Yeah they're pretty to look at but watch out; get these middle-aged moms on a bike and they will run you into the ground.
Friday morning August 19th. The kids are in Sugarhouse with aunt Joanne* & Uncle Stu (aka Stooie aka Stu-age) and all that's left is to rack the bikes, fill the cooler with ice and Gatorade and start heading south. Panguitch, as it turns out, isn't near anything. It's about three hours south of Salt Lake City and separated from I-15 by a mountain range and from the East side of the state by the 300 miles of desert and mountain that we rode on the Rockwell Relay. By the time we got there I was in serious need of some leg stretching. My planned bike ride from Panguitch to Cedar Breaks Monument would do nicely but first we had to recon the Desperado race route. La Canadienne had spent nights pouring over the course map and trying to envision the length and degree of difficulty of the only major hill climb in this century ride. Fortunately it comes in the first 15 miles so we rode together to the top, passing through the famed double Bryce canyon arches and scoping spots to snap race day photos. The Rockwell Relay took Rodzilla through these arches in his second leg. By that time we had been without sleep for 26 hours and weren't feeling particularly shutter happy. It's been a sore point with Rodzilla since June 10th. I figured the Desperado would give me a chance to erase that blemish and get back in 'Zilla's good graces.
*Big shout out, thank you and happy anniversary to StuJo (Stuart & Joanne) for taking the Larsen brood in for the weekend of their 18th wedding anniversary. We owe you, lots (and again).
Unfortunately the race course took cyclists off the highway and onto a bike path on the other side of a dry river bed (but parallel to the road, still beautiful but not photo accessible). So unless somebody with photoshop skillz wants to paint Rodzilla in the frame above, that particular Kodak moment will have to wait for June, 2012.
Swedish Matt tries to goad me into a 19 mile ride down from the cabin at Panguitch Lake just to turn around, ride the 29 miles to Cedar Breaks then go back down to the cabin. I passed on that and had them pull in to a truck stop (Owens', of the Ted Owens family Owens-es) where I changed into my cycling gear and began my fight with the mountain and the nasty headwind out of the south (that we would later learn was standard fare for Panguitch).
The Panguitch Cowboy store, actually one of more than a dozen cowboy themed shops in downtown 'Guitch. Need cowboy stuff? Maybe you want to rent a cowboy or two? Then this is your kind of town.
Moab to St. George – Leg 9
The first hill climb out of town, the one you can see from miles away on highway 89 and you think to yourself "I wouldn't want to ride that" is actually the first 5 miles of the second loop (the dual meaning of dual ... double century loop) so the poor saps riding the 200 mile option get to climb this after polishing off a quick 107 miles. My climb is broken up by the appearance of Rodzilla and crew. They dropped* us on the mountain pass north of Beaver on I-15 and we hadn't been in visual contact with them since then. They shout some words of encouragement and Rodzilla actually pulls over to snap some photos and give me a beef jerky hand up. It was actually a worse idea than it sounded (and it sounds bad).
I foolishly tossed the piece of dried and heavily peppered beef in my mouth without thinking of the consequences of such a move while climbing a 7% grade. Those consequences turned out to be peppercorns in your windpipe. It was a kind gesture but one that we didn't think through before hand. Kind of like when Rodzilla tried to put my cycling gloves on my hands as I rode by on the same hill two months before. One of these days we'll get it right.
* If only Rodzilla could climb as well as his truck ...
Thought bubble: "Beef jerky? Seriously? How long before I can spit this out?"
The ride itself was a serious climb. On Rockwell we were re-routed down Mammoth Creek Road about 3 miles from Panguitch Lake. The ascent was roughly equivalent but the distance was increased by 7 miles as I climbed past the Mammoth Creek turn off and up above 10,000 feet I was of a split mind over which was more difficult. The last time I did this climb I was on no sleep and less than 12 hours post Fruita Incident. It was tough, but unlike the re-route which descended, flattened, climbed and descended again, this climb didn't relent. I got to the 29.5 mile mark, the distance identified by the race bible (or book of lies) as the exchange point on a flat spot in a mountain meadow. I saw another really steep hill about a quarter mile further and, remembering the inclinations of the Rockwell staff, figured the actual exchange point would have been at the top of that hill (cause that's how they roll). So I climbed it. My GPS elevation showed 10,060 feet, average speed 12.2mph, elapsed time 2:24:44. It was a game effort but a time I feel I can beat in the Rockwell Relay 2012 if we manage to get to Panguitch in the early AM before the south wind starts to blow.
I wasn't completely gassed at that point so I rode the last 3 miles and 500 feet of climb (what would have been Swedish Matt's 'easiest leg of the race' climb) to Cedar Breaks monument.
If Rodzilla were in town this picture I took with my crappy cell phone camera would be really big and would clearly indicate that I rode my bike past Cedar Breaks National Monument at 10,600 feet above sea level.
Thirty miles to the 'Guitch, thirteen to the lake, fifteen to the cabin (if I can find it based on the instructions and to-scale map Swedish Liz wrote on the back of some scrap paper in the Owens' truck stop parking lot 3 hours ago).
The descent was uneventful and unlike Swedish Matt, I didn't have to play chicken with weekend truck/drift boat traffic. No cars, temperatures in the sixties (I think it rarely gets hot at this altitude no matter what time of year you are here) my third Rockwell Relay leg in the books and the wind at my back ... Life is good.
I follow the Swedish Liz written/Swedish Matt oral directions as best I can read/remember them and I arrive at the cabin just before Swedish Matt is able to convince La Canadienne that I'm either lost or in trouble. Good to know that when I'm on the road by myself and Rodzilla's not around, the Swede has my back.
The rest of that evening was spent collecting packets at the Panguitch Social Hall. There was an ice cream social, but I was the only one that ate the ice cream, the rest of the crew stood around grumbling about the lack of a Desperado Dual T-shirt. It's a given. Enter a race, get a T-shirt. Instead they were given Desperado Dual visors? We tried to think of a more useless item of apparel to give a cyclist: Desperado Dual Garter? (me) Desperado Dual Dickey? (Swedish Matt) and, the winner: The Desperado Dual Cumberbund (Rodzilla)
Rolling Hills Cow Cummerbund and Tie
That might be the only complaint however. The rest of the event was well organized, well attended and genuinely fun, even to watch as a casual observer (that would be me).
Back at the cabin, pre-race relaxation was the order of the evening. Eventually an impromptu Yoga class broke out and everyone stretched and tried to burn off some of their pre-race jitters.
I think it would be safe to call 2011 the year of the rough start to the race. It started in Moab with the tubular tyre sealant incident, the Red Rider's tube stem pre RRLR, both could have been dealt with if they didn't occur 5 minutes before the starting gun. You would think after being twice bitten we would learn? Yes you would think that but you would be wrong. Race time was 7 am. The cabin (which is beautiful, well appointed and in an idyllic setting, I can't say enough wonderful things about the cabin, I absolutely loved everything about it, thank you, thank you Riding family for a perfect two night stay) is about 20 miles from town, on twisty mountain roads. We figured we needed to leave by 6 am (at the latest) to be at the starting line with a comfortable cushion before the start of the race. This photo above was snapped at about 6:10. La Canadienne looks ... concerned, Swedish Matt looks, well, distressed and a little in disbelief that this is all happening again. Red Rider has to be thinking "Where is Rodzilla, how can a man who is 6'6" 260 lbs just disappear?" We also get our first glimpse of Jake 'the man-child' Miller. Who, like his father, is a mountain of a man (and the same age as my daughter Raechel ... shaking head in disbelief) but who, unlike his father, is currently present and accounted for.
We fly down the mountain as fast as reasonable and arrive in town at about 6:45. Swedish Matt performs the ritualistic "Are you kidding me? The race starts in ten minutes and you haven't checked your tire pressure?" Tire fill-up. La Canadienne is at 60 psi in one tire (half strength for those scoring at home) and low enough that it might merit additional investigation, if the race weren't starting in less than seven minutes. What was it Yogi Berra said? It's like deja vu all over again? Rodzilla is parked in the convenience store parking lot. I think he was topping off his gas tank, buying a bag of ice and replacing the beef jerky he gave away the day before. At 6:57 I tell him to just go to the starting line and I'll move his truck. He takes off, Red Rider returns for her timing chip (the one that will get her official time and confirm that she conquered this 100+ mile beast of a ride) so she grabs that and goes back to the starting line. No sooner has she left than Rodzilla returns to the truck for his sunglasses:
While he's frantically rummaging through his duffle bag the other 199 Desperado century distance entrants start pedaling through the time trap and begin their 100 mile (+) bike ride. Rodzilla sprints off to catch them ...
And after much drama, most of it of their own making, they are all off! The race we discussed over a group date dinner at Taste of Punjab last fall, the one we planned for all winter and trained for all spring and summer, the one that expanded then strained the boundaries of our friendship(s) is finally underway ... phew!
I park the 'Zilla-mobile and Jake 'the man-child' and I chase the peleton out of town. We don't catch them until we're several miles up the road leading to Bryce canyon. Before we can pull over and shoot some film/snap some photos the cyclists are routed onto a bike path away from the highway. Eventually we find a turnout, park and hike in to gather some artwork for the blog.
I've got the video, the man-child takes the still camera with telephoto lens. He's only fifteen and he's already larger than me and has more skillz with a lens (only one of those two is an actual noteworthy achievement). Our first encounter is with Swedish Matt. Despite his professed lack of training (and/or interest in road cycling) he's attached himself to a group of serious riders and is making great time up the canyon and appears to be completely relaxed while doing so.
Next up is Rodzilla. He and hills have declared an uneasy truce. This particular climb never gets above 4% but it lasts several miles. His hope is to hold on and hold out till he reaches the top. Stay within shouting distance of Swedish Matt and catch him on the stretches of road that cater to his particular size and strengths as a rider ... and stay in front of the girls, that too. Maybe especially that.
Perhaps a minute back, maybe less, are the international duo of La Canadienne and Swedish Liz. The morning is cool, if a little bright. The view is beautiful and the pace is swift but relaxed. Great start to a great race. They've talked about staying together and about permitting one or the other to go on ahead if it turns out one can and the other can't continue at the same pace. From the training rides I was able to go on with them they seemed pretty evenly matched as cyclists albeit with different strengths: Swedish Liz is a powerful climber but inexperienced and not accustomed to parsing out her energy for the long haul. La Canadienne has stamina and a polished riding form that works well on long rides. Neither one of them has ridden beyond the 80 mile distance so both will be entering uncharted territory before the day is over. At the moment they are riding side by side and matching one another's cadence perfectly, but the day is young and there are many miles yet to cover.
Red Rider has recovered from the time chip mishap that made a rushed and nervous start even moreso (on both counts) and is pedaling up the canyon with the type of confidence one garners after climbing 4500 feet of hills in 80 miles (see RRLR). We passed dozens of cyclists before we came upon her, so she's hanging tough about mid-pack.
It's about this moment that I realize that a) the memory card in the camera is full of non-sensical photos taken by any one of my four children (same thing happened on Rockwell Relay, Moab to St George. There were dozens and dozens of photos of nathan, naked from the waste down making a mess of the laundry room while looking for underwear ... Mathis wanted to make sure the crime was thoroughly and accurately documented. That's the story I got later, at the time I found them and tried to delete them as Rodzilla looked on with raised eyebrows I really didn't have any suitable explanation). This time the photos were more innocuous but taking up the entire memory card nonetheless. As I attempted to delete them, the camera battery went to red ... recharge now. So my day as a photo journalist of the Desperado Dual was about to come to an end.
Jake 'the man-child' and I reached the top of the hill climb just ahead of Rodzilla, who in turn was mere seconds ahead of the rapidly gaining international cycling duo of La Canadienne and Swedish Liz. Seconds, as it turned out, was all it took. The road went flat, the wind was at their backs and that was the last the girls saw of Rodzilla. He double clutched the transmission attached to his large bore diesel engine, found overdrive and put the hammer down. So long enormous cyclist in the red BMC jersey kit. See you at the finish line.
I'm interested in how all my cycling friends are doing in this race, but I'm tasked with support of just one: La Canadienne and her need for gluten free sustenance. Those are my main concerns today. 'The man-child' and I wave our own goodbye to Rodzilla and double back to find that the international duo have attached themselves to a father-son pair of cyclists who have conveniently enough come to the race dressed as yellow highlighter markers, making them equally easy to track whether from a distance on country roads or among a 20(+) member pace line moving at speed. If I'm remembering correctly their names are Craig (dad) and Brian (son). Later there will be a second rider named Brian (we will distinguish the two Brians by using the prefix 'crazy' to describe the Brian not wearing highlighter yellow). I'll let a member of the international duo explain the crazy part, if they can. I've heard enough about crazy Brian that I feel I've known him for years. I just don't know what makes him so ... crazy.
The wind that is present is generally of the 'tail' variety but drafting is always a good idea (and a great help) especially when the miles you have left to cover roughly equal the total miles you have ever ridden at one time in your life. It's a lesson the international duo learn early and apply constantly. It will serve them well. Winds can be fickle and as we've often noted before, a contrary wind can suck the fun right out of your day.
Jake 'The Man child' and I speed ahead to the first feed station at mile 25 and arrive just in time to see Rodzilla blow through without stopping to top off water or refuel. He reached the top of the only significant climb of the ride in front of the international duo and they are no longer concerning him. He has set his sites on the other Swede, the one that nobody has seen since we left the road through Bryce Canyon. We'll catch up to him (and maybe Swedish Matt?) later, for now we wait for the duo.
Next up Desperado Dual ... to Antimony and beyond!