Clint’s Well Personal Century

I didn’t do as well as I would have liked during my last two “big” events, suffering from knee pain during each. Hindsight is 20/20 and I know I wasn’t properly prepared, especially considering the amount of hill climbing involved for both of them. My next “big” event is the “Son of Death Ride” … 129 miles with 17,000 feet of cumulative ascent. A HARD ride. This time I plan to be more prepared!

Barry Reger told me he tried a number of remedies when he was experiencing knee pain, but taking 4000 mg of fish oil was what helped him. I’m not partial to fish oil, but don’t mind krill oil which has similar benefits, so I started taking that regularly. I also have been much more consistent about getting daily training rides done. So I’m feeling pretty good overall, but was still concerned about the knee pain from the Taylor House Century a few weeks ago and decided I needed some high altitude distance with moderate hills to see if the knee was still a problem.

I got on Google and looked at the distance between Clint’s Well and Lake Mary. 38 miles. Hmmm… Add a loop or two around Mormon lake and that would make a good century. I’ve ridden Lake Mary road before and there’s a pretty good shoulder most of the way, so it’s relatively safe. I was up at 5 am Saturday morning, but was slower than I wanted getting ready. The drive up to Clint’s Well also took longer than I expected. I had hoped to be on the road riding by 6:30, but wasn’t able to until around 7:15am. I also forgot my Find Me Spot locator, so no real time tracking on this ride.

The route has some nice long 4% grades with a few flat sections for making time and a couple steeper hill for some good let work. I was riding strong and the hills weren’t bothering me. About 20 miles into the ride I had a front tire flat. Dang. Very small fragment of glass that I think I picked up on Thursday while riding in the rain (had a front tire flat then too). A quick tube change and I was on my way again. It was a perfect morning at the start. Not too cold, slight breeze and not a cloud in sight. Riding in the pines is sure nice! As I got closer to Mormon Lake, a pretty strong cross wind started to develop. Three guys passed me on a hill about 2 miles or so from Mormon lake, but they were riding pretty inconsistently, so I went around them on the last climb and lost sight of them on the descent before the lake. That cross wind got incredibly strong as I went along the edge of the lake bed. Strong enough to turn my handlebars and I kept my bike angled into the wind. Hard riding!

Once I got to the far end of the lake I had a choice about riding a loop around Mormon lake to get my mileage up to the 100 mile mark. With that wind, I knew I’d be pretty tempted to bypass the loop on the way back, so I made the turn and rode around the lake to the Mormon Lake convenience store. There were a few other riders there commiserating about the strong wind. I filled my bottles and had a cream soda and a giant 1/4 pound oatmeal raison cookie, then headed out again. That cross wind was a super friendly tail wind on the way back to Lake Mary road, then cross/tail for a bit before shifting to the side and causing my bike to lean over again.

When you encounter another rider off their bike, it’s cycling courtesy to slow down and ask if everything is ok and if the cyclist has what they need (never know when you may be in a similar situation). Going down a slight descent, there was a cyclist walking her bike so I slowed and asked if she was ok. She said she thought the wind was going to blow her right off her bike and decided to walk down the hill. As I continued on I heard her yell “How are you staying up?!?” A few miles down the road I encountered another guy walking his bike. When I asked him if he was ok, he just yelled “damn wind!” and kept walking.

As I neared Lake Mary, the wind started shifting around quite a bit, so I’d get a really strong head wind for a few minutes, then a strong tail wind pushing me up 1-2% grades at 27 mph! That wind was just crazy. Once past upper Lake Mary I started to wonder about my Google distance estimates. 38 miles between Clints Well and Lake Mary. Was that “Upper Lake Mary” or “Lower Lake Mary”? Hmmmm… The convenience store I was headed to was at the lower end of Lower Lake Mary. I pulled in at about 11:15 and had a ham and cheese lunchable for lunch with some Doritos and a Cherry Cream soda.

When I left, that wind was still shifting around but became a strong cross wind again once I got past the upper part of Upper Lake Mary. Luckily the trees broke the force of the wind and it was only when I past open fields that I felt the full force. Unfortunately Mormon lake is one huge field. I think the wind actually got stronger since I had been by before. I looked at my mileage and realized my Google estimate was off and I’d be doing around 110 miles, instead of 100, so I decided not to do another loop around the lake. It may actually have been a better decision to go around because that would have kept me protected by trees. Instead, I faced a gale force cross wind that literally blew me off the shoulder into the regular traffic lane several times. I’ve ridden in a lot of hard wind, but I think that stretch along Mormon lake was the strongest cross wind I’ve ever encountered. Wow, just brutal. I was down to one water bottle when I got to the other turn towards Mormon Lake village. It was only 2 miles from that end, but it would have been directly into that head wind, so I decided to just keep going. I felt pretty good, even with that wind.

Once I got back into the trees on the far side of the lake, I was protected again and started making better time. The wind shifted a bit and I found myself with a cross tail wind to make even better time. I knew I’d have 20 miles left when I passed the spot where I had the flat. The Happy Jack ranger station is about 15 miles from Clints Well and I had to stop there to fill my bottles. The office was closed, but the station has a water tap outsite. I sat on a bench and drank a bottle, ate a honey stinger bar and relaxed for a few minutes.

The rest of the ride was pretty much downhill, so it didn’t take too long to get back to my car. 112 miles total in 7.5 hours (including stops). Not a bad day on the bike. I felt good and didn’t have any of the knee pain I’ve had in the last couple rides. Thanks for the fish oil suggestion Barry, it seems to have helped! Next weekend is the High Country 200k Brevet (ShowLow to Springerville to Sunrise back to ShowLow). With this ride I should be well prepared for it!

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