Tuesday, February 20, 2007

First 24 Solo


NOTE: This post is from a Word document I wrote back in '07 about my race, first solo 24. It is unedited from this point:

Around the clock racing is a gas. Night riding is fun, but racing at night is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. I first saw the light on a 4-man sport team at the 2001 24 Hours of Moab. Anybody who’s been to a 24 hour race knows that the whole atmosphere is kind of like a weekend tent revival in the Church of the Rotating Knobby. There are fanatics wandering around at all hours, performing the rituals of our religion. It’s a rockin’ good time mixing it up on the course with the whole spectrum of racing mountain bikers from struggling newbie to hotshot professional, with the flash and flicker of headlamps and the sounds of effort and obstacle.

Riding in the desert of the American southwest is one of my favorite things. I live in the mountains of Colorado, and the trails in my back yard are great. But the desert is where I first rode a mountain bike, and I am constantly drawn back.

Twenty-four hour racing in the desert is like warm cherry pie with vanilla ice cream on top. The 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo in the vicinity of Tucson, Arizona is a desert all-nighter I have been meaning to do for years. It has a reputation for being a great time. The 15-mile course is rich with fast singletrack. There is some climbing, but not too much, and none that would force most riders to dismount. The real obstacle is thorny. Tires that aren’t made of steel will pick up thorns, period. But if you can keep air in them, you can roll ‘em!

The 8th running of the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo was scheduled for February 17, 2007. I decided to really throw down for this race and enter as solo. It would be my first solo effort. In early January I became a weather refugee, seeking asylum in southern Arizona from the worst Colorado winter in recent memory.

After knocking around the Tucson area for a week or two I wandered up to camp at the race venue for a while. I found a high desert paradise there. Race HQ is in a broad, sweeping landscape complete with singing coyotes, lots of gnarly cactus, and a handful of kindred souls buffing the race course, riding, and appreciating sunsets. I stayed for the month leading to the race, riding the course and on long explorations of the empty dirt roads and gas lines that roll from horizon to horizon.

As race day approached believers began to make their way to the little patch of desert that becomes 24 Hour Town. My excitement and apprehension, and camp filled up with riders, support staff, and race infrastructure.

The peace and silence of the desert was replaced with the sounds of camp setup. The vibe was incredible--friendly and cooperative. People were greeting old friends, and introducing themselves to new friends. There are a few camp boundary disputes since 24 Hour Town real estate is somewhat scarce. Over 3000 people occupy perhaps 35 acres broken up with rock outcroppings, cactus patches, and sandy washes. But it all gets resolved, and then beers are passed around and neighbors join each other around campfires.

Saturday morning came, and suddenly I felt utterly unprepared. Hours passed like minutes. I talked on the cell phone to friends coming in to race duo after flying in and renting a van. I talked to my little sister who was driving in to support me from San Diego after working a whole day Friday. I lubed the chain and did final checks on my race bike. I replaced tires on my backup bike. I found and set aside warm clothes so I wouldn’t have to search for them when night fell. I put a final charge on two light systems. I went to the race meeting, then ran back to my trailer and put on my monkey suit. Then it was time to go. I stuffed food into my mouth even though I was too nervous to be hungry.

The good advice I had gotten was ringing in my head: Don’t race until after midnight. Walk, do not run the lemans start. My friend Shawn’s advice repeated over and over: Don’t win the warm-up.

I knew it was going to be difficult to avoid going fast in the first few laps. Race fever is contagious. Most of the riders around me would be on teams, and they would be able to spend hours recovering after each lap. I needed to establish a conservative pace off the bat, and not burn up precious energy early. But it’s really hard to avoid the temptation to let your fresh legs push you to speed, railing those fun cactus slalom turns.

I was a good boy on my first lap. I stayed off the throttle. I followed riders I could have passed. I chatted with other solos. And what an interesting bunch of solos I met! We had been given little license plates, and some had made their own indicators so that people passing might understand that we were not really loafing. Many of the folks I met were first-time solos like me. We talked to each other about our goals and expectations.

I was really pleased to see a high number of female competitors, in solo and all other categories. In general, I can’t remember ever seeing such a diverse group of racers, in terms of age, gender, and race. It was impressive and encouraging, a very positive reflection on the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo and the cycling culture of Arizona.

During my second lap I caught myself doing the wrong thing several times. I scolded myself, but then forgot strategy. I was listening to my inner good-time Charlie. After a stop at camp to reload fluids, I checked in and started my third. After stopping to answer nature’s call, Tinker Juarez passed. I shouted out “Go Tinker, you da man!” or something similarly profound. He shouted back something I couldn’t understand, but he was rolling at speed, smooth as a ghost. I thought to myself, dang, Tinker just lapped me 5 minutes into my third lap! I laughed out loud and said, “OK, pressure is off now, I can just take it easy!”

I got four laps in before needing to mount lights. I was already feeling mortal by the time the first night-time lap started, even after spending half an hour off the bike. Thankfully, it never really got cold. I was prepared for temperature in the 40’s, maybe even colder. I had seen normal night temperature around 40, so it was remarkable that it never got much colder than the mid-50’s. What a break! I got more tired and creaky with every lap, but never uncomfortably cold. And for most of the night, the stars were showing in a clear sky. It was the new moon, so there would be no moonlight, and the weather was supposed to be stable through some time Sunday.

After two night laps, I hit my first low point. My food strategy was not working well, the borrowed light system that I hoped to get 3 laps from had run dry, and I just felt beat. I spent a while in my pit, drank lots of water and ate as I mounted my good light system. Back out on the course around 10 pm, the elation that comes with good night racing picked me back up. I had better light, I was feeling good again, and the dance of fast singletrack at night got me groovin’. I turned a fast lap, then barely stopped in the pit before starting number 7.

As I finished that lap, half my goal of 14, I hit my next low. I finished it before the 12 hour mark, which meant that I was still on track to make my goal, but I wondered about keeping that pace for the second 12 hours. My knees and torso ached. Demon doubt stared me in the face. Sister Meg was a godsend, fetching me things and rubbing the knots out of my back.

Getting back on the bike after spending any amount of time stopped was becoming difficult. I decided that I would keep plugging at those night laps. If I was going to give up on my goal, it would happen after daylight came. I stopped in camp after every lap before checking in at the start/finish tent. But I was hesitant to stay in the pit for long or sit down. Even five minutes off the bike would cause me to groan with pain and stiffness when it was time to wind back up and ride again.

Early in lap 10 I cleared my nose and started a nosebleed. The light on my bar had been showing me dust in the air since night fell. Now my sinus was fighting back. I rode with blood falling onto my top tube for 10 minutes or so, then stopped at one of the EMT stations and got a paper towel to clean my face and plug the offending nostril. 

Just before 5 am I hit camp, trying to be brief. Just as I was getting ready to leave, my nose started dripping blood again. Then it became a gusher. I had no choice but to sit in a chair with my head back to get it to stop. Sitting felt so good, but I knew I would pay dearly when it was time to go. It took almost 20 minutes to get my nose to stop bleeding, but I knew that I had to get that under control or the whole thing would fall apart.

When I finally started that final darkness lap, I was in pretty hard shape. I was racked with doubt, and part of my brain was building a case for quitting. I have faced emotional difficulty in endurance racing and riding before, but this was like a multiple personality disorder. The quitter personality was gathering evidence to support his case for letting go of the goal. The success-at-all-costs personality was rigidly defending the goal, and creating a scenario for completing the 14 laps. This scenario did not imply being done by noon. That was already clearly impossible. I would be able to complete the 13th lap before noon, then would start the final lap, probably finishing between 1 and 2 PM.

About halfway through that 11th lap I hit the lowest emotional place of my race. It was triggered by the warning from my light system that my time was almost up. This came more than half an hour before twilight was due. I was so beat, and the quitter grabbed the imminent light failure as evidence that the goal was out of reach. If I needed to spend half an hour stopped, waiting for enough daylight to ride, or riding slowly and hoping not to bump into a cactus in the dark, how could I get the 13th lap done before noon? Wouldn’t it be nice to just let go of the goal, and lay down for a while back in camp, then do one more lap maybe? The low battery warning indicator would go back to green, and it would look like the light was going to make it to dawn. But moments later it would cry wolf. This messed with my mind, and I kept chanting to myself “fourteen”. Cactus began to shape shift. Some looked like people, or bears watching me from the dark. Still I turned the cranks, grinding along.

Dim light began to reveal the now overcast sky. Still too dark to ride singletrack without light, but twilight was coming. As I turned onto double-track about 2/3 of the way through that lap, my light shut itself off. The twilight was still very dim, but I could see the dirt road. And after so many trips around this circle, I knew where I was. I looked ahead at the eastern horizon and saw the first rose color of sunrise.

When I got to singletrack again, it was light enough to ride. I no longer needed my spent light system. I had never needed to stop or slow down. Quitter had been wrong.

As I slowly wound along on the singletrack, I caught up with a woman who asked me if I wanted to pass. I sounded like Eeyore when I responded that it didn’t matter, telling her I was a solo who was shelled.

“Are you solo?” I asked. 
“No, I’m just slow and out of shape. We’ll ride in to finish this lap together.” Turns out she was also from Colorado, and she was sharing camp with a 32-year-old solo woman who had suffered a stroke earlier in the year. I asked how this solo woman was doing, and she told me she was doing great. 

Talking with this companion really helped, along with the daylight. My sanity seemed to be returning. 

As I rode I decided I would stop in camp and make some hot scrambled eggs. It would take some time, but that no longer seemed to matter. If I was going to keep going, I should eat what I wanted. And I wanted hot eggs with bacon rolled up in a tortilla--with plenty of salt, and mayonnaise.

So I did it, I stopped in camp and Meg made hot breakfast for me. I was in camp for nearly 40 minutes. I sat down with no guilt. Then I left to do one more lap. That would be fine. I creaked and groaned, staggered through the start/finish, and then wound myself up for one more lap as the morning light washed over everything. 

That food went to work on me. I got the most incredible boost, and soon I was railing singletrack almost as fast as I had been 15 hours earlier. I looked at my watch and realized that all I needed to do was two laps in less than 4 hours, then I could still do a final one starting just before noon. Fourteen. 

The idea excited me, and I rode like I was fresh. I was full of confidence and pride. I had ridden through the night, and I would make my goal.

As I neared the end of the lap, rather than riding into camp I shouted to Meg, “Hey, I’m going for it, fourteen. I’m not going to take a pit stop now. Can you bring some provisions to the start finish in about 90 minutes?” 

She said of course she would, and “Go for it!” I rode to the start/finish like a champion, checked in, and then took off to ride number 13.

I made a key mistake right at the beginning of the 13th lap. When I hit the first hard climb, I didn’t shift down into a low gear soon enough. I stood and tried to hammer up. My left knee complained, and sent a shock of pain up into my dazzled and frazzled brain. I tried to shift down, but wound up getting off and pushing. After I remounted the pain in that knee became well-established. It took the excitement out of me, and set me back to the slogging pace that I’d kept through most of the night.

Right at the place where my lights had shut off on the previous lap, I ran into my friend June. “How many do you have?” she asked. 

“This is thirteen, but I think I’m going to do one more.”

“Good for you!” she shouted after me.

As I continued, a strong rider came alongside me, standing on his pedals. 

“Hey, so you’re riding solo?” 

“Yeah”, I said, “it’s my first time. Have you ever done a solo before?” I asked, assuming he was a team rider since he was looking so strong. 

“Yeah, I’ve done a few.”

“The night is so long when you ride through the whole thing!” I said. 

“It really was long, wasn’t it?” 

“So you’re solo too? How many laps do you have?”

“Eighteen. I’m in second place right now. I can’t sit down anymore.” He was shooting nervous looks over his shoulder. “The number three guy is somewhere pretty close behind me right now.”

“Damn! Congratulations! So Tinker is first?”

“Yeah, that guy is unbeatable. He was having some equipment problems during the middle of the night so I had some hope, but then he got his bike straightened out and took off. He’s so good…”

“Well good luck to you!” I shouted, “And congratulations!”

He said thanks and good luck, shot a glance over his shoulder and rode on. It was an inspiration to have someone at his level take the time to ride at my pace to talk with me when clearly he had no time to spare. Turns out it was Dave Harris, and he did take 2nd Men’s Solo.

Even with that kind of inspiration, the reality of my situation became clear as I mounted the climb to the course high point in the last few miles of the lap. Even staying in a low gear, my left knee was shooting pain with every pedal stroke. I had time to get to the start/finish by noon, it was just a little after 11:30, but I started worrying about whether I was in danger of permanently damaging my knee. 
I’m no spring chicken--but I would like to get at least a few more decades out of these old knees. Sanity and clarity began to ring in my tired brain. 

“This is your first 24 hour race. You have learned some good lessons, you know what to expect if you do another one, and you’ve raced a fine race. Furthermore, if you stop you can eat and drink lots of things, and you can have some ibuprofren! And perhaps you can actually witness the awards ceremony rather than riding until mid-afternoon on a sore knee.”

So this is what I did. I stopped riding just before noon. I went into my trailer and got some pain relievers, ate some food, drank some gatoraide, then rolled my race bike down to the start/finish and clocked out my final, 13th lap just after noon. Then I walked my bike back to the trailer and ate some more food. Meg brought me ice for my knees. Then I laid down for just a moment, and slept through the awards ceremony. 

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Technicolor Disney Desert

 I have arrived in Palm Desert, CA, where my parents spend their winters.

I'm here to visit, and to ride in the 2007 Tour de Palm Springs. I've done this ride before, and it's quite a spectacle. Thousands and thousands of riders. Megabuck unobtanium road sleds are out there with Wal-mart clunkers. Tandems haul trailers full of dogs. Recumbants. Very old and very young riders. Thousands. It's like a critical mass only with t-shirts and aid stations. Vast aid stations. Fifty-porta-potty aid stations. Many of them. Bizarlo.

But this year all previous years' pomp and circumstance will be trumped. This year, Monte Hall will be the Honorary Cyclist.

I have shared race courses with famous folks like Travis Brown and Alison Dunlop, and that was cool. But how exciting is this? What's behind door number two Monte? I get tingly when I think that I could be out there sharing the tarmac with the Game Show Hosts' Game Show Host. I will never be a pro cyclist, obviously, but if I play my cards right and maybe get the right advice from The Master, I could be a game show host. I think maybe I have a new career goal.

Think of the groupies!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Race Camp Established

 The POD has been moved into the spot she will occupy during the race. I will be operating out of that camp with the help of my generous little sister Meg, and my good friends Scott and Kym Campbell will also be racing (Duo) out of this camp.

The POD is literally less than 200 feet from "Wahoo Rock", which is known by folks who've done the race. The race course trail splits less than a quarter mile from the start/finish, one route (to the left) goes through a rock garden then down a steep granite face probably near 30 feet long. The right-hand fork goes around the rock outcropping, and the two trails meet up again just downhill from where the POD is closest to the trail. That junction is perhaps 300 feet from camp.

These photos were taken of camp from the top of Wahoo Rock:

The trail junction and my neighbors' encampment are visible in the second photo to the right.

Today I'm off to visit the parents in SoCal.

It's all happening soon. Wahoo!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Monday dawned windy, but quite warm. I did some organizing and minor trailer repair, then lubed up my chain and hit the race course. I did two hot laps, with the addition of some singletrack options that aren’t part of the course. I rode probably a little over 40 miles at a mostly brisk pace.

I went quite a bit quicker than I would be advised to ride during the race. I won’t make it past midnight if I try to establish such a hot pace--at least given my current level of fitness. I’m feeling very good and fit, and I think I’ve made good use of my training time. But honestly, I’ve only had about 5 weeks to really get ready for my first 24 hour solo effort. I need to keep a strong sense of my limits or I’ll wind up hurting really badly by dawn.

It was a tiring day, but a fun day too. The best part is that I rode for the whole time in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. Wow, what a luxury! The weather here still isn’t what you would call hot, but it’s certainly quite a bit warmer than it was for all of January.

I probably won't do many hard rides. Saturday I'll be doing the Tour of Palm Springs, a huge century ride (there are usually ~10,000 participants). I am going to try to go at an easy pace, and I guarantee that I'll do lots of wheel-sucking. But that'll probably be the longest, hardest ride I do between now and Saturday the 17th. Today I'll go tweak my Fisher, adjusting brakes and such so that it won't have a wrench near it for a week before the big day.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Good Long Day

Saturday was a wonderful day. Cool but not too cool. Sunny, and almost no W-I-N-D.

It was time for me to get back on the training horse with a vengeance. It was one of the very few days I’ve been here so far when it was not difficult to get going by 9:00 AM. Well, almost nine anyway. I was all ready to go at a bit after nine, the POD was locked, the bike was loaded, and I pulled on my pack and got ready to mount up. I put my hand on the Fisher’s handlebar and noticed that I was wearing no gloves. Gaah! It’s always that way this winter with me! I need an assistant to get me all rigged up. Invariably I have to get into the trailer one more time--or two, or three more. Every time I put my keys in the pack I laugh at myself. Sure, I’m done in the trailer. Right. Peel the pack back off, get out the keys, grab the gloves, lock back up (laughing about how I’ll probably need in two more times) and put everything back on again.

At 9:15 I roll. Even with the silly dance I did getting outfitted, I was leaving relatively early. And I didn’t need to stop immediately to put on a jacket! Nice!

My plan was to first go ride an unofficial loop of singletrack that my neighbors have named Painter Boy. It was created last winter covertly right under their noses. They were aware that someone was making a trail out there, a builder that they call Stick Man because he doesn’t use any tools, and just marks turns by laying sticks down. The approach is minimalist; just ride it, never move any soil, never cut vegetation. The routing is inconsistent, sometimes really nice and rideable, other times just plain dumb--straight up and down the fall line. It reminds me quite a bit of the “secret” trails constructed around Salida.

It was called “Painter Boy” because the builder(s) marked many turns by building cairns then painting the rocks bright white, and by painting huge white arrows on larger rocks. A local bike club claimed the honor of having built it last year and put a map and glowing commentary on their web site. The State of Arizona, who owns the land here, was shown this web site and the trail. They were furious, and they ordered the web site to remove the map, and they told the painters to do something about the defaced rock. The solution was to paint the white stuff over with beige. One of my neighbors is from Crested Butte, and he named the trail “Painter Boy” in honor of the mine in CB, and the fact that these “kids” got their hands slapped for painting.

My neighbor the JuneBug had shown me and a group from Tucson the trail a week or so ago. I wanted to GPS it, just for the heck of it. It goes through some pretty country, but the routing makes it annoying and it’s difficult to follow at times. And there are several barbed wire fences to crawl under or climb over. But I wanted to record it for posterity. So I rode the sucker pretty quickly. I made a less-than-6-mph pace even though I was not loafing. It GPS’d at almost exactly 6 miles.

The famous Jerry Q, former Mayor of 24 Hour town, riding Painter Boy

After I did that I made my way through the venue to the Willow Springs Road. I did not want to spend my whole day out here since there are a ton of people around now that it’s a weekend only 14 days from the race. So I rode south out of the venue on the Fisher, then hit the pavement and rode to Catalina. From there I climbed up the Golder Ranch Road to intersect the Fifty Year Trail. My plan was to climb up to the end of Fifty Year and then maybe ride the Deer Camp trail I’d heard about.

It was perhaps 12:30 when I got to Fifty Year. I’d been on the bike for 3 hours, but lots of it had been relatively easy. The trip down Willow Springs Road and the highway had been mostly downhill and down wind. The climb up Golder Ranch was not very hard by Colorado standards.

Fifty Year is really a great trail. I had several miles of the fun, swoopy part before I came to the Chutes and started climbing. It was a surprise that there weren’t more riders up there. I ran into quite a few mountain bikers, then a group of 15 relaxed and friendly horse people from Missouri (their horses were wet with sweat).

There are a number of brief anaerobic efforts in and above the Chutes. I started feeling overdressed and underfed. I peeled off my arm warmers and continued. As the trail wound up into a Saguaro forest, I stopped again and took off my leg warmers. Riding with short sleeves and shorts felt great. But I was definitely starting to feel that the bottom was within reach. It was around 2:00 PM. I had a minimum 2-hour ride home. A good hard training ride was definitely in order, but bonking is never a good idea. When I ran into a gate that formed with upper end of the Fifty Year Trail, it was pretty clear that I should just turn around and go home. I want to see the Deer Camp Trail, but not at the cost of a bad bonk.

The northern end of Fifty Year, snowy Mt Lemmon in background

I took the fun descent down through the Chutes, then the fast section of Fifty Year back to the trailhead at the end of the Golder Ranch Road. Good fun. Then I rolled down into and back up out of the deep and wide Cañada del Oro wash, then down to the highway. I turned north into a cool headwind. Ah yes I thought, good thing I turned around.

I started home around 3 and actually arrived at the POD at 5:15. I wasn’t bonking, but I was really tired. I warmed up some leftovers. I sat down at the table and using a spatula to load my plate I immediately dropped a warm hamburger onto my lap. It was as if I was drunk.

Pretty danged good day, in spite of the stain on my pantleg.

Saturday, February 3, 2007


 When you live in a tiny trailer, crappy weather feels permanent. I spent a day and a half in an 8x8 space reading and working on a laptop not connected to the internet. It felt like a week. 

I could have driven to town to be in a different space and get on the internet, or to get other things to read, or to rent a dvd, but that really isn’t consistent with the spirit of this journey of mine. I did not come here to live like I do when I’m at home. And frankly, at home I don’t start up a vehicle every time I want something that is not available in my immediate area. 

There were also practical reasons for me to avoid leaving the POD during the last several days of bad weather. The road I would need to drive almost 10 miles each way when I leave and return gets very slick and messy in bad weather. My truck was already a mess, but packing even more adobe mud into the undercarriage doesn’t seem like a great idea, especially when it is not necessary. And it would be possible to actually have an accident or get stuck. There are some stretches of clay that are crowned and get incredibly slippery when saturated. I’ve seen a few vehicles get stuck in the ditch, and the truck has wiggled around a couple times on those wet stretches, even in 4-wheel-drive. And then of course there is the cost of going even without mishap.

Beyond all those reasons is my desire to live in a more zen existence and therefore to council myself—this time is not ideal, but bad weather passes.

That has turned out to be true. This too did pass. I woke up Friday morning with a large moon shining in my eyes. Stars were visible from horizon to horizon. When dawn came it was clear. The desert, which loves moisture, looked fat and satisfied. There was thick, frosty ice on the truck’s windshield. But I scraped it, loaded up the truck and got going early. I had a list of things that weren’t frivolous or unnecessary, and I wanted to get to pavement before the road thawed. Along with my laundry, water jug, and grocery list I loaded up the Surly. 

I parked in a Pima Community College parking lot on the west side of town at mid-morning, pulled on lycra (including legwarmers—it was sunny but less than 55°) and rolled out to climb over Gates Pass toward the low desert beyond the Tucson Mountains. My legs felt fresh after two days of forced rest. It only took about half an hour for me to summit Gates Pass and zoom down the western side. I found an almost deserted road (McCain Loop Road) that rolled up and down through the Saguaros in Tucson Mtn Park then exited the Saguaro forest to the west and rolled down a long gradual descent on Mile Wide Road. I headed west until the road turned to dirt, followed the dirt until it turned north, then turned around and headed back up. I went south to the Ajo Highway and followed that east back into the Tucson basin and rode surface streets back up to the Pima Community College. About three hours, never felt the need to remove the leg warmers, but it was so wonderful to ride in sunshine. It was wonderful to ride. 

I got back to the truck around 2:00 PM, spent the rest of the day running around getting things taken care of, like laundry, groceries, a shower, then returned to the POD as the sun was setting. Surprisingly, the road was still pretty wet even though the sun had shown on it all day. It’s gotten really beat up since I’ve been here. 

The evening was so sweet and pretty, I felt compelled to mount the lights on my bike and go ride for an hour or so. I had a really nice, really easy 90 minutes on the bike. Then went back to the POD and ate dinner, watched an episode of South Park on my laptop, and hit the hay. 

Back to the life I came here to live. Yeah baby!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

 This morning (first day of February) a news guy on the radio announced that this had been the coldest January in Phoenix in 30 years. Super. I’m so happy to have been part of this historic January!

Yesterday I dashed off early on my Surly (heh!) when the low clouds looked ominous but there was as yet no rain to the post office in Oracle. Fifteen miles, more than half of it dirt--seemed like I could make a surgical strike and be back at the POD before the inevitable rain started falling.

The road was soft with Tuesday’s rain, so it was difficult to carry momentum. Then the drops started to fall. It wasn’t blowing in from the west or the north, the clouds all around were dropping lower and it began to rain all around me at once. I got a good soaking in pissing rain just as I hit the highway. I climbed into Oracle with traffic hissing by raising mist. I got to the post office just before it opened and went inside to peel off my wet windbreaker and replace it with the rain jacket. I wasn’t cold because I’d been climbing, but the ride home was going to be chilly.

Luckily the rain stopped and I only had chilly wind, wheel wash off the pavement, and then an even softer dirt road to contend with on the way back. When I returned to the POD I considered doing a quick mtb ride, since it was windy but not raining, but my feet were numb and I was cold. So I went inside to warm up. By the time I was halfway warmed rain returned, and then hard wind-driven sleet, then even more rain.

Blah. It’s been a good trip, really. And Colorado has had a really harsh winter that I haven’t been too disappointed about missing. But man, I have nearly worn out my leg warmers and winter jerseys. And who would have guessed that it would have been a good idea to rig up fenders for the Trucker before heading down to AZ to ride? An hour before dawn, I sit in the POD listening to rain and sleet coming down outside as the heater fires up and runs--again.

At bed time last night the gibbous moon shone in a mostly clear sky, and the promise of a clear day sent me to sleep with a hopeful smile and visions of tacky singletrack dancing in my head. Will today be another day spent lounging around reading or passing time driving to town to surf the internet?

The weather has sure been a pain in the ass for the last 8 months or so. Let’s hope that it’s just El Niño or bad juju or some other temporary shit. Cyclists in the west may be praying for the return of the drought this year.