I'd been trying to ride the Tombstone for 3 years. Every time, I would DNS or DNF over some medical problem (cancer, food poisoning) - the ride was cursed. So as I languished in a snowy, depressing late spring with most of my plans completely in distress, I considered my perennial plan to do the Tombstone. I had plane tickets and Lara was both in AZ and up to trying it - in the plus column. Also, I had managed to finish the 400k without solid food and after a couple root canals. Also in the plus column. I was in the doldrums of seasonal affective disorder (where your personality shrivels up due to lack of any light) and on nasty steroids that I was hoping were not going to make me blind. Should I cancel the plane tickets?
In the end, I decided, no way would I give up my fourth try at the ride. Really, the weather would be sunny and warm (maybe some wind) and I had a personal demon to slay here. In the end, I decided I would either let my diseases run my life, or I would run my life. So with two weeks to spare, I started running up and down the stairs at work to get ready (steroids also kill your immune system, so I can't be around children or in the gym when on them). The stair therapy was probably good for me too - steroids make me cranky and with no sun and piles of snow, no outdoor stuff.
Lara and her friend, Dave, picked me up at the Tucson Airport. We went to his house where he was nice enough to let me use his tools to put the bike together. Lara's friend Susan was there as well, that's the Susan that runs PAC tour. She has stories, but I digress. We eventually relocated to the Super 8 on Cortaro Road, along with enough food to feed a small army. This was to be the start/overnight/finish spot. The Tombstone does a 400k out and back to the town of Tombstone, then a 200k loop to San Manuel on the other side of Mt Lemmon (other side and Mt are two key words that sentence). We spent extra time getting ready and running around in pajamas in WalMart looking for reflective leg bands - they didn't have any.
Susan Reed, the ride boss, eventually brought some to the start. I hadn't seen her since food poisoning knocked me off my bike the previous year. Only 4 intrepid riders were at the start, but on the plus side for the feminists that gave the girls a 50% showing - when does that happen in a 600k?
For a ride that had all the trimmings of another disaster, I have to report that this wound up somehow being one of my better 600k rides. The 4 of us sort of rotated around each other for both days. Lara and I stayed close and she had a bout with the heat, but heat generally doesn't bother me. What I thought would be a lackluster showing on my part, was pretty okay. I felt great the whole time, no soreness in my legs (that was probably the stairs) and I did some mega pulls coming back from Tombstone. In fact, I have a great shot of the rando re-enactment of the Gunfight at OK Corral.
|Pecos Lara falls victim to Road Pixie's rando shotgun|
We stopped at our hotel room to refuel and get a little sleep. We fought some ferocious winds the next day around Mt Lemmon and again ran out of water in Oracle. We flagged down another cyclist to beg water and used a hose at the local church (if you can't get water from a church, there is just something wrong). Looking back, I should have passed on eating too much in San Manuel and waited until I got up the final 10 mile climb to Oracle. But taking it slowly, I made it fine.
Aside from one of us getting lost 15 miles from the end, everyone made it just fine. I got a finish shot:
|The big finish, note Road Pixie's silly knee socks to protect her trashed legs|
This was a weird ride in that it clear lots of cobwebs from my head. I had been so sick for so long so to finally accomplish something really turned things around. I cycled off the steroids about 2 weeks later after some of the longer term medication started taking effect. So this was the end of a first SR of the year and only halfway through April. The ride itself was beautiful - well worth the time. I was sort of sad to fly out of my last AZ ride of the winter season. For wintering Minnesotans, the desert is a peaceful place. I am always shocked by how epic it seems, how your eyes focus on things miles away instead of as here in the midwest where they focus on the streams and trees that are so close. Perhaps that is what made it so psychologically liberating, I looked outside instead of in.
Will be back next year!