Sunday, April 20, 2014

2014 Arizona Trail Race Recap (AZT300)


Results: 2 days 21 hours and 48 minutes!!! 300 miles 40,000 feet of climbing. One gear...single minded as well.

Results here: http://www.topofusion.com/azt/results.php

After completing the Colorado Trail Race in 2013 I wanted to tackle another event. Naturally the Arizona Trail Race came to mind. Not the full meal deal of the 750 but the 300 sounded just right. I began the planning back in the fall.

I started off my big miles training plan by racing solo single speed in February at 24 HITOP followed up by some overnight bikepacking trips. I also run a lot. I pretty much used the exact same setup I used on the CTR sans any cooking device. The plan was to go without much sleep and not worry about hot meals. I did bring my sleeping gear. If I was to sleep it would be quality sleep. The body cannot recover without proper rest. No need to shiver in a lightweight bivy.

My race plan was to go under three days. That meant 100 miles a day or more! I have read the blogs over and over until they blurred together. I knew where I had to be at a given time. I knew where the water would be and brought along water tabs in case I needed to treat water. This was never the case.

It took us a day and a half to reach the Parker Lake Trail head driving from Rico. We were only a few miles from the border and saw a dozen border patrol vehicles. Pretty weird. We arrived early enough to allow some rest time while piddling with the bike. I cannot tell you how many times I went over my gear setup. I must have drove Laura crazy. LOL!!!

I went without any back pack on my person. Everything was on the bike. I could carry nearly 200 ounces of fluids. On the bike was a 100 ounce Source bladder in the frame bag. Two 32 ounce bottles in my feed bags. One 24 ounce bottle on my down tube and a 16 ounce bottle of Coke in my back jersey pocket rounded off my fluids. I started off pretty full as the heat was going to be an issue.

Pre race speech by Scott Morris.

Last minute race talk.

Shawn Gregory ready for the start!

Dan Holmes looking ready!

Rick Miller and I before the beat down. Rick went on to finish in 3 days and change.

The Start: Day 1. The race started off promptly at 9am on Friday morning. The fast guys took off and I settled myself into the single-track. It was up and down and technical. The bike felt awkward with the extra water in my feed bags on the handlebar, nearly 64 ounces of Carbo Rocket to be exact. I needed to be conservative in the first 40 miles to ensure a good run for the remainder of the race. I had heard of these Canelo Hills..... mean.......unrelenting in the heat. I went over the handlebars in a techy rocky section. I gashed my left shin but no stitches were needed. I pulled up the compression sleeve to cover it and was back on my way. That was close. I told myself to calm down and get used to the heavily loaded bike. At his juncture I was with Dan Holmes (Koko teammate and fellow Rico-nite) and Brian Brothers. Brian took off later but we saw him again in Sonoita. Like I said the Canelo's can be mean. Dan and I trudged along in the hills. It was exactly what I expected...hard!  We came upon Big Dave who had lost his chain ring bolts. That sucks. He soon passed us up with a mission at hand to catch back up to the front runners and I thought he would crack from the heat at that pace. He is a veteran of this event so I figured he knew he was doing. Right. I was right. Unfortunately Big Dave ended up a DNF from the hard effort in the heat. We finally made it out of "the hills" and rode the 12 miles of pavement to Sonoita passing Big Dave who had slowed down considerably. He was crusted in white from the sodium pouring out of his body. Wow, it was hot! Food and water stop in Sonoita with an extended break to regroup and head on out to the next section. So far I had no cramping issues from the heat; Popping Thermatabs and keeping my two 32 ounce bottles full of Gatorade was the trick. I told myself to just keep going with what worked. I needed food to get at the least to the Rincon Market outside of Tucson or maybe to Oracle. I had no intentions of going into Tucson. I bought enough to make it to Oracle. I knew it was going to be a hard day. Dan and I pedaled together riding with other riders off and on. Josh and Jen to name a couple. We passed Big Dave again on the dirt road that led us to some sweet single track that would get us to Kentucky Camp. Big Dave was walking his bike. We made it to Kentucky camp and topped off our water levels. Never pass up a water stop was my motto. Brian was in front of us somewhere and Tony had caught back up to us. The next water source was at La Sevilla campground past I-10 about 40 miles away.

We made it to La Sevilla campground around 2am. Josh, Jen, Dan and I had grouped together in the last 10-15 miles for the push to La Sevilla. That last section since passing through Kentucky Camp was tough with lots of ups and downs with some techy sections to keep you honest in the dark. I was running Fenix PD 32 UE lights on the helmet and the bar. Flawless. They were proven on the CTR and were proven once again on the AZT. The sunset was beautiful on our first night out on the AZT. Brian was at the campground pondering what to do and he decided to call it a night and get some shut eye. I decided to call it a night and try to get some sleep as well as Dan. I think we were a bit over a hundred miles for the day. We were under the ramada which was nice when it started to rain unexpectedly. I was restless and didn't sleep much at all but being off the legs for a bit was key. Dan and I rolled out around 5 am with both of us sleeping very little if at all. We were faced with yet another brutal day; the Molina HAB (hike-a-bike), Mt. Lemmon climb with  Oracle Ridge to boot. My goal was to be in Oracle that night or damn close to it.

Day 2: Dan and I rolled into the Rincon Market outside of Tucson and decided to get some hot food (burritos and coffee) and take a short break before the Reddington climb. Brian, Josh and Jen rolled in shortly after we arrived. The single track from La Sevilla to Hope Camp was smooth. Jen was hurting it seemed like from her crash in the Canelo Hills. She had a huge bruise on her thigh. I told her it was best to keep moving. She later scratched. Bummer. She was riding strong. I bought an assortment of items to make it to Oracle; Cokes, burritos, power bars, peanut butter cookies, snickers and some other items. I was carrying a lot of food but I was not going to run out of calories. The next 100 miles was going to be brutal.

Dan and I rolled out with Brian Brothers. Jen and Josh were still putzing around at the market. Jen was scribbling on some paper trying to wrap her head around how many calories she needed to the next food stop. I myself wasn't that exact on how many calories I needed. Just load up the food and go! The goal is not to run out of food. I always had a reserve.

We soon came to the Reddington climb after some paved junk miles.....it did not disappoint. It was steep and the sun was starting to cook us. The only rattlesnake I saw was a dead one on this climb. We soon made it past Reddington and onto some knar jeep road we nicknamed "Redneck Rodeo" and onto a 12.7 mile section of sweet single track that would lead us to the nasty Molina HAB. That was a viscous climb. We climbed (hiked) up one side and hiked down the other side. And than we hiked some more single track after crossing the paved highway eventually running into Scott Morris who was out with others having a fun ride. I kindly thanked him for that last section. Ha! Dan and I made it back to the pavement and began our long climb up Mt. Lemmon. Brian had chugged up ahead earlier and we caught back up to him towards the top. I was feeling pretty good at this point and was making a hard charge to the top. Brian had ordered some burgers and fries for us from the restaurant and they would stay open for us if we made it by 6.30pm. Motivation!!! We made it and they were kind enough to let us sit inside. Very nice people. Now it was Dan, Brian, Tony and I together eating hot tasty food in the restaurant. Brian decided to stay and sleep some in the heated bathroom while us other three moved on to tackle Oracle Ridge. It was cold and windy and we all layered up for the assault on Oracle Ridge. Well, it was more like I was assaulted by Oracle Ridge. We departed Summer Haven at 7.30 pm and arrived near Oracle at 2am. WTF.................that was brutal. 20 miles in 6.5 hours. I was battered from the hike-a-bike. We caught up to Josh who was going to bivy early. Tony, Dan and I pushed onward and bedded down in a wash for some sleep. Day 2 goal was achieved. I slept a solid 3 hours and we were up at first light; which is early in Arizona compared to Colorado. They are an hour earlier.  Apparently Tony didn't sleep much as he was shivering in his 'bivy only' sleep system. What did I say earlier......We had a few miles to get to Oracle where we would resupply and carry enough food to push to the finish. But before making it to Oracle we had to backtrack to make sure we were on course as the AZT signs and the GPS track were differing. I really didn't need that nonsense.

Day 3: After refueling and stocking up on calories for the final push to the finish the three of us rode out of Oracle with high hopes of making the final push to the end with no sleep. We hadn't seen any other riders on this morning. After talking to Laura we knew that Shawn was about 25 miles in front of us. Unless he cracked or we went full throttle there was no way of catching him. AZT miles are hard to come by and 25 miles is at least 6 hours of pedaling and pushing. Brian was behind us somewhere as well and we wouldn't see him again until the finish. The next section of the AZT entailed some sweet up and down single track on our way to Antelope Peak. Which by the way looked like a hundred miles away. We took a break in Bloodsucker Wash finding some shade to take in some calories. It was getting hot. Again. Our next water cache was the Freeman water cache. We were genuinely confused thinking we were at Freeman Road once to discover we were not. You cross Freeman Road twice. Duh!! Time wasted again. Once we made it to the water cache we were rejuvenated. We rode the Boulders section next which was sweet single track. Flowy and fluid........where did this come from? All things do come to an end though. I took a nasty fall on some double track in a g-out. Front tire went one way and I went the other. Shoulder, wrist, legs all took a hit. I thought my face was going to take the hit as well but pulled my head back just in time and only the helmet hit the ground. I am surprised I didn't break anything. Dan and Tony were surprised as well. Bounce back up and get going.

It started getting dark on us as we climbed out of Ripsey wash. And it climbed some more, and some more before we started the descent to the Gila River. It was dark so the scenery was not to be tonight. I need to get back there and ride that in the daylight. This was the final push to the end and I knew it was going to be a knife fight. I just didn't bring the right knife for this fight. LOL!!! We made it to Kelvin stopping at the trail head to eat. I downed my last burrito I had been carrying since Oracle. Tony asked me if he thought it was still good to eat after being in the sun all day. Sure!!! Mine was tucked under my bladder in the frame bag so it had stayed somewhat cool. Somewhat. We ate and continued onto the final segment. I had ridden this section in the opposite direction and knew the climb out of the Gila was going to be hard. I just didn't know how hard. The 14 miles of single track that runs along the Gila River was fun in the dark and we pushed a bit to hard having fun. We came upon Mike from Crested Butte napping along the double track. HE soon caught up to us and crushed the climb after getting 4 hours of sleep. We could see lights across the river from other racers. Probably Brian and Josh was my guess. Than the right turn to the final big climb came. Damn, I forgot how long that climb is...........was........is................damn...........

Dan and Tony were starting to fade a bit and I hiked my little legs off. I can move when I need to and I was on a mission. About two-thirds of the way up I came around a corner and my lights lit up some eyes..........uh-oh! Lion, as in mountain lion. He was on a rock about 30 feet away just staring at me. I had to literally go right by him. I wasn't too scared at first and charged on my way yelling and turning my light on my helmet on high. I lost sight of him and soon realized he was above me watching me. They move fast!!! WTF. Now I started to freak out a bit. I was yelling and got out my knife in case I was to fight him off. I went around the next corner and looked up only to see him slowly creeping my way. Ok, now I terrified and started yelling down to Dan and Tony of my situation. It was windy and Dan finally caught on to what I was yelling. My voice was hoarse and I was downright scared now. So, I'm pushing my bike, holding a knife in one hand and looking for this cat. Things were going south rather quickly for me. I really didn't need this sort of situation. Well, Dan and Tony made it up quickly sensing the urgently in my voice. Tony laughed at me saying I made it up to get them up there quickly. Uh, no. Don't know if the cat was just intrigued or what but that was scary. I finally calmed down and we made our way up and over the hump. It was windy as was the theme for most of the race. Dan and Tony were a bit shelled and I was worrying about them making there way in the past 15 miles with the extreme exposure we had to yet navigate. Once I saw them out of the hairy stuff I was rest assured they were OK I made my way down to the finish. I know this is a race but sometimes safety comes first.

Dawn was fast approaching and the green lush desert jungle was alive. The last 10 miles is so awesome with the greenery. I came upon some house cat looking creature in the last 5 miles. I wasn't sure what it was but it resembled a house cat or a Pine Marten creature. I definitely wasn't seeing things. It was as real as the lion my friends. My motor skills were lacking and I couldn't get the camera out fast enough to take a picture. It stared at me for about 10-20 seconds before it ran into the desert. So awesome to see one of these.
EDIT: I saw a Jaguarundi.... http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/Jagurandi.htm




 I continued on pounding through the rocks to the finish like I was cross country racing. I came in under my three days at 6.48 a.m. on Monday morning. No sleep in over 24 hours for the last 100 miles and only 4-5 hours of sleep total in three days. WOW! What an adventure. I saw some great country out there. I also missed some great scenery when riding at night too. A true ass kicker on the single speed. One of the toughest events I have ever completed.

The Bike: My Kokopelli Bike Co Ti 29er rig ran flawlessly with the Reba 100 mm fork. I ran a 32x22 gearing with a carbon Truvativ Noir crankset with carbon bash guard to boot. Rennon 22 tooth black aluminum machined cog in the rear. SRAM 971 chain. Stan's Crest wheeelset with Maxxis Ikon 2.35 tires with EXO protection. Ti Cycles 30 degree ti flat handlebar. J&L ti stem and a Kokopelli Bike CO ti seat post. XT brakes with resin pads. All bike packing bags by Revelate Designs. It's all about the titanium! The tires held up great. The rear tire is a bit chewed up but considering the nasty sharp rocks out there I was pleased I had no issues.  No mechanicals at all. What a solid run it was on the Koko rig.


Thanks to my wife for supporting me to achieve my crazy goals and the guys at Kokopelli Bike and Board in Cortez for the support they give to the race team.


Ready to roll at the start.

Josh and Dan in Sonoita.

Sunset on my first night out.


Brian and Dan on Reddington.




HAB to Prison Camp. Photo by Scott Morris.

Photo by Scott Morris. Thanks!

Bivy spot outside Oracle in a wash. The cat litter was comfy.




Dan Holmes packing up for another hard day.

Dan and Tony on Tiger Mine Road ready for some single track,

Beehive Well.

Awesome desert floral.

Dan giving me the bird.

Antelope Peak.....far away.


Freeman water cache. Gold!

Cool self closing gate.

The cockpit.

Ripsey Wash.


Moon time!


Finished!!!!

I'm one happy camper.

Dan Holmes at the finish.

Anthony Diede finishing.

Brian Brothers with the finish on his fatty.



4 comments:

Scott Schaefer said...

Hi Jeff-it's Scott from Frog Hollow. I've been looking to do this next year and enjoyed following your progress and enjoyed your recap.

Jeff Hemperley said...

Hey Scott. Hope you're doing well. Yeah, the AZT is a good one. I read all the blogs I could find on course data and it was key. Have a great race year. CTR???? That's a good barn burner as well? I'm not doing it this year.

Freako

Jeff Hemperley said...

Hey Scott. Hope you're doing well. Yeah, the AZT is a good one. I read all the blogs I could find on course data and it was key. Have a great race year. CTR???? That's a good barn burner as well? I'm not doing it this year.

Freako

Rick Miller said...

Hey Jeff, you Riconians are a hard lot - good race! I copped your pic of me for my bikepacker.net profile - thanks and hope you don't mind.