What a great ride! I injured my hip in November and wasn't able to ride at all from the second week of November through December and was confined to my rollers through pretty much all of January, so I was really looking forward to getting back out on the road. Of course I was a bit nervous attempting a 300k after so much time off the bike, but I can now attest that work on your rollers can definitely help restore your fitness level!
Like most brevets, I got to the start with just enough time to check in and get myself and my bike ready. Susan was just finishing going over last minute instructions when I rolled up to the start. I don't know what the 200k was like in January, but there was quite a large crowd for the start! Usually we have maybe 20-30 riders, but this one had close to 60! I'm not much for riding in a crowd, especially in the dark, so I gradually worked my way up to the front as we made our way through Casa Grande following Susan's truck as she escorted us to the edge of town. Once we were out of town I tried to stay near the front and took a few turns pulling. My apologies to everyone for what I was told was a very, very annoying rear blinking light! Anyway, we kept a pretty fast pace all the way to Coolidge and people slowly trickled off the back to ride at their own pace.
Right after turning onto Kenilworth in Coolidge to head to SR79, we saw signs for road construction ahead. Then the dreaded "Road Closed, Open to Local Traffic Only" sign. That caused a lot of confusion and slow riding, but nobody wanted to stop, so we kept going even when the pavement disappeared and we spent 1/4-1/2 mile on dirt surface. I was expecting a trench, but it appears they were just repaving that section of road and we made it through without a problem. It seems that when it's cold I always need a pee break early in the ride and this one was no different. My Polar showed a low temperature of 29(!) degrees. Brrrr... Anyway, I had to stop. We were down to maybe 10 riders at that point, so I told the guy who was in front that I was going ahead a bit to pee and left the group. I opened a good sized gap and stopped, but I REALLY had to go, so it took me longer than I expected and the group was quite a way past me by the time I was on my bike again.
I had planned to ride this at a relatively easy, base building pace, but I was feeling good and enjoying working my legs for a change. So I made the attempt to bridge the gap. I could see tail lights off in the distance and I was slowly gaining on them, but it was taking a lot of effort. A few miles before the turn onto SR79 someone else had stopped to pee. I past him, but he caught me a mile or so before the turn. I jumped on his wheel and he gave me just enough of a break to allow me to recover (didn't catch your name, but you know who you are! My thanks!). So shortly after we turned I went to the front and we caught the lead group. There were only 5 or 6 of us at that point and we all rode together to the checkpoint at the Tom Mix Monument.
Mike Sturgill, Carol Havrda and Catherine Shenk were the first to leave. I was still enjoying a chocolate chip muffin and chatting a bit with Susan. One other guy left, but I left a minute or two after him. I trailed that guy for a really long time, but when we got to the steeper section of SR79 I closed the gap and past him. I was making really good time and flew down Oracle road. Once I got to Tangerine road I slowed down some and enjoyed the ride through town. When I got to Jennifer Gibbon's house for the next checkpoint Mike, Carol and Catherine were still there. I had a wrap and a cookie, but didn't stay too long. Thanks for the hospitality Jennifer! The guy I past on SR79 pulled in just as I was getting ready to leave (a couple minutes behind Mike, Carol and Catherine). The route goes right past my brother Leo's house, so I made a quick stop to give my nephew Tony a birthday hug since I hadn't seen him since his birthday in January. I only stayed a minute or two then got back on the road.
There was a huge line of backed up traffic as I approached I-10, so I knew a train had just gone by. Much to my surprise though Mike, Carol and Catherine got caught just as the train was approaching and were now within eyesight! Then they got caught by a red light and I was back with them! What great luck for me and bad luck for them! :-) They must have spent a good 5 minutes waiting for that train to go by! In my opinion the four of us rode extremely well together, trading about 1 mile pulls at the front. We were making great time. Then we hit the rolling hills leading up to Gates Pass. Mike and I are not built as climbers and the ladies from Colorado worked us pretty hard. Mike dropped off first, but I didn't last too much longer. After dropping off I had a pretty good climb over Gates Pass with a fun descent down to Kenney road where the ladies, being such wonderful people, were patiently waiting for us lumbering guys. I took the opportunity to shed my glove liners and booties just before Mike pulled up and we were off again.
I love riding through Saguaro National Monument. It's truly one of Arizona's prettiest areas. I was feeling better after the descent to Kenney road, so when I got my turn up front, I worked my way up the last hill, then descended really fast. Half way down Mile Wide Road I looked back and I was by myself, so I sat up and did some easy pedaling while the others caught back up. I may not climb fast, but I'm a naturally gifted descender! We turned into a headwind on Sandario that would last the remainder of the ride. Our group was still working well together and we made pretty good time to the stop at the Minit-Mart in Trico. I was getting pretty tired by that point, but was still enjoying riding with the group. The pace when we left that checkpoint was a bit too high for me, so I was getting a bit worried about whether I would be able to maintain the pace. We hit a strong crosswind when we turned towards Marana and I had to slow the pace some when I took my turn at the front. Even then I was riding at the top of No Man's Land. Carol took the front after me, but with that cross wind I didn't get any recovery. Then Catherine picked the pace up only 1/2 mile an hour or so, but it was enough to put me in Zone 4. With all the work I had done so far I knew I needed a good easy spin to recover some, so I told Carol I couldn't hold that pace and dropped off.
I slowed way down, stopping once along the frontage road for a potty break. The group was riding anywhere from 18-22 mph. I was now going 13, occasionally getting up to 15 mph. Doesn't sound like much, but it's the difference between riding in a heart rate zone 1 or zone 2 and riding at lactate threshold in that wind! The 10 mile stretch after turning onto SR287 heading for LaPalma is always demoralizing. It's flat, flat, flat usually into a head wind. About a mile or so before I got to the checkpoint Dennis Freeman and Bruce Taylor pulled up. Boy was I glad to see them! I shamelessly wheel-sucked up to the checkpoint where I ate a nice ice cream sandwich.
The three of us left together and I think Dennis was the one doing most of the pulling. After a couple miles I went to the front for a 2 mile pull. Dennis was going 18-19 mph, which was a good pace, but I was starting to get a strong "horse to barn" feeling, so I picked the pace up to 20-22. The wind seemed to have died down, or maybe the urge to get done with the ride just made me not feel it so much. We traded 2 mile pulls a couple times, but after about the third time I looked to drop back and they had dropped off and were quite a way back. So I picked the pace up a bit more and really rode strong for the last 10 or so miles. I was lucky at most of the lights too and made good time to the finish.
So, overall, considering how little riding I've done since the 300k in November, I'm very pleased with the ride, finishing the 190 miles in 12 hours 17 minutes, about 30 minutes faster than my time for the same course in November. It was fast and fun and as usual very well organized. I'm looking forward to Susan's 400k at the beginning of March!
Copyright © 2007 by Mike Enfield. All rights
Revised: 04/06/09 11:29:48 -0700.