Mt Lemmon: Do it for the cookie

I first heard about Mt Lemmon from my former boss who is quite a talented Masters Cycling athlete. He told me then that it is known as the worlds longest continuous hill climb. This blog is about todays climb of Mt Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona and the week just past with 13 days till IRONMAN 70.3 St George, Utah.20180422_160813


We live in Rancho Sahuarita, AZ. The resort-style development has a large gym and a 25m pool. The pool was closed this week so I only swam 4.2KM Saturday and then this morning 4.2KM at 8AM after it opened.

I ran 5m Monday, 10m Tuesday, a half marathon in 1:44 on Thursday, and 5m on Saturday. I had every intention to run more today but my legs are shot. Right now I’m in the Normatec’s drinking another plant-based protein recovery drink.

I cycled 1 hr Monday, 48min Tuesday, 2hrs on Wednesday including 4x5min @ 364, 355, 336, 322 and then 4x8min at 288, 287, 290, 291. I fell apart on the V02 Max/FTP work due to fatigue from prior weekend but hung on with 70.3 Race Intensity for the 2nd piece. 3min rec and then 2min rec for the sets.  Friday another 1hr32min ride with 3x9min at 306, 311, 304 (sweet spot). Then Saturday morning joined a group ride for 1hr15min, added a 2nd ride shortly after of 53min.

After todays ride, I climbed 9,741 feet for the week which is the highest amount in 7 months, completed 18.5 hours of training which is the biggest in 6 months, and totaled 33.2 miles of run which is the same as last week.

Ok, so after my swim, I drove 45min to Mt Lemmon. I would love to ride there but that would add an additional 66miles or 3 hours. I parked at Le Buzz café which is quite famous among the cyclists that gather there after their climbs. I hit the loo and then turned on some Calvin Harris playing out of my phone until my phone hit low battery.

Today marked my 5th ascend of Mt Lemmon.


Like any Tucson day, bright blue skies, small clouds scattered. It was 86F when I started and climbed to 93F, 25min into the ride. It would be a cool 61F at the top and then hit 88F during the decent to the finish. I started out pretty strong at 272Watts for the first 14miles. This helped lead me to my 2nd best 60min power of 2018 at 276watts and 3rd best 90min power of 2018 at 266watts. But grinding away at 65RPM in my lowest gear (42/23) really tired out my legs. But I just kept thinking about how “Strength on the run comes from the bike” and how I really needed to get stronger. So I continued to grind it out. By 80minutes in, my lower back was killing me but, I knew I had at least another 1hr10min to go. So I stuck to it. I only saw 3 cyclists ascending with me, but I saw probably a hundred descending on Mt Bikes, Road Bikes, even one of those elliptical bikes. But, I think I was the only one on a TT bike as is typically the case.


20180422_123603I set 81 Strava achievements on this ride on 82 Segments, most of them being PRs, so I had a great ride today. I mean, the cooler April temperatures, reduced wind, increased bike strength, and not carrying a camelpak filled with water all contributed. But, to give a sense of the shear volume and talent, on the “Mt Lemmon Milepost 0 to 1” segment, I rank 3,333 all time out of 11,589. And today, I was 19th out of 107. And that effort was at 285watts.

One of the key segments is “Mount Lemmon”; it’s the full ascent from bottom to top. Today I improved by 5 ½ minutes to 2:07:11. This ranks me 1,477/6,899. The KOM winner is a former professional road racing cyclist with the first 4 google hits referring to his 4 year ban over a positive test for synthetic testosterone. Fuck that guy! I just unfollowed him. 2nd place is Professional IRONMAN athlete Lionel Sanders.

During the ride I thought about “The Cookie” at a well-known spot at the top. I would earn this cookie today!!! I did have a gel, 3 clif bloks, a wafer, some other gellies, and 3 bottles of Gatorade. I thought about Utah, and how awesome this ride was. I waved to the cyclists coming down, watched the landscape change from the cactus up to 4,000’, then other landscape to 5 and 6,000’, then the camping spots surrounded by giant ever greens that have an amazing aroma, then the bear signs at 7,000’ where I started to feel the lack of oxygen, and then the final climb to 8,000’. Then a decent to 7,500’, another climb with amazing views to the North and Native American lands to 8,000’, then the decent into Summerhaven where stores and restaurants satisfy the quench of cyclists and the hundreds of locals and tourists.20180422_134414

After 2hr32min, I got off my bike and headed straight in for a $7 chocolate chip cookie. It was fresh baked: warm and gooey.


While I haven’t reviewed all 82 Strava segments, I’d say the highlight was coming 1st on the “lemmon down: summerheaven to le buzz”. There were only 8 that did this which tells me less than 10% of the people climbing the mountain go all the way to the top. And my Argon E119 Tri+ with the ZIPP NSW 808’s helped propel me down the mountain in 316th place out of 4,361. I took 8:30 off my time for the 1:04 decent at 26.9MPH. I had a bit more confidence sitting behind a pack of cars at 35MPH but the cigar smoke for the last 10miles sucked. But, usually I don’t have the balls to let it rip. I’m usually sitting on the carbon fiber brake pads to keep me in check. I did hit 45.3MPH but the winds on the mountain just terrify me. 2 notables is after 20min of descending at 35MPH you realize you still have another 13 miles of this. And, once you hit the 4,000’ mark the desert heat hits you like an oven; it’s literally shocking.20180422_123607

Tucson is a world-wide mecca for cyclists and triathletes, especially Professionals. So it’s quite exciting to be able to train on the same roads as these talented athletes. What’s also amazing is seeing Tucson from the many views leading up to 8,000’. It’s such an amazing ride and not a surprise that many teams hold camps here to train.

Sometimes in life you just need to do it, For the Cookie.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s