El Tour 2013 race summary as I saw (and felt) it.

.As you might know, I like to take pictures.  However, this is one race where I left the camera in the bag for the entire race.  I did manage to get a few shots of the 107 mile race as it passed on my way to the start.  I have done the full distance 2 times, and had a tiny bit of remorse for not riding it this year.

See all of the photos of El Tour De Tucson 31 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153536496520154.1073742001.228735085153&type=1

See all of the photos of El Tour De Tucson 31 https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153536496520154.1073742001.228735085153&type=1

My ride was to include coaching El Grupo Youth Cycling in the 57 mile race.  El Grupo had riders in the 80 and 107 mile rides, but I opted the 57 so I could be with my son Samuel.  He had a choice of being the team leader for the shorter distance or hanging on with the longer distance.  For convenience, this ride is the best for us.  We can ride our bikes to the start from home, there are no wash crossings, and 50-60 mile rides are normal weekend  training rides.    I opted to race on my Mountain Bike as I thought it would be more challenging and that I might actually win that category.

From the start of the race El Grupo pushed the pace with very few people passing us.   The team held together until Oracle, but we ended up dropping 3 riders as we headed North.  As soon as we turned onto Rancho Vistoso the wheels started to come off for Samuel.   He had the conditioning and mental strength, but he did not have the best clothing.  The water had penetrated his coat and vest and he was soaked to the core.  As a father it was one of the most difficult things to watch.  Here is my boy, freezing, teeth chattering, still hammering away to stay with the team.  I stripped down to my jersey and gave him my jacket, but it was too late.  His core was chilled and there was no coming back.  He stuck with it until the I-10 rest stop.

When we stopped Samuel could barely lift his leg over the top bar.  We walked in to the medical tent and they helped him make the decision to stop.  A minute later he was stripped of all clothing, wrapped in a heat blanket and in the back of a car heating up.  I sent the team on and stayed with him in the car.   I was also shivering and joined him.  There were two other gentlemen in the car who were also in a world of hurt.  Everyone who was volunteering were so helpful and except for the regular check-ups where they opened the car door allowing the cold air in, I could have stayed there all day. After 30 minutes we were presented with the option of taking a SAG wagon back to the finish line.  Samuels clothing were sopping wet and he was still shivering, it sounded like a good option.  I asked him if wanted me to stay with him or if I could finish the race.  I was hoping he would say “Stay with me Papa”.

As I got out of the car to put my gear back on my teeth started to chatter uncontrollably.  After I was fully dressed I got back in the car.  One of the other riders was talking about getting back on the course, but after seeing me said “you are not doing a good job on encouraging me”.    I have a very difficult time not finishing what I start, so with that in mind I left the warm embrace of the Volvo station wagon and got back in the saddle.

Did you know there are three types of rides?  1- those that are great, and you look back and they are great.  2- Those that suck and you look back and they were epic.  3- Those that suck and you look back and they really sucked.  The first mile was feeling like a SOLID 3.  My  teeth were like a typewriter.  As I headed south on the frontage road a blast of cold wind greeted me.  My thoughts were limited to pedal as hard as possible until a burn in my legs or lungs replaces the chill.  I was fortunate to have a strong rider pass me and I was able to jump on his wheel and that helped block the wind.  I still had to put out a full effort and for the first time during the race was wishing I was not on a Mountain Bike.

I started taking turns pulling after I regained my composure and we started to pick up other riders.  Every time someone passed I’d try and recruit them to ride with us.  The smart ones jumped on and we shared the work load.  The others were all caught eventually and either joined in or were dropped.   With considerable effort and direction I was able to from a rotating pace line.  The miles disappeared.  In the final sprint we all went off at our own pace in anticipation of finishing.  I definitely lost that sprint and was feeling very empty.

It is Monday morning as I type this.  I have had a few days to reflect.  What was this ride on my 1,2,3 scale.  I’m going with a 1 with a few moments of 2.  Riding with people you love and seeing them suffer is far more challenging than suffering myself.  I’m very proud Samuel made it as far as he did.  I’m frustrated he did not have the proper attire that caused his chills.  Like all experiences, we both will learn from this and be more prepared the next time we are racing in the rain.

I did not take many photos during the race, but I did take some of the 107 and the start and finish.  If you are not a fan already, please Like The Damion Alexander Team on facebook.  I post all images there.  Nearly 13,000 to date.

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