We, Seron, Chris and I, arrived down at the trailhead at Parker Canyon Lake late on Thursday. Of course we had to stop at El Guero Canelo's for a sonoran hotdog while passing through Tucson! We expected to see a few more people camping out, but some opted for the formal campground on the other side of the lake while still more stayed in Tucson and arrived via shuttle.
|Sunrise on raceday.|
|Brad M. about to be the 'rabbit'.|
|Parker Canyon Lake.|
|Last minute adjustments. Photo by Seron.|
|A portend of things to come. Photo by Seron.|
|Scott giving some words of encouragement.|
|Chris and I ready to roll.|
|Ray and KC listening intently. Photo by Seron.|
Raceday morning came and we chatted with Brad Mattingly who was about to take off early to use the full dose of daylight. Eric Foster was also camped out and he was super stoked to get going. We had plenty of time to get our bikes rigged up, eat breakfast, mingle and generally just watch things unfold to the 9am start. A few of our friends showed up, Jonathan (J-Bake), James, and Ray. As 9am approached Scott gave some last minutes tips then we were off. As I passed by Scott and Seron (he had to opt out this year due to a multitude of bike related obstacles leading up to the race), who were taking pictures, I thought 'man, I can't believe I'm riding here in the field with such a strong group of riders in a primo event like the AZT300'.
|'DFL hard core elite' Photo by Scott.|
|Chris and I heading to the hills. Photo by Seron.|
|Yup, we're near the border. Photo by Seron.|
|One of the really nice stretches of trail|
|Mike Brislin and Chris doing what the Canelo Hills dish out - Hike-a-bike (HAB).|
|While tough, the scenery was spectacular.|
|As we crested each ridge we were reminded of the storm forecast with heavy gusts of wind.|
|Even the dead trees look stately.|
|The ample gate crossings gave us plenty of photo ops.|
|Montana is not the only state with big sky country.|
|James diggin' in early. Photo by Seron.|
|J-Bake at Canelo Pass Rd. Photo by Seron.|
|4 hours in, we were leaving the Canelo Hills East, the west was a bit more forgiving.|
|A clean shot of my setup.|
|The wind did help to keep the temps down.|
|Canelo Pass Rd.|
We were climbing up a nice ridgeline when I heard Chris behing me 'whoa!' and as I turned aroung I see him doing a barrelroll off the trail down an embankment!! Shit! Luckily there was a rather large yucca plant to catch him after one roll, otherwise it could have been ugly. I scrambled down to him to help untangle the bike,no damage done. Keep moving. A few miles later though he noticed his front brakes were decreasing in their ability to function. We didn't see a leak in the hydraulic line, perhaps it was a combo of the cool temps and elevation that were affecting them?
|Some beautiful trail through the grassy hills.|
|Water source near Cott Tank.|
|A fellow racer we hung with for a few miles.|
|At the solar powered windmill.|
|This was cranking away in the gusty winds.|
We pushed on and after 3 more hours we exited the Canelo Hills once and for all. We had set a goal of reaching Patagonia around the 7 hour mark and we were close: 7:15.
|Chris all smiles as he exits the Canelo Hills.|
|End of the Canelo Hills, let's ride some pavement.|
|Nice cooldown ride into Patagonia.|
|Dreaming of a re-supply in Patagonia.|
|Chowing down at the Velvet Elvis Pizza in Patagonia.|
|Not a bad pic for not slowing down to take it.|
A few hours later we finally arrived at Kentuck Camp where at least a dozen others had already crashed out for the evening. We found a spot on the east side of the visitor building to help shield against the 40+ mph gusts. That night I really didn't sleep, maybe 2 hours, the wind kept me awake blowing bits of straw into my face. As daybreak approached as few light drops of rain could be felt, but overhead the skies were clear. To the north lying in wait were the dark foreboding clouds we'd be riding into.
Just before I got out of my sleeping bag I heard someone go INTO the visitor center! We were camped right next to a door, but assumed it was locked. We weren't allowed to campout inside, but it was nice to take our gear inside to pack up as the rain started to increase. Chris and I sat inside and munched on our cold breakfast burritos we picked up in Sonoita.....beep, beep, beep. What the? A microwave?!?! That would have been nice to know! Then someone offers up some wine that the caretaker had handed out the previous night, jeez sounds like you all had a great time!! We finished eating, packed up and headed out on the damp jeep road out of Kentucky Camp.
|Packing up our gear at Kentucky Camp.|
|Jonathan and his neon 80's style raingear.|
|It may look sunny ahead, but things would go downhill quickly.|
|Jonathan saving the day - for a bit at least.|
|Not much to do other than scrape it off as best you can.|
|The Devil's clay gets everywhere.|
|Oh the irony, as we're cleaning off mud, the sun comes out.|
|Screw you mud!!|
|Even caked with mud & riding in a snow squall, this part of the AZT is incredible!|
|Stretching out at La Sevilla campground.|
|Jonathan arrives at the campground to do some cleaning of his own.|
We finished the nice section of trail by Pistol Hill Rd., jumped on the washboarded X-9 Ranch Rd. & finally met up with the paved undulating Old Spanish Trail. The first lights were spotted were from the Rincon Market. We stopped for a warm meal and chatted with the store clerk for a bit. She told us how earlier in the day at least 10 racers were sleeping inside the market waiting out the storm. We inquired about a hotel room to get dry/warm. Of course there was no Motel6 or Super8 nearby, only a Hilton some 8-10 miles down the road.
|Our refuge after day 2. Ultimately the end of our AZT300.|
A special thanks to Seron for driving us down there and really being in the spirit of the race even though the mountain biking gods conspired against him all through March. Also, thanks for being our virtual command center and keeping K at ease through the storm!
Chris, what can I say? It was so good to ride this event with you. You're a great riding partner and can tie a hell of a knot!!
Thanks to my wife for putting up with all my bonus long distance rides in preparation. To all my friends & family who were tracking us during the two days - thank you, your vibes could be felt out there!!
A few sidebars of note: As we returned to Gold Canyon to pick up my car Kurt Refsnider was about 10 miles from finishing the 300 in record time. The finish line, Picketpost Trailhead, is only 20 from Gold Canyon so I went out to see him in.
|Kurt crossing the finish line in record time: 2:07:59 (d:hh:mm)!!|
Scott Morris started his 300 two days later than the field, partly to rest a sore knee & partly to avoid the weather (smart man). He just finished a few hours ago with a NEW course record, lowering Kurt's incredible time to a ridiculous 2:05:04!! Way to go Scott!! It would have been real interesting to see these two battle it out it they had started simultaneously.
|A day after, my shoes are wrecked. The AZT is unforgiving!!|
Until next year, ride strong!!
Full slideshow here: (photos by me, Chris & Seron)