Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Mt. Lemmon Repeat


Last year was my first time in Arizona. I went for a tri-training boot camp in Tuscan, which is the perfect place to train: large bike lanes everywhere, picturesque scenery, and plenty of challenging routes.  This year I returned with a new bike and a stronger body. I was ready to climb Mt. Lemmon again.

Last year, my first experience with Mt. Lemmon began with a sleepless night. My nerves got the better of me that night, with the thought of the 42km up-hill climb I faced. I was fit from training for a marathon, but had not cycled much in the offseason. On the day that we were to climb, the forecast was not great. High winds were predicted. I do not recall the exact speed of the winds, but many times on the ride, the gusts lifted me up off the ground with my bike. In spite of the winds and my fitness level, I managed to make it to the top that day.  I never really appreciated that accomplishment until this year when I made my second attempt.

Round two started out much the same, with a sleepless night. Apparently when you train hard, it can affect your sleep. For the entire 6-day trip, I averaged approximately 3-4 hrs per night. The good news was that my nerves were better this year, since I was fully prepared for what laid ahead. The other bonus was the weather – it was perfect – warm but not hot, blue sky, and most importantly, very little wind.

Mt. Lemmon - half-way point

This year, as I started out, I was full of energy. I was ready mentally and physically. The views were breathtaking. I missed those views last year because the wind had forced me to keep my head down. The support vehicle was waiting with water at the seven-mile marker, and each mile we passed before we reached that first stop felt amazing. I was truly enjoying myself. I felt stronger and more confident than I have ever felt. Then, something changed. Toward the halfway mark I began to feel it. The “it” I am referring to is the strong sense that I should have been going faster than I was, with the amount of effort I was putting out. Something was wrong.

Finally, I gave in to the stubborn resistance of the grade, and screamed UNCLE. This had become as hard, if not harder, than last year. I searched for an answer as I fixated on the impossibly slow-moving asphalt. What could be wrong? Was it me? Was I more fit last year? What the hell was going on? And then hit me. It was my new bike. My perfect, gorgeous Specialized Shiv. The one-week-old love affair I was having with my Shiv came to an abrupt end.  “This bike SUCKS on hills,” I heard myself say out loud.

When I first rode my Shiv, I was excited with the aerodynamic features. Sitting more forward eases the pressure placed on my quadriceps muscles, so running afterwards feels much better. However, there is a trade-off, and that became abundantly clear to me on Mt. Lemmon. I had less power! On a 3-4% grade that would usually be no big deal – unless, of course, that grade is 42km in length.  So the plan I had hatched of selling my Ruby road bike is on permanent hold (LOL). There is room in my life for both, it seems.

In spite of my tribulations this year, I finished my ride up Mt. Lemmon feeling that the climb is amazing, no matter how you get up that imposing, silent, beautiful mountain.  The adventure is pure excitement from start to finish. I can’t wait to do it again next year. On my Ruby.   

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