Our first night in Tucson actually involved an illegal parking situation in my friend’s neighborhood that resulted in some pissed off HOA folks and a tow notice. One of my Vanderkitten teammates generously offered for us to stay with her and assured us the trailer would fit in her driveway (she even measured it). Apparently another friend had parked their RV in the drive in the past. What she didn’t tell me, and I failed to ask, was the accessibility – like the street situation. I had been nervous about it all day but was busy driving and didn’t contact Michelle to ask for more information. Sure enough, we pull up to the house and the cul-de-sac is crazy steep. I could probably drive up it but there was no way I could maneuver to back the trailer into the driveway. It would literally tip over and I’m not even sure what would happen at that point. Does it just rip off the hitch? Does the truck go down the hill with it? There were no good scenarios running through my head. It was about 8pm so not entirely too late to go find an RV park, but getting close. Michelle suggested we park it in a big flat gravel area next to the neighborhood entrance and promised us she’d seen people park trailers there before for days at a time. I was doubtful but figured it would at least be morning before someone came to harass us.
So we unhitched it and went back to her house to have some [wine and] dinner. I stayed in her guest room and Tom went back to guard/sleep in the trailer. It was nice to have some space, especially considering he had a nasty cough. In the morning we made our way across town to meet Hillary at the Smashfest Queen office for some gab time and shopping. Then we planned to swim at UofA nearby. But when we got in the car I saw a ton of missed calls and frantic messages from Michelle. Apparently the HOA was up in arms and threatening to tow so she was babysitting the Airstream in case they tried to make good on their threat. Now it would actually be quite challenging to tow it off because A) there’s a hitch lock on the ball and B) all the jacks are down. I’m not sure what kind of liability a towing company would take on if they attempted to haul her off and manage to rip it apart in the process. Needless to say no one had shown up but we calmed Michelle and moved her back across town to South Forty, which is really more of a long term resident mobile home park than an RV park. No matter, we weren’t hanging out there. The little old lady checking us in must have been new on the job as she did a celebratory dance upon successful credit card processing. She failed however to return Tom’s driver’s license, which he wouldn’t realize until we got to the campus to swim. Hillary had made a point of telling me we HAD to have ID to get in. He said if they wouldn’t let him in then he’d just go run while I swam. On the sidewalk we ran into my friend (and former bike mechanic) James who had moved out from Charlotte back in June. He gave us his take on the Mt. Lemmon climb (we’d already heard similar versions from Michelle and Hillary), then we made our way to the rec center. Despite signs stating they absolutely required government issued ID for a day pass, they let officer Tom in and we got our outdoor swim on. It was heavenly. I’m feeling good in the water these days which is nice – especially since I’m running at a turtle’s pace and absolutely dying on the bike.
Before the trailer fiasco the plan was to drive out to Sabino Canyon and do a trail run but we were running out of time because I had a much anticipated massage at 5:30. Michelle had told us about The Loop – the bike path that goes all along the “river” so we resorted to doing a short run on it from a lot near the massage studio. I was pleased to discover a soft sandy trail next to the paved bike path so most of the time we ran on that. I had been referred to this massage therapist by another Vanderkitten and he’s definitely one of those “out there” types but so so nice and really really good at what he does. It was exactly what I needed but I was quickly deflated by Tom’s frustration with my appointment running over which left him waiting in the truck for 30 minutes. We haven’t done much on our own since we started this trip and I so needed that massage, physically and mentally. But having only the one vehicle means a little coordination and in this instance it left him a little pissed off. So I made a frozen pizza, drank some wine, and stayed in the guest room again, while he went back to the RV park.
There is a group ride on Thursdays that heads up Lemmon – pretty much no one ever goes to the top, but people go as far as they want then turn around. Michelle and her boyfriend were going so we planned to join them to get an early start on the day, but I had a bad case of insomnia and felt nauseous when the alarm went off at 6:30 am (after only 4 hours of sleep) so begged off. Tom finally came over around 10 to get me and we drove to the shop where they were all enjoying their post ride coffees and pastries. Somehow it was 11:15 before we finally got started. Kelly had put it in my schedule as a 4 hour ride, which I figured was a little optimistic for 60 miles even if half of it was straight downhill. But still, we had 6 hours of daylight, so we should be fine, even with a cookie stop at the top. Boy was I wrong.
Take it easy to the bottom they said. The first 3 miles are the worst they said. It’s really over by mile 19 they said. Stop and enjoy the views they said. Don’t look at the mile markers they said. There’s no water till 19.5 they said.
The 4.5 miles to the start of the official climb was still a climb. The first 3 miles were fine, because it’s the beginning. There was no noticeable difference after mile 3. By mile 6 the fun was over. I was going 6mph and was only 1/4 the way up. My expectation of a 3 hour climb just catapulted to 4 hours. Did I have enough nutrition? Fluids? It was clear I didn’t have enough positivity. I started pulling over for breaks not at the scenic vista points. I had to tell Tom to be encouraging. Seriously? I was literally cussing into the canyon. I had done a complete 180 from marveling at the gorgeous scenery in miles 1-6 to not giving a flying f^@k where I was. I was bargaining with myself about how far to go. But the closer I got to mile 15 (a point I’d determined would be acceptable) the more I realized I had to keep going just to get more water (I wasn’t completely out though). At mile 12 I texted Kelly and said there was no way I would earn a cookie (mile 24). Mind you, the grade isn’t terrible, but it’s unrelenting. And the wind. Oh my God, the wind. Plus the elevation. Pretty much over 6000’ I disintegrated. My attitude mostly. I was shaking, dizzy, tearing up. Yet there were 60-70yos descending with smiles on their faces. So clearly THEY had made it to the top. Why couldn’t I? Because I’m fat. And pathetic. A loser. These are the things I was sure of as I ground out 5mph at 60rpm. A disgrace really. Now it made sense why everyone got this grave look on their face when I said I was going to summit Lemmon. I’m not a pro. I’m not a podium finisher. I’m not even in-season in shape. I’m a big fat nobody who has no business trying to bike her way 8000’ in the desert.
But apparently I’m also quite stubborn. And somehow in the middle of all that cussing and self-pity I ground my way to mile 19.5 where we hand pumped some water into our bottles and turned down the ride home from an old guy who had just called his “driver” to rescue him. And all I could about was calories. If there was a vending machine, a general store, anything, I would get a coke and a candy bar and head back down. Turns out the reason everyone talks about the cookie hut is because it’s all there is. So you have to keep riding another 5 miles to Summerhaven to this random little hut that sells pizza, gigantic warm cookies, and hot beverages. It’s rolling, so another mile up, a freezing cold mile down, another mile up, another freezing mile down down down. The thing is, when you can alternate, the ups aren’t nearly as bad. It’s the constant, steady grind that killed me. We were popsicles. I had packed arm warmers, gloves and a vest in my pockets but removed my shoe covers and skipped the base layer Michelle suggested. I had barely stopped shaking when we forced ourselves back out into the cold (seriously, it was 37* up at 8000’ plus the wind!) and at least the climb out of Summerhaven warmed us a tad. I was absolutely serious when I told Tom to find us a ride down, hitchhike, call uber, do whatever. But the one truck he did ask was one driveway away from home and politely declined. Also the officers aren’t allowed to pick up strays so the sheriff guy turned us down too. Commence freezing. The sun was just behind every corner and the shade was extra chilly. I made us stop a few times to take some pics (and unclamp our hands).
The sunset was gorgeous and the temps did rise back around 6000’ but then it got dark. There are no lights on the mountain except cars. Our little bike lights weren’t providing any visual assistance. The descent felt just as never-ending as the climb and wasn’t as enjoyable as it would have been if we weren’t popsicles and scared to death of hitting invisible rocks, cracks, potholes. Ironically, the final 4.5 miles in a proper bike lane on the “flat” road back to the truck were the scariest because still no street lights, lots of cars, tons of debris, oh and a coyote!
We hustled to the restaurant where we were over an hour late to meet the
Vanderkittens for dinner. They congratulated us then scolded us for descending in the dark and not calling someone to fetch us. I downed some wine and started to thaw out.
I was so so happy I didn’t quit but honestly quite embarrassed about my attitude and negativity. Kelly was thrilled with my cookie achievement but the whole thing really made me question my attempt at cycling and wonder how the heck I even finished 2 Ironmans in the first place. Will I ever get the legs for it? Do I need to lose 30 lbs first? Suffer through another 5-10 years before seeing progress? Why do I have so many talented, driven athletic friends that get good so fast? It just plain sucks being bad at something that I so desperately want to be good at.
One more sleep in the comfy guest bed, some errands run, and a short drive to Scottsdale for ironman weekend. If Mt Lemmon didn’t make me feel pathetic and inept then surely a weekend around a couple thousand triathlon junkies would drive it home.