November 16, 2013

AES: Kentucky Camp '13

It's mid-November, so it must be time for the annual AES Kentucky Camp race! Time to head southeast of Tucson for some hilly grassland riding. I had waffled a bit about doing the race this year, but in the end I couldn't pass it up. I was supposed to be in a duel of sorts with Nicette, who challenged me to a race after our close finishing times last year. She couldn't make it down for the event, so...I WIN!! No?? I opted to virtually race her time of 6 hrs flat, besting my time by 26 minutes.

The forecast was a bit iffy, mostly due to wind. I arrived super early (especially for me) to find the weather was perfect. I almost had too much time to get ready, even socializing for a bit before the long course riders headed up the sandy road. My legs were ready to go, no pre-race trail run this time around and I had a new set of tires rearing to go as well. That's a Panaracer Rampage up front & Specialized Captain Grid in rear for those who care.

I was more mid-pack at the start this year instead of my usual trail sweeper position, but this led to a couple of logjams on the initial climb. On that climb my chain started ghost-shifting too, wtf? I had just dialed everything in the night before, gave it a test ride and all was well.

After a few passes I was riding behind Jeff about 3 miles in when I dropped a chain, followed that up with more annoying ghost-shifting and a second dropped chain. I finally relented and pulled over to see what was up. Ezra stopped to help out as the rest of the field zoomed on ahead. He didn't have to stop as this IS a race, but I did appreciate the human bike stand while we figured out what was going on. Cable tension was good, stops were set, freewheeled silky smooth, but wanted to skip pedaling?? It ended up being a slightly bent hanger, about 1/32"!! 20 minutes lost, we resumed the ride.

I caught up to a few riders by the turn onto Box Canyon rd another before Kentucky Camp and I could see a rider in blue just ahead as I stopped to top off my water bottle and grab a quick snack. I was determined to make my 6hr goal. The wind had picked up a bit, but overall didn't really bother me at all the entire day.

After Kentucky Camp there are a series of jeep roads with a couple good climbs. I topped off one of the climbs and was cruising towards the final climb to the high point of the route when my left quad knotted up stopping me in my tracks. I stood to the side of my bike in the middle of the road for a good 10 minutes waiting for the death grip release. Finally, I was able to get going once more and as I reached the halfway point the time read: 3hrs 4mins. I can do this.

I HAB'd a bit up to the top of the Link trail and had another small snack.
Mt. Wrightson from the top of Link trail.
Looking towards the Canelo Hills.
I heard a couple people chatting on the Link trail as I started the long descent towards the AZT turnoff. Ends up it was Ezra and another female rider who thought she was on the short course!! She was so infuriated with her mistake that she was loudly cursing at herself as she passed us both by. That's why route finding & preparation are key in these events, it's all about YOU.

Ezra and I rode together for a bit and soon caught up to the rider I spotted back at Kentucky Camp. It was Derek!! The three of us yo-yo'd all the way back to Kentucky Camp where I topped off water once more.

Both Ezra and I commented on how heavy our legs felt after the last break, my pace was slowing as the minutes melted away. We came to the singletrack turnoff where I HAB'd up some loose trail, but had to stop once more for some calories. Ezra continued on and I'd only catch one or two glimpses of him until the finish. On my way up to the remaining high point I passed by a couple of short course riders who seemed happy to see some others out on the trail.

The minutes were ticking down fast and by the time I returned to Box Canyon rd I knew I wasn't going to make it in under 6hrs. Virtual race LOST!! I still had a goal to beat my previous year's time of 6:26, but it would be close.
Classic AZT view of Mt. Wrightson.
As with my recent Picketpost rides, this ride includes a 13+ mile section of the AZT that is used during the AZT300. As I rode through it brought back a flood of memories, the flume trail at night, tripping the motion sensor light at Kentucky Camp while others slept nearby, throwing my sleeping bag on the ground 100 yds up from Box Canyon rd and not having to do the climb opposite Helvitia rd.

The minutes did tick down, so much that I missed even my 6:26 goal!! I finished at 6:36. I'm sure I have a 6hr effort in me. There's always next year.

As usual the post-race scene at this event is one of the better ones. BBQ chicken from Carlos, a plethora a craft beers to choose from and the camaraderie make this a super fun time.

** I only took the 3 pictures above, but more can be seen here: 2010, 2011, 2012 **

**EDIT: Chuck Hill was on course taking pictures!! His photos can be viewed here**

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Schillingsworth I appreciate your passion...would you care to join the team?