Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yeah, that was tough.

Today I took a little lap around the Santa Rita Mountains. It turned out to be 119 miles and took me 7:15 of riding time.  I took pre-scheduled breaks and a few unplanned potty breaks.  It was an awesome experience, one that is unique in difficulty of all of the things I've done, and one I won't likely do again any time soon.

In the picture to the right you can see the mountains on the horizon, about 30 miles away or so.

The ride started at 7:40 this morning.  My hands froze for the first 6 miles.  I tucked them behind the handlebars and tried to protect as much exposed skin as possible by pulling my arms in tight against my sides.  I love running in cold weather, but riding a road bike is a bit different.

There was a slight breeze in my face as I made my way into the town of Patagonia.  I had really struggled, despite the beautiful route.  Many times I wished there was another GABA ride so I'd have people to chase.  But as it turned out, I managed just over 15 mph average.  I've not been that slow since ... March?

I hadn't planned on stopping in Patagonia but I needed to use the restroom and to think about why I was struggling.  My legs weren't tired and I was rested and had good fuel.  I was just kind of emotionally flat.  Not an appropriate state of mind for what lay ahead!

Patagonia is a neat place.  Everybody lives there by choice and it's community reflects such.  Above is a picture at the public restroom in the town park and it's obviously nicely decorated. When I walked into the restroom, I became aware that a previous rider had been having a crappier ride than I was.  Warning, it's kind of a gross picture, you've been warned.

I realized that my cadence had been too low, so I focused on keeping it over 90 and had much better performance for the rest of the day.  As I left Patagonia, about 4000 feet in elevation, to head the 12 miles up to Sonoita, about 5500 feet elevation, I was very disappointed to find that the top layer of the highway's asphalt had been removed.  ADOT was apparently going to resurface.  Ugh.  This was sure to be the hardest part of the ride anyway, as the wind is ALWAYS in my face on this ride, and the climbing is steady and relentless.

When I pulled into Sonoita, which was my first scheduled stop and 40 miles from home, my feet, seat and hands were all numb.  I grabbed a few goodies and replenished my fluids.  How is that for a healthy mid-morning snack?  Chocolate milk, snickers and nutter butters?  The joys of riding.

I hit the road going north with a bit of anticipation.  I'd never ridden this route before.  It had the single largest climb according to the research I'd done.  I just knew that the scenery would be unparalleled.  The high desert grasslands are incredible.

This road, AZ highway 83, was in excellent condition, though it had a small, ever narrowing shoulder.  The surface was smooth and flat, a welcome change for my rear end.  With the new surface my speed picked up and I rolled along at an easy 18 to 19 mph until I hit the hills again.

In the picture above and right you can see that I'm now on the other side of the Santa Rita Mountains.  I really enjoyed this part of the ride, though I had to pee again only twenty minutes after leaving Sonoita again.  I've been trying to become more efficient with fluids by hydrating more fully before a long ride.  Today was the first time in a while I had trouble.

It was all fun and games until I hit the hills.  I'm not sure if this picture will really capture the climb.  It's not that it was so steep, I've ridden steeper, but this was steep and long, about a mile and a half without break.

I love climbs like this though, really.  When I'm at the top it's an accomplishment to be sure.

Now of course what goes up, must come down.  And down I came.  For the next thirty miles I was cruising downhill.  Unfortunately the shoulder completely disappeared and the road became in disrepair shortly after leaving Santa Cruz County and entering Pima County.  But, what a rush.  That first downhill made the entire ride worth the effort.

How sweet of a sign is that for a cyclist?

I dropped in elevation from just under 6000 feet to just over 2000 feet pretty quickly.  The road wound down through a narrow canyon, the road carved out of solid rock on each side.  Eventually I shot out onto a gently downhill sloping flat covered in cactus.  It looked like something in a scene from The Hills Have Eyes.
I pulled in for my second planned stop at bought some sunscreen and some more fluids.  I was waiting in line to pay when some young teenaged girls asked me if I'd ridden there.  They shared that they too had ridden, and almost died.  It was TWO HORRIBLE MILES!  I didn't share how far I'd gone.  I was at 68 miles.
At this point I was beginning to create small goals.  Get here and maintain your average pace all of the way and then we'll evaluate how things are and make another goal.  I continued down the hill into the Santa Cruz Valley and the temperature continued to rise.  I couldn't wait to be done.  This road was getting worse, the traffic heavier and the sun was ROASTING!

I finally reached my turn and headed south through some pecan groves.  The groves are interesting as they add some humidity to the local area, which has a cooling effect.  The road again was smooth and the shoulder was sufficient.  There was a slight breeze at my back and I hoped it would remain there for the final 45 miles of my ride.

I stopped in Green Valley and bought pretzels.  They sounded, and were, fantastic.  I was also thirsty for just water.  No more Gatorade or Powerade.  Weird how that happens. 
Now I was really at the point of just picking places to stop.  I had one more scheduled stop in Tubac.  I made it there going well.  I was tired but strong.  I bought a peanut butter cookie and a banana.  I hit the road just wanting to make it to the north side of Rio Rico, then I'd evaluate what I had left and create a game plan.  

The last five mile stretch before I hit the residential area is on the interstate.  The frontage road is flat dangerous, busy, fast and has no shoulder, often the white line is painted over broken asphalt.  Over the last two miles on the freeway I decide to open it up with whatever I had left.  I had been maintaining between 16.5 and 17.5.  At first I'd have been happy maintaining that as the road began to incline.  But, I pushed and brought the speed up to 20, 21 and sprinted to finished at 22.5.  That was a hugely taxing effort that will have a huge dividend to be collected on 11/19 (El Tour de Tucson).  

When I got home I was as tired as I can ever remember being from a bike ride.  My wife said a friend of her's husband rode a lot in California, touring the Sierra Madres.  The story went, he was used to elevation and chose my route today as his first Arizona ride.  It turned out to be his last serious ride in Arizona.  Too much climbing and too much heat, he said.

Next weekend I'm riding El Tour's route with my brother-in-law.  That's going to be no walk in the park at 111 miles, but by comparison, shouldn't be nearly as bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment