I’ve become super cautious with my health as of late. Since regaining the ability to ride for more than half an hour at a time, I’ve closely listened to the cues my body has given. Tired? Take a day off. Sleepy? Take a nap. Hungry? Eat something.
But I’ve been on the road to health for nearly two months now with minimal complications. I’ve run myself into the ground a time or two after long binges of riding in Salida and St George, but I’ve bounced back, taken a few days off, and continued along the trajectory of starting to feel like my old self. I’d started thinking about trying to do something bigger, maybe a race, maybe a long ride.
But frankly, I was scared. Shitless.
What if I didn’t have it in me any more. To be fair, I’ve been loving my 2-3 hour afternoon rides, but the thought of not being able to stretch 2-3 hours into 4-5 to 7-8 to even longer was haunting me.
Scott came home early last week: Chad’s putting together the Over Lemmon CDO ride for this weekend.
I’d seen videos of this ride that involves climbing 5,000+ feet into the sky up Lemmon and descending a trail down the backside into Catalina State Park and then cruising back to Tucson on the 50-year trail. They’ve been doing it for years and we watched the videos from the various rides. I got the stats from the previous year, 12 hours of moving time, 93 miles.
I hemmed and I hawed about going. Is it too much too soon? What if I crater in the middle of it? Ultimately, I decided that I’d have to do an all-systems check on my body eventually, and if things went downhill during the first seven hours of the ride, I could always descend the pavement back down Lemmon and cruise home.
The alarm went off at 4:15 am. We were out the door at 4:45, meeting up with Chad and Max across town at 5:30. I was scared, trying to remember what it was actually like to go on an all-day ride.
The roads to the base of Lemmon were flat and easy. The first 5 miles up to Molino basin went easily in the early morning shade. The climb up Prison Camp was far more fun than when I did it during the AZT last spring. And then we settled in for 13 long miles of up. It’s been a while since I’ve pedaled that continuously for that long. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden that much pavement. A fact that my rear found it necessary to continually remind me of.
A little bit of trail, then the final climb up to Summerhaven. I have to say, eating clean definitely puts a damper on mid-day ride breaks. While the others drank tallboys and ate ice cream bars and Slim Jims, I had a banana and some roasted sunflower seeds. While I appreciate feeling good, and know that nothing tastes as good as feeling good…it still sucked.
More climbing brought us to the tippy-top of Lemmon, and then things started going downhill, literally and figuratively.
Scott had warned me.
“There’s hike-a-bike, but it’s not like you’re ever going to be hiking your bike for 10 minutes at a time.”
“So what you’re saying is that I probably won’t be riding my bike for 10 minutes at a time either.”
“Yeah. That’s a good way to put it.”
There were big views and fun trail for a while, and then my lack of skills go the best of me. Rocks and drops and loose dirt that the boys had no issues with had me hiking. Scott described a section as “a little steep and a little washed out” and I nearly had to scoot down it on my butt. Once down in the valley, the overgrown trail criss-crossed a dry and then wet creek countless times. While Scott had described 50% of the crossings as rideable, I batted a solid 0%.
On the bike, off the bike. I rejoiced at 100 yard sections where I could actually cruise. The boys rode most of it. Effortlessly.
And then I cracked. Not physically, because really, there’s nothing hard about averaging 0.5 mph while walking your bike, but I came completely and totally mentally undone. Unfortunately, as I had feared, this occurred with a significant bit of trail, a long-ish rubbly climb, a descent, and the 20 mile pedal back to Tucson ahead of me.
I tried to hide it, and then I cracked in that department too.
“Please stop trying to be cheerful with me,” I’d told Scott. “Just keep riding and wait for me at intersections.”
I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I wanted to never go on a long ride again. I wanted to spend the rest of the winter riding at Fantasy Island.
The climb went remarkably easily, we skipped the last bits of trail in order to beeline it home. We arrived after 14 hours and even from the comfort of our front room with a bowl of leftover curry in my lap, I still had nothing nice to say. My ass hurt, my hands hurt, my legs hurt, my skin hurt from the incessant scratching of everything prickly in the desert.
The next morning I woke up with DOMS in my legs. Too much downhill hiking. I couldn’t sit on my physioball for extended periods of time and took to doing everything I could standing up to give my chaffed skin some relief.
“That ride broke me,” I told Scott.
A day later, I was back on the bike. Feeling normal. Cranking up steep hills, feelings of fatigue gone.
I daresay my body is back, though jumping from three hour rides to 14 hour ones may have been a bit of a stretch, but my head? Now that’s a whole different story. Maybe I just needed to recalibrate my suffer-o-meter after a summer of dinking around. Maybe I just need to be happy with 3 hour rides. Or maybe I just need to greatly increase my skill set so I don’t have to walk my bike down from the top of the highest peak around.
Whatever the case may be, I’m learning that I still lack the ability to think things through in a rational manner in terms of what are and aren’t good ideas. But I’m okay with that because generally speaking, the greatest adventures come from the worse ideas.