Wednesday, November 22, 2006

El Tour de Tucson

This past weekend, Greg and I decided to travel to Tucson for the Tour. This event is a big deal in our family not because we have done it every year, but really because we have talked about it every year. In fact, I have only done the Tour one other time and that was in 1999. That year I did a 75 mile option and was fairly certain I was going to die. I am not sure how I could have been so much younger and in such worse shape then, but it was awful. My average speed was around 12 mph and I remember my mom and dad slowing down a lot to wait for me. Even my parents, for all their cycling experience, had never done the full tour. I think they had each registered for it a few times, but something always came up.

For this year's Tour, I waited until the last week to actually register. I had concentrated so much on SOMA, that I knew I could ride 50-60 miles fairly well, but I wasn't so sure about 109. My husband, being who he is, had only been riding around 15-30 miles per week. All those miles were at break-neck speed which meant he was fast, but had very little saddle time. After evaluating our training, I tried to convince my husband we should do one of the shorter mileage options, like the 66 mile event. He used typical Greg logic to say "Well, if we can do 66, we can do 85, and if we can do 85 we can do 109." Therefore, race morning found us bundled up at the starting line for the 109 mile event

I wasn't sure what I wanted to wear for the race because it was really cold at the start, but I knew it would warm up. I decided to go with a long bra, cycling jersey, long wicking shirt, jacket and toe warmers. .
However, after waiting around a bit at the start, I decided I was too warm. I raced back to the car and dropped off the wicking shirt. Later I would be so glad I unloaded this shirt.

We had all heard bad things about the mass start of the tour, so when the event started we took our time. We had timing chips afterall, so we saw no need to hurry. -We later found out that the timing chips didn't record our start time. This meant the 11 minutes it took us to get to the starting line was actually included in our race time. This was a huge bummer and my biggest complaint of the event.

Shortly after we finally got going, I decided to shift into a harder gear. I had borrowed my mom's old road bike for the event since it is much more comfortable than my road bike. (Besides shouldn't everyone's first 100+ mile event be on a bike they are unfamiliar with?) However, I wasn't used to the Campy gears and promptly shifted incorrectly and dropped my chain. Boy did a I feel like a dork so early in the event!

Greg and I had talked about our race strategy beforehand and we anticipated that he would pull more in the beginning and I would pull more at the end. Honestly the first 10-15 miles were pretty frustrating for me. We had a bit of a head wind and he smartly wanted to draft off other riders. However, I couldn't hold their pace and kept getting dropped and then he would have to slow down to ride with me. I could tell I was bringing him down and I was frustrated with myself for not being able to ride faster. We later got more into a groove and it became more fun.

Part of the "charm" of the Tour de Tucson is that there are two river crossings in the event. Since this is Southern Arizona we are talking about, the rivers are almost always dry. When we came to the crossings, everyone got off their bikes and carried them across the thick sand. It was actually sort of comical seeing everyone off their bike crossing the sand. The first crossing was probably about 200 yards, but the other was much longer and harder. The second was where I really cursed my mom's steel framed bike! In fact, days later, my arms are the main part of me still sore!

Around mile twenty we were getting hot and looking forward to meeting up with Nikki. Nikki is a family friend who graciously volunteered to watch our boys and meet us along the course. We were planning to drop our cold weather gear off with her at the next aid station. Unfortunately, we never saw them at that station and ended up having to carry our jackets until around mile 50. By then we were so ready to unload them!

As each mile ticked by, I began to get more and more excited. I was really worried that I would hit mile 60 and just collapse, but as 60 came and went I was feeling pretty good. I began to think I could do the distance and I grew confident in my strength and athleticism. At mile 70 the coolest thing happened. One rider passed me at a good speed and then another passed quickly grabbing his wheel. I decided not to miss this opportunity and jumped on board as well. Greg of course stayed with us and a few more riders joined in. For the next 15 miles we had the coolest pace line going. Everyone pulled, everyone stayed together and everyone actually worked as a team. My adrenaline was pumping so hard! I think right then and there I could have converted and become a hardcore roadie! I knew Nikki and the boys were at mile 85, so it was a little bit bittersweet when we saw them and had to stop. It was tough saying good bye to our cool baseline. Greg later said that he was happy to stop because he couldn't have kept it up much longer, but I was fairly confident I could have kept going.

In fact, I really didn't start to feel too bad until about mile 102. Around then, everything hurt: my lower back, my neck, my crotch. I went from a little achiness to intense pain. Those last few miles seemed so long. Greg was also dragging at this point and pretty much stayed in my draft. This was probably the only thing that kept me going. I was encouraged to actually be the stronger half of our team, something that is very rare when we workout together.

When we finished I was very relieved, but then of course I had to ask myself two important questions: could I have biked three more miles? And could I then run a marathon? To answer the first, hell yes! For the second question, while I was relieved to not be running a marathon that day, I think if IRONMAN had been on the line, I could have done it. It would have been slow, ugly and painful, but I still think it would have been possible. Hopefully by April I will be even stronger and it will be slightly less painful!

Greg and I finished in 6:51:32 according to their clock. According to mine, we did 6:40:32. This was a 16.32mph. Considering how long the river crossing took, the fact that we stopped for 5 minutes to help a rider who crashed, and about 4 minutes for traffic lights, this was very good. My parents also had an excellent time and finished in just over 8 hours. They both looked great and were feeling good enough to go out that night! The next day Greg and I went for a four mile run. It was supposed to be a recovery run at a low HR, but since I ran with Mr. Zippy, it was of course too fast. Still I felt good about it. My only lingering problems are the sore arms from carrying the bike across the river beds, and sore crotch.

Extra Kudos for El Tour De Tucson: Despite a few shortcomings, like misleading timing chips (what were those for again?) and few mile markers, this is really a great event. The volunteers are spectacular. At each aid station, they held my bike, refilled water, and constantly offered me food. I took up an offer for pretzels at one station and the volunteer quickly went out of his way to find them and deliver them so I didn't have to wander around. They were all friendly, helpful and just as importantly encouraging. At one of the last stations I chewed on a saladito (salted plum, if you are from Tucson you probably know them and like them, if you are from any place else, you probably think it sounds nasty). I asked the volunteer there where to throw my pit. He actually had me spit it in his hand so he could throw it away. Poor guy said he had touched worse things during the day! Next year is the 25th anniversary of this event. I highly recommend it to everyone!!


Blogger Fe-lady said...

Thanks for the race report and congrats to all of you again! Now you have me excited about the 25th year event as I did the very first one (there were about 100 of us) way back in 1982- I was thrid woman across the line...but I think there were only about ten of us! I know what a saldito is, and altho I like salty things, I would still be hard-pressed to injest one of these things during an event! (ew!) :-)

12:23 PM  
Blogger Fe-lady said...

thIRd...yeah, I am an educator....! HA!

12:23 PM  
Blogger momo said...

great job! i live in az and have always wanted to do the tour - maybe next year, the anniversary edition might be fun. happy thanksgiving!

12:51 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Congrats on Tour de Tucson. Sounds like a fun event that I should plan on doing.

I can't believe you did it on a different bike. I've been thinking of doing something like that here since my dad has a nice road bike. Gotta love the comfort of steel; gotta hate the weight (esp. if you have to carry it!).

I've found I can never think about other races when I'm doing a current event. It takes away the focus. Plus, every event is hard in it's own right, and you adjust accordingly. Thinking about doing a half-ironman during my half-marathon nearly killed me. I'm sure it will be different on race day.

8:23 PM  
Blogger ironjenny said...

Great job on such a long event! You will absolutely be ready for your Ironman. You'll surprise yourself. Running is all different muscles from biking... you'll see. "The day just goes by".
I give you kudos for training with your hubba - mine is soooo competitive and it drives my crazy!!! Hence, he has HIS hobbies (fishing, golfing, poker) and I have mine. I don't want to go to "Poker Weekend" in Vegas with him and his buddies, and I
don't want him coming to tennis camp or Ironman with me! He's a great guy and I'd pick him again for a hubba, but training with him would be, uh... too much of a good thing?? ;-)
You asked on my blog about Ironman Brazil... my email is - write me and I'll tell you all about it... and yes, we did go with a travel group. I wouldn't go any other way... especially to a 3rd world country.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Barb said...

What a great race! For some reason the pictures didn't come up! :(

4:01 PM  
Blogger Susan Oseen said...

great blog!

2:11 PM  
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Blogger TriBoomer said...

I found your your blog via Common Man's and will add you to my blogroll.

I enjoyed reading your race report.

Stay tuned...

6:38 AM  
Blogger TRI Vortex said...

What a ride. My boss did "El Tour." I don't know his finishing time, but I hear his quick. As for me, 25 miles is the longest distance I've done. So far, I have 2 Sprints under my belt and have another coming up in April. Then I have my sights set on an Olympic. Great job in Tucson.

PS. Saliditos are great.

11:42 PM  
Blogger No Wetsuit Girl... overseas! said...

Congratulations! Does doing something so long on a different bike give your crotch A) a rest from the cumulative abuse of your other bike, or B) an even harder time because you're not used to it? Either way, you're a rockstar!

9:14 AM  
Blogger alex said...

A pretty, black-eyed girl, struggling to keep down her mirth, came forward and faced him behind the counter...

6:54 PM  
Blogger Fe-lady said...

Bridget...I seem to have lost your e-mail address! (So I can answer your letter!)
Cheryl Palen

10:01 AM  
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