I have to say right up-front that today was a terrible ride. The weather conditions were great, but I was plagued by a myriad of technical issues that caused me no shortage of grief. Darn, darn, darn.
Here's the situation – the day didn't start off well; I set my alarm for sometime between 8:00am and 8:30am, with the intention of getting on the road by 9:00am for a 55-mile ride. (Two circuits around the Pistol Hill Road loop.) But I was up till 4:00am the night before, so when I was rudely roused from slumber by my alarm, I turned it off and I drifted back to sleep. I woke up at 9:00am, and decided that I could probably make it on the road by 10:00am at the latest.
I made a quick breakfast of eggs & ham, and I started getting all of my gear ready for the ride: multiple bottles of water and Gatorade, several packages of Gu, pumping air into my bicycle tires, etc. By 10:00am it looked like I had everything together, but I ran into a problem as I was about to leave – I had just installed a seat-attached, dual-water-bottle mount on my bicycle, and it came off as I was storing my bottles for the ride.
This discovery was met with no shortage of exasperation, so I reattached the mount, only to be faced with the same situation – the mount came off with simple usage. So I completely disassembled the mount, verified that everything was put together correctly, inspected my saddle to make sure that I was connecting it in the best place, reattached the mount, and I re-bolted everything as tight as possible without stripping any of the bolts. Once completed, I picked my bicycle up by the mount and it held fast. This seemed good enough for me, so I double-checked to make sure that I had everything that I needed for the ride, and I finally got on the road sometime around 10:40am.
Unfortunately, the ordeal with the mount had taken up almost ¾ of an hour, so I was now running seriously behind the optimum time for riding. I knew from checking the weather the night before that I would now be somewhere in the middle of the open desert when the temperature was well over 100 degrees. Despite that knowledge, I soldiered on.
The first couple miles were uneventful for the most part, but I was on the wrong screen on my Garmin GPS so I couldn't monitor my heart rate or cadence, and I couldn't seem to change screens. Trying to resolve the issue had me pretty distracted, which is a bad thing when you're sharing the road with traffic. Eventually I realized that I had accidentally locked the controls, but once I had that problem resolved, I realized that my cadence sensor wasn't sending signals to my GPS. I couldn't fix that problem while in motion, so I pulled off the road and repositioned the cadence sensor on my bicycle. After several minutes I seemed to have that problem taken care of, and I resumed my ride.
When I hit the 5-mile mark, I head a weird sound on the back of my bike, and when I looked over my shoulder I realized that one of my water bottles was bouncing down the road behind me. I quickly pulled to a stop, and I discovered that my @#$% dual-bottle mount had come off – again. What's worse, I only saw one water bottle behind me, which meant that the other bottle had obviously fallen off some time earlier in my ride. This left me with two choices: write off the water bottle as a complete loss, or retrace my route with the hope of finding it along the road. My water bottles are pretty nice – and they're not cheap – so I decided to see if I could find it. (After all, it couldn't have fallen off that much earlier, right? Wrong.)
I begrudgingly started riding back in the opposite direction. In order to assist my search, I was intentionally riding in the wrong direction in the bicycle lane, for which I profusely apologized to every cyclist whom I encountered as I explained that I was searching for a water bottle that I had lost. Truth be told, I felt like I was looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack – I had no idea if the water bottle had rolled off the road into the bushes somewhere, or if it had been stuck by a car, or any one of a number of reasons why I might never see it. My search went on for several miles, until a cyclist travelling in the opposite direction remarked that he had seen my water bottle. Unfortunately we passed each other in such haste that I couldn't hear where he said he had seen it.
As I entered the city limits, I decided that it was best to change sides of the road to the correct side, and I would simply make a U-turn if I saw the water bottle. But I didn't, and I made it to within a few hundred yards of my neighborhood before I decided that I had gone too far. So I turned around and continued my search as I resumed my original course. A mile or so later I found my water bottle lying in the road, and I pulled to a stop as I kicked myself with incredulity for my failure to notice the bottle on my first pass. Nevertheless, I quickly got back on the road, but I had lost faith in the dual-bottle mount, so I was forced to store the two water bottles in the back pockets of my riding jersey.
By the time I reached the Saguaro National Park, I had been riding for over an hour, but I felt like I had made no progress at all since I had been at this same location some 45 minutes earlier. All of my starting and stopping and slow-paced searching had taken their toll: my legs felt terrible, my heart rate was hovering above 150bpm, and I was running low on water as I pulled into the hydration station near the park entrance. I took a short break as I refilled all of my water bottles, and I consumed a pack of Gu as I weighed my options. My original plan of riding 55 miles was totally shot, and the temperature was already over 100 degrees. I seriously thought about tossing in the towel and riding home, but that would have put my mileage for the day at only 18 miles, which was way lower than I wanted.
I decided that I would make a single lap around the Pistol Hill Road loop, which would give me somewhere over 40 miles. This was obviously lower than my original 55-mile goal, but it seemed an acceptable alternative to quitting. Once I had that plan in mind, I got back on my bike and followed the road as it led off into the desert. I could feel that I wasn't riding at my best level – all of my earlier misadventures had taken their toll – so I was riding with the philosophy that a successful ride for the day would be to simply complete the loop and arrive home in one piece instead of challenging my previous times like I would normally do.
When I passed the Rincon Valley Market somewhere around the 17-mile point, I was shocked to see that it was boarded up and appeared to have gone out of business. The market had always been something of a backup plan for emergency supplies. With it gone, there is no place for me to get water if I'm running low out in the desert, so I'll need to keep that in mind for future rides.
As I reached the 18.5-mile point, it felt like the strap for my heart rate monitor was pinching my chest. I thought that it would work itself out, but it seemed to grow more persistent, so I reached inside my cycling jersey to adjust the strap. To my confusion and surprise, my hand suddenly felt like it was being pinched as well, and that's when it dawned on me: I wasn't being pinched – I was being stung! With this shocking revelation in mind, I grabbed the front of my shirt and crushed as much of it as I could, and then I pulled off the road to inspect the situation. Sure enough, some sort of wasp or yellow jacket had managed to get inside my jersey, and I had smashed it when I crushed my shirt. With this problem rectified, I scraped the bug guts out of my shirt and I resumed my ride.
Unfortunately, the insect adventure happened just as I was starting up the long, 6-mile uphill climb to Pistol Hill Road. I had just destroyed all of my forward momentum, and anything that resembled a positive attitude. Now I was truly riding onward fueled by the singular desire to "Not Quit." (But I really wanted to quit – believe me.)
One of my personal goals is to never shift off my top-most chain ring, and I managed to keep to that goal as I slogged my way up the last mile to the highest point on Pistol Hill Road. But as with my refusal to quit, my so-called persistence was really just stubbornness on my part. My cadence was lower than I wanted, my heart rate was higher than I wanted, and I was rapidly going through my water and Gatorade as I tried my best to combat the soaring temperatures which surrounded me.
I had been riding for 2¼ hours by the time I crested the summit on Pistol Hill Road, and I passed the 25-mile mark as I started my descent down the other side. Normally I would be pedaling as I descended, but I needed a break, so I consumed another pack of Gu as I coasted downhill for most of the next mile or so. This had the desired effect, and my spirits were slightly better as I turned north onto Camino Loma Alta for the 3-mile ride back to Old Spanish Trail.
The next several miles were mostly uneventful, although the 3 miles from the low point in Jeremy Wash to the Saguaro National Park were harder on me than usual; I think simple exhaustion from the day's misadventures were getting the better of me. I managed to keep to my personal goal of staying on my top-most chain ring, but it took some serious effort... or dedication... or stubbornness... or foolishness... it's one of those, I'm not quite sure which one.
By the time I reached Saguaro National Park, I was running low on water again, so I pulled into the hydration station near the park entrance to refill. As I topped off my water bottles and poured some cold water over my head, I struck up a conversation with another cyclist who was taking a quick break. He had already ridden 60 miles for the day, and he was about to head around the 8-mile park loop. He invited me along, but I had already endured more than enough riding for the day, so I politely declined, and then I hopped back on my bicycle to head home.
- Primary Statistics:
- Start Time: 10:42am
- Distance: 41.3 miles
- Duration: 3:05:19
- Calories Burned: 1,588 kcal
- Altitude Gain: 1,900 feet
- Average Speed: 13.4 mph
- Peak Speed: 27.8 mph
- Minimum: 78.8 F
- Average: 102.1 F
- Maximum: 107.6 F
- Heart Rate:
- Average: 145 bpm
- Maximum: 168 bpm