Monday, June 10, 2013

Show Low Training Block

Ride Report
June 2013

1833 Friday ready for Day 1
In preparation for this summers 'Big Wild Ride' 1200 km Randonnee (BWR) in July I wanted to complete a 3 day training block to simulate portions of the ride, shake down my equipment and dial in my nutrition plan. This time of year, all-day rides must done at elevation because of the desert heat. In 2007 we went to Santa Barbara, in 2011 Flagstaff was the choice. This year I decided that Show Low would provide a convenient base of operations. Here is my report:

Day 1:

I have ridden several long randonnees, and in each one, the start was early in the morning. The BWR has only one start time, at 1800. So to simulate the start of the event, my plan was to start at about 1800, ride 6-7 hours, eat, reload the body and bike, take a 4 hour nap, and then start day 2.

AZ260 Near Heber - Burned Out Forest
The sun was setting and I realized I was probably invisible to motorists also traveling west with the setting sun. I was happy that I had installed a rear-view mirror for this ride. Luckily traffic was light and the shoulder was wide enough to ride on the outside the fog line. As the sun set, I stopped to put my my reflective gear and lights. I actually felt more visible after dark.

The road gently rolls and I covered the first 35 miles in just over 2 hours. Huge swaths of forest along the way was devastated by the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski  fire. Over 450,000 acres burned in the area. The road surface was good to excellent. It was very interesting how quickly the temperatures dropped from the 90's to the 60's almost instantly after sunset.

My trusty steed
I rolled into the Circle K to reload my bottles. A very nice LDS couple inquired about my lighting system on the bike. I mentioned it must be good, since on-coming drivers often flash their high beams at me thinking my high beam is on! How do I know they were LDS you ask, why of course, they had their church name tags on and were picking up some ice cream for the ride home.

I rolled out after a few minutes for the leg to Snowflake. This leg is mostly downhill. This is a secondary highway with little or no shoulder. No worries though, traffic was light and I made good time to Snowflake. Snowflake was founded in 1878 by Mormon pioneers Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake. Arizona's junior senator, Jeff Flake is a descendant of William Jordan Flake. I rolled into the Circle K for my typical reload (water, ice, soda), and feeling a little hungry I picked up a bag of Twizzler Pieces. Pretty quiet at 10:30 pm in Snowflake. The clerk was interested what I was doing, and after described my plan, ( I would ride through Snowflake again in the morning on the way to Holbrook) she mentioned that she would be wrapping up her shift tomorrow morning when I passed through!

Thinking I might try to grab the 6:30 vigil mass on Saturday, I asked her if she knew where the Catholic Church. She gave me perfect directions and I was out the door.

The run back to Show Low was mostly uphill. A good portion of the route had been recently chip sealed with no lane markers. Luckily, only a few cars were out, and before I knew it the 20 miles were behind me and I was rolling through downtown Show Low and arrived at my base camp at the Days Inn a little after midnight.

I reloaded the bike, enjoyed a gourmet meal of microwave pasta, potato salad, and blueberries. I put on the compression gear washed it all down with a Blue Moon and crawled into the sack at about 0130. I set the alarm for 0400 and fell fast asleep.

Day 2:

AZ77 just after dawn before the descent to Snowflake
It felt like my head just hit the pillow when the alarm went off at 0430. I fired up the single serve coffee maker, dressed, and put my bottles on the bike. I was out the door and rolling through Show Low at 0503! It was an easy downhill ride to Snowflake. I made great time, and was there in about an hour. Since it was a long run to Holbrook, I stopped at the Circle K to grab a Frappachino and reload a bottle. The helpful clerk from the night before was just cleaning up and wished me well.

The run to Holbrook was across high desert grassland. In the distance I noticed a wind farm. Hmm, not good, while the blades were not turning (still calm), they don't plant those things unless the wind generally blows!
Uh-oh wind farm!
The next 125 miles would be very challenging mentally. At each rise, the road would stretch out for miles more in a straight line into the distance.
Long and unending road

Finally reaching Holbrook at 1000, I bought some water and a Coke to reload my bottles. I spotted a small park across the street with some petrified wood, some dinosaurs, and some shade. I  used the break to peel off some layers and prepare for the run to the Petrified Forest.

They like their ears scratched!
Leaving town, I turned on US180 for the 30 mile press to the Park. The road surface was in terrible shape, but the winds were light and quartering from the rear. I pulled into the park, paid my fee and stopped at the South Entrance gift shop and store for a reload. The next 28 miles were difficult riding, my quartering tailwind, was now a stout cross and the park road has lots of rollers. But the scenery was awesome and very interesting.

Could pass for Death Valley!
Painted Desert
By the time I reached the North Entrance visitor center and store, the temperatures in the shade were over 90 degrees. In addition to my normal Coke and water, I added a Popsicle! I figured I better get moving with the building heat. By the time I reached the South Entrance, it was 97 degrees in the shade and brutal hot with a 25 mile cross wind! The only saving grace, I would have a huge tailwind for the run to Concho!
Sitting on a stone log!

It was 30 miles to the next stop and with the heat, I refilled my empty chocolate milk bottle with water to have a 'reserve.' I made good time, but with the hot wind, I ran out of water 3-4 miles from the convenience store at Concho. Plus the route and shifted from south to west, and the wind was now howling out of the west. I limped into the Concho convenience store, bought some supplies, and collapsed in the shade.

At this point my plan to finish before 1800 and grab the mass in Snowflake at 1830 was out the window! I considered parking in a near-by restaurant and waiting out the heat and wind. I decided that finishing in the daylight was the better plan, so after a 30 minute break, I saddled up, put my head down and spent the next 2.5 hours covering 28 miles!

Arriving at my base, I turned the AC on full blast, showered, ate, reloaded the bike and slipped back into the compression gear. At this point I decided that in my depleted state, and the predicted heat for Sunday, my best plan would be to get up at 0600, and ride about two hours up into the pines then return to Show Low, check out and head home before the heat and wind hit.

Day 3:

The same wake-up routine, coffee, and out the door. The morning temps were still cool, so I wore a base layer! It took a couple of miles to shake off that familiar Day 3 logy feeling, but soon I felt recovered and was generating good power.
Near the turn-around point
I would cover 63 miles round trip, climbing up from Show Low to a turn-around point near the Sunrise Ski Resort road and then return. There was very little traffic and I was soon at the Hon-Dah casino and convenience store. I reloaded and continued up AZ260. Passing McNary, the road had been recently resurfaced with additional shoulder space. Very nice!

With the shade, cool pines, and awesome scenery, it was very clear that I should have been doing laps up here instead of slogging through the high desert around Holbrook.


I was happy with my performance, even in the heat, and I am glad I dialed back the miles on Sunday. By the time I returned to my room at the Days Inn at 1030 am, it was already 92 degrees and the wind was again howling! In retrospect the allure of covering new ground on the run to Holbrook in spite of the above normal temperatures was probably a mistake. I could have covered more ground doing 'laps' in the mountains, but then I would have missed all the adventure!!

In any case, I am glad I made that run to Holbrook/Petrified Forest, because I will never do that route again!

Thanks again to my e mail team who suffered through my updates and encouraged me during the ride!

Steve Atkins

More photos