Part 2 of Plan B - El Tour de Tucson.
Having never participated in any stand alone cycling event like this, I had NO idea what I was in for. I was going into this event 100% blind, and tagging supa along for the ride. Thankfully, she had a few bike races under her belt so she at least had a little bit of experience.... So, after a late Thursday night flight and sushi dinner we were up Friday for a quick run and off to the bike shop to get momo's bike set up for her....
3+hours later we were on our way to Tucson, just a tad late.....
One thing I've learned for sure about the Supa and I. Blonde or no blonde, we are two blondes in a pod... or the blind leading the blind...or whatever, I'm sure you get what I'm trying to say here.
Somehow a couple hours later I got us to the packet pickup and we were on our way. I had no idea what to expect from a bike race expo. Would it be like a marathon expo? I mean, I had just been to IMAZ expo the day before so I wasn't expecting much.
After a few turns and a few directions we were entering the hall to the packet pickup.... or so we were trying. No sooner had we stepped into the building, the emergency alarm was telling us to evacuate. Of course.... Fortunately, it was no big deal and we were allowed to re-enter shortly.
Race numbers check. T shirts check. Big screen TV showing last years race and HOLY SHIT what have I gotten us into!?!?! What the hell is THAT? That's like tour de France gone camping... walking their bikes, peeing, crashing, changing flats IN THE MIDDLE OF A FREAKING RIVER BED. WTF???
I digress, as I had been told by many who have done the el tour... during the race there are 2 "washes" you must cross. You must dismount your bike, and walk across a (hopefully) dry riverbed. Twice..... Sounds like fun, no? Hey, I figured at least everyone had to do it, right?
I guess I was expecting more of the short dry wash behind my house.... Not a full on middle of nowhere half mile experience.... but whateva... this was just for run, right?
Over the next few hours we managed to feed our bellies, find the crappy hotel (no offense anyone who loves Tucson - but I'm a big fan of the city... and, I've seen a LOT of it!) that I managed to book at the last minute, get our bikes ready, food ready, and I even managed to entertain supa in my ambien'd state for a while :-)
A couple hours later we were very begrudgingly out of bed and packing the car up in the dark... We had a mile ride to get to the start line where we would sit and wait for TWO hours before the start.... I can only compare it to the New York Marathon start... Where you are bussed out for several hours of waiting.
I had no idea where we are in relation to the start. There were over 8600 people doing the race, and a couple thousand of them had the "Platinum" or "Gold" classification and would get to start up near the front with the pros, elites and ubber fast cyclists... We were somewhere probably about 2/3 back in the "bronze" section... I would guess behind about 3-4 thousand cyclists.
For the next ~ 6 hours I had the TIME OF MY LIFE. I worked my ass off and earned every single mile out there. I earned every single person passed and group dropped.
It was like nothing I had ever done before. Because of where we were placed in line we had to work really hard to get from group to group to group. Supa was fantastic! For the first half of the race where I am usually still warming up, she pushed me. She has an incredible fire and race competitiveness in her. I fed off it and I thrived.... We were like 2 pees in a pod out there. We were wearing matching allthingstriathlon jerseys and despite what you might think about wearing Tri-gear in a "Road" race, it was actually a fantastic decision!
People were INCREDIBLY nice to us. Not like I expected. We were the "Tri-Girls" or the "Tri-Chicks." If we got separated, some would tell us where our teammate was. I even had people slow down in the middle of the pack to let us be together. Of course there was also some teasing along with all of that. "So Tri-Chicks... You ready to run now? You gonna go run a marathon after this?" We just laughed and played along...
As for the actual course. It was TOUGH. I was trained for a flat race. A flat race on a tri-bike that weighs about 1/3 what my road bike does. The el tour was HILLY. No huge climbs or too steep climbs, but when you haven't done any hill riding you feel them. For the first half Supa would climb the hills about twice as fast as me.... Thankfully I had Shane's Zipp 404 wheels on and they REALLY helped me zoom on the flats and descents and I could catch right back up.
The first half seemed really tough for me. I had just one goal of sub 6 hours so that we could get the "Platinum" finish and be allowed to start with the faster people if I chose to do it again. Well, that and it just sounds cool!
The first wash came just 8miles into the race. It was no big shake. Hop off, walk across, back on bike. It wasn't steep or too deep so I didn't bother putting the caps on my shoes (I had been warned with Speedplay cleats you needed the caps so rocks didn't get stuck).
The second wash however came around mile 50... It was nuts. Deep, deep sand, rocks, hilly.... We literally had to take our shoes and socks off at the end to dump the sand out of them. It took about 10mins to get through this wash... We were starting to worry about the sub 6 finish at this point.
For me, this is where things started to get better. I was 50miles in and finally feeling really good. Warmed up so to speak.... I will let Supa share how she was feeling at this point, cause I think her first half experience might be a little better ;-)
We started working with some guys around us.... We would work our way from group to group. I would get a faster group in my sights, pull out in front and was just on a mission to get them! Yes, I was working extremely hard, and pulling men twice my size that were just being lazy.. but I didn't care - I was feeling it.
I could go on and on about the race and the people and the entire experience, but what it comes down to is I really truly felt like I was in my element. My legs felt absolutely fantastic. While I was tired and couldn't have given any more out there, I was surprised at how comfortable I was....
We saw several crashes around us, but besides getting a little anxious, I was never scared, or tense.
I gave it my all out there which is something I am very very proud of. While a 5:30 finish would have been nice, I don't see how it was possible based on the packs we were with due to the start...
One thing I am really really proud of is that Lindsay and I were not passed by ONE SINGLE girl. Not one. We rocked it out there, tough Ironman - Tri-chick style...
This is a plan B I can be very satisfied with. With that said, I think I will be back again. Now that we have the Platinum classification we can have the preferred start, and from what I'm told start with a pack that could help cut up to an HOUR off of our time with much less effort. An hour? How cool is that?
Oh, and next up might just be THIS race.... Now, if I could just figure out how to get a 10lb lighter and faster bike? Hmmmmm...
I think I might just be hooked.
PS. Supa has pics - hopefully she'll post some soon!