Tucson Camp Day 6

You think the editing was poor before? Just wait until you read this one. I am writing this on my iPad in Chicago Midway airport with a training hangover. And away we go:

Yesterday was our final day to go out big. I knew the day’s ride would necessitate some serious fuel. Jet Fuel aka Gordo brew was available in Gordo’s suite at 6am. One cup of the stuff and I feel great. Two cups and I could have a heart condition.

We departed at 7:30am with sun but the temps were cold in the 30′s. I think it was the coldest temps I have ever ventured out riding. I had all the gear and after 20 minutes warmed up into the ride. We had a 40 mile false flat (gradual ascent) towards Kitt Peak via the Ajo Highway. Everything around you is flat and desolate with the mountain looming in the distance. At times it feels like you are on the road to nowhere with the mountain getting no closer despite the reading on your odometer.

Our cycling group came together nicely over the week under the guidance of Marilyn McDonald and Gordo. We all started to work together as a team and become comfortable as a peloton. I noticed that my death grip on my brakes disappeared and that I became comfortable drinking while in the group. I learned how to keep spinning and stay smooth and controlled. I couldn’t talk much because it was hard to hear through my beanie. I took a few pulls on the way out and felt strong overall.

When we arrived at the road to Kitt Peak, the camp staff (Gayle, Sherry and Scott) had a full spread set up for us before our assault began. I had a couple Aussie (they are pronounced Ozzie dammit) bites and off I went. The climb was an 8% grade for 12 miles up to the observatory at the top. Unlike Lemmon there is no switchbacks or places where the road backs off. The total ascent was to 8000′.

As I climbed you could truly see that we were in the middle of nowhere. It was very peaceful until about 5000′ when I started my altitude panting. Altitude is a challenge for my lungs and may be related to my asthma. Despite this, Tucson works for me because I can get the long climbs, get some altitude exposure and then return to 3000′ where I feel more comfortable (at least after a couple of days in Tucson).

As the climb twisted and turned up the mountain,the cross winds picked up at the higher elevations. This trip helped me to learn to deal with wind on the new frame by making sure my grip was relaxed but firm. Death grips mean disaster.

Gordo treated me to the thrill of being passed on a climb while riding his new 29′er mountain bike. Yes, I was passed by a guy riding a mountain bike up the mountain. Another humbling lesson of camp.

It was damn cold at the top. I added a wind jacket to my kit and began my descent. The top was a bit sketchy from leftover sand and the cross winds made the first 6 miles an adrenaline loaded descent. If you don’t live in the mountains, these kind of descents make you feel happy to be alive after you are finished. Good thing I had new brake pads for this trip. I think I burned through half of them through the week. I also learned that a 60mm deep dish front is great for the Midwest but will not be joining me again in Tucson.

Quick refuel after the descent and our pace line headed home. The ride home should fly with the gradual descent but we had a nice head/cross wind. Fortunately, Gordo taught me how to position myself to protect myself a bit better from the wind and I enjoyed the ride home. At least until we were near an airport on Ajo.

Our smooth ride suddenly turned into the most jarring ride of my life. The highway buckles and cracks turning your beautiful sleek time trial machine into a cross bike. Throw in the debris that contributed to the nickname “Dirty T” and you have a full on adventure. As I am trying not to get thrown from my bike I found myself getting hit by the occasional small stone and at one point by a small piece of metal. There was a strip of metal lying on the road that someone claimed was a broad sword!

I was joking with my fellow camper Kevin that I had suffered a series of minor concussions similar to shaken baby syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. Kevin responded that he was now sterile as a result of the ride. He added that if you were fixed before the ride (vasectomy) you might want to get rechecked after the ride. It was the perfect moment to laugh. Everyone got a kick out of it.

105 miles later we arrived back at the hotel. I think everyone had enough of their bike at that point. I hustled back to my room and completed a 20′ transition run from the hotel. I felt very good and all systems were a go.

The rest of the day was spent packing, having our farewell dinner and saying goodbye. I ended the week with 34 hours of training (a decent training dose ;-) and a TSS of 1180. Gordo and I met and based on my fitness and progress we have decided to pull the plug on Triple T and race Ironman Texas.

We had a wonderful group of people and athletes at camp. I am very grateful to the coaches, Endurance Corner and the campers for their help and support this week. I am a better person and a better athlete for the experience.

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