TU denial

Make no mistake:  the TU route is a monster.  With limited time, knowing storms were coming in quick, I gave it what I had left for ’08.  Somehow, after 242 miles and 32,000′ climbing, it still feels like a whopper of a ride.  And…I only just started the really fun stuff.  The late addition of the Cedar City section really changes the nature of the event on many levels.

All I can say right now – if you are interested in this event come with game.  It is physically demanding, moreso than GLR.  Based on info from my GPS ride file, the shared track under-represents both mileage and elevation gain.  The StG – Escalante section will play out closer to 400 miles and 60k vert.  Yea, no kiddin’.

 That said, it isn’t as remote.  There are 2 restaurants about a mile off-route in Virgin, everything you could need in Cedar City, a good general store and some restaurants in Brian Head – then things get spotty.

For those areas with spotty services, you may need a bucket to haul enough stuff.

Let it be known that Dave Nice came prepared with a GPS and a cycling computer.  Gears and freehub can’t be far behind.

Moving this thing up a day stressed me to no end.  With the last minute course changes and a busy work schedule I had more than I could handle.  Getting out the door in the right frame of mind was not easy.  Funny things happened in the first hour on the bike.  Things didn’t look familiar.  A picture of a coyote laying on the ground, mocking me with his big howling laugh….shortly followed by a sea of bleached carcass remains was more than unsettling in the darkness.  Where was I??  Only a few miles from home, I hadn’t been looking at the GPS track cause I knew the route like the back of my hand. On top of this weirdness, my legs had no PE whatsoever.  It was too easy to punch big power on the short rollers.  I’ve been here before – a bizarre mental state combined with no PE – and it’s dangerous.  This is the first time I’d recognized it mid-ride though.  I started following that GPS track and kept it super chill.

The AZ strip went by in a blur.

Coyote springs was in fine form.  I still had plenty of fluids so kept it rolling.

The climb up the Hurricane Cliffs via the Honeymoon trail was exhilarating as always.  It started to feel a bit warm here.

Some fast cruising roads between the Hurricane Cliffs and Little Creek Mesa head to the Goulds/Jem trail section.  Starting Goulds I got that empty camelback slurp – dangit, only one bottle left.  Water conservation mode notwithstanding, Goulds and Jem were awesome.  I did pack a bit more gear given the weather forecast, so this gave a good feel for how the bike would handle in the tight twisty stuff from Brian Head and beyond.

40 oz. Coke, ice cream, and iced bottles/bladders and the climbing started in earnest. 

Smith Mesa and Kolob roads held no surprises.  With 80 miles in the legs and on a loaded bike, it was slow going uphill.  Darn nice views all the way though.

Just N of Kolob Res I ran into Marshal.  He was setting up camp for the night.  I had secret hopes of catching up with him a bit later so we could tag team a hotel in Cedar…all morning through the AZ strip I’d notice we always took the same lines through rocky/tech sections.  A few times my mind would wander and I’d find myself following his tracks on auto-pilot.

Next up:  the big new section of the course.  I’d heard of the C trail but never ridden it.  I think it drops 2400′ in 4.7 miles, super fun stuff and even better at night!  I hit Cedar at 11 PM, rolled right up to Albertsons (blind luck), got a room and slept for 3 hours then moseyed on along.

The climb from Summit is steep.

What that sign really means is mixed grades of 10-20% for the next 4 miles ;)  You do get the elevation quickly though.  It wasn’t long before I was up in the aspens.  It’s peak color time right now.

I never called in from Cedar cause I got in late and left early.  Brian Head, so far as I can tell, has only this one pitiful pay phone.  This has got to be a big issue on GDR – crappy, failing pay phones as everyone on the planet now uses cell phones.  Anyway, I called Lynda.  We couldn’t hear each other, all I could make out was “1-3 inches”  then the line went dead.

Was it game over already?  I wasn’t sure what to do.  The route stays high for the next good long while and I was not in the mood to get stuck in snow.  Taking a nap is never wasted time…

Tried Lynda again after a nap and a quart of coffee – she said it was moving in tomorrow so go giv’r.  Sweet!  I was really wanting to do the Marathon trail section.  I’d never seen it.  Tough initially, from the middle of Color country to Louder ponds was pure bliss.  Singletrack heaven.

A long section was used in the BH Epic 100 route and also the recent American Mountain Classic.  There was still a lot of crap left by both racers and promoters.  TBB left like they weren’t coming back ;) 

The Marathon trail ends at Navajo lake with a wonderful plunge down steep, wooded singletrack.  It was so unexpectedly bitchin!

Wild country.  I scared up some big elk, a skunk with tail raised high, smelled (but didn’t see) a bear, and then almost nailed this on the trail:

Next up was the Virgin River Rim trail, just as the sun was setting.  Didn’t it just rise??  Days are so short in October.  I was really hoping to make it to Tropic.  I had 4-5 hours to reach the entrance to the Paunsaugunt, then would have to cover the next 60 miles in the dark and wee hours of the next day to make it – assuming the forecast for rain/snow at noon to be correct.  Well sheet.  Even in my addled state it was obvious pushing into the Paunsaugunt was a recipe for SAR.  I would get so pinned down up there and bailouts from there are not simple, easy, like they are from VRRT.  So, I camped near the end of the VRRT section.

It was a damn fine descision as the storm moved in a few hours later.  It came in fast, howling winds, and surface conditions became unrideable in short order.

I had my bailout plan already figured out before I slept – it didn’t phase me.  I just zipped up the bivvy a little tighter ;)

After a relaxing breakfast, copius coffee, hot soup and other goodies

it was time to make the escape.  The show was over and it was time to bail.  It wasn’t bad really.  I wore motorcycle goggles (honest!) for night riding and they worked a charm in the wet and muck.  It took about 90 minutes to get from camp on the VRRT to the Long Valley store.  A heaven on earth with Krispy Cremes and warmth.  Lynda braved her way over the snowy roads to haul my stinky butt home.

So, 3 starters and zero finishers – but the stats are weather impacted.  It’s doable.  It’s tough to imagine a sub 4 day finish, that’s for sure.  Tour pace is a week or better.

How about timing?  Late June is the earliest potential date, but conflicts with GLR and/or CTR.  August, we’d die in the deserts.  It cools off to 80 at night for about 10 minutes.  Sept is 24 hour natz (which I will target next year) so that’s a no-go.  2 possibilities come to mind:  July 4 or early Oct.  If in July, we’d want a GLR style evening start.

How about the route?  Well, there will be no Escalante – Moab route revealed until somebody finishes the first part!  Next year, same route.  The long term TU schedule just got delayed.  Missed it?  You get another chance.  Abundant pain and pleasure to be experienced. 

Start training.

25 replies on “TU denial”

  1. Damn. Quite the adventure there.

    Seems like the route could melt out earlier than June, though that’s a crapshoot. 6 pm, July fourth sounds about right. It would give the yahoos something to shoot bottlerockets at.

  2. Dave,

    Solid effort there. Sorry I missed the fun. Next time for sure.

    It has to be October. July probably seems OK when viewed through snow covered motorcycle goggles. But July is pretty darn hot on some parts of this route. And with an eye toward the ‘trans’ part of TU, there’s a few hot stretches east of Escalante (in July) too.


  3. I’d much rather take the fall crapshoot than the June crapshoot. Brian Head trails don’t usually open until late June – I think it was actually early July this year. The route will probably be rideable end to end in a week and stay that way for awhile in typical indian summer fashion…last year was clear till mid-Nov but that was more of a fluke. Big storm weekend of Sep 22 last year soaked S Utah pretty good.

    It’s the challenge of a route like this. It involves crap shoots no matter when the start date. July – the desert will be unmanageable…Oct – snow becomes possible.

    Hey, wait a minute – you aren’t doing summer school next year are ya? July 4…could happen.

    Fred – a vote for Oct, eh? Oct has always made the most sense to me, pretty much for that reason. I will almost certainly put it a week later next October. 10 days between Payson 24 and TU was tough, even for me.

  4. A week at the strongman’s touring pace … definitely gives me something to think harder about. I’d never survive July, but, then again, I’m starting to realize that I’d never be able to acclimate for this thing anyway. Quite the monster you’ve created, Dave. Beautiful and deadly. Nice work again.

    Is snow really such a problem in its own right? I understand that those roads and trails become impassable under a lot of moisture, but isn’t that just as much of a risk in a summer monsoon? The storm that came through this weekend seemed to be a big low pressure with a lot of precip. But if you got a light snow storm, a dry dusting, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Maybe even preferable to cold rain.

    By the way, what is with the bucket? Seriously, Dave N., in all of your years of bike-camp testing, that’s the best you could come up with? ;-)

  5. Jill – one could manage with a light dusting I think. The trouble with snow in Oct is that it melts fairly quickly but the mud won’t. A significant amount of precip will render most surfaces unrideable, and melting snow prolongs the misery. Not to mention – there are some technical, steep, rocky, thin areas where ground cover will make life “interesting” to say the least.

    After a typical summer monsoon the trails dry out pretty quick. You might get stuck for a few hours, but things will come back to good shape in short order.

    Keep it on yer plans for next year! Having a whole year to prepare (even if largely mentally) will make it even more fun. And impossible :)

  6. Hey, sorry my timing was off on the hotel in Cedar. I know I would have enjoyed riding the single track decent into Cedar if I was with someone, I am still a bit gun shy about the ‘technical stuff’ right now. And had I known how close I was to topping out and having mostly down hill the rest of the way to Cedar I would pushed on rather than camping out as a hotel saves tons of time.

    Anyway I think Oct is the right time of year for this route. Also I think the start time should be early enough in the night/wee hours so as to beat the heat across the AZ Strip and try to “time it” to get to Virgin right when the small restaurant/gift shop(s) open in the morning. Personal I would probably start a couple of hours ahead of any ‘official’ time to make this ‘timing’ happen for me.

    Oh and my TU write up is up on http://desertmountainride.blogspot.com/2008/10/trans-utah-in-bag-2008-season-is-done.html

  7. Wow, awesome work there amigo. I wondered what you guys were gonna do with the storm coming in…good call on the early leave.

    Daves’ bucket thing is awesome. Makes me wonder if he’s got a scooped in there and some sort of crushed feed. ;-)

    As for the deer in the trail – I just got some pictures emailed to me from a buddy back in New Mexico last week. He rides with a guy who works for the state and has access to outdoor cameras for wildlife. So they ride this trail near Albuquerque up in the mountains and find a dead deer similar to what you found. They end the ride and Chris’s buddy goes back and sets up the camera. He comes back a couple of days later and looks at the film and finds the usual – coyotes, etc. Then he sees a big mountain lion take a few shots at the carcass…and finally later on a big mamma bear and it’s cubs come to dinner. All within a few miles of “civilization.” Like the wildlife guy told me years ago…when you see deer, get the hell out of there.

  8. Uh.. was it the bear that killed that deer? Looks like you hit Wild America there.

    What a huge route, and huge effort. Great job designing it. and attempting it.

  9. Funny you should ask Grizzly. After a bit of reflection, I think the deer was taken down by a lion, wounded but not dead yet, and left to die before the feast began. The deer had not been down for long – no odor or bloating, and it wasn’t punctured either. That smell I got a whiff of that I assumed was a bear, well I think it was that lion.

    In any case my hair was prickled on end from the lion smell to the deer. I got that shot quick and rode off ASAP. It was intense, coming during the best/most surprising piece of trail and sunset and towards the end of the ride. Every ride has it’s moments…

    Click that deer pic and note the deer fur all over the foreground, and the claw marks on it. Lion, bear, sasquatch or other?

  10. Looks like a classic Lion kill. The claw marks on the back would be from the lion leaping up on the deer from behind. Scary stuff. Bears don’t get me too worked up. But I see mountain lions in my nightmares. And even sometimes on the trails. Well only once. Had another encounter with one where I never saw it, just heard it scream at me. I was hunting and had a high powered rifle and a sharp knife. But I was scared enough to go about 10 miles out of my way to get back to camp.

    I have been in dark, quiet spots out on the trail and had the hair prick up on my neck, and I get that feeling that something is nearby watching me. I usually ride as fast as ever in those situations.

  11. Tremendous effort Dave! Quite the whopper of a course you have ended up with. 4 hundo w/60K of climbing = binge even for crackheads like you and LW. But the wheels are spinning.

  12. Nice job everyone. Great touch with the bucket Dave N! Marshall, I got the same thoughts rolling around my noggin two years ago on the GLR. How did he climb that??
    Way to go Dave. You prepared for everything that you could control I’m sure. The weather, eh, whaddaya gonna do? You made the right choice.
    I’m itching to give TU a try. If you really do put it back another week then I don’t have my annual White Pass ski patrol refresher muddling things up! I volunteer to be sweep.

    Best regards

  13. Oct 9th 2009 – cool! That gives me a year and 2 days to pre-ride those bits of the course I am missing. Umm and get a new bike and some bags to fit on it and…

  14. Wow Dave, awesome stuff.

    That deer kill is definitely something spooky to encounter out there all alone.

    October is a wise decision. If I’m unemployed next summer….maybe. I have no idea how you fit a career in with what you do on a bike, amazing!

    Congrats to all three of you for attempting this monster.


  15. glad to see October won out. I’m sure there’s something worse than riding a bike all day in July in some of the lower elevation areas that this route will include… I just can’t think of what that might be.

    I would suspect that most years early October would end up being perfect weather. bummer for you guys that that wasn’t the case this year. I hope to be out there next year, if my running addiction allows for it.

  16. Great Ride, “Bud”!
    jan & I have comered a lot of the sites you mentioned on the TU. Like Navajo Lake, Brian Head, Escalante, Kolob and several others. (reachable by car:-)

    This senic country is some of our favorite vacation territory

  17. Dave, Dave or Marshal,

    Just curious if any of you guys happen to take a picture of your pile of gear while it was unpacked?

  18. I didn’t, but here’s a shot of my gear prior to GLR: http://picasaweb.google.com/hairball.dh/GrandLoopRace#5072995839248528114.

    Pretty similar setup for this one – I added an all-weather bivvy and rain pants, and ran a Fenix P3D flashlight on my helmet (which rocked).

    Scott Morris (creator of topofusion, all around multi-day beast) set up a new site at bikepacking.net. There’s a specific place to share bike setups at http://www.bikepacking.net/category/individual_setups/ and in general this is a great resource to learn what others are doing and discuss varying ideas/technology.

    Good stuff…and dang I can’t wait to get back out there. It’s addicting.

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