Today was the Southern Arizona Randonneur's 200k. It's been a few years since I rode this route. As a matter of fact, I last rode it on my recumbent. I should apologize up front for the lack of photos. Truth is it would be a day of holding on to giants and I really didn't have the spare energy to pull off the back and snap a photo, it was all I could do to stay on and take a pull once in awhile.
The day began around 1 am with the customary dream where I wake up at 8 and miss the brevet. Fortunately I was able to get back to sleep and get out of bed at 5:30 pretty well rested. I figured if I got up early I'd be able to get ready at a comfortable pace and not forget anything. It worked mostly. I forgot my wind vest but fortunately I had a spare wind shell in the jeep so it was all good.
The start line was kind of funny. I was just telling my wife the other day that I don't have that many friends, I think with 4 kids I'm too busy and I do a lot of solo training is the reason. Anyway, right after I signed in someone said my name and then there were like 5 or 6 people coming over to say hi. Kind of cool, guess I have friends after all. It was really cool getting to meet up with everyone again. I missed the series last year which was kind of a bummer so I hadn't seen some in a long time. I'm going to miss the 400 and 600 this year but at least I get to do the first half of the series though. I digress, back to the ride.
There was really quite the mob out this morning. there had to be 40 or 50 cyclists starting out. I figured I'd work my way up a bit towards the front so as not to get gapped. Turned out everyone stayed together until the hill so I didn't have to worry about it (although there were a couple of stoplights that split the group up a bit). The hill is where the pack breaks up usually. The front guys (well the front guys not including a small group of superhumans out ahead) were pushing it a little hard for me but not too bad. I knew if I held on we'd be together to the ruins.
Around in here Wayne Churchman (who I would ride with the rest of the day) filled me in on all the other things this part of the course had been used for over the years. Wayne goes way back in the cycling world of the east valley and Arizona in general. He was one of the founders of the Red Mountain Cycling Club which was the predecessor of the Red Mountain Brumbys. He also happens to be the mileage winner over at bikejournal.com for last year with over 20000 miles for the year, he's a strong rider. Last time I rode with him was way back in 2000 with the Red Mountain Cycling Club and 60 miles was a long ride too me. I had trouble keeping up then, hmmm, I guess not much has changed, other than the distance :) .
We got to the ruins at 10 after 9 just a few minutes behind the 3 or 4 people at the front. I tried to get in and out as fast as I could but in retrospect I should have held up for the group but in all fairness I expected them to catch me fairly quickly and I didn't want my legs to cool down. If I had to do it again I think I'd wait.
The rider who left the ruins just before me and I caught up to Tom Baker not too long coming out of the Ruins. We figured we wouldn't pedal too hard as the group would be along shortly. It was a beautiful morning out. It was warming up into the 50's and there wasn't any wind to speak of. We managed to catch another rider before the gang caught back up with us just before the community college.
The group held together all the way to the bike shop. This stop was a little longer for me as I had to refill bottles and put sunscreen on. Wayne and Bob were already on the corner when I got there so we waited for a minute or too for anyone else but we ended up with Tom and one other guy to go brave the vast empty spaces of the reservation. We took it slow heading across town but the pace ratcheted right back up once we were over the tracks which seemed to be giant canyons waiting to dent a rim of the unwary.
The interesting thing about randonneuring and riding with older guys in general is realizing what is possible after 40. I realize I'm not a kid but among the several groups I rode with today I was the youngest. I wish I could say I was the strongest but that would be a lie. All the guys I rode with today were faster than me. I'd say I'd be glad if I could ride like that at their age but frankly I'd be happy to ride like that now. I did manage to keep up, barely. I took my pulls but I have to say my pulls were not as long as some of the others and I was a lot more blown at the end of mine than the other guys appeared. Around the interstate Tom dropped off the back. I was at the very edge of the envelope myself but I was surviving.
Just after getting onto the reservation we started to catch up to another rider. I noticed the orange and yellow jersey and remarked how funny it would be if that turned out to be Gerry Goode. Yep it was. We were now 5 again. We held it at around 20 -22 mph most of the way out with several sections a lot faster than that. I think we had a bit of a tailwind. Every time these guys would hit a hill it was all I could do to hang on. I knew if I made the top of the hill with them I'd get a little bit of a rest again as we went down the other side.
I'm embarrassed to say my drivetrain started squeeking through here. Not only did I have a mismatched jersey (got my brand new super randonneur jersey and really wanted to wear it, my only clean shorts were the yellow brumby shorts though so it was pretty bad), now I was the dork with the squeeking derailluer. The guys put up with me though, thanks guys.
I don't think I have ever gone across the reservation so fast. Just before the Border Patrol checkpoint I started to fatigue and figured I'd probably get dropped soon. I managed to save it though. I knew the lunch stop was only a few miles past the checkpoint and made it a goal to hang on until then.
About a mile and a half from lunch we saw Mike Sturgill and 2 other riders coming back. They were about 10-15 minutes ahead of us we figured. Roger Peskett was just leaving the stop as we road up and Carlton Van Leuvan was still there. It was just after noon so it really was a lunch stop. A lot of times these are more of a afternoon snack stop for me.
I had doubts that I'd be able to hold the guys all the way back but figured I'd give it my best shot. First thing we found was that we had in fact been enjoying a tailwind the last bit. I was a bit cold at first too. We head a wind that sometimes masqueraded as a cross wind. But we held it up around 20 much of the way back. We lost Gerry a ways out of the lunch stop and I figured I'd follow soon but I kept one moring myself.
I kept getting pulls just before hills which was pretty tough on me but I manged to hang on. My turns were getting shorter through here and it seems like when I was pulling I was slower than everyone else. I was pretty blown though. Wayne and Bob went off the front for awhile but when we dropped into the last big valley they waited up for us since we knew how to get back. It's good to have the cue sheet. So Wayne was the captain, and I was the navigator. Climbing the hill out of the valley we lost one more so we were down to 4. I gave it everything I had to get up that hill because I knew if I held on I'd be able to stick with them all the way back and it looked like we were on track to beat 7 hours.
At the edge of the res we caught Roger Peskett so we were back to 5. Maybe it was me but it seemed like we were all a bit blown except for Wayne and Bob. They just kept going. I guess 20000 miles in a year might give you a little endurance. In any case we rolled back into town with plenty of time to beat 7 hours and ended up pulling in at 20 after 2 for a time of 6 hours and 50 minutes. That beat my fastest time by 24 minutes. It was pretty tough but I managed to hang on.