Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tucson Thanksgiving -- Time to Ride

We arrive at Saguaro National Park!

Dave Glasgow and I will do some miles in Saguaro National Park, East this beautiful Thanksgiving Day, 2010. I drive from Dog Mtn and meet at Dave's house over by the U of A, and then we drive out the rest of the way together. That saves all the driving for me, plus we both get in on Dave's Park Pass.

My coach and mentor, Dave Glasgow...

Dave crashed on the Cochise County Cycling Classic--or Cochise as we all call it--back on October 9th. At the time he told me he suffered four broken ribs, but today he's told me besides the ribs, he ruptured his spleen and bruised his remaining kidney. The other kidney he donated to a family member a few years ago. I did not know the extent of his injuries--riding with a ruptured spleen is pretty dangerous, mes amis--if he were to have another spill it would be life-threatening. So we're going to take it easy.

Visitor's Center at Saguaro Nat'l Park East.

For now there's only cyclists entering the Park which is good because there won't be any car traffic. Not that I mind, its just that people visiting in cars will stop often and drive slow so to take in the sites. You need to keep an eye open so you don't suddenly run into someone from behind while they're stopped.

Dave in the Park, Mt. Lemmon off in the background.

It was pretty cold this morning in Tucson, Arizona, Gentle Readers of This Blog! I'm glad I brought the leg warmers. As we did a few laps around the 8 Mile Loop, and then picnic area, we warmed up a bit--however there was a cool breeze for us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Beauty of the Desert.

Even though its only about 50 degrees, Saguaro Nat'l Park is still beautiful and well worth the trip this morning. The air is cool and clean, and Winter is now in charge--but taking it easy I'd say--not so cold that we're feeling uncomfortable.

Dave feels good this morning.

We set a strong pace and enjoy the rollers the 8 Mile Loop has to offer. There's lots of riders in the Park and we chat with everyone--locals out for an extra few days of riding, and visitors riding here for the first time. Its a good day to be on the bike!

America's Best Idea--The National Parks... That's something I'm very thankful for this lovely Thanksgiving Day!

The Rincon Mountain Range, and the saguaro cactus sunning themselves in the late morning warm sunshine.

Mt. Lemmon, my old friend--I bet it's a bit cold up there today!

Saguaro--this large one is by the side of the road is probably quite old as it has several arms. The City of Tucson is off in the distance, about 30 miles as the crow flys.

Rex, a friend of Dave's stops by to say hello, ask Dave how he's been since the spill.

We see so many of Dave's friends today--I would say we were invited to at least five Thanksgiving Dinners! Dave is feeling better and soon we're on our way to a his favorite Chinese Restaurant for spicy hot vegetarian food for a late lunch. I can't do spicy or hot--just had Sesame Chicken, which is a specialty at Old Peking where we had our food.

Cheers! Bruce

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cycling Mt. Lemmon -- Brevet of 200 Km

200 kilometers equals about 125 miles.

Susan, our RBA for Arizona Randonneurs, came down to Dog Mtn and stayed a few days--she is the Brevet Official and she pre-rides the course a few days before the other riders so that she can be the RUSA Official and run things. I had this past Thursday off for Veterans Day--so I got to pre-ride the 200 with her.

Early morning heading East on Moore Rd -- the Sun begins to climb over Mt. Lemmon.

This 200 is pretty tough, mes amis--rolls out about 35 miles West of the base of the mountain. We start at 7 a.m. and will have 13 hours 30 minutes to ride to the top of Mt. Lemmon, and then return. As the RBA, Susan provides cue sheets, maps, food, water, and drop bags for the riders--this is what they call SAG support. But Susan does the Brevets totally un-supported and usually alone. We will have to carry everything we need today--all food, clothes, and as much water as we can.

Ready to ride this morning! The 200 is 90 per cent my old commute route to the office, so I know the roads well.

We know it will be cooler today, and that wind is forecast for the afternoon. My hope is that we'll have a tail wind home. I know these roads well as I've commuted on them for years. Moore Rd. is quiet and smooth, and Mt. Lemmon dominates the morning sunrise.

Entering the town of Oro Valley.

We ride down and through the Oro, which means Gold in Spanish.

Still some old ranches in Oro Valley, and here on Calle Concordia is where we begin to head East, around Pusch Ridge, into the Catalina Foothills.

Well on our way!

Heading East on Ina Rd--my commute route--wide and smooth re-paved roads.

The Sun is nice and warm!

Ina Rd will be a nice gradual climb. Its Veterans Day so traffic is light and the air is cool and sunny this early. I'm glad there's no cars because often people that ride with me say that Ina is insanely busy and dangerous. But I'm used to it I guess. I'm on familiar ground--and for me the miles pass quickly. The real ride starts at the base of Mt. Lemmon.

Susan and I on the top of Sunrise and Craycroft, ready to start the next section of the Brevet!

The Jolly Roger!

Construction on the road to Sabino Canyon meant an alternative route this year, so Roger Peskett offered up the way through on Territory Rd. Suddenly, we are met with quite a hill, Gentle Readers of This Blog! I knew it was coming as the Boss and I checked out this section for Susan a few weeks ago--I made it back then--and just barely. Could I do it again?

Seems that all the training and riding to work I did this past summer paid off--I got up the Jolly Roger. This is by far the toughest part of the ride I think! For Roger and his Club, this is par for the course, and the reason they're some of the best riders in Tucson.

Here we go!

Must keep pedaling--put camera away--must pedal--must keep going!

Susan right behind me--from the top of the Jolly Roger--wow, what a view!

Time to get a bit of water and shed some clothes.

The Sun is out and we're feeling good. The Sabino Canyon Visitor's Center is not an official stop, but its just a few blocks away. We can use the restrooms, get water, and change out of our warm heavy clothing from the morning.

You can't get lost coming out of the Visitor's Center, mes amis!

From Sabino Canyon, we will be on the fast stretch to the base of Mt. Lemmon, and the shopping center which will be the controle before the climb.

Its important to stay on course, mes amis--merge and stay left. Go right and forever ride on the Lost Brevet! Just kidding--turn around and you'll be fine...

We make the controle and get receipts.

At the controle, I eat a Subway sandwich and now top off my two water bottles, and fill the two I'm carrying in my Carradice Bag. You will need as much water as you can carry, and you'll need some nutrition. The climb will commence shortly.

You will need at least three water bottles, Gentle Reader of This Blog--there's no water until Palisades, which is 20 miles up the mountain. We will have Dave Glasgow meeting up at Windy Vista so that's why we're not bringing Camelbaks along as well. Even some of the strongest riders will go through through three bottles of water before Windy Vista. Make sure you plan accordingly!

On the Catalina Hwy. Susan sets a steady pace...

The controle opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. so you have plenty of time to get up and then get back down--keep going--you can do it!

Allure Libre --

Get ready for one of the best climbs in the USA!

Climbing Mt. Lemmon is a challenge, that's for sure, and it offers the best for all levels of riders. You can attack Mt. Lemmon with gusto and feel great as you test your fitness and bike skills on the road.

You can also find a groove and ride steadily up from the desert into the cool sweet-scented pines. Either way, Mt. Lemmon is a mental test, Gentle Reader--often those guys you see flying up, you soon see turning around and coming back down.

Riding to the very top takes some fortitude--I believe you have to set a pace and get your mind focused. You must carry enough food and water to sustain you, whatever you physical and mental prowess.

Enjoy the Ride!

With the stillness of the desert, the concentration of your ride, and the thousands of saguaro appearing as silent spectators--you begin to transcend into a state of oneness with the road, the mountain, and the sky.

Welcome to Mt. Lemmon!

The saguaros on the mountain side seem like thin people kind of milling around, glancing your way somewhat indifferent to you and your bike. However, as you glide past them, you realize how large they are--20 to 30 feet tall! And they have long life-spans too. Many are 75 to 125 years old, and they were here when the WPA crews were building this road in the 1930s.

You are climbing well! Keep going!

It was 26 miles to the top--now only 19!

Le Randonneur...

The saguaros that have been your stoic audience for the first part of your climb seem to fade away, and now here comes the first mental test you face--it is hot, barren, steep, and windy--you feel very alone. The people you've been riding with are either a ways behind you or a ways in front of you--often just out of site. You must keep going through this part undaunted!

It appears that we will have a rendez-vous with some weather this ride.

Susan and I realize that the temperatures are dropping, and that we're feeling wind gusts whisking down the road. The gusts are like the storm's recon troops, scouting out the way for rain--or maybe even snow?

Dave Glasgow, still recovering from broken ribs suffered on Cochise, meets up with us at Windy Vista with water!

Dave and Tyler, Dave's "room mate" are at Windy Vista and we top off our water bottles. I had four bottles and I used up three to this point. Without more water, I could not have made it to Palisades where there's water there. Dave advises Susan and I to stay together--the wind has come up and clouds are quickly gathering around the mountain. Tyler appears to be very interested in Susan's peanut butter sandwhiches in her saddle bag! Dave gives us an encourging send off, and we are on our way to Palisades Ranger Station.

Cold wind and clouds coming in--but things don't look too serious yet!

Palisades and water!

The ride up to Palisades was pretty long I felt this time. It was cold and windy and I had to keep reminding myself to eat and stay hydrated--because I was still sweating a good deal riding up at my pace. From here, Gentler Reader of This Blog, there are five more miles to the top. There will be a sudden and fast few miles of down-hill--which you really need at this point--its good to take down those miles. But you have about two to climb before you coast down into Summerhaven.

Freezing for the fast climb to the top.

That fast dip and climb were fridgid cold, mes amis--very cold indeed! The storm was on the top and those five miles were some of the coldest I've had to ride through in a long time.

Mt. Lemmon, Arizona -- Post Office.

Susan and I put our postcards in the Post Office, which when mailed back to my house in Dog Mtn, will prove we did the Brevet. Across the street in the Visitor's Center we filled water bottles, used the restrooms, and changed back into our early morning cold weather gear. Mes Amis, it was freezing, and now snow began to fall. While I changed my clothes, I ate my lunch at the same time--I was cold, hungry, and needed to get warm. Susan is famous for making her stops fast--and fast is what we needed to be to get going.

I'll take sunny and warm Tucson, thank you very much!

Climbing out of Summerhaven and really wanting to get back to Palisades and start decsencding. Can you see the snow?

Cold and Windy--but kind of cool to ride in snow--in Arizona. But hey! I've made it to the top of Mt. Lemmon! I'm feeling uphoric!

Snow on Mt. Lemmon...

The snow storm was like a big lumbering white bear coming over the East side of the mountain--his breath cold and rough. I was surprised how fast Susan rode down the highway--she was sailing! We needed to get out of the storm, and I believe Susan wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in the bank to get back down and make the controle--which we did.

But we both rode down fast--faster than I often feel comfortable. It helped that the Boss talked me through some of the finer points of fast decsending this summer when we trained on Mt. Lemmon, but now it was very very cold, and my hands were frozen to the drops. I didn't start to get warm until we were well on our way down, speeding along Brad Gorman to the controle.

On Sabino Canyon Rd in the late afternoon.

Susan and I collected a receipt at the controle, and headed off to make our way back. It was hard to believe we had just been on the top of Mt. Lemmon, in Summerhaven, and now were making our way home again.

The storm covers Mt. Lemmon.

We could see the clouds that engulfed the mountain, which seemed quite serene and full of life with the evening sun showing on them. As late evening approached, the storm began a slow retreat, and we began our turn Westward and home.

Riding on Moore Rd just after sunset.

The sun began to slip away as we arrived at Calle Concordia and La Canada , and began our climb up and out of Oro Valley.

Very happy to have ridden and done well on this Brevet!

I feel I did everything right on this Brevet--Randonneurs don't strive to be first--instead they strive to finish well. Riding long distances means that there's a lot more to go against you than in your favor.

Randonneurs are in the saddle for long hours, riding at night, riding in conditions that, as you can see, change quickly from sunny skies to snow storms. This time, I had the right gear--the right clothes for the conditions I met. I didn't take too much--just what I needed. I think there was a little bit of luck there.

I drank enough which meant I carried the right amount of liquids. Nutrition was important too--it seems on all the rides I do, I don't take in enough--so I'm constantly trying to keep enough energy to keep my muscles going. This time the combination of gel and solid food I brought and picked up at the controles was enough.

Of course, I trained for this Brevet as well. Because I didn't know if I would be able to ride Mt. Lemmon or ride El Tour --I kind of trained for both. I have Alan to thank for that--training on Mt. Lemmon and riding up a few miles and then adding more each weekend.

Post card mailed at the top on Vetran's Day, the 11th, is post-marked the 12th, and arrives Saturday, the 13th, afer a long day of driving my car on the course to help Susan with Brevet and drop bags.

Cheers! Bruce