Sunday, April 5, 2015

PAC Tour 600km Brevet

Pre-Ride Report
March 27-28, 2015

Painted Rock Road in the Tucson Mountains
Carlton van Leuven and I pre-rode the PAC Tour 600km the weekend prior to the event. Due to extreme heat in the forecast, we decided to start the event Friday evening knocking off the 200km loop first, catching some zzzz's then hitting the 400km to Tombstone and back.

We rolled out of Tucson at 5 pm Friday, with temperatures in the 90's. After a few false starts with my new Garmin 810 computer we left the rush hour traffic behind and headed into the Tucson mountains.
Riding into the sunset!
Happily as we passed through agricultural areas around Marana, the temperature dropped a few degrees to make the riding much more comfortable. Winds and traffic were light and we made great time to the first control at the Marana Circle K.
Alfalfa + water + dry air = cooling!
The internet connection was down in the store, so it was a cash-only. Luckily the cash registers still worked so we could get receipts for our brevet cards. I explained our riding plan to the clerk as I tried to purchase a pen (to enter control times on the brevet card), but it would not scan after several tries. The clerk was more than happy to give me his, mentioning that he also cycles to and from work every day!
New Garmin 810
Rolling out of the control, we headed north on the world-famous I-10 Frontage Road of Brain Damage. In earlier years, nearly all the Arizona Brevets included this stretch of unremarkable, rough, and mind-numbing road surface. Luckily, with the new calendar of events, tonight's encounter was brief, and with an exit on Park Link Road, it was behind us in less than an hour.
I-10 Frontage Road
The climbing begins here, and other than a short descent on the Pinal Parkway it continues all the way to the next control in Oracle. After getting receipts, reloading bottles, and putting on some layers, we pointed our steeds for the steep downhill to AZ 76 and the road to San Manuel. The San Manuel control is at the top of a hill in town and includes a large convenience store with a Subway inside. We didn't stop for dinner, but some patrons noticed our night riding gear and wanted to hear all about the adventure.

The route backtracks a bit, then takes Webb Road back to Oracle. It was payback time for the steep 1000 foot descent, so we settled into a steady pace, having the entire road to ourselves nearly all the way to Oracle. We stopped again at the Circle K in Oracle for a final reload. The next 35 miles would be generally downhill back to the control in Tucson, and we covered it in an hour and a half!

We rolled into the Super 8 at about 0200, about 9 hours into the event. Certainly not a blistering time for a 200km, but with most of it in the dark, and 5,600 feet of climbing, we were both feeling spent. We stowed the bikes and walked to the McDonalds to get some chow, only to find out the dining room was closed. We returned to the room, grabbed the van, hit the drive-thru and enjoyed hash browns and Egg McMuffins while we prepared for Day 2 back at the room.
Day 2 - Gates Pass
We had about 5 hours before the control closed, so we decided to sleep until 7, then head out. We both awoke at 0630, effectively getting about 3.5 hours of sleep. Grabbing a light breakfast of coffee and biscuits/gravy we were back on the bikes about 0720, 20 minutes behind the control close time. The next control was only 23 miles away, so we would need to make it a straight shot. We were soon on the climb up Gates Pass. Many local cyclists were out enjoying the cool early morning temperatures and when we crested the Pass, we had an open road with no vehicles on the descent. We pulled into the next control with 20 minutes to spare and topped off our bottles. The next official checkpoint would be in Sonoita, so we settled back into our pace.
Breakfast on the go
The temperatures started to climb as we traversed south Tucson on Sahuarita Road. We stopped at the Houghton Road Market, last water until Sonoita, to refill and grab a spare water bottle. With the temperature climbing, and no cloud cover, we knew it would be a hot one going up the 13 mile hill!

My Garmin was recording over 100 degrees and it felt hotter. We had a slight tail wind that was helpful, but also created times when even with our forward momentum, there was no air movement and the sweat poured everywhere!
5000 Feet and still hot!
With the climbing and the heat, it took over 7 hours to cover 90 miles and 5,500 feet of climbing to the control in Sonoita. We enjoyed the tables in the shade took a nice break at the Sonoita General Store. We knew the control would be closed on the return trip, so Carton purchased a gallon of water and stashed it behind the store.

The run from Sonoita to Tombstone is mostly downhill, and with a nice tailwind we made good time and arrived in Tombstone about 2 and a quarter hours later. Little did I know, but Carl was feeling bonked and suffering greatly. He was concerned about making the last 200km back to Tucson and decided to abandon the ride in Tombstone.

I continued to the official control at the Circle K to grab some calories and reload. The sun was still a couple hours from setting, so after a 30 minute dinner break it was back on the road.
Dinner at chez sidewalk in Tombstone

Sunset with about 8 hours of riding to go!
The Lasagna sounded good, but it did do a little talking on the way back to Sonoita. Rolling in about 9pm the stores were closed, so I reloaded with the stashed gallon of water. Carl had texted that he had a ride back and would meet me at the hotel in Tucson.

It is about 10 miles of climbing rollers to the top of the big descent to Sahuarita road. Finally hitting the top, I zipped up and started down. About half-way down, my Garmin gave the low battery warning. I plugged in the external power source from my 400, but it would not charge and display data at the same time. Luckily, being familiar with the route it was not a big deal. So I turned off the computer so it would recharge and made my way to Sahuarita.

The McDonald's in Sahuarita has a 24 hour dining room, so rolling in after midnight, I was happy to enjoy a chicken wrap, fries and a Coke in comfort!

With just one climb and under 40 miles to the finish, I was ready to get this one in the bag. The lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me. On the climb up Helmet Peak Road, I would 'see' the stop sign just ahead signifying the end of the climb, but it would simply disappear into the distance. Finally reaching the top, I found myself starting to nod off on the smooth descent along Mission Road. When the city lights came into view, it was less disorienting and easier to stay awake.

The last fifteen miles of the journey was on the broken pavement that is Silverbell road. No problem staying awake on this pave section, constantly dodging potholes and pavement breaks. I rolled into the Convenience store next to the Super 8 at 0320. I loaded up on Strawberry Milk, cheese, and hard boiled eggs for some post-ride recovery food. Carlton was up and offered to run to get some food, but all I wanted to do was shower, and grab some sleep.

We checked out a few hours later, had a 'proper' breakfast at the local IHOP, and headed back to Phoenix with plenty of time to make the Palm Sunday Mass! It was a great weekend, I only wished that Carl's stomach would have not gone bad for the last 200km, so we could have finished together.

This ride completes my 8th Super Randonneur  (200, 300, 400, and 600km brevets completed in the same year) and qualifies me to enter the 18th (my 3rd) Paris-Brest-Paris 1200km that will be held in August this year!

Steve Atkins