Sitting here some 19 hours after pulling the plug, I’m still playing the events over and over in my mind that led me to ending my AZT300. Unlike last year, where other peoples carelessness took me out, this year it was me.
Although I’m still very new to this kind of racing, it is painfully clear to me that you have to dial in the factors at your fingertips (nutrition, hydration, training, etc) and then plan and practice for all the uncontrollable factors that the trail hands you. It is those uncontrollable factors and how you manage them ends up being the the difference between finishing a monster like the AZT300, and throwing in the towel. My race basically went like this…
Eleven of us met at the Picket Post trailhead on Thursday where we met our shuttle driver Phil from Gnar Gnar Tours. After a short stop for Pizza in Tucson, we continued to Parker Canyon Lake where we unloaded and camped. I didn’t sleep very good that night due to my ribs still hurting from a fall a week prior as well as some vicious wind. As day broke, we all readied our gear and met familiar faces as they arrived for the start of the race. Finally at 9AM after some words by Scott Morris, we headed out.
|Me at the start (pic from Scott Morris)|
|Me in the Canelos (pic from Scott Morris)|
I arrived in Sonoita, where I ran into Jeff and Nancy who had started earlier than the mass start. After picking up some supplies, I headed out along with Jeff and Nancy. Feeling OK, I slowly pulled away from them then the fatigue set in. I stopped, sat on a rock and ate (something I almost NEVER do). Jeff and Nancy came by and I mentioned to them that I really needed to find my mojo – it was way early to be feeling this poor.
Back on the bike, I rolled into Kentucky Camp where I refilled my water, ate and pressed on. I was feeling descent and in comparison to last year, I was about 30 minutes faster. Finally as the sun set, I put on my light and figured listening to music might help. Rolling along the rough and rugged sections of the LosColinas Passage in complete darkness, with only my headlamp to light the trail, was a very surreal feeling. It’s a particularly tough passage with very little margin for error; lots of steep ups and downs as the trail goes in out of drainages. I dumped the bike a few times as my front wheel washed out on the downhill side of the trail. Luckily, I avoided harm and simply got back on.
At about 9pm, on a rough downhill, I sliced my rear tire. After dropping an f-bomb or two, I stopped, calmly got out my curved needle and dental floss, and sewed up the slice. Fifteen minutes later, I was back on track, and had decided I would at least make it to where I’d camped last year, roughly 5 miles south of I-10.
Arriving at my camp spot at 10:30pm, I quickly rolled out my bag, jumped in and was out within minutes. At 4am, I heard something around me and sat up in my bag. That was enough to make me decide to pack up and go. Thus at 4:30AM, I was back on the trail rolling north. At about 5:30AM, my rear tire went flat again at my prior fix so I stopped, put on an external automotive tire patch, and even stitched it down figuring I really did not want to be messing with this one again.
I continued to roll north, stopping at the Rincon Market for some snacks where I ran into Chad and Max. I was still feeling at about 60% power so I called my wife and told her I was going to continue and climb Reddington to see how I felt. I spun my way through Tucson then began the steep climb up Reddington Pass. It was way harder than it should have been but I decided I would continue and see if a steady stream of calories would help. I passed the spot where my attempt last year was ended and stopped for a second to laugh. I figured anything from this point on was gravy! Finally, hitting AZT singletrack, I made the turn north then gradually back to the west on the AZT.
Then slice #2 happed…$&%&#! It seemed fixable with just a little superglue and gorilla tape but after a few miles, it just wouldn’t seal. I pulled out the needle and dental floss and stitched it but again, no dice. So I tubed it (using one of my two tubes) but I couldn’t get the bead to seat regardless of how hard I tried. The tire was wobbly as heck but I figured I’d go with it.
As I got down the trail another mile or so, I was simply out of energy. I stopped in the shade of a big tree, sat down and ate… and thought… and stared at the ground… and then finally made the extraction phone call. Ughh…at the time, it’s the best feeling in the world…a near term end to my suffering! But little did I know, there was still significant physical and mental suffering ahead. I was still about 3 miles from Catalina Hwy but what stood between me and the paved road was the AZT over Molino Saddle. Simply put, it’s HAB hell – one of the most wicked HAB’s I’ve done. Pushing a loaded bike up a steep, loose trail, then having to lift it over boulders is tough…really tough…really f*ing tough.
Finally I managed myself down from the saddle and then back down Catalina Hwy where I was picked up. My race was officially over....160 miles in, 32 hours after it started.
This kind of racing is nothing short of brutal and on a course that eats people and bikes for lunch. As I said above, you do everything you can to control the variables you can, but it’s those other variables that end up being left to chance. When the chips don’t fall your way, it works on your mind. Each little thing starts to add up…that creak your bike is making, the tire with 2 cuts in it, legs that won’t go, a sore rear end…till finally you raise that little white flag.
So, now I’ll watch from the couch, cheering on my friends that are still in it. All the while wishing I was still out there. I’m hoping there’s going to be a next year for me…I feel like I NEED to do this.