27th Annual El Tour de Tucson 109 Miles … Silver Medal
We did it!
My personal fundraising goal was $4,300. Made it!
My personal riding goal was to complete the 109 mile race. Did it!
In fact, there were hundreds of people from around the country who raised money and trained as a part of Team in Training. Together, for this one event, we raised one Million dollars for blood cancer research! Amazing!
A lot of people have asked me for details … so here’s my race day story …
We all lined up in starting corrals at 6am (or earlier). It was pitch black outside and cold. We’d been advised to bundle up in clothes that we could discard along the way. They would be picked up for the homeless. So, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder, bike-to-bike for over an hour waiting for the countdown to start the race. The “elite” athletes started first and then we slowly made our way to the starting line … one foot clipped in and the other propelling us along the pavement. I’d say it took at least 20 minutes for our group to get to the starting line and then we were off. By this time the sun was up. We rode through the quiet city streets and toward the highway. It was pretty neat to be able to ride along the highway ramps.
Then, at mile five we all slowed down. A rider was down. The first crash of the day. He was not getting up. A somber reminder to take it easy and be careful. That was not the last fallen rider I’d see. In fact, over the course I saw about 5 people laying in the road with emergency folks helping them out. One man actually crashed right beside me. I was so scared that he’d hit me and take me down with him. Later, after the race, I’d hear about the many more injured riders.
The race was really well organized with tons of folks guiding the ways, motorists waiting, spectators cheering us on, and aiding us with many organized pit stops. As you stopped and got off your bike there was always a smiling face greeting you asking if they could hold your bike and refill your water. Boy and Girl Scout troops, local 4H and Lions’ Clubs, Firefighters, etc. There were over 15 aid stations all voluntarily manned … all providing us with fresh fruit, water, sunscreen and encouragement.
The Team in Training motto is “Go Team” and we were told that we’re supposed to say it to every TNT rider we see during the day. There were so many TNT spectators along the route who would see us coming in our team jerseys and start yelling “Go Team”. Sometimes you’d see the purple and green colors of TNT and know that you were going to hear cheers of encouragement in just a moment. It especially means a lot when you’re at mile 90, 100, 105 to be greeted by people cheering you on and smiling.
After the first 40 miles or so we hit the first “dry river bed crossing” … yeah that’s right. For “fun” they add two dry river bed crossings into this race. The first one is one quarter of a mile long and the second one (about mile 70) is a third of a mile long. You have to carry your bike as you walk through the dry river bed. The first one was fine, but the second one was deep, find sand … by the time you reached the other side you had shoes full of dirt, sand and pebbles. That meant stopping and emptying out … shaking out the socks and then continuing along the race. You could see discarded masks and clean room booties. Ah, some people were prepared! Not me. Ha ha
I’d gotten though about 60 miles by the time the sun was really beating down. We were in the middle of the desert and the heat got up to 84 degrees. It really gave a whole new meaning to the phrase dry and dusty! At aid stations I took the time to wash my face and reapply sunscreen. I could not tell if I was hot or getting a sunburn … but, I sure could feel the heat on my face.
The heat was rough and it affected me mentally in addition to my appetite. For two hours (11.30 – 1.30pm) I struggled. I slowed my pace some. What was especially painful is that this was the hill climbing portion of the route, too.
What got me through? Determination and some interesting events along the way. In one section, the steepest hill climb, there were three girls cheering “Go Gramma!”. I realized I was pedaling beside gramma and smiled. (the race had folks doing 109, 80, 66 and 36 mile distances) As we proceeded, the hill got steeper and gramma was talking to herself out loud. Suddenly her bike stopped and she got off and I heard her say “gramma can’t go anymore” and she started to walk her bike up the hill. I stood up and pedaled past gramma. It was funny and sad all in the same instant, but this is what I’d trained for. A short while later a man was drafting me and got a little too ambitious and hit my rear wheel making me skid. I yelled at him. A lot. Looking back now it was probably a blessing in disguise. LOL I needed to vent some frustration and he provided me the perfect target. He gave me the “little lady” treatment … someday that guy will get his! heh
At least ‘what comes up must go down’. We had some super fun downhills … I hit 38 mph going downhill for almost ¾ of a mile. Zig-zagging between other cyclists, watching for road hazards and trying to enjoy the “free” road (free as in coasting) was a super adrenalin rush! That part was great.
Finally, at one aid stop this woman asked me if I’d like ice for my water bottles. I was delighted. I also ate a bit of a real sandwich and I felt like a whole new person. So, at 1.30pm – roughly mile 75 — I re-attacked the course. I got into a paceline with two fellow riders and we zoomed along the rolling/flat terrain at about 25 mph for at least the next 10 miles. In fact, we traveled the final 34 miles in just two hours of pedaling time.
The rider camaraderie toward the end of the race was really special. We were making jokes and teasing each other. We’d come all this way and we were close to the finish. At the end of the course we traveled through a series of highway on and off-ramps and as we proceeded down the last one and turned left I recognized where I was and this amazing sense of relief washed over me. I thought I might cry. I realized the work was done and I was exhausted. 109 miles really beats you up. My ring and pinky fingers on my left hand had been numb/tingly for the better part of the last hour and my neck and shoulders were tight. It was really time to be off that bike!
Upon crossing the finish we unclipped one pedal and stopped so that people could remove our timing chips. Then it was time to unclip the other foot and get off the bike. In my head, I could hear “don’t fall! don’t fall!”. I was suddenly really shakey and tired. But I had two more tasks. Go get my medal! And check in at the TNT tent so that they know I finished.
I got my silver medal. They took my picture. I imagine I look like hell … 109 miles in the desert is sorta hellish! Ha ha Then I walked to the TNT tent and checked in. I finished fourth in my team of nine from MA/NH.
Again, thanks so much for your support
– our thoughts, encouragement
– your donations
– your confidence in me and my abilities
– and, for some of you, your gratitude
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