Monday, January 15, 2018

Starting From Behind The 8 Ball

Some good news last week regarding my riding plans for 2018.  My requested annual leave was approved! 
Great news, right? Well yes and no. The down side to this is that with our company, leave approval is always notified in the first week or so of January each year. Why the downside? Well, I was hoping (half heartedly) to get leave to compete in the Arizona Trail Race 750 (AZTR750) which is in early April this year. That would only barely leave me 3 months to prepare if my leave was approved.

Three months. 
That is not a lot of time. I had six months notice for the Tour Divide in 2015 and that was only just enough time to prepare. Yes, I realise that I could have been preparing during the closing months of last year but it is extremely difficult to push yourself through the torture er, training for potentially no reason. (I wasn't confident I would get leave at Easter, the most sought after time of the year).

Neil Beltchenko photo.

Another reason, if I am being honest is I guess I don't have the emotional investment in the AZTR that I had in the Tour Divide. I had watched the TD for four or five years before I made the leap to race it. While I have looked on at the AZTR for about a similar time it just hasn't struck a chord like the TD. This is partly because it is only 750 miles (it's really 800miles) and it is stupidly HARD. Every racer that has done both the TD and the AZTR says hands down the AZTR is waaay harder than the TD, mile for mile. I am wondering if part of that is people's thinking? I can see that if you have done the TD you might think to yourself "750 miles? How hard can it be?"  

John Schilling photo

Well, I am trying very hard not to fall into that trap! I am also giving myself a little bit of a mental out. While I am certainly no athlete, when I raced the TD I really wanted to push myself and see what the best that I could achieve would be. With the AZTR a competitive time for someone of my limited ability would be about 10 or 11 days. I have 28 days leave.......... and therein lies my race strategy. 

John Schilling photo

I will train as hard as I can in the next 2.5 months, get my gear setup as optimally as I can (TD experience does help here) and research the route much more thoroughly than I did the TD route. This will give me a fair chance of having a good outcome and in the back of my mind I will have the knowledge that if something isn't going according to script that I have time on my side. I can cool my jets if needs be and look after whatever ailment I pick up (oh yes, there will be at least one!) and hopefully continue on at whatever pace I can manage.

I also have a secret weapon in the form of Dave Wicks. Dave is an awesome bloke (for a Kiwi) :) and has done the AZTR 3 times in the past. He is also very generous with his advice and support so I will be leaning on him a little heavier than I would otherwise like but I am sure I can repay his kindness with some frothy beverages along the way! Dave will be doing this year's version so we can hopefully share a ride to the start line on the Mexican border.

Now, back to the three core problems for my race.

I am not fit enough

I don't have a bike

I don't know the route


I am doing what I can on the fitness front but I did lose most of last week as I was/am still getting over this flu. I couldn't subject myself to the rigours of regimented training so I opted for some general singletrack riding, putting in bursts of effort where I could (the guys were probably wondering why I was charging up every hill like a demented xc racer). Unfortunately, these bursts just highlighted that I have simply no endurance in the upper rev range. I can diesel along all day at a slow rate but I really need to work on my upper rev range.


The bike thing. Yeah, kind of critical. I don't have a bike currently that is suited to the demands of the race and I don't need to make the race any harder by taking a knife to a gun fight! I also really like my current steeds and don't want to trash them. This has me on the hunt for a secondhand mount and I am currently searching for either a Norco Revolver FS or a Kona Unit X. Two very different bikes but two that can get the job done.


For my route research I have joined the Arizona Trail Association and have the badge and a 2 for 1 beer voucher to prove it! Funds from membership go toward trail maintenance. Most of you know my feelings about trail care so any small help I can provide to brother/sister trail builders is money well spent.

Via the ATA membership I can extract trail Beta from their great website. As stated above, I will be leaning on Dave and I have also read back through multiple years of race prep threads that are in that treasure trove of information that is, making many notes along the way.

The training rides are under way and one good thing (if there is a silver lining) to this scorching heat we are experiencing here in Oztraylia is that it is PERFECT training conditions to replicate a race in the Arizona desert!

Wish me luck because I am going to need it!!

Cheers and thanks/sorry to John Schilling and Neil Beltchenko for their awesome photos.


  1. All power to you Dave. Can't wait to read all about it - it's far easier than riding...

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Gaz. I will need it, not sure about the cluey Dave. He should be right!

  3. For F*ck sake bro, your 3 problems are quite simple.
    1. 'Fitness' - Get moving and get fit - I'll get the pop corn and beer.
    2. 'I Don't have a bike' - You have a shed full, just pick one and go with it you don't need to buy every bike ever made. Just ride.
    3. 'I don't know the route' - Scroll up 4 photos and violia - there's the picture of the route plan. Ploblems solved.

    Your lucky I'm an ideas man.

    Cheers just send me beer and thank me later.

  4. I think Steve wants your share of any inheritance......... just judging by his comment.

    Good on you for giving this a go. I am sure you will make it though. You'll probably feel like you've been hit by a train by the time you are done, but I know you will finish. You won't give yourself any other option. We'll be here cheering you along.

    1. Thanks for the positive vibes Brandy. Yep, Steve has always been a supportive brother....... ;)

  5. Bloody hell Dave, you're insane..... but my admiration knows no bounds!! All these overseas endurance races - have you done the Simson Desert bike challenge? My old boss who lives in Rotorua has done it twice and found it really challenging!

    1. Possibly Geoff. Quite possibly.
      The thing with most races like the Simpson Desert thing is that they are highly regulated and expensive to enter. The bikepacking races in the US (and elsewhere) are all “underground” with just basic rules, no entry fee and no prizes - just bragging rights. There is nobody holding your hand. That is hard to find in this day and age. ;)

    2. You're right Geoff he is insane, I should know.

      Good luck bro, just make sure to pack an uzi, m16, and a few hand guns just to fit in with the yanks and fend of any bears.

    3. Nah, no bears down there, just Jaguars apparently....oh, and rattlesnakes. I saw a great photo of one coiled up, ready to strike on El Freako's race blog -

    4. Actually there are bears, too. ;) I've seen quite a few in AZ, though not many on the AZT.

    5. Thanks Scott! I will have to make sure my wife doesn’t know this! Maybe a tiny mace can in the jersey pocket - just in case?
      How was NZ this year? I want to retire to that country. It so beautiful!


Thank you for leaving a comment. Spam filtering is in place and your comment will be posted shortly.