Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 3- Madiera Canyon Climb or where I remembered how to be tough

Once again, my day started here. Perfect. I actually loved my early mornings that week. It was very easy for me to get up to my 5 a.m. alarm since 1) I'm used to an even earlier 4 a.m. call for my swims at home and 2) I probably never fully switched my body's clock to AZ time. 

To make it easier, this was the view out my window. So, I could set my alarm for 5, look at this, grab a cup of coffee, get back in bed and call home ( 8 a.m. there ) and catch two of the boys before they went off to school. ahhh... 
Then, I'd just get dressed and have a short, quiet walk down to the pool.  One morning I even saw a little bunny hop in front of me as I walked across the lawn. All this made me smile and enjoy the time on my "vacation."  
The day before, at the very very end of the Mt. Lemmon climb to the ski area, I was alternating between, " pedal pedal pedal & @#%^^%!!!! " as I climbed what I was told  was only a portion of a mile but it actually was a LOT more. ( I honestly don't know how far it was... but it was way more than I thought, and after 25 miles UP and 103 miles the day before, I wanted OFF that bike for a few minutes. ) I made my way up I thought about the next day and had it in my head that it was going to be 'easier.'  But then, some guy came up next to me on his bike, looking like a fresh little mountain goat and tried to have a  big ole' conversation with me ( as I tried to breath) about how I should go FURTHER beyond the ski area because it's... ?? I can't remember why he said I should. Because honestly, there wasn't a chance in hell I was going Beyond where the group was. Nope! I was done. 
But when I told him we were riding Madeira the following day, he made this noise. And then said something about the road going on and on and then UP. Yeah, whatever... I was so focused on the present moment that I didn't pay that much attention to him... 
He knew what he was talking about.... I should have begun my mental prep Right then. I needed it. 

Later that night, a few of us looked up the profile for the ride the next day. Hmm... that has a sharp little curve to it. Ok... but really. They were all starting to look like that. Plus, the total ride was only going to be 60 or so miles instead of 80+. Again, Easy day! Right??

We drove a ways to a safe starting point and started the re-assemble bikes, get ready process. When I headed to pump the tires, I discovered a flat. And then I pulled out a small tack. Someone had actually thrown tacks on the Mt. Lemon road --- nice. Several of us were lucky enough to pick them up. I'm just lucky the flat didn't appear while I was trying to escape the bees the day before. 
Finally, we all headed out. 
The first 15 or so miles were  basically flat. I felt good! Miraculously I wasn't screaming to sit on the bike and the legs were responding well. Alright! I had a few strong segments along the way, sometimes alone and sometimes with some guys for a few miles. Our awesome support crew of Josh & Jenny { fellow camper who got sick while we were there :( } were at a corner letting us restock our bottles and make sure the bikes were ready to roll. We didn't stop much on these rides & since I rode alone most of the time I appreciated being able to talk to folks for a few minutes and gather some needed moral support. 

I think my bike read 15 miles at that point. One of the guys told me we were heading up to about the 30-31 mile mark. Ok... that is what Stuck in my head. Call it 31 miles... 

And with that, off we went. 

The sun was shining and the mountain was off in the distance. But I had no idea what we were heading towards. This is the view we were looking at: 

I knew we weren't going ALL the way to the top of that. So, what were we climbing? Where was that spike? Maybe it really didn't get like that? 
By now, I was alone. I had been riding strong and fairly fast. 
And, I wasn't all that concerned about what was left.  If we were only going to 30 or so miles, how bad could it be? I still couldn't see any steep grade so it must not really be that big of a deal... right? 

So I rode and I rode and slowly but surely became very frustrated. I think I looked behind myself a good 10-15 times. What the heck? I am NOT moving!!! What's wrong with this bike? I'm not climbing... am I? { look behind} -- Repeat that self- talk over and over and over. 
I was sure I sucked. I had officially run out of gas and was just crashing. look behind..
I kept waiting for the other campers that had been back from me a bit to catch up. Surely, everyone was about to ride up next to me and say, "What's wrong Ange??"  I think there was wind, I can't seem to remember that part but I do remember talking about it. 
All I know is, just like that fresh mountain goat rider on Lemon had said, "the road goes on Foreevvvvver." It did. He was right. The words he had said to me, the ones I was ignoring at the time, seeped back into my head.  I could see miles and miles in front of me it seemed. And, while it didn't LOOK like a hill, oh believe me it was. We were climbing 10 miles of relentless, demoralizing grades. I realized this on the way back DOWN when I FLEW without pedaling for miles and miles. 
I lost myself during that part. I was lonely and bored. I was SICK Of it. I really really wanted someone to talk to. Someone to commiserate with me and assure me yes, you ARE in fact going nowhere but so am I. (I did have to stop at one point for some cows to cross. :) Yup, there were 3 big cows wandering in the road and I really didn't know what they would think of me. And since I was moving like a turtle, I decided to let them move along before I went their way. ) Truly, I think I was moving about 6 mph along a road that didn't Look like a hill. As I said, demoralizing. I was in a bad place. I kind of pride myself in being able to stay OUT of those bad places during my training and racing so the fact that I had slipped there was discouraging too. 

The Good news was, I was nearing mile 30 on my clock!!! The signs said, "MADEIRA CANYON " so... I was almost There!!! Yay!  Not sure that that peak was all about because we were almost there and the road did NOT spike. IT was a nasty long climb, but no peak. yay! 
fake picture in my head at this time on the ride 

insert maniacal laughter right here.

The scenery changed now. It looked less like a desert and more like home. Madeira Canyon is surrounded by the Coronado National Forest so the hills are tree covered, there are streams and apparently it's filled with many bird species and a favorite area for those who enjoy watching birds! 
There's a Very cute B&B up there ( stopping to snap a photo would have resulted in me falling OFF the bike so you'll just have to believe me) and the view from there is: 
It was definitely nice to see the landscape change from barren  desert to lush forest on all climbs. 
Back to business. 

There was an evil laugh echoing in my head as I made a turn and realized the last 10 miles of "climbing" were just a little warm up.
AT this point, I am Expecting to see my group any second since I thought were finishing around mile 30. 

I saw no one. No one with a bike that is. 
All I saw was the road, tourists enjoying beautiful little picnic areas with food and shops and then my hands....clenching the bars. For dear life. And, to stay UPright! 
because the road, without warning went STRAIGHT UP! 
At least that's what it felt like since I was on a Bike! You can't just push the gas pedal wait for the engine to shift gears, you must NOT hesitate or pause because you will FAll over to the side and crash. And then you'll never be able to get going again.     :) :) 
seriously, it was that steep. 

I started to swear again. I was SURE that every time I went around a corner I'd see the van and the 6 or so people that were ahead of me. 
WHERE WERE THEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
I was sort of losing it. I mean, at least I Knew I was on a hill now so I didn't have to wonder why I wasn't moving. That helped. A little. 
It was survival...each leg stroke was just to hold on. 
I saw so many of these: 

Seemingly Perfect rest areas to stop and rest. Or eat. Or just STOP RIDING UP! 
Yeah... I wasn't in my happy I love this sport place. 

I passed a few people walking Down the cliff. I was starting to wonder if I was going the wrong way! What if I had gone BY Them!!! NO!!!!  So I spoke up: 

 "I'm looking for some other bikers. Have you seen them?" 
"OH! yes!!"
"Are they close??"
insert laugh... "No." 


What is going on??? 
AT that point, I was done. Done with the bad place. That wasn't me.  I was sick of my tantrum and little pity party. After all, as I had been saying all week, I WAS there to work. Suck it up babe and get up the damn mountain!!  I put my head down and just kept going. AT some point, I knew I would have to get there. 
33 miles now... 
Crazy crazy how LONG those 3 miles had taken!!! 
I got to a corner and saw some kids at yet Another perfectly good rest area...
I asked the same question I asked the last group. 
But this time I got: "Oh yeah, they're right over there!" And he pointed UP. 
YES!!!!!!!!! See.. I knew I'd make it if I just stopped all the bitching in my head! 

I rounded that corner and heard them first. I gave it all I had left and finally, finally, reached the very TOP of that road with my friends, in their typical Awesome fashion, Cheering me up and then high fiving me upon completion. I think I maybe dropped the bike as I dove for a bench. It was like a race-- someone grabbed it from me. I have no memory.. so if you're reading this and you were the one ( Bob? Rick? John? ) Thank you! 

I smiled. And then,I sat there and shook from exhaustion for a few minutes. It was that hard. 

The next guy finishing and getting the same awesome welcome and GOOD JOB at the top. What a Great,  great group. 

I was happy to be there with others for a few minutes. Again, the camaraderie is everything. Everything. It made me happy to see how wiped everyone else was too and that even those kick-axx rider friends of mine  who crushed that climb thought they had flat tires etc on that long long nasty non- hill climb on the way to steep crazy peak.  We took off and FLEW back down. Ahh.. much better! 
I was almost to the bottom where we made the turn back to the regular road home when I felt some things hit my leg. I brushed them off and then felt the sharp sting. Huh?
I had to stop. Unreal. I had a stinger in my leg! I got stung by a bee. What was UP with me and the bees!?  I rode on and wondered if  actually was a bee or something else. I didn't really see what hit me. But the leg started to HURT. Great... This might not be good. 
And then as quickly as it had come on, it went away. The pain just disappeared. 
I was fine for the rest of the but later on, it swelled, turned red and hurt a Lot. Oh well.. I can handle 1 bee. The swarm turned away from me so I was just thankful for that one little bite. 

Just like the day before... we drove home, changed up, and then hit the road for a little run. 

Big mental toughness gained that day!!!  
In the bank. 


GoBigGreen said...

Madera was the first ride i ever did when rich took me to Green Valley. I have returned each year and it kicks my butt everytime. Lemmon kicks your butt in a different way and yes the worst thing is seeing people hiking DOWN that stretch after the B and B, and they look at you like you could just turn around NOW and not pull into that parking lot before the top...

Love your reports Ange:)

sallyaston said...

Loved reading this. I live in Phoenix and go to Tucson sometimes to train but have never done Madeira. We just missed you guys down there, I knew a couple people that did your camp (I think), we sometimes go down for the weekend and do Shootout on Saturday, Mt Lemmon on Sunday. Its a great place to train!

Anonymous said...

pretty nice blog, following :)