May 21, 2016

Flagstaff: Got Nuffin'

I left the Big Bug trailhead after my BCT North ride and made good time getting to Flagstaff. The AES Aspen Asphyxiation ride was the following day, but I was still hungry for huge miles. I concocted a route that would use the entire AES course and tag on a classic Around the Mountain loop. 105 miles of alpine spinning. That's what I wanted, needed actually. Perhaps a bit of a 750 hangover, I don't know, but it sounded good to me.
Near our campsite.
I met Jeff & Nancy near our preferred campsite, then we cruised into town for a meal at Historic Brewing.Co. We crashed out early and the winds finally died down for the evening.

My alarm started chirping at 4:15am, one snooze hit later I was up and on my way to the AES start at Safeway. I had slept really well, but for some reason wasn't super amped to get going. It took me forever to get all my gear in order and I finally rolled out of the parking lot a few minutes before 6am.

The AES route begins with a 2 mile or so neutral rollout to the Elden Lookout rd. I hadn't yet reached the dirt road and I was already trying to convince myself to keep riding. Not exactly the mentality you want at the beginning of a 100 mile ride. Whatever the reason, I just couldn't 'get into it', but I pedaled on hoping my mind would snap out of it.

The climb up Elden wasn't helping matters. It was work. It was also much longer than I had remembered. I was pretty cooked at the top and took a few moments to enjoy the incredible views off to the east.
Cinder cones pock-mark the Earth.
Upper Sunset trail is divine.
One of these days, I'm going to descend Heart trail.
Off the ridge and into the forest.
Hobbit Forest section.
The subsequent downhill will lift anyone's spirits. It was a blast, but I began to wonder when the fast riders would catch up to me. I had a little over an hours headstart.

By this time I had already abandoned my big plans for the day. It just wasn't happening. So, now what? Do an ATM loop anyway? Stay on the Elden side of things? There was a re-route of the Arizona Trail, AZT, coming through town that I wanted to check out. That was the deciding factor, stay over near Elden.
Nice place for a snack.
I was taking a break down near the Sunset trailhead when the leaders arrived. One by one they zoomed by making the turn up Climb 3.
That downhill was so much fun, even Angry Ray is smiling!!
Chase & Kaitlyn puttin' the hammer down.
Eric rounding out the lead group in 7th position.
I debated for a bit about skipping Climb 3, but then I remembered how much fun the Sunset downhill is. Up I went. A few more racers passed by me, including Brett and Joe (who I informed was holding down the 11th spot). I was in need of some downhill grins by the time I reached Sunset.
Humphrey's Peak across the way.
Ran into Mike, who decided to go the opposite direction after mixing up his start location.
A few more racers passed me when I blew by a turnoff and dumped out on Elden Springs rd. Oops. I was now on the AZT heading down towards US89, this section is bypassed on the 750 in favor of the resupply route through Flagstaff. It's mostly a fast track, but the short loose uphills were killing me.
Blasting through an old burn area.
Class of '16 AZTR750 rider: Jason Hanson!!
I was up there a few hours prior.
I made the short side trip over to the Conoco station after crossing under US89. There were a few riders already there. I thought a chocolate milk, Kitkat & apple pie would make me feel better. They did!! Mike & Marcus rolled up a few minutes later, I was seeing all the AES riders at my pace!!
Mike finally making a group start for an AES ride.
Marcus was attending his first of many AES rides!!
 As soon as the guys passed by my photo station, I made the turn towards the Campbell Mesa trails. More fast singletrack followed. I was looking forward to riding a few miles of the Flagstaff Loop Trail opposite than I normally do.

I stopped for a snack break as the lead racers were now heading towards me on the Loop Trail. Ray flew by me, still smiling I might add, holding down 2nd place only 20-30 seconds behind the leader. They would later finish in a tie. Eugene was bummed to hear how far ahead Ray was when I told him '2 miles'. Chase & Kaitlyn were hot on his heels, then a solid 20 minute gap ensued before Joe rode past me. It was fun seeing my friends out on route, pushing themselves. I was feeling better, so I decided to check out a different trail leading back towards town.
Flat & fast describes this route.
All of a sudden the 2-track is gone - singletrack takes over.
This alternate trail rejoined the AZT at the I-40 underpass next to Rio de Flag. I was now ready to check out the new(er) AZT reroute through town to Buffalo Park. It was a wide multi-use path that climbed up onto a small mesa, less pavement, more dirt = win.
These deer weren't too concerned about the guy on a bike.
Nice climb up the mesa/
It was a cool route to Buffalo Park. I split off there bombing down to the pavement and over to Safeway where my car waited. About 10 minutes later the racers began to show up. Most hung out for a bit, all griping about the final miles on Pipeline trail into a nasty headwind. Bleh.

Even though my ride plans were altered, it was a great day to be out on the trails. Good to see some friends I hadn't hung out with in a while. Thanks to Ray for putting on another fun, but tough AES ride.

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