Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Blustery 400K

2009 Arivaca 400k Brevet
Ride Report - Steve Atkins

Baboquivari on the road from Arivaca!

Debby's favorite thing to do these days is comment on the weekend weather forecast that includes rain/wind/or both and say; "Hey don't you have a brevet this weekend?"

While rain was in the forecast earlier in the week, it was not as the brevet neared. Record winds were recorded in Northern Arizona and hit the state hard on Friday.

While the 400k is certainly not the longest brevet distance, I think it is the most difficult. This years 400k (255 miles) was no exception:

We had a half-day at work on Friday, so I was able to organize my gear, load the suburban, and was all packed by 4:30 pm! Deb, Michael and I enjoyed a lenten dinner of clam chowder, vegetarian shepherd's pie, and fish & chips, at our new favorite Irish Pub - Rula Bula in Oldtown Tempe. Two Blue Moon's and I was tuckie-bye by 9pm.

I arrived in Casa Grande at 4:30 am and the randonneurs were starting to assemble. On this ride, Mike Sturgill would be the RBA so Susan Plonsky could ride 'with her buds in the peloton.' We blasted out of the Wal Mart lot at 5 sharp into the dark.

A fast group formed and I jumped in and we worked well together through Eloy to the Picacho turn-off. Part of the group missed the turn, and we never really regrouped completely. We rolled into the first checkpoint at Picacho Peak at 6:23. I was reloading my gear and I looked up and a good chunk of the group was gone, dang! I jumped on and started to chase, but then thought better of it and settled into my own pace. Outside Marana I stopped for a natural break, and John and Liz Mazzola flashed by on their road tandem.

We teamed up and rode together to the Mile Wide Cutoff. John and Liz were part of the 2006 Epic 400, and we shared memories and caught up as we made our way up Sandario road. We parted company on the steep climb into the Tucson Mountian Park, but I would see them often during the ride. At the Kinney road checkpoint, I quickly reloaded my supplies and was back out on the road. The wind to this point had been a gentle breeze mostly out of the southeast.

As I climbed Mission Road, I thought wow, a 400k with nice weather! Well, cresting the climb at Helmet Peak, the nice weather was replaced with a strong headwind that would be my nemesis for the remainder of the ride. The Tucson Bike Classic 3 day stage race was held on this road today, so I was treated to several pelotons of racers coming from the south.

Bombing down the hill to Green Valley, I missed the turn for the new control and was soon lost. I backtracked, but did not know exactly where I was at. I decided to stop at the old control on Continental and I-19. This decision almost cost me a disqualification for all my efforts on the 400. The RUSA rules are clear, you must stop at each designated control. Our local RBA pleaded my case to RUSA and I was assigned a time penalty, but was given credit for the ride and avoided a dreaded DQ. I won't make that mistake again!

Soon I was pounding away on the I-19 frontage road working a strong headwind. I thought, well at least when I turn west toward Arivaca it will be a strong cross wind!

Nope, as I made the turn, the wind continued to rotate around the compass, so when I reach the turn at Arivaca road, it was a full on head wind. This little 22 mile section to Arivaca is a leg killer. Headwind, and lots of very steep short rollers. As I rode along I caught Roger Peskett and we worked together to the control point at Buenos Aires Wildlife Preserve. A very nice control, shade, tables, and probably the only calm spot in Southern Arizona!

I chowed down a wrap and a coke and was out of there in about 20 minutes. As I was leaving the control John and Liz pulled in. I wanted to get going to get through the last 7 miles of headwind, and more importantly, make the turn to Robles Junction and grab some tailwind before the wind continued its move around the compass. I ran into some local residents as I headed out.

Today it was not to be, only a tailwind in a few twists of the road, so for the next 36 miles it was a strong cross-wind as the wind continued its trek around the dial. I arrived at the Store at Robles Junction and feasted on a can of Campbell's Chicken Vegetable Soup and Sobe Lizard Fuel. I bought a gallon of water and parked on the tables out front. As I was eating, Mike Enfield rolled in. We shared the water and both commiserated about the wind. I topped off and was leaving as Roger Peskett arrived.

The road turns east here, so finally I had about 5 miles of tailwind. As I was riding along, I thought I noticed the wind on my left cheek. How could that be, the wind hardly ever shifts from the North in the early evening. Turning north for the long slog up and over Sandario road, wham-o, yet another headwind. I put my head down and replayed some song over and over in my head until I reached the top. The wind was still there, but on the downhill side it was a little easier. I stopped at Painted Rock to put on my night gear, vest and leg warmers.

The temperature felt like it was dropping quickly. I was back on the bike and rolled into the last control at the Circle K in Marana. I was sitting on the floor (too cold and windy outside) enjoying a hot dog and Gatorade when John and Liz strolled in. The plan was to ride together to the finish. I walked outside and with the cold and wind I started shivering like crazy. I told Liz I needed to get moving to warm up, and they would probably catch me right away. So I hammered away on the frontage road screaming like a mad man that "ITS COLD" trying to warm up.

I never really warmed up. It was not that cold (low 50's?) , but with all the sweat from the day, my clothes were clammy and the wind chill didn't help. I really needed the poly pro base layer that I decided not pack for this ride. About 3 miles from Casa Grande I thought a 747 was landing right behind me. Actually it was John and Liz hammering away on the tandem. He had an array of incredibly bright lights on the bike that really lit up the road. I tagged on and held on for dear life as they picked up the pace headed for the finish line. At that point all I was thinking of was getting finished and wrapping up in the blanket in the Suburban!

We rolled into the finish at 9:55 pm (16:55 elapsed time) and checked in with Mike Sturgill. I hopped into the Suburban and changed into dry clothes and wrapped up in the blanket! A little later I said good bye and thanks to Mike for running a great Brevet, and John and Liz for their great company all day and dragging me in those last 7 miles!

I turned on the heater full blast and pointed the Sub toward Tempe and a warm bath!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

End of Pavement 200k Training Ride

Yesterday I decided to add a few miles onto the San Tan team ride to put in a 200k ride to get ready for next week's Araviaca 400k. I have always liked the End of Pavement (EOP) ride and it is a 100 mile round trip from the house so I figured if I tacked on the Team ride, it should be close to 124 miles or 200k.

EOP, as is known around here, is the place where the pavement ends on the Apache Trail, past Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flats, at the top of the hill before the descent to Fish Creek and Apache Lake.

Ride Report:

The alarm went off at 5:30 am and my first task was to fill up the Suburban with gas and buy two bags of ice for Debby. This action was required to secure my kitchen pass for the day. Debby was helping out with a percussion competition and needed the ice.

I was off at 6:15, heading for Paragon Cycling in Mesa. The team meets there for the 'shop' ride Saturday mornings. Its about 17 miles to the shop, I arrived there at 7:20, turned off my lights, and purchased a single shot of expresso at the coffee shop next store. With my water bottles topped off, and a shot of caffeine I was ready to go!

20 of us left the store at 7:35 and headed north toward past Falcon Field to Power Road/Bush Highway. It is about 15 miles to the Salt River Recreation headquarters at Bush and Ellsworth. From there you turn right for the climb up Usury Pass. We regrouped at the top of Usury Pass. No takers to join me to the EOP, so off I go.

At Brown and Apache Trail is a service station/convenience store called the Dash Inn. I topped off the water and grabbed a chocolate milk and was back on the road into a very strong headwind. There were several groups of riders heading back, moving very fast with the tailwind.

Soon I was working the switchbacks on the first climb. The ride is generally uphill to the EOP with three distinct climbs. The first is where the road twists and turns through the mountains above Canyon lake, the second, the climb out of the lake on the hill above Tortilla Flats. Lastly, the five miles UP from Tortilla Flats to the EOP.

There was some relief from the wind in the switchbacks. Soon I was on the downslope to the lake. The wind was so strong here that I didn't need to use the brakes on the descent to the lake (which was covered with white caps!).

Tortilla Flats was really hopping with winter visitors and motorcyclists. I stopped briefly to stow the arm and leg warmers and was back on the road. Here creek flows over the road, so I carefully rode through about 3-6 inches of creek flowing across the road.

Its five miles of steady climbing, most of it into a strong wind. Finally I reached the EOP:

At the End of Pavement

Turning around, I was at speed in no time. Suddenly I felt a sting in my hip. A bee was caught between my waist and thigh and nailed me. I shook it off, but too late to avoid the sting, and concentrated on the descent. I was back at Tortilla Flats in no time! My computer showed a max speed of 49.9 on the descent. I rode into the forest service campground at Tortilla Flats and topped off the water bottles for the run back into town.

I made great time, and stopped at the Chevron store at Brown and Ellsworth. I bought a hot dog and Sobe beverage for a little solid lunch. After I took the first bite I discovered it was a Jalapeno Dog, wow! Little bits of Jalapeno mixed into the meat(?) substance in the dog. Quite tasty, and no ill effects later!

Mark called me from Germany as I was riding along Lindsey road in Gilbert, and said; "where is everybody?" I told him I was 104 miles into a 120 mile ride and Mom and Mike were at a percussion competition. He was looking for someone to send him a report he wrote last year for English class that he wanted for school in Germany. I pointed out it was sunny and 84 and nice to be out on the bike! He is recovering from Karneval in Cologne germany (Here is his blog.) , having a great time, but missing our great riding weather.

I rolled into the driveway with the computer showing 8 hours and 14 minutes and 121.6 miles.

It was a great day on the bike. My only regret was forgetting the sunblock!