Climbing up Catalina Highway to Mt. Lemmon is a perfect springtime training ride. The desert floor warms up, but most of the mountain highway stays cool in the morning. Even chilly in the shade. My training plan called for 3 x 20 min L4 intervals with 10 minute recovery to L1 in between. L4 is a heart rate approaching Lactic Threshold, for me about 159 beats per minute. L1 is a recovery heart rate, below 100.
My training ride began at home, and my first interval started about 14 miles later at milepost zero of Catalina Highway. After I started my intervals, I didn't see L1 until I was back home sitting on my couch.
My first interval went well, I rode a moderately hard pace and stayed 155-160 bpm. Feeling perky and even fast until a man in a plaid jersey blew past me with not even a hello. Really, who wears plaid? Then I attempted to recover, while still climbing, and my heart rate would not go below 145.
OK, time for interval number 2--this time, there were some flattish sections and I even passed a couple other riders. My heart rate went into the 160s. I saw quite a few cyclists descending, most wearing jackets. On the upside of the highway, sweat dripped down the side of my face.
Recovery in the 140s again. As I was recovering, a fellow in a High Road team jersey passed me. It was not Mark Cavendish. I caught him during interval 3 and we rode together from Seven Cataracts to Middle Bear Canyon. Great to have someone to push me harder!
This section I remembered as "flattish" but it wasn't, had to get in my granny gear between Milepost 9 and 11. Oh, I dropped him in the granny gear section, and he couldn't catch me on the flat section! After 11, the road was beautifully flat beneath the ponderosa pines.
Rock formation above Middle Bear Canyon parking area.
I pulled over to the parking area at about Milepost 12 to put on arm warmers and vest for the descent, and my temporary riding companion rode on by, going all the way up perhaps?
Here's a video, start of ride down (Milepost 12 to 11). Beware of wind noise!
On the way down, I stopped at Seven Cataracts to take some pictures. Met two U of A students who rode fixed gear bikes up and down the mountain. They were charming and I was suitably impressed.
My fast descent continues with wind making my bike wobbly in certain sections. At about Milepost 6, I started to feel the desert heat again, rising up through Molino Canyon. I took a break to take some pictures of the views toward the Rincon Mountians:
Then I turned the other way and took the obligatory saguaro cactus shot:
I saw a mountain biker coming up the road, said hi, and he waved back. Then I realized from the Specialized jersey that it was Todd Wells, U.S. National Mountain Bike Champion! I jumped back on my bike, still in the big gears of descending and rode after him uphill to try to say a real hello. Unbelievably, I caught him and could gasp/ask where are you headed? And he said "Milagrosa" a technical mountain bike trail. I wished him good luck with the rest of his season and he thanked me for the articles I had written. He was so cordial!
I flew down the mountain, happy to see such a cycling superstar in my hometown. At the bottom of the mountain, the rude headwind impaired my speed. It's not supposed to be hard to go downhill to Tanque Verde Road. But it was hard, and it was hot, and my cross-town journey seemed interminable.
Back on the meandering bike path, trying to spin down, I felt the kiss of a tailwind, enjoyed the blooming yellow palo verde trees and sparkling blue spring sky.
A little more than four hours after I started, I was home with waffles, yogurt, shower. Sat down on the couch, and finally recovered to my L1 heart rate.