Sunday, November 23, 2014

El Tour de Tucson Was Golden




Sunset on our Golden El Tour Day
The 32nd El Tour de Tucson has been planned as a Family event for 4-5 months. Our son, Daniel, lives here in Tucson with his family and our son, Bryan, lives in Eugene, OR home of the mighty Ducks, except they have been dunked two years in a row by our Cats. Our daughter, Katie, is not a cyclist but would cheer for all of us from her home in chilly Chicago. 

Both Bryan and Daniel are full-time bike commuters in the regional extremes their towns offer with not much time in their late-thirty-something lives to get more training beyond their commutes.

For Bryan his last century was 27 years ago at age 13. The 32nd El Tour, at 104 miles, would be a stretch. His longest training ride this Fall was 70 miles. He didn’t feel very good physically after that ride and his confidence was shaken.

Early August Kirk had his nasty bike crash breaking 8 ribs and his clavicle, the latter requiring major surgery and reconstruction with a titanium plate. No one knew at that time if he would be able to ride El Tour at all.

In the beginning the plan had been that Daniel and I would ride the 104 together for Gold; Kirk and Bryan would ride the 104 together to finish. 

Kirk, in his methodical, persevering, masterful way was back on his bike within 3 months  post injury and was committed to riding El Tour, but the 55 mile distance, not the 104.

The Reed Team reconstituted itself with the new plan of Bryan and me riding the 104 together to finish, Kirk riding the 55 mile alone, and Daniel riding the 104 alone for Gold. 

Bryan’s flight from Eugene to Tucson Thursday evening before El Tour on Saturday was the flight from hell; he was in transit 16 hours.  We had rented a bike for him from Cycle Tucson which arrived  Friday morning before he did. 

It was good fun riding with Bryan to the Tucson Convention Center to pick up our rider packets and enjoying a Starbucks bev of choice on the UA campus. Starbucks is a Bryan and mom ritual, but it most often happens on the Ducks campus in Eugene.

Not surprising, each year I am a year older, a little no brainer, but each year I find that my biggest cycling performance challenge is tweaking my nutrition: fluids, fuel, and electrolytes. At least for this year I think I have that one nailed for me. But Bryan’s 70 mile training ride that left him feeling bad was about just that: fuel, fluids, and electrolytes  and he was asking me to coach him through the 104 miles how much and what to eat, drink, and supplement with electrolytes. 

I felt honored that he would ask and trust me and I felt the pressure of his El Tour success riding on my shoulders. 

He had received some advice from a friend of his, I believe a runner, who had cautioned him about not going out too hard and fast at the beginning and then not having enough in the tank to finish. Sage advice, but in the case of 3,000+ 104 mile riders having a mass start and all the platinum and gold riders bunched up at the start, it’s pretty hard to go out too hard and fast. Plus, at about the 10-15 mile mark is the first wash crossing. So, probably 200 riders are bunched up to walk down the steep slope into the wash, walk or carry their bikes across 150 yards of wash and then walk back up the steep slope on the other side. 

There’s a SAG stop, replete with Mariachi band/music on the far side of the wash so people are bunched up there taking care of bio needs etc. So, the first time the space opened up to ride at a pace of one’s choosing was about mile 15.

We lined up at 6:30 for a 7:00 a.m. start (sunrise was 6:59). It was in the low 40’s at the time of waiting for the start. Our fingers didn’t warm till well after the first wash. Bryan was in cargo shorts with lycra bike shorts underneath. He felt the cold big time even though Eugene had already had a serious cold snap. 

I think it was a huge help to him, I know it would have been to me had I been riding a course for the first time, to know what to expect: when we’d be turning out of the wind, where a convenience store was that would offer a Red Bull or a bathroom that didn’t have an endless port-a-potty line; where the hills started, when we’d be done climbing for the day, etc. To that end, the lines for the port-a-potties at the start were 20+ deep and the first few SAG stops the lines were similarly deep. So, we stopped at a Shell station about maybe mile 25 (Wilmot/I-10 for those of you who know the area) and took care of many needs.

Here’s a link to the course, only 104 miles this year. At about mile 50 Bryan had an unexpected behind-the-knee, sharp tendon pain that really scared him. We lowered his seat about 1/8 of an inch and I suggested he stretch. The climbing would be over after another couple of miles and we’d have gentle rollers for about 10 miles before the final hills up Pusch View off of Oracle and then up La Canada to Tangerine. Then the climbing would be done for the day. That intervention "held" for the duration of the ride.

We had been successfully ahead of the merge of the 75 mile riders who joined the main course and enough behind the 52 milers that when we reached the intersection where they joined the main course they did not swell the ranks of the riders to a disabling degree. Not the case with the 40 mile riders. They and we reached their merger with the main course at the same time and what a swell it was, more like a swarm, I would say. These 40 mile riders are oft your least experienced riders, thrilled to be a part of a large event, many don’t have the best of bike handling skills, and there are often a bunch of children/pre-teen-types. Tangerine Rd, which we shared with truck traffic, and which has an adequate shoulder for a few bikes but not hundreds of bikes, was packed with all of us. 

Just before we reached the 6 mile descent on Tangerine we had to stop for a traffic light. Although there were cops patrolling all the intersections, at some major intersections the cars do need to have an opportunity to move through. It was our turn to stop and now we had another HUGE bolus of riders who began the 6 mile descent down Tangerine to I-10. Usually you can take that stretch at 30 mph, but not 5 abreast with that many or more in front and behind you. That was a bit of a disappointment. Lost some time there. 

But at the bottom of Tangerine, before hitting the frontage road all the way to the finish line, Bryan was feeling good and had surrendered his “lets go this at a conservative pace” mode. We busted it as fast as we could back to the finish.

He was absolutely ecstatic!!! We finished at 7:35. He really didn’t think he could make it the whole way. I'm confident his awesome success will open all kinds of possibilities for him: maybe a new, more performancy bike sometime, maybe more bike events (he’s eyeing the 2-day Seattle-to-Portland (STP) in 2015), etc. I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to be a part of his success and soooo grateful, my nutritional strategies worked for him.
  
Bryan chose to wear one of Kirk’s jerseys which turned out to be a UA jersey with a big wildcat on it. Coming from the home of the Ducks, Bryan has disallowed me from posting any pix of him in a UA jersey. He forgot to think about the impact of his friends seeing him in a UA jersey. Pretty funny.

Kirk did AWESOME, did 52 miles in 3:33, right in the middle of the pack.

Daniel smashed GOLD coming in at 5:06  (6:00 was the Gold cut-off). He was able to hook on to a train of riders for the last 40 miles and they pace lined it on in. He is totally pumped. Platinum is definitely in his future.

When parents are nearly 70 (that would be us) and your kids are nearly 40 (that would be Bryan, and Daniel is close behind him),  their day-to-day tangible needs are fewer and that’s how it should be. But it feels real good to be asked for help from time to time and it feels extra specially good when the help they asked for is actually helpful.

We had an awesome Mom and son bonding day; Kirk and Daniel each exceeded their expectations.

And besides all of those good things the UA Wildcats beat the Utah Utes, and the Oregon Ducks beat the the Colorado Buffalos. 

Oh, and if you hadn’t already heard, the high was in the low 70’s, sunny skies all day and winds no greater than 6 mph. The 2013, 31st El Tour was fully redeemed in 2014.

A Golden day all around. 

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