I had a kinder free week last week and some vacation time on the schedule. Originally I was going to race Coconino 250 but unfortunately the knee I thought I had rehabbed had different ideas and said no thanks. Pedaling drives my knee crazy but walking is fine.So I went on a lil walkabout in Northern Arizona/Southern Utah. There are many magnificent places I do not often visit near here because bikes are not allowed.
Due to my last minute change of plans I had no permits or reservations anywhere. I threw a bunch of maps and a variety of gear in my car and rolled solo with my fingers crossed.
Grand Canyon National Park North Rim was the first place I aimed for. There was an inch of snow on the ground, the sign on the entrance station said "north rim campground full" and the entrance station ranger was Mr Grumpy! Not a great start.
Lucky #1: 4pm at the back-country office I got the last back country permit for the following night at Cottonwood and the night after at Phantom Ranch. Super lucky to walk up and get those!! The ranger in the back-country office was Mrs Jolly.
Lucky #2: Mrs Jolly ranger at the back-country office called over to her buddy ranger at the "full" campground and hooked me up with a spot in the group site - score!! That saved me about 50 miles of driving.
Lucky #3: I was invited to join a roaring fire at the group site and had a great evening chatting with the group.
North Kaibab Trail down into the Grand Canyon is pretty much a highway. I think next time I am on this trail I will have a bicycle with me (if I am lucky enough).
Lucky #4: I hiked into the inner canyon. It has been a long time since I have done that. I love the Grand Canyon. It is perhaps my most favorite place in the whole world. Lucky me to be there.
Lucky #5: No wind, beautiful day. In fact weather was absent from my entire trip.
Cottonwood campground. The tarp was mostly to keep the full moonlight out of my eyes! Beautiful night.
Ribbon Falls is a side trip off the main Kaibab trail and worth it. I got wet taking this pic.
Cute cabins at Phantom Ranch. To sleep in a cabin here you need to apply 13 months in advance on the 1st of the month and be really lucky. Sounds like getting in to some bike races...
Black suspension bridge on Kaibab Trail crossing the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Self portrait pic to prove I was there!
I loved the hike out of the canyon the next day. Stowed my camera and motored up in a sweat. That felt great. My knee has hurt too much on a bike this year to build up much of a sweat but hiking seems fine for it - frustrating as riding my bike is really what I want to do most days and all day. I really like to ride my bike.
Lots more lucky ensued the rest of my week - more picslater.
I've never been a fan of racing into shape but that is exactly what I am doing this fall after my normal summer hiatus from training - and I'm having the time of my life doing it too!! Which is kinda surprising me and making me giggle. I like to giggle ;-)
My tag line for 11 years now (Wesley is 11) has been mom, coach, racer - not always in that order. Summertime mom and coach have had top billing and racer takes a back seat. With my athletes in their peak races I prefer to spend June and July focusing on their peaks and successes. Summer is kids out of school time and I prefer playing with them rather than spending my time out training. The final nail in the summer fitness here in St George is the fact it is too darn hot to pedal hard in July and August, effectively shelving quality training right there. I really enjoy my coach/mom mode in the summer except that I land in late August pretty much out of race shape when the really cool fall races are scheduled.
This year a new race series, The Utah State Championship series was established in Utah. It was a 4 race series and I missed the first 3 races while I was in mom/coach mode. I wanted to show and support at least one of their races as I think it is a really great new series. The final race was on August 20th. Yep I was not in race shape but August 20th is my birthday and I decided for my birthday I wanted to race, so I did :-) Not only was I out of race shape I had never ridden the course or the trails before - totally unprepared :-) No pressure, just a birthday race. A small but fast pro women field had me off the back, sucking wind immediately - gosh these ladies are fast!!! On lap 2 I was in last place!! Last place...and I was still giggling and having a good time :-) I was also pedaling as hard as I could! I managed to pull back one place by the end and finish not quite last.
I was psyched to support the last race of the USCS series. I experienced clock work registration, a fun course so well marked I was able to ride it at race speed sight unseen.
I was surprised how much fun I had racing. I had missed racing. I hadn't raced since April. It felt good to ride fast even though my fast was not as fast as most everybody else's. I looked at the calendar and next weekend was Mt Ogden 100k -ooooohhh. Another course I had not ridden and another race I would like to experience. I hooked up a ride with Bill and a place to stay with Sarah, entered and it was a go!!
It was hot and dusty
My legs were a little happier at race pace at Mt Ogden 100k and race pace was a little slower being a longer race. I don't have race speed but I still have my diesel engine. I finished in 6:55, 3rd place,clocking 62 miles, 9100ft of elev gain and 400 TSS. Climby!! Also descendy!! ALL of the descending was on singletrack and there were some fun trails out there. Super awesome fun course. I deffo will go back and do that race again.
Great organization, really fun course and good vibes. The aid station volunteers were full of energy rushing to fill my camelback and getting everything I needed. Other stations I didn't stop at I was cheered on or had shirtless cute guys running alongside me pouring icy water on my back. That made me giggle :-) Bill won his category in the 100k (congrats Bill!) so success for us!
...and then last week unfortunately one of my athletes pulled out of Park City Point to Point which was disappointing for Coach Lynda BUT not quite so disappointing for racer Lynda cause I got her slot (thanks MB ;-) !! There are 17 Pro women registered for Park City Point to Point!! I squeaked in on the last day to transfer. It is the biggest pro women field I have ever seen at an endurance race and it is also deep. I'm very excited to toe the line with these ladies continuing my surprise unplanned race into shape binge.
If you know me, you know I am (an over?) planner and ending up on a spontaneous race binge of this size is, well....making me giggle. The unplanned and unpreparedness of it all seems to have released any sort of performance expectations I had and allowed me just to relax and experience all the things I really enjoy about racing...and I do really like racing my mountain bike, tee hee hee :-)
I love being in the back-country under the great blue dome. Backpacking used to be my prime mode of getting in deep. I saw some really cool places. I gave it up about 12 years ago. Pregnant bellies, babies and toddlers just don't fit with backpacking. I'm very excited now Emma and Wes are big enough to start backpacking.
We went on our second backpacking trip last weekend. This time we had a more ambitious plan to go further someplace more remote.
I want the kids to learn how to move and be safe in the back-country, not lambs following their mommy ewe. What if I get hurt and they need to rescue me or what if they get lost?
Emma and I (Wes wasn't interested...) brainstormed about what should be in a survival kit. She was fascinated by it and the concept of survival and self rescue. We spent time with each item talking about what it did and how to use it in different situations. We ended up with a map and compass, an emergency blanket, water purification tabs, waterproof matches, whistle, signal mirror, multi tool and flashlight. Both kids carried their own personal survival kit along with water, food and clothes.
They learned how to use the map and compass
We found a spring and filtered water. The spring was not an easy find so that added to the adventure and a little tension too as we needed water!! The tank where we thought we would get water was dry. We found a second tank also dry. Then we hiked and searched further up a side canyon and found a concrete tank with a beautiful dripping spring above it.
Wesley is already a master of fire making
Then the kids proceeded to ask loads of questions I didn't have the answer to!! Hey mom, what if you were dropped out of a helicopter with nothing, what would you ____fill in the blank here___? What plants are edible? How do you build a shelter? What would you drink? Good questions. Guess I am not a survival expert!!
We had the pleasure of DH's company on this trip.
Whaley and dolphiny made the trip again
We went down Snake Gulch which has one of the largest rock art sites in the area. The pictographs and petroglyphs were amazing!!!
Emma got tired at the end. We hiked about 14 miles in total. Wes does not get tired, ever...EVER... He carried a pack only a little lighter than mine and did not complain once about it (I complained about mine a few times). He is 11 years old and a beast already!
Last weekend I raced Arizona Trail Race 300. For me it wasn't as much a race as a personal adventure. No woman had ever finished it before. It was big, tough and intimidating and finishing looked to be a huge personal challenge. Finishing AZT is no gimme.
The short story is I had the race of my life, absolutely loved it and not only achieved my #1 goal of finishing but was the first racer across the finish line to take the overall win in 3 days, 4 hours and 5 minutes. It was always about me and myself and doing the best I could at any given time on the course to ensure I finished. Every decision I made out there was based on the goal to finish, not the goal to win. This year on AZT the conditions were tougher than ever. We had the highest attrition rate in the history of the event with 22 starters, 4 finishers and 18 DNF's. Finishing turned out to be a winning strategy this year.
Now for the blow-by-blow long version:
In true Dave and Lynda fashion we were late to the start!! We arrived in time to see everyone else start and wave them off - oops. We got a ride to the start with Kurt and Caroline. Kurt somehow cruised out with the main group on time! Being a 2 time winner and course record holder he clearly had it together. I was feeling super nervous, not all that together and a little crazy before the start. My head was buzzing...did I have everything I needed...did I have too much stuff...all these little bits and pieces...did I really need waterproof pants...should I take my knife...do I have the track on my gps...is my head still attached...will my legs work...are my fingers really broken... I'd crashed hard 11 days prior and thought I might have 2 broken fingers on my right hand. I hadn't had them x-rayed as I really wanted to do AZT...they didn't work quite right...
(After the race I went to the Dr, nothing was broken but 2 fingers, right middle and pinkie, were dislocated, which explains why they were not working. They were ok riding for the most part. The hard part was stuffing my sleeping bag in a tight little bag).
Pic is of me checking over everything before we start and leave the "safe" parking lot. My full set up details are on Bikepacking.net
Big thanks to Caroline Soong for these start photos. I didn't pack a camera.
DH was ready to start before me. He waited for me and humored my pre-race frenetics. He has seen it 100 times and says the success of my race is directly proportional to how wound up I am before the start!! He smiles and pats my shoulder and says I'll be fine.
We rolled out together 18 mins late. It was perfect for me to start behind the main group so I had space to calm down and get in my ride groove.
I let DH ride on ahead and took about 30 very mellow minutes to get a feel for riding with the weight on my bike, calm my nerves and settle down into my happy place. I passed DH sitting under a tree with Marshall. Marshall looked flushed and hot. Not good so early in... I thought DH was just visiting with Marshall but later found out that was the start of his DNF causing blisters. Marshall pulled out with the start of heat stroke not long after. It was hot!!
Marshall snapped this shot of me as I cruised by his shady spot
I'd pre-ridden the Canello Hills with bigger gears and less fitness in December so they seemed much easier this time around. I started to catch and pass racers. I asked peoples names. I wanted to know who everyone was as I expected to be riding for 3-4 days with them, seeing them again and maybe camping with them. It was fun to check out all the bike set-ups as I went by.
Patagonia seemed to come up in a flash and I filled up my 29oz bottle with coke and ice for the ride in to Sonoita...mmm that was a treat after the heat in the Canello Hills. Before Sonoita at mile 43 my period started...bleh...what timing...stupid girl parts...I had to take extra time at Sonoita to change into my spare shorts, wash my old pair, wash me, buy tampons etc. I was annoyed to have another thing to manage while I was trying to keep it all as simple as possible. It was nice so early in the race to have a clean pair of shorts and a clean me tho!! Eric Foster was taking what looked to be a siesta in the shade outside the store. I was back on the road asap with another 29oz of ice cold coke in my bottle.
Next up was some easy cruising up to the Kentucky Camp mile 60 water refill spot where I visited with Brad Mattingly. The race seemed very social up to this point and I enjoyed meeting and chatting with folks. I filled up my 100 oz bladder, stuffed it in my pack and ripped the tube off the bladder. The water spurted out of the bladder and soaked everything. No tragedy as I was still at the sink to get more water and it was hot enough to dry everything out quickly. It was a big red flag for me. I had better be careful with that. If I spill water away from a water source in this heat it would be a costly mistake. It was a lesson I paid attention to.
I cruised off out of Kentucky Camp with Brad sure I'd be seeing lots more of him on course. I wondered where DH was. I was sure he would have caught and passed me by now. We had both planned to be independent for this race and ride together lots if it worked out and we were really lucky. DH is my favorite person to ride with.
After dark I passed where the 2011 course rejoined the old course above Box Canyon, climbed to the high point and stopped for dinner. Sweet n sour pork n rice...mmm. I sat for a while looking back on the course hoping to see DH's lights coming but never did so trucked on. Sometime later I started to see a set of lights catching me and was excited it was DH. I didn't stop but did slow down a little, just a little...The lights never did catch me but disappeared. I looked forward.
Under the I-10 culvert I got chilly enough to put on arm warmers, knee warmers and my jacket. I coasted down towards Three Bridges. There was a car there with lights on and people inside. I looked at my watch 12:26am. That's weird I thought. It looked like some kids partying late at night and I had to ride right passed them...red alert...As I got nearer someone ran out of the car towards me screaming....WTF...turns out it was Deanna Adams and her mom cheering for racers :-) ha, ha...I scare easy...they took some photos, gave me a couple of bananas and waved me off.
My goal was to ride until 1:30am or stop at La Sevilla picnic area for the night - whichever came first. When I got to La Sevilla it was a party zone! I backtracked up the course a little ways to a nice flat spot I'd seen and camped out there.
Next morning was a refuel in Tucson and haul up Reddington Rd with rallying jeeps, motos and semi automatic guns firing off - just my scene. I hammered out of the saddle as fast as I could to get out of the redneck zone. The next 7 hours were hot and hard. The hike-a-bike up over Molino was a bitch. I struggled getting my heavy bike up some of the ledges. I was relieved to cross the Catalina Hwy only to be faced with another stretch of hike-a-bike that I had expected to be rideable. I got grumpy and started calling it Arizona hoof race.
Once on the pavement it got much easier and I spun up to Oracle Ridge. I had expected Oracle Ridge to be really hard. Everyone says it is hard and part of it is called the Traverse of Death. It was hard but not as hard as Molino hike-a-bike had been earlier in the day. I reckon it was the heat factor as Molino was late afternoon in full sun and Oracle Ridge was in the dark.
I bivvied up earlier than the night before because I knew the next day was forecast to be the hottest of all and we were headed for the lower Gila desert terrain. I wanted to bank some rest. I bivvied right next to the trail so if DH came down he would see me. I was still wondering where he was. I didn't carry a cell phone so had no coms. During the night a rider came by. It was Brad Kee. I asked if he had seen DH and was told about some ugly looking blisters. Brad thought DH would have had to quit by now....hmph... Brad motored on and I went back to sleep. That was the last time I saw another racer on course.
The next morning I zoomed down into Oracle, ate so much at the store I was burping it up and headed out to the big hot desert oven for the day with as much water as I could carry. I had Elete Tablytes with me. The label says take up to 12 Tablytes per day as needed - I needed a lot more than that!!! They were great.
Today was all about heat management. I moved slowly so my head didn't boil, hiked rideable hills, drank lots and chowed on Tablytes. In the heat of the day I had no power. It was like riding in molasses or like a man on the moon in a space suit, or like you see these guys at the top of Mount Everest!! I had all these visuals. I moved in slow motion and sang silly shark songs to my gummy sharks. 30 miles took me a never ending 7 hours!!
I started studying the ground on the gasline and could make out only one set of tracks. No way I thought - there were a bunch of guys in front of me. I knew for sure Brad was in front of me as I had seen him the night before and the gal at the Oracle store said he left an hour before I did. I double checked I was on course - all good.
The gasline road in the heat of the day was a place humans shouldn't have been that day on bikes - nutty hot. On the way down Bloodsucker wash with a tailwind I started hallucinating there were spiders crawling on the back of my hands...intense...I felt ok and was sure I was hydrated...just a little warped.... Wow this was right on the edge. I'd asked for some intense living and here it was for me.
There was a big tank of green water at Beehive Well with a thousand bees buzzing over it. I dipped my arm coolers in it and threw water over my head and got out of the bee zone asap. I was glad I had enough water and didn't have to drink from Beehive Well - plentiful but not appealing. My warped head feeling left after I cooled off at Beehive well and the spiders went home. The tracks in front of me were weaving around on the road. I wondered if I was doing that too?? I got off my bike and looked back and my tracks were straight - uh oh I thought...
A little while later I struggle to open and close a tight barbed wire gate on the road and ride on. Then I see I am off course and the gps route drops off the jeep road to the right. I go back bugged I am going to have to fight with the gate again but the gps track drops down before the gate (about mile 214). There is no trail visible and I wonder where to go. I zoom in my GPS and am right on top the gps route. I was aware my head was still too hot and my brain was processing slowly - things were not adding up. A little confused I push off the road into the untracked desert staying on top of the gps line. A trail slowly appears and improves. As the trail improves I feel confident I am going the right way. Without a gps I would never have found that turn. It was tricky. A short while later I become aware there are no tire tracks on the trail! I look at my watch and it is 4:14pm. Oh no Brad I say, you only had one more hour until it cools off. I was watching and biding my time until 5pm when I thought the intense heat would abate some. Post race I found out these were Joe's tracks as I passed Brad earlier without knowing while he was riding some bonus miles off route.
I rode what felt like 3/4 of the way around Antelope Peak. It was soft desert trail with no tire tracks...no tire tracks...I felt vulnerable out there with no tire tracks in front of me. I was still moving in molasses...so slow. I kept saying to myself, it doesn't matter how slow you go you just have to finish. I was moving in slow motion. I was a deep sea diver.
I reach the water cache and notice tire tracks again. They confuse me but I don't pay them much attention. I rest, eat, water up and roll onto the Boulders section. Finally it had cooled off. The molasses had gone and my legs felt rockstar. I felt like I was flying through the Boulders after the slow motion day of molasses. Big fun. Whoohoo!! There were no tire tracks again.
The sun set and simultaneously the moon rose. I had a moment when there was exactly half a sun on the west horizon and half a moon on the east horizon. The low sun was deep orange and turned the air an orange/pink color and the full moon coming up was pure white and the biggest horizon moon I had ever seen. I stopped and absorbed that magical moment and breathed deep and slow like I could ingest it. The next 30 mins of twilight riding were effortless and fast and I flew.
We (me, my bike and my imagination) flew through the night Ripsey - Gila River - Hwy 177 - Battle Axe Rd -Artisian Well - Walnut Canyon with the full moon echoing off cliffs and canyons. At 3:30am feeling a bit loopy I decided to lie down and sleep until dawn.
I'd been hoarding my last sweet n' sour pork n' rice and it made a delicious breakfast. Fueling up was a good thing as the Martinez canyons were complete ass kickers, one after another steep and bumpy. Box Canyon was kind and mild after the Martinez canyons.
The AZT300 ends with an 8 mile single track descent. I wanted to relish it so I stopped at the top to freshen up, ate some, drank some, relaxed some, lubed my chain and took a long break, about 45 mins I think (which drove my BlueDot watching and waiting DH batty!!). The last 8 miles were a screaming blast...giddy...euphoric...I was finishing AZT!!! Wow! Awesome!!! I was psyched.
DH was there at the end of the trail. My one man cheering squad and the man who is the most important to me in the world was there for me, to share my finish. Having DH cheering at the finish was the icing on a very big cake for me. I was giddy with glee and he laughed at my craziness while I told him all my race stories in a tangled endorphin hazed blurb. I was so amped it took me a while to be able to sit down and at least 3 days to metabolize my endorphins!!
DH took some pics of me finishing but it was so hot out there his camera overheated and lost the pics! It was blazing hot out there. He put his camera in the cooler and got pics later while I was still giddy.
Those arm coolers were white at the start!
I probably ate about 3,ooo calories worth of these sharks. That might have been why my tongue swelled up post race...
I'm tired now. But still thinking what might be next ;-)
Yep that isn't a typo in the title! I went backpacking last weekend, no bikes involved! My backpack buddies were Emma and Wesley on their first ever overnight trip. They were mega excited and lots of hyping got done. We hiked up into Cottonwood Canyon wilderness area.
Wes carried a for real backpack filled with 100 oz water, food, 2 sleeping bags, clothes and a stove! Ems carried an Osprey Talon 22 with 80 oz water, candy, clothes, a whale and a dolphin. Me - I carried what seemed like a lot but only weighed in at 19lbs at the trail-head (yes I took a scale).
There are some old tunnels in Cottonwood Canyon. Emma went down this one into the darkness. She woke up a bat and it flew out but she kept on going!! Clearly she didn't get my claustrophobia gene.
Headed into the darkness
She popped out on the other side of a cliff. Wes and I walked around the cliff!
Camp was a tent for kinders and a yellow tarp for me. Wes was the fire bender, single handedly collecting all the wood and lighting it with one match - a feat he repeated nicely in the morning.
Whales and dolphins in the desert wilderness
Wesley fulfilled one of his big brother tasks and taught Emma how to light matches. No homes were burned down during the lesson :-)
We ended the trip with kinders begging to go again = success!!
We'd been hearing about the Black Canyon trail for quite a while from Guy and Chrystal. It is a long single track paralleling I-17 north of Phoenix. How long depends on which sign you read. I saw 79, 78 or 62 miles. We started at Hwy 69 at the very north end of the trail and rode a total of 114 miles out and back and we didn't reach the end of it.
While we were getting ready I discovered my camera was broken. I was a little sad about this as I was looking forward to taking lots of pics (and it was a gift from DH so had some sentimental value to me). All pics on this blog are from DH's Droid. FYI: Black Canyon Trail has full 3G service!
The trail is non-stop fun. As I didn't have a camera we rode non-stop more too. I saw a lot of things I would have had to stop to snap a shot of!
Water was everywhere with multiple creek crossings, Bumblebee Creek, Black Canyon Creek and the Agua Fria which we crossed at least six times. Doe spring, windmills and tanks. Made staying hydrated easy.
Breakfast might look like puke but it tasted good. Dried eggs and some unidentified mush.
Saguaros were the cartoon characters this weekend. So many shapes and sizes and so big! A pair of bald eagles flying overhead side by side and a gila monster sighting made for a real Sonoran experience. DH didn't get a pic of the Gila monster!!!
This evening I took my camera apart. It sort of detonated and springs popped out and off when I unscrewed the cover. I cleaned it and put all the tiny springs back with tweezers and a lot of patience and it works!! I am pretty impressed with myself and happy I have my camera back too.