Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Coco Krispies

On Monday 10/8/2012, a bit prior to 2pm, I wrapped up my run of the Coconino 250 stage race as I rolled onto the pavement at Quintana Drive in Flagstaff.  No cheering crowds, no podium girls to kiss on each cheek(lol)…nuthin…except the breeze blowing and the sun shining; just the way I like it.
Stage 4 Finish

This was a special race for me since it was my first completed multi-day race.  After being taken out on day 2 of the 2012 AZT(link), I needed some serious redemption…it was time karma paid me back after all the investments I’d made…. And pay me back it did.  OK, on with the story…

Day 1:
I arrived at “The Place” around 6:30AM on Friday, found a place to park in the neighborhood, then sat down with some of the fellow racers for coffee and breakfast.  There were tons of smiles and friendly discussions about the route, bikes, prior experience, etc.  I brought with me a plain white water bottle and had everyone sign it as a souvenir.  Turned out to be a nice way to break the ice and introduce myself to everyone.

At about 7:30, people started rolling out and I joined 3 other SSer’s from California, Doug, Dave, and Ernesto.  We made our way to the FUT’s and began our roll towards Fisher Pt.   The ride along Andersen Mesa was just as you would expect – bumpy…but soon we descended down the swoopy fun section of the AZT across Lake Mary Road and picked up the trail on the other side.  Shortly after leaving FR240, I told Doug I was going to go at my own pace (they were riding together) and continued on, watering up at the ADOT yard, then onto the Stage 1 camp spot.   
Stage 1 Finish - Schnebly Overlook
There was no one there so I sat around, enjoying the scenery and scouting a good spot to layout my bag and bivy.  The other racers started to trickle in, most notably Mark who had ridden into Munds and schlepped a 12 pack of Coors in his pack.  He graciously offered beer to everyone as they rolled in.  The small stack of unconsumed beers had dwindled but 3 cans of liquid gold still remained.  Mark insisted that he did not want to have to descend into Sedona with them so I felt compelled to lend a hand… I ended up drinking 3 of his 12.  (Mark, good thing you live in PHX, it’ll be easy to return the favor!)

Day 2:
In my typical fashion, I woke up early, somewhere around 4AM then laid there awake in anticipation of the days ride.  A bit later, people began to stir so I proceeded to get packed up.  I began my roll down Munds Wagon trail a bit after the Alaskan contingent (Dave, Sharon, & Michael).  Making my way down the chunky descent, I came upon Michael who had asked me if I’d passed Dave and Sharon.  “No, I didn’t” I responded.  Figuring they perhaps made a wrong turn or stopped to take pictures, we proceeded and shortly thereafter, I decided it was time for an OTB…on some silly left hand switchback.  I landed hard, bruising my left shin.  Michael quickly extracted my bike from me as I gathered up and decided it was best to just shake it off and go…that we did, on down the Circle K to refuel.  As we were storing out purchases and getting ready to leave, several other riders arrived including Mark, Jill and Les.  Since I was ready to go, I pressed on to enjoy the super fun singletrack of Sedona.  I’d ridden all that trail before as part of the AES race (Sedona Big Friggin Loop) and after getting a bit more water at Red Rock State Park, it was on to Lime Kiln Trail.  Ah yes…Lime Kiln Trail… Having never rode it before but hearing stories, I was somewhat prepared for what followed…HAB up a steep ridge in the beginning, deep sand in the middle with at times a very faint trail, followed by a fun, ledgy descent into Cottonwood.  All in all, great fun, but damn, I never knew the Verde Valley was such a WIDE valley…whew.
In Cottonwood, I stopped at the BBQ place where I waited way too long for them to make me two BBQ chicken burgers; one to eat then, and one to go.   
The BBQ place in Cottonwood
Finally, with my dinner safely wrapped up stored in my pack, I left just as Michael was passing.  We stopped at the gas station as our last refuel stop before heading up Mingus.  I tanked up on as much water as I had capacity for (about 180 oz) and enough food to get me to Williams the next day then proceed up the mountain.  Initially, the climb wasn’t bad; sitting turning my 32x21 was easy.  Then it got steeper…where standing turning a 32x21 was about perfect.  Then it just got silly steep…no way I was gonna burn my “glycogen matches” trying to muscle up the steep grade.  So off it was, walking my way up Mingus Mtn, helmet off since the 80+ degree heat was doing a fine job of BBQing me.   Occasionally, the grade would lessen and I’d hop back on until finally hitting the single track.
Oh boy….the single track up Mingus…technically, I guess you would call it single track, but holy crap, quickly turned into something only suitable for acrobats and mountain goats.  There were times when it took every bit of effort to heave the bike up and over the next big boulder, then squeezing the brakes while I then heaved my body up.  This “bike-body ratcheting” exercise continued for what seemed like an hour.  During this wicked HAB sufferfest, I swear I saw Jesus three times and maybe even a few of his disciples.  Finally, after scratching my way up this rocky, overgrown excuse for a trail, I hit the top where some useless a-hole decided it would be fun to litter the now-level-trail with tons of babyheads.  At this point, my “chunk avoidance system” was shut down for maintenance as I was the ball in a life size pinball game.  FINALLY, it was game-over and I made my way down the dirt road to the stage end where I waited a bit for the next person.  
Stage 2 end point - top of Mingus Mtn
Forty five minutes or so later, Michael rolled in and we then proceeded to the stage 2 campsite.  I built a fire and we waited for the remainder of the folks to roll in, the first being Lynda W, followed by Keith.  Not sure how late the last person rolled in, but it was plenty dark as many people arrived, looking like they’d been through a meat shredder.

Day 3:
Sleeping better that night, I still awoke early and began to think about the days plan.  As the first rays of light filtered through the trees, I decided it was time to get up and go.  I rolled out a few minutes after 6AM, shortly after Les and Jill who I saw down the trail a few miles.  The descent down Mingus was crazy good…big wide, banked switchback turns in between which were smooth sections of bench cut trail begging to be ridden fast.  I then made my way north, along a rocky powerline access road which must have been a goathead farm at some point.  I kept hearing a “tink-tink-tink” sound as a goathead stuck in my tire and hit the frame with each tire rotation.  I stopped and removed several of them and had to in some cases use my finger to convince the stans sealant to coagulate and seal the puncture.  Thankfully, I emerged from that unscathed, passed on the water at Coyote Springs (where I think someone was making rat stew), and pressed onto the Verde.
Before the big downhill of the Verde, you slowly climb along the north end of Mingus Mountain on what is actually a very enjoyable dirt road.  It meanders in and out of several drainages until finally, you make a left turn and become a human torpedo due north to the Verde River.
At the Verde, I crossed the bridge and found a nice spot to access the river where I proceed to filter and purify 3 liters of water with my steripen.   It was a very serene spot with the river flowing, big shady trees that were just begging to have weary bodies lying beneath them…which apparently lured in some other racers later that morning.
Racers at the Verde River - Pic from Roland Sturm 

I then left with about 130 oz of water on board hoping that would get me up the never ending ascent to Williams.  Grinding up that road, it was mostly ridable with the exception of a section where you pass a layer of flagstone.  The road then became steep and loose, which together equals HAB on the SS.  The climb is nothing short of brutal – false summit after false summit until finally, the presence of Ponderosa pines signals you are nearing 7000ft.  From there, I continued north on the getting an occasional slap in the face with another small climb as the road undulated along the landscape.  Finally, I reached the Benham trail that leads you up the south face of Bill Williams Mountain.  This well built trail would be a treat with some fresh legs and an unloaded bike- two things I did not possess that day.  Finally, I reached the top where 3 mtb’rs where resting.  One asked me if I was in the race to which I think I responded “yes”.  I asked them how the trail down was and thankfully one of them spoke the same, unintelligible language that I was speaking and replied, “steep with some steps…be on your toes”.   Down I went, hands death gripping the brakes but nonetheless having a great time knowing the day was about to end.  Rolling into Williams, I sat on the curb, collecting my thoughts and thanking God I cheated death one more time.
Stage 3 End
 I got a room at the America’s Best Value Motel which albeit a very budget joint, was a welcome change from sleeping in the dirt the prior two evenings.  I washed up some clothes and prepped everything for the next day while I waited for others to arrive.  Keith showed up and himself, Jackson and I went downtown to find burritos the size of a Lincoln Continental to devour.  After dinner and back at the motel, Jay rolled in and since I had an extra bed, he accepted the offer to share the room with me.  He looked like the 4-day old meatloaf in the all-you-can-eat buffet warmer table that someone forgot to change out….yeah, it was bad.  In his delusionary state, he mumbled words about possibly quitting and I quickly responded, “No way dude! The tough part if over!”  Waking up the next morning, he admitted that quitting nonsense was simply crazy talk as we got geared up ready to roll out.
I left Jay who was going to grab some breakfast and rolled down historic Route 66 to the east where I came upon Doug, Dave and Ernesto.  I yoyo’d with them on an uber chilly roll down to Sycamore Canyon where we departed ways again.  At this point, I could smell the finish…even though it was 40 miles ahead, I had strong legs and thought of finishing was as though Lance Armstrong had just sold me his spare EPO shots.  I proceeded to have  great time riding the chunk of the Sycamore Rim trail, picking my way through the lava rock.  Finally emerging on the powerline trail, I then hit the roads that led me to the Texaco where I came upon Roland who was on his way back to LA. 

Me at the Texaco - Pic from Roland Sturm
Roland’s race unfortunately ended with some broken spokes and tire troubles that meant the final stage wouldn’t happen for him.  I bit farewell to him and I pressed on with the Wing Mountain moto trails my next mental hurdle.  Just prior to reaching them, I passed Keith who had gotten an early start that moring.  Finally, I made the right turn on the moto trails and carefully rode the rutted, loose cinder grooves down to hwy 180.  There I ditched all but 24 oz of water not wanting to carry it up the FR151 climb and downed my last caffeine gel.  I got into a steady rhythm going up FR151 with great anticipation of the upcoming descent down the AZT.  Just before that and next to Alfa Fia tank, Jackson (who had gotten ill the first day of the race), Dave and Sharon were relaxing and enjoying the fall colors congratulated me.  Jackson took a few pics which hopefully he’ll send soon, shook my hand and bid me farewell.  On I went, on what has to be the funnest descent in Northern AZ, gripping and ripping that single track that I’d ridden numerous times before.  Even with a weighted bike, I tossed it around those turns as though it was a feather.  After a right turn on Lower Moto and down a mile or so, I looked at the gps and I was off track…wtf?..damn, backtracked up about ¼ mile where the track indicated you take a very seldom used trail.  Fun little section, but my mistake cost me a good 5-10 minutes.  Finally, merging with Schultz Creek trail, I continued as fast as I could railing the final turns and eventually hitting Quintana Rd, the end of stage 4 and the race. Whew! It’s over…

I'm hoping my total time of 31:45 will be good enough for a first place finish...after everyone reports their times, I'm sure Chad will publish the results.  Whatever place, it makes no difference, finishing was a victory and anything after that is a bonus!

Made my way down through Flagstaff to where I parked my truck 4 days prior, loaded the bike and drove back to Munds where my wife was waiting.
Ok…if you’ve read all of this up to here, thanks…perhaps more detail that you’d ever want to know! So time for a few parting thoughts…

Mark – dude, thanks for being a beer Sherpa…I owe you big time.  Let’s get a BP trip together at BCT this fall – I’ll Sherpa the beer, you name the brand.
Michael – great meeting you and riding with you.  It was a pleasure and I hope to cross paths with you again.
Jay – Frankly, you looked like crap Sunday night  (lol) and that pizza had no chance in a battle with you… but you survived!  Great meeting you and hope we get to ride again.
Lynda – pleasure to meet you and share my campfire rock w/ you…I kept looking behind me every day ready for you to go flying by me .
Jill – Great to see you.  Your blog posts about your AZT experience were extremely inspiring…when my mind is in a bad spot on a long ride, I often think about the will and determination you showed back in April.
Les –Great to see you as well.  I have that image of you from the Rincon Market back in April as you walked in, white as a ghost shaking violently as though you were a clothes dryer in the spin cycle with an unbalanced load.
Dave, Doug, and Ernesto – great riding with you guys – we were definitely representin’ the SSer’s out there.  Hope to see you guys at the APC ride this spring.
And finally, Scott Morris and Chad Brown – these guys do so much for the sport of mountain biking in AZ with their continual stream of stoke.  The underground races that these guys set-up have provided me an outlet for my addiction and keep me from having to race with the spandex clad roadie crowd of the MBAA series.   (sorry any of you MBAA fans!) (actually, I wear spandex too, but refuse to let it turn me into an arrogant roadie type…)
And last but not least, my wife (is this sounding like a speech at the academy awards?).   While I was out racing for 4 days, she stayed at home painting our house…  what a great woman!
Lastly, a little word cloud to capture the experience....call it a coco cloud!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flagstaff Super 8

After getting jacked back in April during the AZT300, I’ve had an itch needing a good scratching all summer.  Long day rides have helped, but not truly satisfied that need to go long… The Coco250 is in my sights as my next multiday challenge but I figured I needed some good saddle time before tapering down for that early October race. 
So, given the great late summer weather up on the Coconino plateau, I figured it was time to do my first overnight trip up there…and heck, with our cabin in Munds Park, it seemed appropriate to make it a sort of backyard epic.  Leave from the cabin on Thursday morning and roll back in Friday afternoon with enough time to sit on the deck, enjoy a few beers and wait for my lovely wife to arrive so I could tell her stories of my epic awesomeness…lol
Anyway, I had put together a revised version of the Crazy 88 a few weeks ago and as luck would have it, came down with a cold a fews days before the ride which I’d communicated to a group of my fellow endurance junkies.  John, Seron, and Noel decided they wanted in and we met that Saturday for the ride.  I’d decided to suffer through ½ of it, and I thought the rest of them had plans to do the same.  Then out of almost nowhere, Noel decides to go big and nearly completes the entire loop…a solid and very impressive performance.  John decided to finish the ride on the next day; still a burly accomplishment.
Since I didn’t do the full loop, I needed some redemption – but I also wanted to get an overnight trip in to test some new gear and sleep under the stars.  Thus, the Flagstaff Super 8 was born… A modified version of the new Crazy 88 route, but longer…about 125 miles and around 9,000 ft of climbing.
I’d organized most of the gear last weekend since I was traveling Sunday through Wednesday but still did my usual, semi-neurotic planning exercise complete with checklists and spreadsheets… Arrived in Munds Park and proceeded to get the bike loaded up and pour through my final list…
Loaded up and ready to go!
Finally, a few minutes after 10AM, I departed, and not more than 100 yard off the pavement, I hit some brutal, tire clogging mud just north of Munds Park…uggh…trips aren’t supposed to start like this!  It literally would stop your tires like big rim brakes…I took me probably 2x as long to go the 5 or so miles to FR700. 
Carpet of Yellow...with a little residual mud...
Finally on my way north to Flag, I decided to try some different trail and took a detour just off Old Munds Highway which connected up to the Ft. Tuthill trails.  Some fun little trails in there with a few techy spots thrown in to keep you honest. Continuing north on the FUTs, I decided to ride through the NAU campus.  It was that moment when I felt really OLD…I thought, “why do all these girls look so young?”…then it hit me…because I’m so OLD! I’m sure was at least a few that thought, “who’s that creepy old dude on the bike?  Is he a homeless guy?” 
Picked up some water in Flag and proceeded north up San Francisco Street and the obligatory trespassing on the trail next to the Elks Lodge.  At the top of Schultz Pass, my plan was to take Waterline Rd but being a weekday, I was worried about construction.  Sure enough, all sorts of construction activity going on so I decided to take the lower route around the east side of the peaks.  Such a shame – I really wanted to ride that Inner Basin trail again.
Peaks from FR418

Peaks from FR418

Made the grunt up FR418 and finally south on the AZT and the never-ending, grin-inducing downhill.  I wanted to get over near the Little Bear junction before stopping for the day, so I pressed on east on the AZT and finally down Little Elden.  Found a nice spot, slammed my Recoverite, and layed down and stared at the stars.
Got packed up Friday morning and hit the trail at 6:30AM.  It was nice and crisp, and even downright chilly on the descent. Made to Hwy89 where I stopped at the Conoco for some water.   Back on the trail heading east, was just such a treat.  
The bike on Noels Bridge...Noel, you take a right after this bridge dude.
 The dew had everything glimmering and damp, and all I could think about was how lucky I was to be riding this trail that morning.  Heading east, the trail sort of meanders along on the north slide of i-40, and then finally cuts south under the RR tracks and I-40 at about what feels like Winslow. Then back the west and finally at the trailhead for Walnut canyon I spot this in a tree…WTF?
oh baby, I've been looking for you...what is it about that tree you like so much?
West across the top of Walnut Canyon, down toward Fisher Pt, then up Fay Canyon, which is a bit of singletrack that I had never ridden…quite the little gem of ST in there.  I then worked my way back to Munds Park on some Forrest Roads and luckily yesterdays mud had pretty much dried up…
All in all, a great trip with some stupendous weather and great scenery!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

BCT Whole Enchilada Whole Shot

Last fall (October), I had done the quintessential BCT ride, time trial style...It's a 24 ish mile ride, a bit over 3kft of climbing and generally some of the best single track we have in AZ.  My time (as recorded by Strava) was about 2:45...faster than I had ever done before and enough to give me the KOM for a while.  In the meantime, others had attempted it and earlier this year, another PHX guy bettered my time by about 2 minutes.  I'd sort of figured that I'd get back out there this fall and see if I could reclaim it.  Meanwhile, my friend and fellow Strava-addict Randy says he's headed out there to better his PR.  I trash talked a bit saying that if he could take about 15 minutes off his (which he took about 19 off ), then certainly I could do the same. I decided that I'd do a bit of homework and put some split times on my bars so at several points along the way, I could get an idea if my run was going to be KOM material, or just a failed attempt.  I sent this pic to Randy who replied "Damn dude, that's some aggressive shit."  I thought, yeah, but if a record is gonna happen, I've gotta set the bar high.

Met Randy up there at the trailhead just a few minutes before 5AM.  Set off at about 5:05...it was 76 degrees and not too bad.  I was kinda worried after the first section down to the river...my downhill mojo just didn't feel right...on the brakes more than I should have been and just not flowing around the turns. After the dry river bed, I walked the short, deep sandy section and then got back on.  The first big climb felt good...I thought I'd get my PR on the segment, "BCT Climb up from River to High Pt", but turns out I was 2 seconds off my PR.  On the descent, I still didn't feel like I was flowing like I could until the section heading south with some woop-de-doos....for whatever reason, I loosened up and just let it flow from there.  I must have done something right since I beat my prior PR on the "Skyline Ridge to Road descent" by about 50 seconds...weird since it didn't feel that fast...  From the road to the top of the pan loop was the usual...made most of the minor techy stuff except for the little set of switchies down into the creek and across the rock bridge.  As I approached the top of the pan loop it was surprised to see that I was about a minute faster than my split time.  The next section down to the river actually went well...didn't clean that other little set of S turns but otherwise, motored pretty well.
After the second river crossing, I was sort of dreading the short climb out and dead cow.  I cleaned that stuff after the yellow gate then at the bottom of the pan loop had to stop and pull some cactus needles out of my hand.  Checked my split there and I was 3 minutes faster...The next section called Dead Cow was tough...I knew that the first part is steep, then you get a little rest and then steep at the end...just kept thinking of the top and the downhill.  I grunted it out and hit my high HR on that...175.  Rolled the ramp and then took a few huge breaths to try and relax for the downhill.  Cleaned everthing from there to the next river crossing where like I said, I got caught up in some big rip rap...ran across that crap and the sandy section till I could get back on.  Up the road, I looked at my time and compared it to the split, and it looked like I gained more which mentally helped.  HAB's up that short section to the bottom of the pan loop and checked my split as I got back on the bike...7 minutes ahead...the trend looks good! 
By the time I got to the big road, I was at about 1:46 so I knew I was in pretty good shape...just wanted to keep it steady.  Up Cheapshot to Skyline I tried to keep the HR up..mentally just picturing the downhill...finally, crested the top, took a few big breaths again and thought. "just flow Ray, just flow".
Hit the river bottom, HAB'd up the deep sand and checked my time...2:21...damn, a 2:30 time seems unreachable.  I hopped on and hit it hard...over the ramp, up the trail to the peak then just tried to hammer out that last section.  I kept looking down at my Garmin and as I neared the lot, it clicked over 2:30...then rolling into the lot, it was 2:31....whew!  That was tough.  My actual segment time (since it starts just inside the trailhead) was 2:30:48.
So, in the final analysis, today's run got me 7 KOM's....lol...  Something tells me I should put all my bike crap on Craigslist and simply get a new sport since that kind of day will be tough to repeat.
A little word cloud to capture the experience!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hunting, Horny Toads, Hard Gearing, and Backyard Epics

Well, it’s been a while since I wrote about some of my rides, so I figured I’d play a bit of catch up…

HUNTING: So on Friday, I decided to go do a bit of hunting.  Armed with my 29 caliber and my game bag(GPS), I set out to hunt for a few KOM’s in Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  Yes, I am admittedly a Strava addict and KOM’s (and PR’s) are my crack cocaine.  Parked at 40th Street, TT1 on T100 was my first target.  I rolled over to Tatum for a nice little warm up then hit it hard…little over 10 miles.  At the end, I checked my timer and it seemed that I may have “bagged” that one…  Then a nice stroll back to the east, Chutes was my next target.  I leisurely did one lap then hit it super hard the second time… false start on try 2 when my foot came out of my pedal on the first little techy section.  Back to the start…ok…that was better…  Rode back to the truck at an easy pace and loaded up the bike.  My bounty was safely captured in the memory of my GPS and I anxiously drove home to upload and see the fruit of my effort.  Sure enough!  KOM on both segments!  That was a good hunting trip! 
Great thing about Strava is not only getting a KOM, but losing it as well.  Getting knocked of the top makes me go out and do it all over again.  Now, would someone please go take these KOM’s from me?  I’m not worthy to be holding them...there are far faster people.

HORNY TOADS and HARD GEARING:  Last weekend, I raced the new AES Flagstaff race, Aspen Asphyxiation, with a 32x19t. Last summer with all my Flagstaff riding, I felt like the 20t was almost too easy and I lost a bit of power.  So, I decided to put the 19t on for this summer; the question is, why did I do it the night before a race?  Chalk that up to stupidity.  We had some super competitive people show up even though I gave it 110%, I still ended up with a mid-pack finish.  But, all things considered, if I can stick with the 19t all summer, I should be much stronger come fall.

Yesterday, me and the 19t headed up to ride on Mt. Eldon and do a bit of suffering.  Sure enough, the suffering was a plenty.  Up Schultz Creek (not bad), then up Climb 3 (which sort of parallels Sunset).  It’s a great, lesser traveled trail that serves up plenty of pain.  Then down my favorite trail, Upper Brookbank and down my least favorite trail, Lower Brookbank to Mt Eldon Road.  Suffer session #2…climbing Mt Eldon Road. As it turns out, they’ve done a lot of work on the road and the surface is much nicer than last summer.  The climb was good and this time I did a bit of exploring up near the towers…great views up there. 
Looking down on Flagstaff from the top of Mt. Eldon
Momma Horned Toad
Baby Horned Toad
 BACKYARD EPICS:  Although I love riding up around the peaks in Flag, it is a 40 mile round trip from Munds Park and adds about an hour simply because of driving.  So I’ve created some routes I do starting in Munds Park that travel some lesser traveled forest roads over to the AZT by Mormon Lake.  Today’s ride, I wanted to do the AZT from where it crosses Lake Mary Road just north of Mormon Lake all the way south, almost to where it crosses back over Lake Mary Road.  I’m sure most people aren’t the biggest fans of forest roads, but I have to say that when the scenery is nice, there’s no cars to kick up dust, they really aren’t that bad.   
Finally after I reached the AZT and proceeded to head south on some really sweet singletrack.  The trail in many places is on the old railroad bed that is built up on stacked lava rocks.  I can only imagine the labor it took to pile all those rocks up!  The trail is in great shape with the exception of some dead fall.  I rarely see anyone on that section of AZT but saw a few tracks.  In some cases, there were tracks through the mud now dried which I suspect were the AZT750 racers from a month ago.  Very cool…just kept thinking of how stoked they must have been riding that section of trail after the HAB from hell a little further south.
AZT where it crosses Lake Mary Road north of Mormon Lake

Sweet Singletrack
More singletrack...ahhhh
cacti?  at 7000ft?  very cool

great place to stop, lay in the grass and listen to the creek


Monday, April 16, 2012

AZT300 - The Details

As of this afternoon, I've had time to process the events of the last few days and I thought I'd tell the story with a bit more detail for those that are interested. Ok...here we go....
I headed out of the house at 3AM on Friday to meet Jeff Butler in Central Phx where he had a shuttle van waiting.  We loaded bikes and then we were off to pick up Steve Wilkinson. and Pawel at a hotel in Phx.  On the ride down, Steve had admittedly not done the hours of route studying that I did so I shared as much information as I could with him...little did I know that he'd be the guy I'd ride with for those 2 days and the favor would be returned in the currency of moral support and advice that he learned after 2 Tour of the Divides and a CTR.
When we hit Tucson, we stopped by Tim McCabe's house to pick up a few more riders then off to Parker Lake.  We arrived with plenty of time and were able to leisurely get bikes prepped and socialize with everyone to calm the nerves. 
Photo courtesy of Seron
Scott M. gave his short speech then at 9AM we were off...  though the Canelo hills... Right off the bat, I was not feeling right.  All the prior week I was fatigued and did a few short road bike rides to stay loose but any level of effort ramped up my HR much higher than usual.  I just kept thinking about plodding along at whatever pace was comfortable hoping to find the mojo.  Thankfully by the time we got through the beatdown of the Canelo's, the mojo was building.  Steve W, Jeff B and I hit Patagonia within minutes of each other at right about 5 hours.  That was a great boost since I know it can take much longer to get through that rubly mess based on what others had said.
Jeff and I headed north to Sonoita while Steve got a bite to eat.  The tailwind going north was incredible...I arrived at Sonoita and bought some water, pepsi and food at the store.  Everything looked so damn good in that store.  I grabbed 3 hostess apple pies which I probably haven't gotten near in 30 years...  Too much food though..next time, I'll have a better plan that won't weigh down my pack with too much food.
Packed up and off I went to Santa Rita Road where Steve then caught me.  We rode west into a strong head/cross wind.  Slowly I pulled ahead of Steve and arrived at Kentucky Camp.  There as I refilled my water and had a bite to eat, Steve pulled up.
We then headed out of Kentucky Camp and made our way to the start of the AZT Jamboree section.  There, we switched on lights and proceeded to cruise some of the great downhills prior to the ups and downs of the Los Colinas section.  There we met Eric Foster and another Eric.  Eric had a shifter malfunction and was contemplating bailing at that point.  We left him to sort things out and continued.  Minutes later, Eric Foster stops(he was about 100 ft in front of me) and says, "Something was behind me....".  I said, "Really, what?".  "I think it was a mountain lion".  Then Steve says, "Let's get outta here!"  So we rolled...all the time thinking of the other Eric, hunched over working on his shifter...hoping he wasn't on the menu.
Soon, Steve and I were ahead of Eric Foster who I think had some mechanicals of his own.  We continued and some 5 or so miles before going under 83 (just after the gate where the downhill begins), we found a flat spot to sleep.  Through the night, at least 6 riders passed.  It turned out to be a good move to stop and sleep because unless you were planning to climb Mt. Lemmon on Saturday, there was no need to kill yourself on day 1 only to sit around and wait out weather on day 2.
We got rolling about 5:30AM on Saturday and soon after crossing under I-10, the sky started to open up.  I put on my rain gear and by the time we hit LaSevilla, the rain was coming down.  We holed up there with a handful of other riders, most of which were the ones who had passed us during the night.  After deciding it was far colder standing there than riding, we pressed on.  By the time we hit Pistol Hill Rd, it was really coming down.  Rolling along Old Spanish trail, was miserable...probably the coldest I've ever been.  Hands were numb, feet were soaked (wool socks are awesome though, even wet).  Finally, we arrived at the Rincon Market where we joined at least 5 others laying around trying to get warm and dry off.  After about an hour, the rain stopped and Steve and I headed out to the Safeway to resupply and get some real food at the Subway.  On our way, we ran into Pete B. who had gotten all the way up Reddington and close to Molino and turned around after hitting snow and trail mush.  Can't believe he rode all the way back since he later rejoined the route.
We headed back out and up Reddington with the sun shining and wind at our backs.  Back down to shorts and jersey so as not to overheat.  We passed the usual barrage of gun toters turning their hard earned cash into kinetic energy and heat then turned off onto the 4wd road that is part of the route.  Meandering along the chunky sections, we came upon 3 vehicles that were crawling up the jeep roads.  They let us pass since we were able to move faster then shortly after that, I decided I needed to put another bandaid on my heel to prevent blisters from all the HAB.  I laid the bike down on the shoulder of the road and found a rock to sit on.  Unzipped the pack, then it happened...I heard a truck come screaming around the corner, turned around in time to see his tires ride directly over my bike.  I was stunned...I couldn't believe it happened.  I knew right then there was no chance my bike could survive that.  Steve was about 20 yards up the hill and came walking back and said, "did that really just happen?"  Even he was in disbelief.  I said, "yeah, he ran it over, it's f*cked, I'm out".  I have to give him credit, he wanted to bend it back.  I said, "look at it, it's totally bent, the crank is bent, the rotor is bent...who knows if the frame is even ok!"  I paused a minute, and said, "Sorry Steve, I'm out...this sucks, best of luck to you"
After that I got a ride back into Tucson where my wife came and picked me up for the long ride back home.

So, it then end, I walk away with a great experience that will benefit me tremendously in next years race.  I'm already starting to thing about changes to kit and strategy.  This will be a mountain I'll have to climb...even though it's nothing short of a beast, it's gettable...and I will get it eventually.  In the mean time, I'll ratchet back to a more reasonable riding schedule, spend time replacing the bike, and enjoy more time with my wife and kids...they've all been very tolerant of my long training hours and living room that looks like a bike shop.
I also need to thank Steve W.  He was a great guy to ride with and I learned a great deal from him.  He ended up 4th place, just behind Pete B.  I hope to ride with both of these guys in the future...first class riders with impressive resumes of ultra-endurance rides.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Unfortunate End to my AZT300 Race

As I write this, I am still in a state of disbelief as to what caused me to drop out of the AZT300.  The sideways sleet of Saturday morning was brutal and I've never been so cold in my entire life, but that unfortunately was not the thing that ended it for me.  It was a guy in a pickup truck that felt the need to take a corner far too tight, where my bike happen to be laying, on the shoulder of the road.  I turned around, only to see him drive over both wheels and crank arm bending them far beyond repair. 
I was truly ready for this race...I had the fitness, I'd done hours and hours of planning.  I knew once I got over Mt. Lemmon, the finish line was 100 miles of trail I'd rode before; not that it's easy, but I knew what to expect.
So, today, I'll survey the damage to the bike.  Hopefully the frame is ok and I can be back riding the mtb within a week or so.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

BCT Awesomesauce Overnight

With the AZT300 2 weeks out, I had been planning 1 more overnight to do two things; get some big miles in for training, and do some gear refinement/checkout.  I acquired a Revelate seat bag as well as a Camelbak Octane 24 that I wanted to try since both things lightened my load, gave me better weight balance, and enabled me to carry water a bit easier.  So, I headed out Saturday morning to get in a 2 day BCT overnight similar to my first outing back in December, but going further north and getting more overall miles.
As I rode north, I adjusted to the feeling of riding a loaded bike. Wow, felt like I was driving a bus even though my dry weight (w/o water and food) was only 13 lbs more than an unloaded bike…Then I came to a little 2 foot step down…crap, seat bag won’t let me get my weight back….OTB at about mile 12….hit my head hard, but my helmet did it’s job and the only other two issues were my gps mount broke (cheap zip ties) as well as my handlebar sling attachment broke.  No worries…any well prepared bikepacker carries extra Velcro and zip ties…on my way I went.
Saturday in central AZ was unseasonably hot…As I rode north on BCT, I exited the trail at Rock Springs to get some ice at the store in Black Canyon City to load up my bottles and camelback to keep me cool for the upcoming climb.  The nice woman at the gas station insisted on charging only a dollar for ½ a bag of ice…a whole bag was only $1.99..lol.  So nice to encounter people like this while out on an epic adventure…
After climbing up Maggie Mine Road(which was a beat down) I jumped back on the trail at Arastre Creek.  I had stashed water at Bumble Bee so I stopped there and topped off my 3 water bottles as well as 100oz bladder.   I had also left a Mtn Dew there which was a nice jolt of sugar and caffeine.   Continued north and enjoyed the tail wind as I climbed up toward the plateau at 4k ft.   
Trail looking North
Hidden Treasure Mine Spring

The climb up antelope canyon was tough…wow, I stopped once, looked down and wondered why am I doing this.  It’s probably the hardest thing about these long rides…the mental low points you hit can make or break you…but I just kept thinking how I’d feel better soon…just keep eating and drinking and the legs will come around..
As I neared Hwy 69, I started scouting campsites but after assessing my water situation,  I figured I needed some and since it was still 2 or so hours till dark, I had time to head into Mayer about 4 miles or so up the highway.  Arrived at the Circle K in Mayer and bought a gallon of water and soda….topped up my bottles,  and off I went back to the trail.  Found my camp spot, set up and built a nice fire.   
my camp
Super nice evening, hardly a puff of wind and the stars were the entertainment…It’s just so peaceful laying there, comfy warm in my bag, music in my ears from the ipod, fire burning, stars overhead…just does the soul some good….

The next morning, I met a group of friends including RandyHarris, his friend Matt (the Swiss Hammer) , Jeff and Nancy, as well as some others I hadn’t met(including Dave who did a great job hanging with us).  They were got a shuttle from Latedropbob and after some travel debacles, they arrived at just before 8AM.  Off we went battling a big headwind as we made our way across the plateau then dropped down into Antelope Canyon.  On down the trail we went making good time as we traveled south.  I was encouraged as my legs felt really good and had plenty of power and endurance in them.    The group splintered at Bumble Bee and then Jeff, Nancy, Dave and I continued on ahead.  Nancy had a few tire issues, some of which we tried to fix then at the last river crossing, Dave and I continued  on figuring they would be OK.  I lost Dave just south of Table Mesa but knew he had ridden the trail before and new the route.  I rolled back into Emery Hendersen at 4:30pm, tired, but really happy about how I felt and my readiness for the AZT300. 

Total distance for the weekend…68 miles on Saturday, 58 miles on Sunday… 126 miles total…good ride!

Thanks to Jeff, Nancy, Dave, Randy, Matt and the other guys who's names escape me now...good riding with you guys today!