February 25, 2012

BCT - Rock Springs to Table Mesa

This past weekend was supposed to be an all day sufferfest at South Mountain, grand plans indeed, but a lack of prep time lead Seron and I back to the Black Canyon Trail (BCT). We've been wanting to get back to this section of trail to put up some times for Strava, check out the new tech loop and because it just plain kicks ass. The BCT is a true XC mountain biking trail in every sense, long, flowy, pleasant grades and switchbacks that are doable by most riders.

Our route for the day would be to start from the Rock Springs TH head south, riding the Skyline, Cheapshot segments then the Little Pan Loop CCW, with a short out-n-back to the Table Mesa TH. On the way back going up the east side of the LPL we would hit the new tech loop before retracing our tracks on the Cheapshot/Skyline sections. Great way to spend an 80ยบ February day in the desert.
Bicycle rock art atop the Skyline section.
Down the backside of Skyline.
Views from Table Mesa TH.
The entrance to the new tech loop.
Seron riding high above the Agua Fria River.
Cleaned this tech challenge with ease, me....not so much!
Supreme trail design & flow.
BCT using all the contours of the land.

February 19, 2012

24hrs in the Old Pueblo

Excitement was building all week for the 16th annual 24hr in the Old Pueblo (24HitOP) mountain bike race of which I was participating for the first time. We pre-rode the course a few weeks ago so I knew what to expect as far as terrain, but how would the course look/feel with a few hundred racers going all out simultaneously? Seron and I teamed up to enter the event as a duo with each of us taking turns doing laps. Each lap is roughly 16.2 miles, but there is a slightly longer gasline, aka 'the bitches', bypass route that racers could elect to ride.
24hr town sprouts on the flanks of the mountain
Seron's mom, Margaret, had been in the market for a camper for some time and pulled the trigger on a 21' trailer just in time for this event.  We'd have her as our support crew and the camper as a shield against the notoriously sketchy weather.

We had a bunch of friends also racing, some solo (Walt, De, Chris, Tony, Becky, Jonathan), duo (Phil & James) & a 4 person team (R.J., Scott, Roy & Brian). Scott lives close by & secured a fantastic camping spot on Thurs.  We arrived early Friday to the sea of campers and were extremely grateful for Scott's efforts. We set up camp then kicked back for most of the day checking out the venue, finding other friends campsites and chatting with vendors.
Our home for the race. Photo by Seron
Our campsite complete with a bike tree. Gold Canyon Bikes is up & running!
Friday afternoon turned ominous, but thankfully passed quickly without a drop.

Panoramic view of solo alley.

Pretty typical course scenery, dry, fast & prickly!

Expo area.

My favorite biking magazine, Mountain Flyer.

Gold Canyon Bikes jerseys for sale!!
We picked up our race packets and found out we were team number 311. Near the end of the day Seron and I took off for a quick spin on Painter Boy then over for a loop on the Bitches segment as the sun was going down.
We did a short out-n-back turning around before the catclaw carnage.

The glorious Strava banner at the top of the Highpoint segment was a more welcome sight as the laps wore on.

Sunset over the bypass.
I had a comfortable 10 hours of sleep/rest leading up to the noon start. First there was breakfast & a rider meeting to attend before heading down to watch Seron gallop down the road to kick things off.
Pre-race rider meeting.
Our goal for the race was for each of us to do 7 laps & break the 100 mile barrier.  I settled into a spot just off the road to watch the racers run by for the Lemans style start, it's GO TIME!!
There were a few isolated camping spots to be had.
A few oddities were spotted here and there....

It's race time!

Seron pumped up for some laps!

Chris doing it in style.

Jonathan was in full pace mode early.
I now had about an hour to finalize some things before heading down to the exchange tent for Seron's arrival. We were shooting to keep our laps around 1:30 on average, keep a good pace, but don't kill yourself trying to overdo it. I snapped a few more photos around camp, had a bit more fuel then made my way down to the tent.
The Voodoo Dambala ready to roll.

Bike tree.

24hr town pano.
When I arrived at the exchange tent the line of riders snaked all the way outside the tent relaying the rider number of who just finished a lap. I fired up my Garmin 705 to log the miles.....LOW BATTERY - WTF!!! It was fully charged before our 1 1/2 hour pre-ride the previous evening.  Thankfully I brought my external Gomadic charger & added a second mounting bracket to the handlebars to avoid the pitfall I encountered during the Antelope Peak Challenge. Now I was just hoping I had enough juice to get through a lap. I gradually made my way inside the tent when 'rider 311' was called, Seron posted a good time right under 1:30. We did the formal exchange and I was off for lap #1.
Seron completing lap #1

Riders choosing to Option or to not Option. 
I felt really good keeping a decent pace for myself without going too hard. I was especially surprised that only 2 riders passed me, I caught back up to and passed one of them, on the entire lap. This was surly not going to continue, I figured all the uber fast riders were on the other side of the course for my first lap. Still, I was pleased with my effort and it was actually really cool to pass by a bunch of other riders. I guess this racing thing is kinda fun after all.  I finished my lap in 1:19, I think much to Seron's surprise since he told me he just arrived at the exchange tent!!  We traded laps with my lap time gradually slowing by 4-5 minutes each pass, but we were still in the ballpark of 1:30 per and just before midnight we each had 4 laps.

It was nice having an open charging station for use, I charged up my light battery after each night lap just to be safe. The nighttime temps dropped quickly diving down to the low 40's upper 30's. For the colder laps I wore my knee high recovery socks, knee warmers, riding shorts (doubled up on riding socks for one lap), my long sleeve riding jersey, wind jacket, full finger gloves & my open faced ski mask under my helmet. I was downright cozy. The time between laps was spent checking out the bike, eating & drinking. Calories in calories out. Chocolate milk has to be the best post ride drink EVER!! Then perhaps a brew or two!! (**Not between laps!!)

I finished my 5th lap around 3:30am, but Seron was not in the exchange tent. I figured he took a nap, so I checked in, went back up to the campsite to find him in some discomfort with GI issues.  We both decided to take a break, we only needed 2 more laps each to reach our goal and hopefully a bit of rest would clear up his gut. 6am rolled around fairly quick and we started our prep to go back out. Seron started lap 6 at 7:15a so we knew we had to hustle a bit to make it. He posted a very nice 1:32, then I put in a 1:26, but as I rolled down the option I saw him taking pics. He opted to let me have a go at my 7th lap, not being confident in making the noon cutoff time. I went back out for lap 7 bummed that Seron wouldn't get his, since he rode well enough to easily get it.  97 miles is a strong effort for sure, next year we're going for 8!! I finished some time after 12:30 giving our duo a total of 13 laps which was good enough for 42nd place out of 93 duo teams. My final tally was 114.4 miles in over 10 hours of riding. GPS charger saved the day, so I could log all the miles & the 4 slight variations of the course.
Accidentally unclipped at the top of the Option!! Photo by Seron
Finishing up lap #6. Photo by Seron

Quick break for a re-fuel, then back out for lap #7. Photo by Seron

Finishing lap #7 on the Option. Photo by Seron
This was an exceptionally fun event, even more than I had hoped for. I'm really looking forward to next year after learning a few things. Huge kudos to Margaret for making sure we had plenty to eat the entire race & the camper!! See you all down at the Old Pueblo in 2013.

February 11, 2012

AES - Tor De 50

Sometime during the drive down SR79 I occurred to me that I had been mountain biking for 18 years and until November of 2010 I had never sampled a single trail in the Tucson area. How did that happen? Since then I've had the good fortune to participate in quite a few events such as: AES - Kentucky Camp (twice), AES - Antelope Peak Challenge, AZT Jamboree (twice), Lemmon Drop, Old Pueblo course and now the inaugural running of the AES Tor de 50 (55).

Many times you can look at a trail map and get a good general sense of what's to come, with AES events all you need to know is this: The course will be legendary, the effort extraordinary and all the riders down to Earth cool. The only real question was, how much HAB does Chad have in store for us? (hint: plenty).

Really nice turnout for the inaugural race. Photo by Seron.

Chad has a devilish grin while giving out last minute tips

Setback #1, broken chain!! Thanks to Brian for helping out!!

Some pretty sweet singletrack leading up the first ascent. Photo by Seron.

Ironic photo, as Seron frames me around the Buckhorn Cholla, little did he know only moments earlier I fell into one!! (Setback #2)

Finally topping out, we were spent & ready for some grub.

A look back at where we came.

We stashed 1/2 of our water supply, but made sure to keep an eye on what we had left until then.

We both enjoyed the trails in between the two peaks of the Tortolitas. Photo by Seron.

Photo by Seron.

I started to feel in rhythm going up a 4x4 climb & enjoyed the views & the prospect of the long upcoming descent.

Finishing up the 4x4 climb. To our suprise, even after setback #3 - sidewall tear on Moore Rd., we caught up to and passed 5 riders. Has to be a first for us on an AES event!!

After the long powerline downhill, we knew we had to hit a trail called 'Around the Mountain' we were trying to guess which one & the effort required to complete the ride. The pull of carne asada at Chad's place was all too tempting, but we weren't about to give in.

More HAB, yay!!

One thing Cholla cactus is good for, backlit photos!!

Setback #4, Seron's tube change from 30 miles earlier just couldn't make the last 4 miles, so after a few attempts to put in another one, I broke out a slimed tube to get us to Chad's. At least we were prepared & had the tubes & lights.

Seron meeting me at the road crossing after unsuccessful inflation attempts.
We rolled onto the pavement, Chad's house practically in sight, but opted to go get the car first and down some refreshing chocolate milk, mmmmm. We finished in just under 11 1/2 hours in our usual position of 'last riders on course', but like we note our formula for AES rides (all rides for that matter): DFL>DNF>DNS
The gang that was still hanging out at Chad's were kind enough to save us enough tacos & beer to satisfy our bellies after a long hard day on the bike. Well done!!

Route & elevation profile for the day