On Friday I went ahead and converted the 29er over to tubeless, so that would be my ride of choice. Too many prickly bits and a very remote stretch of trail pretty much required the absence of tubes.
Saturday morning Seron and I arrived at the start with plenty of time for ride prep. It was a bit chilly for the start, so I wore my arm warmers & full finger gloves to get rolling. The beginning of this ride has a 15 mile neutral start, roughly 6 miles of dirt road then another 9 on pavement over near the town of Oracle.
|The first long ride on the 29er. Photo by Seron|
|Fueled by beer. Photo by Seron|
|The AZT off of Tiger Mine Rd.|
|Ready to roll onto the AZT. Photo by ??? with Seron's camera.|
|Yes, that's the trail. Very primitive in spots.|
|Seron and another rider make their way up some swichbacks.|
Then out of nowhere it happened....snap!
|Definitely NOT on the day's agenda|
|Shortly after leaving Seron, I climbed this ridge and you can spot him near the center if you look closely.|
|One of the few mini Ripsey segments along the way.|
|I've been riding for a while now, why does Antelope Peak still look so SMALL!?!?|
|This particular area was a bit hard to follow the trail, a couple of overshoots were had.|
|Finally arrived to Bloodsucker Wash, time for a snack.|
|After a short dirt road section, Beehive Ranch came into view. Should be a reliable water source for the AZT300|
|Antelope Peak finally beginning to look close among the thick stand of prickly pear cactus.|
|Now we're getting somewhere!|
|Riding around the NE flank of Antelope Peak, I really wanted to do the hike to the summit, but the day was already growing long, little did I know at the time just how long.|
|AZT Freeman Rd. water cache|
As I was getting set to leave the water cache, Neil, one of the 115 milers, came rolling through! He may have had a 3 hour head start, but he also did 50 more miles than myself at this point. He was riding strong as he blew past me on Willow Springs Rd. finishing high in the standings.
Back on the road I heard my GPS beep and I pulled over to check on it....blank screen!! The unit powered off & when I booted it back up all my data was gone! Knowing the Garmin, the ride to this point was saved as a separate track, so I simply re-loaded the course & started up again with hopes that both tracks would be there. I would simply merge them together with Topofusion to get the full ride data. Back to the task at hand, find the Painter Boy trail before the sun sets or bypass it for a faster less risky finish.
I reached to point on Willow Springs Rd. where the cue sheets had you look for a faint trail through what had been described as a 'vague' area. This was approximately a 1.5 mile test at route finding to the Painter Boy trail and the sun was still up so I went for it. By way of GPS & the cue sheet I made my way past all the clues, yellow police tape hung by Scott was very helpful in spots. There was even a spot where I had to crawl through a small opening in a barbed wire fence only to be led into a football field sized area of head high catclaw!!
|At least by being last I had some tracks to follow.|
|Yellow tape marking the spot on the other side of the barbed wire where the faint singletrack began.|
|This is what vague faint singletrack looks like|
As soon as I plugged in my light battery (I'm sure I had a surprised look on my face) when I saw the power meter registering about 50% of charge!! Magicshine lights are pretty bright even on low, so with only about 3 miles to go according to the cue sheets, I figured I'd have plenty of juice left. Time to get moving. The 8" wide crushed granite ribbon of Earth was fairly easy to navigate sans a few overshot turns here & there. Then 10 minutes into my lighted ride....BOOM! Front tire blowout. Drag. I'm pretty certain I didn't hit anything, tire looked clean, must have lost the bead on the tubeless setup. As I began to change the tire over to a tubed setup, the coyotes were in full throat off in the distance, very surreal. Darkness set it quick now, tire was inflated & I had less than 1 mile to go to the 24hr course. A few times along the way the trail would disappear, leaving me searching with my headlamp through the darkness. Only after backtracking a few feet I would spot the sharp turn I missed. Then after almost a mile since my flat I came around a corner and there they were...COWS!! A small herd of black cows had gathered around the trail for the night and I was crashing their party!! After a short commotion they parted my path and I moved on, less than a minute later I was on the 24 hour course - Hooray!
To my surprise the GPS was still holding a good charge & I was now on familiar territory or so I thought. I had 1/2 of the climb up Sassy to the saddle then a fun one mile descent to the 24 hr. start/finish area. I could just barely make out the silhouette of the saddle as I climbed the friendly grade. Cruising along my light power meter was now aglow in red, which means little juice is left and a few minutes later the light began a flickering dance actuated by bumps in the trail. The battery was rapidly dying, going from a bright LED emission to what I'll call riding by candlelight - tough for the eyes to adjust quickly. I found that if I bounced my rear wheel during candlelight sessions full power would resume until the next jolt. This scenario lasted all the way down to the 'option' area near the start/finish area and I was not about to ride down the rock face in my current state so I opted for the bypass. I was very glad to be rolling into the start/finish area, one last curve...COW!!! I narrowly missed running right into a large black cow standing on the trail and by narrow I mean 2-3 feet!! I yelled at the top of my lungs and the bovine took an about face & high tailed it off the trail. Whew.
A quick stop to check the cue sheet, left on road 0.1 mi, right on trail 0.1 mi, then a left on His/Her trail for 0.4 miles to the car - almost done. I made all the turns in the dim light then just zoned out over the pedal strokes, next thing I knew I had been riding for a good 10 minutes. Shouldn't I have come to the car by now? I stopped to check the cue sheet again, sure enough I must have over shot the parking area I thought, jeez. I turned around riding for what seemed like 15 minutes, missing the trail I entered His/Her on, then I could see I was riding towards the glow of Tucson. This isn't right I thought. GPS still had me on course, but I knew that since I loaded the route with the bonus 1/2 lap of the 24hr. course. I just didn't know where on the course I was in relation to where the car was parked!! With the GPS & light on life support, I knew I had to figure something out QUICK or I would be spending the night among the cholla & cold desert air. I finally dumped out onto a clearing under some power lines which I figured corresponded to the 'bitches' segment a bit to the north. I could see the sparkling lights of Oracle off to the SE & opted to follow the powerlines back in that direction. By doing so I'd either cross Willow Springs Rd or reach Rt.77 either of which would get me to the car. After a mile or so on the powerline rd. I check for cell coverage & had full range, called Seron and we chuckled a bit that I was disoriented on the easiest part of the course!! He hopped in the car & drove down Willow Springs Rd. to meet where I thought I'd pop out, but of course the powerline rd. dropped me directly into the parking lot where all the post-ride festivities were going down! Scott was there to great me, 'Are you John?, Seron just left to find you'. We all had a good laugh at my final few 'bonus' miles, interesting way to end a truly epic day out on the trail.
We hung out for a bit after I rolled in, then embarked on our 1 1/2 hour drive back to Phoenix. I finally hit the sack around midnight with the alarm set to rouse my carcass at 530. Was I really thinking about riding the Quad Bypass on Sunday?
The alarm chirped, then chirped again after a snooze, but I dragged myself out of bed and gathered my things for another long day in the saddle. This would be no slouch of a ride either, 32 miles & 7000' of climbing. I figured I'd show up, give it a go & see how my legs felt. If I was too drained I could easily shorten the ride after the Bell Pass descent. A few of my riding buddies were pretty surprised/stoked to see me at the starting area, for that matter I was too. Let's go!!
|41 riders turned out, photo by Walt.|
|My speedy friend, Chuck, at the forefront. Proof I did ride, 3rd rider. Photo by Walt.|
|According to my formula DNF>DNS!!|
|At least Chuck gave me a sweet beer sign!!|