January 27, 2018

AZT: Rumblin'

The 2nd annual Oracle Rumble trail running race was coming up, but I had planned to ride the AES Antelope Peak Challenge the week before over the same stretch of trail. That was promptly rain/sleeted out of my plans. So, like last year, Shannon and I volunteered to be the gate crew for the runners, but wait, Beto was now part of this shindig. That made the logistics a bit easier once we had a plan. We'd meet at 5:30a down at Tiger Mine TH near Oracle where Beto would ride north on the AZT opening gates (in the dark!) while Shannon and I would drive around to Freeman Rd to begin our southbound ride. Last year the runners caught us fairly quickly, so this would ensure ALL the gates were opened for them. Plus, this was all new trail for Beto. Win-win!!

The bad news? Meeting at 5:30a meant I needed to be on the road by 3:30a. Gulp. I was up at 3a and out the door on time-ish. With no traffic, the drive was a breeze and we all met up as planned. It was a little chilly at Tiger Mine, but not as bad as last year.

We opted to take the eastern approach to Freeman Rd. via Winkleman. There's a few turns to make before getting on Freeman Rd. Coming in this way including a drive through the San Pedro River. Well, that was only a trickle and the road was freshly graded. Easy peasy. Then we made a wrong turn...let the adventure begin!!
I don't think this is Freeman Rd. We should probably turn around!!
We arrived at Freeman Rd. TH around 6:30a and it was 26ยบ!! WTH?!? Honestly, it didn't quite feel that cold, but I'm glad I brought my full finger gloves. Josh & Holly were camped out there too, as Holly was set for another 50 mile run. Total rockstar!!
Antelope Peak as we rolled out of the parking lot.
My 'Deer in headlights' look!!
We ditched the lights as we hit singletrack.

The cholla forest was surprisingly clear of chollaballs!!

Shannon's shirt, bike, gloves, etc were competing with Antelope Peak's fiery glow.

The 9000' shadowy figure of Mt. Lemmon on the horizon.

It was turning into a perfect morning to be on the Arizona Trail.

Shannon makes quick work of this switchback dropping down to Putnam Wash.
We soon arrived at Beehive Well, the first checkpoint for the runners. It was still shrouded in chilly air since the Sun's rays had yet to find their over the hills. We received word that the runners got started at 7:45a and wondered if we could outpace them to checkpoint #2. We also began to wonder when we'd cross paths with Beto. We began a series of faster miles on dirt road as we descended towards Bloodsucker Wash.

We were surprised to see a pickup truck coming our way after we opened a gate. A ranger was out in the area trying to find a suitable place for a group activity, but hadn't heard of the Oracle Rumble foot race. We asked him to leave the gate open as we took off down the road.

A few minutes later Beto popped around a corner!!
Crossing paths in the middle of nowhere.
Beto headed out and we began the long climb out of Bloodsucker Wash. Shannon was on her singlespeed and was riding incredibly well, but sections of this climb would render themself a bit too steep.
HAB mode.

Power mode.

Bloodsucker Wash.

After the initial climb, there's a few dips to break things up.

The lead runner breezing by us just before checkpoint #2.
Checkpoint #2. Whoa.

Two more runners approach.

Crossed paths with Chris as he bikepacked from Tiger Mine to Picketpost.

Big country out here.

Plenty of ups & downs out here, but the trail was riding great.
We were now through the Bloodsucker climb and neared the powerline crossing. Shannon checked on Beto's progress and we both were in disbelief. Not only had he finished at Freeman Rd., he had already driven back around and was chilling at Oracle State Park!! He blazed those final miles of trail. We still had 6 or 7 miles of unforgiving terrain to go. I hope he doesn't mind waiting!!

Cholla forest #2.

Ran into Zach and the rest of the bike support crew. He's the assistant trail guru for the ATA.

See? That's a lot of catclaw. How did we get off route??

Shannon drops into one of the final series of wash crossings, there's an El Freako sighting just ahead as he crosses the wash during his 50 mile run. Note the switchback cutouts in the hillside.

Here' they are. Giggle inducing fun!! These drainages are no longer soul sucking piles of babyhead rocks and tight corners.

Tiger Mine trailhead. Antelope Peak to the left of the left post above my rear wheel.

Found Beto, all changed and refreshed, and a few more friends out enjoying the AZT.

Holly sighting!! Feeling good at mile 30!! She later finished the 50 mile run.
We ventured over to the finish area inside Oracle State Park for some grub as the runners trickled in. It's really cool to see the satisfaction on their faces. Every one of them, tough as nails.

Another Oracle Rumble Gate Crew in the books, looking forward to next year.


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