This one started out innocently enough. Mark would be returning home for spring break. He, Tegan, and Debby would be heading up to Colorado the morning of the brevet for a week of skiing. I could not take the time off because of work, so that left Michael and I at home. He would be starting his spring break on Monday flying out to visit his grandparents in South Carolina. Should be easy for me to slip away. Plus this was a new route that didn't return via the I-10 Frontage Road of Brain Damage! I didn't want to miss this one so I obtained the kitchen pass and signed up!
The week before the Brevet, Michael decides to enter a USA Cycling Criterium, also on Saturday. He is almost 18 and was fine to drive himself to the race so I pre-signed his junior release forms and he was good to go. Deb suggested I line up someone in case he got hurt during his event since we would both be 'on the road' while he was racing...
|Tom Baker leading the Rider Meeting|
After the requisite rider briefing, we were soon motoring up Trekell at a brisk pace and a group formed at the front with many of the usual suspects (Mike, Russ, Carlton, Roger, and Dick) and a new addition, Gary from Seattle. With a strong breeze building from the east, we picked up speed and arrived at the first checkpoint in Maricopa exactly when it opened (0746)! Tom was there to sign our cards, so all we needed to do was reload our bottles, use the restroom, and head out.
We left Maricopa in two groups but soon reformed before the long descent into Gila Bend. Downhill, with the wind, in a group of strong riders, we covered the next 14 miles averaging at least 30 mph! We rolled through town and made a U turn at the Welcome to Gila Bend sign to answer the control question. As we completed our U turn, it was obvious our most excellent progress into town was greatly wind assisted!
We decided to reload supplies and strip off some layers at the Texaco convenience store. The group was just about ready to go and I thought I should check my phone for messages:
Text from Debby: "Michael crashed in the race, he hurt his wrist. He may need to go to Urgent Care."
WHAT! Oh I know, she was just giving me a hard time because I didn't line up someone in case he got hurt. I called her cell; "I hope you are kidding." Nope, she wasn't. The group had rolled out, and I realized my fastest way home, short of hiring a cab, was rolling out of town! I told Deb to text me an update, but that I had to go. I could abandon if necessary when we got back to Phoenix.
Back into the headwind, I caught the group just before they turned on Old Highway 80. Now it was a stiff cross-wind. To avoid echelons across the whole road, we formed a nice rotating double pace line to give each of us a litlle relief from the wind and made great progress.
Is there a law against texting in a pace line? Probably not, but it is definitely bad form and I didn't like doing it! But the updates on Michael's condition were good, and he was heading home. The paramedics at the race did not think his wrist was broken.
Did I mention the pace picked up when Steve and Trev from Canada joined the group?
We arrived at the checkpoint outside Buckeye. It was well stocked and staffed by our ever-present trail boss, Tom Baker. We reloaded and quickly exited the control, back into the headwind we would face for the rest of the day.
|At the third check point near Buckeye|
I called Michael to check in. The good news; when Michael got home one of our friends (who is a Registered Nurse), was walking by with her dog, so Michael asked her to check out his wrist. She confirmed there was no break, and suggested he ice it. The bad news; I suddenly realized I had not consumed enough food and water since leaving Gila Bend and had a sour stomach bonk! Thinking more about Michael and contingency plans (abandon, call for a ride, etc.) I simply forgot to eat!
I remounted and got back on the road, I could see the main group about a mile away. Carlton dropped off to check on me since I suddenly disappeared. I told him I was OK, just bonked. He offered his wheel and I tacked on and we continued to Goodyear stopping at the Safeway for some lunch. I stuffed down a banana and a chocolate milk, but still felt badly when we left. By the time we got to PIR I told Carlton to go on without me, because I needed a little more time on the side of the road, and I felt even worse slowing him down and not contributing to the work. He didn't want to leave me, but I insisted and he reluctantly headed down the road.
After round two with the stomach, and back on the road I spotted Carlton leaving a Circle K where he had stopped for supplies. We rejoined; then in conversation we missed two turns. We backtracked and got back on the course with me firmly planted on his wheel. Somewhere along the way, I got another text from Michael and dropped off one more time to check on him telling Carlton to go on.
I stopped at familiar convenience store on 51st ave and called home to check on Michael one more time. His wrist was fine, his bike was fine, but his racing bibs were ruined and he had 3 big patches of road rash on his hip and rear. He said he was good and to keep riding! Back into the wind, I thought I saw a rider way up the road. Susan and Tom had set up a SAG stop at Beltline and Maricopa road. When I rolled in Carlton was there. We left together, me attached to his wheel, unable to generate enough power to take any pulls at the front.
Somewhere along the way Carlton told me about the Mormon Batalion Fleche team he was putting together. He said they would take non-Mormons, Hindus, and even Catholics. I told him I was in!
We put on our reflective gear as the sun went down and soon in rolled into Eric Simmons' control in Queen Creek. Eric checked us in and had the stove going for soup and coffee. I was hoping for potato soup (usually works like magic when I am bonking). I think it was creamy eggplant with a kick of pepper. In any case, it was delicious and I chased it with a hot coffee with about a half-box of sugar poured in!
A few miles after we left the checkpoint, Eric's magic soup (better than any regular potato soup) and hot sugar with a little coffee mixed in took hold and my legs came back and I was able to take a few pulls and finally give Carlton some relief. Unfortunately all his time dragging me along most of the day was taking its toll on his back (injured last year).
By the time we reached Coolidge the roles were reversed. Now Carlton was suffering and staring my my rear hub as our little two man team passed through the night. We made one stop at the Circle K, I pounded another sugar-coffee and we were out the door ready to tick off the last 19 miles and put this one behind us.
We rolled into finish at 22:14, 16 hours and 14 minutes after we started. A personal best for both of us!
I called it another 400k suffer-fest. Carlton called it tag-team survival.
Somehow it turned out to be a great day on the bike with some special teamwork. Thanks Carlton!