El Tour de Phoenix XV

1 04 2006

Today, I rode in the PBAA El Tour de Phoenix.Remember those episodes of your favorite cartoon superhero? Superman, Wonder woman, whoever…they all had one episode or another where they lost their powers. That is how I felt today in my first ride of the El Tour de Phoenix. While, I was ok on the flat parts of the course, anytime the road went up, my legs knew it and couldn't compensate for it. So, let's try to start from the beginning:

Another 4:30 am wake up call to make a 6:30am start. Lucky for me, I live fairly close to the start/finish area. I was very exicted about this ride. It was 74 miles, but a lot of it went through the ciities of Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. I love riding through red lights when the officers let me. However, I knew that my exictement could only do so much for me as I hadn't been on my bike for nearly a month. Nevertheless, I figured I could plow through the rough spots and still have a good day.This was also my first PBAA ride where I qualified as a Platinum rider. That meant that I could start toward the front of the start line without the insane wakeup times. Being a platinum rookie, I failed to attend the meeting the day before, and chose to go to one the day of the ride. At the end of a bunch of information that more or less said "Ride safe, especially <these places> because you are in the front and going fast", we were told to present our IDs. Doh, I left it in the car. I hurried back as fast as I could, but alas, they had stopped handing out the platinum passes. While I went into the gold area, I really wasn't too sad. I knew I could not finish in Platinum time this year because of my long layoff.

When the ride started, I knew my best shot of lasting as long as possible would be to stay behind a fast pack. I could still ride fast, but I get tired more easily than before, so the draft will really help. While I started in the gold area, I hurried and raced as best as I could to get behind the platinum group. It was pretty awesome since I was passing a whole lot of people, but it still took a little wind out of me to do that. I was able to reach the front group before the turn onto University Ave.

Along University Ave., things were ok for me. However, the group I made it to seemed to be a group of fast people with much experience in riding in a large pack. For every little thing, they would slow down. Not only was it annoying, but it hurt my continuity and pace. Since I'm riding this without my super powers, more slowing down and accelerating really hurts my system. Overall, don't think the discountinous pace was the main factor in my poor performance for today. Eventually, we made it to Scottsdale where the grass was very green, and artificial lakes were everywhere to be seen. I think the air even smelled better over there. It was around here, however, that I saw rider 1 and 2, the tandem participants to whom the ride is dedicated for this year. Rider number one was last years first place finisher. Between then and now, he had an unfortunate car or motorcycle accient, which led to his leg being amputated. Seeing this guys was very inspiring, and actually motiviated me when things were to get even more difficult later on in the ride.

Another person I met around this time had a Euskatel bright orange jersey. The question that always comes to mind when I see someone with this jersey is "Are you part basque?" He was a friendly fellow from Flagstaff, AZ who would no doubt catch me on the coming hills.

We turned east onto Shea boulevard, right into the sun. Here, I was still near the front of the group as I could still see the pace motorcycle. Only about a mile after the turn there was a large crash involving a tandem and a couple other bikes. I try not gawk at scenes like this so that traffic can flow smoothly and to not make the people who crashed feel like a side show. I hope those people are ok. Immediately after the crash, I found myself in an all too familiar situation: catching up to the lead group. I tried as usual, going into my best aerotuck without aerobars, and bore down on the pedals. This time I was not meant to catch them as the road veered upward ever so slightly. In my weakened condition, it was enough to slow me down significantly. Soon, a rather large hill showed itself, and I suddenly found myself crawling at a mere 15 mph. Little did I know that I would gladly take this speed later on. I took solace in the fact that I wasn't passed by too many people on this hill.

What goes up, must come down, and I was glad to come down on the backside of this hill. It was here that I reached my top speed of nearly 43 mph. Nice. Toward the bottom of this hill was the first left turn of the course. I was glad it was still a little more down hill from here. I followed a group of people down as far as I could because there was someone up front who was willing to pull us down. Even downhill, sometimes you need to pedal. After I dropped off the group, I saw an aid station with something I really needed: a bathroom. Since I figured that my chances of a high finish are pretty much finished, I decided to relief myself since I needed to go since the start. Never drink too much water prior to the start of an event unless you are willing to stop. After this short break, it was time to climb the big hill. It would take a lot out of me, and take nearly an hour. I was glad that they had coned off the two lane road to give us some room. It was here that I was really starting to feel pain. I never felt that much pain before, and I was going slower than ever. My right leg, where the muscle meets the lower leg bone (I never took anatomy) the pain was the greatest. On the way up, I was passed by what I thought was everyone. I felt miserable. I thought I had taken on too much too soon. After all, I had not been on my bike since Le Grand Tour at the beginning of March. I was extremely relieved to finally reach the top, and decided to get some snacks. Yummie.

Around the bend, with my leg still hurting, was a nice downhill. Even riding downhill was rather painful. On this road, there were even some dips where you could take your momentum to carry you up the hill. That hurt. I was having a very bad day. I was passed by even more people, and then one patted me on the back. It was a fellow Landis Team Member. I have been wearing my Landis Team jersey to all my events now, not because it's cool, but to meet other Landis people and hopefully to talk to more members. He nicely invited me to join the back of the group and gave me a thumbs up. I kept up until we reached Usery pass. He stopped at the aid station, I trudged on in an effort to finish the event as soon as possible.

On the way up, I slowed to yet another crawl. I was already in my small chainring. I eventually found myself in my 23, then 25 gear. I found that I needed the 27 that was installed last year. This was a 3 or 4 mile climb, and every last foot hurt. Again, i was passed by yet more people. I still felt bad, but then I remembered the one legged guy: if he can come back from such adversity, then so can I. I mustered my strength and kept going until I reached the summit.

After the summit was more welcome downhill. Along the way, I was passed by a Saguaro Velo rider, whom I probably never met while I was riding with them. At the bottom after the second and last left turn of the course, we rode into the wind. From here, I could tell we were on the home stretch byt the street names. University was a welcome sight.

Once on University, I told myself to finish strong, and I gave it my best effort. I rode a tail wind to Power road, when the road turned uphill again. The pain in my leg came back with a vengeance and dropped my finishing pace down again. I ended up limping to the finish line.

I finished in Silver medal pace. I felt like I let myself down. I made too many excuses to not exercise, and it showed. I am so angry at myself, that I am more motivated than ever to exercise more often. I will turn in a better performance in 30 days when i ride in the Tour of the Tucson Mountains.

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30 04 2006
Blog de Mora » El Tour of the Tucson Mountains XX

[…] I’ve riden this event before when it was shorter, and started at Pima Community College. A lot of things about this ride have changed, and I am one of them. After my poor showing at the recent El Tour de Phoenix, I was hoping to turn in a better performance. Due to personal circumstances, I was unable to pick up my information packet and numbers the day before in Tucson, so a friend and fellow Landis Team Member, Jose Migioni, who was also riding was able to pick them up for me. […]

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