardly any tail winds, with one exception Iíll talk about in a second.

After a few more battles with the wind across switchbacks, the road
turned to dirt and started a long rightward traverse of the mountain.
You could see the road laid out in front of you for at least a mile
before it disappeared around the edge of the mountain. The dirt surface
was not too much of a factor. It was pretty smooth and well packed down.
I was glad to be riding a 2.0 tire rather than something skinnier,
though. There was a pretty consistent headwind along that entire section
of dirt, which made it a real slog.

Around the top of the traverse, the road briefly traveled away from the
wind, and it was amazing. I wished I had a sail. Instead I held my arms
way out to the side of me and let the wind help me up the hill. This
didnít last very long though. The road curved back the other way, and
the wind came from the side and than from the front. It started to rain
around this time.

As bad as the wind was before, it started getting worse at this point.
As I climbed up a steeper section, I turned a corner in to wind so
strong it literally stopped me in my tracks. I would try to bend way
forward to make my profile smaller, but it didnít help much. A little
later, I had trouble even pointing my unicycle in to the wind. I rode
sideways back and forth across the road a couple times before I started
making forward progress again.

I passed a sign that said 5000 feet. I knew that the mountain is 6288í,
and another 1200 feet seemed like a lot. I kept riding forward, but
everything seemed to be taking a lot longer than it had earlier in the
race. My leg muscles started to show signs of cramping up. Over the next
mile or so I went through a series of muscle cramps. Some muscle in one
leg or the other would get worse and worse till it cramped up entirely.
If I kept pedaling it would eventually feel better, but another muscle
would start to go. Eventually I had muscles cramping that I wasnít
really aware I had.

Up to this point I hadnít dismounted. Iíd been trying not to focus on it
too much, to keep from jinxing myself, but my goal had become to make it
up without a dismount. Sometime between 5000 and 6000 feet there was a
sharp lefthand turn in the road, which had the steepest grade I had seen
yet. My tire actually lost traction on the wet pavement, and when I
tried to power through the skid it was to much for my legs, which
cramped up. My no UPD goal ended at that point. While I sat for a minute
trying to stretch out my legs a little, I saw at least three bikers fall
on the same section. Clipless pedals and exhausted people make for some
nasty falls.

From that point on, I was just trying to survive the ride. My legs were
so far gone that any extra effort caused excruciating cramps. I ran out
of water around this point, which didnít help. (Note to future riders:
32 ounces isnít enough). I passed a sign that said 6000 feet, and I new
that 288 feet wasnít very much more, but at that point in the ride it
seemed like forever. The fog at this point was incredible. There was
maybe 50 foot visibility. I knew I was near the top, and that there were
lots of riders around me, but I couldnít see any of it. I started to
hear the people cheering near the finish line.

Around 1000 feet from the finish (I only knew the distance in
retrospect), I pedaled hard to make it up a steeper section in a fierce
headwind, and my right leg completely locked. I stepped off as best I
could and sat down. It felt like I didnít have a knee. A few people
walking their bikes down the road appeared out of the fog and asked if I
was all right. I said I thought I would be in a minute. Eventually my
muscles loosened a little, and I could bend my leg again. I stood up and
walked back and forth, and decided that at this point I had to just keep
on riding. I got back on and pedaled through the fog towards the
cheering sounds in front of me.

I felt like if the road got extra steep again, I probably wouldnít be
able to make it. I tried to ask some racers coming down the road if it
got steep again before the finish, but they didnít understand and just
told me I was almost there. The energy at this point was amazing. More
and more people appeared out of the fog on the edge of the road the
higher up I climbed, and they were all cheering like crazy (not just for
me, there was also a steady stream of bikers coming up). Once there were
cheering people for two or three rows back along the edge of the road, I
realized that the finish had to be just in front of me. I just started
cranking at that point, which I didnít realize I could still do. I was
still thinking that if the road got steep again, I would be finished. I
didnít realize that the crowd was lined up along the mythical 22% grade,
the steepest of the ride. I honestly donít know how I rode up it. The
finish line was about a hundred feet later, and after I passed through
it and made sure my timing chip registered, I just sort of stood there
in a daze. People came and put a blanket on my shoulders, and offered me
water, and my parents (who had been in the big crowd by the steep
section) showed up and took me over to the visitors center. I think itís
kind of sick that a big mountain like Washington has a visitors center
at the top, but I wasnít complaining about it than. From that point on
the story mostly consists of me drinking a lot of warm drinks, and than
eating a lot of food.

There is more I could write about the event outside the actual race,
which was a lot of fun, but Iíll leave that for later.

Ben


--
Ben Plotkin-Swing - MUni rider

www.benps.com

"Every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible" -Fortune
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  #2  
Old August 21st 05, 01:20 AM
Ben Plotkin-Swing
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


I also wanted to say thanks to Dave Stockton, who drove all the way up
from CT to watch the race. He got some great video of the finish, which
I'm sure he'll post.

I've got some pictures my parents took, I'll post them in a few minutes
when I get them resized.

Ben


--
Ben Plotkin-Swing - MUni rider

www.benps.com

"Every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible" -Fortune
cookie.
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  #3  
Old August 21st 05, 02:17 AM
Ben Plotkin-Swing
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


  #4  
Old August 21st 05, 02:19 AM
Ben Plotkin-Swing
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


These came out pretty well:


+----------------------------------------------------------------+
| Attachment filename: finalclimb.jpg |
|Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/350404|
+----------------------------------------------------------------+

--
Ben Plotkin-Swing - MUni rider

www.benps.com

"Every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible" -Fortune
cookie.
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  #5  
Old August 21st 05, 02:19 AM
Ben Plotkin-Swing
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


These came out pretty well:


+----------------------------------------------------------------+
| Attachment filename: finalclimb.jpg |
|Download attachment: http://www.unicyclist.com/attachment/350404|
+----------------------------------------------------------------+

--
Ben Plotkin-Swing - MUni rider

www.benps.com

"Every truly great accomplishment is at first impossible" -Fortune
cookie.
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  #6  
Old August 21st 05, 02:35 AM
harper
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


Thanks for the fantastic write-up, Ben, and congratulations conquering
Mt. Washington. Did Dave offer to pull-glide you up the hill?


--
harper - TANKED at GASWORKS

-Greg Harper

B L U E S H I F T

"Never ride backwards up a rocky mountain road because the things that
will trip you if you see them will also trip you if you don't. " -
munipsycho
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  #7  
Old August 21st 05, 02:36 AM
jagur
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


right on.... hell of an effort man, you rock! look at you leaning into
that hill, man thats steep.


--
jagur - Random Unicyclist

smoke me a kipper, i'll be back for breakfast.
---------------------------------------------------
-forget_your_life-
--------------------------------------
-------*muni militia *-------
*one wheeled death squad*
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  #8  
Old August 21st 05, 03:03 AM
James_Potter
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


wow, you're flippin amazing!! nice job, awesome pictures, awesome
effort...yeah. congratulations!


--
James_Potter - betcha can't stick it!
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  #9  
Old August 21st 05, 03:15 AM
One on one
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


Incredible job, Ben. Terrific write up. To go as far as you did before
your first UPD, with that wind, is amazing.

What size unis did Joe and Mike ride?


--
One on one - Proud member of the UALW and GUA

"However, like the jet pilot, if the Coker rider tries to turn too fast,
he/she could black out."
-Memphis Mud

I went further than I had planned and had a testicle break at about 25
ks
-onebyone


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  #10  
Old August 21st 05, 05:05 AM
steveyo
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Default This unicycle climbed Mt Washington


Ben -

You are unbelievable. After riding my puny mountain climbs, I'm just
struck deaf dumb and blind at your incredible effort.

Would you say it's the hardest ride of your life?


--
steveyo - Last will be first

steveyo

"I complained I need new shoes, until I met a man with no feet." -
unknown

"Do whatever steps you want if
you have cleared them with the pontiff"- Tom Lehrer


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