Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tucson In The House

What up, G?

That’s what a woman shouted out to me as I sped past on the El Tour Route. Many spectators were waving and yelling “good luck” and “keep going.” I wore the custom Tucson jersey Stef made for us—and it got me a lot of attention as I like to think the crowds recognized me as a local boy. I hope you don’t mind I didn’t bring the camera along for shots of the race—my writing will have to suffice, and I’ll do my best to capture my take—maybe borrow some photos from Dan and Paul—cause you know the streets were such that riders had some room to roll, and on the familiar parts of my commute route, where I have to be aware of cars—motorists were not on the road—so this meant I got to fly down the street as fast as I could.

All the police seemed to have things under control this year, so I got to fly through intersections like a bullet. Car drivers also seemed content and patient. All in all I had a pretty good ride.

At the Start

Ryan and I got to the start of the Gold Finish Time at 4:30 a.m. and took our place. Within a few minutes, other riders arrived and we were packed in like sardines. It was cold, but not too cold. Ryan was able to take our coats back to the car and get back in line. Our other warm clothes we stashed in a bag and left over the fence—and by some stroke of luck, Ryan found the bag when he got in and we got all our stuff back.

I am happy to report that Bike Patrol was on hand to stop all those who felt they could cut in line and put their bikes over the gates and get in up front. If you are caught doing this, you are made to go to the back of the line behind several thousand riders. A few of these cheaters tried to confront the older woman whose job it was to enforce this rule, but they had second thoughts as Tucson Police appeared and stood behind her to show her authority could not be questioned.

The Ride Begins

I found myself riding with a strong pack of big guys. This made me feel pretty good because they were fellahs bigger than me—while not riding real real fast—we were moving along; Clydesdale Thunder comes to mind—like being a part of the engine of a huge locomotive. This lasted for about five miles until everyone had to slow up to go around a crash. I didn’t see the crash, but a couple of women were lying on the pavement and friends were helping them along. Their water bottles had come off their bikes and the liquid in the bottles splattered all over the road.

For most of the first 30 miles, I rode on and off with about five riders. Packs would come by and I’d jump on the back, and then after a few miles these packs would split. Some riders would take off while others would drop off. A pack would form up again and I’d get on board but then get dropped. Packs would form around me but I’d drop people on a few of the climbs. I recall on Freeman Rd, I shot down that road like a mad-man, and passed about 100 riders—ones that had dropped me miles ahead. It was just perplexing, Gentle Readers of This Blog. Any opportunity to ride fast with no traffic is an opportunity not to miss in my book.

For that descent, a young woman sat right on my wheel. She must have thought I was doing something right—I mean, if I saw me going down Freeman Rd like a runaway semi-truck, the last thing I’d want to do is get on the Dude’s wheel!

The Second Wash

I heard many different languages on this march through the mud and sand—Spanish, German, Arabic—and the translation was pretty much the same all around, “WTF?” But efficient Girl Scouts filled my water bottles even as I walked along—taking my empty bottles off the bike, filling them, and putting them back in with precision—cool… I also met up with my Rando Buddy, Alan. In good spirits—and calm—almost laughing, Alan and I chatted while I poured rocks and sand out my bike shoes. It just seemed that everyone there had walked through dog shit, and we were all scraping it off our shoes and bikes.

I think it’s here that I started to run into trouble, mes amis—see my nutrition, which was bars—well, it wasn’t working for me. The bars tasted terrible and they were hard to eat. So I wasn’t eating enough. One of the Golden Rules of the famous French Randonneurs is, “Eat before you are hungry.” My stomach was complaining—I was hungry and wanting food. I didn’t have any.

Commute Route

Now that I was on my commute route, I felt pretty focused. With Police at the intersections waving me through—and with hardly any car traffic—I rode very fast on Sunrise, Skyline, and Ina. Instead of being squeezed into the bike lane, which is often rough and bumpy—I had the road, and I had no fear of riding as hard and fast as I dared.


I was drinking a lot of water, Gentle Readers—and I could see that my fellow riders were too. Up in Rancho Vistoso and on Moore Rd, there were lines for water. I had none—and I didn’t want to wait. As I know this part of the course like the back of my hand, I jumped off to take a pee—and then called Little Egypt on my cell phone. I asked her to meet me right in Dog Mtn with four water bottles—with ice and a little Gatorade—and I’d pick them up. This was about 11:30 and I’d meet her at 11:45 I said. My chances of finishing under six hours this year were hanging by a thread—but I thought I’d just make if I could ride like Hell the last 30 miles or so.

Little Egypt

I rode down Moore Rd faster than I think I ever had before. About a half mile behind me was a big pack of riders so I really pushed it down the road. Right as I pulled in Dog Mtn, Little Egypt drove up with water. Anything I didn’t need I took off the bike and threw out of my pockets—leg warmers, bars, gels, my undershirt—and then I drank one bottle right then and there—stuffed one bottle in my back pocket and the other two on the frame of my Trek 2.3… I was there at the stop less than two minutes I think. I rode down Tangerine Rd to I-10 at 35 mph. All the time looking at my wrist watch and thinking about getting to the finish before 1 pm for a six hour finish—it was going to be close, Gentle Readers.

Charlie Horse

I was gaining on the large pack that had passed me when I stopped for water in Dog Mtn. At mile 90 on the frontage rd, just as I braced myself to pass over the rail-road tracks by Avra Valley Rd—I felt what I thought was a sniper bullet pierce through my arm, chest, and then thigh. It was one of those deep and painful and sudden cramps in my leg. On a scale of one to ten—it was a 12. It blind-sided me and I almost leaped out of the saddle and crashed it was so damn painful. I managed to stop on the shoulder without my hamstring tearing right off the bone. Some muscle in my chest and arm, and my right thigh were frozen yet in waves of spasm. I was paralyzed by the side of the road—and beginning to slowly slump over. I was going down and I realized I was cooked.

Another rider had turned around and rode back to ask me if I was okay. He held me steady while I slowly straightened out my leg and stand on my feet. After a few very long minutes the grip of that cramp in my chest let up enough for me to take a breath. And then the Charlie Horse began to fade—Holy Shit--that hurt like a MF!

18 Miles

The cyclist that came to my rescue took off as I assured him I’d work the cramp out and get back in the game. Finishing in under six hours was not going to happen, mes amis. I needed to calm myself, wipe the sweat off my face, and get my ass back in saddle and finish El Tour. I feared that the cramps were going to come back—and it felt like they would every few miles. I just took it easy at first, and the slowly got some speed—not fast—but I was getting there. Everyone one was passing me, and I rode as far to the right as possible so I wouldn’t be in anybody’s way.

I felt Charlie was gonna come back a few times, but he couldn’t catch me now—by mile 106 I had no more water, and mile 106 seemed like it was stuck on the bike computer for a very long time. I could hear other riders talking as they road past—local guys saying to their friends, “Those buildings are downtown—and the finish—we’re almost there…” and I looked up too, and I was getting there. My legs, and in particular my right leg, felt like it was just a wet noodle.

At the Finish -- At Last!

So my head is a bit clearer and I see that I might be able to cross the finish right at or before 2 pm for a time under seven hours. That was contingent on the legs holding up—because I really felt I had nothing left in them. Probably not the smartest thing to do, but I sprinted under the overpass on Congress, made the left turn on Church—and crossed the finish. Into the shoot with the other riders, an official said, “2 p.m. Gentlemen.” I had made it in seven hours or maybe a minute under. But at least I made it—I felt fortunate because I really messed this up I thought.

6 Hours 58 Minutes

Next year I'll do much better!

Cheers! Bruce


Sir Bikesalot said...

Last time I rode I pulled over the finish and at the same time I got a double cramp in both legs. One of the workers had to hold me up so I wouldn't fall over. Congratulations on finishing! We were driving along the interstate and I was wondering if you were one of the guys over there as we drove home.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Thanks, Paul...

You know, it has been a while since I got a cramp like this--I certainly have to ride smarter next time. I was lucky that a fellow rider stopped to help me--or I would have fallen and maybe not been able to get back in the saddle.

Cheers! Bruce

Stefan Walz said...

A brave and noble effort. That's not an easy ride and you did it with style and class (as always). Don't fret those cramps - p/up some EPO for next year and you'll be singing the plantinum blues! BRAVO senor!

Dan Trued said...

Weird stuff always happens on the Tour, I totally bonked on one, one time. Like the jersey.