Saturday, August 22, 2009

High Country Brevet 2009, Stick a Fork in it.

Traversing the grasslands

Hmm. Where to begin. I could start by saying everything kind of went south on Thursday night and that I didn't finally find a place to sleep until midnight since the campground gate closed at 10 pm ( I ended up at a nice little hotel down the street from the start line). I could talk about getting out of work late because of a critical project. I could talk about promises kept to my son before I left, but I have worked out most of that stress at this point and it is behind me. The promise kept to my son is a part of his memory now and I think we can rest assured that was a good decision no matter the lateness of my departure (I promised him a bike ride, kind of ironic really).

I treated this as another training ride. I probably should have tapered a bit more before it but it all worked out. Temps were warm heading out of Safeway and the morning commuters were polite for the most part. It was a nice morning for riding, even if 5:30 am did come too early.

The stretch out to Vernon though arguable the less scenic part of the journey always seems to surprise me with something. On this morning, I was riding along when I surprised a couple of deer on the otherside of the barbed wire fence and they started running alongside me. "Cool" I thought. Within 100 yards they had joined about 30 other deer and the whole herd was running alongside me at 22 mph and slowly they peeled away and ran off into the brush. That was certainly not something I have seen on previous brevets.

I had a lot of crosswinds, even starting out but not too far after Vernon they got pretty bad. It was tough to hold the shoulder. I managed to make it though. This stretch went a lot faster for me than last year. I am definitely stronger this year. Near the end of the stretch there are bizarre melons growing on the side of the road. They look like miniature watermelons but I am not brave enough to try one and risk the unpleasant effects. Not while wearing bibshorts anyway.

Springerville from my bellybutton's perspective

I hit a pretty substantial headwind the last 7 or 8 miles into Springerville. I figured if I pushed hard into it though I might be able to get a bit of tailwind before it shifted after I turned at the Circle K in Springerville. I did manage to get a bit of it after my stop at the circle k to top off.

Last year I ran out of fluids before getting to the sunrise turnoff and I had a pretty miserable ride down to McNary. I decided that even though we were stopping off at Greer I would still top off. The stretch between Springerville and the turnoff to Greer always seems to get me thirsty for some reason. As it is a deceptively arduous journey up a false flat in the full sun. There is also a little more climbing than I thought going to Greer but it wasn't bad.

One of the great things about brevet riding is that though the hours are long and one continues to eek out a steady constant cadence endlessly, it is quite therapeutic. I guess there is a zen like quality to these at certain points in the ride. As you move on and your body realizes it is losing the battle and it's will is dominated by the will of the mind things seem to resolve the further you move on. Things that aren't really so important kind of fall out of the thought process.

As I approached the bottom of the big hill I felt myself getting lulled into the same mental process as last year and I had a strong urge to pull over and lay down. Must be something about the area. I did not succomb this year I am pleased to say. I still wasn't getting full breaths but I was getting enough to move me up the hill.

I had a pretty stiff headwind climbing to the quaint little mountain town of Greer and behind me the little innocent wisps of clouds were starting to organize and darken. The post office was open when I got there luckily as I was not able to get an official card or post card from Susan before the event so I got a stamp on my card I printed out from the website. Then it was off to the library where the nice librarian let me have the key to the restroom so I could refill my bottles from the sink. I was irritated upon leaving to find that my bike had been going 60 mph for the whole 10 minutes I had been stopped. I don't think I will go wireless again when I get a new bike computer down the road. I think the power line out front was the culprit.

Bike at the lift ticket window.

Even though breathing is tougher up here I love the last bit of the climb up to the White Mtns. I had a slight tailwind climb up, just enough to make the air around me absolutely still as I climbed up the hill in my own little portable cloud of humidity and heat. It was just under 90 degrees near the bottom of the hill and mid 80's when I got to the top. The high meadows are always a pleasure to ride through even if there are several fake tops to the climb. At least this year I wasn't suffering as much and I knew they were there so I enjoyed it a lot more this year.

No thunderstorms...yet.

I do have to mention that the solid headwind heading back to Sunrise did get a little old, especially since my legs were getting a little tired at this point. Still, if I have learned one thing on these rides is that if you press on things will change eventually and your outlook will change. The last few miles to the ski area travel through some gorgeous country with tall lodgepole pines, douglas firs and aspen trees. There's also a mountain stream and a lake too in case the mountains and trees aren't enough for you.
The ski area was closed on Friday when I pre-rode so I took a picture of me next to the snowboard shop figuring that would be good proof of passage. I also got a receipt at the general store down the hill. I feel kind of funny writing that I enjoyed a bannana popsicle outside the store now because though it was 83-85 degrees when I was there, on Saturday it was dark and probably in the upper 50s with a pretty good wind chill going on with showers meandering around the area hunting out unprotected riders to freeze and torment.

The latest in gas pump technology.

I am pleased to say that up to this point I had been able to avoid thunderstorms. Having left Sunrise though I could see a few thunderstorms down towards Show Low and I knew I would likely hit something. That didn't keep me from enjoying the tailwind and the gradual descent back to the highway.

I have to say that the descent into McNary is a lot faster if you have energy to pedal between the steeper parts. It's also a lot more enjoyable when you aren't tormented by a crushing thirst and an inability to breathe. Still I had a headwind coming down the hill thanks to a thunderstorm out ahead of me. I was appreciative of the fact that although it blew against me it was kind enough to move south before I got to the Casino and heading into Pinetop. It would turn out that the worst I would see was wet roads before the ride was through.

I got past the thunderstorm and then a tailwind kicked in as I dropped down to Lakeside. Around in here I hit a rock and remember thinking that I would have to inspect the tire later as I bet it had been damaged but I figured I still had air in it and only 10 miles to go so I'd just keep going. In the future I think I will be a little more vigilant in checking my tires.

I had hopes of finishing before 3 pm in the last bit but didn't quite pull it off as I pulled into safeway at 3:10. It's still roughly 2 hours faster than last year I think so I'll take it. I walked into Safeway and the first thing I saw was peaches and I suddenly had a wild craving for fresh peaches after drinking maltodextrin and soy protein all day (Thats my training food for Cochise so I am getting the mixture down while it's not so critical if I goof up). They really hit the spot.

The view from the finish line sidewalk.

After the peaches I figured I'd get some extra mileage in by heading out to Fool's Hollow lake and see if Susan was there. I'd originally intended to get another 30 mile loop in but ditched that plan for something a little lower key. It would turn out I'd add 700 feet of climbing and 12 miles to my original total though so I guess it still wasn't a shabby addition to the ride. The guy at the state park didn't charge me when he found out I'd only be in there for a half hour or so.

Seeing as Susan was still 3 hours away from town you may guess that I didn't see her. I got to do some cool riding around the lake though. I even found a road out to the middle of nowhere, which happens to be the same place I had a massive blowout as I turned around. I had been thinking about where to ride next but the blowout kind of made that decision for me. I had a rather sizeable part of the tire with severe thread damage and a good hole in the tube. I figured even with a boot it was extremely dicey, the tire was thrashed. I glued the largest patch in my kit to the inside of the tire so I could be certain it would stay put and patched the tube. At 90 lbs of pressure it was mishapen but I thought it might just hold.

I did in fact make it to the hotel. The tire was on the verge of another impressive blowout and was all bulgy and twisted but it had got me where I needed it to get me. I ended up with just over 140 miles and 6700' of climbing all told. Not bad for a training ride. Hopefully I'll be ready for the next long training ride in late September when I go out to train with Bruce Chandler who will be my crew chief at Cochise.

I think one of the reasons I like brevets is that aside from the fact you do great things. Despite the fact that you do hard things. Which many people often do in this life. One thing that doesn't happen in life often, is a task which you can proclaim finished. At work you get critical issues that come and go, but they are always happening. You have tasks that continue to rear their ugly heads. You have people constantly needing help and work from you and it seems there is never closure. At the end of a day of randonneuring you can say I did it. I finished. I conquered and I have stuck a fork in it and it is done and part of my history.

If you want to see pictures from the official ride you can find them at the following link:


RogerP said...

Nice report, Paul. Thanks so much for spending your Saturday supporting the rest of us riding the course. Tom's and Susan's input was also much appreciated. Roger.

Mike Enfield said...

My thanks as well Paul! It was nice to see you at each of the stops. :-)

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

That white bar tape on your handle bars will show the blood stains, mon vieux!