11.17.2012

AES - Kentucky Camp

I really enjoy the Kentucky Camp 46 mile course, it has it all: climbing, sweet singletrack, fast forest roads, rugged jeep roads, climbing, a remote feel, HAB, incredible views and climbing!! Yet somehow I couldn't get out of the house in a timely fashion, Seron and I were fashionably late. We totally missed the 9am start time, by arriving at 9:10! We gathered up our stuff, signed in with Chad and received some ridicule before heading out 5 minutes ahead of the 29 mile course riders.
Nice overview of the starting area. Photo by Scott.
I was feeling good from the start and when the dirt road gave way to AZT singletrack I was ready to go. This route starts with a quick punch in the gut climb, it was the last time I'd see Seron on course.  He was battling bike/tire issues for a good chunk of the day, but still had a good ride despite the mechanical issues.

I was trying to hold off the fast riders from the short course, but that didn't last too long. About 3 miles in on one of the longer climbs I heard them coming, I think I was passed by 5 riders. I spun out on two sections, but otherwise had a well paced ride out to the dirt road turnoff. From there it was time to settle in for the 9 miles or so of quick dirt roads leading to the Kentucky Camp turnoff. This is the spot on route where the 46 milers head south & the 29 milers continue straight.
Making my way up towards the Kentucky Camp turnoff.  Full album here.
At the turnoff I heard a familiar voice, Steve was there along with a few other riders. He said he was feeling like crap until this point, but the rest of the day we'd play leapfrog. The AZT through Kentucky Camp is fast and smooth, a rare treat in AZ.

Soon the southern lollipop turns off the singletrack and switches to jeep roads on its way to the halfway point. There was this one particular section of jeep road last year that had super ugly ruts, but  this year the road had been rebuilt, graded, whatever but it was of no consequence.
Last year these 4x4's had difficulty getting up this stretch.
As we neared the turnoff for the Link Trail I noticed how the trees were still green, last year at this time the canyon was in full autumnal glory. The Link Trail takes you to the highest point of the route, it's not terribly steep, but it's loose and my legs were growing tired so I HAB'd a good deal of the upper portion. I was nearing the one switchback on the climb when I heard some ATV's above me. I didn't think the top was so close, but surely the ATV's weren't on this trail? Wrong. Two hunters came crawling down this narrow section of trail, I had to climb up the mountainside a bit for them to pass. Wierd.

Steve and I made it to the top and met up with a couple from California who came in for the race. We turned our wheels to the left and the 4 of us blasted down the jeep road on the long descent into Gardner Canyon. Eventually the tunoff for the AZT appears and begins the fantastic Flume Trail section. The Flume Trail twists and turns through tall grass and sporadic rock outcroppings, simply amazing flow. Unfortunately, this was the time when my left hamstring decided to turn itself inside-out! I couldn't get my foot out of my pedal so I just stopped in the trail gritting my teeth waiting out the cramp. Steve and the Cali couple rode past and I still couldn't get going. Finally, after what seemed like 10 minutes I was able to resume riding.
Flume Trail.
Some of the sweetest singletrack around.
Before too long I was back at Kentucky Camp, took a quick snack break & topped off my water before heading out. From this point on I was having flashbacks from my last jaunt through these trails on the AZT300 back in April. On this day the weather was pleasant & overcast, no freak winter storms!! My legs were starting to feel heavy, thankfully there wasn't much climbing left. We came up on a rider from the short course who was struggling with cramping issues of his own. He said he was ok, but to let Chad know he was still out there..At the start of the Santa Rita passage Steve kept slowly pulling away from me and when we crested the highest point remaining I wouldn't see him again until the end. I was starting to HAB a few more sections than I normally would, I had little juice left for climbing.
I try to take this same picture each time I pass through.

Mt. Wrightson.
i bottomed out from the long rocky descent and made my way towards Box Canyon Rd. This would bring me back to the out-n-back portion of the route with 6 miles to go. My goal for the day was 6 1/2 hours, I was still on pace as long as I kept pushing as my legs would allow. I kept a keen eye on my race clock and as I crested the last short climb I had less than 10 minutes to my cutoff. Back on the entry road I pushed hard through the sandy washboarding & finished with a time of 6:26. Time to relax and have a chocolate milk! 

On our way back home we had to make a stop at El Guero Canelo's for a famous Sonoran hotdog!!
Tucson really has something here!

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