Monday, we played a pickleball session during which two notable events occurred. First, I hit a ball that went over my head with my paddle behind my back; the other was when I missed a lob which dropped right behind me. After it bounced, I barely hit it over the net, leaving my opponents flabbergasted.

Tuesday, I participated in the NCC time trial. This time, we rode a 12-mile out-and-back along the Connecticut River. The wind on the way back was harsh. I finished in 33.35 seconds.

Wednesday morning, I did my regular run, starting 5 minutes after Paula who walked the same route.

Caught up with Paula

I caught up with her on Ives Road. I did a fartlek up Maple Street and saw a fox on our drive back home. Later that day play pickleball in between the rain showers.

Mopping down the court

Thursday, we could not have asked for better weather for the inaugural NCC Hilltown Gravel ride. It was a cool, sunny April evening in Conway, which was this week's starting location. With four participants, who signed up through the LinkMyRide app, gathering at the ballpark in Conway, it was a solid start for a new ride. We left promptly at 5:30 PM, and after a short warmup on Emerson Gravel, we hit the steep, freshly paved climb up Pine Hill. Just after watching the view of Mt. Monadnock disappearing over our right shoulder, we encountered the serious gravel of Pine Hill. Although there are seldom cars on Pine Hill, today we were passed twice by the same car. Here, Pamela turned around, as she was still feeling the effects of her 50-mile ride through Chesterfield Gorge earlier in the day. John, Eric, and I had fun on a sometimes rutty and tricky descent and then turned left toward Ashfield.

John on Bellus

We hit another section of gravel on Pfersick, before turning left again on Baptist Corner Rd. Ignoring the temptations of Phillips and Bear River Rd (we'll leave these for a future route), we continued and saw the EdgeHill Barn on our left, where Massochistah will start this upcoming Saturday. We then took a sharp left onto Bellus for more gravel and had a quick stop at the power lines to enjoy the view. Flying down a windy, steep descent—first gravel, then turning into an even steeper paved section—we followed Murray Rd, first climbing and then descending all the way to Rt. 116, which we crossed to climb up to Bullit. The gravel descent down Bullit Rd was interesting with parts washed away.

Almost back, Eric and John turning onto Ives

We were then left with the last big gravel climb of the day on Main Poland Rd. The road is open again for traffic, as it had been closed for months after last year's record-breaking rainfall in Conway. The bottom asphalt section had been freshly repaved as well. Back in Conway, we crossed the covered bridge and, via Ives Rd and some bonus gravel on Upper Baptist Rd, we crossed Rt. 116 again. Via Pleasant St, we made a quick stop at Conway's latest attraction along Academy Rd, the Stupa (really a mix of a totem and a stupa), and finished the ride off with the little path along the town hall.

Setting up the course with signs for the Massochistah course

I went out on Friday morning to help mark the Massochistah course, an NCC fundraiser gravel ride. The proceeds go to the NCC youth program. I marked the Dirty route, like last year. With Aimé, we went through the signs at his home and then put them in order in my car. I also had to mark a section of the Gurty route in the DAR park. Since the car could not go in there, I had to hike a mile to mark a turn. I was done at 3 pm and met Mike, who was riding the Hurty (50+ miles) with me the next day. We went out for a short shakeout ride with John and his two Airbnb guests from the Boston area.

Mike on Pine hill

On the day of Massochistah, we left early to start with the Gurty riders, as Mike had to be back in Boston on time. There was a great breakfast with yummy croissants. I had originally signed up for the longer, 70-mile option, the Gurty, but since I had not done many long rides this season so far, I joined Mike on the 50-mile-long Hurty. The start of the ride had some hiccups. First, I wanted to take a drone shot and despite it being in the air fast, in cycling terms it feels like an eternity, and I was at the back of the pack. When I got back on the bike, I saw Tom off his bike, with his chain dropped between the cassette and rear-wheel spokes. With electronic shifting, that is rare, so I suggested it was a bent derailleur hanger, which turned out to be the case. After getting back on the bike, I went into a pursuit to catch up with Mike but stopped to help a rider who looked lost; he did not know to follow the blue arrows when the black ones are not available. Once he got on his way, I was able to catch up with Mike.

Brie and Jelly sandwiches

We rode the Conway hills, Pine Hill, and Main Poland, after a short stop at Chapel Falls we rode on to the first official rest stop, where Helena, Annemiek, and friends were hosting the stop. The Brie and Jelly sandwich was a hit. After a quick drone shot, we rode on to DAR where we briefly diverted from the Hurty route to ride a Gurty section. In Ashfield, we left the Dirty route and with the Gurty route made our way to Hawley, where our next rest stop resided at Hill Farm. Here I had a Snowich.

Snowiches at the last stop

Since it was getting warmer, I also removed my tights, which I wore under my bibs. After the stop, we descended down Labelle, skipped a section, and arrived after 50 miles back at Edge Hill. We were not the only ones who were already back. Once I collected and fitted my finishing t-shirt, I had lunch, grabbed a beer, and socialized. At the end, I brought some croissants back. It was a good day.

Croissants for the way back

Sunday, I joined Paula on a long 6-mile training program through forests around the town, the next day. I had hoped for an easy day, but this was still quite intensive.

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