Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tour de Tucson 2007

Tour de Tucson
November 17, 2007
Platinum 04:43:25

My plan for this year’s tour was to train minimally and efficiently for a platinum time. I did not care to set a personal best time but just to go with the flow of my training partners. Basically my training consisted of indoor intervals on Monday afternoons, solo medium long rides on Tuesday afternoons, fast group rides on Wednesdays mornings, rest on Thursdays, long group rides on Friday mornings, and miscellaneous recovery rides on Saturday’s (usually indoors). My program was to be about three months long (any longer would have produced mental burnout this year). Another thing that I tried to do was not think too much about cycling when I wasn’t training. Several of the key rides were low quality due to wind, rain, dental appointments, and whatever else but I adjusted my training to compensate somewhat.

My only preparation race was a climb up La Rumorosa in Mexicali three weeks before the Tour de Tucson. I felt okay the first half but great the second half. Each week I was getting stronger, then everything fell apart. On Tuesday, October 30, I skipped my workout and went to see Mom and Dad. Mom was dieing. She died on Friday morning. I was glad to be there. Her funeral service was Monday morning. The rest of the day was spent eating good food and visiting with family for hours; nobody wanted to say good bye. I was very happy with the quality of Mom’s funeral and all the words that were spoken. I went away thinking that the whole ordeal—the vigil, death, funeral preparations, funeral, familial socialization—was one of the great experiences of my life. In no way should the brevity of this account of Mom’s death and burial within this Tour de Tucson story be misunderstood as being of lesser importance than my training for Tucson.

On the Saturday after Mom died I went back to El Centro to get my family ready for the funeral. On the way I parked in Ocotillo and rode up the grade. It might seem a bit irreverent to ride a bicycle when I am supposed to be grieving but riding solo is psychologically relaxing. On the way up (near the bottom) I caught up to Larry Cowne. I was glad to see him because I really didn’t feel like riding the bike at all and I thought that a little companionship would distract my thoughts. I felt a bit euphoric when I told Larry, “My mother died yesterday.” He started to say a few compassionate words before I spared him the awkwardness by explaining that while I was feeling a little sadness I was mostly happy. Larry didn’t seem too talkative as we rode and after a couple times of his dropping off I decided to leave him to his thoughts and I climbed alone.

A week and a half before Tucson I joined the Wednesday morning group ride. Fred was not there because he was having back problems. Brian informed me that he would miss the Friday long ride because of more melanoma testing. I rode with the group but got dropped by Greg and Brian before the sprint. I couldn’t muster the strength to keep up. By Saturday I mentioned to Pam that I didn’t think I wanted to go to Tucson.

On Sunday I drove up with Dad, Matt, Pat and Emily to see where Mom was buried in Rose Hills. The freshly laid sod marked the spot. Perhaps it was morbid humor for me to ask Dad how he felt knowing that some day he was going to be buried right there, as I pointed to the grass next to where Mom lay. We stood around and talked, and looked at the grave markers of Trent, Grandpa Arland, Grandma Jean, Grandpa Layton, and Grandma Beryl. We went to the Soup Plantation before visiting Pat and Emily’s new house. It was another long but joyful day. When I got home I was exhausted. Monday was a holiday. I no longer wanted to go to Tucson so I spent the day pruning bushes. On Tuesday I cancelled the hotel reservations in Tucson. Fred called me after the Wednesday morning group ride (I did not ride) to wish me well in Tucson. I told him that I wasn’t going and he agreed that that was probably for the best. Pam and I were going to go on some make-shift date to take the place of the Tucson weekend.

After teaching my classes on Thursday I went home to prepare for the weekend when Pam persuaded me that we could still go to Tucson. I had no intention of going to Tucson but after several positive statements by Pam I started to entertain the idea again of going. I started to think what I could do to salvage my race. What should be my goal? Was I off the bike too much? Would I get over my cold by Saturday? Would it be worth it if I don’t get Platinum? I got on my bike and did a quick 20 mile ride to think it over. It was too late to train (only 36 hours before race time) but I needed to send a message to my legs that they should stop shutting down. After the ride Pam and I quickly packed up and drove to Tucson where we arrived late at night after loosing an hour.

We spent Friday at Bookman’s (used bookstore) and ate at Beyond Bread again. Sometime after 5:00 p.m. Pam and I sat in the third row and listened to Greg LeMond talk about drug use in professional cycling. It was an unanticipated treat to be so close to the guy that I have followed and admired since I first saw him on TV in the mid 80’s. The Platinum Meeting, 6:30 p.m., boring. I did not have any energy to spare on Friday but all the while my brain was preparing my body to give one big effort on Saturday morning.

On race morning I knew I was not at my best but I did have experience with this race and tried to race as smart as possible. The word that kept coming to my mind to describe the beginning of the race was “violence.” After the starting gun, pure violence! My heart raced. My legs filled with lactic acid as faster riders passed by me. I didn’t even try to count the riders that passed me or how many riders were ahead. I just rode my own pace without worrying about loosing positions. I was resigned to just give a steady effort but I was still flying to the first river crossing—last year at 25 mph but this year as much as 28 mph but I was still getting passed.

After about an hour my legs were starting to feel like they were on the verge of cramping. In my first Tour de Tucson I didn’t heed that feeling and I cramped so badly I had to stop. This time I went to the back of the large group that I was riding with and tried to ride a more steady pace. The group gapped me a little with each surge but I slowly pulled back without seriously loosing the draft. I had to balance my need to ride steady with my need to not loose the draft. I was successful. Down Houghton Avenue I recovered somewhat because the downhill was not too fast. At the bottom when we turned left I decided that if I had any ability to pass other riders that now was the most critical time to do it. So I tried as best as I could to work my way back up the group (about halfway up) before the bottleneck of the second river crossing. The second river crossing broke our group into several smaller groups. I rode steady up the steep climbs but had to use my granny gear. Up the long gentle hill of Oracle I found myself strong again. Going down Tangerine Avenue was a little odd this year because our pace seemed subdued compared to previous years. At the bottom of Tangerine Avenue (mile 85) we had a full two minute wait for a train. I had mixed emotions about loosing time but I knew at this point that I was on target to finish with a platinum time so I just enjoyed the break. I looked up Tangerine and saw about five cyclist that were going to catch us on account of the train. I took the opportunity of the stop to say to a rider next to me, “You represent the ‘big man’ well.” He thanked me for the compliment. He later told me that he weighed 225 pounds which is a lot for a cyclist. I weighed about 197 but I am a lot faster as I get closer to 190. In my dreams I weigh 180 and am finishing with the fastest riders.

With about 15 miles to go I started feeling fatigue in my bottom from sitting in the saddle. A little later someone was cheering on the side of the road, saying we only had 10 miles to go. I was really uncomfortable by this point. I could not find a comfortable way to sit and I could not stand up to relieve my bottom because my legs would cramp every time I tried. I was squirming on my bike as time seemed to slow. I drank six large bottles this year due to the heat. There was a very slight headwind on Silverbell Road but we maintained the fastest pace that I have ever done on this road (22.5mph). The last two miles were easy and I was happy to pick up the pace just to finish as soon as possible.

I finished with a platinum time again and I was very happy because of the unique challenge that this race presented. I had to dig deep to maintain the pace and for the last ten days since the race I have been coughing like I have emphysema. That can’t be good. The weather is getting cold and early morning group rides are not very alluring.

Pam was my support team and she knew from experience exactly where (and how) to park right next to the start/finish line, where to stand to take away my warm-up clothes before the start, and to take a picture at the end. Being a spectator at a bike race can’t be very exciting but Pam sees all the effort that goes into preparing for a platinum time and she is very supportive and somewhat amused.

I missed Fred and Brian (not to mention my mother) but at least I have a feeling of closure on this cycling season.

Todd Hansink
November 27, 2007

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