Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tombstone 600 Brevet Ride Report

Susan Plonsky leading the pre-ride meeting
36 riders assembled at the Round Trip Bike Shop in Casa Grande Arizona for this years Tombstone 600 brevet. This is the fourth and last required ACP sanctioned brevet to qualify for the 17th Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 Randonnee. This event is held every 4 years. I rode the PBP in 2007( ride report ) and while it was an epic experience, I have been planning to return for the 2011 edition. 

Here is a little video preview of the ride:

Kurt Smith at the start
Many of the usual suspects were at the start for this year's 600. Kurt Smith, a fellow member of the San Tan/Paragon Racing Team joined me on a RUSA permanent ride last year and chose the Tombstone 600 as his first official brevet.
Yours truly all smiles before the fun begins
We were soon rocketing off with lights blazing into the desert darkness. A good size pace line formed and we worked well together. About 35 miles into the ride, between Picacho Peak and Marana, one of my tail lights vibrated off my saddle bag. A couple of the riders said, 'hey Steve your light fell off!" I had a spare but this early in the ride I did not want to risk night riding without a back-up so I pulled out of the pace line and doubled back to find it. By the time I had found it and put it away, the pace line was way up the road. I thought about trying to chase them down, but decided to settle into my own pace. I figured I would catch them at the checkpoint in Marana.

Kurt and the group at the Circle K in Marana
As I rolled into the Circle K at about 0730, the group was there reloading bottles, buying supplies, and getting their brevet cards stamped by the cashier at the store. I quickly stripped off some layers, reloaded my bottles and left the checkpoint with Kurt, and several other riders. A few riders had already left and the big group split into several smaller groups. Temperatures were cool and winds were light and we made great time through Saguaro National Park and the Tucson Mountain Park.
Finally needing sunblock at the Drexel Circle K in Tucson
 The next official checkpoint is 60 miles away at Green Valley, too far without a water stop, so our little group (Kurt Smith, Roger Peskett, and Joey Korkames) stopped at the Circle K at Mission and Drexel roads in Tucson. This is a good stop, just over half-way to the next control, and the last stop before heading up the dreaded Mission Road past the San Xavier Mission to the Duval Mine Road. Kurt was enjoying his sandwich and not ready to go, so we pulled out after a very quick bottle reload and sunscreen applications.

Dreaded, because Mission is famous for broken pavement and heavy head and cross winds. The pavement is much improved (thanks to Indian Gaming) and today the winds were very light so the ride to the mine area was very enjoyable.

As we crossed Helmet Peak Road, we encountered waves of racers from the opposite direction participating in the Tucson Bike Classic. If was very exciting to see the waves of racers, and somewhat sketchy when we passed through the feed zone and parking area (no one was really expecting traffic from the direction we were coming!).
Checkpoint in Green Valley
When we rolled into the Chevron in Green Valley, a few randonneurs were already there, and Kurt rolled up just a few minutes after we arrived. He made this stop quick so Kurt, Roger, Joey, and I rolled out a few minutes after the lead group had left while others were arriving. 

We headed north into a building cross-wind so that by the time we turned right on Sahuarita highway we had a nice tail wind. It made the trip to the market at Houghton road go by very quickly. As a recurring theme for the remainder of the day, we rolled in, just as the lead riders were heading out. I picked up some extra water at this stop since the next available water is in Sonoita, only 30 miles away, but most of it climbing. I ended up refilling one of my water bottles near the top of the climb, so we were able to roll through Sonoita and head straight to the checkpoint Elgin.
Susan serving lunch at the Elgin Dance Hall

With a huge tailwind, Joey and I rolled into the checkpoint at about 3:30. Susan had some tomato soup and sandwiches prepared. I had some soup, grabbed an Ensure out of my drop bag, changed into a dry kit, and was out the door with Kurt, Roger, and Joey. The crosswind was huge as we headed north 5 miles to SR82. Once we turned right, it was a direct tailwind and we made great time to the checkpoint in Tombstone.
Feeling much better that I looked here at Tombstone!

 With the sun starting to set and knowing how quickly the temperature drops, I put on a few layers and soon our group was heading back, now our friendly tailwind was in a strong headwind. But we added Russ and Dick to our group and worked well together, and happily the wind seemed to die down as sun dropped below the horizon. I dropped off the group at the top of the hill that leads into Elgin to put on some extra layers. The club was only 5 miles away at the bottom of a hill, but it is always very cold. I am glad I layered up, including my balaclava, because this year was no exception. I rolled into a very cold and somewhat deserted Elgin at 8:20 pm.

Dinner in Elgin 
My plan was to take a 4 hour break: Eat, clean-up, reload the bike supplies, nap for 3 hours, dress and go. Susan had a big pot of pasta ready so, I chowed down while I readied my bottles and supplies for the night assault that would begin about midnight. I was in the sack by 9:15, but didn't really fall asleep until 10:30, which seemed only seconds before Mike Allen gave me my midnight wake-up call. After some coffee, an Ensure, and a little oatmeal, Kurt, Joey and I were out the door (Roger decided to forgo the nap and left several hours earlier).
Ready to leave Elgin at 12:45 am!
 We were ready to go at 12:45, a little longer than my plan, but still a relatively efficient stop. As advertised, it was extremely cold, but the winds were light, the moon was full, and it was a spectacular night. We climbed up to Sonoita to SR 83. We passed the Border Patrol checkpoint a couple of miles before the top of the hill that leads back down to Tucson. This checkpoint sits in a draw and is extremely cold. Luckily the agents were not looking for a long conversation, and we were out of there in no time.

Soon we were bombing down the big hill, and with the increased speeds, the wind chill added to our general discomfort. We stopped at the secret water stop at Sahuarita Highway to top off bottles and were off toward the next warm spot 19 miles away, a convenience store at the I-19 interchange. We burst in shaking and headed straight for the coffee pot. The cashier was counting down his till, and said it would be a few minutes before we could pay for the coffee. That was fine with us, we were ready to spend a few minutes to thaw out. While we were lounging on the floor, Keith Jensen walked in, also shaking from the cold.
Joey enjoying some hot brew
 We left together but soon Kurt and Keith were hammering up Helmet Peak road trying to warm up. Joey and I settled into a more even pace and watched as their tail lights disappeared in the distance.

We stopped again at the official control at Drexel and Mission to find Kurt and Keith enjoying some breakfast. Feeling hungry for solids, I had a chocolate milk and a can of Beanie Weenie, just the ticket at 5:45 in the morning after riding most of the night! Soon Joey and I were riding through the Tucson and Saguaro National Parks heading down the hill to Marana. As the sun came up, so did the wind, from the Southeast!
Flying the Navy Colors!
When we left the Circle K in Marana the wind was almost a perfect tailwind. Joey and I settled into a steady pace averaging 20-23 miles an hour. Normally I would stop in Eloy (15 miles from the finish) for water, but since we were there in an hour and a half, we both had plenty of water for the final 15 miles and pushed on through without stopping. We arrived at the finish at 10:30 am, just under 2 hours after we left Marana, very good for a 44 mile segment!

We noted the time and loaded the bikes back in our trucks and headed over to the Comfort Inn. Susan had rented a room so riders could clean up and rest while they waited for the drop bags to be returned from Elgin. The bags were not back yet, so I chilled in the room for a little while, then headed over to Chipotle for a burrito bowl, then back to the motel. The drop bags arrived, and I headed back home, just in time for a Corona High School Band Booster Board meeting!

Thanks Susan for another great Brevet!!