Newton's Revenge Race Report – Dean Phillips

Congratulations to Fit Werx athletes Dereck Treadwell and Marti Shea for taking 1st overall Male and Female at Newton’s Revenge.  We are proud to support you and wish you continued success.   The following is Dean’s Race Report.

Race Report  By Dean Phillips- Newton’s Revenge

1:07:05 on 370 average watts. 10th overall male, and 1st place Clydesdale (190+ lb category). Rider weight 202 lbs, Bike weight 13 lbs, Total package on scale with full water bottle, clothing, shoes, helmet was 219 lbs.

They refer to Mt Washington as the toughest hill climb in the world. They aren’t kidding. While this is the first mountain I’ve climbed, it was harder than I’d imagined. I’d been looking forward to this climb for months and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I probably had no fewer than 50 conversations and emails with good friend and race winner Dereck Treadwell leading up to the climb. We were constantly comparing power files from workouts and talking about expected times, power outputs, gearing, altitude, cooling, weather, etc. We were both fired up.

The “Top Notch” wave of riders went first. This was a wave reserved only for riders who’ve gone under 1:20 on the climb in the past. Dereck and I were in the 2nd wave 5 minutes back. The loud cannon fired and next thing I know I’m in the zone climbing. Dereck danced up ahead and out of sight by the 10 minute mark and for a while it was just me riding alone. I actually felt really good early on. I averaged 410 watts for the first 15 minutes which was slightly over my target of 400 for the climb. By the 20 minute mark things were starting to go downhill. I felt like I was overheating big time since there was simply no cooling on the hot pavement of the lower auto road as I baked in the sun going 6 mph. I was also feeling the toll of riding so long and hard at a lower cadence then I’m used to. Perhaps the altitude was also having an impact as we approached 4000ft. I started gradually backing off (400 avg watts through 25 minutes) but it wasn’t enough. By the 30 minute mark my legs were toast and I was in a scary survival mode. All finish time expectations went out the window as my only goal was to make it up to the summit without stopping. Fear of stopping was my primary motivator as I hit the gravel roads and the side winds started really kicking up. If you stop for any reason it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to start again since the grade is too steep to get clipped back in and going again. The last 40 agonizing minutes I averaged 340 watts.

At the very end of the climb is a 22% grade that only lasts 50 yards or so. I’d heard about this section many times and was saving just enough energy for the burst needed when I got to it. At this point in the climb we were in thick fog and clouds, the temperature had dropped from 75deg at the base to 40deg at the summit with reported wind gusts up to 50mph. As I started seeing spectators showing up cheering all around me and the grade quickly got very steep I knew I was there. I could barely see where the road turned in front of me and my front wheel kept lifting off the ground because of the steep grade. Every time my wheel lifted the wind yanked it out to the side. After several hops and bounces to the side in an attempt to stay up, I eventually fell down. I basically landed on top of the summit since a couple spectators helped me up, held my bike so I could climb back on, and pointed in the direction of the finish line which was only about 10 seconds away. I was so excited to finish. What an experience. I was immediately wrapped in a blanket and sent in the foggy direction of where the lodge was reported to be.

There were many lessons learned my first time up. The big changes I’ll make heading into my next attempt are:

  • Pace conservatively early on considering the lack of cooling at the bottom and eventual impact of the elevation.
  • Lower gearing – While the 11×32 cassette may have been enough on paper for a 7.6 mile 12% average grade hill, the reality was there were dozens of sections of the climb at closer to 20% grade where an extra gear would have allowed me to keep my cadence in the range I prefer. Ideally I like to climb with a cadence in the 70-80 range, but my power files shows 17 minutes of time with cadence under 70, and 2 minutes total under 60. I’ll be changing to a SRAM XX 11×36 cassette next time.

Next attempt is the Mt Washington hill climb on August 20th. I’ll target a more conservative power level early on in hopes of having better legs the 2nd half. I’m also hoping to drop a few pounds since every pound costs about 20 seconds. If I can bring my average power up 10-20 watts with better pacing, lose 5 lbs, and not fall at the top I’m hoping to drop a few minutes off my time. It wouldn’t hurt to have less wind at the summit too!

Dean Phillips is Co-Owner of Fit Werx 2 in Peabody, MA

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