Well, Saturday was my Birthday, and also coincedentaly the first time I have missed El Tour De Tucson in 4 years. Funds was the real reason, in that when I needed to pay I didn't have them. So, I determined that since my training has been extremely on the outs this summer (no motivation after the 600k in April, think my doc and I have that worked out now though). Anyway, I determined that I really want to keep it a tradition to ride a century the week of my Birthday be it El Tour or anything else. With that in mind I determined that it was about time to see where my fitness was at before training in earnest for the Brevet series starting in January and seeing as I have made it this far in the year without a nasty cough or broncitis I thought it might be nice to see what I can really do with some Training. Anyway, here is the story of my 103 mile time trial from last Saturday (at least I treated it like a time trial.
Not knowing an exact range of heartrate percentages that are good for a 5 hour effort (that was the time I was shooting for but I resolved I would be happy with anything less than 5:45) I determined I would keep it between 70 and 80% and see what that got me or if I would need to back off. So, sitting in my garage before dawn (6 AM) upon my noble steed all preparations complete I made my final check of lights (decided to use the dynamo even though I knew I would probably be faster without it and using a battery powered light, I just like how easy that thing is to use and I keep it for commuting so drivers heading into the sun will see me even after sunrise and I don't feel guilty about wasting batteries). Anyway, I warmed up pretty quick and made my way out of Mesa to the east on Broadway heading directly towards the Superstitions which would become more and more sillouetted as the predawn light started to gather from behind them. There was actually a surprising amount of traffic on Broadway that time of morning, not enough to be of concern but still more than I was expecting.
Since the first 25 miles of this route are uphill I concentrated on my heartrate and not speed so that I would be sure to be riding at my limits but not over. Crossing the Apache trail I got to start a fun section made up of small rollers that one can speed down and then almost glide up over the other side. Kind of like a roller coaster for roadbikes. Soon this section was over and I was descending Mt. View road quickly with the wind at my back (and I silently hoped the wind would be in the same direction when I turned south at Florence Jct). In no time I was turning onto US60 East which I was able to keep very good time on seeing as it was uphill all the way to Florence Jct and the sun was up and in my face. I managed to keep the speeds up over 18 mph most of the way through here and topped 20 fairly regularly. Still, though this section always seems to last forever.
Well, after much toil I finally arrived at the turn south to Florence which marks the end of almost all the visible climbing (a few false flats left on the course but nothing serious from here). The wind was indeed at my back here and I was able to stay between 23 - 30 most of the way to Florence. It was in this stretch that I caught my first rider. As I approached from behind I thought to myself about how powerful I was to catch this rider and how I would nochalontely say good morning as I sped by (well, ok, I wasn't quite so arrogant in my thinking but I did think it was cool to catch someone). Then I go past him say good morning, and see that he is much older than I am (not to mention my profile was much more aero than his so it wasn't really about power). Man I hope I can ride that fast when I get to his age. He said something to me in response but I didn't want to stop as I was holding a personal time trial and I was really cruising (that is the bummer about doing a ride for time as opposed to strict enjoyment (hows that for an oxymoron?).
In Florence I stopped at the Circle K and bought 2 rice crispy treats and water to fill my one empty bottle. Leaving Circle K I noticed that it was a little harder to get back up to my former heartrate and that the legs were a little stiff. This was a good sign as I didn't have this at all last year and I don't think I was pushing hard enough last year. After a mile or two the stiffness was gone and I was back on top of my form heading west to Coolidge along the famous 287 which is used in the Arizona Brevet's 200k and a few of my permanents I have set up. Last time I headed down this road was when Steve Jewell and I turned onto it off of Attaway road just in time to have been missed by a gas truck driver who had fallen asleep and shot across 4 lanes of 287 and onto a farm road before he woke up and stopped. I am glad I didn't get to see what the underside of a semi looks like or what a gas truck with two trailers looks like when struck by cross traffic going 60+ mph.
Being 60 miles into the ride as I passed Coolidge I was pleased to note I had plenty of energy and my average heart rate was around 78%. I didn't look at my average speed though as I didn't want to be tempted to overdo it. I always enjoy the ride across the Gila River Indian Reservation because once you get past the narrow shoulder the road has a very nice smooth shoulder and usually a nice tailwind. I made good time (not the best I have done through this stretch but considering the winds weren't as favorable as I have seen in the past I did pretty good) keeping 21-24 mph over most of this stretch, the last bit after crossing the river I managed to keep it at 19-20 all the way to Chandler. Just before I got to the North end of Sacaton I passed a Roadie heading the other direction and he shouted something at me and pointed. I tried to figure out what he was talking about for a few hundred yards. Did he say something about a thick fog? Hmmm, Aah, I remember seeing the carcas of Kujo lieing on the side of the road up here once before, perhaps Kujo has been replaced and the guy was talking about a very BIG DOG. So, realizing that if I sprinted I would likely blow up I still made preparation, tried to look as mean as I could and got ready to yell and get out of there as fast as my legs would take me 70 miles into a ride. I didn't see said dog, perhaps his owner realized he was loose and didn't want to have to replace Kujo again, anyway I let out a sigh of relief, let my face sink back into wimpy old Paul mode and soldiered on to Chandler.
I had been really pumping myself over the last 10 miles in the knowledge that this annoying crosswind would become a tailwind when I turned onto the Hunt Highway which in fact it did (sometimes the wind is nice and dependable surprisingly enough). It was here that I caught the 3rd rider of the day but by the time I managed to real him in it was time to turn on Lindsay and so it was really a win win situation as I knew I had caught him, and he did not know that he had been caught or was even racing (perhaps it was his rest day and I have reason to be ashamed for even thinking he was going fast enough that catching him was a thing to be proud of though).
Lindsay was a bit annoying until I finally got through the construction (It's all those new developments as the new suburbia flees from the festering pit that was our old suburbia and the Jones's find new levels to rise and longer commutes to traverse in their shiny new Mercedes, ok I am threw being catty now). Approaching civilization (well, I mean fully constructed civilization) I saw another rider up in the distance. Of course, not learning from the first rider of the morning I felt pretty good about myself catching up to this guy (I was going 21 so he must have been goin 19). After a good morning and a glance over, sure enough, another old guy to make me think about how I want to keep up this century tradition on my birthday until I can't ride a bike anymore so I can be like these guys.
Now, like Herman Melville I wish to make an aside here to analyze the logic in the name of Goat Head thorn. Upon first inspection one might presume that it is based upon it's resemblance to the head of a goat. This is logical and seems true to me. It adds even more significance when you think that the goathead is a sign of evil. So, Goatheads = evil. I think we need to mobilize the troops to sweep our country of this axis of evil goatheads which stop our progress and hinder poor innocent civilians in their mission to, uh.... um..... ride... to .... uh... victory against the forces of lactic acidity! Yeah thats it. Sweep the axis of evil from our roads (dang those terrorist thorns!).
Anyway, suffice it to say coming up to the corner of Broadway and entering the last 5 miles of the ride I fell pray to an evil Goathead that managed to evade my flat protection tire tread and pierce the sidewall. The nice thing is that because it was a sidewall puncture I found the thorn fast and had the tube patched within a few minutes and was on my way again. At this point I saw on the GPS that I was over 5 hours but I still had a chance of pulling in before 5:20 so I decided it was time to drain the energy tanks and notched up to 87% of heartrate for the last 10-15 minutes of the ride and pulled into my driveway right as the clock switched to 5:20. I then promptly gasped, coughed, gasped some more. Sat in a stupor for a bit. Gasped, Coughed, Gasped, and then after an undetermined amount of time decided that I looked a little funny sitting in the driveway gasping and coughing so I thought I would go in and show my wife how good I was at gasping and coughing. Truthfully it wasn't that bad. Considering the effort I had put out I had amazingly little soreness in the muscles. I did have a bit of stiffness in the muscles going down the stairs at the parking garage in downtown phoenix that evening but other than that I recovered quickly. Nice ride. Next year, sub 5. Maybe I can do a sub 7 brevet in January? Will have to see how the Mischievous Chuichu wind god treats us (and perhaps his also quite mischievous sidekick imp the goathead will be with him as well).