Monday, May 28, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 2

I awoke and it was still dark. Good, I didn't oversleep. I had set my alarm for 0430 and I tried to pry my eyes open to see what the time was now. 0420. Nice. Time to get up.
I jumped up and got into my kit as quickly and quietly as I could, mindful of the people camped just near me. I ate the second half of my Sonoita takeway buritto, washed down with a can of Starbucks esspresso, mmmmm, coffeeee, while I stuffed my gear into the bike bags. It was cold so I layered up a bit. I knew I would warm up quickly as there was a big HAB right from the get-go this morning. I had watched all the passers by last night push up to the top of the ridge.

So, I began Day 2 by walking that ridge too. Once at the top I was warm and for the next hour or two I grovelled along, riding a little, pushing a lot. The singletrack was very narrow along here and kept dropping into small drainages which climbed steeply on the other side. I felt good this morning but was getting a little frustrated at my apparent lack of progress.

AZT. Crossing yet another drainage in the pre dawn dark.

 I had only travelled 6 kilometres in what felt like hours. Checking my watch to see how long I had been going for I was slightly shocked to see it say 0350! 0350? But it was 0420 hours ago?!! Thinking about it, it must have been 0220 when I woke and looked at my watch. It has a red hour hand and I couldn't see it in the dark so assumed it was under the minute hand, but it clearly must have been pointing at the 2! That meant only 4 hours sleep. Oh well, no problem, I still felt good and a 0220 start would give me a jump on those that rode late last night.

Soon I came to the "green gate". I am not really sure of it's significance but it seems like a milestone to reach on day 1. I was here at day 1 plus a few hours. Close enough.

A green gate, but is it "the" green gate?

Not long after I came to another green gate. Hmmm, was this "the" green gate? On the other side of it was a racer, sprawled out on the ground in nothing but a puffy jacket and riding shorts, his hands in his pockets and his bike lying on the ground nearby. It looked like he was dead but this was the first example I was to see of several of the "minimalist camping" style that many 300 riders choose! 

The trail began to open up and became quite fast and fun, even if it was lined with Prickly Pear. At one point I rounded a bend and could see the lights of Tucson in the distance. I checked for cell service and there was some! I sent a quick text to my wife to say that all was well. This where I learned that Dave W had a terrible day yesterday and was still only in Sonoita. Bugger! I hoped he would get back into it.

The trail was trending downhill now and the eastern sky began to show signs of Friday appearing as I came to a road crossing. I wasn't sure which road it was but it wasn't the I-10 underpass, thats for sure!

More fun, flowy singletrack followed which I think was the Las Colinas section (Passage 6) until I came to what must have been the South Sonoita highway (the83). There was a guy with a bike standing there and he said he was scratching due to mechanicals. He asked me if I wanted any water from the cache'. "What cache?" I asked. "That one over there" was the reply. I had ridden right by a dozen gallon bottles under a cactus. It really was like riding a tunnel of light at night. It highlighted the fact that you see nothing except the trail immediately in front of you at night. I took about 1 litre from the cache' as I was down to about two litres remaining and had not seen any sign of the Twin Dams in the dark. Like I said, you are just in a tunnel of light at night!

Just after the 83 underpass, dawn is coming.

I quite enjoyed the next section of trail as the sun came up. I tried to get some photos of it but was completely unsuccessful. 

I rode on, thinking about all of the food I was going to devour when I got to the Safeway on East Broadway rd.....but that was some way off still. Lots of miles to pedal yet!

Passage 8, Rincon valley sunrise.

La Posta Quemada ranch apparently had water but I didn't want to go off route to find it. I was thinking I could make La Sevilla campground with what I had. The trails around La Posta Quemada were simply brilliant! 

La Posta Quemada ranch

They were cut into a steep hillside, so there was plenty of exposure but they were quite wide and well made. The trail wound it's way down a hillside and gave differing angled views over the ranch. I really enjoyed this section as the saguaros started to become quite prolific over the hillsides.

La Posta Quemada trail

I took a small detour coming into La Sevilla campground as I started following signs. I soon saw that I was off route and backtracked the small distance to the route and was soon at the spigot at La Sevilla. A guy from Colorado had passed me while I was off route and we chatted as we filled up with water. The water seemed to be oxygenated or something as it was quite milky looking in our camelbaks. It looked dubious but seemed to taste ok.

Leaving La Sevilla

The guy from Colorado was doing the 300 and travelling light so he dropped me quite quickly on the techy, steep climbs out of La Sevilla. I rounded a corner and was met with an amazing vista to the north. I stopped for a while to get some photos but none do it justice.

Rincon Mtns (I think)

The trail here were really fun and I was smoking along. I caught back up to Mr Colorado (sorry, can't remember his name) and we too'd and fro'd for a while. 

Hope Camp Trails

The trail was quite fast and sandy and there were some indications of some big front end looses into the cacti. We also passed a few hikers here who hooted and hollered to us. They knew about the AZTR!

We eventually popped out onto a back road as the AZT took a turn through a wilderness area that bikes aren't allowed to enter. This is where we would follow the Old Spanish Trail road then turn into East Broadway rd to ride 3km off route for a resupply at the Safeway supermarket. I had been sort of hoping that I would have enough calories with me to just bypass the supermarket but now I saw how unobtainable that goal was. I had been riding for almost 7 hours now and it wasn't even 10am. I needed breakfast, lunch, dinner and something for breakfast tomorrow plus water to climb the infamous Reddington road. No sir, I was NOT bypassing the Safeway!

Hitting the Safeway I was straight into resupply mode. Loading up with fresh fruit, Noosa yoghurt (they have it here?!!), a fresh burrito, frozen burritos, more Starbucks coffee cans and a gallon of water. I sat out the front at a table then decided I needed a massive frozen Frapaccino from the Starbucks located inside the Safeway (what a GREAT idea!). Returning to my seat I began to systematically work my way through the breakfast burrito, the yogurt, the fruit and anything else that came to hand!

You have no idea the joy this lot brought me!

Empty berries into yoghurt, mix and scarff down as quick as ya can.

I tipped my La Sevilla milky water out onto the ground and replaced it with supermarket water. It looked fine now but I really didn't like the taste of it. All loaded up with food and water I reluctantly pedalled back east toward Reddington road. Passing the intersection of east Broadway and Old Spanish Trail I caught up to two guys looking at a map. I asked if they were going to the Safeway as they had turned as if to bypass it. They said they didn't know where it was so I pointed them back along Broadway. No way would you want to miss that resupply with Reddington rd looming ahead! (they later told me at Kelvin that if I hadn't pointed them the right way they would not have made it past Reddington which made me pleased that I piped up with some advice. I was pleased to help others suffer for longer!)

Off the sealed road and straight into an 'effing wash. Thank god it was downhill as this was deep, deep sand that led on for almost 2 kilometres but at least I could ride it with my fat tyres. I saw plenty of foot prints from those who could not! It was airless and about 100F in that wash. I WAS NOT looking forward to Reddington rd!

Back onto the blacktop and we traversed some back streets through a housing estate then it was up, up, up on Reddington road. This road gets a lot of bad press because it is steepish and dirt, which makes for choking dust when vehicles pass by riders. This year Scott started the race a day early so we would be on Reddington on a Friday rather than a Saturday. This meant that there wasn't much traffic for us. Of this I was thankful as there were less people to see me doing the walk of shame! Pedalling yielded 4.2km/h and walking 3.8km/h so I decided to walk quite a bit of it to save energy and keep my core temperature down. It was now midday and at least 100F in the sun. Luckily, someone was there to capture the moment.....

Reddington road hab

I chatted to the photographer who was super amped about the race and while we chatted we watched several other racers pushing their bikes up the hill. Sweet, I wasn't the only one!

Looking down on Tucson from Reddington rd

I grovelled onward and upward, chatting to Paul, an English guy who lived in Colorado, who had caught a lift to the border with us on Day 1. I was surprised to see him back here with me as he looked super fit and his bike was lightly loaded. he explained he had some bike issues and had to go further into Tucson along Broadway to a bike shop to have it sorted. He quickly passed and dropped me though. All was right with the world......

Then we turned off Reddington onto the even more notorious jeep roads. These were rocky ledges and drops where four wheel drivers come to test their cars out. It certainly tested us out. One needed to be very careful choosing a line as it guessed it, rocky, steep, loose and now with added drops. 

Yes, one of many we dropped down, only to climb the next rocky hill up again. That is super chunky near the top left.

This went on for quite some time (2h45m from the gps) and I was getting parched as it was bloody hot. I should have filtered water from a big tank(dam) but when I dipped my jersey in to cool off it smelt pretty ordinary so I declined. Stupid. The filter would have fixed the taste up and I had CarboRocket or Nuun to help mask it as well. We got back onto the AZT here as it exited the Rincon Mountain wilderness area. It wasn't a bad climb back to Reddington road, but it was hot and I was in water conservation mode. It was a long way to go to Molino Basin and being such a dry year, many of the reliable water sources simply weren't there.

Taking 2 minutes to transfer water, looking back down the AZT toward the Rincon Mountains. We came up from down there....

Gaining Reddington road again I spied a public water cache' under a small tree. I needed water, so topped up my bladder with about 2 litres. I didn't want to, but I really needed it. 

Reddington rd crossing cache'

It was about 1pm now and I was feeling bushed after being up since 0220. I lay down, uncomfortably, on a rock for a few minutes. My head hung off one end and legs off the other but it was the only rock in the shade. While in this precarious position, I noticed here how much my achilles were standing out of my ankles! Shit, I need to take care of those!!

That line is NOT good.....

I walked across Reddington rd to a small tree, leaned my bike against the AZT sign, set my timer for 30 minutes and laid down in the grass for a sleep. I was out instantly.

I awoke to someone riding by. It was Paul Kruger and some other guy. I looked at my watch. 26 minutes sleep. That would have to do. As I got up I noticed that I was wheezing badly. I had been getting a cough and wheezing a bit this morning, that was to be expected from all the dust in the air. Now it was very pronounced and I found it a little difficult to breath. I had packed an Asthma puffer, just in case, but I was loathe to use it because I have never needed or used one before. I hacked up plenty of green crap as I tried to clear my lungs. I grovelled along the trail again, walking quite a bit until two more riders came by. It is amazing how much motivation you derive from having someone else to ride with. I jumped on my bike and rode with them all the way to the Molino HAB nightmare. Thank you guys, though I don't know who you were. 

I even got ahead of them at one point and stopped to take a photo of a Gila Monster. He just stood on the trail and hissed at me, moving to face me a I tried to get more of a profile photo of him. Due to it's lack of cooperation, this was the best I could do.

Gila monster hissing and clearly wishing me harm.

We came to West Springs, another potential water source, but it was dry. There were a few riders stopped here, eating, strapping lights on as it was getting dark and doing some maintenance. Paul K was here and had an issue with seized links in his chain. His chain lube was crap so he was asking around for some lube. I pulled out my Ride Mechanic "Bike Mix" and put a few drops on the problem areas of his chain. He worked the links a bit by hand and hey presto, he had an operational chain again! That Bike Mix is great stuff for longer distance rides and I have used it exclusively for the last few years, including on the TD.

Not that he needed an operational chain for a while, as we were standing at the bottom of the Molino HAB. This consisted of about a 800ft climb that involved no riding, just lots of lifting, grunting and for some, cursing! There were 4 or 5 of us climbing hard. The first few of us were holding it together, you just gotta get shit done sometimes, but there was increasing muttering coming from someone behind me. It gave me a bit of inner strength to know I wasn't doing it as tough as that guy even though I was lifting my bike up waist high ledges at times. From the gps it took us about an hour and ten minutes to climb it but the real kick in the nuts was the ride walk back down the other side to Molino Basin! It was dark now and the downhill consisted of much the same style of "trail", namely big rock drops and heaps of tight switchbacks. This nearly broke me as I was prepared for the Canelos, prepared for Reddington but nobody ever mentions Molino! Molino HAB sucked big time, so be warned!

There was a redeeming feature though. Through pure luck, there was a couple standing at the bottom of the trail and as I rode out to the General Hitchcock highway crossing they began cheering. They were Tucson locals who had been riding up here today and were following the race on Trackleaders. The locals ride these trails for fun?!! These would be triple black diamond rated in Australia but they barely rate one diamond here. 
Anyway, I stopped to be polite and say hi. Chris and Pat were their names and I asked if they knew if there was water in the creek, down by the toll gates as this was where I was hoping to filter some. No, was the short answer. It had been a really dry year. Perhaps sensing my disappointment in the darkness, they chimed in with "but we have one beer left. Would you like it"? Would I? I almost teared up at the kind offer and in fact probably would have if I wasn't so dehydrated! We chatted a while as I enjoyed that icy cold beverage and their enthusiastic company. They then told me they were tipping their cooler water out and would I like to have it? Trail magic number two! "Yes please!" was my response and they proceeded to fill both my Camelbaks with icy cold water. This act of kindness made up for 2500 miles of nothing on the Tour divide in 2015. Clearly my trail karma had been saved for when I really needed it?

I thanked them profusely then hunted around for the trail again. It was hard to find in the dark as we were now in a campground with lots of walkways and structures making it confusing. Eventually I found my way back onto the AZT and began the 2 mile hike up to Prison Camp. I didn't know why it was called Prison Camp but hoped to find out in the light of day tomorrow. It took another hour and twenty minutes to climb that 3.2km to Prison Camp. I would have stopped earlier to camp but there was simply no flat ground. As I crested the hill and stepped down into the campground there was an RV right in front of me. In front of the RV was a skunk running around. I stopped, not wanting to provoke it as it was only about 4 metres away. Anyway, it ran under the RV to hide from the glare of my lights and I quickly rolled past, slightly worried about sleeping on the open ground with skunks around.

I set up my bivy on some soft ground under a big tree. I could see quite a few other racers camped around me, so Prison Camp was a popular (flat) spot! It wasn't too cold tonight so I did some stretching, then iced my achilles for a while on my trail-magic cooler-water filled bladder while munching on a (now not so) frozen burrito that I had carried from Tucson. I was wheezing quite badly tonight and was actually very concerned that if it got too much worse I might have to seek medical help. I was kicking myself for not grabbing some Prednisone from a chemist as I was warned about this happening. Apparently it is quite common and results from one sucking in deep breaths for 16-18 hours a day with all of the dust that is in the air here in southern Arizona. I had the asthma puffer which I would try if it got any worse but for the moment I resorted to a loud, hacking cough which no doubt pleased other AZT racers who were bivyied nearby.
I also sucked down plenty of water as the spigot at Palisades visitors centre was only 20 kilometres up the mountain - all on sealed road.
How hard can that be?

Day 2.

Cheers and thanks for reading!


  1. Crikey Dave, I need a beer or three simply after reading this part of your epic trip! Dehydration is a bastard isn't it? It kicks off gout in my left big toe if I don't rehydrate properly. Prednisone fixes it. With your wheezing etc, I'm wondering if your mind starts throwing up all sorts of unlikely scenarios because of your isolation?

    Excellent stuff mate!

  2. I had drunk just on 12 litres per day these first two days but when I took a leak it looked like I had been eating yellow highlighter pens all day!
    The breathing issues are very real. Plenty of people suffer it during the AZT which is why I was carrying the asthma puffer. I just didn't get around to buying Prednison but even if I had I would have been loath to take it. I have never taken anything except the odd Ibuprofin and I'd like to keep it that way. Would have been nice to have it in case the breathing issue got worse though.

  3. I could have phrased that better! I meant that because of the breathing issues and with your relative isolation, did you start imagining situations where you might not be able to get medical assistance if required, or is help never far away?

  4. Ah, ok. Yes, help could be a long way away at times. If you thought you were going to die you could hit the SOS button on the Spot but then all hell would break loose. I can't imagine a rescue in the US would be cheap! Where I was at Prison Camp though was just a few miles up a sealed highway from Tucson and there were plenty of people/cars around there to bum a lift if it got dire.

  5. Sounds like a brutal 138kms, that's a long way to push that bike! Good to see there are some giving people still in this world. It must have been fantastic to receive that free water whilst you were down.

  6. Hell yeah Dave. Been waiting for this write up!

  7. Hi Hugh. It is typically long winded...hopefully you can endure it. ;)


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