I had kind of been waffling about doing El Tour de Tucson. I've ridden it in the past for bike patrol, which is a whole other type of riding. Lots of stopping, lots of working on bikes, and overall being out on the course until the sun goes down. As bike patrol, I would always ride my commuter cyclocross bike with the trunk on the back, so that I could carry all the tools and supplies needed. And in the past I never really considered riding the tour as a rider since my bike choices were either my cyclocross bike (which is heavier in commuter trim) or one of my mountain bikes. The tri bike was out due to the aero bars. But this year I finally pulled the trigger and got a real bonafide road bike, so the thought of the tour entered my head about 2 weeks before the race.
Now I am not trained for the tour, but wanted to start getting back into doing longer rides. The 66 mile distance was perfect. Long enough for a challenge and to get a good ride in, but not too long to turn me into roadkill. I posted that I was thinking about doing the 66 mile event on Facebook, and Liane chimed in and asked what speed I was planning to ride. Speed? I was planning on an easy ride at a pace that would ensure I would be able to walk the next day. But because I signed up a week before the race, I paid a lot more in entry fees. So to make up for it, I planned to partake of as many snacks on the course as possible. In triathlon you get used to having to carry everything with you for surviving an entire day of racing. You can't leave the course if you forget your snacks, or have someone hand you snacks over the fence. But in El Tour, there are a ton of snacks provided. And if there wasn't something that I wanted there would be Circle K's along the way. Thus El Snack Tour de Tucson was born.
Liane met me at my house and we rode the 7.4 miles to Udall park for the start. We met up with Tri Girl Rose and hung out until the ride began. Then we were off on our snack tour. Liane and I chatted the entire way, because you can't be on a snack tour and not be chatty and social. Our first stop was the Sabino Creek crossing. It took some time to cross the creek, but I didn't mind as our first snack stop was right after the wash. I snagged 2 cookies while Liane opted for a banana. I only went with 2 cookies, because you have to pace your snacking in the El Snack Tour. Go out too fast on the snacking, and you won't have any room for future snacks. If they are good snacks you will be mad you screwed up your snack pacing.
The next aid station we skipped, because the sign out front said "Water and Bathrooms." We didn't need either of those. So we continued on up Sunrise, then over to Oracle. By this point I did need water, so we pulled into the aid station at Catalina State Park. I refilled my water bottles, and took a look at the snacks. Hmmm...only fruit. A very poor showing of snacks. I took a few bites of watermelon, then we were off. The wind was now very noticeable as we rolled through the Rancho Vistoso area, and Liane mentioned pretzels would be good right about now. I agreed, as we were reaching the point in the ride where carbs and salt would taste good. We pulled into the next aid station and they had kids out front with trays that had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Oh my gosh were those good! Liane and I both took 2 small sandwiches. It was time to go back out into the wind, but I was much happier after my PB&J.
I told Liane that I remembered a few years back there was an aid station around that area that had Girl Scout cookies, and if they were there this year we HAD to stop. I was not passing up Girl Scout cookies. Our conversation then turned to our favorite Girl Scout cookie flavors and how evil they are and how easy it is to eat an entire box. We almost missed the next station but at the last minute spotted the Girl Scout flag. We quickly pulled into the pit stop and I grabbed a peanut butter chocolate cookie and a caramel shortbread. No samoas or thin mints. Darn it! But PB would have to do. This wasn't too far after our PB&J stop, so I only took 2 cookies.
Back out on the road and the wind. We skipped the next aid, because we could see from the road they only had fruit. We were getting good at spying the snacks from the road and just doing a drive-by without having to stop. If it was just fruit, we kept going. On Tangerine we drafted behind a big guy, and for those few minutes we looked like we were actually in a bike race. That is, until the next aid station appeared. This aid station was off the road just before the train tracks and where we would have to cross under I-10. The aid station was packed with people, and I could only see one little tent. It wasn't looking good. We went into drive-by mode and almost didn't stop until at the last minute we saw the most awesome sight ever: the Eegee's truck. We both yelled "Eegee's!" and pulled in and dropped our bikes. They had lemon, strawberry, and pina colada eegee's in plastic cups, already served up so you just grabbed your cup and go. We stood around and ate our eegee's, which tasted wonderful. No wonder so many people were stopped there!
After the eegee's break it was back onto the roads, and the crappy road section out by Picture Rocks. It's like Euclid road only longer. We knew there was a hill to climb, but there would be an aid station after the downhill. At this point we REALLY wanted pretzels. Pretzels would have complimented my eegee's quite well. We jammed up the hill, coasted down the other side, and pulled in to another aid sation that only offered fruit. Grrr! No pretzels. I ate some of the contingency snacks that I had brought along and took a slice of watermelon.
The lack of pretzels was affecting our mental state as we cranked along the Frontage road. Dust was blowing across the road and we were getting sandblasted. We were leap frogging with Tri Girl Marlene, who was doing the 109 mile distance. Liane and I dropped back again to do a drive-by of the next aid, which just had fruit. Again with the fruit! Things were looking bad. We were also tired of sitting on our bikes. Thankfully the last aid station saved us. We pulled into a parking lot, dropped our bikes, and were greeted with chocolate brownies, chocolate chip pumpkin bread, and pretzels! I was on snack sensory overload. I grabbed a brownie and started chowing that down while grabbing a slice of pumpkin bread and shoving pretzels in my jersey pocket. It was absoloutely wonderful. We seriously considered staying there for awhile and calling Liane's husband Nate to tell him that the finish line had moved and it was now located in this parking lot where the brownies were.
I was perfectly content to stay with the brownies, but Liane said we had to go and actually finish the ride so we got back on the bikes to finish the last 5.5 miles. I had packed enough pretzels in my pocket to be able to eat a pretzel each remaining mile. Liane was surviving on Tootsie rolls. The last few miles of a ride are always the longest, so the pretzels at least gave me something to enjoy. We rode to the finish downtown, crossed the timing mat, and found Nate. Liane and I then had to find the real food. I was prepared because I knew you had to buy the good stuff. The free stuff included bagels and more dreaded fruit. We got our medals then made our way to the food court where we scarfed down pizza and sodas. Both tasted wonderful and were the perfect ending to our El Snack Tour de Tucson.