I think a lot of the day 1 riders chose to sit out day 2, so it was a much smaller crowd on the start line on Sunday than it was on Saturday. It was also a pretty relaxed send off, as the organizers pretty much said "Go" while a lot of riders weren't even at the start line, but I don't think anyone was too upset about it. I certainly wasn't, and took a few extra minutes getting ready before I rolled out.
The course was MUCH better marked the second day, I suppose because they weren't playing it by ear so much. The first day I spent a lot of time wondering where I was, but this was not a problem on day 2. We rode north out of Cottonwood, and did some climbing at the beginning, but then turned east and rode down into Oak Creek Canyon. After hitting the bottom of the canyon (it's pretty, but I'm not sure it's a canyon!), we did some moderate climbing for a while until we got to the turn off for the 50 milers.
I fueled up there and turned north again. It turns out this was a section of road that I'd been on the previous day, but this time in clear weather and going the other direction. We climbed for about 5 miles, then the road turned down and we flew down about another 5 miles or so. These were the longest descents of the day, and I knew that I would have to climb them later, so while I was having fun going down, I kind of worried about going back up.
After a bit of additional climbing, we hit the third rest stop and the turn around for the 50 mile route. I grabbed some food, used the Honey Bucket (as we call it in Seattle) and got back on the road. I'd met a woman earlier who was about my speed, so we rode along together for a while chatting, but after we hit the hills she left me behind as I hauled the Long Haul Trucker slowly up the inclines.
I was really pleased that I was really handling the hills well, so I guess my training must have paid off. In addition, while I was a bit sore at the beginning of the ride, I was nowhere near as bad as I was after day 1 of my last Bike MS in 2009. I guess I'm getting a bit more fit.
After a few more miles, we came back to the second rest stop where we'd turned north for the long route. I loaded up on Whoppers (hooray, Whoppers!), topped off my bottles and set out. Not long after this we hit the steepest climb of day 2, and while it was pretty steep it was not very long. When we crested that hill, we came out onto a long flat stretch where you could really see quite a ways. It looked a bit like this:
After taking this picture at Mile 34, it was back on the bike and heading toward home. After about another 3 miles I met up with some other guys going about my speed, so I grouped up with them and got in some pretty fast (for me) group miles.
At mile 42, we basically turned right into town and I thought they'd measured the course wrong because it seemed we were heading to the fairgrounds. However, we rode right past and tacked on extra 8 miles in order to hit the magical 50. By now, the layers I'd worn for the cold morning were starting to be come to heavy, so I shed some clothes. On top of that, the whole outbound part of the loop was a long false flat that just kept going and going. Every intersection, we were looking and hoping for the sign that said we were done going out and were heading back, and after a number of disappointments, we finally did make the right hand turn.
We headed back into town up and down a rollers, and eventually made our way back to the fairground and the end of the ride. It was very exciting to see the finish, and I was pretty happy to have finished for the day. I wasn't super tired, but my legs were starting to feel the effects of the last couple days, and it was starting to get way too hot for what I was wearing.
So that is it: I'd ridden 130 miles in 2 days which was not my record, but still pretty good considering. In addition, I'd survived day 1 of the 2012 Bike MS which will surely go down in history as one of the most remembered (and hated) days in Arizona cycling history.
I did learn one very important lesson at my last Bike MS: bring a towel. This is exactly what I did, and was able to use the portable showers to get myself cleaned off after the race. Then I went to the food tent, got a hamburger and a hot dog (thanks, Sam's Club!) and actually sat outside enjoying the weather and talking to some of the Discount Tire riders. Finally, I packed up and drove back to Scottsdale and the big weekend was over.
Will I ride the Bike MS again? Yes, definitely. I might do this one, or possibly do the one in Texas with people from my company who ride there. We'll see. Either way, I can say that the 2012 Arizona Bike MS was definitely a ride that I will not soon forget.