November 27, 2015

Flight of the Pigs: XX

All over the interweb Black Friday 2015 was encouraging people to #OptOutside instead of fighting crowds looking for a bargain. This was nothing new to the throng of mountain bikers in Phoenix who have been opting to go outside and ride on Black Friday the past 19 years. This, however, would be the final Flight of the Pigs ride: FotP XX. The host of the event, Jim and his wife, Kim, Wilcox recently relocated to Utah.
Check-in and step on the scale! 235lbs for my total. Photo by Jeff.
I did my first FotP ride solo back in 2011, dubbed the FotT ride since I had to do it on Thanksgiving. I wasn't sure I was up to the time cutoff & distance back then. My schedule didn't improve the following year and I went solo again in 2012. Finally, in 2013 I was able to go with the group and what a group it was - some 80 or so riders!! After that ride the announcement came down that No. 20 would probably be the last. I had to miss last year's event, but under no circumstance would I miss the XX version. A bad cough and lung congestion tried to tell me otherwise, but I was having none of it.
Fires were burning early in the chilly morning while all the riders got checked in. Photo by Ken.
Thanks to Jim's friends a new start/finish location was procured and the event was all set. This year the costs were a bit higher due to some really cool swag, so I didn't mind ponying up. Neither did 157 other riders!! Whoa!! To say that was a fantastic turnout is a gross understatement for a ride that began as a personal challenge so many years ago.
Beverly couldn't make it, but she made sure her incredible cookies did!! Thanks Bev!! Photo by Jeff.
The route is about 72 miles, but split almost equally between dirt and flat pavement. Singlespeeders don't care much for that aspect!! It's a big CW loop through downtown beginning with a coast-to-coast romp on the National trail at South Mountain. This in its own rite is a fantastic ride. There's a loosely held self imposed time cutoff - make it from the Pima Canyon TH up to the Buena Vista parking lot in under an hour and you should be good to stay with the group throughout the day. Otherwise, you're either on your own or you should probably consider an alternate ride.
Almost ready to roll out. Photo by Jeff.
Roads then lead you downtown for a pre-paid lunch stop at Sacks. More road riding follows and the route then does a coast-to-coast spin on T100 in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. This is typically where a few non-riders come out and show support by providing some drink hand-ups and snacks!! Roads pick up again all the way to Papago Park for one last re-grouping. A final stroll through downtown Tempe leads back to the start where all the post ride festivities go down usually just after sunset.

My buddy, Arturo, was making his first flight and promptly overslept!! He scrambled, but was one of the last to check-in for the official start. Way to go dude!

Things got rolling as the group invaded a bit of the Desert Classic trail over to Pima Canyon. I was really hoping the incline up Pima would begin to warm me up, but nada. By the time we approached the bottom of the grunt climb on the Mormon Loop I couldn't feel my digits!! Fingers stinging, I had to stop and wait for circulation to regain. Jeff took off ahead and a few minutes later I was ready to go.
Pre-dawn dust on Desert Classic. Photo by Ken.
Yep, that's a BMX bike. Yep, he made it the entire way!! So rad!! Photo by Ken.
Finger thaw area on the Mormon Loop climb. Photo by Jeff.
Once I got going I made steady progress up National chatting with fellow riders the entire way. Considering how many of us were out there, I never felt crowded on the trail. There was always someone within eyesight which was fun. I looked down at my GPS as I reached Buena Vista: 1:00:36!! ! hour on the nose. There were plenty of riders behind me, but I don't think anyone bailed due to the time cutoff. There were a few casualties on National though, one girl snapped her handlebars, walked home, slapped a new pair on and re-joined later! Another guy had a mishap with a rather large cactus and figured a visit to the clinic was in order to extract the needles, dang.
HAB mode west of Telegraph Pass. Photo by Ken.
I met up with Jeff at Telegraph Pass and he asked if I saw his camera, drat. Luckily, he put his contact info on the back and a short time later another rider found it and arranged to get it back to him at the San Juan lot.
West National ridgeline, so good.
Drunkcyclist jerseys were represented well.
Wait, what? Tandem mountain bikers shredding the route!!
One of the better views in the park. Looking west towards the Sierra Estrella Mountains.
Almost ready to begin the gnarly descent.
I was glad to reach the bottom of the rock surfing descent of west National, not my favorite bit of trail, but it's short. The last 2 miles of National have typically been uninspiring to say the least. Kind of boring and a typical pain in the ass really. I crossed over San Juan rd eager to reach the re-group at the parking lot, but to my surprise the trail had some much needed work done. It was actually quite enjoyable!! How about that?

I rolled in somewhere after mid-pack and the sheer number of flasks popping out was rather impressive. I opted for one of my brews I lugged...and bacon. I saw Jeff and he had his camera back, so cool that worked out for him, sucks to lose stuff out on the trail.
Small group of riders getting a head start out of the parking lot.
Only a fraction of the group.
Not too thrilled about the brown cloud we were about to ride into!!
We re-grouped again down at the outskirts of the park ready to tackle the streets for the first time today. When you have 150+ riders it's pretty easy to occupy a lane of traffic, all the motorists were cool throughout the day often honking their horns and waving as we rode by.
It was still early, but I was already thinking about lunch. Photo by Jeff.
Spinning out the road miles, at an easy clip to begin with. Photo by Ken.
Canal re-grouping. Photo by Ken.
Nancy spinning away on the SS. Photo by Jeff.
Before long we arrived at Sacks for lunch. I think we were all curious to see how this was going to be. At the start we were all given a playing card to be handed in at lunch, hearts got sandwich A, clubs sandwich B, etc. It was amazing to see the efficiency of serving 150 meals almost all at once. It had shaped up to be an absolute perfect afternoon, cool yet comfortable. Lunch really hit the spot as we prepared to tackle T100 a few miles up ahead.

I was chatting with Arturo during lunch & his knees were killing him. I was really hoping he'd be able to finish, maybe just back off the pace a bit? I didn't see him again until the end, but he made it!! Earned that post-ride swag!!
We took over 1/2 of the parking lot!
That's a ton of aluminum, steel & carbon!! Photo by Ken.
Resuming our trek northward on 7th Ave. Photo by Ken.
I don't ride T100 a whole bunch, but it really has some fast flowy sections. There's a few HAB bits too, so it's not all dreamy singletrack. That part was saved for the PBR beer-mosa hand-ups a few miles into the trail following an extended technical climb. To those who provided the beverage stop, thank you!! Awesome.
BMX'er still killing it! Photo by Jeff.
PBR stop. Photo by Jeff.
Jeff enjoying the break. Photo by Nancy.
Team Tandem leading the charge. Photo by Jeff.
After crossing under Cave Creek rd. there's a rather nasty HAB. It's amusing to see a long conga line going up the hillside everyone with their head down in full push mode.
Reminds me of the famous Yukon Gold Rush photo.
The quick riding resumes on the other side, but I was now on the lookout for the lemonade stand setup by Doug's wife & kids the past couple of years.
Happy Holidays from the Sonoran Desert. Photo by Jeff.
Make mine an 'adult' lemonade please.
The next goal was to get over to the end of T100 at the grassy knoll. More food and beverages were waiting before the final push back towards South Mountain.
Not much grass to be seen here, but I did crack open a Yuengling I had saved for the occasion.
End of T100.
Ham, pizzas, pickles and bacon all around. Photo by Jeff.
Teamwork. Photo by Ken.
The riding resumed on the streets and canals south to Papago Park where we re-grouped once more at Hunt's Tomb overlooking the Phoenix Zoo. The golden hour was upon us and this is a fine place to be that time of day.
A rare shot from the front of the MTB peloton. Photo by Jeff.
Banks of the Arizona Canal. Photo by Ken.
48th St. parkway. Photo by Ken.
Clogging another intersection. Photo by Jeff.
Chain of bikers surrounding Papago Buttes. Photo by Ken.
Backside climb of Hole in the Rock. Photo by Ken.
Papago Buttes & Camelback Mountain from Hunt's Tomb.
Clear for landing. Photo by Ken.
Let's roll over to Mill Ave.
We exited Papago and made our way ove the Mill Ave bridge into downtown Tempe. There was a bit of a buzzkill because we weren't going to preclude the Tempe Festival of Lights Parade like 2013. We still gathered a bunch of hoots & hollers from the bar hoppers.
Mill Ave. bridge.
As we turned onto University drive I was riding alongside a pack of riders. the guy just in front of me to my left had someone accidentally clip his front wheel. This sent him scrambling to catch his balance as he veered my way. Just like the road bike crashes I've seen, I was about to be mixed up in one. He went down right in front of me and I did all I could to stop, but essentially rode over him, falling on him and his ride. Luckily, it was a mostly slow motion wreck and only a small scrape for each of us. Could've been worse with all the other riders around and the traffic on University. Pedal on.
Tempe neighborhood riding. Photo by Ken.
The pace quickened after the group fractured in the wreck. We all were anxious to get back to the finish for some post ride grub. I kept debating whether or not to finish on Desert Classic or just spin out the fast road miles. The speed won out as my stomach was ready to eat, plus no one I was riding with made the turn back up to the Pima TH!!

I made a quick stop at my car to change, then rode up the street where riders were steadily arriving. Tom's BBQ & Papago Brewing were ready to go!
Fire pits all around, find a spot & settle in. Photo by Ken.
4 taps at a backyard beer tent, yes! Photo by Ken.
BBQ line in constant motion. Photo by Ken.
Finishers awards being handed out. Photo by Ken.
Elissa rolling in as the last official finisher!! Way to go!! Photo by Ken.
We all gathered round while the awards were handed out, lightest rider to heaviest, Nancy was first up too!! I had to wait a bit, but nowhere near the heaviest.

Remember the tandem riders? The pilot was none other than the creator of the prized sterling silver finishers medallions, Hoss Rogers. Such a cool memento from the event. Thanks Hoss. We also snagged a custom pair of FotP XX socks, love it.
Use the medallion either as a stem cap or pin.
Pigs really do fly!!
I'm stoked that I was able to do this ride a couple of times, I'll never forget version XX. Thanks for #OptingOutside Jim, that'll be the easiest part to carry on.

Check out Jeff's recap as well, you'll recognize a bunch of pics since I borrowed quite a few!!
Thanks too, to Ken B. for all his fantastic photos as well, really appreciate it.

This link shows a complete list of FotP finishers over the years. Some impressive totals!!
Route with elevation profile.