5 Arizona Randonneurs pre-rode this year's Arivaca 400 on Saturday February 12, 2011. Volunteer pre-riders check the course and are available to assist our brevet organizer Susan Plonsky on the actual day of the event. The pre-riders are subject to all the RUSA rules and time limits, but can lessen the load on the organizer and allow them to also participate in the event. Enjoy the video composite of the ride at the bottom of this blog entry.
The Arivaca 400 always seems to be a note-worthy ride, and this year's entry is no exception! Although Mike Sturgill and I think Susan should rename this route the Headwind 400!
Mike Sturgill, Jim Pettett, and Ben Andrews at the start
It was a cold start when we left the Albertson's parking lot at 5 am and became even colder outside of town. Our little group of 5 formed a nice pace line and we stayed together through Eloy. As the frontage road tilted up at Picacho Peak our group split into to two groups with Mike and I riding into the sunrise and encouraging the sun to hurry up and clear the horizon.
Mike and I arrived at the first checkpoint, the Marana Circle K just before 8 am. We reloaded our bottles, picked up some food and were preparing to leave as Jim, Alan, and Ben arrived. Even though the sun was up, we wisely left ALL of our layers on. Generally, the temperature dips even further around the Marana Airport, and this year was no exception. We noted a thin layer of ice on the irrigation puddles as we made our way up Sanders road.
The temperatures increased as we climbed Sandario road. As we crested the top of the hill at the Saguaro National Park Visitor center, we were greeted with a strong headwind that would be our nemesis for the rest of the day!
We continued to the next checkpoint at the Circle K on the Ajo Highway, reloaded, and were back on the road before 10am. The wind continued to pick up and turned into a nasty cross headwind as we made our way up Mission Road. There were many motorcyclists and a few bike riders out. One particularly large group of riders on super bikes buzzed by us with one rider shouting for us to get off the road! As a former motorcyclist that faced the same issue that we cyclists face (that is, being invisible to cars); I am always amazed at the animosity that many motorcyclists have toward cyclists.
We continued through the Helmet Peak area and descended Continental road for the right turn (at the first traffic circle, that I missed on a previous 400!) and arrived the next control at the Shell Station in Green Valley at about noon.
Mike relaxing of the Patio at the Shell Station in Green Valley
We took a short break here and removed a few more layers and started adding sunscreen! We both decided that we needed a refund on the Weather.com and WeatherUnderground wind forecasts as we continued to battle strong head and cross-winds. Both websites predicted light winds out of the north, northeast all day.
Think they serve a veggie plate here?
We made the right turn at Cow Palace and headed west toward Arivaca. Our fist sight was a Border Patrol 'tour bus' being loaded with patrons for the return trip to Sonora! As we headed down the road past the Border Patrol checkpoint, many emergency vehicles were racing westward. As we neared the base of the climb just east of Arivaca, Sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol vehicles had blocked the road. Ahead a life flight helicopter was being loaded with what was left of a motorcyclist that lost control of his bike. The deputy noted that 'the gentleman must be in bad shape if they have the helicopter here.'
Mike and I noted that this was the same group of motorcyclists that buzzed us on Mission Road a few hours earlier! I hate to see anyone in this situation, but this is the second time on a long ride when one these inconsiderate and unsafe riders on a superbike has buzzed me or my group on a ride, only to find them getting airlifted on a life flight to a trauma center later in the ride!
Arivaca Road closed for a life flight
The helicopter lifted off and we were soon relaxed at the next checkpoint in Arivaca. We arrived about 2:40. This is about the half-way point of the ride and we had a little lunch and shoved off wondering what the winds would hold for us as we pushed to the next services at Robles Junction!
Sitting in the shade at the Arivaca Mercantile Store
Of course, NOW that we had to head north for 110 miles to the finish, the winds caught up with the forecast and we had headwinds for the long stretch to Robles Junction. Generally I suffer along this segment of the ride and today was no exception. I think it is the mental challenge of the realization that you are barely half-way complete and there are headwinds to look forward to all the way back. We arrived at Robles Junction about 6:30. I had been using my Sustained Energy/Shot Blocks on the bike supplemented with Starbucks Frappuchinos, chocolate milk, and potato chips at the checkpoints. I tried a turkey sandwich at Arivaca that didn't work. On to plan B, so I bought a can of Campbells Chicken Veggie soup and chased it with a Frappuchino. The soup is loaded with sodium, calories, and since the veggies have been 'marinating' in the soup since they left the factory, easy to digest.
Soon my legs were back and we were powering up the incline to the visitor center at Saguaro National Park. The wind seemed to die down in this segment, however, when we crested the hill, they were back for the duration. We rolled through Painted Rocks. Some local yelled at us about getting our bikes off the road. I thought; bad mojo dude, the last guy that gave us grief had a bud on a life flight to Tucson Medical Center!
Good news: only 45 miles to go!
The bad news; headwind and the mind numbing brain damage that is the run from Marana to Casa Grande. We were able to hold a pace between 16-18 miles per hour, so we got it done in under 3 hours. That included a very quick stop in Eloy, only 13 miles from the finish, for one last Starbucks Double Shot!
We rolled into the Albertson's parking lot at 11:30 pm, 18.5 hours after we started. About 5 minutes after we arrived, I was shaking from the cold, so I loaded the bike, thanked Mike for a great ride, cranked up the heater, and headed home. We were both thankful that we didn't have to face this one alone, and that this year's 400 is behind us!
Back in the Sub, ready to go homeVideo from the Arivaca 400: