With the wind Cochise is always a hard ride. I haven't been training very consistently this year, but I didn't think I worked too hard at Cochise and decided to do the Heart of Arizona 200k, put on by the Bullshifters club. The ride starts in Congress, Arizona and goes through some pretty remote areas. To summarize Mike Sturgill's description, I think it falls about 8 miles Southwest of the middle of nowhere! Mike sent a pre-ride summary on Friday that described road conditions, hazards and areas for just great cycling. Oh yeah, he also noted over 7k of climbing! So, it's a pretty hard ride. I liked it! :-)
I've been trading emails with Craig Long, the guy I rode for a while with at one of Susan's 300k Brevets. He's getting into ultra-distance cycling, so we decided to car pool to this ride. I was up at 4:15 am to get to Craig's house by 5am. Overall we had a nice drive down to Congress, although I jumped off the freeway once following Yahoo map directions and got right back on to follow better directions that Craig had (the Yahoo directions sent us through town, his took us around town on freeways).
Anyway, we got to Congress with plenty of time to start. Mike Sturgill was at check-in and got our goody bags for us (there was some good stuff in the goody back, I particularly liked the queue sheet clip). He had ridden the 200k a few days ago and planned to ride the 100 mile event on Saturday. He did tell me that I'd enjoy the initial descent out of town. We all gathered together at 7:30 for a few announcements and we were off. Craig led us out of town, but some really strong guys went to the front and we flew through the first 28 miles. They had us maintaining 28-32 mph most of that time. I took one pull going down the last big descent before a fairly significant climb. There were probably around 10 people with the lead group and I couldn't hold the pace up the hill and dropped off. Craig also dropped off somewhere along there and I was able to catch him on some of the descents and flatter spots. The guy who seemed to be the main engine for the group had a flat and we saw a couple riders drop back to help him. The rest of the group was riding easy, so Craig and I caught them again.
We stayed with them until the first SAG stop. Craig and I didn't need anything, so we kept going. There was a pretty significant climb and Craig dropped me. I rode my own pace, but kept him in sight and saw him make the turn towards Baghdad. Shortly after making that turn myself, I stopped for a nature call. After last week's bonking experience I was pretty diligent about fluids and nutrition. I took an energy gel or something else at least every hour. I kept expecting the fast group to catch me and would glance back occasionally, but didn't see them until the second SAG. Craig was just about ready when I pulled up. I filled a bottle, had a couple sections of banana and I was ready to go. We left together just as the fast group pulled in. There was a nice climb up to Baghdad. Craig and a guy in a Kona Ironman jersey dropped me shortly after we started up. The fast group caught me just as we were getting into town. I pulled into the Bashes while they were still getting Brevet cards signed. I looked around, but didn't see Craig. He had gone a bit farther up the road to a Conoco to have his brevet card signed.
I left with the lead group and enjoyed a nice draft down the long descent and across the valley floor. We passed Mike Sturgill on the descent while he was climbing to Baghdad (he left 1/2 hour after us). At one point that guy in the kona jersey rubbed my rear wheel, but no harm was done and he apologized for the mistake. I was just a bit nerve racking when it happened! But it was quite pleasant in the draft and my heart rate stayed pretty low until we hit the next climb. I could see the climb wrap around a hill in the distance, but didn't know how long the hill was until someone said "Isn't this the 10 mile climb?" 10 miles?? Crap! They were going way harder than I wanted, so I immediately dropped off. The temperature came up and there was no wind along the lower part of that climb. Sweat started getting into my eyes and I had to take my glasses off to wipe sweat away. About half way up a nice cross breeze started that was very welcome. About 3/4ths of the way up Craig passed me. He had stopped at that SAG at the bottom of the Baghdad hill to fill bottles. Near the top the wind really started to pick up. That hill absolutely drained me. I had nothing left in my legs when I got to the top.
There was a SAG at the top of the hill and everyone was still there. I ate some bananas and pickles and took some endurolytes. My jersey was already covered in dry salt from sweating so much. The lead group left while I was eating, but Craig was relaxing in a chair. He seemed to be climbing much better than me, so I figured he would finish first and I gave him the remote for my car so he could change and get a chair when he got to the finish. Then I headed out again. There was another long and very welcome descent after the SAG and I tried to spin easy through there to recover. The lead group had made a wrong turn and they were just coming back to the main road when I went by. I stopped to check my directions and told the first two guys I was headed in the right direction, then kept going. It was several miles before they caught and passed me. I tried to jump on the back to enjoy some more free drafting, but I just didn't have the energy in my legs. This time I think it was just fatigue, not bonking. I felt fine and had been keeping up on my nutrition, my legs were just dead.
Craig also past me along there somewhere and I just took my time to the next SAG. Just before I got there my front tire started to feel bouncey. I leaned on it once and it definitely looked low. I knew the SAG was coming up, so I crossed my fingers and kept going. Everyone was still at the SAG when I pulled up. I checked my tires and the front was really low, but I didn't want to deal with it right then. Instead I filled my bottles and ate some more food. One of the guys manning the SAG stop even had ice for my bottles! Nice! The wind was blowing pretty good by now, so I wasn't in any hurry to leave. I sat in a chair for a while, but when the lead group started to get ready to go I decided I'd better change that front tire. The guy who seemed to be doing a lot of the pulling for the lead group asked if I needed anything, but I was good. He had two flats already on the ride. I finished changing the tire and sat back down. Craig decided to go, but he wasn't sure if he was going to do the out and back to Wilhoit. I waited a few minutes then headed out myself. I was pretty drained by then.
There's about a 6 mile climb after turning onto 89 headed towards Wilhoit. The guy in the kona jersey was the first to pass me in the other direction. Craig was next. Then the fast group. I just plugged along feeling more and more tired the entire time. A lady passed me about 1/2 mile before the checkpoint at the Wilhoit grocery store and I got there just after her. I needed a break so I had not one, but TWO, Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches and rested on a bench outside the store. The lady rider left before I sat down to enjoy my well earned snack. A couple riders pulled in just as I was leaving.
The descent back down the Wilhoit hill was tough. It was a 3 to 4 percent decline, but with the wind, you had to work to maintain any speed. The wind had to be blowing 25-30 mph constant. The climb up to Peebles Valley was also only 3 to 4 percent, but with the head wind it felt like a 10 percent climb. I was barely moving. Then my calf muscles started twitching. That's happened to me after long hard rides, but I don't remember any time it has happened during a ride. If I stopped peddling they would twitch, so I just maintained a slow steady cadence and seemed to be ok. Occasionally I'd stand to relieve saddle pressure, but then I'd get the twinges in my thighs that usually signal an impending cramp. So a slow steady cadence while seated was what seemed to be working for me. I was temped to stop at the store in Peebles Valley where I saw several other riders stopped, but I had a feeling if I stopped I wouldn't be able to get going again, so I just plugged along into the head wind. At the bottom of the climb up to Yarnell I thought about stopping again, just for a minute, but my stubborn side won out again and I just made slow, steady progress to the top. A couple riders past me near the top, then we were all on the long descent down Yarnell hill. With that headwind it was tough to get up to 35 mph (this is a hill that is usually good for a 45-50+ mph descent), so I finally just stopped trying to hit those really high speeds and sat up to enjoy the ride down (and try to recover some more). Near the bottom I got into my aerobars, picked up speed and passed those guys in front of me. I stayed in my aerobars and got back into a faster steady cadence and kept that up until the final climb back up to Congress. I did look back once to see where those two guys were, but they weren't in sight.
I must have looked pretty bad when I pulled into the finish because as soon as I got there someone came up and gave me an ice cold wet cloth to clean the dried salt off my face. That felt great! Mike Sturgill was also there and took my brevet card. Craig saw me pull in and came over to give me my car remote so I could go change. The Bullshifters had hot dogs and hamburgers cooking, so I went to the car and changed. Then I got a burger, found a chair, relaxed and chatted for an hour or so with Mike and Craig. And had another burger.
So, a quick ride summary... The route was great, the Bullshifters did a fantastic job with support, but I went out harder than I should have, I tried to stay with the fast group longer than I should have, I didn't pay enough attention to the route profile (and would have been better off with my triple) and I paid for all of that with a really hard ride to the finish. It was a very challenging route with challenging wind. I wound up finishing in about 8 hours 30 minutes (the ride started at 7:30 and I finished at about 4pm). I'll be back next year! :-)
Thanks to the Bullshifters for bringing back this absolutely fantastic ride!
Copyright © 2007 by Mike Enfield. All rights
Revised: 04/06/09 11:29:47 -0700.