Game time

Finally made it to AZ! I'm here in Tucson, getting all my stuff together before catching a ride to the border later today. Feeling pretty good - excited, a bit nervous but in a good way. 

Packing up in the hotel

Packing up in the hotel

Here's the tracker link if you'd like to follow the race. 

http://www.trackleaders.com/aztr14

Super excited to spend the next ~10 days in the desert, but even more excited to see Megan and Mowgli at the finish in Utah. Wish me luck!

Party in the desert

I can't believe it's April already. Only 9 days until the Arizona Trail Race starts, something I've been scheming towards ever since CTR ended last summer.

The bike's dialed. The gear's dialed. The legs? I'm nowhere near as fit as I was for CTR last year, but I think I have a minimum level of endurance required to get me across the state of Arizona. We'll know soon enough. I'm hoping the experience gained from CTR will somewhat make up for my slower legs.

The Arizona Trail stretches from the Mexican Border near Sierra Vista up through the heart of Arizona, winding its way past Tucson, over Mt. Lemmon, past Phoenix, through a long stretch of Arizona backcountry to Flagstaff, and finally culminating with a trek through the Grand Canyon (no bikes allowed on trails in National Parks, so you must hike the canyon with your bike on your back).  After the canyon, it's a relatively short final stretch to the finish at the Utah border.

Grand totals are 750 miles traveled, with 100,000 feet of elevation gain. All of which must be done self-supported, meaning no outside help, gear/food caches, aid stations, support vehicles.....we can buy food or fix broken bikes at any commercial establishment, and mailing supplies ahead of time to public post offices is allowed, but that's it. We carry everything we need to survive on the bike.

Having a CTR under my belt gives me a good bit of confidence going into this. I have a much better understanding of what my body can and can't do.  My bike and gear are better. Will it be enough? The Colorado Trail Race was a monster in itself, but I can't tell if AZTR will be harder or easier.  Colorado has high altitude, but Arizona has desert heat, possibly more hike-a-bike if that's even possible, more singletrack, rougher trails? I've never ridden in AZ so it's all guesses at this point. The unknown excites me.

These images are from a fully loaded final shakedown ride I did this past weekend. Fully loaded with 6L of water makes one behemoth of a bike! The heavy bike is slow but manageable, just takes getting used to. I think my setup is pretty well balanced:

  • Sleeping bag strapped to bars
  • 2 Revelate Designs feed bags to carry water bottle and food
  • Topeak fuel tank for GoPro and food
  • Another fuel tank attached to seatpost for food/tools
  • 2 additional water bottles on bike frame
  • Phantom Pack seatbag for spare parts, tools, bivy, tarp, batteries, other misc items
  • Osprey Talon 22 pack on back for 3L bladder and clothing
  • Chest bag for camera

I'm forgoing some comfort items to keep things simple and light - no sleeping pad, no spare clothing (never used my spare bike shorts during CTR - as long as I'm diligent about hygiene, I think I can get away with 1 pair of bib shorts. If not, I can always buy another pair along the way). As for the Canyon trek, I'm still figuring that one out.....initial tests show the Talon 22 pack is too small/flimsy to carry 50lbs of bike and gear, so I will likely mail a larger pack, plus trekking poles and shoes, to the post office in Tusayan.

1 week till I head to the airport! Much still to be done....getting final bits and pieces of gear together, pack bike for airplane, taxes, obsessive map studying....can't wait till it's all done and I'm lining up at the border on the 11th.

Winter??

As much as I miss living in Colorado and having actual seasons, I gotta admit it's pretty awesome for a cyclist in California during the winter. Especially this year - as much of the rest of the country is stuck in deep freeze, we've had almost zero rainfall and warm temps these past few months. I know it's one of California's worst droughts ever, and we'll pay for it this summer with huge fires and water shortages, but we might as well take advantage of the good aspects of this weather, right?

This is what winter looks like in the Bay Area.

Sometimes I don't know why we put up with these harsh winters

As such, training for the Arizona Trail Race in April has been going pretty well.  I kept in pretty good shape in the off season, so I didn't have to start from nothing in January. January was a big month for me, getting some good hard base miles in and enjoying the awesome weather with Megan.

Getting lost at UC Santa Cruz

Mowgli loves the mud! Rare rainstorm.

Beautiful Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa.

Beautiful Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa.

Hard to beat afternoon sunshine and forest singletrack in January

February was a bit of a setback, as my nagging knee and Achilles injuries flared up a bit, limiting my time in the saddle. Nevertheless, I was able to judge my fitness during the first Grasshopper on Feb. 1, finishing significantly faster than last year.

Racing skinny tires on dirt! Love it

Celebrating Meg's b-day in Calistoga

February left me a little nervous about my fitness for the upcoming AZTR, but my legs have behaved themselves thus far in March, and I'm finally feeling pretty fit.  Got some great training rides with the Tecnu boys, as well as a fun trip down to Orange County to see Megan run her first marathon on Catalina Island. Kyle and Garret came along too, with Kyle deciding last minute to do the marathon only to win it!

Meg looking strong during the Marathon

KP on his way to winning the overall

Finish line party time

Garret and I capped off the trip with a good hard ride in the Santa Ana's, my old stomping grounds when I lived down there.  I forgot how technical and unforgiving the trails can be down there - we kind of got our asses handed to us by the heat and techy hike-a-bike trails. Good old beat down.

Los Pinos trail

Bean on San Juan

Now that I'm closing in on the last few weeks before I head to the desert, I've started doing some rides with the full bikepacking setup.  I'm happy to say that the Ripley takes to bikepacking really well - it's gonna be so nice to have some rear suspension, saving my body and ass some of the beating they took during CTR last year.

2.5 weeks till we line up at the border!!