Mar 14, 2010

Madera Canyon

Yesterday was the culmination of three hard weeks of training. Last night proved to be a tough night for me. I could feel the mileage in my legs and back. My body was restless and I was just praying for a decent nights sleep. I had made the trek up through Madera Canyon. This proved to be one of the most challenging climbs in all of Tucson. It starts out with 8 miles at 3-4% grade. Miles 8-11 sees grades between 6% and 10%, and miles 11-13 is well above a 15% grade. The very top is 22% to the turn around. For Saturday’s ride, I decided on an 80 mile out and back with the top of Madera Canyon being my turn around point. Since I decided that sleep was more important than this weeks Shootout, I decided to ride the majority of the 80 miles at a mid - high aerobic heart rate.

The route to Madera takes you straight south on Nogales Hwy. The road is fairly smooth, flat and it goes for a long time… perfect conditions for tempo riding on the TT bike. Since I haven’t been riding the TT bike enough, I decided to bust it out for this longer ride. Heading south on Nogales, I had a light headwind. I welcomed the wind because I knew I would fly on the way home. As my heart rate averaged out around 150bpm, I found myself flying towards Madera into the wind. I tried to remind myself about the climb ahead of me. Ever since I turned onto Nogales Hwy, I could see Madera Canyon in the distance. It was amazing looking up at a snow covered mountain 40 miles away while telling myself, “I’ll be at the top of that in a couple hours.”

Slowly, the mountain in the distance became closer and closer. I made the turn onto Whitehouse Canyon Road. The road slightly tilted upward. My heart rate crept up in coordination with the roads. The climb starts at about 2,800ft and tops out at 4,600ft. The first 8 miles were fairly easy, but I knew the worst was to come. Once I reached mile 11, I was ready for the climb to be over. I was already standing and my heart rate was through the roof. Even though I was sucking wind, it was hard not to notice the beautiful landscape on the top of Madera Canyon… thick forest, streams, and snow. I particularly like the signs that remind hikers that this is bear country. Bears were the last thing I wanted to see when I was this tired.

The descent was well worth the climb. Once through the steep section, the road opens up and top speeds can easily be reached. Half way down the mountain, I reached my top speed, 46 mph. It was amazing seeing the entire city of Tucson from the top of this mountain. The only thing that kept me from admiring the view was the thought of falling of my bike at 40mph. I concentrated on the descent.

Once back heading north on Nogales Hwy, I was really able to get into a strong tempo. The wind was slightly at my back, the road was flat, and my legs were already very warmed up. My heart rate was slightly higher, around 155bpm, while I cruised back into town at 25-27mph. Once back into town, the wind stopped helping me, and I settled into a slightly slower pace. My legs were heavy from the climb, but I was happy to have been able to ride hard for the last 3 hours. Overall, I ended up doing around 82 miles in well under 4 hours. The ride had about 2,600ft of total climbing. After the ride, I ran a nice tempo around the U of A campus. I didn’t reach the pace I intended to, but I was satisfied to be working hard. I finished the day’s workout by collapsing into a grassy (dead grassy) area outside of Hillenbrand Pool. I spent a few minutes sucking wind and starring into the sky. It was all about recovery now… I chocked down a protein bar and a recovery drink while I soaked in an ice bath. I followed it by a quick dip in the Jacuzzi. Then, I headed over to Jimmy Johns for a Beach Club with bacon and hot peppers. It wasn’t enough. An hour later, I went to La Salsa for a Three-Pepper Fajita Burrito and a few small bags of chips. I spent the rest of the evening stretching, drinking water, and hoping for a good nights sleep.


  1. It is almost as if I was there with you.

  2. Hey- Stumbled on your blog. Great stuff. Good luck this winter training. Go after it. I'll see you at Rev 3.