Don’t Get Dead (MWARBH)

“Italy has its Mortirolo, mountain of death; 124 persons to date have died on Mount Washington. Overall steeper than the Angliru, windier than Mont Ventoux, deadlier than the mountain of death; this is why for cyclists, Mount Washington stands above all other climbs. It is not hard just because it is steep. It is also windy and cold enough to be dangerous.” — New York Cycle Club (2008)


This was to be the year. My last year. And It probably was but for the wrong reason. This was to be my 10th time. Ten and done.

At check-in, I picked up my bib and was directed where to get a sticker to add to it. I added “10 Timer.” (Upon reflection, maybe I was a 9-Timer waiting to be a 10-timer. Hmmm.)

I wonder if I was supposed to put a 9 on here?

The weather forecast did not look good. The morning window was the best followed by deteriorating conditions over the next 24-36 hours.

When I left the hotel it was looking good. It was 30℉ (-2℃) at the summit with 37 mph winds (60 kph) and foggy. The race was on.

I didn’t fuel properly last night and decided to go to the McDonalds in North Conway for their hotcakes. I pulled in a 6:15 a.m. and they told me they had just started their grill. Things move at a different pace here. I saw a Dunkin Donuts and went in and got a breakfast sandwich. It would have to do.

Dunkin, North Conway, N.H.

Last year we had given a ride down to a rider named Bruce from Indiana. We agreed to meet this year and share a ride down in my car. I met him in the parking lot and we got my car ready for his wife to drive to the summit. And we went out on the road to warm up.


It was raining lightly and I was contemplating what to wear for the actual hill climb. On the road, I had a wind jacket but wasn’t sure if that was what I would take or wear to the summit. At 8:10 a.m. we got back. I was watching the riders in the first group start to assemble and Bruce made his way to the Top Notch group.

The event director made some announcements beginning with thanking the sponsors of this hillclimb. But before she got to the major announcement, the only announcement that mattered, I could see that Katie, driving my car, made a U-turn just beyond the toll booth. Those cars had been turned around.

And then the director broke the news. The race was canceled.

Nothing to see here. You all can just go home.

There is no second-guessing here. Other events that we do are “rain or shine” events. But this one is different. These can be “live or die” events. The weather can be extreme at any time. Eight days earlier, a 21-year-old hiker from Pennsylvania, died on this mountain. Rule number one of cycling is Don’t Get Dead.

But I wasn’t “feeling it.” I think back to my first MWARBH. It was 2007, “07/07/07” to be exact, but it was canceled due to weather. So in 2008 and not in 2007, my big question was if I could do it. And I did. And then in 2009 thru 2014 it was never if I could make it but merely how much I would suffer. (Answer: A lot.)

After a seven-year break, I came back in 2021 and again last year. And it still was a question of how much suffering. But this year I have begun to think if I could do it. I’m not sure why. But I was hoping during the night that the race might be canceled. And then when it wasn’t I got my game face on and was ready to attack the mountain.

But it all ended abruptly. Canceled. And that was it.

Bruce asked what I planned to do next. I told him my backup plan had always been to ride Hurricane Mountain Road. He told me he would like to join me.

Hurricane Mountain Road, Intervale, NH

Hurricane Mountain Road is a beast. It lacks the distance to be a top climb in the U.S. but the two miles on this road is tougher than any two-mile stretch of the Mount Washington Auto Road. It also lacks the weather and altitude that Mount Washington has.

Lower slopes of Hurricane Mountain Road

Bruce and I started from the scenic view area by Intervale. There is a steep ramp immediately on Hurricane Mountain Road followed by two miles of rollers. And then one comes to the gate. The road is closed in the winter. RVs and trucks are prohibited.

The steepness begins here

My recollection is I tried this climb but had to stop once on 2007. I tried a second time in 2008 and stopped. But my third time, in 2009, I tried again and made it. I told Bruce that I usually have to stop at this one turnout. When we came to it I could hear it calling for me to stop. Instead, I turned on the inside corner which seemed stepper than Mount Washington’s 22% grade. Probably 25% and maybe 30%. Tough.

At the summit, I told Bruce we could go over the top and then to Maine or turn around. He wanted to go over the top. The descent went better than the one time I remember descending before. Probably because I took it slower and never had to grab a handful of brakes.

Disappointing not to do the hillclimb for sure. And it has been canceled for tomorrow as well. But a little relief because I wasn’t feeling it this year and may never again. But also thankful I didn’t get dead and could ride another day.

Lodging was at the Grand Hotel at Attatash. Very spacious room. Somewhat cheaper than the hotels in North Conway. Two restaurants including one that served a pasta buffet Friday night ($24). I did not partake mainly because I had eaten a burger from Five Guys in Lebanon, N.H. around 3:00 p.m. and wasn’t hungry.

Hotel at Attatash

The bike, my 2007 Trek Pilot, was set up with a fully working triple drive train. The front was 24-42-52 whereas the rear 10-speed cassette was 11-34t. Stock for the bike was a 30t small ring and last year we left the 24t in place unbeknownst to me. So it’s set up for next year, I guess.

The Call of the Mountain


I did a thing. 

To understand why we have to go back 21 years. It was 2001 and I was in awe of watching the Tour de France. I loved watching those big climbs in France. I knew I could never climb like those boys but wanted to test myself on one of those mountains.

I watched with great interest the Tours in 2001-2005 always dreaming of a time I would tackle those French climbs. As I dreamed of a future trip to France, in 2006 I learned of a tougher climb than any French mountain in the Tour de France. And that was the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in New Hampshire.

Held each August and immensely popular, I made a note when registration for the hillclimb opened so that I could sign up. Registration opened at 6:00 am (or possibly 6:30) on February 1, 2006. I drove into work and at 6:55 a.m. I logged in to register. It had already sold out.

That would repeat itself in 2007. But it had become so popular that they opened a second race called Newton’s Revenge to be held 07/07/07. So I registered for that one. It was the same exact course but on a different date and with a smaller field size since this one did not sell out.

Why I didn’t find this in 2006 I don’t know. My research indicates that Newton’s Revenge was held from 2006-2015.

I went to New Hampshire in 2007 but the race, and the race rain date, were canceled due to dangerous weather on the mountain. Specifically, 70-mph winds at the summit, rime ice and freezing temperatures, and rain overnight made the gravel (dirt) section nearly impossible to pedal a bike. I was disappointed but also maybe a tad relieved.

And so I would return in 2008. It was the same deal with registration although this time I purposely waited for MWARBH to sell out and for Newton’s Revenge to open up. I liked the thought of a July race with a smaller field. And that became my first race up the mountain. 

My goal in 2008 was simply to finish. I made no change to the gearing on my bike (which was a big mistake), crashed, and said “Never Again!” as I finished.

Suffer face on the 22% Grade – 2008
I thought I would fall over at this point – but didn’t

By the time we got down off the mountain, I was spewing “crazy talk” about doing it again in 2009 but with the right gearing. The Event Director, Mary Power, told me these mountains get in your blood and you want to come back every year. I didn’t believe her.

So in 2009, I planned to return to Newton’s Revenge with better gearing. But my training was interrupted due to a broken wrist. Mary asked if I could slide to the sold-out MWARBH in August. I agreed but then got a cancer diagnosis. At first I canceled my plans to go to Mt. Washington but then — I got permission from my doctor to delay cancer treatment and raced MWARBH in 2009.

Crossing the finish line in 2009

And that should have been it. It was so damn hard in 2008 and I went back in 2009 and improved my time by 10 minutes.

Training for the 2009 MWARBH was my only break from cancer. I was able to lose myself in my riding and forget about cancer. I knew as I was riding the mountain in 2009 that my recovery goal for 2010 would be to return cancer-free. And I did.

My third time up the Rock Pile – 2010

[Generally, I wore a different kit every year which, if nothing else, makes it easier to identify the year. However, I wore the same kit in two successive years. In 2009 I wore the Amgen Tour of California BREAKAWAY FROM CANCER jersey. It was a leader jersey awarded daily to the “most courageous rider” instead of the traditional “most aggressive rider.” But the message meant so much to me in my cancer battle that I bought it and wore it. And when I returned cancer-free in 2010, I wore it again. The difference in the photos is in 2009 I wore black shoes and black socks while in 2010 I wore white shoes and white socks. There was not a message or hidden meaning by the colors.]

That should have been it. But my cleats got clogged with sand and I couldn’t clip in. I put in a bad time. That was not a way to end. So in 2011, I returned. Each year my time got better so I decided to go back and better my time. Then I had my worst time ever. And I couldn’t end on that note so I went back in 2012.

Approaching the finish line resigned with a crappy time – 2011 MWARBH

It was in 2012 that the Gubinski family gave me a ride down. When we reached the bottom they asked if I would come back in 2013 if they did. And I agreed. Luca and Alexa killed it.

Six-Mile Curve – 2011

And 2013 would have ended it but Luca and Alex’s dad, Vic, said he planned to ride in 2014. So I signed up again.

At the finish 2012. Photo credit: Vic Gubnisnki

Of course, all three beat me. Alexa was her age group winner and second overall. But that was it. And with that, in 2014, I retired for good after seven consecutive races.

The 22% finishing grade at Mt. Washington – 2013

Multiple winner, Phil Gaimon, asked me to return in 2017 when he won again, but I don’t think I could have. I weighed too much and had developed too many knee problems. I stayed retired.

Almost to the top – MWARBH 2014

Driven by weight loss in 2020, I started thinking about returning someday. The 2020 event was canceled and the 2021 event opened but was greatly reduced in size. The emails stated that the tiered registration would be

  1. Those who have completed 10 or more races
  2. Those who have completed 5 or more races
  3. Those who registered last year but were canceled 
  4. Open

The organizers did not think it would get to open registration this year. I don’t know if it did.

At the same time, I had some scary cardiac issues. I passed my tests and then got my cardiologist’s approval to race up a mountain.

The email came with a short registration window. I mentioned to my wife that I’d like a new MWARBH t-shirt. When she asked where you get one I told her you had to race up this mountain. 

So in 2021, I returned. I came out of retirement. My trusted Trek Pilot was on the carbon fiber scrap heap. I rode my Trek Checkpoint AL5. That is an aluminum bike. It may as well have been steel. It seemed heavy. I recorded my worst time ever. And I did not get a new T-shirt.

The Summit – MWARBH – 2021

And I couldn’t retire on that note. I pulled my Pilot back from the scrap heap. We got the bike ready to roll. And so yesterday, I did a thing.


It was my ninth climb of the Rockpile. Despite a possible Mt. Washington Hall of Fame for riders who completed 10, this may have satisfied me enough. I can just say, I did a thing.

I have no plans for future hillclimbs.

But next year they are planning a special event for the 50th anniversary. 🙂

Chickens on the Loose! – MWARBH 2022


This is the hardest hill climb in America. Change my mind.

Last year I sucked. It was a “comeback” after seven years off and it was awful. I could not end my years of mediocrity on that sour note.

The drive out to the MWARBH on White Mountain Highway.
My stomach always starts to churn when I see Mt. Washington out in the distance.

In 2020 my Trek Pilot had a broken chain stay and was basically totaled by the warranty department at Trek. It was my climbing bike for seven previous races, 2008-2014. So last year I rode its replacement, my aluminum Trek Checkpoint gravel bike. It was heavy, and although it may have matched the gearing of the Pilot, it didn’t feel that way. Actually, it didn’t match the gearing exactly either.

Pre-ride warm-ups are also important

After hanging in my garage for two years and destined for the landfill, I decided I would repair the Pilot. Sure, the cost may have been more than the bike was worth but it has been a special bike to me. I sent the frame to Ruckus Composites in Portland, Oregon, and then had Tom Szeide at the Bike Lane in Reston, restore it to its original parts. And I signed up for the Hillclimb. Again.

I got my bike back and everything was on plan but then an awful thing happened. I stepped on the scales. Actually, that wasn’t awful. What was awful was looking down at the scales. It was June 1. And I weighed 200 pounds.

Early morning at the base of MWARBH

I don’t know what happened. I had been so diligent about watching my weight since I lost 50 pounds in 2020. But I felt so good that I quit watching believing that a change in lifestyle meant I would never gain weight again. And apparently, I was gaining. Well, not apparently, I had gained back much of the weight.

The event tents at the MWARBH

There was no way I could race this climb as a Clydesdale. I had two months to lose 30 pounds. I wasn’t just in the Clydesdale category. If they had a plus I was Clydesdale+

And I did. It wasn’t easy and many may suggest that it was too much weight to lose in too short of time. But damn, am I proud of myself.

View from the parking lot at the Glen House

Ashley and Bryan agreed to come to Mt. Washington with me. Ashley first made the trip with me in 2007 when the race was canceled. Then she and Bryan came with me in 2008. And she came again in 2014. So this was her fourth trip to the mountain. But I really wanted my granddaughters there. There’s something very special about a grandfather being proud of his granddaughters and hopefully, granddaughters being proud of their grandfather.

After looking at our options we settled on Ashley and Bryan driving their Kia Telluride. I put my Yakima roof rack on their car. I would have preferred to drive my car but my Ford Transit Connect does not have side rails that support my Yakima rack. I had to hurry to REI and buy 56″ crossbars since the 48″ bars I used on my RAV4 were a little short.

Installing new crossbars

I will say there is something special about a bike on the roof of a car. I love the look but normally prefer to keep the bike inside the car. We just didn’t have enough room for a party of five plus a bike in either of our cars.

Ready for New Hampshire

The MWARBH requires you to have a ride down. To encourage carpooling they waive the toll road fee for the vehicle and driver if you take two riders down the mountain. So I logged into a special site the MWARBH had created and posted that we had a spot. Bruce McDonald from Whitestown, Indiana, clicked on our carpool and added himself.

MWARBH Ride Down Match List

Bruce and I exchanged a couple of text messages hoping to meet at registration yesterday but our paths would not cross. Instead, we met today at 7:15 am in the registration tent. This would be his tenth ride up the mountain. I knew I would like him because when we met he was wearing a Steelers knit cap.

With two rider tickets in hand, Ashley and Bryan sat in the line of cars waiting to go up to the summit. All along, the race announcer was making comments that anyone still in the parking area is late, seemingly oblivious that the line was the queue and it wasn’t moving because they were collecting passenger tolls at the booth.

Riders (mostly) during the singing of the National Anthem

Unlike prior years, I decided not to go out and ride on White Mountain Highway as a warmup ride. I don’t think I would benefit from a pre-race ride of 2-4 miles. Instead, I stayed in the parking area. I was riding in the grass when Phil Gaimon rode by and called out my name. It’s pretty impressive when the race favorite knows your name and gives you a shout out.

First Wave of Riders – Phil Gaimon is closest to the camera in the front row

After watching the first two waves depart, in five-minute increments, I went across the bridge and the White Mountain Highway up to the parking lot of the Glen House. I wouldn’t call this a warm-up as much as simply pedaling off nervous energy. It was easier pedaling than just sitting around.

No longer says there is a mile section of dirt road

It was 8:51 when I left the parking lot and coasted downhill to the bridge and starting line. I started last in the last wave. The start cannon went off at 8:55.

Wave 2 racing past the Toll Booth

It was a warm day and I quickly was sweating profusely. I settled into my rhythm if such a thing existed. Perhaps if the road maintained a 12% grade a rhythm could be found. But it is more of an undulating climb usually between 10-15%.

Climbing on the lower section of MWARBH – Steeper (much) than it looks.

Quickly, those who were going to go faster went ahead on the flat section by the toll house which lasts about 250 meters. I was ahead of a few. Having started last and passed some riders, once we started climbing there weren’t going to be many to come past me.

Warm up at the Glen House

I started catching some from our wave as I went farther up the road. One guy had pulled over and was throwing up. I thought about him around Mile Six because a medical “Gator” when by headed to the summit with a bike on the back, and presumably, a rider inside. If you can’t continue and you’ve climbed even a mile or two, they will probably take you up to meet your ride because they won’t let you ride down.

There were a number of riders paperboying on the climb which was unsafe and annoying. One rider swung wide then turned back towards me and almost t-boned me. That would not have been cool.

Even with sweaty hands, I was able to take a few pictures. Very few.

I took two bottles of electrolytes. One pack of energy chews. And one bottle of the Hot Shot (to prevent cramping). I went through them all by Mile 4. It was warm if not hot and by Mile 3 a cooler breeze was moving in through the tree line. I actually welcomed a headwind if it was cool.

My live segments on Strava showed I was on pace for 1:58. That’s 12 minutes off what I was doing 12 years ago so I guess I was losing a minute per year. I had hoped to break two hours and certainly beat last year’s time of 2:05. I maintained that pace for the entire climb and would come in about 1:58.

Around Mile 6.5, I shifted and was quickly pedaling nothing. The chain had dropped and without forward momentum, you go backward. Quickly. I started to fall over and was able to quickly grab the brakes. Somehow I was able to unclip and put a foot down preventing me from falling hard on the granite.

The pros and Top Notch riders lined up at the start at MWARBH

I took my bike and stepped off the road onto some rocks and sandy soil. This part is way above the tree line. The chain was off the rear derailleur between the cassette and the spokes. I tried manually putting it in place and turned the cranks by hand. It came off again. I lost two minutes getting it back in place. To get restarted on the 15% grade I walked my bike to the other side and then clipped in by rolling it across the road before turning up the mountain. I glanced at my Wahoo and saw my new ETA was around 2:01. Well, I wouldn’t beat two hours but still would be better than last year.

Two minutes and eight seconds lost to a dropped chain. Plus momentum.

That wasn’t the only mechanical I had today. Early in the ride, I noticed my right cleat was loose. I wondered what would happen if the whole shoe fell apart. Of course, that wouldn’t happen but the cleat could fall off and the ride would be over. It held together enough but clearly, I was losing some power because of it.

Mile 7 – Yes, I took this while climbing

Back on course my quadriceps really hurt. They weren’t yet to the point of a twinge where I knew that cramping was coming. But they were hurting. I needed to alter my pace towards the finish but was afraid to shift. I found my gear and was afraid to shift from it.

I came to the finishing straight and Bruce was on the left side. My first thought was he must have been here a while as he went off in the first group. He ran with me and pointed out the chickens (my family). I waved to them as I went by.

Chickens on the course

The finishing climb is a beast. Twenty-two percent. Unlike 2008 when I knew I’d fall over (but didn’t) I just said the pain is temporary. I heard my name called along with “Woodbridge, Virginia and Rooster Racing.” I was home. I made it.

Made it

Across the finish line, two volunteers asked if I needed help. I didn’t. A young girl handed me a medal. Before COVID they would put the medal over your head. Today it was an outstretched arm. Another volunteer gave me a blanket. At 62° it was too warm to need a blanket. I handed it to Bryan.

This was a big relief to me. There are different people running the event in the past as the rider guide, which used to be a church bulletin, said there would be medals for the top three age group finishers. I’m not much into participation medals except for this event. Everyone who finishes deserves a medal. I didn’t know if I would get a medal or blanket. I am so glad I got both.

I spotted the Mount Washington Summit sign at the true summit. I wanted a family photo. There’s no real trail there – just big rocks. And I needed help on some of the rocks because my quads had no power left in them. The line for a summit photo was probably 45 minutes. And when we were finished with our photos they were just starting to open the auto road to go back down.

Bruce joined us for the ride down. As an aside he said he used to be a golf pro. And he and Bryan instantly connected. And started making plans for next year.

Three of the parking lots at the summit

At the base lot at the Auto Road, we parked and went to check out the activities. I changed out of the completely soaked kit in the porta-john then went to pick up my Hart’s Turkey Farm dinner. A staple of this event for years has been the community Hart’s Turkey Dinner. Held in the big tent, it featured a couple of slices of turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, and dessert. I bought extra meal tickets for my crew in the past as we all enjoyed it.

In 2020 the event was canceled. Last year it came back but without the turkey dinner. This year it was back in a limited form. I thought the dinner was to go but the tent was set up with lots of seating and people were eating in the tent. A group was playing on stage and the podiums were set up to award places to the fast people.

I picked up my lunch. It had a small turkey sandwich that did not have much turkey on it. The bun was a standard hamburger roll. There looked to be a side of salsa (I did not try it). There was an apple and a brownie. The drinks were from a refrigerator and were Pepsi products. I had a beer ticket that I gave to Bryan to sample.

I found Phil Gaimon and he introduced me to Jeremy Powers. Jeremy is “Mr. Whoop” and immediately fixed my Whoop band as I was wearing it wrong. Phil did a quick interview with me.

Phil and I met in 2009. His memory of that day and my memory of that day differ greatly although he is probably correct. I had gone to the mountain with the permission of Dr. Hrant Semerjian to delay my cancer treatment. Phil remembers me telling him that I didn’t think I would be back in 2010 because, you know, cancer.

Phil and Barry

Did I say that? Maybe. Cancer makes you think about your immortality and it makes you feel like you’re dying. I was in a dark place when I was diagnosed and I don’t remember what I told people. But I may have said that.

I said goodbye to Phil and Jeremy and we headed out toward our destination of New London, Connecticut. My ninth MWARBH was now behind me.

Phil and Jeremy chilling the legs in the Peabody River

There was a race and what a race. Phil Gaimon took a Strava KOM but not a course record because Strava did not exist in the doping era. He won by seven seconds over Erik Levinsohn. That may have been the closest finish ever.

Bruce McDonald and Barry looking for the chickens

Courtney Nelson won the women’s division.

My data show that I lost two minutes and eight seconds due to the dropped chain. Realistically, it was closer to four minutes. The 2:08 was downtime but I had to get going on a very steep incline. And I had lost the momentum I had.

After the race

I was elated that I made my ninth climb but disappointed I didn’t do better. When I finally looked at the results I see I still had better times than 80 riders. The dropped chain cost me as many as 13 places. The loose cleat probably cost that and more due to the loss of power.

Looks like I finished 303 out of 383 finishers. Since we started in waves and I was in the last (6th) wave, it never felt like I was ahead of 80 riders.

At the top, we met a unicyclist. From the 703 no less (Falls Church). I have been beaten by them before. But with no people running the race they did not put the unicyclist in the last wave but was in his age group. So I never saw him before or during the race. Only our timing shows that my time was better. Not bragging. It was just interesting to note.

I was disappointed that there were no event posters for the riders this year. I have a poster from every rave I’ve done. Until this year. I was told they will have them next year.

Hi Chickens!!! MWARBH

The event photographer, Joe Viger, does a great job. They had some killer shots of me taken last year from the top of the last climb looking down the 22% ramp. This year they captured me with my chickens, so that was cool – but I am smiling instead of popping all my veins.

DISTANCE: 7.9 miles
WEIGHT: 173 pounds (est.)



I’ve got some thinking to do after this one.

The hill climb in 2014 was my last one. I mean, my last one ever. What got me to the top that day was thinking that would be the last time I ever raced on this mountain.

Each year I receive an invitation from the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb to sign up. And each year I ignore it. But having lost 40+ pounds last year I felt stronger and faster than I have been in years. I was feeling it.

The race did not take place last year and this year they were hopeful it could with a reduced sized field. It would be without the big tent and podium. No spectators. No medals. And the conditions seemed to change as the date came closer. I wasn’t 100% sure I would travel to New England until I left on Wednesday.

Mt. Washington Auto Road – the day before the race

I did not have a ride down which is required so I posted on a Facebook page for either a ride down or a driver (of my car) up. Samantha sent me a text and we were all set.

I went to registration at 4:00 p.m. yesterday then set up my bike with the number plate (#218), helmet stickers, and timing chip. I put the bib on my jersey, It was the most prepared I have ever been for an event. I was feeling it.

I was wearing my bright red Roosters Racing t-shirt and a guy saw that and asked if we (Roosters) were based in San Diego. I told him we could be. It turned out that he did a ride with Jim Ray (“Jambo”) a few years ago.

Notice the photo of Phil Gaimon in the Number Four

Samantha and Troy showed up along with Duncan, their dog. I gave Sam a bag of clothes for the summit along with my rider ticket so they could drive to the summit. I then headed back to North Conway for dinner and an early night, although it wasn’t that early.

I was up at 5:30 a.m. and got breakfast at the Hampton Inn & Suites. I drove out to the Auto Road and arrived by 7:15. I talked to the driver of the car beside mine, Jon, until Sam arrived.

Mt Washington from Pinkham Notch Road (Hwy 16)
The summit is straight ahead where the cloud meets the mountain.

Samantha found me and took my phone because I asked her to take some photos at the top. Looking at my starting time (8:50), I told her that I hoped to be there around 10:30. I would be way off.

I was expecting the temperature to be chilly at the start although I had not checked the weather. No arm warmers were necessary. My warmup was a ride out on Hwy 16. I started towards Wildcat ski station. When I reached 1.5 miles I turned around. I felt good but didn’t want to put unnecessary climbing in my legs before the race. I knew with three miles (out and back) that my total today would be around 11 miles. That would be enough.

It was fun chatting with other riders today, first at Glen House and then in the queue for the race. One guy said he had ridden this “35 or 40 times,” although some of those were unsanctioned in the 80s. Another guy wore a Stelvio jersey and we talked about Passo Stelvio. Another wore a green MWARBH jersey similar to the one I have but it appeared to be without a date. And he said he thought they used the design twice. I saw a guy on an Elliptigo – which is basically an elliptical machine on two wheels. It did not look like he had any super low gear and the event photos show him walking. Assume he made it but probably more walking than elliptical machine.

Bernie Ryan
He did a ride with Jambo a few years ago

For the first time, at the start of the race, I was in front of the bridge. Usually, I was on but most often, behind the bridge. I was probably in the third or fourth row although we were all loosely scattered. Our pre-race communications stated that masks would be worn at the start and at the finish. I did not see a single mask all day.

The cannon went off. One guy remarked “I hate that” (loud sound). We rolled out on the only flat section past the toll station. No one in our last group appeared to sprint to the hill about 200 meters away. In fact, I coasted.

Once on the climb, it was a pretty quick grouping. Some riders went to the front. Some stayed way behind. I was near the front but made no effort to stay with them. More or less I was in “no man’s land” the entire race. I do not recall anyone from behind after the first couple hundred yards catching and passing me.

Jersey ready to go

I came in hoping for a PR today. I weighed less than I ever did going up the mountain (unless in 2009 I was at 175). With Strava Live Segments I was getting live feedback. Almost immediately I was 10 seconds down. I thought that might be due to coasting on the flat section. Then I was 20 seconds down. And it was growing. I was not keeping pace with the old me – the former me. Although it was early in the race I knew that was a bigger problem. I would not be gaining that time back.

It was hot. My Wahoo was showing 85º which felt to be accurate. I was sweating profusely. And those are the days I have problems with cramping. I hadn’t thought to prepare for dehydration other than I told one rider at the start that the heat made the decision on how much water to bring easy – both bottles or as much as you can carry.

MWARBH Dirt Section
Source: Phil Gaimon’s Worst Retirement Ever (YouTube), 2017
This is where I crashed in 2008

Some, many, or most of the yellow group were already up the road. Still ahead were pink and green as well as the blue and red groups, each five minutes ahead of the other. I caught a couple of greens and a couple of pinks. That’s hard to imagine since I rode so poorly.

I was truly by myself. I must have been gaining (slowly) on some even slower riders because I thought the visual of a couple of them on a crest was beautiful. I thought maybe I should have my phone/camera although not sure if I could handle it while climbing.

MWARBH Dirt Section
Source: Phil Gaimon’s Worst Retirement Ever (YouTube), 2017

I had taken a drink and altered my pace slightly to replace the bottle in the cage. And I felt a twinge in the hamstring. I knew then I was dehydrating and cramping. It was also when I saw the only photographer on course. I needed to switch bottles and held the empty one by my teeth while I reached down and moved the full one to the front cage. The photographer caught me with a bottle in my teeth. There was nothing I could have done other than take my empty bottle and roll it towards him. I didn’t. I’m no pro. I just let him snap away. I saw the picture. It wasn’t pretty.

Another view of the last curve – MWARBH 2021

Around the five-mile mark, I turned the corner and could see a long stretch of dirt ahead. And I could see a number of riders. It wasn’t so much that I caught anyone, it’s just that I could see maybe a quarter of a mile up the road, the only time all day I could do this. I focused on two riders who looked to be pushing their bikes. It must have taken me 12-15 minutes to catch and pass them. And they were pushing their bikes. I even told them it took me 12-15 minutes – they were walking about as fast as I was riding.

MWARBH Dirt Section
Source: Phil Gaimon’s Worst Retirement Ever (YouTube), 2017
This is near the beginning of the dirt section

At the six-mile curve, I turned the corner and thought that sure is steep. I think it’s 18%. I was expecting a photographer here but there wasn’t one. But the road was steep and the surface was quite hard, almost like granite. Rough granite to be sure.

Phil Gaimon – This appears to be Six-Mile Curve
Source: Phil Gaimon’s Worst Retirement Ever (YouTube), 2017

Then I heard the train. Damn! “We’re late,” I told one rider as I was passing him. In the past, I always ended with the train in the station. It sure makes for a nice photo. But the train was on schedule and I was not. It left the station before I arrived.

In the last mile, I must have passed 6-8 riders. I did not get passed by anyone. The last mile seemed easy and that is relative, of course. But fighting cramps, it was easier in this section to find the sweet spot and keep going.

Steve Liming, 68, Scottsdale, Arizona
Finish by Walking. But he made it.

I saw the final climb to the finish line. I was alone and was greeted by lots of cheers. “You’re doing great!” (I knew better – but anyone who can climb this, well, they deserve cheers). I’ve been up this seven times before so I knew I could do it again. I would have told you that I stood “out of the saddle” until the last 20 yards but the photos tell a different story – the truth.

It gets steep here (22%) – MWARBH 2021
Source: Joe Viger Photography

At the top, Sam was on the inside corner with my phone. I was both disgusted at my performance and wanted a good photo op. So I smiled for my camera (but not for the race photographer).

I rolled across the finish line. Once clear by 10 meters or so there was a stopping area. I put a foot down but couldn’t move. I knew if I swung my leg over the top tube that I would cramp severely. I leaned down on the handlebars, careful not to call it slumping. A volunteer came over and put a blanket on me. Although I was soaked, I did not need it. It was 57º at the summit with a gentle breeze (10 mph). Another volunteer, or maybe the same person, brought me my medal and said she was going to just hang it on my bike, apparently thinking I was too weak to lift my head. I took what seemed like a long time but was probably no more than two, maybe three, minutes to catch my breath and get off the bike.

Last corner and 15 meters of climbing left – MWARBH 2021
Source: Joe Viger Photography

Sam brought my phone to me and then encouraged me to stand in the line on the hillside to get a photo at the summit sign. That took a while but she was waiting down by the finish line. We walked down the many steps to the lower parking lot. I loaded my bike next to that of Jen Murphy. I was most worried about the drive down – for cramps.

Eighth time up the mountain – MWARBH 2021

I was OK riding in the car. We pulled into the parking area. I opened the door in the Tesla and stood up. Then it hit me. A cramp in the left hamstring and buttocks. It hurt so bad. I tried to find a position to relieve it but finally collapsed to the grass. I was only down for about 60 seconds or so when the cramp passed. Sam helped me up and Jen gave me some electrolytes.

I was able to unload the bike and put it in the car. I was still in my sweaty bib shorts and was able to change out of them before the drive home. I just wanted to avoid cramping on the drive.

Almost to the finish

Actually, once I settled in I don’t think anyone passed me after Mile 3. But no one started after our group and all the stronger riders were already up the road.

I saw many paperboying the climb. I did not intentionally but there were times my wheel just seemed to changed directions. At times I had a hard time holding a straight line. But it was a matter of a few feet, not back and forth across the road.

I thanked every volunteer on course on the climb. It seemed at each mile marker there was a volunteer with a clipboard checking off each race number.

I don’t have good heartrate data since I did a 3-mile warmup ride and it is included in the data file. If I would do this again I need to just have a file for this climb. Maybe for RideWithGPS I will split the file and get a better look but keep it the same in Strava.

Maybe because of the cramping it was the second most tired I was at the finish. Or third. First was 2008 when I went up in regular gearing. The second may have been 2009 (PR) but I don’t remember being exhausted as much as I couldn’t unclip. And then today.

Barry, Sam Shipman, Troy

The original name of this blog was IBikedMtWashington. I guess it should have been IClimbedMtWashington except there are lots of hikers who also climb Mt. Washington. And I met a few of them today.

I was pleased they had the Polartek blankets at the summit. However, unlike years 2007-2014, they did not have the MWARBH and the Year on them.

Weight: 175 lbs*


I was sad that I did not have my trusty Trek Pilot. Instead, I rode my 2021 Trek Checkpoint Gravel Bike. It is aluminum which makes it heavier than my Pilot.

It comes stock with a 30/45t front derailleur. And I changed the rear cassette to 11:40 giving me a 30:40 climbing ratio.

I put the Domane’s lighter-weight front wheel on the bike. The weight of the bike is 22.42 pounds.


When I first came to the mountain in 2007 matching lone riders with drivers was easy. Or easier. The event came with a pasta dinner at registration and there was an area for drivers without riders (offering rides) and cyclists needing a ride. Sometime around 2010 the pasta dinner was replaced by a coupon good for a meal at a local restaurant and the matching process went online. There was no food coupon this year.

*I really don’t know about this weight. I had lost 40+ pounds through the end of 2020. I was religiously weighing in every day but then settled into a lifestyle where I felt comfortable. Whereas I may have stepped on the scale occasionally, I no longer recorded it. My last recorded weight was on March 25, 2021, weighing in at 168 pounds. I’m guessing I weighed 175 but maybe I was 180 or 185. But that was a good guess. I really wish I had been recording my weight since my first attempt in 2007.

Didn’t Want to Do It


Each year it seems harder to bring myself to New Hampshire to ride this mountain. But it seems to be more about the 1,400-mile drive (round trip) than the ride up the mountain. And this year I wasn’t “feeling it.”

Rest Area on I-91 near Brattleboro, Vermont

I was surprised when earlier this week my daughter, Ashley, asked me when I was going and if I needed a driver. I hadn’t made any gearing adjustments to my bike and was planning to call it a career at six successful hill climbs.

Rest area on I-91 near Brattleboro, Vermont

But with Ashley volunteering, if not wanting to go, I decided to go. Besides, I would see the Gubinski family again.

Mount Washington Hotel (we did not stay there)

Two years ago was to be my last time racing this mountain. I needed a ride down and found the Gubinski family, or they found me. But every rider needed a driver and no vehicles could go to the summit that Saturday morning unless they were bringing a cyclist back down the mountain. It was a marriage of convenience. Lucas and Alexa were hiking to the summit and their parents, Vic and Alison, were to drive up and meet them – as long as they were bringing a rider back down. And thus we met.

Near Crawford Notch, NH (Credit: Ashley Snow)

Navigating here yesterday, and anticipating it would be the last time, I decided to try a different approach to North Conway. We came up I-91 so we could stop at our favorite rest stop in Vermont.  Then we followed US 302 and came in on the other side of the mountain through Crawford Notch, a drive neither of us had done before.

Near Crawford Notch, NH (Credit: Ashley Snow)

I never saw a moose before until Ashley came with me in 2007. The race was canceled that year but she was happy – she saw a moose. She came with me again in 2008 and, again, we saw a moose. Ashley hasn’t been with me since 2008 and I haven’t seen another moose. Yesterday, we saw a moose. When I told my friends, the Family Gubinski about her “Moose Whispering” skill, they didn’t believe it – they always wanted to see a moose. So we left registration at the same time. We found another moose.

This morning I was hoping the race would be canceled. It would be appropriate bookends that Ashley was with me for my first (2007) and last (2014) races and both were canceled. The weather did not look great. When I checked before leaving the hotel it was 37 degrees at the summit with winds at 44 mph – wind chill was 23 degrees.

Summit Conditions day of race

On the other hand, were the Gubinski twins, Alexa and Lucas. I had met them two years ago when they hiked to the top of the mountain. They loved watching the race and decided to come back – as racers. And they talked me into coming back last year. And this year. And today they were excited and ready to go. Alexa had taken brakes off her bike, weighed her water bottles to take the lightest ONE, and was going up without a spare tube or tool kit. She is extreme!

2006 Trek Pilot (with Blue Madone fork)

Before coming here I had purchased a larger cassette (32 tooth) to put on my bike but hadn’t, thinking I would return it unopened for a refund (if the race was canceled). This would make the bike easier to pedal. I had my mechanics change the front ring from a 30 to a 24 but last year ran a 24:28. The 24:32 would be better.

Riders getting ready at the start (Purple – Group 4)

Ashley went up the mountain. The starter gun (actually was a small cannon) went off for the first wave of pro and “Top Notch” riders. I decided I better put the cassette on my bike. I was in the fifth and last group to start, 20 minutes behind.

No hitchhiking or bicycles

This took me back to my short-lived Cub Scout career when I was working on building a plane to fly on a wire. I waited until the last minute to attach the propeller. At the race, my plane won its first two heats, easily in fact. In the third, the propeller came loose and fell off because the glue had not set yet. This was a life lesson that should have taught me preparation. It did not.

Some riders in my wave. The unicyclist and young girl beat me.

My quick change of cassettes did not go as expected. I had a new lighter wheel from my Trek Domane which I planned to switch to my climbing bike. It has an 11-speed cassette. My mechanic assured me the wheel would fit, and I guess it did, but it did not like the new 10-speed cassette. I couldn’t get the cassette fully tightened.

It could have been operator error but the second group was now headed up the mountain. (Just three groups left to go.) I took the last three gear cluster from the 10-speed and replaced the last three gear cluster from the 11-speed and tightened it. Now I was running an 11-speed cluster on my 10-speed bike/derailleur. This, my friends, is not a good combination. That 10-speed cluster is not meant for the 11-speed hub and I didn’t even bother to test it. I failed Cub Scouts too.

Unidentified rider climbing toward the summit

I was sitting in a field with two wheels, neither of which was working with my bike, and less than 10 minutes to go. The gears would have to be. I lined up at the back of the last group, which was also the largest group. I started dead last (which I always do). There were two unicyclists ahead of me. The cannon sounded. I didn’t move. The group had to space out first as they took off.

Vic Gubinski nearing the finish (Credit: Alison Gubinski)

My gears seemed to work only for the first three but anything beyond that and they were skipping. That cluster of three gears was molded as one whereas the rest were individually added with a washer. Those other gears would be problematic except I would never get to them. I could have ridden a single-speed up the mountain as long as it had 24:32 gearing.

Lucas, Alexa, Barry (Credit: Alsion Gubinski)

The weather was warm, around 70º (21ºC), at the base, and I, along with most racers, wore a short sleeve jersey. No jacket. No arm warmers.

Jill Landman, Geoff Hamilton – I don’t know them – they just passed by me and I took their picture

The lower section (first two miles) is just beautiful. It’s just a 12% grade road headed up through a deep forest. At 1.5 miles I passed the first of a few people pushing their bikes. In the past, this was mentally deflating but not today. I kept going not even thinking about them.

Lucas Gubinski nears the summit (Credit: Alison Gubinski)

Around Mile Three or Mile Four it got cold. Real cold. Real fast. I sort of envied those riders who had jackets or arm warmers. The wind was strong – at times it was a headwind.

Seven times – dedicated to Alex Shepherd

I came to Mile Four realizing it was more than halfway. I wasn’t working that hard. I felt good. I passed a red bib rider (first group). Plenty of yellow (second), blue (third), and purple (fourth) too. Although I had been passed earlier by both unicyclists who were racing (after I passed them at the beginning), I overtook them too.

Thumbs Up – Barry nears the summit

The top of the mountain was cold – my hands were starting to feel it a little, but otherwise, I was OK. I came to the final 22% grade and saw the Gubinski family cheering for me. I smiled. I waved. I gave thumbs up. I slowed down.

Pain locker at Mile 5

I finally shifted into my lowest gear (32t). I made a big deal about changing that cassette and never once used the lowest gear. So I made sure to get my money’s worth. I climbed the 22% grade and looked at the time – 1:48. Yuck. Same as always.

Mt. Washington Cog Railroad

I was surprised. I thought I had done better. It’s about power to weight (ratio) and even though my weight is up this summer I felt good. This was the first hill climb where the “Quit Monster” didn’t hound me. Thoughts of Jake The Hero Grecco, Alex Shepherd, and Jamie Roberts carried me to the top. Every previous climb here I have had to fight not to quit or stop. Today was cool. Just climb. And since I didn’t use the easiest gear, I thought I might be going better than last year. I guess the wind or maybe cold slowed me down. Ah, it didn’t matter.

I don’t have power data but I do have heart rate data for my seven climbs:

2014 – 161.1/176 bpm
2013 – 161.8/173
2012 – 160.8/178
2011 – 153/173
2010 – 156/176
2009 – 158/177
2008 – 156/176

Alexa Gubinski powers to the finish (Credit: Alison Gubinski)

Each year I hit my max on the final climb. The last three years my average has been 161; before that, it was 156. I have no idea what all this means except I’m alive.


As far as perceived effort, my climb in 2008 was a 10. I want to think today’s effort was a 6, which is probably not what one wants to do in a race. But twice I almost stopped not to rest but to take a picture. The only reason I didn’t was it is so hard to get started on a 12% (or higher) grade.

Gubinski Family

Ashley found me, we took some pictures (seven times up the mountain!) and I found the Gubinski Family. Alexa came in at 1:20:30 and, as she would find out later, finished 5th in the Women’s Division. Lucas did well too, coming in under 1:15.

At the bottom, we enjoyed a great turkey dinner and said goodbye to our friends. I didn’t want to make this trip this year but am glad I did. Although it’s good to retire with seven straight climbs, I do have that new cassette, only used once (and with a low gear almost not used at all). Any takers?

Four finishers. Apparently I need coffee.

As for real racers, John Kronborg Ebsen beat Cameron Cogburn (and 516 others) to win in 52:53. Marti Shea won for the fourth time in 1:06:01.

“Shea hoped to finish the climb in under 65 minutes, but the cold and windy weather got in the way of that plan. The temperature was just over 40 degrees and winds about 35 miles per hour for a wind chill factor of 25 degrees when the top riders reached the summit.

“‘Down below, the weather was good,’ said Shea, ‘But around four miles the wind started, and then it was off and on – a side wind, then a head wind. I was losing body temperature. There have been a few races here with conditions like this, but this may have been the worst I’ve seen. Anyway, I’m happy about my fourth win.'”

Race Report Source: Facebook page of Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb
(16 Aug 2014)

My Strava time was 1:46:53. Not competing for anything other than PRs, this is more accurate than the cannon time since I am usually near the end of the group and can lose up to 90 seconds or so at the start. But this is point-to-point and is consistent over time. My PR is 1:42:15. I am, if nothing else, consistent. Consistently bad perhaps, but consistent.

The Big Test Every Year


Six weeks ago I broke my collarbone and immediately tried to withdraw from this event. But I was past the cutoff time and after trying to sell my entry unsuccessfully, it was with great trepidation I decided to go to the mountain. Riding with the collarbone hasn’t been bad the past six weeks but it has prevented me from doing real hill training – not that there’s anything that compares to this mountain.

Riders at the start line (on the bridge). This was the last group to start.

Last year, the Gubinski family gave me a ride down and asked me if I would come back if they signed up. And so I did. Had I not signed the pact it would have been easy to skip this one. But I knew they would be at the mountain.

It was cold at the top

My heart wasn’t in this climb and even as I was driving towards New England on Thursday I often thought of turning around. I didn’t bother with finalizing hotel reservations until Wednesday.

The finish line at the Rockpile

The collarbone is pretty good now. It doesn’t effect me as I ride except occasionally out of the saddle if I twist the wrong way. It does, however, effect my sleep if I turn on my right side. So it’s not perfectly healed but I can do this.

The flags. The blankets. The coats.

But once I contacted the Gubinski family and asked if they still had a place for a rider (to bring down after the race) I felt more energized. We met yesterday at registration and were all set. Still, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d race.

The Mt. Washington Cog Railway
This flag was whipping in the wind on the summit

It was a gorgeous day. Sunny and temperatures in the mid 60s at the base. I decided to ride.

A rider near the top

As usual, I started last in the last group, the age 45 and older riders, which was so large it was divided into two groups, by alphabet. I started up the mountain with the usual thoughts. This hurts. Shut Up Legs. Keep the legs moving.

At times I thought about abandoning (aka quitting) but then thought about cancer. I am not a quitter. I will keep going unless I can’t. And even then I would find a way.

One of the nice views from the top. Wildcat Mountain is opposite.

The beauty of this ride is that time wasn’t important. Simply finishing would be a victory because there was no way I thought I’d be here after breaking my collarbone. I heal slowly.

Lucas (165) and Alexa (in black) at the start

I always remember a flat section but never found it. Every time I looked up, which wasn’t often, the road just kept going higher. The dirt section is still the dirt section. At the hairpin turn on dirt I was hit with a pretty vicious headwind. Hard to measure but we were told 40 mph winds.

A finisher’s medal and the bike bumper sticker

Soaked with sweat it was as though someone opened the freezer and turned the fan on high. Turbo high. I tried to get as low as possible while grinding up the dirt section.

I never checked my time. I just kept turning over the pedals. As I came to the final section a man I met at breakfast in the hotel called out “Virginia.” I stood briefly then as I turned the corner to the last 22% grade I stayed seated. Although I had alternated my position throughout the climb I guess it was just time to sit. I looked at the clock and saw 2:05 which was really 1:45 – less the 20 minute difference for starting later than the clock did.

Part of the Auto Road is visible in the left of this photo

My time, always consistent near 1:45, was just a time. I was quietly pleased that I had finished; I had fought off my own inner doubts about not being able to make it.

Within a couple of minutes I began to realize how cold it was. Just 41º (5ºC) and with 30 mph winds, the windchill was 29º (-1.7ºC). As the race organizers tried to cover me with a grey Polartec blanket, it was blown off. Before the woman could retrieve it I asked for a blue one. I have four or five grey ones already. I knew my wife would like blue.
Alison Gubinski found me and had my bag of clothes. I put on my jacket to keep me warm long enough before finding a nice place to change out of my sweat soaked clothes into my dry ones.

The 22% finishing grade at Mt. Washington
Credit: Vic Gubinski

It was a fun day. My friend, Jeremiah Bishop, took third overall. The Gubinski’s, riding, for the first time, all did well; Lucas made Top Notch (sub 1:20) and Alexa got on the podium in her age group. I wish I could take credit for their great results.

Alexa, Barry, Vic, Lucas

It was 1300 miles for an 8-mile race. But it seems to be the big test I face every year. Can I climb Mount Washington? And for this year, the answer was yes. And with a broken collarbone.

Alexa (L), on the podium


My Strava time, which is not official race time (which includes standing on the bridge waiting for others to start after the starting gun has sounded), was 1:44:55, which was my second best time on the climb. I did have a PR for the first 7 km which tells me the wind and the cold may have done me in. Or perhaps a lack of endurance due to the collarbone break.

My Last Hillclimb


This was the last time. Write it down. I don’t ever need to do this again.

On the way to Mount Washington

Although I had registered (and paid) for the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb back in February, as the week got closer I just wasn’t feeling it. With a crappy weather forecast pending, on Wednesday I canceled my three hotel reservations for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Early morning. Parking area filling up.

On Thursday, I reevaluated and decided I would do it after all. I traveled yesterday to New Hampshire. I found a hotel and was on the road by 8:00 a.m. It’s probably not the best way to prepare for a race — no exercise and riding in a car all day long.

Mt Washington in the distant background. Not the tall peak but the one to the left even farther away.

The Hillclimb requires every rider to have a ride down. And I didn’t have one. But that’s part of the charm of this race. Too late to pick up my packet at the Auto Road and meet someone in line willing to give a cyclist a ride down, I depended on an online forum. I posted my request at 7:00 a.m. and hoped that someone would call or text.

The favorites: Marti Shea and Tinker Juarez. Don’t know the others.

Twelve hours later I finally received a reply. I was called by Alexa Gubinski. She offered up her family to drive and I was able to sleep well not worried about my ride down.

Swag. My 2012 T-shirt.

This year was different than the past five years. I didn’t worry about the hillclimb when I slept. It was just another night except for the early wake up call.

The Gubinski Family Nicest. Family. Ever.

I arrived at registration early. Vic and Alison Gubinski and I met and talked for a while, all along while I was delaying them from going up too early and being too deep into the parking lots. It was a last-in-first-out operation. They took my bag of warm clothes and headed up the Auto Road.

Unlike years past, I wasn’t anxious or nervous. I knew the climb. I knew it would hurt. How much — I never remember from year to year. I think the mind prevents us from remembering too much pain.

View from the very back at the start

While my group, the last group, was already queued up, I was still in shorts and tennis shoes. Rather than an extended warm-up ride, I settled for a quick one-mile spin. I got in line with about 30 seconds to go and took my place at the back of the group. I was the last of the last.

My goals remained simple. Finish. Don’t stop. Don’t crash.

This is gonna hurt

I didn’t want to end my ride with a time that was worse than last year’s time but was resigned that time didn’t matter.

The starting gun went off and someone, near the back, asked if that was our group. I laughed. Yea, we weren’t moving. Although it may have taken just 20 seconds or so to roll out, it seemed much longer.

Tinker finished fifth. Credit: Vic Gubinski.

After a couple of hundred yards of flat the climb begins. And never stops. It’s 12% out of the box and just keeps it pegged there. I soon found where I belonged. Having started last I wasn’t in danger of being overtaken by anyone. It was just a matter of passing people.
Eventually, I settled in — almost all of the race was in front of me and the folks I passed were behind me. I was slowly passing some of my green group but also was catching purple (5 minutes ahead), blue (10 min.), and yellow (15 min.).

But the race isn’t about people other people – except for the top 20 or 30 who are actually racing. It’s about you. You and the mountain.

Almost. There.

Whether it’s mile one, two, or six, or every one of my 10,172 pedal strokes — at some point, the body says to quit. Or in my case, almost the entire way. And today was no different.
It’s always easier when everyone is moving even at the same pace. I found it much tougher when I pass people who are stopped or even slumped over their bikes. And I heard the clunking of gears behind me and then a scream of “oh shit!” as someone fell over. Been there.

Mia – The Chalk Monster

Two things kept me going. One was the thought of Jake The Hero Grecco. When I wanted to quit I thought of the fighting spirit of this little boy who kept going. I even called out for a blue butterfly but at this altitude, nothing was taking flight. And I kept thinking that this will be the last time I make this climb and I could not stop.

Looking up at the finish line

The weather was about 70° (21C) at the base but was quickly too hot. As I climbed, especially above the tree line, it got much cooler. At the summit, it was in the low 40s (5C) but with no wind.

Swag. My 2012 T-shirt. MWARBH

As I approached the base of the last 200 yards I saw Vic and heard the rest of the family cheering for me. That was nice. Although I didn’t see it at the time they had chalked my name on the pavement at the finish.

At the finish.

This was the only time that I actually raced. I had felt the presence of a rider coming up behind me and I didn’t want to get caught or passed at the finish. It makes for a bad photo. I lifted the pace and climbed up the 22% grade. I saw the clock and thought it was 2:02 (which was really 1:42) but it must have been 2:07.

As soon as I finished I was met at the top by Vic and his son, Lucas. Since they had my bag of warm clothes I quickly changed out of the jersey which was as full of sweat as any I can recall. I was sweating but with the cold air, the jersey and gloves weren’t wicking so well. It was great to change into dry clothes. Down at the car I was able to shed the shorts too.

Lucas Gubinski and Barry

At first, I thought I had a personal best on the climb but then learned I didn’t. But my best time came when I was about five pounds less which does make a difference. But it doesn’t matter. But it wasn’t my worst time either. It was exactly in the middle.*

Five times up this climb

There is an immense feeling of satisfaction in crossing the finish line. But I’m not so sure that feeling is still greater than the suffering on the way up.

But it probably is.

Photo credits: If I’m in it, Vic Gubinski. But I took the ones at the bottom of the mountain.

EPILOGUE – On February 1, 2013, I received an email from Vic informing me that Alexa, Lucas and he all signed up for this year and asked me to go along. I was so looking forward to Hillclimb retirement. But I’ll go back. This next one will be my last hillclimb.

*Actually, it was my second-best time. Some of this depends on where I am when the starting gun fires. But measured by the Strava segment defined as Mount Washington which is point to point, it was 1:46:48. Not great wasn’t quite as bad as I thought. Or was it?

Swag MWARBH 2012




“The U.S. also has a select group of climbs that are among the most difficult in the world including Onion Valley Road in California, several Hawaiian giants, unique in that they gain up to and beyond 10,000 vertical feet of continuous climbing, and the incomparable Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which may be the toughest of them all.” – The Complete Guide to Climbing (Summerson)

I’m not sure what is next. Each year I did this race it was with a reason. In 2007 (canceled) then 2008 my goal was simply to climb the mountain. I did that but really suffered.

In 2009 I wanted to try it one more time with easier gearing. But I went while battling cancer.

Last year I wanted to go back cancer-free. And I did.

After last year’s ride, I told the event director, Mary Power, that I thought it was my last time up the mountain. She asked why. I told her she did not know how hard it was to drag one’s butt up that mountain. She said not to make that decision right away but wait until February 1. On February 1 I signed up for this year.

As the race got closer I got thinking that this would be it. It definitely would be it if I didn’t improve my time. Each year my time got marginally faster and with riding last month in France, especially climbing the Col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, and Alpe d’Huez, I thought I might get a little bit faster. I resigned myself to the time that when I didn’t improve I would retire from this climb.

Entrance to Mount Washington Auto Road (as you exit)

My time did not improve. In fact, it was my worst time ever, 20 seconds worse than 2008 when I had normal gearing and crashed. At least then I lost at least 3-4 minutes in the crash with getting straightened up and walking 100 yards past a steep dirt section to get going again.

I’m not sure if I can retire when I sucked this bad.

I am trying to make sense of some factors that may have affected my time.

  • I weigh about 10 pounds heavier than last year
  • I did not ride the day before the race
  • Crappy breakfast at the Hampton Inn at 6:00 a.m.
  • Forgot my gels for the race
  • Screwed up the Garmin and had no sense of pace
  • Warmer than usual on the mountain

On the riders’ forum the night before I had met a rider who needed a ride. I told Jennisse Schule that we would meet at the tent at 7:30 a.m. After gathering Jennisse’s belongings, Cheri headed up the mountain and I decided to go for a warm-up ride.

Jennisse Schule

These things I don’t know about. Does it help me or hurt me to do a climb or ride 5-6 miles before this event? I rode seven but they were easy. I think.

It was then I realized I didn’t bring any food. Though tearing open a packet of gel is a difficult task on the bike on this climb, even ingesting one right before the race would have helped.

I was in the last group to go. We left at five-minute intervals. First the reds, then the yellows, followed by blue, purple, then green. I was nearly at the back of the green. Starting dead last. Again.

There was a pretty quick sorting out on the mountain. I seemed to fall in at the back of the split in our group.

It is tough. It is effin tough. The road is steep in the first two miles and the legs hurt. Breathing is heavy and you see riders falling. The mountain teases you to continue. The mind begs you to quit.

By the end of two miles, it seemed that no one was passing me. And I wasn’t passing too many people except for 23 people I saw off their bikes walking or resting. Occasionally I would pass someone who was pedaling.

The dirt section always haunts me since it was here that I crashed in 2008. I tell myself to remain seated so the rear wheel doesn’t spin out but the road seems packed hard enough to allow me to stand in a couple of sections.

Dirt Section (headed down after the race)

At Six-mile Curve the road really turns up. I remembered a sharp and steep curve but not the hill that follows.

The last couple of miles I passed a number of riders. Not quickly, but just slowly clawed my way past them.

Six-Mile Curve

In the second mile, I intended to press the “lap” button on my Garmin to record when I first stood while pedaling. Instead, I unknowingly pressed stop on the GPS unit completely ruining my recording of the race. Damn. I didn’t realize this until one mile later when I tried to check the percent grade of the section I was on and I saw it wasn’t recording.

At first, I was very disappointed in myself but then realized that it left me free to ride without thinking about elapsed time. Just pedal.

I felt pretty good for not having eaten in almost five hours and not having nutrition on the bike. Still, when I reached Mile 7 I checked the time and saw it was already 10:30 or so. I knew I was toast although how bad I wasn’t sure.

I turned the corner to the 22% wall and at first, stood then sat to climb it. I saw the time – 2:11 and about threw up. Although I started 20 minutes last I knew 1:51 was what I did three years ago. Oh well.

Approaching the finish line resigned with a crappy time

I stood one more time. For the camera. Then I crossed the finish line, collected my medal and blanket although I really didn’t need the blanket. The high temperature reached 59°  (15 C) and it seemed almost hot on the summit.

Almost at the top

Cheri parked as second to last car in so we were the second car from the parking lot down the mountain. And first in the Harts Turkey Farms food line.

We weren’t able to stay long at the post-race ceremony because we had to drive to Allentown, Pa. for the night. But the contemplation begins. Can I end my run of Mt. Washington rides with such a bad time? I have until February 1 to make a decision but I think I will be back for one more.

Getting ready for the drive home

And that will be it.




I forgot how friggin hard the mountain can be…

It was August 2006, after knee surgery that I first remember writing that someday I wanted to bike up Mount Washington. In 2007, Ashley and I went to New Hampshire for Newton’s Revenge, one of the two bike races up the mountain. Weather forced the cancellation of the race.

Friday Night Meet & Greet with Peter Salon and Walker Savidge

In 2008 we went back and I made it, albeit with a crash which meant I didn’t make it without stopping, and I was using normal stock gearing on my bike.

The event tent at the MWARBH 2010

I decided I had to go back to make it without crashing or stopping and I would change the gearing. But May 2009, brought its own crash, a broken wrist, an e.Coli infection and a diagnosis of cancer. Yea, it sucked. Ultimately, I was able to ride but promised myself I would return in 2010 as my recovery goal.

Cars entering the Mt. Washington Auto Road

And return I did.

Entrance to Mt. Washington Auto Road

I arrived on Friday morning. I wanted to do a light ride and rolled slowly through North Conway which was congested with tourist traffic. Near the end of town, a couple of riders asked “mind if we jump in?”

Parking lot at the summit

I was surprised to see Walker Savidge and Peter Salon, two riders for the Garmin-Transitions U23 team who had come to Mount Washington for the race. Of course, they were in their full Garmin kits. Made me glad I never bought the full Radio Shack kit to wear. I would have felt so stupid.

Peter, Walker, Barry

They didn’t know the roads so I agreed to take them on a short — 60-minute ride. What fun. I turned into the wind and pulled for five miles. We talked about their gearing, they hadn’t made any changes to their road gears — I knew it was too big for the mountain but hey, who am I to say something? It was one cool experience!

Walker and Peter signing posters.
Walker said it would devalue the poster.

As far as the race, I came to the mountain without a ride down and was determined to find one on the race forum. I contacted Ted Essenfeld who agreed to give me a ride down. I met him at the registration area and sent a bag of warm clothes to the top in his SUV.

Tinker Juarez in the black jersey. He competed in Leadville 100 the previous Saturday, finished in 7:30.
I have no idea how he can still be walking.

At the start line, I was soaking up the moment and ignored warming up, instead, I was walking around taking pictures. The ground was rocky and sandy but I was rejoicing being here and being a survivor.

The pros and Top Notch group queue up for their start.
Walker and Peter had the low numbers but weren’t given any
respect by the other riders.

Although there were four age groups, the largest group was the 45+ and it was so large it was split into two. So we had five starting groups, each separated by five minutes. I was in the last group and lined up at the end of our group. I started dead last.

Cars at the base of the auto road

When the cannon sounded I tried to clip in and found neither foot would clip in. Oh boy. The rocky and sandy ground got in my Speedplay cleats and prevented the springs in my cleats from working.

Race announcer Richard Fries and Mary Power, Race Director — with .

After 100 yards I got the left foot clipped in but couldn’t get the right clipped. It would be easier to pedal a bike with platform pedals and tennis shoes than my Speedplay pedals with road shoes that don’t clip in. When I stood to pedal my right foot would slip off the pedal. And bang my chin.

Start of Top Notch group

At Mile 5 I was catching a woman, Joan Pew from Maine, who asked if someone was running Speedplay shoes and wasn’t clipped in. You could hear it. Props to her to knowing what brand it was. She offered to take a brush from her bag if we both stopped. I knew we couldn’t get going again so I kept going. It was a kind offer though and greatly appreciated. I would ride it out and keep trying to clip in.

Joan Pew. She offered to stop and clean my shoes. 
We would have never got restarted.

The ride up the mountain is 90-100 minutes of willpower. The body says to at least take a break. Indeed, I counted 31 riders who dismounted in front of me and were stopped or walking. One guy was carrying his bike up the mountain rather than ride.

Start of the third group, 35-45 years old – Theodore Essenfeld in white

I forgot how friggin hard the mountain is. I thought there would be some relief after two miles but there wasn’t. It keeps going up at that 12% grade with no breaks.

Two riders on the finishing grade. One was paperboying and would fall over; the other was simply pushing her bike. It is tough.

I crossed the finish line in 1:43 — just two minutes faster than last year. I thought I might have 10 minutes in me, i.e., finish around 1:35. I had ridden almost 3,000 miles this year and been “training” in France. But I’ll take any improvement. I came back cancer-free.

My third time up the Rock Pile

At the summit, I could not find Ted or his wife as she was forced to park in a service area about 200 yards from the top. So I never got into my warm, and dry, clothes. I was stuck in sweaty, nasty, cycling clothes. And a Polartec blanket. That was enough. I had to scrounge to find a ride for me and my bike. I accepted an offer from two different people – one to take my bike and one to drive me down.

Ted Essenfeld. He still owes me a ride down the mountain. Here he has my Trek Travel bag.

I was pleased that I sent up my Trek Travel bag with shoes, warm clothing, food, cell phone (for photos). But with the missed connection at the top, it was all for naught. At the end of the day, I told Mary Power and Kelly Evans, event directors at the Mount Washington Auto Road, that I might not be back next year. Each year gave me a new reason to come back but this year left me fulfilled. Mostly. Oh well, I have six months to think about it (before registration).

NOTE: (1 Aug 2021) – Although Strava was founded in 2009, I certainly was not using it then. But an upload of my data show my point-to-point time was 1:42:15. This is different from the “official” race time which starts at the cannon blast but cannot account for the time waiting on the bridge, dead last, while the front row takes off. It is the best representation for comparison of me to me. This was my best time despite a cleat that would not clip in.

Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

Just standing on Mount Washington’s slopes in New Hampshire, which may be the toughest climb on earth, generates a sense of excitement and a bit of fear as you anticipate its difficulties.The Complete Guide to Climbing (by bike), John Summerson


This is a day that I thought would never come. Ever since I competed in Newton’s Revenge in 2008 I knew that I would be back. In fact, I planned to be back for Newton’s Revenge, the July race, in 2009.

But in May I broke my wrist in a crash and shortly thereafter got sick. I emailed Mary Power, the events director at the Mount Washington Auto Road to tell her I was still coming in July and she graciously offered a place in the August climb. I never envisioned that or I wouldn’t have contacted her. I wasn’t asking for a favor.

The illness continued and ultimately I was diagnosed with cancer. I pulled out of the August race but as the testing and diagnosis continued I made a deal with my doctor that I could ride no matter what. A few weeks would not make a difference in treatment. It would have to be delayed. And so the race was on.

It’s funny how cancer changes things. Last year my goals were simple:

  • Finish
  • Try not to be last
  • Don’t walk but that’s OK if I finish

But now I had performance numbers. So three months ago my goals were simple:

  • Beat last year’s time by 15-20 minutes

But then cancer came. And this year my goals were simple:

  • Finish
  • Try not to be last
  • Don’t walk but that’s OK if I finish

Actually, my new goal was even simpler:

  • Finish

Cancer will not win. I will.

What was to be a test to see if I could improve upon last year’s time simply became a new outlook on the race. I’m glad to be alive and glad to be here.

The view from 6 miles looking back at the starting line

“A few months ago, when I told a friend who once ran to the top of Mount Washington that I planned to enter the cycling race, he offered some advice. You will look for the top of the hill, he said. It is natural. It is human. But it will kill you. Don’t look up, he warned, because the top won’t come.” —, Sept 2004

This was much different than my last two years. In 2007 (07/07/07) my daughter, Ashley, and I came to these mountains. We were grounded for two days due to severe weather at the summit and the race was canceled. But we had a great time here. Last year Ashley and her husband, Bryan, were waiting for me at the summit. That gave me special incentive to finish.

Bryan and Ashley at the Ellis River (2008)

This year I came to the mountain alone. There is peace here in the White Mountains. Ashley and I experienced it a couple of years ago just wading in the cold waters of the Ellis River. It was time I needed to get away from visiting doctors and spending hours online researching the best course of treatment for my cancer. I needed peace and I found it riding in the mountains and, yes, wading in the river again.

Barry wading in the Ellis River – with his bike

There aren’t many words harder to hear than “you’ve got cancer.” Your world just stops and one must find a way to get it going and back on track. I knew my fitness level couldn’t be where I wanted it to be. I actually had an e.Coli infection, possibly for months, leading up to the cancer diagnosis.

My time up the mountain no longer mattered. Just being here was a victory.

I came a few days early just to spend time in the mountains. On Wednesday I hoped to ride a 65-mile loop around the circumference of Mount Washington. Imagine that. Using the roads around Mount Washington, including some dirt roads, it still takes 65 miles to drive around its base. Instead, the weather prevented that and I rode Hurricane Mountain Road instead.

On Thursday I rode out to the Auto Road which was going to be part of my planned 65-mile ride. I met Mary Power and her new assistant, Kelly Evans. Kelly is from Beaver, Pa., near Pittsburgh, which is right across the river from where I went to high school.

Mary Power, Events Director at Mt. Washington Auto Road

It is not the longest climb, the steepest climb, nor the climb with the greatest elevation gain. It is simply the climb that is the steepest for the longest distance. Couple this with above timberline scenery that is unworldly and weather that is unpredictable and you begin to understand Mount Washington’s attraction to cyclist climbers. — New York Cycle Club, 2003

When I checked-in yesterday I met two young men from Seattle, Tommy Jerome and Ryan Burke. Tommy came to ride the mountain and Ryan came as his driver. As we talked over our pasta dinner in a tent, we decided to team up. Ryan would drive up the mountain as our driver and Tommy and I would be the cyclists which would get us up the mountain toll-free. Neither of them had been here before and appreciated any advice, even if it was wrong, that I could give them.

Ryan and Tommy. Tommy finished in 1:22!

There was a race this day. The race announcer made it a point to let everyone know that there was an actual race up the mountain with race tactics. Phil Gaimon, Ned Overend, and Kevin Nicol battled all the way up the mountain before Phil pulled away to win by 16 seconds (54:37). It sounds like Phil pulled away by 50 yards around Mile 5 and Ned could never close it.

Phil finished second to Anthony Colby in the Newton’s Revenge race last summer but came back to win the August MWARBH. Phil rides for Jelly Belly Cycling. Ned is a former mountain bike world champion who at age 53 is, well, just 16 seconds behind one of the best climbers in the country.

For the rest of us, we were competing against the mountain or a personal best. Or in my case, just happy to be here.

With a staggered start time and being in the last group, I wondered how crowded the road might get with 500 riders ahead of me. Not at all since they were all faster. I did worry that I might come upon some slow riders going side to side on the road (paperboying) but never encountered any of that. Just once, in the first mile, did I feel stuck behind riders but simply announced I was coming between two riders. There was no other time that I felt anyone was in the way.

The biggest logistical problem of having 600 riders is parking at the top of the mountain. But there is an incentive to take fewer cars to the top. A car needed a ticket from a rider to gain entrance to the top on Saturday but if they had two tickets the toll was waived. At registration, they have an area set aside for drivers to offer rides down and for riders looking for a ride down. Or, as I did, you can just meet them at the pre-race pasta dinner.

Mt Washington Auto Road

I was worried about coming to the mountain without having a ride down. I shouldn’t have been. I actually connected via the forums with a couple other riders before registration but once I met Tommy and Ryan I decided to connect with them instead. But only after making sure I didn’t mess up the plans for my original group.

At Newton’s Revenge last year I casually milled around and watched each group go before ours then moved in line to the back of our group. At MWARBH we were positioned in our groups five minutes before the Top Notch riders took off. And since my group was 20 minutes behind them, I lost any benefit of a warm up by standing in line at the start line 25 minutes before our race began.

I was in the last group of the five groups to go and was pretty far back but not dead last. There is a dead flat section of 150 yards before the climb begins. We hit the hill and the climb began.

Start line at MWARBH

I do not remember the first two miles being so steep last year although last year I was out of the saddle (standing) within the first 1/2 mile or so. This year I was able to remain seated for the first two miles. I spent many hours on a trainer working on form to be able to do this.

More than once during those first two miles I thought of abandoning. Last year my back hurt and I assumed that climbing 12-15% grades out of the saddle hurt the back. But my back hurt even while seated. Tommy told me how much his back hurt on the ride. And how quickly he came out of the saddle.

In anticipation of the pain, I took a couple of Advil’s and also popped in some Tums (cramping). I didn’t have any problems with cramping and the back pain was minimal, at least compared to last year. Well, all pain was minimal compared to last year.

Because I started so far back I was passed by only a few, very few, but did pass many riders. Some of them were riding but many were walking. I tried not to look up the road because it is disheartening to see riders stopped or quitting.

But seeing riders pushing their bikes doesn’t have to be completely deflating. I started to make it a game. I no longer worried that the mountain was punishing and would soon punish me in the same manner. Instead, a walker became a target. Someone to pass. So I started to relish the sight of someone pushing their bike. It wasn’t easy catching a rider up the road but it was easy catching a walker.

Sometime after three miles the thought of abandoning or even walking left my mind. And my mind turned to finishing today and coming back next year.

The dirt section was scary. I tried to get through the entire section seated since I crashed last year when I stood. This year there was a very nasty crash ahead of me. A rider went down hard and was down right on the edge of a steep drop. I immediately called for “MEDIC!” behind me hoping the call would go back down the road to a radio communications operator who was sitting at the beginning of the section. Soon other riders picked up my call and I heard them relay the call for “MEDIC!” The call, which I had started, made it back down to the radioman. A medic soon came down from the summit on an ATV to assist. I never found out what happened to the man.

I was conflicted as to whether to stop or not. Getting restarted going uphill in this 12-16% dirt section was almost impossible. Plus I would have no clue on how to assist an injured rider, other than to keep him from rolling off the road to his death. But as I approached he was swearing at one rider who was trying to assist him so that made my decision easy. The thought of beating last year’s time never entered my mind.

Not far behind me was Aneeka Reed, a 16-year-old from Vermont. They teased the old group (45+) by putting juniors (under 20) with us. I think she started ahead of me and I passed her at some point. But at Mile 4 she came up in between another rider and me. I turned to her and asked, in a sarcastic tone, “What do you think this is, a race?”

She was holding her back. We talked briefly and over the next couple of miles, we were in contact and then not in contact. She would catch me on the lesser grades (12%) and I was more powerful on the steeper grades (16-18%). Her goal was to finish without stopping. I liked this kid.

I mentioned to her the dirt section which is when she told me she had never been on the road before. I was hoping she knew when it began. Heck, I was hoping she was going to tell me there was no dirt section that they finally paved it over.

Aneeka Reed with her parents. She finished without stopping and won the U20 Women’s Category

On the back of this year’s “I Biked Mt Washington” bumper sticker is some information including “35% hard pack dirt and 65% paved.” Well, it’s not 35% dirt – much less, but the 65% paved isn’t far from the truth. Imagine what a Mount Washington winter will do to asphalt. The road is generally in below average to poor shape with cracked and grooved pavement and some places where the asphalt has buckled.

We’re not crazy. The one person who is crazy was the unicyclist. I caught him in the first mile when we had to go over a buckled section in the road while ascending at 14% grade. My bike went over it fine but his single wheel didn’t. He crashed pretty hard. But much of the time I was riding on pavement I was looking for the best pavement which was hard to find at times.

Climbing around Mile 2 – Credit: Mary Power

Like many riders, I did not carry any bike tools, extra tubes, or a spare pump with me. Didn’t need the weight. Towards the end of the dirt section, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. Damn! A flat. I knew there wasn’t much I could do except to ride it out. So I decided to keep riding until I couldn’t go farther. And then I would run the rest of the way pushing the bike.

One big difference from last year is that I remember talking in the first mile and then just breathing heavily the rest of the way. I had no energy to talk. But this year I had more than enough energy to talk. I instructed a tandem to go “mark the 10-year-old” so he didn’t get away (he did), asked riders if they needed a cue sheet, told a guy who was in real difficulty to drop back to the team car and bring us drinks, asked rhetorically if the road averaged 12% grade why my GPS never went under 12.

That question got one tired rider to respond by steering off the roadway into the ditch. It’s hard to maintain focus when one is so tired and he was tired and I broke his focus. My bad. Thankfully, this was on the inside of the road so he dropped 12″ – 18″ inches into a ditch. Had it been on the outside of the road he would have dropped 50-100 feet. At least.

I wanted to stop and help him. But I couldn’t. This was on a 14% grade and getting restarted was nearly impossible. I saw one rider coming back towards us and thought he took his “paperboying” to an extreme. But then it dawned on me that he stopped and to get going he started down the hill to get clipped in and then turned around to start climbing.

At Milepost 6 a volunteer announced it was Mile 6. I asked her if that meant there were six miles to go. Then smiled. I obviously wasn’t pushing hard enough. But it didn’t matter. I was glad to be on the mountain and was enjoying myself.

The curve at Mile 6 is nasty. I didn’t remember how steep it was, I’m thinking 18%, but it presented no problem. The 22% climb to the finish was still steep but I never thought I might stop and fall over which I believed would happen last year.

The 22% climb to the finish line

I just had to concentrate on the road and appreciated all the people cheering. That’s pretty cool.

I was smiling. Trust me.

Well, maybe it was a little bit hard at the end but was in no danger of falling over or running the photographer over like I almost did last year.

Kelly Evans, Beaver, Pa., cheering me on at the finish line

In fact I was smiling at the finish line.

Last year I collapsed at the finish line. I said “never again!” I gave it everything I had. My legs were like Jello for the next couple of days. What I take out of this experience is how close I was to total exhaustion last year. I thought that every rider crossing the finish line was grabbed by four people but I think that was reserved for me for last year. I really gained an appreciation for how much effort I used last year.

I feel now that I could do the race again tomorrow. Clearly, even though I shaved five minutes off last year’s time, I didn’t give it my all. Oh well — I left myself room for improvement for next year.

In cyclists’ terms, I am not a climber. It’s power to weight ratio and I will never be in the top 10-20 or 30% of the elite racers. Maybe not even top 50%. But I like to climb. What an incredible feeling to reach the summit of the toughest hillclimb in the world.

My time over last year did improve by 5 minutes – to 1:46. Last year I was in the 82 percentile or better than 18% of the racers. This year I was at 68% – better than 32%or right at the edge of the two-thirds line. But still way below the line.

Still enough energy to life my bike. Barely.

My heart rate 158 avg/ 177 max was 2 beats faster this year than last year (156/175). And I didn’t worry about it. I never felt in distress. But I forgot to turn off my Garmin when I reached the finish line so it shows an extra two minutes. Oh well. There’s so much happening at the finish that it’s hard to remember everything. I bet if I had turned it off my heart rate would have been at least another beat higher.

The Rockpile

Nothing grows up here. More than 100 days per year they experience hurricane-force winds. And they call it the Rockpile.

Now that’s gonna hurt

I had loaded the bike on the car then saw this finisher, D. P. Thomas, of Weatherford, Texas. I knew he wouldn’t make it. The mountain zaps your strength and you must have something left for the finish. Otherwise the legs can’t turn over the pedals and gravity forces you to the ground faster than one can unclip. And he wasn’t the only one.

A stranger helps D.J. with his bike and the rider behind decides to push his bike

After the race, we were one of the first cars to leave the summit. Probably 95% of the riders had finished but they do tell the few stragglers that they are going to open the road to traffic coming down the mountain.

On the descent I tried to encourage those still climbing by letting them know they weren’t far from the summit. One poor guy was “yo-yo-ing” so badly I stopped just so he could use the entire road to weave and cut the grade.

At our post-race turkey dinner, in the tent, I found Phil Gaimon and went to talk with him. In February, Mary knew that I was going to work the Tour of California and asked me to deliver a personal message to Phil to come back this year to the Hillclimb. And I did. I reminded him of that bitterly cold day in Santa Rosa and he remembered it well.

I told Phil I wanted a picture of us to put on my CaringBridge site. I explained that I had cancer and then we talked about cancer. He told me he was interested in my site and that his dad would be too as his dad was battling for his life.

Barry (Loser); Phil Gaimon (Winner)

I left with Phil’s last words to me. He told me he wanted to see me again at next year’s Amgen Tour of California and wanted to see me again next year racing up Mount Washington.


I plan to.

Now I must get ready for 100 miles on Sunday in Philadelphia with the Livestrong Challenge.


My Strava time was 1:44:37. This would be a point-to-point measure and not race time which is taken from time of starting gun to crossing the finish line. Because I was in a group, a deep group, and was not at the front, there was more than a one minute delay rolling out after the gun sounded.

There is a steep rise — about 18% — at the end of the dirt section and a spectator was at the transition screaming encouragement — “Hard top, hard top, hard top!!! — C’mon — you can do it. Hard top!” That was pretty funny actually.

I got to the hard top and never thought about the flat tire again. Mainly because it wasn’t flat. Never was. It was just riding up that 16-18% section in the dirt made the bike handle as though I had a flat tire. I didn’t.

Phil Gaimon said, “There are two possibilities in a race – you win or you set a PR, but when I’m getting faster, why would I quit doing this?”

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