It doesn't get much better than this...
Finally! A little 3-day stint with our best friend: Karen's VW van! We had been talking about it for a while and at the beginning of April we actually made it happen! 3 days, 2 nights, road trip to Tucson, campgrounds, showers at the pool, no internet, waking up and going to bed with the sun. How is that for putting the camping back into "training camp"? It was awesome!
Everything we need right here:
I will take that over staying in a hotel ANY day! The only downside is that it's a bit hard to stretch and foam roll and such. But still. It's just ridiculously convenient and beautiful!
And no, the reason I am so excited about this whole Westy and camping thing is not that I haven't camped much in my life. It's that I have camped ALL of my life. Growing up we camped in tents every single trip we went on. I am pretty sure the first time I ever stayed in a hotel was at the age of 16. No kidding.
(In case you are wondering: Tent camping and training doesn't mesh so well. I have tried it. It's fun and all but a bit of a hassle.)
Our spot at Gilbert Ray Campground in Saguaro NP
So you know how sometimes, during difficult training sessions, it's helpful to do this:
Well, I've got news. It's also highly recommended to turn your brain back on afterwards. Or at least not too far down the road. Here is why:
We pulled up to Gilbert Ray Campground after a nice little outdoor swim on our way into town. We couldn't wait to get on our bikes... Oh wait. Actually, we went for a little run first. Maybe to make sure we really were surrounded by nothing but desert. Can't remember. Anywho... By the time we are ready to jump on our hogs, I remember to attach my seat pack and...
...realize that I forgot something very, very, VERY important at home.
You know how my super fancy new Fuji bike has electronic shifting? I am not sure how it all works, or how much of a difference it makes, or how much it costs. But I do know one thing (from, ahem, previous personal experience): IT DOESN'T WORK WITHOUT A BATTERY. Meaning: If you have no battery, you can't shift. At all.
And that is how I turned my beautiful Norcom Straight into a single speed.
I guess I won't have to mention how EXTREMELY frustrated and pissed I was. You can imagine that part. Especially after I had just crashed on my bike three days earlier. But I also had to take a hard look at myself, laugh, and say: REALLY? You spoiled little triathlete who tends to thinks everything has to revolve around you and your training. There certainly aren't a whole lot of problems that are tinier and less insignificant than this one. So, suck it up! Plus, this whole mess is your fault in the first place, time get on with it!
So we did. Up and over Gates Pass. It wasn't pretty but we managed. Whenever I couldn't handle the gear I was in any longer, we would pull over and shift manually. As in: I would hold up the bike and move the pedals with my hand while Karen was trying to manipulate the rear derailleur in a way that would get the chain to move where we wanted it. Sometimes more, sometimes less successful. And yes, this looked about as lame and ridiculous as it sounds.
Karen, of course, being the stud that she is, handled the situation like a champ. So lucky to have her as my partner in crime.
At least it was nice and warm. Windy but warm. Everything is easier to handle when it's warm and sunny as far as I am concerned. And the desert is my favorite place for training.
Either way I love my Norcom!
Riding up Gates Pass, Karen and I were talking about Super Star, World Champ, and Smashfest Queen Hillary Biscay. And how she lives somewhere near Gates Pass. To make a long story short: A miracle happened. We run into Hillary, have a quick chat, she lets me borrow her very own Di2 battery for the rest of the day AND the next day, and I am now in love with that girl! I mean I knew she was super cool to start with but this was so incredibly nice I am still shaking my head at how lucky and fortunate we were! You are and always will be my one of my heroes, Hillary!
Oh happy day after all!
We basically rode our bikes around Saguaro National Park and surroundings until it got dark. Good times! I ended up having a few more mechanical issues and it was getting a bit ridiculous. At one point I remember yelling: Bring it, universe! I am ready! I am mostly blaming the crappy roads but I am glad all of this is happening now and not in a race!
This girl knows how to ride her bike!
(I don't have a smart phone and never carry my camera with me but this day I did and so we goofed around a bit.)
The next day, inspired by many posts from Hillary Biscay on this ride, we set out to ride to Arivaca and back. A nice 140-mile loop! We were psyched!
It was very windy but warm and we kept saying how at least we only have one thing working against us: the wind. Usually it's more like three: the wind, the cold, and the altitude. So we were happy campers!
The first 100 miles of this ride we had maybe a handful of cars pass us. No stops signs. No lights. Nothing! Just us and the lonesome desert! And the border patrol. We were quite close to Mexico, I guess. So I did what I always do when I am worried I get a thorn stuck in my tire. I pee right then and there on the road while holding my bike in a safe place. Doesn't everybody do that? Good thing Karen's phone camera is rather crappy:
We were having a blast. And loving life! And I was so grateful I could shift whenever I wanted to! This would've been a loooooong 140 miles without that Di2 battery!
Pit stop in Arivaca. Time for something salty! I was loving the salty balls for my main source of fuel but they just aren't quite salty enough! Pringles to the rescue:
They way back to Tucson was even more fun because the wind was now in our backs and were flying! Until we came to a Border Control and I, the German, didn't have any ID or my Green Card with me. Yikes! Luckily, neither Karen or I look like we just escaped from Mexico and bikes aren't really the best way to get anyone across the border illegally. So they let us through. Phew!
Long stuff like this is my favorite and I can't wait to do another ride like this! I was surprised just how good I felt even toward the end. I have no doubt that Osmo Nutrition (Pre-load before the ride and Active during the ride) and the salty balls (recipe here) kept me nicely and evenly fueled all day. Even more in love with my Fuji Norcom Straight! I have been riding the Cobb Fifty Five JOF saddle so far this year and I really like it. But, to be honest, it wouldn't be nearly as comfortable without my Coeur shorts. Those rock! Their chamois is seam-free and thus there is no chafing! Best tri shorts ever! This might seem like a plug for some of my sponsors but these things really make training and racing so much more fun and enjoyable that I wanted to share them with you! If, however, you want me to share my favorite training buddy, KH, with you, you are going to have to come visit us in Flagstaff!
After a little run, returning the bike battery to Hillary, a drive across T-town, and a recovery swim, we finished off a fantastic day with this view:
After a night at the Molino Basin Campground located 5 miles up Mt. Lemmon, a beautiful but very chilly morning greeted us. Not ready to get on our bikes quite yet, I decided to warm up by going for a little trail run. It was amazing! I ran to the ridge just to the left of the Westy roof in the picture below. The view from this ridge down the other side was stunning. I love Mt. Lemmon!!!
beautiful but freezing
After breakfast we bundled up and got going on our bikes. We had this great plan for our Mt. Lemmon day but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. No worries, though, I will be back for 100 miles on Mt. Lemmon sometime soon!
Going up was fun! Super fun! Karen and I love to climb and Lemmon is one of my very favorite climbs! Being back on my Norcom as a single speed wasn't too terrible because we basically put the chain in the easiest gear on the way up and it stayed there for the next 20 miles. It slowed me down a bunch but it was doable.
I had my camera with me and it kept me entertained nicely while climbing. The views are rather spectacular as well but 20 miles is a long way to go and I needed something to play with.
One more picture of my favorite toy before we heading back down:
And this is where the misery starts. Complete and utter misery. For a very long 20 miles back to the campground. I was so cold I had to really control myself or else I was going to fall off the bike from shivering. It didn't help that I couldn't really pedal and warm my legs up that way on the flatter parts. More than once did I entertain the thought of sitting down by the side of the road and crying but, well, that wouldn't have helped one bit, so on I went. I HATED it. Every single minute of that descent. Next time there is cold spell in Tucson, I am NOT coming. So please warn me ahead of time!
Plan B* was to take a break after one lap of Lemmon and sit in the van with our down jackets on and the heater on full blast while driving to the bottom of the mountain. Where it was much warmer already!
*You know it's bad when I come up with a Plan B. One of our mottos is: There is no Plan B! You just suck it up and do what you set out to do. But not today. Being extremely cold will do that to me.
The new plan also entailed 8 miles worth of hill repeats. On foot. I wasn't going to let Mt. Lemmon win that easily and I figured this would warm me up nicely. Which it did.
It also made me very happy:
Karen opted out of this one because her knee was bugging her and took some pictures of me instead.
By now it was early afternoon and rather toasty at the bottom and I was ready to tackle round #2 on Lemmon. The second descend couldn't possibly be as bad as the first. At least that's what I kept telling myself.
Well, whaddya know, it was the same thing as round #1. Lovely climb. Absolutely terrible descent. Except that the descent was 5 miles longer this time around and I thought I was going to die. That's all.
Not sure what has happened to me over the years. I mean, I am the girl who went ice climbing on the morning of her wedding reception and has done a fair amount of mountaineering, including Mt. Shasta and Mt. Rainier. With the same (or even less) amount of body fat. I didn't use to be a wuss when it comes to cold but I certainly am now and I just can't seem to help it.
By the time we reached the pool for our last swim of this trip, I had thawed out and was ready to have some more fun:
A huge Thank You to our husbands for taking care of the kiddos for three days, to Hillary for saving my butt big time, to the Westy for being awesome and reliable, and to KH for putting up with me and for being the best training partner I could ask for!
This trip certainly had its literal and figurative UPS and DOWNS but overall we had a great time and I can't wait to do this (or something very similar) again soon!!!