January 2, 2016

Curmudgeon 100 Invitational

Last year was the inaugural running of a 100 mile singletrack route through the McDowell Regional Park, McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Brown's Ranch. We didn't quite nail down a good name for it, but this year it became clear: The Curmudgeon 100 Invitational. (Who is the curmudgeon?? That is debatable, but the movie Grumpy Old Men comes to mind)

Jeff is the route designer and we agreed after last year's ride, this route should be focused more on the fun aspect of an all-day ride. Leave some of the suffering for the AES events. So, with that in mind we axed the portion of the route that went up & over the McDowells. Goodbye Windgate and good riddance!!

The forecast was looking favorable and not nearly as cold as last year. Hooray! The email went out with all the details of the day's ride and by 6a on Sat. 9 of us were ready to roll. (8 for the full 100 and one to knock out his own big custom ride)
Daybreak on top of Scenic trail.
We rolled through 0.8 miles of neighborhood streets to the trailhead gate. That's the beauty of this route, over 100 miles of continuous singletrack practically within the city limits. Yeah, we have it good out here.

Of course I wasted no time in introducing myself to a buckhorn cholla. I'm still not exactly sure what happened. One moment I was following Nancy's wheel, then I blinked, and saw a bush coming at my front tire! I rolled over the bush and straight into the cholla all while leaping off my bike as quickly as possible. My left shin wasn't so lucky and I snagged at least 30 daggers into my compression sock & shin. Who needs coffee to get you going in the morning? Ride into a cactus, wakes you up real quick.

I removed as many spines as I felt like and all the stray cholla balls on my left side before moving on.

The fast hombres kept going, Ray, Bob & Steve. Nancy & Sean waited for us to catch up before we moved on to the Escondido trail. I've yet to ride this trail in daylight, but it sure is fun.

As we made our way across Escondido, I began to drop back a bit. This became more evident on the climb up Scenic trail. By the time I crested the climb I could only catch an occasional glimpse of Jeff up ahead. Daybreak was now upon us and the lights turned off as we hit Pemberton for the second time this morning.

Sean took off ahead while Jeff, Nancy, Joe and I rolled down the newer Shallmo Wash trail. This is a fine addition to the park getting the trail out of the sandy wash up high on the hillside. The four of us re-grouped again in the competitive loop parking lot, shed some layers during our pitstop then rolled out onto the Sport Loop.

Once again the others pulled ahead of me, I just couldn't get going. We were now 16 miles into the day when the first rays of light hit the trails. It was good because things would begin to warm up a bit, but it also meant I was about to be blinded by direct sunlight hovering over the trail.

I caught up to the others at the jump line & pump track where I told Jeff to not wait for me the rest of the way. Barely two miles into the Long Loop I was riding solo at my own pace trying to get my legs going on the day.
Transitioning out of the competitive loops back onto the Pemberton trail.
As I made my way up Granite & Bluff trails I started to get that dreaded bonking feeling. I never fully bonked, but hung on the cusp for the next 20 miles or so. It wasn't a great feeling. To make matters worse, my left knee started to yell at me. Not sure if I banged it on my bike during the early morning run-in with the cholla or what. Either way, I wanted both feelings to go away.
Shade structure at the top of Delsie trail.
I stopped at a covered picnic table, popped a couple Advil and had a snack. I was now on Pemberton for the 4th time already and made my first, of many, wrong turns. I knew we had a loop coming up, but I jumped the gun and started riding up Boulder trail. A half mile later it sunk in, this trail doesn't connect with anything to the south, oops. Back down Boulder to Pemberton then over to Coachwhip. Now I'm where I should be.
Pemberton always rides fast, but today it was exceptionally fast.
Still fighting the jitters, I grabbed another snack at the junction of Coachwhip & Windmill. This was the hardest part of the entire route, climbing Coachwhip, Windmill & Bell to the split with Prospector trail. The way I was feeling, I was eager to reach the summit.
Break out the bacon!
Windgate pass on the right, Bell pass on the left.
I started up Windmill exiting the Regional Park. A few minutes later I saw a rider approaching, not many ride this trail as it's out of the way. It was Steve! He made a 50/50 guess on which direction to take the loop & guessed wrong, but it didn't really matter. His direction was a bit more difficult, but he's a strong rider and by my quick math was already some 7 miles ahead of me. Jeez, I was really falling behind pace and needed to get my energy back in a hurry if I had any hopes of finishing before sunset.

We departed and I kept pedaling up Windmill. I dipped into a small wash crossing and was cranking up the other side when I heard what sounded like a handful of metallic parts hit the ground. What the... I was hoping I simply rode over something on the trail as nothing seemed to immediately change on my bike.

I stopped and walked back to investigate the source of the noise. I found a long Allen head bolt with some sort of sleeve on it. Didn't look familiar at all. Then I spotted a black curved wedge looking piece of metal. That looked a bit more familiar. My seat!!
The tensioning mechanism for my Selle Anatomica seat.
Seems I sheared off the three rivets on the nose of the seat that hold the tensioning mechanism in place. What to do? I was roughly 36 miles into a 100 mile ride and had no way to put tension on my leather seat. My first thought was to wrap the nose in gorilla tape, but I really didn't want to get the adhesive on the leather. Zip-tie!! I always carry zip-ties so I put one on and made sure to keep the joining end under the saddle.

As soon as I sat down the sag was laughably noticeable. Hmmm, is this really going to work? I figured at the worst, I could easily ride back to Jeff's place and call it a day. I really didn't want to though. It felt like riding a luxury recliner.

**Note: After the ride I contacted Selle Anatomica about the issue. My seat was a few weeks past the 1 year warranty, but they are repairing the saddle free of charge.**

I motored on, running into a buddy at the junction of Bell & Windgate trails. He mentioned he saw Jeff, Nancy & Joe down on Prospector. I guess I wasn't too horribly behind, but I wouldn't be catching them. I inched up Bell, HAB'ing a bit near the Prospector split. It was a good feeling being up there, so I took it in for a minute or two.
Looking back down Bell towards Windmill.
The view down Prospector, trail is visible to the right of the Saguaros in the near saddle.
I knew my pace would pick up with the downhill and all the fast smooth trails to follow. I made quick work getting over to Dixie Mine, knocked out the short climb up to the ridge then began blasting down the ridgeline.
Zoom!! Dixie Mine ridgeline.
Looking back towards Bell Pass.
I pulled over to let a train of 8 riders climb up the ridge. I was getting hungry again and thoughts of our cooler stash began to dominate my thoughts. I was ready to slam a Coke. But first, I knocked back burrito #1 when I reached the turn onto Pemberton trail.
Burrito time.
I was on Pemberton for something like the 5th time already this morning, making my way back to Boulder, where I made my navigational error earlier.
Aptly named Boulder trail.
The power of the burrito had kicked in and I was almost feeling normal!! There was a small loop coming up and I remember noting that we rode it clockwise. Of course I turned too early, going up a short deadend wash. This would be a theme for the rest of the day as the track almost aligned with other trails near junctions. At least I figured them all out rather quickly.
Tom's Thumb from the Feldspar loop.
Tom's Thumb trailhead in the foreground and Brown's Ranch off in the distance.
Now this 'little' Feldspar loop was almost my undoing. The trail itself was fine, dirt sidewalk...easy. The problem was between my ears. I was craving the cooler stop only a few miles away and this Feldspar trail tried to suck my soul of all motivation. How? It had a multitude of blind corners and each time I rounded one, the trail continued to climb. It wasn't super steep by any stretch, but it made you work. Plus, the trail took me out of the way, I circled around the Tom's Thumb trailhead cursing it's sight as I rode farther away from it. Damn you Feldspar!!

I finally crested the apex of the trail and turned north and downhill, all I had to do now was navigate the gauntlet of day hikers for the next mile. There were a ton of 'em, at least they were all cool. The instant I entered the Gooseneck trail I was all by my lonesome...ahhh.

I rolled up to the cooler around 12:45p, at mile 55. The others had come and gone, but there were plenty of refreshments. I dove in.
Recharging the internal batteries & motivation.
I felt like a ravenous raccoon rummaging through a dumpster load of food. Coke, pickles, bacon, burrito #2, chips all went down without a fight.

I watched at least 6 riders exit Gooseneck barely 25 feet from me, yet no one saw me sitting next to the cooler in the wash. It was rather amusing.

I was ready to crank out some fast miles in Brown's Ranch, I left the cooler at 1:15p

Barely two miles later, I was making the short climb up Whiskey Bottle trail when I felt a twinge in my right quad. Oh no you don't, no cramps now!! I eased up a hair, made the top of the hill and I was fine the rest of the ride.

Brown's Ranch is such a fun place to let it rip. Trails are non-technical, have a good riding surface and generally flow really well. They practically beg for speed.

I was now making a conscious effort to not stop, except at the trailhead to top off water.
Trail looking northwest.
I'd love to see a trail wind its way up through those boulders.
Cool trail features provided by Mother Nature.
Jeff threw a bit of a curveball on the Brown's Ranch routing, he added in some of the old Pima/Dynamite trails. They are still legal to ride, but most people don't bother since they aren't signed and are a bit more primitive in feel. Naturally, I overshot the first turn, then had to backtrack on the second. The rockier nature of these trails were slowing me down!! Darn you Jeff, I'm trying to make up speed here!!

I rejoined the speedy Corral trail then made my way through a series of new trails including a loop that I rode backwards compared to the others. Sounds like it rode great in either direction.

Golden hour was fast approaching as I hit the northernmost trail, Hawknest.
Eastbound from here is a hoot on Hawknest. I even saw a deer on The Divide trail.
Granite Mountain trail.
I took another wrong turn coming down 136th St. Express, then again on my exit of Granite Mtn. It was like I had never used a GPS before. Sheesh. I knew I'd be finishing in the dark as the sun was rapidly approaching the horizon. I was ok with it considering how my first half of the day went. I was feeling great all through Brown's Ranch. My goal now was to return to the cooler before sunset.
Balancing rock on Bootlegger trail.
There goes the sun, but I'm only a few turns from the cooler. Close enough.
View to the east, Four Peaks & Superstition Mtns.
I downed a Mountain Dew and some more snacks as I changed over to night riding mode. I found out that everyone else had already finished. Ray at 3:40p!! Dude is a cyborg. Jeff had just finished, making it in before sunset - nice!! I knew the remaining riding was mostly downhill and easy. It was a little before 6p when I left the cooler, not quite dark.

I was able to knock out the Redbird trail much easier and quicker than last year. The trail was much more visible this time around, more people must be riding it.

I connected over to the Regional Park and jumped on Pemberton for the 6th and last time. This was a great way to wrap up the ride. Pemberton is packed down and fast, gently sloping downhill. It's easy to stay above 15mph even with the turns.

Somewhere on this section the odometer ticked to 100.0, I still had a bit to go and wondered exactly how many miles I'd end up with. I figured at least 104, but maybe more? Slowly, the side trails came and went as my mileage kept ticking upward. I finally reached the Chuparosa trail signaling the exit. A bit over two miles later I dumped onto the neighborhood streets. I rounded a few corners then spotted my car. Done. 105.5 in just under 13 hours. That's about 2 1/2 hours faster than last year's route. I'll take it. Next year I really want to finish before dark.

This is a really great route, Jeff nailed it this year. I may need to study the route a bit more next year to help avoid all the missed turns!!

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