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. 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 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 $  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!