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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vermont 50

When I signed up for this race back in May, I didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. It's incredibly popular (700 mountain bike slots filled in about 40 minutes) but I'm not entirely sure why. It's one of those races I just can't figure out (like Stonecat). Not quite a bucket list race but it was on my radar so fast forward to this past weekend.

VT50 is actually a unique race (at least I think so). They have a 50m mountain bike race and a 50m trail race on the same course, at the same time. To add to the excitement, they also throw in a 50k trail race which runs on the back half of the 50m course. Surprisingly, it seemed to work. Runners and bikers sharing the trail. Who knew?

A forecast of "cloudy, chance of rain late morning, then clearing later in the day" in Vermont apparently means heavy, misty fog to start, followed by rain, heavy at times, ending with more rain. At least it was a warm cold rain. If it wasn't for the non-stop hill climbing to keep me warm, I would have froze to death in some Vermont town that had more cows than people.
The best dirt roads are in Vermont
I'll be honest, I didn't take this race too serious. I had a lot of other races and events between when I signed up and when I had to actually race (it was nearly 5 months!). I kind of lost track (and focus) and it got lost in the weeds. My last bike race (Hampshire 100) was in mid August and since then I've ridden less than 90 miles total. Probably not the best way to head into the VT50. Since I have the excuse book out, I might as well throw in I did zero recon on the course. Didn't look at a course map, didn't have any idea where the aid stations were (or how many), didn't look at previous results, didn't look at previous race reports and didn't know the terrain (although I was confident the race was in Vermont). Yep, I was ready!

A 3am wake up, a little less than 2hrs driving and I was checking in at 5am for a 6:20am start (I think?). All I knew was I was in the last wave (novice, tandems, wheelchairs, Big Wheels and the rest of the less fortunate riders). I opted for a light to start, and I was glad I did. Surprisingly, not many did. With a dark start, overcast skies (aka rain) and dense woods, the light came in handy for the first hour of the race. I'd recommend a light for those considering this race in the future.
Another muddy climb

I don't remember a lot about the course. I have a terrible memory, I didn't have a GPS and I have a terrible memory. Things that I remember:

  • There was a LOT of climbing. Somebody said it was like doing hill repeats for 7+hrs. Pretty much sums it up.
  • Nearly 1/2 the course was on dirt roads. These are some of the nicest dirt roads I've ever ridden on. Some were so smooth, it was hard to tell if they were paved or dirt. 
  • Beautiful country, lots of time to take in the view since you spend so much time in your granny gear.
  • I may have seen 3 rocks on the course all day. Maybe. This course was not technical.
  • Most of the dirt roads were in the first half. Most of the single track was in the second half.
  • Single track sections were mostly smooth, loamy trails. However, with 500 riders starting before me, and a constant rain, these trails became incredibly slick and muddy. 
  • Aid stations seemed well stocked.
  • Volunteers were supportive and friendly.
  • The lead 50m runners passed me about 45 minutes in (and they started 5 minutes after me). I would leap frog the top 4-5 runners all the way to Gavin Hill aid station (about 20m), before they finally dropped me.
  • Passed a ton of Sport riders (who started 5 minutes before me). 
  • Although there were always riders and runners around me throughout the day, passing was never an issue. 
  • I never rode alone. 
  • The first aid station I stopped at was Gavin Hill (~20mi).
  • My quads showed signs of cramping after 3hrs. I slowed considerably to avoid cramping.
  • I bonked around 4hrs. I was dizzy, weak and shaking and had to pull over and rest for a few minutes. Had a Stinger bar and some ClifShots and continued on. Climbing.
  • I stopped at most of the remaining aid stations for PB&J and Coke.
  • Did a lousy job refueling. I was hungry all day.
  • Trail conditions got worse throughout the day.
  • Stayed on my bike all day. No falls.
  • A Camelback is unnecessary. The aid stations are so close a 20oz water bottle would have been fine.
  • My triceps are the sorest muscles on my body today.
  • My drive train was so muddy at times, I had to stop and remove handfuls of mud from my bike.
  • My Trek ex8 worked perfectly. Never missed a shift.
  • After 5hrs I was very cold.
  • Around the same time I was sort of hoping for a major mechanical so I could drop out. It was becoming not fun.
  • Sort of got my second wind after 6hrs and was feeling better (less worse). 
  • Finished fairly strong, had a good last 10 miles or so.
  • Definitely what I'd call a roadie course.
  • If I do it again I'd move up the Sport category just to start ahead of a couple hundred novice riders.
Putting on my best "happy" face after the race.
I can't say it was my favorite race, but part of that I'm sure was related to the crappy weather and part of it was related to me not being prepared. 8 months from now I may consider signing up again. At least I have some idea what to expect next time. I really need to figure out how to fuel up on these longer bike races.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012 RTB - Mine Falls Milers Edition

203 miles from Cannan Mt to Hampton Beach NH (it must be downhill, right?). 12 fairly competitive, injury-free (at the moment) 40+ year old guys (most with years of experience running this relay). Defending Super Masters champ (with the runner up team returning with hopes of knocking us off the podium). Near perfect weather. Zero confidence.

I blame the lack of snow last winter. Please explain, you say? Here goes - snow means snowshoe racing. Snowshoe racing means strength and speed work in the winter. Winter strength and speed work means great fitness early in the running season. Great fitness means decent racing results early in the season. Decent racing results leads to more racing. More racing leads to better run fitness. Better run fitness lets me coast through the summer (because I HATE running in the heat), even with less weekly miles (while maintaining decent run fitness). Finally, a late summer ramp up to get in RTB shape is generally quite doable.

Until this year. No snow = no snowshoe racing = no early fitness = awful early results = no racing in spring and summer. Add in what seemed like weeks of 90 degree days and you get a person with zero confidence signed up for a 24hr 200+ mile relay and expected (according to Capt Mike) to avg 6:30 min/mile pace.

2012 Mine Falls Milers at the Finish
Sometimes all you need is a goal (and a van full of nagging masters) to run to your potential. Really, I had no business running anywhere near 6:30 pace. June - 90 miles, July - 55 miles, August 60 miles. These are totals for the month. So 2 weeks before RTB I hung up my mountain bike and got serious about running, hammering out 25 and 30 mile weeks.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the beach. My magic spreadsheet had predicted me to run my 3 legs (15.4 miles total) in 1:40:13, for an average pace of 6:31. In the end, I finished in 1:39:55 with an average pace of 6:30. Well how about that, maybe Capt Mike wasn't so dumb after all!

Overall, we had a great team this year (our 7th, my 6th with MFM) with everyone right around the 6:30 pace +/- 10 seconds. No injuries, no mishaps, nothing. After 7 years this team really does run pretty smoothly and is all business once the race starts. Ok, maybe not all business but we at least take our running serious (not much else though). As the team gets faster, the less time we have to eat, sleep and screw up. 2012 was our fastest year to date as we finished 6th overall (out of 425 teams) and 1st in the Super Masters division (results) with a time of 21:45:48 (avg team pace of 6:26). I guess technically I slowed the team down but I'm still happy with my effort. Next year I really need to train a bit more.

 I thought the tables below were interesting (in a trivial sort of way). Kind of a different way to look at the relay (by van and by leg). Pretty even legs and pretty even vans. Of course, one of the penalties of being a "fast team" is the total lack of downtime between legs. The average downtime we had between legs was about 3hrs and 50min. During this time we had to drive to the next VTA (35+ miles), eat, sleep and get ready for our next run. Needless to say, most of us didn't sleep at all during this relay.
Mine Falls Milers Magic Data

I want to personally thank Mike Wade for being the yearly whipping boy (I mean Captain) for 6 of the 7 years. Sure he had some copilots helping along the way but we generally gave him the crap jobs nobody else wanted. Thanks for picking up the slack. According to Mike, he is retiring from RTB. The Mine Falls Milers will continue without him...unless we're all too lazy to step up.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hampshire 100 (Shorty Race)

I headed back to Greenfield NH this past weekend for my 2nd attempt at the Hampshire 100, a challenging 100k single loop mountain bike race. This was my first ever mountain bike race last year, and surprisingly, I managed a 3rd place finish in the Novice VET II class.  My goal this year was to break 8hrs (last year's time was 8:26). Training doesn't creep into my mountain biking routine so the only thing that would make me faster would be riding harder, longer. Simple enough.

This year they also included a 100 mile option (no thanks!), which included a lot of pro's from all over the country. I stuck with the 64 mile option (and they call it the short race?) This race probably doubled in size (entries) from last year, and had over 400 riders on the line for the 6:45am start. They started us in waves (fastest to slowest basically), with the Novice class starting last. The waves were only 1 min apart so it was enough to spread things out but short enough so you could actually catch the tail end of the previous wave if you pedaled real hard!
Waiting for our wave to start
We had absolutely PERFECT weather (near 50 at the start, warming to mid 70's near the end) but there had been some serious rain in the days leading up so there was mud and water out there. I love how this race starts, mostly on dirt roads (downhill) for the first 5 miles, then a mix of trails with minimal climbing for the next 10 before reaching the first real aid station. It gives you plenty of time to warm up and get all that adrenaline out (fast riding). Some new (freshly cut) single track was added around Crotched Mt Ski area which was pretty sweet! I reached aid station #2 in 1hr 24min (16.25m).

My least favorite section was the 5 miles of perfectly flat rail trail between miles 16 and 21. Awful. To add to the misery was a section called the 'beach', a 1-2 mile section of loose sand that drained the energy out of your legs. To add to the joy, some clown drafted me the entire length of trail, staying right on my wheel all 5 miles. I switched sides, slowed, sped up, did everything but stop. Not once did he offer to pull. Whatever. Drafted the novice, must be proud.
The course
Around mile 21 we hit the first significant climb, a ridiculously steep climb up Hedgehog Mt Rd. As with most climbs, they were not only steep but a lot of times fairly technical (loose, rocky, etc..). I tried to ride this climb, and might have cleaned it but there were too many riders (aka walkers) on the trail, and too dug up with cleat marks and loose rocks. I ended up walking the middle section before jumping back on and riding to the top. For whatever reason, my climbing was 10x better than last year. I'm not really any faster, but definitely much stronger.
Somewhere between Hedgehog and the Powerlines
The next major climb would be in just a few miles, a section called the powerlines (mostly because the trail goes up the powerlines, duh). A few short, steep punchy climbs, a few real muddy sections and a steep section near the top that I have never seen anyone ride. I rode what I could, but walked a good deal on this part. I wasn't alone (see pic).
Near the top of the Powerline Climb
A steep technical downhill followed the powerline climb, with more freshly cut single track added just prior to aid station #3 (25.86m, 2hr 30min). At most of the aid stations, I usually just topped off my 40oz Camelback, took 2 Endurolyte pills, had some Coke and was off (1-2 minutes).

The next 25+ miles were definitely the hardest, most challenging part of the course. This section was a grind with lots of climbs, lots of technical stuff, and generally fairly slow riding. It's hard on the bike and harder on the body. Aid station #4 was a long 15.46 mile ride from the previous aid station, and took nearly 2hrs to reach (41.32m 4hr 27min).
2' deep puddle around mile 50
They made some changes over last year with the aid stations, adding a new one after #4. This section was the slowest part of the course all day so it was a welcomed change. Rolled in to aid station #5 (48.18m 5hr 34min), repeated my routine from previous stops and off I went. Ugh, getting tired but thankfully no cramping. My last stop would be aid station #6 (53.63m 6hr 26min) for about a minute. It was probably the first time I looked at my watch and started thinking about whether I could actually break 8hrs or not. I remembered from last year that part of the last 10 miles was pretty tough, with a long, rocky climb followed by a steep rocky descent. I roughly remembered the last 4-5 miles being mostly single track with a gradual downhill ride to the finish. They may have added a little more single track at the end but it generally seemed the same as last year.

I passed another rider in the last mile or so (even though I was trying not too). I was riding the climbs and he was walking them so it was hard to avoid. However, I really didn't want to pass anyone in the last mile of a nearly 8hr day so I told him I'd wait for him and he could finish first. He seemed generally grateful and honestly, it didn't really change anything. He was in a different class (starting before me) so technically I was still in front of him even though I was behind him (make sense?). It was all good at the end, and I finished right behind him.
64.45 miles in 7hr 53min, good enough for 2nd in the Novice Vet  II class. It was a tough day of riding but I had such a great time. Love this race!

For the second weekend in a row, I had to strip my bike down to its bones to clean the mud and dirt out of every nook and cranny. My clean bike is now hanging out in my shed, taking a break while I do a little running over the next few weeks. Reach the Beach is up next (Sept 14-15).
Trek bones

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

24 Hours of Great Glen (Rain Edition)

This would be my 4th year doing 24HOGG, which is essentially the mountain bike version of Reach the Beach but logistically a bit more challenging. The work is harder but the down time is more enjoyable. In each of the previous three years, the weather over the 3-day weekend has been near perfect. The key being zero rain. The first year there was some serious mud in sections but trail improvements over the years had pretty much eliminated most of the junk stuff. Over the last 2 years I'd say the course has been nearly 100% ridable for a decent novice rider (aka me). The one thing I've said at the end of the race (every year) was if it ever rained this race would blow.
Oh did it blow.

Camp Wolfe

Of course just 'rain' would have been a blessing. What we got on Friday and Saturday was some of the hardest sustained rain I've ever seen. Flash flooding rain. I did manage to get my tent setup within seconds of the first downpour and surprisingly my stuff managed to stay dry all weekend (thanks to a water proof tent, screen room setup over my tent and two 10ft tarps over my screen room).
 A group of us headed out late Friday afternoon to pre-ride the approximately 9 mile course during a break in the rain. The course would be a mix of carriage roads (~60%) and single track trails (~30%) and grass fields (~10%). We were only a couple of miles in when the skies opened up again and it pretty much poured the rest of the ride. The trails went from bad to awful fairly quickly. Very muddy, lots of standing water and extremely slick (and these would be the best conditions all weekend).

My teammates this year would be Brayden Dunn, Kevin Tilton and Scott Mason. Kevin and Scott would be first time 24HOGGers (maybe last time after this weekend). I would lead off with the le mans start (approximately 1/2 run around the pond) before heading out on the bike. A few of us decided to start in the back, run easy and not get caught up in the bottleneck that happens on Blueberry Hill less than a 1/2 mile into the race. I should say we did not want to be the bottleneck. I guess we didn't think about all the other folks willing to step up and take this job from us. Sure enough, no sooner did we mount our bikes and we were all riding a conga line up Blueberry Hill (slowly). A little patience and eventually it opened up and crowded trails would become a non issue.
Heading up Blueberry Hill
Although the rain would hold off (mostly) for the next 24 hours, the presence of hundreds of mountain bikers riding lap after lap for 24 hours did unbelievable damage to the single track sections. By my second lap, most of the single track would be practically unridable. The course became 5 miles of speedy carriage roads mixed in with 3 miles of pushing a 26lb mountain bike through the mud. Serious mud. Fun was done.
Finishing Lap 1
Riding back to back laps at night (to give folks more time to rest) was a painfully long experience. Riding at night, with fog, light rain, slick trails and miles of mud really takes all the fun out things (really?). To top it off I flatted coming down a steep technical muddy section (at night of course) and had to fix a flat with my bike mostly submerged in mud. With all the mud that was inside my tire after I installed the tube, it's amazing I even made it back to the start/finish line. Joy. After a little midnight maintenance, I was off to bed for some much needed sleep.

I wouldn't ride again to nearly 7am, mostly due to my teammates having as much fun as me while riding at night (thanks guys, appreciated the sleep!). My 5th lap would be my last, and surprisingly would be one of my best. Some early morning trail work had removed several inches of mud from a few sections and actually made the course a bit more ridable. I probably rode 95% of the last lap and actually had some fun. Not enough fun to ride another lap but fun still the same.
Last Lap

24 hours of hike-a-bike wasn't really what I was hoping for but now I know what it's like when it rains. For the record, I was right.

Thanks to Gianna Lindsey for most of the pics.
Next up: Hampshire 100 this Sunday (100k mountain bike race).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Carrabassett Backcountry Challenge

I decided to do the Carrabassett Backcountry Cycle Challenge pretty much at the last minute. I figured a 50-60 mile endurance mountain bike race would be a good practice race to get the kinks out so I'd be ready for 24hrs of Great Glen and the Hampshire 100, both coming up in August. The only real negative was the 4+hr drive to  nowhere Maine (Sugarloaf Mountain, in the Carrabassett Valley).

Not a lot of intel on the course other than it would be between 50-60 miles with 6,000ft of climbing. Challenging they say! I drove up Saturday afternoon, checked in and setup a tent within sight of the start line. I chatted with a couple of NH folks at the pasta dinner and met up with aR teammate Geoff shortly after. He really wanted to go for a course preview ride, I did not. I should mention before driving nearly 4 1/2hrs to Sugarloaf I had to drive 3hrs to pick up my kids from camp. Needless to say I was tired and in no mood to ride. I opted for a quick mechanical check and setup of my bike and hoped to get to bed early.

Oh sure, I got to bed early. I was exhausted. It was quiet, dark, not hot, pretty much perfect sleeping conditions. The only problem was I wasn't sleeping. Not a wink. I just laid there looking at the inside of my tent. I wasn't stressed or nervous, I wasn't anything, especially not sleeping. This happens from time to time for me, almost always after I stay up past the point of when I should have gone to bed. So I just laid there, waiting for the sun to come up, wondering how the heck I was going to ride 7+hrs (and then drive home). It was a long, boring night.

I finally ended my misery at 5am and got up, got ready and had some breakfast (and coffee) at the Outdoor Center. Although tired, I actually felt ok and was looking forward to a good day of riding (not necessarily racing). I had a 100oz Camelback but would only fill it 1/2 full (with Nuun/water) at the start. I had various snacks in the Camelback and a couple of packages of Shot Bloks in my shorts.

I wisely opted for the Novice class (which started last at 7:15am) and headed off with about a dozen other Novice riders. I rode easy and relaxed and still lead the group right from the start. It was fairly easy riding and social for the first hour before I had dropped all other Novice riders. So, for the next 5+hrs I would ride alone. Occasionally I'd catch a Sport rider (the next class up which started 5 minutes before us). I was expecting more of a mix of trails though. Sometimes you need a break from the technical to semi-technical single track to give your body a break. Double track and dirt roads usually do the trick. They said it was about 30% single track but a lot of the trails (which I'm sure they called double track) were basically single track rails cut through cross country ski trails, or old logging roads or just wider openings in the forest. Single track means there's only one trail. Double track means there's more than one line to take. I'd say at least 60% was single track. Although I LOVE single track, it's not something you want to do for 4 or 5 or even 6hrs of riding. It can be exhausting, and it was.

Overall it was a good course. About 54 miles in the end. Yes, I'd call it challenging but I was able to ride nearly all of it (including some fairly significant climbs up the side of Sugarloaf Mountain). Probably only a handful of hike-a-bike sections, including a few stream crossings. Surprisingly there was a fair amount of mud out there. Kind of shocking actually since it's been so dry everywhere. I still have a hard time calling what I do racing. I probably don't ride much harder than an average daily ride, I just do it longer. I clearly don't take this sport seriously. I love mountain biking and I'd like to keep it that way. I don't want to worry about training or racing. I always ride to have fun. Every ride. Period.

For what it's worth, my 6hr 52min effort was good enough for the top spot in the Novice class. I can only race against the folks who show up so I'm happy with my time and effort. This race was nearly twice as long (time wise or mileage wise) as any ride I've done all year (all of which has been on a mountain bike),so no complaints.  Heck, considering I had zero sleep, it's a miracle I even finished!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hills, Hills and More Hills

Geoff and I were getting a little bored with our regular mountain biking routes so we opted for a couple of new rides this past weekend. First up was Pawtuckaway State Park on Friday night. I had only been to PSP once (and that was to volunteer at the Vulcan's Fury Trail Race) so this definitely qualified as 'new'. We had a good 2hr ride on what I would call fairly technical trails with lots of climbing. I think we followed a good portion of the Vulcan's Fury course if I'm not mistaken. It was a tough ride for sure. Afterwards we drove down to the beach for a little cooling off in the lake. Of course the water temp was probably near 80 degrees so it wasn't exactly refreshing but we did get cleaned up a bit.

Saturday morning we planned to meet up again for a pretty challenging ride in North Conway. Geoff had done a similar ride back in early May (when it was 50-60 degrees) that hit 3 mountain summits with over 5,000ft of climbing. I wasn't exactly looking forward to it but I was up for a challenge. As an added bonus, it was 90 degrees even before we started. Yippie!
Approximate route we took
Summit #1 - We started near the gate on Hurricane Mountain Rd and headed up the Red Tail Trail and then onto the summit of Black Cap. I'd call Red Tail a technical climb to say the least. Lots of switchbacks but plenty of steep sections. I was able to ride 99% of the climb with just a couple hike-a-bike sections near the summit of Black Cap. I think it was around 3 miles to the summit. The trip up to Black Cap took just about an hour of riding and I was already over-heating (as evident by my bright RED face in every picture).
Black Cap Summit
After spending about 10 minutes on the summit (catching my breathe and lowering my body temperature to just under boiling), we jumped on the Black Cap Connector Trail which took us over the entire Green Mountain ridge over to Middle Mountain and back down to the powerlines behind Pudding Pond. The ride over the ridge was a punishing grind of short ups and downs and the eventual descent that tested my brakes and my nerves. My fillings are somewhere up on that mountain. It smoothed out nicely (the bumps, not the terrain) near the end on a section appropriately called Pump Track, which brought us down to a couple of sweet sections of single track. One was called Sticks and Stones and the other one wasn't even on the map but flowed behind Pudding Pond for a couple of miles before kicking us back out on the powerlines again.

Summit #2 - Next up was Cranmore. We rode the powerlines all the way down to the back side of Mt Cranmore and stumbled upon something resembling a dump. In fact, as we rode in we scared off some guy rummaging around the collection of mostly ski resort type stuff. That's when we came across this little gem and couldn't resist the photo op. Looking back, he was probably there to warn us not to climb Cranmore. Too bad I don't speak gremlin.
Gremlin guarding the Cranmore Access Road
We headed over to the base of Mt Cranmore and began the hardest climb of the day (IMHO) up the Cranmore access road. At least Red Tail had switchbacks to recover on. The access road had nothing, just a continuous climb up a loose gravel road. All my distances are guesses (mostly) since our GPS refused to pick up a signal for most of the day. I'm pretty sure this climb was roughly 3 miles too and took nearly 38 minutes if I recall correctly. We spent less time on the summit this time, just enough time to take a couple of photos and add a few ounces of water to my Camelback.
Red face on the Summit of Mt Cranmore
We left Cranmore and headed across the Cranmore Connector Trail which brought us back to Black Cap. I'm pretty sure this entire connector trail went up. Great, more climbing. I came dangerously close to bonking on this trail, barely grinding my way back to the Red Tail junction. I told Geoff it was unlikely I would do the final climb of the day up Hurricane Mt Road. I was out of food, my hands were shaking, my face was still red and we had to pass our cars before heading up Hurricane. There wasn't a chance I would ride past my car. We headed back down the Red Tail Trail, back to the car.

Summit #3 - Well it turns out a 20 minute descent was enough of a distraction to actually get me to ride right past my car and head up the 2 mile climb Hurricane Mt Road. If I had stopped, even for a second I would not have continued, so we rode right by. We'd been riding nearly 4hrs already but I wanted to finish what we planned. Let me just say this ain't an easy climb. There were several sections I just wanted to unclip (or not unclip) and just lay down. I wanted to quit so bad. I kept telling myself around each corner HAD to be the summit. I was wrong about 37 times. Geoff was kind enough to come back down (after reaching the summit) and ride with me the last 1/3 mile or so. I think it took around 27 minutes to ride the 2 miles to the summit, then less than 5 minutes to get back down.
Red face on Hurricane Mt Road
Several people have asked me if I had fun. No, I did not have fun. This was hard, probably the hardest ride I've done. It was somewhat satisfying being able to ride 99% of the climbs (although slowly). For a guy who doesn't particularly like any climbing, I'd say I held my own today. Just don't ask me to do this ride again anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FOMBA - Bear Brook - FOMBA Ride

I was looking for something a little different (and longer) on Saturday so I decided a solo FOMBA to Bear Brook State Park ride was in order. I did this last year (one way) for the first time with a group but felt confident I could find my way back. Plus, I've ridden at BB quite a bit this year and figured I could find my way around once I got there.
A late afternoon start had temps in the low 90's so I loaded up the new Camelback and headed out. The main connector trail from FOMBA (near Lake Massabesic in Auburn) to Bear Brook (Allenstown) is called Trail 15 (or corridor 15), a north/south snowmobile trail that goes all the way to Canada I think. The trail is 'generally' easy to follow (if you pay attention to the arrows). It seems to have more uphill on the way over, was dry as a bone but the deer flies were out in force. I almost turned back a few times in the first 30-40 minutes. Relentless.
You actually hit Bear Brook State Park in less than an hour but it's out on the far edges where most mountain bikers don't actually ride. Mostly snowmobile/ATV type trails (with lots of water). I followed Ferret Trail past Bear Hill Pond, down to Podunk Rd and then went up a ways to jump onto Chipmunk (singletrack). I've come up Chipmunk many times but never rode it down. Totally different trail going down, seemed more technical (if that is possible?). Next up Bobcat, over to Little Bear and 1hr 47min later I was at the Podunk parking lot. Actually ran into a couple of aR riders in the lot (Geoff and Alex).
After chatting for a while (and fueling up) I decided to head back to FOMBA as the sky was getting darker (thunderstorm dark). Decided on a more direct route back (up Podunk Rd) due to the weather. I didn't even make it to the Ferret Trail before the storms rolled in. Steady, heavy rain for about 45 minutes (along with plenty of thunder/lightning). My previously dry trail was almost completely flooded the entire way back. Temps dropped by 20 degrees too! At least it kept the bugs away. 1hr 22min ride back to the car. Nice ride. Guessing total miles around 30-32 miles (I don't use a GPS).
I kind of like this connector trail.