Fall Training Camp 2019

Fall Training Camp 2019

On November 2nd and 3rd the MIT Cycling team held our annual Fall Training Camp. The destination this year was Pittsfield, MA, an excellent staging point for rides throughout the Berkshires and Western Massachusetts. We had an amazing weekend of riding and team socializing under deep blue skies and crisp New England fall temperatures. We also happily welcomed several new riders onto the MIT cycling scene.

First up, Djuna gives her recap of the weekend:

“When the moment came around to get on our bikes and head out on Saturday morning from our house in Pittsfield for the first day of fall training camp, I had no idea what was awaiting me – I hadn’t properly been introduced to Strava yet and don’t own a Garmin so while the rest of the team was studiously pouring over the routes, I was nervously biting my lip – Hoping my excellent drafting skills would save me. I joined Sarah, Ethan, Julie, and Bola, opting for the shortest route. The first few miles were smooth enough (apart from a short break to hunt for an eyeglass lens that had popped out of Bola’s glasses on the first hill) – until we reached the climb everyone had been talking about: Mount Greylock. Having not reviewed the route, I had no idea that we were about to climb the highest point in MA. The first few minutes uphill were the worst – it suddenly became painfully clear how little I had trained this past month. My legs ached as I struggled to get to the top of the climb. Being from the north of Germany (where climbs of this caliber are non-existent), I had never experienced an extended period uphill on the bike and I was sure the worst would soon be over. However, taking a turn, just as the incline steepened to an almost unbearable grade, I was faced with the horrible realization that the climb had not yet ended! Very much to the contrary, the pavement snaked its way uphill around the mountain and disappeared into the trees. It was too late to turn around and my teammates were far ahead of me. Determined to not fall behind, I tried to keep the pace even and settle into the rhythm of (slowly) turning the crank. As I climbed higher, beautiful views of the valley emerged towards my left and icicles decorated the steep incline of trees to my right, and, as the sun emerged near the end of the climb, I began to truly treasure and enjoy the monumental task of getting up this mountain. Reunited with my group at the summit, the pain felt rewarding – and suddenly I understood why cyclists are so obsessed with climbs!

Erik, Jeremy, Jack, Nic and Guillaume take in the views from the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts

Little did I know that my least favorite part of this endeavor would be the 20 minute descent, where icy winds made it painfully clear that I should have packed an extra windbreaker. At the very least, my desire to get down as quickly as possible helped me overcome my fear of taking curves fast! Much to my delight, we spent the next hour following the cold descent huddled around coffee mugs in a cafe at the base of the mountain. Feeling horribly cold and absolutely dreading the way back home, I had an idea. In the cafe restroom, I removed my thermal base layers and sat huddled under the hand dryer, enjoying the warmth and drying my clothes one-by-one. Feeling very smug and smart (but also slightly too ashamed to tell my teammates why I had taken so long – I figured; only weak cyclists sit under hand dryers), I exited the cafe ready to brave the way back home.

Berk and Lee pose with their new friend, the Golden Elk, at Whitcomb Summit

On Day 2 on Sunday, a thin layer of fog hung over the valley, making everything feel fall-like and cozy and all-around perfect for another ride. Jeremy, who had completed the monumental 100 mile ride with Erik, and co. the day before, led us on a 50 mile group ride, and, impressively, stuck it out at the front for the majority of the ride. I, on the other hand, desperately clung to his wheel and later to Carolyn’s, as I tried to keep up. It was a stunning ride that took us up another beautiful climb – more cyclocross than road, through a forest and along a stream that snaked its way up the mountain. The descent was perfect, as if the street had been paved over just for fall training camp! After a little extended cyclocross adventure as we left the main road to find the town of Lee, we reached asphalt again and made it to another well-deserved coffee stop. Having not learnt from the previous day to bring an extra base layer, I sat with my teammates, shivering, and dreading the cold outside, wondering ‘why do we this again?’ It’s an easy-enough question to answer: Pushing my limits with a group of people as cool and diverse as this team, makes every tough moment on the bike entirely worth it. Thanks guys, for welcoming me into the family – It’s been a blast already and I look forward to many more hard rides!”

Carolyn works her way up the Beartown Mountain climb on Day 2 of FTC

Next, Miles relives the high and lows of two intense days of riding:

“On Saturday morning, I found myself with Erik, Guillaume, Jack, Jeremy and Nic about to embark on a 170km ride with 3100m of climbing. Despite having topped up my glycogen supplies the night before with a Halloween candy binge, I was still apprehensive. With Erik having recently won the Mount Washington hill climb, Guillaume adamantly sticking to a strict regimen of 3+ hour trainer rides and Nic crowned GrubHub’s best bike courier, I felt slightly out of my depth. But, being a beautiful sunny day and my last FTC before graduation, I had to give it a go!

Ten kilometers in, we hit our first and biggest climb of the day: Mount Greylock. As became the routine for the multiple climbs through the day, Guillaume and Erik would shoot off ahead, seemingly filled with helium, while the rest of us, more evenly matched, duked it out for third place. It was unspoken knowledge that every climb was, of course, a race. Being treated to some amazing views throughout the climb, spirits were high at the top of Greylock despite the ensuing descent in sub-zero temperatures that quickly turned us into ice cubes.

Nic, Miles, Guillaume, Erik, Jeremy and Jack on the summit of Greylock on Day 1

The remainder of the ride was a mixture of incredible descents and long upward slogs. A highlight was the descent of Petersburg pass, which was perhaps was the most fun I have ever had descending in the Northeast. The low point of my ride was encountering the aptly named “Berlin Wall”. Halfway up, my mind decided that enough was enough and the 80km and 1500m of climbing that remained in the ride did not bear thinking about. Luckily, a second wind, spurred by the rapid consumption of a bottle of Mountain Dew, soon hit and the rest of the ride was quite enjoyable. After flatting with 8km to go, we all made it home thoroughly exhausted (at least I was) just as the sun was setting.

On Sunday, a group of us set out to do the long ride for the day, which Jeremy promised might have some “secret dirt”. I was hoping for a slightly more relaxing day but that hope soon evaporated with attacks flying at the base of the first climb. Following a cheerful discussion about the differences between professional and amateur bike racers, the majority of the group decided to opt for a shorter route home, leaving me, Guillaume, Sarah and Nic to press onwards along the long route.

Nic, Sarah, and Guillaume explore some secret dirt in October Mountain State Forest on Day 2

One hundred kilometers in, rather cold and tired, we found ourselves in the heart of the October Mountain State Forest. We were on a rough “track” which, in my exhausted mind, was certainly not the fun secret dirt we had been promised. Instead, for kilometers we were dodging massive holes, chunky rocks, and even active logging machinery. Finally, we reached a junction where the route instructed us to go straight. However, a foreboding rickety sign warned of “Rough road ahead for 8 miles”. As we were stopped to plan an alternate escape route, a massive 4×4 off-roading truck bumped its way up the track. The man driving, laughing at our pathetically skinny tires, confirmed our suspicions that continuing straight would not be advisable. Instead, he gave us directions to the nearest paved road which we eventually found but not before passing a camp of dirt bikers, howling in laughter at the sight of lycra-clad road cyclists traveling through this wilderness.

Miles, still with enough energy to force a smile, takes a selfie with the adventure ride gang

By the time we reached pavement I was done, with no second wind on the horizon. For the remaining hour, I desperately clung to Sarah, Guillaume and Nic’s wheels, progressively sinking into a deeper bonk. Thankfully Guillaume, who appeared more rested than at the start of the ride, had the energy to pull us all home. Upon finally reaching the car, I spent the next 15 minutes silently eating handfuls upon handfuls of M&Ms until I finally had enough energy to drive us to a recovery meal at Five Guys.

Thanks to Jeremy and Sarah for organizing a fantastic training camp and to everyone for being such great riding buddies. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again at Winter Training Camp!”