Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taylor House Ride 2011 Ride Report

I'll start off by saying cancer sucks. So do most other illnesses, but I'm singling out cancer for now. Mainly because today was the Taylor House Century Ride, to benefit the FMC Taylor House and Cancer Center.

So, For my Uncle Greg, Grandpa Jack,* and anyone who is going through or has gone through cancer, and their friends and families, today's ride was for you, and I'll do my best to bring you along with me.

*Grandpa Jack being part of my extended/adopted family, who I love like family.

I showed up about 15 minutes before the start at the Hospital, having registered the night before. I'll say, that was an awesome move, having a night-before spaghetti dinner and pre-sign in. So I hung out, enjoyed the cold (it was 40 degrees) and shot the breeze with folks I knew.

Before long it was time to line up for pre-ride announcements and the actual start.
We rolled out, and down Beaver Street, where the entire group got stopped by a train. Not long after, the group got split by a traffic light at an intersection that the police decided to leave open. There was an adrenaline rush when, as we approached a turn across the railroad tracks, we heard a train coming. Myself and about 40 other riders beat a train at the crossing, with room to spare. I ended up with STeve airborne across the tracks.

I made good time down Route 66, past the car dealerships and through the neighborhoods back onto Highway 89. As I was rolling up to Townsend Winona Road, (Where the route turns off 89) 15 or so riders went straight, instead of turning. A quick glance didn't reveal any course markers, and the route re-joins 89 a couple miles further, so they weren't going to get too lost. But they cut about 10 miles off the route. Two other riders and I made the right turn, and commented about everyone who missed it.

Doing your homework and studying helps, folks!

Winona was a fast downhill roll, and after turning down Slayton Ranch road, I found myself cruising on Neptune Drive, where TC and I grew up.
Familiar views. The blue house on the left was ours.

I should mention here, that because of the ways the horde got split up, my ride became a very quiet and solitary ride for the most part. From Winona onward, I didn't see many other riders. In a way, I think it made it more enjoyable for me, as I could crawl into my pain cave, listen to my music, take pictures while riding, and air-guitar the miles and hills away.

Yeah, air-guitar. I got very good at air-guitar today.

From Neptune Drive, it was a nice roll up Silver Saddle Road, where I hooked back up with 89, and turned north. I crested the big hill at the Sunset Crater Road turnoff at 8:30, a full hour before the cutoff. I stopped at the aid station, re-filled my water bottles, rested for a few, then continued on to the 95 mile route, on the part of the course I had never ridden before.
Highway 89 North.

And 5 minutes later, looking back.

All downhill ahead!

I made good time to the next aid station, which offered nice views.

Steve, ready to keep on keepin' on.

I met a mother and daughter at this station who were running support and cheering on her husband/father as he rode his first century. I wished good luck to him, then set off.

As I said, I'd never ridden this loop, and it had been many many years sine I'd been out here at all, and I have to say, it is some of the most varied, and beautiful terrain around Flagstaff. My pictures really don't do it justice. That, and I was moving when I took them.

The road drops into a steep downhill here, and opens up to a stunning view of the Painted Desert. I couldn't grab a picture because I was doing about 40 miles an hour...

As I passed the Wupatki Visitors enter, the road turned from downhill to uphill. Lots and lots of uphill, that started sort of mellow, then started getting steeper and steeper. The terrain also changed, going from deserty sandstone to volcanic cinder and rocks.
I made it to the second to last aid station, where I took an extended break to rest up, chat with folks there, and take a picture from the overlook.

It was here that people took note of the fact I was doing this ride on a single speed. Anthony joked about giving me gears out of the transmission of the van he was driving, and 6'8" Nate offered to pull me up a hill or two. I met up with the fellow shooting for his first century here, and gave him some encouragement. Everyone else kindly informed me that the worst climbing was ahead.

Thanks guys.

It started off ok, but there were three hills that started off mellow, then got steeper and steeper, and longer and longer.
Like this one, coming up on Sunset Crater.

And this one, next to Sunset Crater.

Lava flow!

Bonito lava flow!

Getting close to 89!

On the last big climb up to 89 and the last aid station, my legs started to let me know they weren't happy with me. I laid off a bit, and crawled in to the last station. I took my time here, stretching, relaxing, and enjoying the thing that gave me motivation to climb those last hills:

At this point, I was happy with myself. All the un-charted (to me) route was behind me, and I had ridden all of it. I didn't walk a single hill, no matter how much I wanted to. High-fives and handshakes were exchanged, from people who were amazed at what I had just climbed with only one gear. The guy gunning for his first century was there, too. I told him the worst was all behind him. He made it this far, he's got it.

Especially when not long after turning back on 89, heading back towards town, this is what greets you:
Downhill! Glorious downhill! Let the coasting commence!

Unfortunately, it's short lived, and after a couple miles, it's mostly all gradual uphill into and through town, with Cedar Hill thrown in RIGHT at the end, just to make you give up hope.

To be honest, I completely zoned out the last 15 miles. I don't remember much, other than my legs started trying to cramp up. Rather than stopping to rest and stretch, I figured out a way to keep riding and stretch my legs as I pedaled. It's something I'll need to remember for next time.

I also vaguely remember that after what I had ridden up at Sunset Crater, Cedar Hill was nothing in comparison, and I fairly cruised up it, and down the other side to the finish at the hospital.

I was among the last riders to make it in, but I finished! Victory food!

Not long after I got there, First Century guy rolled in. He was understandably dazed, having ridden his first century. I let him know that it was a hard route for a first century, and he did awesome. Then he told me something I'd never quite heard about a big ride like that.

He said I made it look easy.

Hang on... I'm going to tuck that compliment away somewhere safe, where I can take it out to inspire me when I'm suffering up a steep climb.

Ok, I'm back.

All I could do was laugh, and say I'm glad I can give that impression.

Yay, Steve!

I finished what I could of my food, then headed slowly home. I showered, told Exe about it, napped, chilled, got ice cream, and now I'm typing away at the blog. I'm exceptionally sore, tired, and trying to decide if I've built muscle today, or destroyed some. My legs are twitchy and crampy, and, to be honest, I'm surprised I've made it this far through the blog with any level of coherence.

Despite all that, I feel good. I dedicated this ride to family who've fought, and are fighting cancer, and then went out and rode it. It's a big thing for me.
Mileage: 105.4, in 6:40 moving time. Average speed was 15.8

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