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 :-)
There is often talk of what it takes to complete a multi-day ultra mountain bike race. Is it fitness? A simple mantra of eat, ride, sleep? Or, something more intangible like mental toughness and the ability to keep going when it gets really tough?
Naturally I have my own ideas. In my experience, the #1 prerequisite to finishing these events is stoke. Passion for a route and the experiences that await precede the start by half a year (or more) for the best rides I have had, and have seen others do. It is not so much about natural ability, it is all about positive projection, preparedness, and having the *finish* as the number one goal. Having stoke for an event well in advance of the start fuels a ton of research into the route, equipment required, conditions expected - consideration of thousands of little details that go into a great ride.
So, off we rolled last week for the AZT 300. Lynda carrying a huge bag of well-aged stoke, myself looking forward to a long ride in new terrain with the primary goal of testing my new BlueDot app. We both got what we went for and in the end it worked out to perfection.
The truth is I stopped racing in 2009. After the 24 hours of Moab I walked away with a "what now??" sort of sensation, and it never went away. So, "racing", when I partake these days, is some combination of a social outlet, or means to see new terrain, or to enjoy the work that others have done to create some interesting route. The thing that has really lit the passion fire for me this spring is Bluedot - and writing code is not particularly a fitness builder or foot toughening activity, doh!
Getting to the start is always an adventure...and usually involves some help from others. We stayed with Chad at his new place, and then met Kurt & Caroline in Superior for the final shuttle detail. It was a lot of fun driving to the start with the 2-time race winner/record setter. Of course we started talking race strategy...more amusing for me as I had no real race objective, and LW wanted nothing to do with it. Her clear goal was the finish.
LW and I left the start fashionably late at 9:18. LW started as the lanterne rouge, an unfamiliar spot for her but it wouldn't last long.
LW tells me to go first and says she'll see me at the finish. She had no intention of going fast and fully expected to be well behind me. "We can come back and race it next year!" Hmmm wonder what that looks like... I never believed that for a second, knowing how my fitness (and stoke!) compared to hers on this day...but I amused her anyway by leading out. A few minutes later I hear a "girl scream". Oh no, what is going on? Just a bobble on loose terrain...in the rush to get going we had forgot an important pre-race ritual: the HUG. I stop and grab her off her bike and give a good long squeeze. OK, time to get going....
The early riding has a good bit of hike a bike, especially for me on my singlespeed and in the heat. About 20 minutes in I come up to Marshal Bird in the shade of a tree and stop to chat and have a look at a developing hotspot on my left heel. To my huge surprise it was not a hotspot at all, but a blister that had developed, popped, and the skin was blown off. Inside of 20 minutes my ride was doomed....Marshal knew I was in trouble, moreso than I was willing to concede at the time.
Gorilla tape applied to heels, check. Onward. LW was in front of me know, and I eventually caught her - she pulled to the side to let me go by. A few minutes later I caught up with a big train of riders all hiking a section of marginally rideable trail. Walking was my speed here too and I settled in. LW rode it all and passed ~ 10 riders on that hike a bike, just like I've seen her do in Trans Rockies. I gave her a good shove as she went by and that's the last I saw of her until I picked her up at the finish. She had found her flow, settled down, and I knew she was going to have a great ride. I was so stoked for her at that point!
Shortly thereafter, the trail become much more rideable and Canelo hills more fun. I did some bonus miles, but for the most part enjoyed the rest of the ride to Patagonia. Prior to the last bit of hike a bike I started applying super glue to the gorilla tape on the heels to better hold it in place, and that made hiking a bit more bearable. But I had serious doubts about my ability to go beyond Tucson. There was at least 10 hours of hike a bike in that section by most accounts...
In Sonoita I took my first look at BlueDot. I have put more work into BlueDot this spring than I ever have put into riding in the same time period - so to have the first look at it mid-race was oh so cool! I could see that Kurt was off the front as expected, see where LW was, and a few other riders not far up the road towards Kentucky camp. And, it actually motivated me to see if I could catch LW so we could ride together a bit. It took awhile, but nearly worked. The Kentucky camp area was my favorite part of what I rode, and good for my SS gearing. LW came into sight shortly after sunset, but then when we hit a section of rugged terrain with many short hikes my heels did me in. I just couldn't make any headway with my heel situation.
I caved to the pain and rolled out the bivy for a few hours. Later when I got rolling again I was amused to learn I was right at the end of the hike a bike stuff anyway...and the trail turned instantly into a ripping, nicely carved, SS optimized super fun trail!!! Woohoo! And it stayed that way pretty much all the way to X9 road that led into Tucson.
The gal at the Rincon store said LW left about 30 minutes before I got there, and that briefly gave me some motivation to hustle on up the road. But my heels were screwed by then. Raw to the point I could not walk uphill. A bit of a problem when faced with 10k' vert in the next 30 miles...what good is a single speeder that can't walk? Exactly.
Brad Kee and Matt Fusco showed up at the store and Brad shared some moleskin. In return for the moleskin I put my droid in his hand with BlueDot running....and that was my favorite moment of the race. He was amazed at what he held in his hand and was deeply interested in the current state of the race. According to BlueDot only Kurt and LW were up the trail, but of course we knew Joe was also up ahead. Aaron Gulley we also expected was up ahead, thinking there was probably an issue with his SPOT (we later learned his GPS failed before Tucson). In any case, Brad's excitement over BlueDot in the middle of a race was tall validation for my idea and vision to bring real-time race info into the hands of racers.
The moleskin gave me a touch of confidence I might be able to get'r done, but 30 minutes after being on the bike (and not even doing any hiking yet) and the feet had said no go. So off to Scott Morris' house I rolled...I can see why it is so hard for a Tucson resident to finish this event.
Have I mentioned the heat yet? It was hot. Stupid hot. I hadn't really been overly aware of the heat until I rolled off course and through Tucson. What a gawd-awful experience to go from awesome trails to the noisy, diesel belching stench of busy super-heated Tucson roads. From highs to lows in a moment. The coolness of Scott's carport concrete was wonderful and I layed there for an hour until Paula came to the rescue...
From that time forward it was all about LW and BlueDot. BlueDot glued to my hand, staring at LWs dot. It moved oh so painfully slow all the way to Oracle. Meanwhile, the race was unraveling on all fronts. Kurt crashed and hurt his knee just before Oracle, ending his ride. News of Aaron's demise surfaced. Then, in a surprising twist of events, news that Joe Meiser (thought to be the current leader but his poorly reporting SPOT left plenty to the imagination) had to backtrack to Oracle due to lack of calories came from Facebook. Holy crap, that put LW in the lead! Although Brad Kee was very close to her, and at one point in front of her - so there was a race for the win. He rode all through the night after leaving Rincon to arrive at Oracle before LW.
I don't think either rider realized they were first and second...it had to be a confusing set of tracks out there. LW never passed anyone, the tracks just kept getting thinner, until finally disappearing altogether. She "passed" Brad Kee while riding the gasline section of the route while Brad rode a new section of dead end singletrack AZT. He said it was awesome trail but the dead-end was sub optimal ;)
Facebook to the rescue! LW's car was at the trailhead in Superior while I was stuck in Tucson. This new droid partner of mine, it is well connected. Via FB I learned Slyfox was in town. One quick email and I had a ride lined up to the trailhead with superstar Slyfox Gillie. That night was a beautiful night for riding. Full moon at the trailhead over picketpost really made me wish I was riding instead of waiting.
By the next morning most everyone's fate was sealed. The 2011 AZT 300 was a trail of tears with only 4 of the 22 starters making it to the finish. This BlueDot snapshot with last reported point for each rider tells the story:
While the 18 of us DNFs were still licking our wounds, the fab 4 soldiered on through yet another warm day in the desert with LW leading the charge. I could see that she had stopped for only ~ 2 hours that last night, and knew she only stopped because she cracked. That is the only thing that stops me on the last night of these things ;) But I also knew she was rolling with about 6 hours of sleep in 3 days. That is a helluva deficit for someone used to a steady 9-10 hours/night. I had all sorts of concerns about the reliability of the Freeman road water cache and nearly went out there to restock it...and then was convinced I should meet riders at the Gila with water. It is hard to be on the sidelines! In the end I didn't want to mess with anyone's experience out there and sat tight...
Finally...FINALLY...LW rolled down the trail to the finish. And, she was positively giddy! One of the first things out of her mouth was more a question than statement: "I don't see any tracks on the ground?!?" "It's all your's babe, roll on down to the finish, I'll meet you at the car". Ironically, I took some great pictures of her riding the last bit of trail, and shot a video of her giddiness, but they were all lost due to my phone overheating in the midday desert heat...
Smiling, happy, giddy, amazingly untouched by the sun, and probably under 100 lbs - the 2011 AZT 300 winner and first ever female finisher.
Part of the giddiness: fueling on seafood (sharks) in the desert.
We headed to town for a shower then came back out to meet Brad at his finish.
Somewhere on Mt Lemmon Brad's left shoe exploded.
Post event I could not be more stoked for how it turned out. BlueDot was generally a success, and I learned a few things I need to do to improve it. Racing is the best testbed. But the real story is LW. She has been planning, scheming, dreaming, breathing AZT for months. It has dominated her training since about September or October. When faced with what is undoubtedly the most difficult conditions ever for this event, she embraced the challenge, adapted to the conditions, and rode her own ride, paying little attention to others. A brilliant ride with few mistakes, in my opinion it is the most impressive ride she has put down (and there have been a few!). So good, in fact, that it resulted in the first (to my knowledge, anyway) time a woman has won the overall in a self-supported multi-day. I am so proud of her!
This weekend was what I like to think of as a typical January weekend in StG - it was a beauty. Low 60's and calm. On Saturday I went for a great 4 hour road ride so Sunday was dirt time.
All the trails are steadily drying out and Dave emerged from his winter hibernation to sample the dirt.
I tossed my chain off my SS cranking through a dip and sampled the dirt more intimately than I wanted with a full body ground slam. It was one of those fast falls where you are on the ground before you know it thinking WTF. I stood up and declared I'm selling this bike. It's time with me is over!! Luckily no damage to me or the bike.
Dave took his turn about an hour later. Light damage.
We laid some gps tracks down on Dino trail to include it in the Camp Lynda Day 1 route. Dino trail was in prime shape with the sandy bits nicely packed down.
I love winter late afternoon orange glow and long shadows
I headed to the dirt today with Cimarron Chacon. Cim is the mastermind behind many local trails including the newly designated IMBA Epic Jem trail. She is also the promoter of 25 Hours of Frog Hollow. Today we went out to lay down some gps tracks and get some accurate measurements on her new project TRUE Grit. This is a 50 mile race scheduled for March 26th, 2011. In 2012 her plan is to evolve it into a 3 day stage race. That is very exciting...very :-)
Unfortunately a good portion of the proposed (permits pending) race course was off-limits today. Saturated clay so dastardly that you can't even walk in/on it.
We did ride the tasty slick rock areas. This race course will be very technical in areas. Pre-riding and learning a few lines before the race would be helpful.
Nice day for riding here. The temps got up to 52F but everything that is not solid rock is still saturated and soft.
Blogging is supposed to be dead in 2011...but luckily *my* blog doesn't seem to be all the way there yet ;-)
St George had a really wet December. This is what happened when some real cold was added on to the wet.
I've never ever seen ice like this in Green Valley. I was slipping around pushing my bike over it. Cleats and ice no es bueno.
On Sunday Jan 2nd I went hunting all over the county and into the next state for some rideable dirt. Even the reliable roads out on the Arizona strip were too mucky for me. I've never been 100% shut out of dirt in St George before. That is a first after living here for 15 years!
A few times a year I like to take a week offline. Partly to prove I am not addicted to Facebook (which I do enjoy, a lot...) and partly to keep my head fresh for everything else. Christmas week was good timing for that. Kinders were off with their dad for Christmas this year. This was my first Christmas since my divorce without my kids. To take my mind off that, Dave and I conjured up a great bikepacking trip on the Arizona Trail. The plan was to be out under the full moon and total eclipse on the winter solstice and to be in the boonies under the sun and stars on Christmas day.
The timing proved to be most excellent. The sun shone while we were in Arizona while St George experienced the storm of the century and flooding. The timing proved to be most awful...Dave came down with the flu on the drive south and was in no condition to ride or bikepack :--( :-(
Dave, weak and coughing, unable to ride, was able to drive and shuttled us so we could cherry pick a sweet point-to-point ride on the Cienega section of the AZT. It was a big cheesy grinner of a trail - yummy!! Scott took the beauty pic of me below. He can ride and take awesome pics at the same time - good talent to have.
Scott had to head home and Dave and I moved into the amusing and historic Old Stage Coach Inn in Patagonia, Arizona.
Dave continued to hack, cough, take flu meds and be my shuttle bunny for the next few days as I rode a total of 135 miles, point-to-point unloaded on the Arizona Trail. He watched my Spot from his Droid, streamed Netflix to amuse himself and even picked me up one day a few miles early before an intense storm cell hit me! Elite service!! It certainly wasn't as fun as bikepacking with Dave would have been, but it was still pretty darn ok to be in AZ riding big miles in the sun on the AZT. I plan to ride the 300 mile AZT race in April (and have another week offline then) so it was all good scoping time too.
On the 3rd day of the above shuttling/not riding/being sick in a hotel room, Dave announced he was "over it" and we drove home early. I finished out my week offline (mostly) at home. Christmas was a non-event at home and it made me realize that I really like Christmas and missed it and the non-event of it all this year isn't how I want to do it again. Expect more Christmas celebration in 2011 :-)