Saturday, June 30, 2018

2018 AZTR Gear List - What I Took And Where I Looked




Welcome to my Arizona Trail Race resource page.




I will eventually be listing here all of the gear I took, used and discarded. I will review my thought process and provide my* opinion on what worked and what did not so you may want to check back here from time to time.


2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 12 And The Finish!!





I woke to the alarm on my phone at 0430 and promptly turned it off. My right side was frozen so I rolled over to my left and went back to sleep. There was no commitment this morning despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements....

I eventually woke again at 0620 and this time I hauled myself upright. Damn it was cold! I was so glad that I was inside and it had to be below freezing here at 8000ft. I ate my second Maccas burrito as I took stock of what needed doing. My bike was still pulled asunder and had hiking straps lashed to it. Clearly, getting it rolling was priority one this morning.

North Rim outhouse Hilton.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 11




I rocked down to the breakfast area, slightly determined to get my fill of breakfast as soon as it was opened. I battled the tourists eating donuts for breakfast and was soon out the hotel door, but not before asking the receptionist if they had any lost property.....say, like a backpack? No was the answer so I was going to run with my original plan, as per my training hikes. I was running a minimalist setup and I must admit to being slightly nervous about this.

Image from my friend Gary's FB page.


Monday, June 25, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 10





So, the alarm did go off stupidly early today. I thought about getting up for a minute or two....or three. Curse these warm motels!!
I got up, had a long, warm shower, ate breakfast and stuffed the last of my food into my bags. Time to get out there! I deliberately locked my key in the room so that I couldn't come back to the warmth. I had to get this thing done.

Trouble was, it was bloody cold! I was rugged up with everything except my puffer jacket on and pedalling hard to generate heat but it was still stupidly cold! I made my way around the Flagstaff urban trails system and then finally into the forest. Once in the forest it was quite hard going as there was a lot of large rock sections that I just couldn't ride. This meant a LOT of hopping off and on the bike, which was made more awkward by being trussed up in my warm gear.

During yesterday's rest day I had made a rare-for-me call to home. I generally don't call home when doing these races as I find it takes my head out of the game and destabilises my focus. The only times I wanted to quit the Tour Divide were the times I called home and spoke to the family.
Anyway, during the call home my daughter asked me if I was having fun. I thought for a second and said "no, not really". Her reply was "well, why are you doing it then?"

Bloody good question Lucy!!

I didn't have an immediate answer for her but this morning her question was rattling around in my head. It first popped up about 15 minutes after I started riding, about when the bite valve on my Camelbak froze. Then again about 30 minutes into the day when the spout on my bidon froze shut. "Why was I doing this???"

I had a big day in front of me, I was bloody tired despite my rest day and I was absolutely grovelling along in this slow, cold bowl-gully, high altitude climb in below freezing temperatures.

I reckon that this was the place, just north of Flagstaff on the lower slopes of Humphrey's Peak, that I was closest to throwing in the towel in the whole race. About 5 times I decided "Thats it! I'm turning around and going back to the motel".

Schultz Creek. I was as blurred in the brain as this photo looks. It was just daylight, still -2C and uphill in this cold bowl. I sooooo wanted to turn and just roll down the trail back to Flag and warmth...........and failure.....

But....I didn't. I kept pedalling and pushing forward. The trail slowly opened up, the rock outcrops disappeared, and there was a pleasant enough, if uphill singletrack in front of me.

Climbing into the first of the Aspens. Always an inspiring time for me, even in their leafless state.

My half frozen, fatigued brain kept saying "keep moving, just keep moving forward" so that is what I did. I didn't have the strength to argue with myself at this point and in hindsight I am glad I have a certain amount of blind determination for times like this.

I came around a bend and sitting in the sun on a downed Aspen tree was Rob Adams. He was eating something and trying to warm up. As I spoke to him Scott Fisk rode up. I hadn't seen him along the trail this morning but Scott but he said he camped out last night and was near frozen solid! He admitted it wasn't a good call for the extra few miles he made past Flagstaff. Sometimes you just have to know when to call a day.

All three of us rode along for a while. The trail got steeper and steeper and we leapfrogged a bit along this section. We were almost at 9000ft now and it was still really cold, despite the clear morning. Suddenly we broke out into open meadow and were finally warmed by the sun. It called for a photo session as there were snow patches on the ground and views to the west of the vast plains that lie south of the Grand Canyon.

Scott Fisk and I taking in the view.


Snow in the shade near Snowbowl.

Scott was hungry as he had camped out last night and was going to the restaurant at the Snowbowl on the southern slopes of Humphrey's Peak. I was tempted to go with him but it was about a mile or so off route and I knew that meant at least 90 minutes of time loss if I went that way. I had eaten porridge in my room and had plenty of food so declined the offer of joining him, pressing on instead.

Seeing the sun I had stripped off some layers in preparation of being hot but withing about 15 minutes I had to stop and slip my layers back on. It was still bloody cold despite the sunlight. WTF?

Layers back on, Humphrey's Peak (12 631ft) frowning down upon me at a mere 9000ft.

The trail went downhill now as it wove it's way through the pines. It was actually fast and fun with the only impedance to forward progress being the odd downed tree here and there. The problem with going quickly downhill is that it got colder and colder! I had to stop and put on my puffer jacket over the top of everything else. I was now wearing everything I had and despite pedalling a 25kg fat tyred mountainbike I was still cold. Super glad I didn't do this yesterday when the top was 5C (it was going to be 18C today) and 50mph winds. It would have been downright dangerous for this banana bender!!

Right, thats it! That is all the clothing I own and it is still freezing! Get me out of here!!

I pedalled and pedalled away from Humprey's but it didn't seem to get any smaller. I would be looking at it's slopes for most of the day despite my best attempts to get the hell away from it!

AZT gate. Humphrey's. Cold.

I was checking out the cache' box just 20 metres through the gate above when Rob came through. I yelled to him "did he need some water" but he rode past without even flinching. Hmmmm, mustn't need any?

A short time later I rode up behind Rob and was following him along a rocky section of single track when my bike spat a rock out with a "plink". He near jumped off his bike!! He had no idea I was behind him and hadn't seen me standing at the cache' box at that last gate. So it wasn't just me that was rooted out of my mind and operating on a fairly basic level today!?! ;) In a perverted sort of way it made me feel better. I though it was just me that was suffering.

We rode and rode. The rocky single track eventually gave way to rocky jeep road where we made good time. Passing through a "bespoke" gate Rob decided he needed to eat his travel buritto. I was still ok but had a little snack and chatted with him for a few minutes. Rob had done the Tour Divide in 2016, The Colorado Trail Race in 2017 and was completing his lifetime Triple Crown with the AZTR now. We discussed the TD, as I had done it in 2015 and he posed the question "if I HAD to do one of the races again, which one would it be?". From my experience so far I said I'd rather do that 2700 mile(4300km) Tour Divide, hands down. He completely agreed. The AZTR was BRUTAL!!

Rob tucking into his burrito. Humphrey's watching over us....still.

I left Rob to eat and pressed on. I soon caught up to two riders. Who were they? There were only Dean and Beth out here ahead of me? It turned out to be two young ladies touring the route. They had left Flagstaff yesterday and battled the cold and wind. They were in amazingly good spirits and made me reflect on how racing the route bends your mind and body. Perhaps the AZT could be fun...at the right pace?

The girls told me that they had met Dean and Beth yesterday and that they had pressed on. They were worried about Beth as they had found some of her layers/protective shell stuck in some bushes along the trail. Perhaps Beth had dropped them or perhaps they had simply blown away and she couldn't catch them in the wind. The girls had collected the clothing and were worried for Beth's welfare. They planned to mail it back to her once they reached the Canyon.

I came to a hard right turn onto Babbit Ranch. There was a large loader parked there, right by the cache' box that is hidden behind some bushes. I checked the cache' and it had plenty of water but then, so did I. I didn't need any so didn't take any. One good thing about the cold weather was my low water consumption rate.

Cedar Ranch trailhead(I think). Cache' box behind bushes to left of photo.

The trail followed farm roads across fairly flat, open prairie. I WOULD NOT have wanted to be out here with 50mph winds!! It would have been a case of walking and lots of it. Stopping to open and close a gate I took the opportunity to fix a squealing front brake disc. I had put up with it for a few hours now and upon lifting the front wheel to spin it so that I could confirm that it was the front disc I heard- no- felt a graunching of wrecked bearings through the bike frame and handlebar that I was holding. SHIT! The front wheel wobbled from side to side about 5mm as well. I knew these Shutter Precision dyno hubs with the 15mm through axle had a reputation for failing but this one had done so well, coping with the TD and all the training miles I had done in preparation for the AZTR. Here I was, about 80km from Tusyan (which doesn't have a bike shop anyway) with a colapsing front wheel bearing. SHIT!! There was nothing I could do except just keep riding and hope it didn't get any worse.

Trail I had just covered, upper left. Yes, the AZT wound it's way back on itself putting Humphrey's Peak in front of me AGAIN!

The next few hours were a blur of climbing small hills only to descend, then repeat again, then some single track through low scrubby country. I just pedalled and hoped that I would see the Grandview Lookout at the Canyon soon. It wasn't to be though as it seemed to take forever and I began to worry about my front hub even more.

Eventually the trail became nice doubletrack and headed in more a less straight line. Hopefully toward the Canyon!

Coconino Passage? I am getting close to The Canyon now!!

I passed a few hikers along here and they were all pretty chipper. It still amazed me how fast they were all travelling. One could be severely embarrassed by a hiker passing if one wasn't careful!

NOT Russell Tank. I still didn't need water though.

I started to catch glimpses of the Canyon through the pines and thought I must be getting close to Grandview Lookout tower, my original planned camp site for tonight. At this rate I would make the resort township of Tusyan easily tonight. 

Canyon glimpses

But as usual, the AZT bit back. The trail stopped being so direct and began to contour the hillsides of the above photo. It dropped steeply down into washes before climbing out again. This was getting decidedly OLD!

I was catching up to another hiker and I saw him go through a gate just ahead. I went through as well but stopped for a few minutes to fit my light to my helmet, add a layer and eat a bite. Fair dinkum, it took me at least 15 minutes to catch and pass the guy! He was powering....or I was grovelling.....

Eventually I came to the Grandview Lookout tower just on dark. I managed to get a photo of it despite the low light. I decided that it was cold, I was hungry and it was only about 12 miles into Tusyan, where lay hot food, warm showers and soft beds. I promised myself another hotel room to recuperate for the Canyon hike tomorrow if I pressed on tonight.

Grandview Lookout. 10 hours pedalling to here on one tank of water.

Of course, those 12 miles took a long time. The trail seemed to take a lot of turns back and forth as I inched closer to Tusyan. It was now completely dark and I was just operating off my helmet light with the dynamo hub toasted. Deer ran here and there across the trail and I did worry a little if I was in bear country. It had that look about it.....

I eventually came to the back of Tusyan. I just needed to find a way across a high fence to the town and civilisation. I found a gate and it took me through the back entrance of the Grand Canyon Camper Village. I cut straight through, turned left at the main street and rode straight up to the Holiday Inn. Walking into the reception, I was almost knocked down by the heat emenating from the foyer! Damn, it was cold outside. I had shut it out but I guess it was pretty damn close to 0C(32F) by now at 9pm.

To my delight, the receptionist said yes, they did have a room. That would be $199.......my credit card flashed across the counter to her. A deal was a deal. I had ridden the 160km(100mi) from Flag to Tusyan and now the nice room was the payoff. 



Wheeling my bike into the room I walked straight back out, across the road and into McDonalds. To say I was peckish would be an understatement!! 20 nuggets, a quarter Pounder, a strawberry and custard pie(effin' delicious too!) and a MASSIVE hot chocolate with caramel flavouring were swapped for a small fortune and I was on my way back to the hotel. Placing the nuggets on the cistern of the toilet I was able to have a hot shower AND shove food into my face at the same time.
BLISS! 
Absolute. Fucking. Bliss.

After some quick facebooking to home and checking Trackleaders I turned in for the night at about 10pm. I was chuffed that I had made the leap from Flagstaff and was rally excited and just a little scared at the prospect of tackling the Canyon crossing in the morning.

FB snippet, typed tired and addled.

I had also answered Lucy's innocent, if cutting question of "well, why are you doing it then?" during today's ride. To paraphrase JFK - I am doing it, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. I told myself I can quit this thing at any time, any day or night. Anyone can quit the Arizona Trail Race but it takes a special kind of crazy - an adventurous crazyness that I admire -  not to quit. 
So that is why I was still going Lucy........that plus the thought of crossing the Grand Freakin' Canyon tomorrow!!












Cheers.





















Tusyan Maccas contemplation....shit it was cold!!















Saturday, June 23, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 9




For the first time in over a week I didn’t wake to a beeping watch. I just woke naturally (admittedly it was still early-ish) checked the race flow on Trackleaders and leisurely ate some breakfast. I did feel a need to get going but I told myself to remain calm as I couldn’t go anywhere until I had visited REI.
Heading outside on my bike the day looked nice but as soon as I left the wind shelter of the motel I discovered it was bitterly cold. It made me pedal hard for the few blocks that I needed to cover to the REI store. The forecast top of 5 Celcius and 50mph winds seemed accurate!

Once there I took my bike inside and had a look at shoes. They didn’t have anything I liked the look of so I checked out helmets. I liked the look of a new Giro Hex so grabbed one while I waited for an attendant. It took about 20 minutes before anyone was free as it was a very busy store.

8 days usage on the AZT!!

When I showed the guy my shoes and asked if he had some more Pearl Izumi X Alp IIs, he said no. Then he remembered they had a piar that had been returned by a customer who didn’t like them. They were the X Alp Elevate, not the X Alp IIs and one size larger. I decided to try them and luckily they were perfect! They looked so new and shiny compared to my old ones. Better still they felt so soft and plush underfoot. Something I would no doubt appreciate on the Canyon crossing!
I had him fit some new cleats and bin my old shoes (but not before I removed my orthotic insoles) along with the new insoles. I should have kept the new insoles but more on that in a later post.
My trusty old helmet that saw me through thousands of miles of training and the Tour Divide Race was also consigned to the skip bin with the old shoes.
I pedalled out about $280USD (about $800AU Pesos! ;) lighter. I was glad I wasn’t buying warm clothing as well to head out on the trail today as I may have needed to sell a kidney!

New kicks, same old legs. Non ventilated too- perfect! Not the legs. They have clearly been ventilated...

Nearing my motel I bumped into Beth about to head into Starbucks. She had been to REI as well to buy more layers and was about to press on toward The Canyon. She didn’t look very enthusiastic and I didn’t envy her. As much as I felt a bit soft at sitting today out, I knew it was the right decision for me. I wished her well and knew I wouldn’t see her again. She is a very strong bikepacker.

Back in the motel I proceeded to carry out some bike maintenance,

Checking brake pads. They were actually ok!


some body maintenance

Blister on right ball of foot from Highline and the Mogollon Rim. Black nails from the dye I used to dye my grey Ground effect socks to black. Scratches courtesy of Southern Arizona desert!

and some resting. (sorry,no pics - think of the children!!)

I headed out to the Fry’s again for another shop, then headed to the Agave Mexican Restaurant at the motel next door. I bought a burrito meal for dinner and also one to go for tomorrow.



Retiring to my room I discovered this was by far the best burrito of the whole AZTR for me! I almost went back to get another but it was too cold to venture out now and I eyed the one I had bought for tomorrow longingly......

Checking Trackleaders before I went to bed I could see that Beth and Dean had made it about half way to Tusyan, so about 80km for the day. I intended to do the whole 160km in one hit and was reassured that my decision to stay in a warm motel for a second night was a sound one. I had a soft, warm bed versus their (very) cold hard ground.
160 AZTR kilometres is always going to be tough but I would be strong after my lay day.

Bring it on!!






Cheers

































Agave Mexican magicians on Route 66. The AZT runs through the lights at the intersection from right to left.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 8



It was a windy night and quite cold but I was snug and even sweating a little in my little cocoon. I looked at my watch. 5:45am. Time to get up. I was up and into my riding gear in record time as it was too cold to faff around this morning!
Looking back to where Beth had camped I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was still there and had gear strewn around the place. That meant she wasn't about to pedal off soon either. 
I thought I had better give her space and not go over to say hi as she may need privacy. I decided to pack up and gently pedal off, knowing that she would catch up with me at some point today.

The trail was more rocky shit, followed by some more rocky shit, then the odd bit of silky smoothness, followed by, yep, more rock. Just more typical AZT.

Rocky shit. Miles and miles and miles of it......

When the trail smoothed out it was sublime riding. The pines and the elevation made it soo different to southern Arizona.

Silky Blue Ridge trail.

After a few gates and road crossings, I came to the Blue Ridge campground. It would have been nice to stay here last night, if only for the toilets. I was confident that it wouldn't be too long until resupply at Mormon Lake so I left one of my precious Starbucks Esspresso Doubleshot cans on a rock outside the lavs for Beth, writing her name on it with the Niko pen I was carrying. I had passed a couple of hikers this morning and was hoping they wouldn't get to the coffee first!

Blue Ridge campground loos.

When I packed up this morning I noted that I only had 1200ml of water remaining. I would have to make that water last the 60-odd kilometres to Mormon Lake....which should only be 3-4 hours away....right?

I grovelled onward, looking for water along the trail but all of the tanks(dams) were dry. It had been a particularly dry winter up here apparently.

No joy here.

I had taken to filling my bidon from the camelbak so I could monitor my water situation and now I only took very small, judicious, sparing sips. This made my already dry burrito very hard to swallow.

Mmmmm, breakfast....now 36 hours old.....

I was now riding the infamous Happy Jack section of trail but I didn't know it because there was no signage anywhere along here to indicate where I was. When I got to the section of dirt road that was in fact all boulders, I knew it just had to be Happy Jack trail.

Happy Jack single track

I rode in the grass alongside the road, I crossed the road multiple time because it always looked smoother "over there". I took to walking for a while, pedalling standing up, pedalling seated, pedalling seated while cursing, pedalling standing while cursing.........

About now in the race is where the gates started to piss me off too. I had been pretty chilled with them up until Happy Jack, but now they were just another bloody obstacle to slow my progress. Oh, and they were ridiculously tightly strung so that you used almost every ounce of your remaining strength to get them closed again!!

Button-pushing, overly tightly strung mental torture device! Or a gate to you......

I was not in a good head space as I was pretty thirsty by now. I considered wading through the mud to get some of this this murky water but thought I would get bogged in the mud trying.

Just how thirsty are ya?

It couldn't be too much further to Mormon Lake....right? After a few more twists and turns, a few more gates it was getting cold despite the sun being high in the sky. I stopped to put another layer on after passing through a gate and as I turned around, Beth rode up. It was nice to see her again after a morning spent alone with my thoughts.

We rode along at a decent clip, except for the odd blowdown and particularly rocky sections of trail. I had my one and only "step off" of the race along here while decending a particularly rocky left hand, downhill switchback when the front folded. I was able to simply step off the top side of the bike and didn't go down, but the bike had a little lie down. The effort of leaping off the bike was bad enough in my fatigued state though.

Blowdown HAB.

We encountered a new section of single track along here that had only just been opened. It was so new that the pin flags marking the cut were still alongside the trail. There was some consternation that we were going off the official race trail but it was obvious that this was the new AZT. And thank god for that! It was well graded and routed trail that once bedded in will be fun to ride as it contoured the hillside near Mahan Mountain.

Soon after, we crossed Lake Mary Road at Allan Lake Landing. It was super windy here and I had some trouble closing the new gate on the western side of the road. Gaining the shelter of the trees, there was a very new looking sign that said "Flagstaff 26 miles". Only 26 miles? Awesome!! We must be nearly at Mormon Lake then I exclaimed! Well, we rode and rode and rode. There are three trails into Mormon Lake as you head north on the AZT. The first two require a big climb back to the AZT, where the third is along a relatively flat road, but is longer. We elected to use the third(last) access to Mormon but it was taking forever to get to it. When we finally did, it was 3pm!! I had been riding since 6am, on 1200ml of water to get to what I thought would be breakfast. Here we were, at afternoon tea time with a couple of miles still to ride into Mormon!!
There was consternation as to whether the store would be open but I needed water at the least, so I pedalled off toward the resort and I think Beth reluctantly followed. I was pedalling hard as I needed that resort to be open.

No photos of the resort unfortunately.

Rolling up to the store and it was indeed open! I was so relieved but the clerk said they were closing in 30 minutes! I went a bit nuts trying to find coffee, hot food, sugary food and WATER. I made 3 visits to the front counter as I ploughed my way through a mountain of food. Sated somewhat, we discovered we had cell service and looked at Trackleaders. We saw that Dean Anderson was only about half way from the rim to Mormon and I knew he would still be hours away. It was getting cold and he would no doubt be low on food. I bought two small sugary danishes and asked the clerk for a brown paper bag. Placing the treats in the bag Beth wrote Dean's name and 'trail magic" on it. We left the bag at the Saint Joseph Youth Camp AZT trail head, hoping Dean would see it in the dark. I was still paying the Molino beer forward.

Thinking that Flagstaff was less than 26 miles away, we headed off along the trail, well watered and fed. I felt like $1M after the food and especially the coffee. The trail was a little taxing for a while but the odd sighting of deer or elk helped make it interesting. We then came to a section of trail that follows an old railway line. The trail swooped up and down, crossing the line many times. IT. WAS. AWESOME!! It was almost golden hour now and I really should have stopped for some photos but it was just too much fun and we hooted along this section. The trail went under a road near the Pine Grove campground, which I had noted as a possible camping spot in my notes but it was too early to stop yet. As were blasted under the bridge there was a hiker cooking dinner on her stove. I think we scared the daylights out of her as we were hooking along at a good clip! I shouted a "hi" and we were gone!

We crossed Lake Mary road again and climbed up onto Anderson Mesa. The climb wasn't too bad at all and the views were amazing, right on sunset. I didn't like the look of the clouds on the horizon. They looked decidedly like snow clouds. We stopped to layer up as when the sun dropped, the temperature plummeted as well.

Horse Lake on Anderson Mesa.

The trail relentlessly climbed at a low angle but just enough to keep you working hard. I was feeling strong again and just stood and mashed the pedals. It felt good to be making fast miles and Flagstaff couldn't be too far away.....

It was totally dark now and we were in the 'tunnel of light" again, so who knows what the countryside looks like along here? The trail was pretty good and got better the closer we got to Flagstaff. It became proper mountain bike trail after a while and we were hooking along. Until we got to Walnut Canyon where we were suddenly off route, even though we were following the trail. Back tracking a couple of times we could just see in the darkness where the old trail had been closed off and this new trail replaced it. Cool, just follow the trail. But where was Flagstaff? We had been riding for almost four hours, non stop since Mormon Lake and we still weren't near Flagstaff.....

Somewhere on the steep descent into Walnut Canyon my headlight cut out, bat flattery. I took my little camping headlight out and put that around my head and continued on, following Beth now. We climbed out the other side of the canyon and at every turn we were stopping to zoom around on the GPS, looking for Flagstaff. We couldn't even see a glow of lights on the horizon. Around here I remembered from my notes that Flag is about 40 miles from Mormon, not 26-ish. What that sign way back at Allan Lake Landing was indicating must have been via a different road - it confused us because it was on a AZT like wooden board.

A few more steep climbs and a long steep descent later, we were at the I-10 underpass into Flagstaff!! Woo hoo!!

It was late, now around 10pm and bloody cold, around zero Celsius (32F) and we made for the motel I had planned on staying at, the Travelodge on Route 66. It proved to be cheap at about $40 a night. We had been warned that tomorrow was meant to be super cold with a top of 5C and 50mph winds up here. I decided that I wasn't going out into that, what with the lack of cold weather gear I had and in 50mph winds, one would be walking nearly everything. Nope, I was staying two nights and having a rest/recuperation day. Plus I needed new shoes as mine were toast by now and sometime tonight my helmet retention band had snapped, allowing my helmet to bounce all over my head with the heavy light mounted on top of it. 
A visit to REI for some replacements was in order tomorrow but first to get into a warm room and get some food. I couldn't figure out how to order a pizza online from Pappa Johns so I quickly rode around the corner to the Fry's supermarket. It was open and I shopped up a storm so that I didn't need to go out early tomorrow for food. Microwave soup and pizza hit the spot tonight, with yogurt, muesli and fruit for breakfast, plus the old favourite Doubleshot espresso to wash it down with. Three bags of groceries in all!
Back in the room,  I had that heater cranking, had a hot, hot shower and was in bed by midnight.

Today was a tough day. Far tougher than expected - but that was becoming the catchcry of the AZT. I was thinking every day that it must get easier, that I have the worst of it behind me but every day I was getting my butt kicked by new hurdles. I began to worry about the Grand Canyon crossing now, as it was only one day's ride away and EVERYONE said it was brutal.

Brutal. 
That is what the Arizona Trail was. One word summed it up......


Day 8.




Cheers.



































Not likely!!








Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 7





I had watched Trackleaders, yesterday afternoon, as both Beth Shaner and Dean Anderson rode into Payson and was a bit bummed that they would be passing me and hence, bumping me back two more places in the race. It was my choice though to stop riding so early in the day (about 2:30pm) to get a room so as to have some recovery time - so I wasn't too hard on myself.
When my alarm went off I dozed for a while, not wanting to get out of the warm, soft bed. This is why motels are dangerous for racers. They suck time away too easily. Anyway, I finally got out of bed, had some breakfast and was out the motel door at about 5:20am. I saw this morning, on trackleaders, that Dean and Beth had actually both stayed in motels in Payson as well so I had some chance of bumping into them again. Company was getting thin on the ground as of the 34 or so 750 mile racers, about half had scratched from the race and 10 or so were well in front of me (or finished already!).

Riding out of Payson was pleasant, if cold. The route went through some suburban back streets before finding the dirt again. The dirt was good back road, if a little twisty and turny, but it made for good riding as the first rays of daylight began to light the way for me.

Just leaving Payson. The trail was fast and fun. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 6



I woke at about midnight to the sound of bike tyres crunching on gravel. A dim light rolled past with a little blinky red tail light flashing, then it was gone.....
I had set my alarm for 0330 and when I woke I really didn't know if I had dreamt about someone riding past or actually seen it.
It was a clear, cold morning on top of this hill and I packed up as quickly as I could to get rolling. The now dirt road climbed for 15 minutes which was good as it allowed me to stay warm, then it proceeded to drop from 916m(3000ft) to 650m(2130ft) which was a hoot, even if it was cold! Somewhere near the bottom of that first descent I crossed a small bridge, then there was a light coming toward me. Someone else out on a bike? At this hour? Cool!
We stopped to say "hi" and it turned out to be Aaron Denburg, the sole North to South AZTR750 racer! We chatted briefly and I warned Aaron about the big climb coming up, then we got back to it. (I later learned that Aaron was a veteran of this race and knows the course like the back of his hand)


Monday, June 11, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 5



I was up at 1230ish and quietly packed my bivy into my bar bag. It seemed like Dean was sleeping in, as a quiet snoring was emanating from his bivy, about 20m away. I tip-toed past him as he was by the entry point to this little clearing by the river. I knew I would be seeing him again, later in the race. He is one strong rider.



The trail went up, pretty much straight away. It started out as double track but quickly went to single track. Single track that skirted around a cliff face with a high wall on one side and a drop off the other. I pushed most of the ups and hooted down the downs. There were many, many of these. 
I made a deal with myself this morning. I was not going to look at my gps distance at all and I was not going to look around in the darkness at all. I was simply going to look at the trail, keep moving along it and when I had done enough moving, Picketpost trailhead would be in front of me....


The only photo I took of that morning. Lots of exposure.


Friday, June 8, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 4


Beeep, beeep beeep,beeeeeeep.........

My watch was telling me it was 2am and to wake up but again I had beaten it to the punch. I was already looking up at the stars, sweating my arse off in my bivy. I was not sure if it was my sleeping bag rating, the warm night or the “night sweats” that one tends to get when doing these bikepacking races. I turned the bag and my bivy inside out and hung them from my handlebars for a quick dry while I got dressed and ate another burrito. I was always slow to get going but I always look after my gear which I think pays dividends in the long run.

It was very dark and quite cold and windy as I began pedalling toward Kelvin, a mere 89km away. The trail was quite tight and tricky this morning with lots of steep pinches that had me off, pushing. Add to this a 25-30 knot wind and any time I turned into wind I was crawling again. I was on the lookout for water as I went along but even though tanks were marked on the gps I couldn’t see anything in the dark of night.
Just when the trail seemed to get a bit of flow to it, a gate would loom out on the darkness and cause a dismount. At least most were of the modern, easily operated variety.




Sunday, June 3, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 3


My alarm was set for 6am today. I was giving myself a sleep in but I woke at about 5:45 to the sound of tyres crunching gravel. A couple of riders were rolling out of the campground to attack Mt Lemmon. I laid back and stared up into the tree above me. There was no burning desire to leap up and give chase, instead I was enjoying the warmth of my bivy and the lack of rattle in my chest. While it was far from perfect at least my breathing wasn't as laboured as it was last night. Maybe 8 hours of solid sleep and a lower dust environment helped with that.

I slowly hauled myself out of bed and slid into my riding gear. I wasn't wet or sweaty which is one advantage of racing in a near zero humidity environment. Now that it was light I could survey my surroundings. It was quite a pretty little spot under this big 'ol tree.

Skunk free digs