FKT: Joffrey Peters, Iain Ridgeway - Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail (NH) - 2019-07-14

Route variation
Standard route
Gender category
Finish date
Total time
11h 54m 29s
GPS track(s)

Several photos on Strava.

Iain Ridgway had the idea for this: bike from Monadnock to Sunapee, then run the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway back the next day.
His plan was to camp with his family at the Sunapee State Park campground, which is about halfway up the mountain.
The forecast looked fairly good - sunshine at 79 F. Maybe warm, but not as hot as the previous week, and drier than most of the summer so far.
We met at 2PM at Monadnock, loaded the bikes and took off. The ride took us on some gravel and dirt rail trails, some gravel roads, and a mix of busy and low-traffic roads for 53 miles. Fortunately for our legs, there were only about 2700 ft of gain on the bike, mostly at the very end riding up the final hill to the campground. We fit in two key breaks: one for ice cream at Tenney Farm around 21 miles, then another in Newbury at a gas station around 48 miles, just before the big climb to the campground on Mt. Sunapee. The climb up the access road on Mt. Sunapee is tough. Carrying all my gear for camping made it tougher, but I had some recent experience after bikepacking the Gravel Growler route in Vermont the previous week. We met Iain's family at the campground, and had a pleasant evening with a campfire, toddler antics, and chatter. Here is the cycling route:
Iain and I woke before 5AM, and set out jogging up the mountain at 5:20AM, carrying all food for the day, and each with a filter (Iain had a Sawyer Mini, and I had a BeFree). I had convinced him to go for the unsupported style the night before, as neither of us recalled there even being one recorded (poor reading-comprehension/memory, clearly). We figured our 12-hour intended time would be decent, if beatable. The morning felt fairly cool and breezy, and we hiked fairly quickly. After a quick break at the (open!) summit lodge, we started off at 6AM.

The first 9 miles are basically downhill, running a ridge down Sunapee in some fairly gnarly terrain, which is at times overgrown, and is broken enough that 4mph pace felt like a decent accomplishment.
Things started to feel warm almost immediately in the trees, and we filled water at our first stream crossing. After Lovewell mountain, things sped up quite a bit through the town of Washington with some easy road miles. The climb up Oak Hill is steep and tough, but more road running came afterward. Running roads was hot, and we plodded along at a not-very speedy pace.
The stretch through Jackson Hill, Hubbard Hill, and Pitcher Mountain had some uninteresting road and forest road sections, but the peaks themselves had glorious blueberry fields, which had the downside of being totally overgrown and swarming with deer flies. Sadly, I killed more flies than picked blueberries through the day, in spite of my best efforts to take advantage of good on-route, unsupported-style nutrition options. We made a navigational error while grinding road miles with heads down between Hubbard and Pitcher which cost us nearly a mile.
From there out, the heat really started to take its toll. The singletrack mostly gave way to gravel roads or old road grades. My uphill power was totally gone and Iain kept us going uphill, while I kept us moving downhill.
Crossing Rt. 9 around mile 32 (33 for us), was where the heat really hit home. That wide stretch of hot asphalt in the sun, and being totally out of water made me wilt. We filled from the stream passing under Rt. 9, battling deer and horse flies. But damage was being done and the pace slowed even more. Everything ached far more than I expected for the stats on my watch. I was blowing through my water as fast as I could drink it, but stopped being able to really take on much food. Iain seemed to keep pushing on like a champ. As evidenced by the pace charts in the Strava/Garmin links, our water filtering breaks got longer. In part this was due to exhaustion, in part due to taking on more water and drinking more at the source, and in part because my filter started to really jam up, and Iain's Sawyer bag blew a seam.
The wheels totally fell off at the start of the climb up Monadnock. We had planned on filling at a "Seasonal" water source just passed Old Troy Road, but it was bone dry. I saw that the dashed stream line on the map turned solid farther down the hill, and convinced Iain to turn downhill and bushwhack down to find water. Fortunately, it wasn't too far, and we enjoyed cool spring water, and a full fill-up before the climb. Iain then hammered (relatively speaking) the climb, while I tried not to die keeping up with him. 

In the end, we managed 11:54:29 to fist bump on the summit of Monadnock, a little faster than our 12-hour intended time. Cooler temperatures, and perhaps a taper, rather than a normal training week and cycling to the start would surely lead to much faster times. But I think we did it in good style by biking one way, running the other. I hope others take up the challenge and do this route the same way!