Road runners are real.
Travel has brought me to do some spring training in Tucson with Emily and the high 20-degree weather. The desert is an amazing biosphere. While I am used to needing to water the garden and indoor plants at least once a week, plants survive in this dry climate. These are my first cacti encounters.
I have also discovered that flying can really mess with your body. Sure you get tired and feel unhealthy and unclean (breathing all the recycled air, as Emily would say), but my first ride in the sun was a new experience. I have never felt that way before, and at first I was a little concerned that my fitness was in a worse place than I had thought. Another little wrench in my first ride was that my bicycle had not made it to Tucson, and I was kindly leant one of Ben’s bikes. Fortunately we are somewhat similar in height!
If you’ve never been to Tucson, it is almost completely surrounded by mountains. Why do people bike here? Well, almost every street has a designated bike lane, there are bike paths as wide as roads and, yes, it is a warmer area. Cars respect cyclists for the most part, but I had little need to be worried because I usually had at least a metre of road space just for me!
I’m going to tell you about three specific rides.
The first one was through Picture Rocks and Gates Pass. This is where I got to really feel like I was in cactus-land. The road twists and turns through Saguaro National Park, and I was a little worried I might see a rattlesnake. Apparently, they have been known to lunge at bicycle tires now and then. The road climbs up through two much larger mountains, but gives you great views of some of Tucson.
The second ride, which can now be described as monumental, took us south of Tucson towards the Mexican border. We passed beside massive mining areas heading to Box Canyon. Being from a part of the country that only has an ascent of about 10 minutes, this 20km dirt road rose, hugging the Santa Rita Mountains and gave such breath-taking views of the basin. These are the challenges I look for! You’ll never be able to find a “dirt” (I say it in quotations because Tucson is desert, so the roads are more like sand) road that you can climb for 20km in New Brunswick. Overall, the day ended up being my longest ride, hence the monumental part, at 185km.
Finally the ride up and down Mt. Lemmon, the mountain with a restaurant that sells cookies as big as dinner plates! But you don’t climb a mountain for that reason.
It is about 2 hours heading up to the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It was my first time climbing up a hill that went into the snow. The cool thing is that the descent takes a little less than an hour.
This trip has given me lots of firsts, lots of challenges and more than enough memories and beautiful landscapes to remember. It’s one of the reasons why I love what I do. There’s a song by Daft Punk called Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger that rings true to my efforts. I don’t think the lyrics have much meaning, but the title often runs through my mind as I do intervals or climb a little faster or descend a little more aggressively. I have the opportunity to really challenge myself and push my limits, without having to settle.
Never settle, always be better! (On and off the bike!)