Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beautiful Day and a 300k Brevet

My last blog entry was all about rain and I think it worked as the weather was pretty much as good as it gets Saturday. To keep up with a longstanding tradition of not getting enough sleep before 300k's I was surprised that my Parents decided they wanted to go see my daughter in her play Friday night instead of the next week. I ended up getting 6 hours sleep which isn't bad actually as I was able to get good sleep earlier in the week unlike years past where the kids wouldn't let me get a decent night's sleep the whole week before these things. In addition my training over the past month has been terrible. I missed a whole week due to having to work all night a few nights and a persisting depression has made it a struggle to get on the bike lately. This past week hasn't been so bad though so there is hope and the medications they have me on now seem to be working. In any case, I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked to have been but it all turned out well in the end.

4:30 caught me not quite ready to wake up but I didn't have too much trouble getting up. I missed the 300k last year due to knee issues and I was excited to do this one as there were a lot of people signed up and it is always nice to ride with other Randonneurs. Don't get me wrong, I like riding permanents too but a full saturday on a bike among other riders in near perfect weather is just something not to be missed.

It only took me 20 minutes to get on the road and a short stop to get 2 apple fritters and I was on my way to Casa Grande. I had 20 minutes to check in and get ready when I arrived. Most of the usual suspects were there but I didn't get a lot of mingling time before Tom Baker led us out so I would have to run into them out on the course.

I decided I was going to try and ride up towards the front so when the group split I would be with the front group. I don't know how beneficiel that was but it ended up working out in the end even if it did take me awhile to recover. The lead group was hauling and I was finding it all I could do to just hang on for dear life. One guy up front kept missing turns which took me back a bit as the first time I rode this course Susan had to chase us down and turn us around before we had even got out of town. For some reason the turn onto Woodruff seems to be an easy to miss turn as I have seen people fly right past it several times now.

Heading towards coolidge the group broke apart several times but those of us in back had a secret weapon. There was this tandem that was manned/womanned by superhumans. Well, ok, so one was a Paul Danhaus who is aRAAM finisher and his stoker who didn't seem to shabby of a rider either. In any case they would always pull the group back in. So, this all worked out until I found myself out front heading down Cactus Forest road. I shamefully noticed that though I was pushing way harder than I should have been at this point in the ride I was still not pulling the group as fast as it had been going and I think I should have ended my pull earlier than I did but I didn't want to feel like I hadn't done my share either. In hindsight I should have saved a little something and cut out early.

Of course the rider behind me was Sturgill and of course the pace kicked up a few notches when I pulled off and before I knew what was going on the group was a hundred feet up the road and I was sprinting to get back on. I caught them but didn't have the wind left to hold on so I let them go. It took me awhile to recover. I had really struggled the last bit to stay on. I did end up holding them for 24 miles though so I think I didn't do too badly.

I almost bit it pulling off my jacket and tying it around my waste when a wind gust hit me but I saved it fortunately. I figured I would be riding alone at least to Tom Mix and probably beyond but a few miles out from Tom Mix I got caught by Wayne Churchman who I had thought was in the group up ahead. He was pulling along with Cathy (who was from Colorado) and I joined in. I was still recovering but I found I could hold on and even was able to fulfill my end of the bargain as we did 1 mile pulls. Up into Tom Mix. Where the tandem and a few others were pulling out just as we pulled in. We would do the same favor to a few guys who pulled in just after us.

It was a little chilly but not enough to put my jacket back on. We continued trading pulls up the pinal parkway which was pretty temperate. There is usually a pretty hefty wind but the wind wasn't too bad as we rode on. We were joined by two other guys for awhile but they dropped off a few miles before we got to the top. Wayne, Cathy and I would hang together untl the turn onto Tangerine and then Wayne and I ducked into the service station there to top off the water bottles. Steve Atkins was there when we pulled in and so our group was back to 3 since Cathy had gone on.

I'm usually way behind Steve so it was kind of cool to ride with him for awhile. I would actually end up riding with him off and on the rest of the day. Wayne dropped us about when we got to Silverbell and he said he pretty much rode alone the rest of the way. Steve and I rode along together for awhile until we got onto Sweetwater where I let him go on ahead so I could slow it down a bit and take a "moving rest" before hitting Gate's Pass. I have been fighting a head cold lately and I was feeling a little achy heading up to the pass. The pass seemed a little intimidating today too for some reason. Other than feeling a little ill I didn't have too much trouble climbing it. Having climbed it a few times now I know to slow down a bit between the steep spots to keep my heartrate down. I stood up for most of the descent to give my rear end a bit of a rest as it was starting to get unhappy with me.

Steve was just pulling out when I got to the lunch stop and I intended to get out fairly quickly but ended up chatting a bit with Carlton a bit before I headed out. I rode alone pretty much almost to the airport when Russ caught up to me. He was riding strong today and we started trading pulls until Steve caught us from behind (which was a bit of a surprise, he must have stopped at picture rocks). The three of us worked together up to Marana into a headwind from the North of which Steve said he needed to have words with weatherunderground about.

We decided to push on to Picacho Dairy Queen before stopping and we got out on the frontage road with either Steve or Russ pulling and I kept looking at my computer and seeing we were getting up over 20mph and I remember thinking that someone must have hit their second wind or ate their wheaties or something as that's a pretty good pace to be doing this late in the game. Of course my bubble burst when I got to pull and lo and behold I was pulling at the same speed. Those beautifullly forecasted southern winds had kicked in and as we got out onto the frontage road we kept 24-28 mph almost all the way to the Dairy Queen. I have never ridden that stretch so fast and it was rather nice I must confess. It was also nice to arrive at the DQ while it was still open. The last time I rode this course with a Steve (Jewell) we got here late in the eveing in the cold and dark with everything closed.

Heading out of here we resumed our beautiful speed heading to Eloy. The shoulders were incredibly green and it didn't look like a highway in Arizona but somewhere else where things are green, the recent rains have really made the desert come alive. Steve started cramping in here and dropped off the back. The wind shifted a bit so we were getting a bit of a crosswind but since we were about to 11 mile corner road it wasn't a big deal as it was blowing the perfect direction to blow us effortlessly at over 20 all the way up to 11 mile corner. It was a beautiful thing. It was so beautiful in fact that it made the 6 miles of crosswinds heading back to Casa Grand worth it I think. Of course I did a bit of drafting off Russ quite a bit through here and I have to say I didn't give much back as I was tired. In all fairness though, with the crosswinds there wasn't much of a draft. Still, thanks Russ. We got to Casa Grande with about 10 minutes to 6 and after we rode around the medical center we managed to slide in at 3 to 6. Not bad for a days work after a month of goofed up training and a head cold. I'm happy with it.

There really isn't any weather better than what we had. It wasn't too cold in the morning, we had some clouds to keep the UV down for much of the day and the temps got into the lower 70's. I think most of our friends from the north got their money's worth on this one. It truly was one of the best brevets I have done. After I got home and in bed I awoke around midnight to the sound of torrential rain falling and hoped everyone was off the course which it sounds like they were. The only downer of the day was that Chipotle's hadn't opened their store yet. They were training their crew. Maybe I'll finish the 400 early enough to chow down when they've officially opened.