About 3 weeks ago Shane & I decided we were not going to be able to make it to Iron Sherpa at IMSG. We have been traveling a lot, Shane had already missed several days of work, and the SG trip would have taken off 2-3 more days for him. That, combined with a lack of training for a few weeks due to the travel & racing & injury - it was X+Y+Z = we really need to stay home & have a good solid week of training and catching up....
Or so I thought. As soon as I mentioned to my gf Karen that we were going to be in town that weekend she offered up a deal. She would join me in Rocky Point & race the tri, if I did something with her. Something I had NEVER heard of. Something so far out of my comfort zone I still can't believe I even said yes.
Well, Rocky Point came and went (delayed post coming up!) and we had a blast! Back in town on Monday night & had to prep (and still get my broken bike from the shop) by Thursday night.
Shane & I had made the mistake of telling our coach that we weren't very happy with our Rocky Point run times. BIG mistake. We got our schedule and no rest for us. We were heading into this crazy even called "The Answer to the Challenge" on tired legs.
So, this "Challenge" consists of a 3 day bike ride starting in Scottsdale. Day 1 is 94.4miles taking the B-Line all the way UP to Strawberry with an elevation gain of ~9400ft. Day 2 Strawberry to Prescott with ~7000ft of climbing & Day 3 Prescott to Scottsdale 127miles ~3500ft climbing.
I have to admit that Day 1 was a BLAST. I've never done anything like this in my life, let alone jumping mileage from a 60mile training ride that was 6 weeks ago to a 95mile ride. That's just not something that I do. I train, I build, I do.
I received a few tips from people - basically EAT & drink more than you possibly think you want to. And so I did. Landis Cyclery provided the most fantastic Sag stops along the ride. Everything you can imagine, and everything you don't normally eat. I had a little bit of everything. From Chips to pretzels to oranges to pickles. All topped off with strawberries dipped in cool whip. Yes, you read that right. Strawberries in coolwhip. Sheer HEAVEN.
Here are Karen & I - when I still liked her. You know, before everything on my entire body hurt.
Couple other people from our group - Preston & Christina, so much fun to ride with! These two can descend like crazy!
Somewhere between our second sag stop & Payson I ended up on my own. I fell off our front groups wheels and didn't feel like pushing it to keep up, and looked behind and noticed I had pulled away from the other half of our group. It was a gradual climb up to Payson so I just popped in my headphones and started plugging away and singing along to my music. We were in Payson in no time for some lunch. Unfortunately the stop was at Burger King & I just can't eat even chicken from fast food places anymore! I ordered Shane a grilled chicken meal so I could share the coke and the fries, then made a PB bagel from the sag food. Turns out it was PERFECT. We had 20miles left to CLIMB up to Strawberry, and the veterans had warned me how tough it was. We looked ahead and saw some NASTY clouds and were told it was snowing. We left payson covered with garbage bags and very chilly.
Turns out, it wasn't as bad as I expected and I once again rode by myself, but this time up front behind power rider George having a blast! I just blasted my music and headed up up up! Got off my bike almost 100miles later, 7ish hours feeling FANTASTIC. I was in a great mood. Felt great & was so happy with my accomplishment. We had a couple celebratory beers at the Strawberry Lodge then headed to our adorable cabin to clean up & out for dinner.
Day 2 we woke up sore, tired but ready for the challenge. Our group chose to eat a breakfast at the Lodge & we ended up the last riders out for the day. It was a stunning morning. Cool, crisp and sunny. The first hour or so brought us straight up out of Strawberry. Gorgeous green pine, a little snow & mountain views. I was tired, but still doing ok. Here's our group after the big initial climb. Still, all happy as can be.
Unfortunately that's where I left my mojo. We took off after this picture on some rollers. Karen lost her chain so I stopped for her & the next thing I knew everyone was going like bats out of hell & I had NUTHIN. I tried water, gel, salt, tylenol... I just didn't have it. Everything hurt from my feet to my back to quads to my poor saddle owies. We had a 15miles crazy fast decent that I couldn't even really enjoy. I didn't feel comfortable, so I stayed in the back of the pack & on my brakes. Also, so unlike me. I love DOWN. After the descent we rode along a pretty rough highway into Cottonwood - just before what would be the hardest part of the 3 days. We stopped to regroup & have a little stretch session.
Shane on the ground pretty much sums up how we felt.
There was a sag stop to refuel before the torturous climb up to Jerome, then the top of Mingus Mountain. Of course I had been warned out challenging this would be, but to be honest... after how great I felt day 1, I had totally underestimated it.
This part of the ride completely kicked my A@@. Shane & I started off last in our group & decided we would just plug away at our own pace. This ended up being the longest, hardest, most mentally challenging 13miles of my entire life (on a bike). It's not that I was crazy slow, or anything I just went to a dark place. I tried everything. Every song on my IPOD. Every thought I could imagine. Thinking of my peeps Em & Linds & Nancy at IM St George helped, but what I hated most was that I was so grumpy. I hated every song that came on. I almost threw away my IPOD when "Girls just want to have fun" came on. I mean, who does that?
Finally, I saw a sign with 1mile to go. I had a breakthrough. Kings of Leon "Fans" came on. I dropped my gear, stood up & hammered it up to the top with energy from no where. I put my bike down and almost cried. I was DONE. I hurt, I was so beyond tired and the worst part was I knew we weren't finished. I shouted "I hate EVERYONE!"
Bless my group's hearts - they all just laughed at me & helped me. Christina peeled and orange for me, Karen helped me regroup my layers of cloths for the descent & Shane filled my water bottles. I realized then my problem was 100% nutrition. I thought back to what I had consumed and it was MAYBE 1/3 of what I did the day before when I felt amazing. I was so far in the hole there was no coming out of it, so it was going to take sheer will power, and a fantastic draft from Karen to get me to our hotel stop in Prescott.
The next 25miles might have been the NEXT longest in my life. But, with the help of Karen pulling Shane & my bonked asses along - we did it. 97+ miles, 7000ft of climbing. Day 2 complete.
I don't have a lot more to go on about. We had made the decision based on Karen's experience to end the ride in Wickenburg on day 3. That would give us 60miles & 250 total. My wonderful friends Jeff & Natalie brought our car up to her parents house for us so we were set. Day 3 was better than day 2, but day 1 was still my favorite! We climbed out of Prescott on a brisk cloudy morning feeling stronger, yet tired as can be. We made it to Wickenburg in just over 3 hours completely exhausted but smiling.
We did it. About 17hours of cycling, ~18000 ft of climbing, ~250miles. I met and rode with some amazing people and athletes. I saw places of Arizona I've never been to, and what better way to do it than on a bike.
I went completely out of my comfort zone this weekend. Took my body beyond what I thought I could do (with out training) and survived. I'm so proud of Shane & I for doing something that we never would have done without this group of people, and mostly without Karen convincing us we could.
My everything hurts. I'm tired and swollen and feel a little broken down, but to be honest - I'm already plotting next years adventure. This time, I will train.