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|
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.