This year's Gila was special as well and I felt an obligation to support the race with my participation even if the race did not really fit in with the training for Race Across the West. I did my best to adjust the training schedule, and to use Gila as a last opportunity to refresh the legs with quality, altitude, and climbing. I descended conservatively, and took no risks in the criterium. I still did a fast 100 mile ride the Saturday before Gila. However, I can assure you that Gila is not an easy race when one is not specifically prepared, especially considering the Masters A are a combined 40+ field. For nearly everyone, Gila is the priority race of the year, the race the entire season of training is focused. I felt like a diesel truck among sports cars, but stronger each day and near the ends of the stages.
My RAW Story, Day 178. 34 days, 22 hours to RAW 2019.
With the arrival of the Tour of the Gila, my first two ultra-endurance blocks in the training plan come to a close. The block was not everything I hoped for. Work and travel competed for time with the planned three-day weekend blocks. Back problems off a great 6 hour Friday ride forced two days completely off the bike. The planned Congress to Flagstaff preride was delayed. Still, there were four weeks over 400 miles (two of them over 500 miles), and 13 rides over 5 hours in just 8 weeks. Just two years ago, I would have been completely buried by this volume, now it feels rather ordinary. I hope it is enough for RAW.
There were some truly epic rides, a solo 165 mile ride up to Kitt Peak and back. Kitt Peak was always just too far to ride--now its not far enough, I had to do a loop in town, and a longer loop back in town to bring it up to 165 miles. I saw a herd of wild horses coming back. The rock buttress north of the Kitt Peak summit is always impressive. The 9 hour with two dog sitting stops was fabulous too... finishing well past sunset. One of the more epic rides was the humbling ride to Windy Point. Just when I thought 6 hours was "easy", between the 40 mph winds, and the first day in sustained >90 degree heat, I finished up on impulse power. Experience got me home without a rescue, but lessons were learned, and heat accumulation is still to come.
The plan ahead it to head off to Tour of the Gila. I love Gila--a race I first did in 1991. Gila is a classic American amateur stage race, one of the last of its kind. Last year was the first return to Gila in over 20 years. This year I return with a different goal and perspective. This year, its about riding fast, some sustained climbs at altitude, and having some time relaxing at the cabin. Two years ago the 70 mile road stages would have seemed long. This year, they will feel more like a sprint. Gila starts with the 70 mile road race to Mogollon--a route so epic, so European, so cool. I still remember the first time in 1991, climbing shoulder to shoulder, 6 abreast, with the peloton spread out ahead up the climb.
Returning from Gila, I'll have three more weeks of big volume. Hopefully we will get the Congress to Flagstaff pre-ride in. I'm still hoping to pack in some 10+ hour rides, then resting the final two weeks into RAW. There is still so much planning to finish up. My son Jack is now on the crew, flying from Minneapolis to Oceanside to support! He helped get me through my 14 hours Dirty Kanza 2014. My crew impresses me...each brings something very special to our team: unique experiences, perspectives, and skills. Just 42 more days and it all begins.
My RAW Story, Day 170, 42 days, 16 hours to RAW 2019.
That's why we plan so much. In just 70 days at RAW, at the 310 mile point riding into Bouse AZ late in the morning on Day 2, I will ride beyond where we have gone before, but I trust my crew and I will be able to act like we have been there before.
My RAW Story, Day 142, 70 days, 5 hours to RAW 2019.
My RAW Story, Day 128. 84 days 15 hours to RAW 2019.
At noon today, the RAW countdown clock ticked through 100 days. By coincidence, today also ended my block of racing in the RAW Training Plan. The next eight weeks will likely be the highest volume weeks of the buildup to RAW, and in my 34 years of cycling. Every week will push a new limit. 30 hour training weeks will become the norm. The only race remaining on the calendar is Tour of the Gila. More on that below. Its been 113 days of training and preparing for RAW since Day Zero--its been quite a ride. We even had our story about RAW in the University of Arizona Daily Wildcat.
The Next 99 Days
The next 99 days will be super busy, and I'm sure will have its special moments and its character building moments. From a training perspective, I start the weekend triples this next weekend. By the end of the first block, I hope to have all three rides over 6 h, and have the longest of the rides up in the 10-12 hour range. The plan has five weekends of the triples, but I hope to fit 6-7 in before Gila, now that an "easy" weekend is a 5-6 hour ride. I still find it so remarkable what we can train our bodies and minds to accomplish so much--make it a new normal. I would have never thought I could become so accustomed to 20+ hour training weeks, and 100 mile rides. More daylight and warmer mornings will help. I'll be working more to get the feed on the bike up from 350-400 calories per hour to 500 calories an hour. Maria Crawford and Edge will be helping me watch my body composition and nutrition.
Finally, there is still a ton of planning. About half the route now has a detailed plan up on the web site. The timesheet is also up, and has been a great tool for figuring out support, leapfrog and direct follow requirements, knowing that we descend through Jerome in the dark, and other details, and little details like the McDonalds in Camp Verde AZ closes at midnight, and Starbucks at 9:30. New jerseys with Arizona Greyhound Rescue on them will be ordered this week. Greyhounds on the kit! How awesome is that? We have an Amazon Wish List, and invite you to help if you would like to support the race and the crew. Better yet, please consider a donation to Arizona Greyhound Rescue, give one of these majestic retired athletes a loving forever home, or spread the word about Sol Dog Lodge.
My RAW Story, Day 113, 99 Days 16 hours to RAW 2019.
Arizona Greyhound Rescue has been operating in Southern Arizona for over 25 years. They are committed to the belief that every sighthound deserves a loving, permanent, and responsible home--their "forever home". AGR is an all volunteer organization that relies exclusively on donations and grants. In addition to placing retired greyhounds, AGR also works with local shelters to retrain and rehome all breeds, and helps place rescued sighthounds as service dogs with individuals with disabilities and veterans.
The AGR Capital Campaign is supporting the development of Sol Dog Lodge. Sol Dog Lodge is part of a comprehensive plan by AGR to enable the organization to rescue and place more dogs, and to help AGR achieve growth and financial self-sufficiency. Sol Dog Lodge will be a non-profit operation that will provide kennel services for all breeds awaiting adoption, top quality daycare and overnight boarding to the public, veterinarian care, assessment and training facilities to support AGRs mission. Sol Dog Lodge will also provide emergency boarding for pet owners facing their own personal challenges that might prevent them from caring for their own companions. Sol Dog Lodge will be located just a few miles from our house in Northwest Tucson. Sol Dog is expected to break ground on their new site this summer, and open in late 2019 or early 2020.
Please check out Arizona Greyhound Rescue and Sol Dog Lodge on the web. We are excited to be teaming with such a visionary organization that not only rescues greyhounds like Chevy and Napa, but does so much more for the community though Heartfelt Hounds and in the future through the facilities that Sol Dog Lodge will provide. You can expect to see more in the future as we work together over the next four months... and soon, greyhounds on the signature RAW 2019 yellow checkered race kit!
My RAW Story, day 95, 117 days, 16 hours to RAW 2019.
My RAW Story, Day 92, 120 days 15 hours to RAW 2019. (Only four months!)
With some of the interruptions over the holidays to the training, I replanned the first two weeks of the Race Block to be more Endurance... sort of a addendum to Endurance Block 2. The first week was a bit of a bust, I missed Saturday completely, just did not feel like sitting on the bike for 8+ hours, and just stayed home. So I didn't. Somedays are like that. The next day I got in a ride around Park Link, 78 miles. Six months ago, this would have seemed like a long ride, now it seems like not much at all. This week, I got the wheels back on. My mood improved as the new RAW 2019 custom jerseys came in, Light & Motion offered to support me with discounted lighting, and I'm likely to be adding a charity partner for RAW 2019 supporting cause Cathy and I both feel passionately about. Uplifted by all of this, I finished up the block with back to back 7-8 hour rides, the first with 6400 ft of climbing, and the second with 5.5 hours of headwinds. It was a 503 mile/29 hour week of training. I'm tired.
My RAW Story, Day 60, 152 days, 6 hours to RAW 2019.
My interest in ultracycling dates back when I first started seriously riding a bike in college in the early 1980s. This is my RAW story preparing to complete the Race Across the West in 2019.