Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Well, when I decided Bike Friday's Sat'R Day, the folding recumbent packable in an airline compatible suitcase, wasn't going to be a fit for me, I shifted my focus from rough roading international travel to ultradistance Randonneuring. (www.rusa.org and wwwultracycling.com). The Great Lakes Randonneurs is my local chapter. (www.glrando.org).

The first "bene" of my membership was to receive a distribution list email from the Great Lakes Chapter inviting interested members to crew for a 4-man RAAM (Race Across America) team. (www.raceacrossamerica.org)

So happens that 3 of the 4 men on the team are riders I shared the Southern Transcontinental with: Larry Gitman, Paul Danhaus, and Walt Chapman! They are challenging the 60 year old age division record of 6 days: 20 hours: 27 minutes. A few calls later and I booked my flight to San Diego which will leave only 6 hours after my return from a Mediterranean Cruise. I think this will be my crash course in sleep dep in preparation for 1200km, 750 mile Paris-Brest-Paris (known as PBP) ride in 2011. (www.rusa.org/pbp)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Desert Camp--Heading Back To Tucson

A most successful week. Excellent riding, good fellowship, some new learnings, and a definitive commitment to train for Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), which is to Randonneuring what the Boston Marathon is to running, or Hawaii Ironman is to triathlons. PBP is a 750 mile (1200K) solo, self-supported ride to be completed in 92 hours or less. It's held only every 4 years. I won't be ready for 2007, so 2011 will, more than likely, be my only shot since I'll be 65 in 2011. To qualify one must complete a 200, 300, 400, and 600K ride in prescribed times in the year you want to do the 1200k.

The ride home to Tucson was an experience in opposites--80 degrees, 10 mph winds, 6% descent over those 40 miles we climbed at 55 degrees and forced backwards by a 40 mph wind. It was the ride back that confirmed for me I did NOT have the desire or legs to ride back up that grade the next day plus all the other hills between Tucson and Tombstone for the 300K.

I decided to make up my own century around Tucson for Saturday just relishing in the warmth, and soaking in the memories of Desert Camp 2007.

Maybe next year I'll sign up for Mountain Week. That would be staring the Javelina in the eye and not backing down.

Now, onward for training for the Cochise 252 in mid-October.

Desert Camp--Bisbee Loop

After the first couple of days the weather couldn't have been nicer--bright blue skies, cool mornings, warming to the high 70's to mid 80's by afternoon.

Bisbee, a thriving copper mining community from the 1880's until the mid-70's retains its charm, with buildings lovingly restored for browsing, noshing, and sipping fine coffees from local beaneries. Bisbee is also nestled into the sides of the Mule Mountains which can only be negotiated by going over Mule Pass, a climb I remember well from the Cochise Classic 157 in 2005. It was good to ride it again in anticipation of experiencing it in the 3:00 a.m. darkness for the Cochise Classic 252 miler this Fall. It's called the 8 and 38--8 mph up the mountain and 38 mph down the mountain. (I know some of the riders will take it at more daring speeds of 48 or 50 mph. Guess I'm showing either my age or wisdom. Don't know which).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Desert Camp--200K Brevet

While the other riders stayed closer to Sierra Vista, 13 of us rode a 200K brevet from Sierra Vista to the Nogales Airport and back, the Nogales Internatioal Airport I might add. Nogales sits right on the Mexico/AZ border. The planes that sat on the tarmac were sky worthy only to fly as far as the border, I'm certain of that.

I've been really spooked by this brevet thing primarily because it is unsupported. While I have handily ridden the 200 and 300K distances and more, it has always been with the knowing that there was a bail out option, i.e. support somewhere within the range of accessibility. Not so on the brevets. The closest help in time of need is that of a passing minivan or, more likely in the desert, a pick-up truck.

But if I'm going to do this randonneuring thing, then I had best bite the bullet and ride the ride. The weather was right, I had friends on the route, albeit pretty scattered given that it was just 13 of us over 200k (125 miles), and I knew the route.

The ride was wonderful. Lots of hills, climbs, descents, an intersection called Sonoita, a cute, very cute, little town of Patagonia, and then the crown jewel, the turn around point, the Nogales International Airport.

My success of the day inspired me to plan to do the 300K on Saturday, but I reserved the right to decide on Friday seeing how my legs were feeling after a couple more days of riding in the mountains.

Desert Camp--Tombstone

Pictures say it best for Tombstone.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Desert Camp Day 2 --Coronado Loop

Temps today were not much different than yesterday, but the wind was 15-20 instead of yesterday's daunting 30-40. The route was basically flat and desert lush. The cool is apparent in Veronica's (from Alaska who had just run a 100 mile race 2 weeks before Desert Camp) and Lon's shivered stance.

The Palominas Trading Post was recommended for its homemade pies. But only about 3 pies are baked each day so you have to be an early riser if you want to satisfy your pie hankering. I, for one, was more into the indoor plumbing. To make my way to the restroom I had to first wend my way through a sea of bumper stickers: "Annoy a liberal: work, succeed, be happy" and then through 7 pairs of eyes peering out from under ten gallon hats and over grizzled cheeks prickled with the stubble of harvested October corn. Their galvanized glare burned through my Lycra shorts and clown-bright jersey. I too was camou'ed under helmet and goggled shades.
The pie waitress, who bore the hopeless, all used-up resemblance of "Brokeback Mountain's" Alma, pointed in the direction of the water closet.

I had actually considered pie, but decided upon fig newtons served in culture at the PAC rest stop just 3 miles up the road.

Lon had reminded us to carry protective gear in case there was a change in the weather. He reminisced about a time the weather changed on him in these parts and the only shelter to be found were the discards of illegal aliens seeking safe passage across the desert. I remember thinking he must have been quite lucky that day. My soul was wrenched by El Norte comfort as I rode by enough discards to warm nearly all our PAC riders.

Desert Camp Day 1--Tucson-->Sierra Vista

Believe it or not, this is a fake tree. Looks normal, but if you look closely you might be able to see it is a camo'ed cell phone tower. Sign of the times. :))

75 Degrees sounded awfully enticing after the severe weather most of us have had this season. 56 riders and about a dozen crew, coaches, and guest speakers arrived at the Country Inn and Suites near the Tucson airport on Saturday, March 3rd ready to ride in shorts, short sleeved jerseys and short fingered gloves.

Sunday morning, with bikes assembled and ready to ride to Sierra Vista 87 miles south east of Tucson, we were greeted with a morning temp of 37. Tights, fleece, mittens, ear covers--hey this is not much different than Chicago! Then again, I hadn't been able to ride outside in Chicago since December. The Weather Channel announced the winds would be from the East/South East, 30 miles an hour with gusts to 40.

It was all of that, with every wheel revolution for the full 87 miles. Add to that the climb of about 3,000 feet and cresting an elevation of just over 5,000 feet and it was a very hard day. I would say well over half of the riders sagged part of the way.

It was oh, so reminiscent of Day 6 of the transcon. (See September 15, 2006 post re: Day 6). But the big, big difference was that we had not spent 3 days in the 120 degree desert heat and climbed the California and Arizona mountains before hitting the challenges of Day 6. Nor did we have 20 more intense days ahead of us.

It's early in the riding season to have that big of a push. I was truly beat by the time I got in--no sagging here. :))

End of PED

PED--Post Event Depression

Yep, that's what I've had for the past 6 months. PED ever since returning from the transcon. Not show stopping, but a subtle needling of "what do I do with myself now?" What am I training for?"

Well, showing up at the Country Inn and Suites near the Tucson Airport and seeing the PAC vehicles and all the eager smiles and bikes chomping at the bit to hit the road, brought new life to my spirit. Three old friends from the transcon--Nancy and Mike Myers and Walt Chapman.

We had a feast at Subway catching up on the events of the last 6 months and bringing new PAC riders into the "PAC family."

No More Sat'R Day

I brought both bikes to AZ with the expectation of bringing both to Desert Camp. I rode the Sat'R Day around Tucson testing its mettle on the hills. Alas, it was a dismal failure. 4-5 mph slower on the climbs and sent me anaerobic in no time. Between that and the seat/butt issues, I called Bike Friday to let them know I'll be returning it to them for keeps. :((

I'm keenly disappointed as the packability and agility of the bike is awesome. Just some design flaws that make it not a keeper. I'm hopeful they'll keep working on the prototype.