El Tour de Tucson 2022

I am super thrilled to share my second consecutive 100 miler bike race journey in Tucson, Arizona. Before I begin, a quick summary of what El Tour de Tucson is and recap from last year can be found in below link. Please read through this if you haven't already. You will get a context to this experience I am sharing here 


Right after my maiden race last year, my goal was to participate again in 100 miles race in 2022 and be the best version of me, of-course beating my own record from last time (Completing the 100 mile race less than 6:34 minutes). Key to success in cycling is thorough planning, meticulous execution and consistent efforts. Well, I had everything sorted in paper and what are best ways to achieve them but life had something else planned. I started off the year 2022 testing positive for COVID. Though, I was asymptomatic, my training rhythm, heart rate and metabolism had a a huge toll for 8 to 10 weeks. Losing 8 weeks in 36 weeks training plan is not great but like always necessity is the mother of invention. I had to quickly find new ways I can catch up and be smart. 

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

 Focusing on overall flexibility, core body & legs strength, I thought might give higher return on investment. Also this new regime slides in nicely with my busy work schedule . I was able to squeeze 30 minutes of workout everyday and reserving longer workouts for weekends. I wake up everyday with a motivation of consistency over intensity. I never missed a workout for next 20 weeks and I knew hard work will not have instant results but will definitely benefit me in long run. I was also able to get two 62 miles races in the middle just to see if I am able to compete at higher pace. I did complete the races however I saw increased soreness in legs due to continuous weight training. But as most of you know me, I don't rest in the middle. Self motivation is key here as it pushes you to be consistent. 

Strength vs Flexibility - A balance curve - Learned the hard way

Endurance sport is not like sprinting where you burst your energy in 1 hour . It is holding your energy, strength for more than 4 to 6 hours. I knew this lesson from last year race. Due to various setbacks, I focused on strength training assuming endurance is something I already had and can ramp up in last 10 weeks of training. While theoretically, it sounds right but practically it had a big minus especially for my body type. Muscle building is totally different than cardio endurance workouts. While muscle strength is needed for endurance sports, flexibility/injury free muscles is better than strong but sore muscles. 

The only way to come out of this painful process is to slow down and add flexibility in between my strength training. I decided to reduce my strength training from 4 days a week to 2 days and added 2 flexibility training in between. Changing to this pattern had a tremendous benefit. I no longer was as sore as I used to be during my weekend rides plus I was faster by 1 mph. I was constantly doing 16 to 17 mph in 60 mile stretch with short recovery times. It might sound that with my average speed of upper 16 mph that I am ready for 100 miles and crush my goal. I thought too :) especially with all great confidence coming from 30+ weeks of training. Reality is I am not ready.  The curve ball here is doing 62 miles is just 2/3rd of my distance goal. Adding 40 more miles with 3000 ft elevation got me surrendered to muscle cramps. I couldn't hold that high speed(16.5 to 17 mph) beyond 60 miles without getting cramped and stalling my ride. Cycling or any sport at a competitive level teaches you two things

  • How to handle setbacks 
  • How to give your best without caring about results 

I had 8 weeks of training left and need to deal with cramps plus still plan to achieve my goal. Reshuffled my trainings to focus on distance with reduced pace. This is to ensure I gain confidence and reduced my weight trainings to 1 per week with more recovery stretches. Sure enough, I finished my first 100 mile training ride in targeted 15 to 16 mph As weeks passed by I reduced intensity both in cycling and weight training to ensure I dont have sore muscles. 

Nov 19th 2022 - The Judgment day!!!

This year we had 6000 + registered riders in 32, 62 and 100 mile category. Got my bib and packets on Nov 18th. Checked into the hotel but unlike last time where I had luxury of entire Airbnb house to do many pre-workouts, my hotel room is too small for any activity. I ended up doing mini warm up on the race day. This turned out to be big mistake, you will get to know what happened. Stay tuned. I rode to the race start and lined up in the front row near fast riders assuming I can draft early and get time advantage. 

Race line before start

7:05 AM - Lets go!!!

Race started and I was in middle of the pack with very high speed racers. First 2 miles was no race zone and as soon as safety car waves the flag, everyone started ramping up speed. I joined a train which is pretty fast 22 to 25 mph. I was in middle of the draft. All was well for few miles but with cold breeze and no proper warmup, I couldn't hold the speed more than 15 minutes. I got myself dropped and joined another train which is 18 to 20 miles. After 23 minutes with the group, I got dropped. I had 10 miles into the race, my right leg started with mild cramps. I thought it was due to cold weather. I slowed down a bit and cruised for next 20 miles.

Happy 45 miles!!

Though my plans on drafting into high speed group to get time advantage didn't pan out. I had a pretty good 45 miles ride with no further signs of leg cramping. 2 hrs 45 mins gone, I made 45 miles. I was clocking 16.1 mph. For me to complete the race in my target time of 6 hrs 15 mins(15 mins better than last year), I had to maintain a speed of 16.4 mph. I was off by 0.3 mph. It might sound easy but in cycling to gain 0.3 mph I had to average at least 1-2 mph more for about 30 mins. It's time to pull plan B.

Its time to pull my plan B

My plan B was if I couldn't gain any time advantage in first 45 miles, I had to ride faster between 45 to 62 mile mark and then snooze between 62 to 72 mile mark(10 miles with 5% gradient hill climb, no way I can climb faster :)). I stopped to fill my water and immediately started to have my on the go meal. Lost 5 minutes in this juggle. Its 2 hrs 51 minutes and I had to ride next 17 miles in 17 mph speed. I decided to go all in and first 6 miles I was able to pull 18 mph. I was super happy and bridged my total avg speed as 16.5 mph. When you plan something, god has something else. At mile mark 52, there was heavy cross winds, I had to over steer and put lot of energy to get out. While doing so, my troubled right legs started with heavy cramps. I have to stop at 60 mile aid station and almost in the mode to quit. I can't move my right leg and stretching did not workout. I had similar episode during one of my training and I remember pro athletes deal cramp by slowly moving for few minutes instead of relying on stretching. I had 3 laps of walking near the aid station and my right leg cramp seems to be somewhat under control. It is still dead sore. I lost 15 minutes due to this unaccepted incident. Well, remember sports teaches you to put your best effort and leave the results. At this time, I have to refocus my energy to finish the race than aiming for achieving something impossible at that stage.

Cramped legs and drain 

Plan C - Miles 60 to 73

With my sore and cramped right leg, I had to rollover the hardest part of the race. Next 13 miles is hill climb with one aid station at mile mark 73. I decided to use my energy wisely. I had to use my left leg more and avoid any further cramps to right leg. Obviously I was extremely slow, clocking 9 mph. I lost 30+ minutes but my goal is to reach the top of the hill and I know I have 15 miles of downhill and 14 miles of flat section. At any point, if you are hit by a major roadblock, wise thing is to focus only present goal. My present goal at the time was to finish 73 miles. Sure enough, I was able to complete 73 miles in 5 hours 11 minutes. I lost 31 minutes but was happy that no more cramps.

NonStop 29

At this stage with 29 miles to finish, I had an option to quit as I dont want to hurt myself or proceed with caution and finish the race. One of the great qualities you will develop being part of any sport is grit. It is most underrated character but has highest return on investment. I decided to proceed with caution and also be innovative. My new goal is non-stop 29.  I had my salt tablets, pickle juices at Aid station 73, refilled my bottles. My mind is now ready to tackle the new challenge. I put my cycle at the highest gear, started cruising the downhill with heavy pedal cadence of 120 spin per minute. I was clocking 27 mph for next 15 miles. I successfully reach mile post 87. I know for me to be completing the race, I need to tag team. I was cruising at 15-16 mph looking to draft on someone's wheel :). At this time, I had a 20 member group who were doing 62 miles category. I decided to put one best pull effort to join the train. Ofcourse, drafting is the one of the hard things in cycling especially if it is moving peleton. I had to clock 19 mph for next 5 minutes with my sore legs to get in the middle of the peleton. It is worth the pain. For the next 13 miles I secured a spot with low wind resistance and happy biker :)

Finish line

From where I was at mile post 45 and where I am now at 99th mile. I couldn't simply resist to pat on my back. I decided to finish in style irrespective of my setback result. I clocked whooping 20 mph in the last mile and crossed the finish line with victory smile. I finished the 100 mile race in 6 hrs 44 minutes(10 minutes more than last year) but pretty solid finish considering the setbacks:). Lessons learned from this adventure

  • Do thorough planning and preparation before starting anything big
  • It's okay to get setback during execution. You are not robot and can't predict future. Take it as it comes.
  • Always have positive mindset. Often mindset trumps you out of any bad situations
  • Always finish what you start irrespective of the outcome
  • If you haven't failed then you haven't tired. 
I Thank my family, friends and colleagues who have greatly supported me throughout this year long journey. Merry Christmas and happy new year. Looking forward to another adventurous year in 2023. Stay positive and be curious. This year please pick a sport and remain consistent. 


  1. Great Going Karthi. 160kms in ~7 hours is not a simple thing.


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