Path to the 300

With all the training, eating, sleeping, and work, the adventures are piling up faster than I can post about them. I am not complaining, but here are some highlights of things over the past month and a half. Hopefully I’ll get in a better rhythm of riding and posting.

Here are some pictures from 24HOP, Seattle, and just whenever else I was out riding somewhere and had a camera.

The 24HOP race went well and I rode my first “dirty” century in one sitting. I then got very mentally fatigued rolling the same terrain over and over again and dreamed of rolling the AZT300 instead of that hamster-wheel nonsense. I rolled an extra 2 laps in the morning and made for a total of 8 laps. Not too shabby considering I was rolling easy and still snuck in a good 11 hours of sleep.

Seattle was just rainy and I rode around the whole city and got to experience the cool commuting lifestyle they have going there. I also got to go to the I5 Colonnade MTB skills park which is this amazing set of skinnies, rock gardens, wooden coasters and all kinds of amazing obstacles to roll. I wished I had my AM bike while I was there to attack some of the meaner stuff, but I still had a blast and rode until I busted the rear derailleur on a tight left on a skinny. Some good SS action ensued.

Speaking of riding SS. I have recently added a squishy fork and gears to the mariachi. Hopefully these will aid me in finishing the 300 since my shoulders and upper back tend to fatigue a bit earlier on the rigid and the gears are so nice on the knees and core when it comes to making hard miles on a loaded bike. I have also finally finished up building my kit with a ton of Revelate Designs gear including a salsa/revelate designs-branded frame pack, bar bag, seat bag, and jerry can for the mariachi. Everything is made very well and the bike now feels super dialed. The race is 13 days away and I am very excited to finally set out on the great adventure. Still don’t know what the AZT300 is? Learn a little bit about the Arizona Trail 300.

Ripsey

I have been trying to do the northern lollipop of the APC115 for at least a year and a half now. Either it has been too hot, I’ve been too weak, I can’t find anyone to go with, the drive is too far, it is too cold, family plans, it gets dark too early. Too many excuses culminated and it was time to pull the trigger. After staring at pictures of the zigzagging switchbacks of the big hill on Scott’s diary, bugging Chad to see how long it would take, playing games with the GPX file, and getting EPIC’ed by just looking at pictures of this ride it was time to pull the trigger and do it.

As a tradition, the night before, I scored very few hours of sleep and still left my house late. Just late enough though. I stopped in at Claire’s cafe in Cataliza and ordered up a half order of bicuits and gravy (I’d already eaten a big slice of AJ’s pizza that morning, otherwise I would’ve opted for the big ‘un). Biscuits and gravy were knocked back along with a few stiff black coffees, I paid and hit the road.

I finally arrived at Freeman Rd. There was another truck parked there. I quickly went and checked out to see if John Schilling and his buddy Chris were there. I immediately saw two bikes, two bivy sacks, and John was already up. He told me they started late the day before and didn’t finish the Ripsey lollipop until 9:00pm. John immediately hopped out of his bag and started getting ready. I had two slices of AJ’s specialty pizza on me and offered them up in exchange for help in moving the 20gallons of water into the cache. We did some consolidation and some cleanup of the cache. I stuck around and chatted and finally pushed off into the Boulders section.

The boulders section was a blast. I kept a fierce pace and was moving at non-AZT speeds, I rode it a lot like I’d ride fantasy island with my dog in tow. I came across some hikers who had a dog, they held the cool auto-gate open for me while I passed through and the dog gave chase. I got to open up my legs and drop the sucker. Maybe he just wanted to run for once. Once in a while I would stop to snap some shots of some cool random rocks.

I finally hit some decent climbs and saw a sign for Ripsey. I kept wondering “Is that the big hill?” when I saw some big hill in the distance. Finally I got to an area that had a huge cairn and took a short break to much on some rice crispie treats and load up some sunflower seeds. I started a short descent and then THERE IT WAS! The big hill! A true sight to behold! As I started descending towards the big hill, I heard a rattlesnake give a shake in the bushes by a turn. Good tip, better keep my eyes peeled and be aware. Soon enough, I was plowing through the sands of the Ripsey wash. While I was down in the wash, a bowling ball sized rock came tumbling down the hillside next to me. I yelled and looked at the hill above, there was no sign of any animals. Creepy. I plowed on wanting to make some time. I stopped in some very nice shade and ate some doritos and sipped on some EFS. I laid down and gave my back a few good stretches. Soon, a wasp started buzzing around me and I decided it was time to start moving again. A few short HABs and some short riding and I was knocking at Ripsey’s door.

The big hill wasn’t bad at all, but the switchbacks were really fun to try. I didn’t nail all of them, but I made some good progress for riding with so much reserve. Before I knew it, they were over and I was on top of the big hill. I started riding along the ridgeline and ran into some more hikers. I chatted with them about the 300, the water cache, and snakes. I then started some very big descents. I must’ve been descending for forever. My front tire was a little squishy and I stopped and added air. It held the rest of the time without incident. I reached the Florence Kelvin highway and scouted out where the trail goes from there.

I then started the long easy grind up the road. It only took about 4 hours moving time to get from Freeman road to the Florence Kelvin HWY. That boosted my spirits and my AZT300 stoke. I finally hopped off that buttery-smooth road and started heading back towards the boulders section. I stopped and had a warm red bull and maybe took in too much EFS. My GI started shutting down and my stomach was really upset for the remaining amount of time. I did not feel fatigue in my legs (just my upper back) and started hammering. I put on a really hard pace for the last hour and a half back to the water cache. I binged on water, which probably made things worse. I knew I was dehydrated. I tried eating some chex mix to calm down my stomach. I was wondering if John and Chris would be getting to the water cache around the same time I was.

I finally got to the car despite my asymptotic approach. I made a recovery drink with whatever EFS concentrate I had left and two scoops of ultragen. The concoction did me in. I knew it would make me sick, but I figured I’d take nutrition over comfort. I was green and wanted to vomit from Freeman road all the way to the In N Out burger in Oro Valley. The drive was easily the hardest part of my day and my only goal was getting fries and a soda. For good measure I got a cheeseburger combo (didn’t eat the burger that night) and ate fries, 7up, and then a Coke. I was finally good to go and finished up my drive home. My wife got some indian takeout and the rice and naan hit the spot. I lay wide awake in bed that night still trying to come off my Ripsey high or maybe the 44oz of Coke.

Gunsight Pass

I have wanted to do this loop for far too long. Every day when I am at work, wasting away, getting weaker, I can see this climb from miles away. I’ve built a route from forest service maps, googlemaps, and topofusion topomaps. and scrolled around the satellite imagery hundreds of times. I’ve looked at the elevation profile for the route that I’ve created and have been concerned over the steep grades that have existed in the profile.

Finally I had a day free to go attack the loop. The idea was to start in Vail, AZ at HWY83/Sahaurita Rd and ride to Houghton/Sahaurita and then head south past Ocotillo Preserve and then enter the Coronado National Forest. Once in the national forest, I would climb primitive jeep roads all the way to the top of the pass. After reaching the top, a light descent to Rosemont Junction and then AZT back to the start. The route’s 43 miles doesn’t seem too tough, but the route has over 7000 feet of climbing since it is jumping over a mountain.

As soon as I dove into the forest service area, I could feel the remoteness of the land. Yep I am on my own now. I wish I’d remounted my rampage in the rear. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and ride light. I can’t wait for the 300. I can’t wait to do this all day. I can’t believe how much my tolerance for and pleasure derived over hike-a-bike has increased over the past few months. I wish I’d put my suspension fork on my bike. These gears are sure nice though. Riding in 20×36 is practically recovering uphill. Man, if I moved my stem up like 5mm I’d have perfect posture. Loosen up man, (shakes arms). Look how high I have climbed! OHMYGOD! GET AWAY FROM ME YOU F#%$#$! HAB FASTER TO GET AWAY FROM THE WASP! I wonder if I could do a tracheotemy on myself. I could use my camelbak hose as the breathing tube. I kinda know where to make the cut. Hey, a flower! I’ve only seen one so far. Totally not fair that the medians and shoulders of the roads in town are littered with Arizona wildflower mix and folks bumbling around eating burgers get to enjoy them while I am out here in the wilderness and only get to see one. Are they desensitized to flowers? There are bees practically waiting in line for access to this one flower and I think it is the best one. An anomaly. A flower that ventured too far. Pops 15th little chocolate donette into mouth. Riding doughnut powered endurance rides makes me smile. It makes me think of that John Belushi SNL skit where…see fer yourself:

This road is so steep. It is hard to keep going. This is the longest I’ve ever hike a biked and I am still alive! 20 miles in 4 hours? Keep pushing! Hey the road is covered in gold! Wow look at the size of these “nuggets”! I bet it is iron pyrite though, I’ll grab a small specimen to take to some rock-hounders I know. My dad would love this. There is turquoise just shooting out of the ground. Oh. I am hiking up towards an old mine. Wow! Look at that butte! This is amazing! I am so high up. Keep pushing! I am almost at the top! Here come some jeepers. They think I am crazy. I am crazy. Crazy high. Crazy close to the top. HAB faster. HAB. Push! HAB. Go Go Go. I AM AT THE TOP. The view up here is awesome! Snaps photos. One day these hills will be a bunch of dirt ziggurats. Big descent. Want to bail and get fried chicken in Sonoita with my wife. Gotta finish! I must always finish from now on. On the AZT, now I am about 2.5hours out. Flows. I flow. This is good. NONONONO! My front derailleur is rubbing my tire while in granny gear! Makes adjustments. Makes it worse. Squeaks home in granny gear. Finally sweet downhill. Embrace the flow.