This past weekend Kennett and I became snowbirds, flying south to catch the heat (or in our case, some early season races) of Tucson. While Kennett lived in Tucson a few years ago, this was my first time in town. It was also my first time racing.
Our friend Quinn, who Kennett knows through bike racing, picked us up at the airport Friday night. We stayed with Quinn, his wife Allie and their dog Lola for the few days we were in town. Saturday morning we woke up, ate our traditional weekend ride breakfast of pancakes topped with peanut butter, banana and honey. Quinn had left earlier in the morning to race the collegiate criterium so we were on our own to sip coffee and get ready. I got a little anxious because we didn’t know exactly where to go and I like to be prepared and early everywhere I go. I felt out of my element until Quinn came back and gave us directions for where to ride. I quickly felt out of my element again once we showed up at the race. It was my first chance to race and here I was about to do a 30 min crit.
The crit is a very small circuit that you lap so it requires a lot of cornering and sprinting for primes, which are prizes awarded to whomever crosses the finish line first on certain laps. I didn’t have any tactics or know my field. In hindsight, since I pulled the group most of the race, I wonder if I should have just taken off from the beginning and tried to hold people off with endurance. Let’s be honest, it wouldn’t have worked either.
Anyone who has trained with me knows that I don’t have much in the way of fast-twitch muscles. Anyone who has played Egyptian Rat Screw or Spit knows I am not even fast-twitch in my hands. In fact, I couldn’t tell you the last time I raced for under 3 hours. The 30 minutes were up and I came in 9th out of 20 in my category but I started to shed a few tears. Kennett has since informed me that I need to get mad not sad, but at that moment I was so frustrated. 30 minutes felt like nothing, the field kept sprinting, which I couldn’t hang with, and every corner slowed me down. Not to mention I almost crashed the field out twice.
We went back to the house, drove to Trader Joe’s and found ourselves back on the course for Kennett and Quinn’s race. They held their own although it looked to me like Kennett pulled a lot during the race; apparently he’s not so good at taking his own advice. The sun started to go down on their race and it was a great sunset that night.
I don’t remember much of the rest of the night except that we prepped for the next day by making pancakes ahead of time. Sunday morning we packed up Quinn’s sweet livable Dodge Elk van and took to the road. The race that morning was about an hour away. It was nice because Quinn had to race an earlier time trial so we were able to hang out a bit before heading to the start line. I used this time wisely by joining the 20-minute line for the porta-potty. At least at this race I knew whom I wanted to start the race near because she had done well at the crit the day prior.
The race started with almost a 10-mile downhill. No big deal except I had forgotten my arm warmers, which made for a chilly descent. In the scheme of things, arm warmers weren’t too bad of an item to forget. Well, I also forgot one of my socks so I borrowed Quinn’s. At least I remembered my bra. I have been known to forget that when I pack ride clothes for work.
Finally the race got going when we hit a quick, steep uphill. The second 10 miles were all a rolling uphill. One woman in the porta-potty line had thought it was one of the hardest courses unless you went to Europe. I have my doubts on that but it was my first race, so who knows. Going up was great; my arms warmed up, I took turns pulling with the other woman whose wheel I had wanted to be on heading out and we started to drop people. On our second lap the lead field was down to seven women. I decided I would hold out until at least half way uphill before making any moves. Instead I began repeating my new mantra; “You’re going down bitches.”
I pulled a little less on the second lap because the other woman was playing momma-bird. She was a 35+ rider and manager of a team that had two young girls around the age of 15 who were also in the pack. They never pulled. She was leading them and I wasn’t about to help her pull them to win. Instead I took every chance to separate them from their momma-bird in the pack.
One woman rubbed wheels with another rider and crashed off the back. It was down to six. As soon as we settled in from that momma-bird directed her girl to attack. She went for it but I pulled her in with another girl. She attacked a second time and I blew past her. That was it; the girl could sprint for the crits but she had nothing against me. I climb almost daily and I know how to give a good ole endurance push. I followed the lead motorcycle all the way in to the finish line without a fight. THAT was what I was hoping to have happen over the weekend. With that finish I felt I could go back to Boulder and live my dream of being the newbie rider that everyone talks about because she is sooo fast and that was why I came to Tucson in the first place.
Sunday night we cooked up some burgers and ate around a fire pit in Quinn and Allie’s backyard. The wine flowed and I realized how relaxed I had become since leaving Boulder. My goal is to bring that attitude back with me.
Monday Kennett and I gritted through the bumps on the busy roads to get to the base of Mt. Lemmon. It is a 27 or 30-mile climb, which I would love to come back and do over the summer. At the base Kennett began talking to me. It was really hard to listen because I was thoroughly engaged in the song on my Ipod by the Ying Yang Twins. I’m looking for a dime that’s top of the line: cute face, lil’ waist with a big behind…drop it down to the floor if you’re a bad bitch…. I am not normally a rap connoisseur but this song fit my Sunday race mantra and I think it might be my new favorite pump-up song. Apparently Kennett was trying to suggest I do a 20-minute threshold test and I quickly agreed. I am a sucker for long, grinding pain.
I followed his wheel up as hard as I could for 20 minutes; hung over my handle bars for a few seconds and continued up alone to mile 9. I flipped it and did a few sprints and a bit more climbing before dragging myself home. Kennett stayed on to finish a six-hour ride. On the ride home I realized that Tucson has a lot of churches, a lot of churches that advertise afterschool tutoring, and a lot of daycare centers. One church was named The Cool Church. Fascinating.
The four of us all gathered around the food, wine and fire for a second night. Lola took turns playing with her duck, empty peanut butter jar, digging holes under Quinn’s chair and enjoying some salad bits. Perfect company, perfect atmosphere, perfect evening.
Today we had another early start so that we could do the Tuesday ride. Similar to the Gateway ride back in Boulder in that it had 60-70 riders and a bunch of fast guys. I hung on through town out to Saguaro National Park West. The park was arid and full of cactus. The morning sun lifted up high and it was invigorating. The road had a bunch of small rollers that you coast over before a slow uphill where I got dropped. It ended on to the top of a 9 or so minute climb up to Gate’s pass. Kennett was the first one to the top! He came back down, followed me up and we rode together until heading back into town.
We u-turned to hit up the hotdog stand, weaved through some back roads and got some chai tea at a coffee shop near the university. That would be a day in heaven for me. Except my legs would be fresh everyday and I wouldn’t have to pack for the airport afterwards.
Alas, we are about to land in Denver, which is unrecognizable with all the snow on the ground. Landing…