Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tucson by Bike

I often can't believe I'm actually doing this...

Half of July is over, and commuting on the bike to work I’ve ridden almost 300 miles—I think its okay to add the 40 mile ride on July 4th in with that mix.

All of June, and this half of July—has been hot—but the tough part of it has been the wind. The winds have been stronger than usual—scorching and relentless.

With two weeks of rides home in 102 to 104, I have to say that I’m feeling worn down.

I felt like I had a hang-over this morning when I got up, but I pushed ahead and soon found myself in that usual rhythm; the heavy work trucks rolling past, the half asleep commuters behind the wheel, and my heart and lungs warming up and getting me up the Ridge.

Steady as she goes, Gentle Reader of This Blog.

Yesterday morning, I converged on Ina and La Cholla Rds with a Tri-Girl. The wind was brutal and blasting us like a freight train out of the East. We worked together and made our way up Ina head-first into the Force—I took my turn to pull and we were almost to Ina—at least I was—when I turned to look around I saw I had dropped her. She shook her head—she’d had it and was slowing.

This morning, same thing—two blokes heading up Ina and I begin my pursuit. A pursuit into a modest headwind this morning wasn’t such a great thing because I was already exhausted before I got on the bike back at the YMCA—but I soon found myself with them and we formed a pace line for the climb. They were two big guys like me, cheerful and friendly. The head wind was getting stronger and our speed was slowing. One of them finally said he couldn’t keep the pace. I kept going and soon I saw that I had put a few blocks between us, and then they were out of sight.

I started thinking to myself, “No wonder I’m so tired all day at the office—I’m out here in a slug-fest with the Monsoon.” What am I doing?

Soon after I see another rider up ahead, and I begin the pursuit. I should have just taken it easy and kept a steady pace. But I began to chase the rider down. You probably know the rest—I gained little by little. The rider up ahead had a stop light—my chance to catch ‘em—but he or she ran the light. Dang he knows I’m on his tail. I knew then I wouldn’t catch them because I was coming up to the red light fast—but it turned green and so I cranked it up into high gear.

I was within a few blocks of catching the guy, but the wind got stronger and stronger, and on my last mile climb up to Craycroft I began to get tired and felt a cramp taking what I had left. The rider kept going straight and I made my right turn to descend South into the San.

All morning at work I was having bouts of sleep. I was exhausted and not getting much of anything done. The day wore on and I was still dog-tired when 4:30 rolled around. My feeling was that it would rain, but the clouds got burned off so that by late afternoon it was 105 degrees. Walking outside I felt the strong headwind coming out of the West (like I wasn’t expecting that, mes amis…) but you know it had a sweet rain smell and that I don’t mind.

On the bike route I soon found myself coming up on a rider on a tri-bike. He looked strong, and like me he was in the drops and just riding thru the headwind. He realized I was behind him and so sped up. I stayed with him for awhile and then at a point on the bike route where you have to get on the sidewalk to cross a street called Dodge, he made a bit of a wrong turn. Probably he hadn’t ridden on this part of route, and I now he was a ways behind me. He soon caught me, said hello with a bit of an embarrassed smile, and then was on his way. With those aero bars on that sweet bike of his, he gradually pulled way ahead of me such that on the flat smooth part of the bike route he took off like a rocket.

Before I started the three mile climb up busy La Cholla and on to my car parked at the YMCA, I drank half of the water bottle I had wrapped in my work clothes in the saddle bag. It was still cold and just what I needed. It was windy of course and the air was hot and dry. I settled in the climb and just tuned out the drone of the traffic rolling past. Sweat streamed down my face and dripped down my nose and splattered on the top tube of the old Raleigh Super Grand Prix. I just have to get to the top of this hill, and then make one last tricky and dangerous left turn in traffic—and I’m home free.

At the top of the climb and then setting up for my left turn, I noticed another rider behind me and he was going to go straight and then going right. “Hey Boss!” I said, kind of surprised that he was back there. “Thank you—“ he called back exhausted, “Thank you for that pull, Buddy—“ He must have at one point come up and sat on my wheel as we made the climb. He looked totally cooked—sweat pouring down his face and breathing hard—kind of like me at that point. A friendly wave and he was making his turn and I was set up for my left turn.

Waiting there for the left arrow I realized how hot it actually was—104 degrees. The bank across the street displays the time and temp. I’ve got about two miles to go before I reach my car… It’s been a good day on the bike.

I think I’ve earned a day off don’t you think?




Doohickie said...

Yep, you've earned a rest.

My ride isn't as taxing as yours, even when it's hot out. The hills aren't as extreme, and on the hot days I take alternate routes that minimize my climbing at the expense of having to ride a few extra miles.

I read on BikeForums about cadence, and it finally seemed to click in my head. So I tried to ride a steady cadence home, and sure enough for each gear I could ride a pretty steady speed without really trying. I adjusted for hills and wind, but tried to keep the same cadence. The ride was over almost too quickly. I didn't set any records, but I had a lot more energy at the end of it.

Anyway, we've got the hottest part of the summer ahead of us, don't we?

Dave said...

And I thought I had it tough joining the Rapha ride in n.e. AZ a few days ago.

Don't even think of coming to ride in my home town this summer - Los Angeles - I think you'd be in danger of freezing to death.

Sir Bikesalot said...

105 degrees....Mmmmmmm sounds nice....Ok, just kidding. 105 is hot. Anything over 100 is hot. After all this heat riding the last few weeks I finished Saturday mornings ride at 90 degrees and didn't even think anything of it. That's how twisted riding in 105+ heat makes you. Kudos to you Bruce!