Friday, October 30, 2009

2006 epic 400k. Yes, THAT 400k.

Ok, I'm kind of taking a break this weekend figuring most guys take a 2 week break somewhere in the year to let the body regroup. In the meantime, since the website that housed some of my more epic ride reports is no longer I thought I'd post them here so during my downtime, I'm putting them out here. Here's the report of the toughest ride I have ever done.

You are probablywondering how I came to be standing in a smoky bar in a small town near theMexican border on a rainy night with the wind howling and a slightly inebriated woman named Jean asking me if I wanted to play darts as I pondered dropping out of the ride. Well, it was a long ride so it is a long story.

True to form I was sick the week before (this makes 3 for three now) goofing my tapering all up but I did feel good enough Wednesday to go for a night ride which was good as I had some new equipment I wanted to test out (I know I know I commited a cardinal sin in theultra world by adding equipment the week before the event but it ended upworking out, I did get sore knees though so anyone that wants to say Itold you so go ahead). I found a really good deal on Eggbeater Candypedals and since they were pretty much the same pedal as my eggbeaters but withmore platform I figured the fates of ultra-cycling would forgive this littlefaux paux. I also tried a little lower seat position to get a little moreaero, that part ended up not working out though.

As the week progressed the weather forecastgot grimmer and grimmer. Until we went from a 30% chance of rain onSaturday night to a 70% chance of rain most of the day with sustained 24 mphwinds out of the south no less. This made for a rather interestingride, interesting in this case meaning, a thorough test of onesresolve and willpower. I faced some of the greatest challenges to date onmy bike Yesterday.

I woke up at 10 to 2 on Saturday morning noteven needing my alarm, I figured if I woke up naturally I must be on theedge of a sleep cycle so it would probably feel better to wake up now than waitfor the alarm to wake me in 20 minutes. Besides I was pretty excited andfalling back asleep would be difficult. So I got up and made my way toCasa Grande scarfing down cinnamon rolls, sobe and banana chips as I went myway.

Arriving in Casa Grande the first thing Inoticed was how cold it was. This was due mostly to wind chill as it wasstrong and coming from the direction we would be heading. I just hadenough time to take care of all the particulars and line up when we wereoff. That is when I discovered that for some reason my HID light was notwanting to cooperate. Oh well, thats what I have the good old cateye forand the helmet light (helmet light was to see my bike computer with as my GPSwas in the shop). I only had time to say a quick hi to Bruce and Steve aswe took off (wished I would have had more time to chat with them actually but itwas to turn into a day when you had to do everything you could to finish whichis one reason I left the camera behind). I was determined to stay with thepeloton this morning as I had a feeling that draft would be crucial to finishingand it turned out to be that way as we will see.

As we made our way down main/2nd/Frontierstreet the peloton started to form echelons as the wind was not quite directlyheadon. I was looking at my computer and it was reading 21 mph. Ifigured that was a pretty good speed and then I saw 2 riders break off the front(figure it was Mike Sturgill and maybe Sandiway?) and I thought man those guysare animals! Not to long after that I discovered that I was in factlooking at the Max speed screen on my computer and that our actual speed wascloser to 13 mph but I still have a deep respect for Mike's cyclingprowess, he is just one step below Lance now ;) .

The highway patrol didn't like our echelonand asked us to stay to the right side of the lane at one point which we diduntil we got on the frontage road. We cruised through a rather desertedEloy and managed to avoid any trains as we made the jog on milligan over to thefrontage road where we were able to resume our echelon in peace all though wewere more careful to move right when people called out cars to therear. We pulled into the plaza in Picacho just before sunrise whichprobably put us there just after 6 or so. This year I had feeling inmy hands, I did happen to be wearing heavier gloves this year toothough. It seems like last year the sun was coming up when we werehere to so despite the wind we were actually ahead of my time last year at thispoint.

I ended up leaving the control ahead as Ifigured the group would catch me anyway which they did just as the sun startedto peek over the horizon. I hopped on and took occasional pulls (I feel alittle guilty though as the recumbent means that my draft isn't quite as strongas the next guys, I do try to let the riders on upright bikes pull intothe paceline in front of me though after they come off the front so they get abetter draft while resting). Just after Red Rock we had to split into twoechelons and I was leading the second one until just before the turn atMarana. That was when I figured it was time to let the peloton go as I wastiring too quickly. Interestingly enough this is about where the pelotonbroke up a bit. Going around the bend at Marana and Sanders we split intotwo groups with me leading the second (I figured I was riding my speed anywayand didn't mind breaking a bit of wind for the guys behind me. Somewherebetween Avra and Picture rocks I passed the front group (Glen had pulled off thefront on his recumbent, it really was a good day to be on a recumbent with thewind and all). At picture rocks the group pulled off and I kept on keepingon into the wind alone.

After much struggle I topped the hill and wasdismayed to discover that descending the otherside meant pedalling hard to go 13mph as the headwind was 25 mph straight on. If I had closed my eyes andignored my legs the roar of the wind would have made me think I was going40. Anyway, it was a long slow climb up mile wide but at least thewind was a crosswind (which made slow climbing a trick especially on therecumbent which doesn't like slow speeds but fortunately the wind was steady atthis point if it wasn't anything else).
Dropping down Kinney I kept thinking I hadpassed the control as I seem to remember it being just over the hill last yearand just as I was going to stop and check the cue sheet I ran into Susan andGlen at the turn to Gates Pass (Glenn had re-passed me on the last bit ofclimbing on Kinney I guess he stopped at Picture Rocks too). Anyway Ifilled up the water tank and grabbed some energy bars and gels. I debatedtaking off my full fingered thinsulate gloves but somebody made a comment aboutwinter and I decide to leave them on. Whoever made the comment aboutwinter thank you thank you thank you thank you!

Between the control and Tucson the grouppassed me and I followed them at a distance over Irvington and onto Missionroad. Mission road, I don't think I have ever struggled so hard forso little. I was in the small ring from Tucson to the top and eventhen it was the bottom three gears of the small ring. 9 mph was my fastedspeed on this stretch and most of it stayed between 7 or 8 and much of the lasthour of it was at 5 mph in the rain. I had fears of missing the nextcontrol time in this section and my mind played tricks on me making me think itwas later than it was but I figured sometimes you just never say die and as longas you aren't in any danger you just keep pushing on. After the rainstarted I came onto a cattle guard in one of the steeper sections and figuringgoing 5 mph in the rain on a recumbent crossing it would spell disaster as myback wheel would likely peel out so I dismounted and walked it. Walkinggave my legs just enough change to get reinvigorated and I was off at ascorching 6 mph for a bit. I figure my legs had been constantly churningfor several hours in this stretch and a short walk was a really good thing,might have to remember that in the future)

I eventually reached the top (and there wasmuch rejoicing) and turned onto Helmet peak road where I got my top speed forthe day of 35 mph. My whole mission in life now was to find that McDonaldsI had heard rumors about last year. All the way down La Canada road Ilooked hopefully but never found it. I did however find a KFC onContinental which I stopped at and had a very delicious chicken sandwich, friesand a lemonade which really hit the spot and are probably the secret to mysuccess on the Arivaca stretch.

At the turn to Arivaca with memories ofhaving no wallet here last year I strode into the store and bought 2 bottles ofgatorade to fill my tank and get me to Arivaca. The next stretch was longand hair raising. 3 or 4 miles down the road I was passed by aborder patrol car and then about 3 minutes after that I see a car coming at mein my lane moving really fast. I know he saw me but he didn't care so Ihugged the right edge of the pavement hard and was ready to ditch but he clearedme and his friend behind him did too with a few inches to spare. I figuredthey were probably Coyotes (smugglers). In any case they were either thator Morons, neither one is particularly pleasant to meet out on the openroad.

This section of road was really nice in oneway as the trees on the side of the road created a wind break for the first 8miles or so and I enjoyed the break. Remembering this stretch to be longlast year I hunkered down and enjoyed the beauty of the scenery as my legs andheart toiled away. As I climbed higher the winds built and the gustsgot stronger until as I neared the summit above Arivaca they started to remindme of Hurricane winds from when I lived in Okinawa. I figured it wasgusting in the upper 40's. One of the gusts blew me right off theroad. Anyway, pretty quickly after that I started my careful descentinto Arivaca and didn't see Susan so I got my card signed in the general storeand asked about a bathroom and taking a page out of Bruce Chandlers book askedfor a garbage bag (oh, I forgot to mention the driving rain over the last10 miles didn't I, well there was driving rain, the gale force windsmust have distracted me!). She directed me to the bar across the streetfor the bathrooms and warmth and gave me a kitchen sized garbage bag (small andwhite) which turned out to fit snug enough to not flap and turned out reallywell once I got it on.

After using the facilities I stepped into thebar (A cold wet and tired randonneur walks into a you need apunchline after that). The bartender was really nice and directed me overto the gas heater. This was less a bar than it was the localcommunity gathering spot with alcohol actually as there were kids in there andlots of locals just relaxing and listening to the howling wind and storm. I stood in a stupor by the heater for a bit and then I thought I may as well tryto dry off my jacket (nextec may be highly water resistant but wearing it on aday like this is like bringing a knife to a gun fight). It was about thistime that Jean started talking with me and we talked about what I was doing andthey were pretty impressed, and she asked me to a game of darts which Ihad to decline due to my shivering and need to dry my clothes.
About this time Susan pops in the door (Ifigured she was long gone so it was a bit of a shock). Anyway, shebrought food from the car and also some things from my bike out front which I amvery grateful she did as it was cold outside! Everytime someone opened thedoor I would start shivering again. After hearing about conditionsup on the hill Susan figured she'd go out and check on the others, I toldher I would wait as I didn't really want to ride back alone if I didn't haveto. So I hung out and got most of my stuff dry. When she got back wemoved over to the post office and everyone there had called for rides. Hmmm, Susan gave me a few words of encouragement and they were just enoughto push me off the fence and I pulled on my arm warmers, long sleevejersey, rain jacket, Garbage bag, Goretex helmet cover, O2 Rainpants (they were flipping awesome), and my drenched thinsulate gloves (allthis added to the usual cycling gear and tights. With the faint echoes ofthe words of the frozen biker who walked into the bar about snow in the forecastI headed off down the road with sore knees.

Susan caught me stopped down the road tore-adjust my seat to try and ease the knee soreness, I also had to plug inmy HID light whose battery problem I had figured out. Soon after I was offagain and Susan's taillights disappeared into the slightly less blustery nightbut every bit as rainy. I have to say thank you Bruce for mentioningthe garbage bag trick in your 600k last year as it was working really good and Iwas pretty toasty for the next 40 miles or so.

Throughout the night Iremember wondering about thinsulate supposed to be able to insulate whenwet. What I didn't realize is that with snow in the forecast thatmeans the air temperature is pretty cold and even if it was a really goodinsulator when wet it would still be cold.

Rounding the turn towards Three Points waslike turning on the afterburners. I turned on the HID and kept it between25 and 30 all the way to the Robles Jct.. I was passed by a convoy of 6border patrol cars and not to long after started to see the lights of thejunction up ahead. I had made such good time I determined not to stop asit would only make me think of stopping permanently and I was in good shape onfood so I turned and headed off to Sandario rd.. I still had some bars andgels in my pocket from this morning so I ate those and let the wind blow me overSaguaro National Monument. Around Picture rocks the tailwind dieddown a bit and I pushed a little harder to keep the speed up. Withthe end of the tailwind the rain let up too fortunately.

I had another hair raising moment going downSanders, I was just tooling along after keeping an eye out for that dog onthe right that came after me last year and just as I felt safe and past thedanger I see something come at me out of the shadows to the left and see a hugewhite dog go for my back wheel but he missed luckily. I know he wasserious because he didn't even bark. Anyway maybe I had a little nighttimeexageration going on but he seemed to be a pretty big dog at the time and alittle extra adrenelin spiked the pace up to Marana where I ran into the groupahead of me just leaving. I figure I must have really been booking tocatch up to them. Anyway, Susan was there and signed my card and Iwent in and bought some chocolate milk (another thing that really hits the spotfor me late in a brevet) and some chocolate doughnuts and sped off into thenight by the light of my cateye (helmet cover wouldn't allow a helmet light andmy HID was dead after 4 hours of bitter cold riding but it had done what it hadhad to do which was let me ride fast in high tailwinds). So it was abit slower going down the frontage road.

The frontage road! It was a bitof adventure in itself as it seemed every mile brought a flooding streamcrossing the pavement and the excitement was trying to guess whether or not itwas only an inch deep or a foot! Along this stretch I was pleasantlysurprised to find the recumbent put me in a really nice position for avoidingthe splash of the tires. Somewhere in here I went into Buddhist mantramode. This is were things take a turn to the Zen side as you just plugalong and think about one thing over and over which could be a song or somethingelse. In my case I was unfortunately stuck in a meditation of the "Iran over the taco bell dog" song which I now resolve to never listentoo again in the hopes that it will drop out of the grey matter at somepoint and never plague me again.

Passing the plaza in Picacho I noticed someriders sheltering there from the rain that had resumed awhile back. I knewif I stopped I would freeze so I didn't stop and stepped up the pace a notch asmy fingers were numb. Several lives of the taco bell dog later I wasat the turn and had to wait for a train. A few more lives of thetaco bell dog later I had to wait for another train on Milligan, this onewas stopped though. It started to move after a short bit so I just hungout and waited for it. I was at Eloy before the taco bell dog gotran over too many more times. Between Picacho and the I-10 CrossingI got to where I could hardly see the fog line anymore so I stopped under alight and changed my batteries and finished the rainy journey.

The stretch from the freeway to the finish isalways refreshing and for me this is where the taco bell dog or whatever else isstuck in my head stops and I enjoy the last bits of the ride. Tonight wasno different, except I wound up at "From the Heart Yoga" byforce of habit and had to go around the corner to the new finish line (althoughit really isn't that new anymore really).
All told, there was carnage all over theroute in the form of people dropping out and for good reason. I was ridingalong the edge towards the end and I had a lot of gear. It was one ofthose rides where the conditions meant if you happened to have enough stuff youcould do it but it wasn't forgiving enough if you didn't. All told we had2 inches of rain and more wind that you could shake a stick at without having itblow out of your hand and hit someone. This one ranks right up there withmy 300k permanent I rode last year but thankfully I avoided the flats this timearound (I would have been sunk as I was ok as long as I was moving).

On the way home I stopped at a rest stop tosleep and woke up at dawn with a extremely Toasty Jeep and a bottle full of hotgatorade and I was almost dry. My gas tank was on empty though, Imanaged to make it to Wild Horse Casino and refill though luckily and as Icruised back to Mesa my accomplishment sunk in as I saw snow covering theSuperstitions with an amazingly low snow level.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cochise Pictures

Smiling at the start

Ready to go.

Riding in front of the Chiricahuas

Rolling hills out of Road Forks

Dropping into the valley on the way to Rodeo New Mexico

Downhill is extremely welcome for tire legs

On the way to Rodeo

The Brucemobile.

The town gathering place

Evening approaches


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Devil Wind (or the Devil went down to Douglas)

Once upon a time, there was a highway so horrible, so evil, they numbered it 666. They then determined that perhaps this was a mistake and in an attempt to repent of this great evil they built I-10 over it like the house in Poltergeist built over the cemetary. Though the original pavement is hidden beneath the freeway the demonic spirit still dwells there and tortures poor souls that pass over it. This freeway is a bane to poor cyclists in their annual pilgrimmage around Cochise County finding new ways to torture the tired and weary. Saturday would bear a wicked wind to waylay the brave souls who dared to challenge the great spirit of interstate 10 but let me start at the beginning.

After having left Mesa too late, I managed to get to my previously arranged meeting spot with Bruce just before he did. I had just enough time to get the stuff ready and we quickly loaded his car and were off to Douglas after a brief stop in Benson to get some cash and sodas. I was surprised at the size difference between the expos at El Tour de Phoenix and Tucson, and the Cochise expo (or lack thereof). It's a smaller event that is a much longer drive then the other two but where it lacks in preride panache, it more than makes up for in it scenery and challenge.

Bruce knew a lot of the people at the dinner and I am pleased to say I knew a few too. There was Mike from all of the Arizona brevets, and then of course I knew the event director (Sheila) who used to go to my church up in Mesa. The spaghetti dinner was pretty good and I made a point not to eat too much so I would be not start the day out with a bloated stomache. After the meeting was over and all was said and done I got to bed just after 9 which wasn't too bad.

1:10 AM came all to early but we had enough time to get to the start line a few minutes before it started. It wasn't too cold so I started out with leg warmers and a wind vest. We listened to the national anthem and then we were off into the night. I worked on getting into a group around the front. It's easier to start in a group that might be a little too fast for you and drop than to start in a slower group and move up I figure.

Riding with the faster guys was a rush. We were just barreling across the flats in the middle of the night rotating in and out of pulls. I am pretty sheepish to say that I would usually get up to the number 2 position and then have to peel out of it as I would start to fatigue before the guy in front of me gave me a turn. Everyone still thanked me for the pull on the way back though. Somewhere past the college I saw what I though was a rather large set of buttocks hanging out the window of a passing truck, down the road I realized that is what it was as someones support crew was mooning us as we cruised by, I guess they felt that since it was a new moon they would try and give us a full moon.

I actually was able to hold with the faster guys for just under an hour. They were hauling. As Dan came off the front near where the climbing started I told him to cut in before me as I was about to get dropped. He gave me a few tips on staying in the faster group but I could feel that I was burning matches and it wasn't too much later I let them go. Dan has to be one of the nicest serious racers I have met and it was an honor just being able to ride with him that far. Someday I'll be able to keep up with those guys farther, just not quite yet.

I must confess I enjoy riding in pacelines but I also enjoy solo riding just as much. I watched their gyrating cluster of taillights climb up into the darkness and then I was alone with the milky way and the rest of the stars spread out above me. One of the other riders that got dropped before I did passed me just before I got up to the roundabout in lower Bisbee but he would still be up at the top with his support crew. I climbed further up into old town Bisbee and my generator light lit up the fences above the large open pit mine off to the left. As the road got steeper I would see Bruce off to the side of the road and told him I was good until the top.

I kept looking for the mouth of the tunnel that signalled the last bit of the climb and it seemed the road just kept moving in and out of the gullies but at long last I came around a corner and there I was. There were a few of us climbing in the tunnel that arrived at the same time where the support vehicles wait at the top. Bruce had everything ready including some chain lube for my derailleur that had started to sound like bats chirping behind me. I decided to don arm warmers for the cold descent and was off into the night.

I only hit 43 mph dropping off the hill tonight for some reason. I have heard of people hitting 50 and above but for some reason I didn't which was fine with me. After a long descent I was making my way acrossed the long flat area before the small hill in front of Tombstone when I saw headlights behind me. One guy passed me but behind him was a small paceline which pulled in behind me as we started up the hill. I didn't mind pulling them because I knew that what goes around comes around and after the hill I caught on to the back and it was a beautiful thing.

I figured the lady in front of me in the paceline was likely going to be the first place female finisher since I hadn't seen any ladies in the front group. There were also a couple of guys with "California Triple Crown" jerseys in the group (you have to do 3 of the double century events in California to get one) so I knew I was in good company.

We hit the first pocket of cold in Tombstone and one of the guys in the group mentioned that we should hold judgement on what was cold until we dropped into St. David. The border patrol checkpoint outside of Tombstone waved us on through and in a short time we were indeed in cold air approaching St. David where the hills would flatten out into fields and sporadic houses with a monastary thrown in for fun.

Up until St. David I was the only one who had his support crew regularly making appearences along the route. Bruce was had to be the envy of the other guys. The hour before twighlight is always tough for me and it was cool to have Bruce popping up regularly checking in. It was in St. David where the Triple Crown guys stopped for their support crew. The lady in front of me had her support crew try a few unsuccessful hand offs in front of me (I backed off for safety sake) before she told them to meet her down the road. Around here I took a good pull heading into Benson and we kept it in the low to mid 20's all the way to the check in before getting the interstate.

Bruce gave me new bottles and we popped the generater hub off and put on the normal front wheel and I was off. I figured I would keep a "full services" break off until I got to the Texas Canyon rest area 20 miles down the road. When I first got onto the interstate I wondered at Bruce's tales of the evil's on I-10. The shoulder was smooth and recently paved. It was actually not bad at all. I kept good time to the base of the hill and had good power starting up the hill.

Bruce passed me about halfway up and I gave him the thumbs up. Near the top of the first steep section I looked off to the right side of the shoulder and there was the pavement of hwy 666 laying there in the gully. Was that an evil chuckle I heard? Naw, couldn't have been, the morning was calm, the sun had just risen and shoulder was nice. What could go wrong?

At the Texas Canyon Rest area I refuelled and was about to go take care of something I'd been waiting since Benson to take care off when I felt the back tire was a bit squishy. Back down to Bruce I went and we swapped the wheel out with the wheel off my commuter (which had a fat Armadillo tire on it, take that foul interstate!). I also took this opportunity to put on sunblock and chapstick. Thank goodness for the chapstick or my lips would be about twice their size from chapping right now from the hellacious winds we had for the next oh, 11 hours (holy cow, I just realized how long that torture lasted)?

I pulled out of the rest area and the california triple crown guys were ahead of me again. Working together they were faster than me in the wind and I wasn't able to catch them. It was around in here I got short on water and my power would drop for the next 7-8 hours until I figured it out. The wind really sucks the water out of you.

On the way to wilcox I could feel the wind draining my willpower and sinking my spirits so I pulled out my headset for my phone and turned up the tunes. It helped at first, and I guess it continued to help it is just that being low on water I got a really bad attitude that lasted until Road Forks and a little bit beyond. The shoulder started to get cracks in it but it still wasn't too bad. Other than the wind the road was pretty good up until Wilcox.

I originally had intended to skip Wilcox and cruise by on the interstate but I needed a feed bottle so I opted to turn off. Since Bruce didn't know about my change of plan I called him up while I rode (the headset sure is convenient) and was surprised to see a guy sitting at the gas station talking on a phone that looked amazingly like Bruce as I rode by. It was Bruce so I pulled off and got a bottle, mentioned something about wind and was off again.

So far so good.

In Wilcox the wind was now attacking with extreme prejudice. It had to be 20-30 miles an hour directly head on. As I pedalled along at a measly 10-11 mph the chipseal became highly irritating and I was starting to hurt. Soon after the stop David O'Brian passed me and I got a little depressed. I just wasn't generating the wattage I needed. After getting on the interstate another rider passed me but I was able to hold on. It was mind boggling how much easier it was riding in the wind shadow of only 1 rider in this gale. Usually the benefit isn't nearly that pronounced behind one rider but the wind was really howling.

We managed to work together until the next stop. I originally wasn't going to stop but I figured if we could keep working together I would likely end up going a bit faster in the long run. In hindsight I should have just kept going although it did feel good to lay down while everyone rested. Dave took off first and then I headed out with the other rider and we caught Dave and worked together for a mile or two. They were going just a bit faster than I could muster and when we hit the crappy shoulder they dropped me.

Sheesh, can't a guy lie down on the side of the road without people thinking he's dead?

This shoulder may as well have not been paved. It was terrible and I am surprised I didn't pinch flat multiple times. When they repaved the idiot guys chewed up the whole road and then only repaved the traffic lanes so the shoulder had a very rough surface. I started imagining very painful things I could do to the guy that chewed up the shoulder. Places I could stick that big stupid machine that grinds the smooth surface off the asphalt. The 5 or 6 miles this lasted were a nightmare. As if the wind wasn't bad enough we had to have a jackhammer up the backside to taunt us and pull the last ounces of energy from our tiring legs.

All alone it was a long haul into Bowie. Dave decided to ride through Bowie to get off the shoulder and interstate for a bit. I was getting thoughts of following him even if it was longer until I noticed the shoulder got better at the exit to Bowie. Besides one good thing about the interstate is occasionally trucks couldn't get over into the other lane and their back draft would give me just a moment or two of a break in the wind.

I was in survival mode by now. Just keep turning the pedals. It may take forever to get to Road Forks but it will take longer if you stop pedalling. Somewhere around in here there was a 12 mile stretch without exits and sure enough I got a little thirsty but not too bad. I was really glad to see Bruce at the exit I must admit. Wind sucks, crappy shoulders stink, traffic is a pain, but somehow it's a little easier when you have someone out there who's got your back and not only gets you water and food but puts a little ice in it too.

After San Simon I got passed by a guy and girl who were riding strong and I watched them disappear into the seemingly endless hill up to road forks. Yup, it was a pain in the butt hill which due to the wind really didn't feel much different than what I had been doing for the last 8 hours or so. Soon I would be at the state line taking a picture of a funny sign and then down to road forks at the bottom of what should have been a few miles down a hill which of course, due to the wind, felt like 2 miles of a slightly less steep hill.

Quick Robin! to the Batmobile, we haven't a SECOND to lose.

For the last bit I had felt the wind shift to coming out of the south east and I had been bracing myself mentally for the fact that road forks would not be the Rubicon, it would not be solace, it would not be sanctuary, no it would be more of the same so that it would not lose it's reputation as being a wrathful vengeful abuser devoid of mercy. I had long given up hope of a good time and was not too surprised to find out I was 12th. I heard over 30 people started though so I guess that's not too bad. I was also comforted to know that everyone was suffering apparently and aside from Dan and a few others everyone was going slow.

A very welcome curve in the road.

In my present state of mind I was very dissapointed upon finding rough pavement for the first bit and thought it would be this way all the way back. Of course, at this point I was in suffer mode so I dealt with it and moved on. Sometimes life is not about happiness, sometimes life is not devoid of suffering, and sometimes we just put our heads down scream at the wind and thrust forward the best we can with aching back, screaming legs, and low spirits.

It was around in here I started chugging water. It suddenly occured to me I hadn't been doing any of the things that are usually associated with a person who is adequately hydrated. It was also around in here that the road turned west a bit to the state line. Having the devil wind at my back brushed the spirits up a bit. I managed to get over 12 mph for the first time since just before Wilcox. It felt good. It felt really good, and when I dropped down a hill for a few miles, I was in the lap of luxory and I began to turn a corner so that when I finally got to Rodeo a few miles down the road I was charged and ready to finish the ride.

Rodeo was the rubicon for me. I knew as I approached it that the sun setting would likely help the wind to lighten up for a bit and even if it didn't the course turned west at that point so the wind could just go take a flying..... well, lets just say a flying leap since I don't like to swear but admittedly this ride seriously challenged that resolve.

We stopped at a point we saw Dave leave just before we got there. We put on my lights and fluids and were off into the descending night. I was riding fast. I didn't know if anyone was behind me and I didn't want to lose being number 12 and it would be cool to even be number 11 if possible. I ratcheted the speeds up to 20-24 mph through much of this section. Up until this point I was figuring I would finish at 8:30 or 9:00. As I got into the last bits I looked at my watch and suddenly an 8:00 finish looked like it might be possible.

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening. The sun lit up the thunderstorms on the horizon and the breeze had turned into a fine caress instead of the cruel pummeling that it had been. As the glow of the sun faded I could hear crickets chirping in the tall grass on either side of the road and I had one of those zen moments as I pedalled strongly along.

Soon I could spot Mike's support car in the distance and I locked in on them and picked up the pace. Bruce said he could see my whole form and persona change. I nearly caught him but we hit the hill and I think he speeded up at some point so I figured we had both worked hard and I expected a little more hill than we got so I played it conservatively. If I had known that a tailwind would spring up and push me over the hill I might have pushed it a little harder but I didn't know how much hill there was and that I was within a mile or two of a long and most sweet descent into Douglas. I knew there was a hill but I didn't think it was that big of one.

I could see the glow of Douglas over the hills as I climbed up to the saddle and soon I saw the lights in the distance as I hit the back of the hill and let gravity pull me down to the finish. Dave grabbed the escort car on his way in so I had to catch the sign for Avenue A to make the turn. It would have been easy to miss but I didn't. There was a strong headwind coming up the ave and the pavement was absolute crap but I was within 2 miles of finishing a long and brutal ride so it really didn't matter. I whaled through douglas at 20+ mph and rounded the corner into the finish where a car would pull out right in front of me but fortunately we did not join each other in a love embrace. That would be quite the end to this ride wouldn't it?

Anyway, I had a medal and a hug from Sheila waiting at the finish line. I don't know if everyone got a hug, but after all the ugliness of the wind, a hug was a beautiful thing. The wind on this ride reminded me a lot of the 2006 400k, the main difference was this ride was 90 degrees and didn't have rain and borderline snow. I think we had around 10-15 miles less wind on this ride too but it was still vicious.

Bruce was a godsend on this ride. Anywhere I needed anything, Bruce was there. Anything I needed, Bruce got it. Anytime I needed someone with a better attitude for a little encouragement, Bruce had it covered. Bruce also dealt me a few surprises. I was not going to plan on ice but dang that cool water and drink hit the spot later in the course. I also had not originally planned on the cliff bars and sprite but they were an excellent break from my constant supply of maltodextrin and protein. I don't think I'll do this next year, athough I'd like to crew if Bruce decides to do it. I think I'd like to do it again in 2 years though. On all my training rides I have not been this sore afterwards as I am today. I think it's not that I did so poorely, I just think the course was THAT hard this year.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Saturday I will become the number 5. In Japanese the number 5 is 'go'. That's really all there is to it isn't it? At 2 am you go. All the preparation, all the equipment and time away from friends and family, all that training, which for me adds up to 269 hours, 4450 miles, and 147,00 feet climbed (I decided to ride Cochise in April and since then my riding choices have been with Cochise in mind). Through all of it I am a faster stronger rider. In the end all of this boils down to the word 'go' really. You go. Go to Mule Pass, Go to Tombstone, go to Benson, go to Wilcox, go to Road Forks, go to Rodeo, and finally go back to Douglas. A simple word pronounced quickly and yet so long in execution, containing so much toil, so much determination. Training and preparation is so you can go, if you don't go you will never arrive. Bruce's mantra was 'press on regardless' and 'Allure Libre', I think I'll take mine from my rider number. I will just simply, go. May I go swiftly, go safely, and go boldly or boldly go and split my infinitives while I do (Hopefully nobody will be looking at the time, I'll take a spare pair of infinitives along just in case).
I will go with all my might. Let's do it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Well, I had intended to do a lengthy taper ride today but...... I didn't feel like it and the fact I woke up and couldn't get to sleep and the resting heartrate was up made me think that perhaps I am on the verge of the overtraining thing. The thing to do now is rest. Not a biggie, I have a whole week left to rest and I should be recovered. I think the two interval workouts I did this week and the swim session yesterday pushed me over. So, today I will prepare my race stuff for next week, do a few odd jobs around the house, take the kids on a bike ride, and just take it easy. I will get on the bike every few days before next Saturday to keep the form and legs going but I will not spend a lot of time on the bike nor pedal hard. It is time to rest. The hardest part of training.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Autumn Journey

36 degrees! Fall comes to "Top of the World" above Superior at 4590 feet

This was not one of my best rides. The scenery was beautiful, the temperatures were ideal the bike worked good mostly, but a lot of stuff just wasn't there. I had a general lack of energy. This could have been caused by the fact I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before I think. I got to bed at 9 but the friend I told I'd help move if he needed it called up right as I was drifting off and so I had to go out and keep my word. I got home at midnight and my alarm was set for 2:15. I ended up moving the alarm back to 2:45 so I ended up getting out the door at 3:15. I couldn't find my ankle reflectors but I had my butt reflective triangle, two bright taillights, a backup light, and of course the blinding generator light of brilliance.

On thursday the weather made an abrupt change. It was in the lower 60's when I left. I knew that it would be chilly upon cresting the summit known as 'Top of the World' above Superior. I didn't know how chilly, lets just say I am glad I couldn't find my fingerless gloves and ended up wearing my winter gloves.

The trip up US60 in the dark was a grind. I was tired, my body just wasn't generating the power I wanted and there was an unusual amount of traffic out for the time of the morning. I figure the traffic was due to it being a weekday instead of a weekend when people sleep in. Many of them were people heading up to the mines I guess. The one saving grace is that the moon was setting and when it dropped below the horizon I could see the faint traces of the milky way and the big dipper was bright above the horizon. Climbing Gonzalez pass I looked back and there were lights along the entire horizon. There is no longer a seperation between Phoenix Metro and Florence anymore.

Astronautical twihlight was wrapping up and turning into Nautical twilight as I descended down into Superior and since I was good on fluids I rode right on through and set about the first major climb of the day. The 2000' climb up into the tiny hamlet of 'Top of the World'.

Once or twice I could see large packs of semi's and cars coming up the canyon behind me and I got off the road for them not wanting to die defending my right of way. It was slow going as the grades stayed between 7-8%. Soon my headlight was merging into the gathering light on the road. The morning light illuminated the brownish red rocky crags and pinnacles which towered overhead as I struggled on. The temperatures were dropping. I was getting into the mid to lower 40's as I neared the first little drop before the final stretch of the climb started. By the time I reached the top it was 36 degrees. Holy autumn morning batman!

The cemetary on the hill above Globe/Miami

I had been concerned about how I was going to navigate the construction up here I had heard they had layed the first layer of pavement down and had hopes there would be a shoulder for me to ride. I had originally planned on such an early start so even if there wasn't I could get through with light traffic. Turns out I had 15-20 feet of pavement all to myself since the new passing lane was coned off but I could ride it. Many of the construction crew made comments about me being on the easy side of the hill now. I made good time going down the back but the bridge over Pinto Creek gorge gave me a little pause since it is a long narrow bridge and the decking was all ripped up for resurfacing but I was able to make it across before the car behind me caught up and I didn't even lose it despite the deep ruts. The pavement everywhere else was baby butt smooth. It was a beautiful thing, I hope they don't chipseal it.

Shrine at edge of Miami

I passed the shrine on the way into Miami and I wondered who the patron saint of Miners was. I snapped a picture as it is really one of the major landmarks of Miami I think. Next to it is the welcome to Miami sign which I also took a picture of for. I didn't take a lot of pictures because I wanted to keep moving but I did stop for this.

The Copper Capital of the World brought to you by Bud Light lime.

I made my water stop a mile or two down the road at the 'Fast Stop'. I hadn't been in there since the end of the 300k in May which was a very similar ride to this one. it would turn out by the end of the day. I used up my first bag of powder for the day. My jersey pockets were probably full of 5-10 lbs of stuff. Down the road another mile I remembered I forgot my sunscreen. So, after a stop at Circle K I was out on the road again.

Fast Stop with mine in background

Miami and Globe are another set of towns that have kind of joined up but it hasn't been recently that they did. In fact Miami is a bit of a spectre town, it's not quite a ghost town yet, but it is not hard to see all the stores that are boarded up and a sense of a town that is not what it once was. I am sure that as cars got faster and the valley became more accessible more and more of the miners moved out of town. Perhaps more efficient mining machinery dropped the necessary number of miners. Whatever the reason, Miami is a remnant of what it once must have been.

The Smelter on the hill.

As I turned down the road going to Roosevelt lake I remembered riding through here with Tom Baker back in May. I had to push a little to keep up with him but keep up with him I did most of the day. He was very good conversation. Today there would be no conversation, no MP3 player, no support car, just Paul alone with his thoughts, fatigue, and willpower. Willpower because I didn't feel like doing this today. For some reason it was intimidating to me. The last 6 months of training had taken their toll mentally. My body knew exactly what a 12+ hour ride entailed and there was no lieing to it now. But push on I did. First to 'Top of the World' then to Globe, followed by Roosevelt lake visitors center and from Tonto Basic from which there was no returning. I couldn't turn back once I was over halfway.

Cactus on the way to Roosevelt

The climb up the pass before Roosevelt was not as bad as I remembered it. I kept pushing on and eventually I got to the top. I took a few pictures near the top and then I cruised down the backside. There was a semi pulling a large trailer with a wide load sign on it and a big piece of construction equipment down the other side which I caught up to quickly. I passed him on the shoulder and realized I would not have any cars behind me until we got to the passing lane a long ways down the hill. It was just me with the lane to myself as I bombed downt the hill at 40 mph. Still I was careful. Bruce told me some friends of his who are also doing Cochise crashed last week and this being my final ride it would not do to lose the war before the final battle.

Lovin lips of light! (what are the chances of catching the reflection from my rearview mirror right there?)

The next section of road was where I nearly had an unrecoverable disaster. There is a rather large and destructive lip on one side of the bridge at the bottom of the hill. I tried to do a light bunny hop but the rear tire caught a piece of it. I kept going for another 1/2 mile or so and then I had that sinking feeling on the back wheel and suddenly I was riding the rim on the sidewalls.
I remember Gerry Goode advised Bruce not to lose it if small stuff happens which it will when you ride Cochise. I figured this was a good place to practice, so I sat down by the guard rail and analyzed the tire. I figured I would practice a quick fix like I'll do in two weeks so I pulled the tube out of my seatbag. A tube covered in patches. Hmmm. I then discovered it wouldn't hold air so I decided to just patch the current tube which had 2 snakebite punctures. I put on of the larger patches across the two holes and used my CO2 to pump the tire up.

I figured this was a good opportunity to regroup which was also some advice Gerry had give to Bruce. I took off my windvest, my legwarmers, applied sunscreen, and then picked up my trash and took off.

Crossing over into Roosevelt lake area.

Down the road about 3 or 4 miles I got that sinking feeling again. My tire was low on pressure so I stopped and thought to myself that it was not a big thing, unfortunate but not a big thing since though I didn't have any CO2 cartridges left I had my pump. Yep, that wonderful and dependable Road Morph which had dug me out of many a scrape. The pump which was lieing where I had left it, on the guard rail, 3-4 miles back down the road. I had several options, I could wet my pants, I could scream and jump up and down, I could walk the few remaining miles to the Roosevelt Lake vistor center and call my wife in abject defeat and beg a ride for unspeakable promises of domestic servitude, or I could start walking back and hope it wasn't as far as I thought it was. I'd lose an hour at least I figured.

Because I didn't want my bike computer recording me walking for the next bit I stuffed it in the crack in my seat so it wouldn't pick up the signal and I began to walk. I kind of hoped that someone seeing a cyclist walking on the side of the road would have pity and stop. Like the annoyingly many who stopped when I rode my first solo double century and I got 14 flats in the rain. Perhaps it was the miserable conditions that had brought out the kindness in all those people, or perhaps the people of Florence are just a kinder breed than the tourists of Roosevelt lake. No one stopped. I kept walking and then I had a bright Idea, I noticed there was still some air pressure in the tire and if I leaned heavily on the handlebars I might be able to move along without pinch flatting the back wheel again. So I mounted up and rode along standing up with hunched over the handlebars riding along. Somewhere in here I remembered my bike computer and discovered it was gone.

Yep, I was having a winner of a trip out here in the middle of nowhere. First a lost pump and now a bike computer. Nothing I could do about it really so I pressed on looking for that Guardrail which hopefully had my pump. I passed 3 of them before I finally got to the once which caught me mid 'A freakin crap Dang.....' when I spotted the pump and calmed down. So, 8 miles later I was sitting at the exact same guard rail sitting on the ground with my back against it pulling out a tube riddled with patches that would not hold air (the patch on the other tube didn't hold as the holes were two far apart for one patch and too close for two. The old patched tube had three holes in it. After which I had 4 patches left. Hopefully it would last the rest of the day now that I had come within a hair's breadth of a most inconvenient sag.


An hour lost I was back on the road and soon found my bike computer before I got to the visitor center no worse for wear. I had originally intended to make it to Tonto Basin before refilling but I was low on fluids and the visitor center was quick and easy. I bought a root beer and restocked my supply of water and eliminated another bag of drink mix from my jersey pockets which were filled to capacity with my wind vest and gloves and such.

I chatted up a guy there for a few minutes and he said it made him tired just thinking about what I was doing today. I'm afraid it made me tired doing it. As I left he wished me luck and I was off to the Dam and the Dam Bridge.

Under the bridge arch.

It is always pleasant riding along the lake. The temps were in the 60's the sun was shining and there was a HEADWIND? Yep, but it wasn't too bad and watching the water for the telltale signs of the wind (which I knew from my sailing days) the wind was lighter further up the lake so it wasn't a big deal.

There were campers in the coves, fisherman here and there and few boats. I figured the boat traffic was low because it was a little chilly for watersports this morning. Perfect for riding though. I had the faint hints of sweating under my cap but nothing else. It was a beautiful morning for riding, even if the legs were not the happiest to be out there.

Roosevelt Lake

Just past the lake is Tonto Basin and from Tonto Basin starts the area where things get a bit pastoral with farms and horses and such. I passed one pasture with something that isn't seen much by the desert dwellers of Phoenix metro. A tree in splendid yellow colors of Autumn. Standing under it were a few horses. I of course had to take a picture so you guys would believe me that fall has indeed arrived at a place not too far from the valley.

Trees and horses in a land of seasons.

It was around in here that I was starting to fatigue for real. I had already ridden over 120 miles on legs that were not keen to be out today and a mind exhausted from lack of sleep. I tried not to think about how late I would be getting back or how much my butt hurt but concentrated on making it to Jakes Corner where I could refill and refuel.

Outside the store I chatted up another one of the locals who I told about my ride. He asked where my sleeping bag was assuming I was splitting it into two days. He was surprised to hear I was doing it in one and as a training ride no less. I felt a little dread leaving the store knowing that I was at the bottom of what would be 15 miles of pretty severe hill work on legs and mind that didn't have much left.

The beeline highway I have ridden before on my trip to Payson a few weeks ago. I had forgotten how much crap there was on the shoulder though as the grades started to increase. There were cinders all over it and sometimes it even sounded like I was riding on something other than pavement. I ran over a good chunck of glass and for a minute thought I had thrashed the tire.
The hill up the Mazatzal divid is in two parts both very brutal hills. You climb the first for 3-4 miles of 7% and then you drop down a large portion of what you just climbed. At this point you face the brutality that is your climb up a steep canyon with semis gearing down next to you and cars in the fast lane passing the big trucks which are now only going about 20 mph. They are working as hard as you and you can hear them whine.

I was in my lowest gear with cadence shot out the window slowly grinding up the 7% grade. My legs were very unhappy. My mind was exhausted and it was all I could do to push on. On and on, slowly ratcheting up the hill, no seemingly signs of progression until at long last, after one has given up hope of reaching the top the road turns across the top of the canyon and I know I am getting into the last 2 miles to the top. It is still hard work though and I cannot see the top and it seems like the road is climbing up to the sky and my spirits are descending into the depths of misery.

Cresting the hill is a great relief but having to descend a shoulder strewn with debris is not as enjoyable as a good descent should be. When I rode this in the wee hours of the morning over a month ago I could take the lane due to low traffic. Today the road is busy and I keep the brakes alternating to keep my speeds safe. The descent is long. I am aware I will be pushing the 6 pm deadline my wife has as she is helping to conduct at the production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and she needs to be there for curtain call. A brief plan forms in my mind.
When I can get into Cell range I determine to call her and have her meet me out on the Bush hwy somewhere and then we might just be able to make it. The trick is getting to where my cell phone works. The crappy coverage of my pay as you go phone with AT&T is one of my primary reasons for making a switch to my new cell phone and company. Of course the new phone had not arrived yesterday so I was stuck having to hurry through exhaustion to get to the intersection of the Beeline and Bush hwy where I knew my phone would work.

There was one last hill to be reckoned with. It was not as big as the other ones but since I was nearly spent it was a long hard slog. Half way up I got a toot of the horn and a big thumbs up. That lifted my spirits a bit. Just a bit of unlooked for encouragement. At last I reached the pass and knew that from here it was pretty much all downhill with some rollers out on the Bush Hwy.
My wife informed me she would not be able to leave until 5:30 and I advised her we would probably meet up at Granite reef if I hurried and she would be able to be back in time. I pushed. I was out of Fluids and hungry but I knew there was a ride out there in around 20-30 minutes. I made my way down the hwy and drew on my last energy to ride through the rollers and down into the river bottoms by Granite Reef. Right as I approached the bottom of King Kong hill my wife pulled up. I must admit I estimated pretty good. Down to the second pretty much.

So, the summary of all this is I ended up with 184 miles, in 13 hours of riding time with 10000 feet of climbing. It wasn't the time I had hoped for but then again I think I did good just to stay on the bike today. This is the last ride of my training. Next Saturday will be a shorter taper ride of around 70 miles or so. I have ridden 1600 miles with over 70000 feet of climbing on my new bike since July. It has stood by me and taken the strain and distance. The 11% grades, the steep descents, the early mornings, and now the cold morning, the summer desert heat. Today it goes in for the final tune up over before the big race. It deserves it. What do I deserve? Well, last night I had a big meal at Sonic on the way to the show, and then afterward, since no one wanted to drive home with me, I took my son who was helping me to stay awake over to the local Frozen Custard place and had a large cup of the most calorie filled type of Ice Cream. I figure I burned about 12000 calories. It's Custard time.