It is late and I am tired. I am sitting in bed with a belly full of gelato. And by the way – where have I been hiding from gelato for all these years?
The day has been long. The mountain has been climbed.
The day started with – guess what – oatmeal! A little coffee and then we headed over to the Inn Suites to meet up with the rest of the group riding towards Mt. Lemmon. Along the way I enjoyed riding with Dana Chance and Ali Rutledge. Both were really perky and chatty so the early part of the ride rolled by.
After 65 minutes of probably the most stoplights I have ever waited for on a bicycle, we arrived at the base of the mountain. Dana and I figured it would be silly to start with the front group because we would end up getting passed by the other 60 or so riders. Within the first mile we passed nearly everyone but the front pack and realized it wasn’t such a great plan. Guess girls can climb! There was the front group dangling ahead of us but the gap was too big to bridge. And surging wasn’t really an option when you are already in zone 4 at threshold wattage. About 1 mile into the climb.
So it was time to just do the work and climb. Mt. Lemmon is just a long steady climb that you grind out around 80 rpms. It is nothing like Palomar. Palomar is switchbacky and steep. Lemmon takes it’s time. After another mile I found myself climbing alone picking off the stragglers and keeping the front group in sight. Up ahead I see the familiar shape of Sherpa Thomas and as I go by he tells me “get on it, Liz.” I’m on it, I’m on it – this is as fast as I go!
It was beautiful up there. The sky was overcast, the wind was light and temperatures were comfortable in the low 60s. And all you can hear is the sound of...crickets. Crickets is the sound of nothing. It's a Sherpa Thomas term. It's when you ask a question and no one can answer and the silence between you is like a chorus of crickets chirping on a summer night. It's a full sound but also completely empty. On that climb I knew I was surrounded by trees, wind, life but it was also so empty and stark. Crickets.
After another mile or so, Thomas comes up behind me shouting something about the climb just wouldn’t be right if he wasn’t right on my wheel. The crickets were replaced with the shouting of a sherpa. We climbed together for another mile when someone called from behind me – it was Chrissy Parks! She had made a pit stop and was catching back up to the group. We climbed together for awhile.
The climb wasn't really epic. It was just a long climb. Beautiful, hard but just grinding away. I told myself I would be in for 13 miles – or that I couldn’t stop until the 13 mile mark. The half way point was this end point in my mind and I climbed on just waiting for it to arrive. I was around 5000 feet when it started getting cold and I realized I was still in zone 4 climbing away. At 80 rpms. Around the 12 mile mark the wind started picking up and it got colder. At mile 13 I stopped at the Manzanita overlook while Thomas and Chrissy disappeared ahead. A few minutes later Dana arrived and we both felt like we had climbed the climb and were ready to descend.
In theory descending should be fast and smooth but in reality it was not. It was cold. I was shaking. I probably need new brake pads. I was getting passed like crazy because everyone else – who had turned around at mile 15 – was bombing down over 30 mph while I was like, hey guys I’ll just hang here at 18. At the 7 mile mark Dana waited for me and from that point I had to stop every mile just to stop shaking and give my hands a break from gripping the bars. What can I say, you don’t get much descending practice on your computrainer.
On the way down I was also convinced I permanently wounded my toe. You see the other day I dropped a hairbrush on my little toe. You know how you drop something from a certain height and even if it’s not heavy you feel like you’ve dropped a brick on your toe? That’s what happened. So as I was riding down my toe kept hurting every time I brushed it against the shoe. I figured I had bruised the toe and the cycling shoe was making it worse. When we got back to the hotel, I didn’t want to look at the toe but finally did and found a ½ inch cactus needle STUCK IN MY TOE. My first reaction was “how”, my second reaction was “why” and my third reaction was #)(*#()48)W(*$)(*@!@@ OUCH! I have no idea where that came from or how it stayed impaled in my toe in my shoe for that long. All I know is that my toe really hurts and Dana has me convinced I have been poisoned by the cactus.
Despite that, we adopted Dana for the day. Fed her recovery drinks and took her for a recovery swim. My arms hurt from holding my bars on the way down but other than that the swim was great. Plus I was in Dana’s draft! I also enjoyed watching Thomas swim a 450, a 600 and never quite getting that it takes 10 laps to make a full 500.
We had about 30 minutes of downtime before heading back to the city for the evening’s dinner and keynote speaker – Dave Scott. It was interesting to see the sport from Dave’s point of view. He talked for quite some time sharing stories about his own experiences as an athlete and his experience helping other athletes along the way. One thing I took away from the talk is what it takes to be successful; focus and faith. There were other things but those were the two that stuck with me. Specifically you need to focus on your task at hand and have faith in yourself.
It has been a long day. Tomorrow we will meet up with Dana and her husband Rob to go running and riding. I am hoping my toe is ok. If not I will coat it in gelato to reduce the swelling and lick the leftovers off.
(crickets from the audience)
What? Is that really that disgusting?