I was back down in Tucson this past weekend for another dose of long-distance suffering. Randonneurs are long distance cyclists, brevets is what the event is called. I'd say "those people", except that since I'm two for two on the Arizona rando circuit so far this year, I'm in danger of being required to say "we"!!
Anyway, this event was a 300km - the same one I did two years ago, and again I was put up at a little piece of paradise owned by the esteemed Mr Kenny Phd (suffering) (...we always kid that he has a Phd in suffering. I'm pretty sure he has a few business degrees, but they aren't quite as intimidating on big rides/climbs).
Started out in darkness at 6am, in very chilly conditions. It wasn't REALLY cold, since I was escaping -17 degrees in Calgary by being in Arizona, but when you expect it to get up to 25 or so, and so you hope to pack all your cold-weather clothing in pockets and saddlebags designed to hold a powerbar or multi-tool, you dress just warm enough to not freeze. Since it was dark as we set out, it only got colder over the next couple of hours until the sun rose! Brr!
After the first checkpoint, the glorious sun was up and the temp came up a highly appreciated 10 degrees right quick. Our blinky lights seemed quite unnecessary by now, so while I was last in line, I leant down to turn off my blinky on my rear fork. I slipped, and OW! I had a millisecond to realize what might be happening, before I saw that I'd snatched my hand out the rear spokes, fingers intact. With a smarting finger, from what turned out to be a nice gash, as a reminder, I had the next 200km to think about how close I'd come to losing a finger in order to save the batteries in a $3 blinky light...
Now past the 100km mark, we were willing to start digging a little deeper on our pulls. Our lead group of 12 or so was making good progress, and I was feeling pretty good after the sugar-cocktail of my last energy bar, so I got a bit over-enthusiastic on a pull up a hill, where the young dude in our group, Taylor, took over and hammered the rest of the way. By the top, Stephen was calling out for us to "ease up there, young punks" because we'd lost everyone else. Oops.
We made good progress on the next 60km or so through to Sweetwater Rd, which, if you can see in this terrible photo taken by my iphone the day before, has a super-fun/brutal set of rollers, leading to the big climb of the day up through Gates Pass. I was still feeling great, thanks to the training and nutrition plan from super-coach Trev (and advice of unrelated super-physio Dave Holmes), and couldn't help but lay it down. Entirely un-nice/un-rando of me, and by Gates Pass, it was again just the three of us chugging up the front side and then clocking 70kmh on the descent and into the second and final checkpoint.
I've been finding on these long rides that it's the last third that really wears on you. Last year I bonked and recovered and bonked about seven times between this checkpoint and the end, so I was pretty stoked that we camped out for a few minutes to relax and refuel. We rolled out with a good group of 5 or so.
Without the break-neck speed start from last year, and no Trev drilling it, we were a little behind last year's schedule, and so it seemed that instead of having an hour of tailwind, we turned back north at just the right time to have it be pretty consistently head-wind for the entire ride. Fortunately the wind was very light, but it's still kinda like being up hill both ways!
Frontage Rd is a mind-numbingly straight, sanity-testing road that runs between a railway and interstate for about 40 km, but everyone was taking good pulls and didn't complain (until later). Taylor and I launch a couple of attacks to keep things entertaining, but Stephen wasn't buying it and just rolled us up with his unreleting rando pace after maybe a minute each time. Wim was considerate enough to flat just as we missed crossing the tracks before a mile-long cargo train passed, so we really lost no time we wouldn't have anyway.
By the time we were pulling through the bustling metropolis of Eloy (pop. 200), I was definitely in need of sustenance, but could not bring myself to eat yet another chocolate powerbar. I started trying to barter with the other riders, but Russ insisted on just giving me (apparently I wasn't doing a great job promoting my power bar) a pistachio, almond, honey, etc etc little piece of heaven, that saved me from bonking right into the ditch within spitting distance of the finish.
Well, it seemed like spitting distance. Around then, I saw a sign that said 17 miles to Casa Grande, our destination, but who knows where they measure that from, and those friggen mile things...gah! We'd all run out of water by this point (I was thirsty and I could see everyone else was out, so I didn't bother asking) and we just had to grind out that last bit to the finish.
All in all, though, I felt pretty amazing for having done another ludicrously long ride, and not even cowering in the peleton, either. I definitely got my money's worth at the all-you-can-eat sushi that night!