I slept horridly the night after Mount Lemon. I tossed and turned endlessly, getting up multiple times for water, the restroom, or to flush out my quickly congesting sinus.
I dragged my ass out of bed at 7 and walked into the living area of TCH. Owen asked right away how I was feeling. I'm pretty sure I replied "Nnnnnnngggh!" and went straight to the coffee. I had a fairly light breakfast, more coffee, and went back into our room for a long hot shower with the hopes that the hot water would help unclog my head.
Today Madera Canyon was on the radar. The crew loaded their bikes onto "Big Blue" to be shuttle down south to starting point of the ride. We get the opportunity to see "downtown" Tucson. Not terribly impressive.
A short 30 minute drive later we arrive at a small coffee shop where seemingly every Tucson police officer in a 10 mile radius was heading to, where we suit up for today's ride. We head almost due west out past some huge mining complexes. The road is a steady uphill grade, and after yesterdays effort and the start of the head cold, I really have no desire to ride hard or at the front.
I languish in the back for a while until Traci drops off the front of the pace and eases back into the group. It's been a long hard week for her, and we've had little time to ride together so I take the opportunity to pull in next to her and keep her company.
The wind relentlessly blows at us from the south. It isn't driving, but its a constant reminder that the trip up Madera Canyon is going to be into a headwind.
Gregg and local legend Mike Longmeier hand back with Traci and I as the group rolls along up the road. We shelter Traci from the wind as we snake our way through the desert. Traci mentioned she feels a bit dizzy as we hit a small climb so we ease off the pace. We roll up to the support van and she decides to call it a day.
I take off down the road and try to wake the body up with a hard effort. About 10 minutes later I hit the regroup point where we get some info about the descent into town and the turn off to the road leading up to the canyon.
The route to the canyon is an out and back, 13 miles one way. The road is heavily used by cyclists and a favorite among training rides in the area. A steady almost un-noticeable climb of 1-2% heads out for roughly 10.5 miles before the road kicks you in crotch the last 2.5 miles with an average pitch of 12%.
A split quickly forms on the trip out, with Paul, Mike, RC, Deanna and myself trying to keep on the wheel of Brendan and Jen from the TCH, who is just "riding tempo". A few half hearted attacks are made, but no one is able to stay away for too long. After about 15 wheels of running at threshold in a draft, my insulin pump starts beeping at me. I gratefully take the opportunity to pull out of the pace line and figure out what's up with my bionic pancreas.
"SENSOR ERROR". Ah, no big deal, was about time to change it out anyway. I take a second to shut the sensor off and look up the road. The group is about 50 feet ahead of me and I just don't have the legs to take another dig and close the distance. Russell and Deanna roll up behind me and we ride on together until Mr. Cree takes a Big Blue motor pace back up to the group ahead of us.
Cheater. I was very jealous.
Deanna and I ride along together, keeping the pace high, but steady. We eventually pick up Jen who backed off the silly pace that was being set by the boys up the road.
We leapfrog the van one more time as the road noticeable gets closer to the canyon. The grade is starting to kick up a bit and our small three person group splits up. I get a final water bottle from Traci's who is riding support shotgun in Big Blue. Owen informs us that he can't bring the van into the park due to a dumb ass park ranger who fined him $700 last year for having Hammer Nutrition stickers on the side of the van. Napoleon wannabe.
As I enter the final, steep, 3 miles of the ride, the United Healthcare pro team comes bombing down the hill the other way, their team car following behind. I wonder if they got fined.
A few of the riders wave and say hello in the short moment they were close by. I'm looking forward to the descent.
I climb on through the forest and past the small campsites and turnouts. A roadrunner strides out in front of me and crosses the road. I wanted it to go "meep meep", but I guess it wasn't in the mood. I pass a flock of wild turkeys hiding in the shade under one of the large tree's. I've never seen one before, and I'm fairly shocked to have seen on less than 25 miles from the US-Mexico border.
Eventually I hit the top of the climb, but not before one last knee shredding wall I'm forced to grind up. I reach the top and Paul snaps a photo of me doing my best "Ironclad Salute", complete with prerequisite gloves.
We hang for a bit while the rest of the riders roll in up that miserable last section. The sun is warm, and the views are actually pretty amazing once you get the chance to look at them. Owen rolls in on a borrowed bike, sans cycling shoes and with a big grin on his face. He's been fighting a cold all week and its good to see him feeling better.
We roll out, taking it easy the first few miles due to the rough pavement. Once we are clear of the forest the gloves come off and I get a chance to open up the legs. Russell punks Gregg at the van on the way down. Rumor has it he told Gregg to regroup then punched it as soon as Gregg stopped. Unfortunately for RC, Gregg and I are designed to go downhill, fast. Although he's got a good gap, its a matter of time before we reel him in. In the middle of the chase, I record a one minute effort at 400w doing 43mph. Fun times.
We eventually settle into a 4 person paceline, having towed the "waffer-thin" Paul along in our wake. We rip off the next 9 miles in just over 17 minutes, averaging close to 32mph in what has to be one of the best sections of road I've had the pleasure of riding. A few half hearted attacks happen in the last half mile, but for the most part the 4 of us roll into the finish together. The rest of the group isn't too far behind and we quickly pack Big Blue up for a stop at In'N'Out on the way home.
The night wraps up with an amazing Fiesta at TCH, which Kender, Sal, and Heidi join in on. The food is amazing, the wine, beer, and margaritas are wonderful, and Traci / Tina whip up a batch of homemade truffles for the gang to enjoy.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end sooner than we wish. Goodnights and Goodbyes are exchanged, and during the middle of the night a rainstorm moves in, washing away all chance of an easy spin the next morning. We spend Sunday relaxing at the house, having the last flight out of the day.
The gang at The Cycling House made this week special for those who had the chance to attend, and although this is just the first week of February, I'm pretty sure this will be one of the highlights of my year.
Thank you Owen, Andy, Sam, Brendan, and Jen for a wonderful week!