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In the heat, I suffer. At 6’5″ and almost 200 pounds, I’ve got a lot of surface area and my heart has to work harder than an average 5’8″ rider in order to get blood to all my appendages. I’ve found myself suffering in the heat to the point where I thought that if someone were to hand me a gun, I’d blow my head off. My first AZT 300 was like that. My final day found me in the hot box between the Gila and Picket Post. Temps were in the 90’s. I know because I use one of these. I remember running low on water with about 18 miles left (at least 2 hours), and passing a Polish guy who was out of water. I just stared at him as I kept moving by. No way was I going to risk running out of water in that desert.
In grad school I was the only test subject to complete all three trials of a heat study. Ride in a small room filled with heaters and hot plates with boiling water for 3 hours at 50% max VO2. Esophageal temp probed shoved up my nose and down my throat, blood draws every hour, and 5 minutes in the mask every 20 minutes. The seat killed my prostate and if I had to pee, I had to do it on the bike into a graduated cylinder….once with a boner…very difficult and a tad bit embarrassing with more than a few coeds checking things out. The fridge holding the blood samples lost electricity for a weekend and all the samples were lost.
My third AZT 300 found me early into day 1 with a missing chainring bolt. I rode really fast trying to catch up to people who were a good 20 to 30 minutes ahead of me after that. I blew up in the heat a couple of hours before Kentucky Camp. Hiding under a tree trying to escape the heat, I quickly realized my attempt at a 3rd consecutive finish was done. Day 2 found me going through so much water there was no way I’d make it to the next water source before running out. I turned around on Reddington Rd., spent an hour at a Safeway, then took the road to Oracle eventually being swept up by my ride.
Tour Divide found me in some heat too. I went north opting to take the heat early. Near the end of Day 1 I rolled out of Silver City with a full bag of ice on my back. I really didn’t see heat like that again until Canada. Yeah. 92 degrees just north of Butts Cabin. Luckily there were clean water sources everywhere. Since my 2014 Divide Ride, I haven’t done much serious riding other than the Puzzler 50.
I have a neighbor that is into hot yoga. She convinced me to do a Bikram class with her….in her little yoga room with a enough heaters to keep a public housing complex comfortable during the worst El Paso winter day. An hour and a half listening to some Indian dickhead that calls(ed) himself a Yogi bark instructions and insults putting me into positions I’d never been in before. I was pretty sore the next day despite doing many of those poses on a daily basis under my own terms for several years. I wasn’t sure what to think. I later attempted an Ashtanga class….normal temps….but the video instruction we watched just went on and on with the guy basically showing off how awesome he was at doing handstands.
Still not a fan of a structured yoga class and much less a fan of doing it in a room that is 100 degrees, I was convinced to go to a real hot yoga class as part of my neighbor’s yoga training certification process. It was pretty good…only an hour. It wasn’t that hot, but hot enough to get me really loose and into some good poses. The scenery was really good so I decided to tag along with her to some other classes eventually winding up in a studio in Las Cruces for a hot flow class (some call it Bikyasa) that lasted 2 hours. The temp hit 102 and the humidity was at 57%. I would have made it all the way through if I didn’t have to pee. It was by far the hottest thing I’ve ever done. Kuwait in full battle rattle had nothing on this. Sweat dripped onto my towel covered mat sounding like the rain in that section of Forrest Gump when he was in Vietnam.
I was getting most of the poses and trying not to pass out every time I stood up and reached upward…..toward the heater just above my head. Seeing the rock bodied and tattooed Meg to my right and the creamy skinned Maria to my left kept me motivated. I thought about my hottest bike races and they didn’t come close to this horror. People were dropping out left and right. Child’s pose was being practiced by more than a couple folks as the rest plowed on. Warrior 1 to warrior 2, eagle, warrior 2, warrior 1, foward fold, flow high to low, downward dog, yada yada yada, more flows, sweat, drink water, wipe sweat off of hands, focus man. Focus!
The next day I injured myself doing a not so heavy lift of an empty shelf and my weekend went to shit after that. Three days later I was still guzzling water, hitting the foam roller, and doing several drugs. I started thinking about why so many people are doing this crazy shit. I remember when Willow Koerber (Rockwell)….damn she’s still so fucking hot… was trying to continue racing after having her first baby (I think she has 2 kids now) and she blogged a bit about doing Bikram. It sounded like a surreal experience for her. Kind of like going into an opium den and participating in whatever craziness happens in an opium den. I also thought she was a wack job searching for answers. Recently I started to wonder if maybe there was something more to this. Maybe there was something that could be applied to my competitive mindset. Maybe there is a physiological training advantage happening.
I won’t get nerdy with Aldosterone, but it’s the “sweat hormone”. It controls internal temps by causing you to sweat. It’s affected by hydration status and whether or not you are “heat trained”. I can tell you right now, I sweat more than anyone in those classes. You can hear my mat…it sounds like a rain storm. You don’t hear it from the others. They don’t have the surface area I have. Maybe this is a “fun(ner)” way to build that tolerance to heat – lots of hot girls sweating and bending their bodies into all kinds of fascinating positions. Maybe the mental aspect of pushing your body to complete all the flows is a great form of mental training. Maybe it can translate to someone’s ability to make it through the hot parts of the day during a race. Maybe hot yoga stimulates the production of Aldosterone. I really hated doing research when I was in grad school, so I’ll just speculate and let you do whatever research you want to do. If nobody has done any research on this stuff, here you go.
I do know that anything that flips a switch in your brain causing you to push yourself harder, focus more intently, and drive yourself to complete a difficult task is something that will help you be a better athlete. I’m still not convinced that hot yoga is safe or even that awesome, but it is surreal and it does weird things to your brain. I’m always down for stuff like that.
This past weekend I chose to skip our local 12 hour race to join the freaks in AZ for Dejay Birtch’s birthday party ride, AKA SSAZ. This was my third and by far the best one yet. Dejay surprised us all with a shuttle partway up Mt. Lemon so we could ride Bug Springs. After instructions, a hundred or so riders took off up the road for a couple of miles before linking up with the trailhead. I hung out in the top 5 or so and then we hit dirt….which went up…which meant everyone was walking…..or running in the case of some little guy with a 99% carbon full rigid rig with really narrow bars. AZT honch Dr. Kurt Refsnider was hot on his heals and I sat back in 10th or so, waiting to warm up. Bugs was awesome and I only dabbed in a couple of spots. Not bad for never having been on that little beast.
After Bugs we crossed the Catalina Hwy to hit the AZT down to Prison Camp. That section was fun and still had plenty of gnar. When I reached the parking area at Prison Camp, I shed some clothes and tried to eat something. Crossing the highway again we headed up to Molino Basin. As soon as the trail got a bit techy, I saw a dropped Luna bar…nuts over chocolate…opened up but not bitten into with no dirt or ants on it. Score! Turns out it belonged to my buddy Mark who I eventually caught on the climb. Thanks buddy. It was delicious. The decent down Molino was tougher than I remember and Mark got around me there and proceeded to school everyone in the vicinity. After that, there was a bit of climbing mixed with techy mixed with 2-track. I stomped a couple of climbs and found myself around 3 or 4 other riders. I grabbed a cookie in the comfort station and headed up Bolletello Rd. to hook up with Reddington Rd. While climbing the Bolletello, the flyweight on the 99% carbon bike came around me. He must have gotten lost somewhere. Eventually I made it to Reddington Rd and headed down to Chivas. I didn’t see many tracks and doubted my route finding, but I got to Chivas without being run over or shot.
Chivas was hammered with recent rains and of course anyone with a lift kit and 4×4 thrashes the hell out of that section. I caught flyweight again who claimed he was fixing a flat and then he passed me when I stopped for a bottle that flew out of my King Ti Cage. The route eventually took us to the secret stash and I soon found myself looping through the woods with Robin from Grand Junction. Headed up the sandy wash, I only saw two or three tracks in front of me. Seriously? Dudes must have dropped or taken wrong turns…..or stopped for bowls in the woods somewhere.
Back on the AZT, I eventually crossed Reddington again with Robin not far behind. I was far enough ahead of him that I did solo gate duty as I didn’t see him after I got them opened. Eventually he caught me on some descending and we rolled into the comfort station again where I made myself a nice mixer with Hornitos and 7Up. It warmed me nicely. I had to walk/jog about 50 yards down the wash to my bike where it had been transported by a helpful party goer. Apparently there were only two riders ahead of us…Kurt and the flyweight. Pleased as punch to be kind of at the front, I made my way into La Milagrosa….where my slight buzz from the tequila did not help my flow at all. I walked more than the other two times I had been down it. I tried to take in some of the views and not think about how tired my arms were. At just over 4.5 hours and 42 miles, I rolled into the party/finish as the fourth finisher, signed in, and grabbed pizza.
The rest of the evening consisted of catching up with friends, watching finishers try to find the sign in sheet, eating lots of pizza, checking out the grounds of the host’s estate, playing with the kiddo and the dog, eating more pizza, checking out some seriously amazing bikes, enviously staring at a titanium bong whose owner had a huge canister of medicinal marijuana, and trying to find something in the prize stash that would fit me.
Once again Dejay hosted an amazing ride with the raddest crew of riders around…..some who finished well after sunset. This course had the most gnarly descending of any event I’ve ever done in the least amount of mileage. I’d almost say it was too much gnar per mile, but then that might make me seem like a pussy….which I kind of categorized myself as since I ran a 32×21 and was kicking myself for not running at least a 21….or as the Back of the Pack Racing crew says…32xFU or 32xYM….or something like that. I carried too much food and water and wished I had run a full sus rig like I did the last time I rode this thing.
Sorry for no pics. If you want to see pics, go to Facebook. I didn’t take any and I don’t feel like stealing pics and trying to credit the correct folks.
If you are wondering why I chose this over the 12 Hours of Old El Paso, I have several reasons. 1. I’ve won the overall solo (on a SS) twice and took 2nd the first time I did it when Adam Hoppe beat me on a geared bike. 2. The 12 Hour was never officially announced until several months after Dejay announced SSAZ. 3. I just couldn’t bring myself to ride laps around Lazy Cow and Mad Cow when I knew a record 13 or 14 laps on that stuff wouldn’t come close to providing the amount of gnar the SSAZ course dished out in less than 45 miles. 4. It’s SSAZ. I got another patch and a few lessons on how to ride the gnar! ….and there were stacks of really good pizza.
The weekend before AZT, Jen and I decided to give the 12 Hours of the Wild West a second go ’round. The inaugural year was pretty fun with a fast course, despite a nasty head wind on the final descent. We had a babysitter that year with my mom joining us for some help with the C-man. We took the win in the coed category that year and we were third overall.
This year Jen was pretty motivated to do this race again. I figured it would be a good, albeit late, tune up for AZT. With no babysitter and Connor in a pretty new cast on his lower leg, we were a bit nervous as to how this race was going to end up. When Jen registered us, she mentioned that she wanted to win the whole thing. I figured it would be possible as long as no 4 person male teams were too stacked and Connor understood that he wasn’t going to get much attention.
We got to the venue near Ft. Stanton, NM and set up in the gravel parking lot right near the timing tent. Jen got out for a pre-ride and I just chilled with the C-man checking out some of the other rigs at the race. The weather was perfect with only a slight wind/breeze. The course was much longer than the first year and we were looking forward to getting in a few miles.
Since there was no Lemans start, I went first. I put it in cruise control and let Paul Pacillas lead things out. I kept it rolling on the second lap and put in a chase for Paul’s teammate Jay. I was reeling Jay in when my chain started skipping on my cogs. Uggh. That’s what I get for thinking all my wheels/cassettes are worn about the same.
I held my position in the race and handed off to Jen. Jen came back with a pretty substantial gap on the leading team and I switched over to my Superfly 100 which was set up with a 32×21. It was a bit easy for the course, but I made it work. What sucked was that the brakes on that bike have been getting louder and louder. I cleaned them, lubed them, did a bleed on them, put factory pads in, tried different rotors….no difference. Howled like a wolf who had just smoked a pack of camels. Oh well….brakes only slow you down.
Our lead grew throughout the day and we ended up finishing up in less than 11 hours with the overall win. Jen put in lap times that were equal to mine….and where much faster than the slowest members of our opposing teams. The longer laps were definitely beneficial to us with lap times of 1:10 or so. Some riders took almost 2 hours to get in a lap. My suggestion to the race promoter was to stick with a slightly shorter lap in order to allow teams to put in more laps.
Connor did quite well and stayed occupied with all of his trucks. He even noticed when one of my tires went flat and immediately let me know. I had punctured through the rim strip. Luckily we both brought two bikes each so we were never stressed about bike related issues. Other than my howling brakes that frightened the bajeezus out of more than one rider, and my skipping gears, no major issues slowed us down. Notubes….NO FLATS!
Click here to see the official results.
My second attempt at the AZT 300 snapped up on me much faster than last year’s. My fitness was WAY below what I had going into last year’s, and I spent the final week trying to figure out what bike to ride. I really wanted to ride my Superfly 100 set up as a SS, but I couldn’t get the brakes from sounding like a howling wolf with a tracheotomy. They chattered and howled and drove me nuts….not just with noise, but with inconsistent feel. Not a good thing. So I went back to the Dirty Girl which proved her worth on about 750 miles of the toughest single track routes known to humans on some of my adventures from last year.
So Dirty Girl got a new chain and the much more powerful Elixer brakes from my Superfly. I also switched over to my Fox fork which hadn’t been used since AZT 2012. The night before the race, I rushed to finish a new frame bag for it in order to highlight a new fabric I recently picked up, but my rush caused a poor fit that I wasn’t pleased with…at all. Oh well, there was nothing wrong with my old bags. I still got more sleep that week than the week previous to AZT 2012.
Our drive to Parker Lake was uneventful and we arrived to see Judd and Rhino setting up camp. Rhino was rocking one of my harness/pouch systems and it looked good on his bike. Later, others started to show up and sometime well after I had crawled into the warm covers, a large group rolled in. It was the shuttle from Picket Post (the 300 mile finish point) which was supposed to leave at 5:30 pm. It’s only a couple of hours driving from Picket Post to Parker Lake, so I secretly hoped they had hit the bar to begin the dehydration process early.
A bit of socializing and a briefing from Scott Morris, and we were on our way. This year I led it out. Aaron Gulley quickly moved past on his way to a record time. I never saw him again. A couple of other guys got around me as well, but knowing the trail and my fitness, I held back as much as possible. The first section of the Canelo Hills brought little drama except for the unnecessary hefting of Dirty Girl over a fence which was off-route. A re-heft found myself and the 3 others I caught up to at that time quickly back on course where I pulled away from them all. I drained my first bladder about a half mile from the end of the trail. I waited till I hit the pave to trade bladders and make a small adjustment to the front brake caliper. On the road I spun my giant legs and clown feet as fast as they could spin and actually caught up to Chad. Ross from Australia caught me and the three of us were soon at Sonoita where some early starters were exiting and Pete Bassinger was eating. After grabbing a bunch of crap food, I went outside to eat, top off my bladders, and finish a bottle of Gatorade. Pete was helping Neil with his fork which despite looking almost brand new, was not working at all. Pete grabbed his shock pump back and rolled out. Ezster rolled in and I rolled out after Pete and Chad.
The next section of dirt took us into the Kentucky Camp section. I forgot how difficult this section was, distracted by the fun sections of swoopy descending and flume singletrack, quickly catching and passing Pete and Chad both. Thinking I could make it all the way to Colossal Cave with the water I had, I passed on topping off at Kentucky Camp…..bonehead move #1. At this point in time I was well ahead of Pete and Chad and well ahead of my time from last year. I cruised on and eventually had to take a break where Chad, Pete, Aaron Boatman, and a guy from Tennessee came past me. I eventually got going again and caught up to the last two and put a little time on them.
Night started to come and the lights came out. I eventually passed the spot I camped the previous year and wasn’t near the level of tired I was the previous year, but I was starting to worry about water. About that time I heard the worst sound ever. The psssst of air quickly leaving my tire due to a cut sidewall. This of course was payback from Aaron B. as about an hour before he warned me to heed the rocks I was popping out from under me with “save those sidewalls”. The previous year I was shocked to see he did not have his GPS tethered to his bike, and sure enough, he ended up losing it….backtracking the next day to find it still on.
I quickly got off and tried to get my wits together. The cut was pretty big, but only about 3/4″ went through the threads of the sidewall. Stitching it up was the only desirable choice in my book. I removed the wheel, found my repair kit, and went searching for my needle and thread. Grabbing the thread, I pulled it out….sans needle. I searched the box for the needle and found it stuck in my Leatherman Micro. Crap. Threading the needle was going to suck. It was dark and my close up vision is long gone. I focused my lights on everything and after only two tries, I got it threaded and knotted. Leaving the tire seated on the rim, I stitched it up quickly. In the meantime, a bunch of people passed me….Eszter, Aaron, Tennessee, Chad, ??? They all asked if I was ok. I mumbled that I could use some water, but nobody wanted to lighten their load for me. After running the stitch up and then X’ing it back down, I tied it off, added a bottle of sealant, and hit it with an inflator. It held!!! I packed everything away and was back on the trail. I’m pretty sure it didn’t take me much over 5 minutes….but then again, time is weird on rides this long.
Back on the trail I passed a guy that had fallen in a cactus. (This may have been before I flatted.) There’s no other way to describe his predicament as other than being ‘effed. He knew it too. I was actually afraid he might go into shock. I asked him if he had duct tape….he which had wrapped not so neatly around his seatpost…..and told him to get to work with it. I asked him if he had a Leatherman…..which he did….and I told him to start digging. He eventually gave up and made his way to the highway flagging down a Border Patrol vehicle finally making it to a hospital. His saga is highlighted with a picture of all the thorns he removed on the bikepacking.net forum here.
I continued to cruise along towards I-10 in hopes of some trail magic in the form of a gallon jug full of water. I caught back up to Chad as we crossed the highway to the final section of trail to the I-10 tunnel. I mentioned that I was getting tired and that if I found water I’d put down for the night. As we entered the tunnel, I saw 3 jugs of water!….or what appeared to be water. They were not full, so I assumed that the intended user had already topped off and left behind what they didn’t need. I filled one of my bladders with fluid from two of them, and sure enough, one of them was not water. It was pretty weak tasting so I couldn’t pinpoint it. Fermented Vitamin Water? Fermented Gu2O? Zima? Bartles and James? I wasn’t sure, but it wasn’t burning my throat or making my stomach upset, so I cruised on soon catching back up to Chad…..soon followed by bonehead move #2.
Chad and I worked our way up the final climb that would have taken us over to Colossal Cave and on to a totally sweet picnic area with a water spigot, but we wimped out and camped in a flat spot where the train woke us up 4 times in about 5 1/2 hours. Cramping also woke me up. Most of it occurred in my feet and in my back/neck. I was hoping this was not due to dehydration, but it was most likely that combined with my poor fitness and the fact that I did a pretty stellar job hauling my big ass up and down a bunch of hills for 95 miles. Sleeping here was not the best choice. Chad didn’t snore, but that train was VERY loud. In hindsight, I’m sure I could have made it to the picnic area without much more suffering and had a much quieter sleep in cooler temps.
Strava file for the day here.
Early the next morning Chad and I wound up at the picnic area where we came across Neil.…the guy with the blown fork. He, Luke, and Casey got around us sometime in the night. Luke and Casey were not there. I emptied the suspect water from my bladder and topped off quickly chasing after Chad where we ripped some sweet singletrack that was added to the course since the previous edition. Soon we rolled into the Rincon Market where the bitchy owner told us about calling the Sheriff on a couple of riders who slept on her porch. I bought two Don Miguel breakfast burritos and a crapload of other crap and enjoyed a break on the porch with Chad and Max Morris who had put down early….I think I passed him before I flatted. I got reloaded and headed out alone realizing that I left my coffee cake on the table next to Ray’s bike. Ray was another singlespeeder who had his sweet Seven frame get crushed by a truck on Reddington Rd. during last year’s race. He looked pretty beat and also mentioned a cut tire on which he had stitched in a patch. I wasn’t too worried about him and took off wondering where some of the other racers might be….maybe at the Safeway? Maybe already to Prison Camp? Meh. I kept moving.
The cruise up Reddington was pretty uneventful and traffic was non-existent. Pretty awesome for a Saturday. I messaged Jen at the bottom of Reddington since my SPOT refused to work. It was 10 am local time and the heat was starting to come on.
I saw Max headed up the road a couple of switchbacks down, but he didn’t catch me until I stopped under some shade to eat a snack. We rode together all the way to the top of Milagrosa where we topped off with water. Max was pretty beat down, super skinny, and mentioned something about finding some shade. I took off to tackle the switchback hike-a-bike to the Molina Basin campground where I topped off with water again….both efforts were quick, but I chose to pump from the creek so it took more time than you’d think. The next water was more than 15 miles up the road and I did not want to go dry. Max said the nice restaurant at the top of the mountain closed at 9, but I wanted to be there before dark. I topped out on the climb just as it went dark….7:15ish?? I went into the restaurant surprised that it was almost empty on a Saturday night. I quickly ordered two meals….a pulled pork sandwich with soup and salad, and a turkey sandwich to go. Then came bonehead move #3. I ordered Coke. I’d yet to take on any caffeine, but I figured I’d ride until midnight or so and it would help keep me awake. In a few minutes, Casey, Luke, Max, and Ross all poured in followed by Neil. I was super stoked to see Max for I feared the worst for him after we parted ways at the top of Milagrosa. I spent over an hour inside taking care of hygiene and refueling.
When we left it was buttass cold and we were all layered up for the decent down Oracle Ridge. I couldn’t wait for this portion as it was one of my favorite portions from 2012. The road down was no fun as a dozer…. or a crew of idiots in crappy jeeps….WTF?…. had completely softened up the road surface. I struggled to get down safely and finally got to the singletrack where it seemed the temps went up quite a bit. I worked my way through the climbs and decents until I came to a really nice spot with soft sand and no wind. It was only about 9:30. Since I love sleeping outside, I put down for the night. A few more riders came by, but I wasn’t worried as I really wanted to get a great night’s sleep. I removed my shorts and wasn’t even all the way in my sleeping bag and passed out for almost 6 hours of sleep.
Day 2’s Strava file here.
With no alarm set, I got up around 3:30 (according to Strava…which may be reflecting MST instead of the wacky non-daylight savings AZT). I quickly got back on the trail and passed somebody tucked away on the side of a gnarly section of trail. Whoever it was kind of freaked out thinking I was going to hit him. No problems though and I was on my way. Then I passed the trio of Neil, Luke, and Casey. Neil was up and about, but I kept on rolling. The sun was coming up and I was dreading the passage across the desert to Kelvin.
It has some great trail, but it can get hot and seem endless out there. Not long after the sun rose, I was rolling into the Kanally Ranch house and quickly cleaned up at the hose. Luckily I did not top off my water here as it turned out it wasn’t so great, almost causing record setting finisher Aaron Gulley a disaster in the middle of the desert. I cut the top half off my home made tyvek bivy and threw it in the trash just to drop a half pound, and changed my socks. Bonehead move #4…..I didn’t reapply sunscreen after washing my face.
Rolling into Oracle I was pretty bummed that the grocery store wasn’t open yet but I plowed on to the Circle K. It had a surprisingly decent selection, but since I had just finished off the sandwich I ordered the night before, I didn’t grab anything substantial. They did have bananas!!! At this point I probably made the smartest move of the weekend. I filled my empty bladder with ICE! As I was rolling out, Neil was rolling in. He looked great and was super motivated. On my way back to the highway, I saw Luke and Casey killing time at the trailhead on the Oracle road. I waved and rolled on. I rode for another couple of hours on the awesome switchbacks up and down the washes until my tire finally gave up. Here came bonehead move #5. I removed the stitches from my tire and without removing the tire from the rim, I restitched it wrapping a tire plug under the stitch. This did not hold well so I attempted to patch it. My glue was unopened, but it had turned to a gel and it didn’t work. I then plastered a piece of Gorilla tape on it. At this time, Neil rolled up and hung out with me while I finished it up. This seemed to do the job and I punctured my last Big Air cartridge. We rolled on down the trail to see a pretty amazing sight for sore eyes. It was Jen Judge (Aaron Gulley’s girlfriend), Caroline Soong (Kurt Refsnider’s girlfriend) and another female. Was I hallucinating? We quickly exchanged pleasantries and rolled on. Caroline took this rad photo of me and Neil.
Neil and I wound up at the Beehive Well and took a break under the shade of the building there and I took off without him. Eventually I made it to the Freeman water cache to find Aaron from Wyoming taking all the shade under the Mesquite tree. I quickly topped everything off (both 100 oz bladders were dry) and rolled on. I noticed it was getting kind of late in the day so I stopped to eat an MRE. It was delicious and I was on my way.
Soon though, my tire went low and I pinched it crossing a wash. This time I wasted no time taking it off the rim so I could do something to the backside of the hole. I removed the flapping Gorilla tape (I couldn’t believe it was still clinging on) and balled up all the adhesive from on top of my stitch job. Then I dabbed some Gorilla brand super glue on there. I then put two layers of Gorilla tape on top and used the last of my Big Air to seat the tire. Yay! Still tubeless. Neil finally caught back up to me and we rolled on….into this very nice Crotalus atrox. It didn’t even rattle….pretty rare for a diamond back as they usually get all pissed off and let you know where they are.
Neil and made the goal of getting to Kelvin before dark. FAIL. At the bottom of Ripsey we saw this cheesy love note from Jenn to Aaron.
We got to the top of Ripsey as the sun went bye bye and we had to break out our lights. We did our best to rip the switch backs down to Kelvin where I ended up getting Cholla balled for the first time ever in my life. I pulled out the Leatherman micro where the ball promptly jumped from my leg to my hand.
Neil and I finally got to the large parking lot that’s about a half hour from Kelvin and it was DARK. We knew nothing would be open and I was pretty bummed at the thought of having to pump water from the Gila. Lucky for us some kind trail stewards were keeping the trailhead stocked with Kearny water. We at first thought it was reserved for a group calling themselves Kearny, but then we saw multiple dates on the jugs going back a couple of weeks and I remembered that there was a town called Kearny. Duh. Let’s top off!!! We then hitched our bikes to the hitching posts in the parking lot and ate dinner. It was 9 pm local time and my last MRE tasted like a million bucks. Beef ravioli!
On we went to the awesome singletrack that lasts forever. FOR EVAH!!! Sheez. 4 hours later (and we weren’t goofing around) we still weren’t climbing away from the Gila. So when we hit a nice gate in an even nicer sandy area, we decided to take a 30 minute nap. Alarms were set and I rolled out the bed roll and spent a couple minutes getting enough air into my pad to be comfortable. A nearby cow seemed a bit distressed at our presence and I shouted out, “Sing us to sleep Bessy!” The next thing I remember was waking to my alarm. Holy crap! That was the best nap ever. Just as we started packing back up, Ross rolled by. He said his knee was shot and he was quitting after 300.
Not long after the nap, we were finally climbing away from the Gila. I told Neil that I didn’t want to climb that last section in the daylight as 2012 put the hurt on me and it wasn’t even that hot. I was bummed to escort the young rookie through one of the most beautiful desert environments on the planet. Saguaros 50′ tall, grottoes, and huge barrel cacti, cliffs and rocks and tons of vegetation, and we couldn’t see any of it. What was really trippy is that every time we passed a Saguaro, it felt like we were riding in a dense forest. The temps were perfect for putting in a hard effort at the end of a 300 mile jaunt across one of the most unforgiving deserts anywhere. We hear frogs (saw a good sized toad on the trail) in some the cold side canyons indicating that water must be present. I ran up on a bobcat that trotted up the trail and then turned to stare at me for a while. I waited on Neil to proceed as I didn’t want to mistake what I thought was a bobbed tail for a full size one attached to a 200 lb super cat.
On we went eventually catching up to Ross who was taking a rest near the crux of the top of the inner canyon. I got a bit excited and turned up the heat a little as we began some descending. From this point on I never saw Neil again until the finish. As the sun came up I ripped the final descent to the sound of waking birds to the parking lot where Jen and Connor were still sleeping. I finished in 2 days, 21 hours, and 23 minutes. 11.5 hours faster than the previous year and on a single speed! 5th overall and no other single speeders nearby. It was an awesome ride!
No….that is not an ice pack on my crotch. It’s the leftover crust from an entire loaf of bread from which my family thought I’d enjoy. The butter was delicious.
In order to have a bit more confidence in my rig for the Arizona Trail Race 300, I did some part switching replacing parts that needed some love with parts that have been just hanging around the garage.
So off went the 5 year old Reba and on went the 4 year old Fox which hasn’t seen much use. It’s a bit stiffer which is probably one reason why I was using the Reba….which probably makes no sense at all to some of you. With that switch, it included a different caliper due to the post mount of the Fox fork. This included a newer and longer brake hose which replaced a hose that was cracked. I also switched out my 175 Race Face cranks and BB for the 180 XT cranks and a Chris King BB that was sitting in my junk box. The XT cranks have BRAND NEW rings!!! I also took the newer style Crank Bro’s pedals off my Superfly 100 race rig and replaced the really old plastic Candy’s.
With all these changes, I added a sweet thermometer from Stem Captain. This thing is really nice and will help me make the decision whether to keep riding when it’s hot or to seek a bit of shade and take a nap.
Some of you may also notice that the frame bags are a bit different. Last week I decided that I needed a bit more room since I’m not using a large seat bag or seat post rack. After going over my list a few times, and not wanting to use a large seat bag, I made new bags with a few tricks I’ve been wanting to apply to my bags. They turned out pretty good and both hold a bit more. I still need to make a nice thin bag to go in front of the seat. I tried one that was as wide as the gas tank, but my thighs rubbed on it.
And finally….a trip to The Bicycle Company to borrow their rivnut tool and the dually now has 3 water bottle mounts. The first two of course have been taken by the frame bag which easily holds a 100 oz. bladder as well as a day’s worth of food, Ayup batteries, and other gear.
So now it’s very easy for me to carry 224 oz of water and I have plenty of room in jersey pockets and my camelbak for more bottles if necessary. I may even make a couple bottle/food bags to go behind the bars next to the stem. This would make it easy to carry a cup of coffee or a stash of almonds.
Just over one week left. I still need to construct my Tyvek bivy and a couple bags for the bike. Everything is coming together….last minute!
Some of you may know that Titus closed their doors earlier this year. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve blogged, but this deserves a bit of attention as it’s one of the root causes of problems in our current economic situation.
Here’s my view on why Titus went down. It’s an outsider’s view with some internal information that had been gleaned over a few years of correspondence with Titus personnel back when they gave me a great deal on custom bikes.
Chris Cocalis was slow to innovate and change and had trouble managing a growing business. He sold out to investors who brought in Pat Huss who had previously run Cannondale into the ground. Pat brought with him Jeff Titone. Both are nice guys, but I’m not sure they really belong in the bicycle manufacturing business.
Failed efforts at fancy exogrid products and carbon stuff from overseas started the fall. Originally producers of HIGH quality custom frames, they tried to seek more profit by going overseas. This never made sense to me as they had to fly over there all the time to do quality control….which sucked if you ever owned a carbon chainstayed racer-x.
A couple years ago, they sold off their sweet jigs and took all ti production to Litespeed. Yuk. The aluminum stuff was still being made in Portland and the carbon stuff overseas. They shrank their operations in the states trying to become a marketing and design company. Customer service suffered and people started looking at other great bikes like the Trek/Fishers, Pivots, Tall Boys, and other fantastic bikes on the market that cost about the same or less.
Titus deserved to die. Hanging on to the Horst Link and giving up on in house production reduced their value.
Planet-X Bikes recently purchased Titus. I hope they didn’t pay much. Hopefully they will return to some custom in house production if they can ever get a hold of those sweet jigs they used to have. Good luck Planet-X Bikes. If you bring back Titus, keep ’em custom, keep ’em ti.
I won $30 for crushing both stages of the Socorro race this weekend in a SS field that had 17 riders. Socorro is notorious for not giving out much money. One year I finished about a minute down on Damien Calvert for second place and the race promoter gave me a folded up $20. Wow. I definitely don’t do this for the money.
What do I do it for? Socorro’s XC course got doused with rain all Friday night. Luckily we raced the hillclimb on Saturday which was shortened due to a nice layer of new snow up top. I smartly ran the 32X22 which I was supposed to run last year. With ridiculously light wheels and semi-slicks, I cruised through the slick sections and floated up the steeps. After putting a decent gap on my main competition, I backed out of the pain cave and hung out at the doorway. In less than an hour I was at the finish which was quite nice. Blue skies, fresh snow on the peaks, and kind of warm. The ride down was pretty interesting with the semi-slicks and Stan’s rotors.
A bunch of us camped out near the start of the of the XC race and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon and a perfect night of sleep. It’s pretty funny that so many people camp at this spot now. Our first time out there we were the only ones at this spot.
The XC course was sure to be fast after getting a good soaking. It’s amazing how much better some of the trails in the southwest get so much faster after a good rain. After winning the SS category, I went out for a third lap. I’m not sure where I would have placed in the pro or expert category, but I think I would have done ok. The pro category was stacked with the regulars plus Travis Brown and Trevor Downing. Trevor was getting really fast back when I first upgraded to semi-pro after winning the expert short track championship in ’06.
It was a super fun weekend with a great field of racers on a great course. Too bad the town of Socorro won’t pay out the fields better than they do.
Well….the racing season finally started. After a couple of low key endurance events, I officially kicked things off with a win at the NMORS#1, the Coyote Classic here in El Paso. There was a record number of racers. 268! 100 Cat 1’s! Unbelievable! And I passed more than 75 of those cat 1’s. Ridiculous. Or as I say when it’s REALLY ridiculous….ricockulous.
The Superfly100 was a beast today. Despite the cracked lower swingarm and the missing set screws on my YESS tensioner, it rode amazingly well in the rock gardens and climbed like a antelope!
I was sick all this past week and Jen was a trainwreck from a broken or displaced rib. I didn’t ride Monday through Wednesday and Thursday’s ride sucked. I was still coughing and blowing green shit out of my nose this morning on my warmup. Smartly, I did a long warm-up by riding from the house to the venue.
Needless to say, I’m very pleased with the start of my season. The Puzzler was a bit disappointing, but the bike didn’t fit and I used gears. What in the world was I thinking??!! I think I could have won SSUSA if I hadn’t lost my handup right after I got it. To put things together as well as I did today, I’m pleased. I won’t show my HR data as it’s way too impressive. I’d have to say that today was one of my best races ever….performance wise. Of course there were many national podiums that were more awesome, but my body’s performance today was exceptional.
As some of you know, I worked on a master’s in Ex Physiology for a while and I have never had my own coach. I found this blog post by Heather Irmiger to be pretty interesting. She has a degree in ex phys and isn’t down with the testing. Pretty cool. I like doing VO2Max tests, but they don’t really indicate much when in comes to mountain biking. Skill is such a huge factor and strategy is also big. Today I had a home court advantage. I felt great, and I stayed skinny this winter. I’m looking forward to a great summer!
This post is a response to JHK’s article in singletrack.com.
As a long time racer (first Norba sanctioned XC event in 1989), I’ve seen our race scene change quite a bit. While I’ve never been a “world cupper”, I have been the overall winner at many races over the years. I stay as a fit as I feel like staying in order to remain competitive and not make a fool of myself. Prior to the mountain bike, I raced ABA bmx. Over the past 10 years I’ve taken racing much more seriously competing in short tracks, xc’s, marathons, 100 milers, and even a stage race. I still do road races about once a year. I participated in the Mercury Tour and Team Big Bear’s King of the Hill way back in the 90’s, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of what our racing scene in America is and was all about.
Two years ago a buddy of mine and I decided to put on an endurance event, the El Paso Puzzler. We had 28 competitors in v.1, v.2 had 68. This year is v.3 and we are expecting around 125. Not bad for the middle of winter in a dirt town like El Paso, TX.
As a race promoter/director/organizer, my goals are simple: make sure everyone has a great racing experience (however difficult our event may be), raise awareness of the trails in El Paso, and raise some money for our bike club, the BMBA. While I strive to get better riders to our event, the last thing on my mind is helping world cuppers get UCI points.
The UCI charges an enormous amount of fees and requires that the promoter subsidize drug testing costs at any event that has UCI points. No thanks. Toke a blunt on the course and shoot up some amphetamines at our race if you want. We don’t really care about that stuff. If you can afford that stuff, you definitely shouldn’t be whining about prize money or UCI points.
American mountain bikers, at least the ones who have been in it for over 20 years, are looking for something more challenging than the 1.5 hour lapper at a ski resort or broken bottle riddled city park. They want adventure. They want to push themselves to a new level. They want to go beyond the bonk, sit down on course and eat 1000 calories, run out of water, crawl to a feed zone, finish refueling, and ride another 20 miles to the finish with a knog led lighting the way. They want cool venues where they can camp and gather around a bonfire while their teammates slog out more laps during a 24 hour race. They want to use the same bike in a multi-event race where pads and full face are worn one day and two camelbak bladders are packed the next. The demand for diversity is out there. However damaging this diversity may be to UCI point seekers, that demand far outweighs the benefit of hosting a UCI event. I’m sure the Angel Fire promoters will agree with me on that one.
American mountain bike racing has become incredibly diverse and promoters of these diverse events are not complaining. In fact, many of them are capping the number of participants. Entry fees range from nothing to thousands of dollars and people show up from all over to try out whatever new fangled adventure awaits over the next pass.
Big money competitive mountain biking in America has been dead for longer than most care to admit. Even the Chevy Truck days were weak compared to European world cups today. American world cuppers need to do just like the roadies did….nut up and spend A LOT of time in Europe. If you really want that front row start, prove that you deserve it with the best XC racers in the world. The list of American road racers that have done this is too long for me to publish on my pissant blog. They are doing it for a reason. Racing in Europe is a spectator sport. People pay to sit in grand stands and enter parks where the events take place. Do that in the US and you’ll be lucky if half the stands fill up. Try it at a city park mountain bike venue and the neighbors will be pissed that they won’t be able to walk their dog that day.
Keep the UCI out of American racing. American promoters should keep pushing the limits of the support with challenging events. Dare to be different. Make that feedzone just far enough into the race where a camelbak AND bottles have to be carried. Provide bacon and burgers in the feedzones. Serve beer and margaritas for free at the awards ceremony. Charge camping fees to raise money for a youth cycling program, not prize money or promoter profit. Utilize paydirt programs to get more trails.
American mountain biking has soul. That soul is getting better with age. The UCI has done little to promote the soul of mountain biking in the US. Let’s keep it that way.