January 28, 2017

AZT: Oracle Rumble

The Oracle Rumble is a trail running event in its inaugural year offering participants 4 distances to choose from: 10k, Half Marathon, 50k and a whopping 50 mile option. It's part of the ever popular trail running series put on by the Arizona Trail Association and local sponsors. The Rumble was filled to capacity in its first year!! The sport has really taken off.

Shannon asked if I'd be interested in helping out with gate duty during the event. Sure, why not. We get to ride the AZT and cheer on the runners. Of course after I committed to helping out, Shannon informed me that we'd be riding south from Freeman rd to Tiger Mine TH and the race started at 7am!! My two previous rides on this section going southbound were no picnic. I was pretty cooked during an AES APC event after doing a big ride the day before and my last time was during the AES Gila100 when I had to sleep on the trail when all 3 of my lights failed!! Good times. I was curious to see what I thought of this section with fresh legs and a lighter bike.

We had a couple of friends doing the event as well. Eszter made a last minute call and signed up for the 50k and Holly was all in for the 50 miler. Totally nuts on both accounts if you ask me. I also had a co-worker friend, Rob, who would be section hiking this passage northbound. Seems like we had friends all over the trail.

The alarm chirped at 3:00a, then again at 3:10. I relented at 3:20 and got moving. Coffee in hand, I made the hour and a half drive south to meet Shannon at Tiger Mine by 5:30a. We had to set up a shuttle for our little point-to-point ride. It was 22º when we left Tiger Mine, yikes!!

The drive around to Freeman rd is mostly on graded dirt roads, but Willow Springs road took a ton of storm damage from recent rains. There were a few instances where barricades were placed in the road warning of deep cross ruts. A couple were really deep & wide and I was careful to not wreck the bikes on the rear rack. It took over an hour to get to our start point and we didn't get pedaling until 6:55a. It was now a balmy 28º, but we were prepared for it.
Desert dwellers a bit out of our element.
Holly & Josh were at Freeman rd, we wished Holly well and hoped to see her out on course. We'd also cross paths with Josh as he rode the opposite direction after dropping his car at Tiger Mine. he was kind enough to then drive my car back around at the end of the day. Win-win.

Our late start meant we really didn't need our lights for more than 5 minutes, which was fine. It was cool riding through the Antelope Peak cholla forest in the pre-dawn light. The few short climbs kept us warm enough, but we were ready for the sun to be up.
Ahh, there it is!! Photo by Shannon.
Fiery glow on Antelope Peak. Photo by Shannon.
Time to break out the sunglasses. Photo by Shannon.
It should also be noted that Shannon was riding a new-to-her bike, Kaitlyn's old ride, but the front brakes were being warrantied and not due in until Monday. So, she went straight out of the #loco handbook and did the ride sans front brakes. That's why she's the VP of #locorides. It also helped that my brakes were making all kind noise, some sort of switchback mating call?? We dubbed it the audible braking alert system. If she heard my brakes screaming, she knew to begin to slow down ahead of time. Worked pretty well except for one turn where Shannon slowly rolled off the trail on a turn!!
Looking back to the north and a snow covered Pinal Peak. Also a good place to stop and remove a chollaball that had flown up and stuck to my derriere!
Good mornin' Antelope Peak.
A snowy Mt. Lemmon still far off in the distance. Plenty of trail markers and flagging for the runners to follow.

We reached Beehive Well in good time. The first aid station was here and the volunteers informed us that the race had started about 45 minutes late for a variety of reasons. We began to wonder if or when we'd be caught by the lead runners.
Race volunteering along the AZT is hard work, lots of manual labor. Photo by Shannon.
I took note of our total ride time when we reached Bloodsucker Wash, 1:50. Just under two hours and with a 10 minute chat at the aid station. It took me three hours in the dark during the Gila100!!

I hadn't exactly been looking forward to the 5+ mile climb out of Bloodsucker. I walked so much of it the last two times through. I expected more of the same. We took note of the time and began creeping up the hillside in pedal mode.

We were about a mile up and still pedaling!! This really surprised me. I guess it's true, fresh legs and a lighter bike make a difference!! We stopped for a snack break then resumed riding.
If you see a chollaball on the trail, don't kick it. They fight back. Photo by Shannon.
Continuing the climb. It was right about here when the lead runner passed us by. She was flyin'.
Mountainview aid station. A true desert oasis.
We were at the aid station long enough to see the next wave of fast runners come through, but a solid 15+ minutes behind the leader.

The aid station was absolutely stocked full of goodies. First there was a huge pile of runner's drop bags, then three tables loaded with a variety of drinks - Coke, Mountain Dew, Water, Electrolytes, etc. Then the food choices, oh my. Burritos, PB&J, potatoes, all kinds of fresh fruit, pretzels, pickles, gummy bears, Twizzlers, M&M's and so much more. We hung out for 15 minutes or so, then made our way up the trail.

The climbing continued, yet we were still pedaling!! There really wasn't much HAB at all.
Nearing the top, Mt. Lemmon makes a grand appearance.
How could this be? I was enjoying the heck out of this climb!! Photo by Shannon.
As runners tracked us down, we'd pull off the trail and give them space before following suit. Photo by Shannon.

Again, we made it to the gate signaling the end of the Bloodsucker climb in under two hours and that was with an extended stop at the aid station and a snack break beforehand. I think we trimmed over an hour off my Gila100 time.

It had turned into a beautiful day, incredibly clear, crisp air felt great. It was a perfect time to find a trailside spot to soak up the views and down some hot chocolate!!
Cheers to Team Loco!!
...and cheers to the AZT!! Photo by Shannon.

Super gnar catclaw of the Black Hills. This stuff is wicked.
A few moments after our hot chocolate break we had friends coming at us in both directions!! Eszter had literally run us down from behind. She was looking great and had a partner along for a while.
Semi-decent running to a 4th place finish in the 50k!! Yowzers!!
We then crossed paths with Rob on his trek northbound during an overnight segment hike. He's closing in on completing the entire Arizona Trail. Over 600 miles done!! Way to go Rob!!
Still bundled up for the final 8 or so miles. Photo by Rob.

The trail through here is really fun, lots of twists and turns over small undulating hills. As soon as it met up with the old gasline route we ran into Josh heading north to Freeman rd.

We began seeing a steady stream of runners, most in good spirits, but a few were struggling, yet pushing on. We offered as much encouragement as we could and I think it was appreciated by the smiles we got back.

What's this? Two bikers perched on a hillside up ahead. Katie & Jerry came out for a spin and to ride with us over the final miles to Tiger Mine. This section is tough. A series of 5 or 6 drainages that tend to suck the life out of you. They weren't too bad today, sure some HAB was had, but not nearly to the extend I've done in the past. Once again, fresh legs win!!
Shannon's friend, Damion, was out taking race photos and caught us in action too!! Photo by Damion.
I think this was right after I caught a rock and went OTB on a switchback! Oof. Photo by Damion.
Grind, grind, grind. Photo by Damion.
The obligatory HAB snap. Katie & Jerry in form.
Jerry topping out at Tiger Mine TH.
Unobstructed view from under the AZT sign. Antelope Peak is the little speck on the left horizon, snow on Pinal Peak to the right.
Fun cast of characters to finish the ride out.
Another well stocked aid station. Only 4 1/2 miles to go for the 50k runners from here, still another 21 miles for the 50 mile gang.

Just as we were getting set to head over to the finish area, Holly came up the hill to the aid station. She was in good spirits and looking strong. Shannon and I rode by her for the next mile down to the AZ77 culvert. Such an incredible effort!! She finished 3rd, 7th overall. Simply amazing!!
Holly in action, Congrats!!
Over at the finish area, Eszter had just wrapped up the 50k and was looking a little wobbly. :)

It was cool seeing the runners cross the line to huge cheers and high fives from family & friends. The Oracle Rumble had a great vibe. If you're into trail running, give the Arizona Trail Running Series a serious look.

I hung out for a couple of hours and then Josh arrived with my car and it was time to go. Such a fun day out enjoying the AZT with great friends.

Route flyover


January 14, 2017

Curmudgeon 100 SS

We had postponed the Curmudgeon 100 due to weather a couple weeks ago and now it was under the threat of rain once again!! WTH!?! The Valley of the Sun has been caught in a rainy weekend pattern for over a month or at least it seems that way.

The forecast looked mostly promising until mid-afternoon anyway. We figured we could get most, if not all, of the ride completed before the rains picked up. The trails over the back end of the route hold up well in wet weather and if things got really nasty there was always the road bailout.

Jeff & Nancy were kind enough to host the ride once again and a few of us took them up on their offer to crash at the casa since we were starting the ride at 5:30a. (it doesn't get light until around 7a this time of year)

I had debated a bit on which bike to ride for this, but in the end the singlespeed (SS) won out. Shannon twisted my arm a bit and I thought it would be funny for me to ride a SS, while Jeff was on a geared bike since his SS is currently busted. Plus, I knew the 'ol Voodoo could handle any rough weather thrown its way.

The next morning came quickly, more riders appeared and just like that we were rolling through the neighborhood towards 100 miles of singletrack!! I think I counted 15 riders at the start.
A bit blurry, but the pack heads towards the trail.
A few of the fast guys took off, never to be seen by me! I just wanted to get through the night riding portion without crashing into a cactus! Mission accomplished.

Jason and I started on Escondido trail together, and I asked him to lead it out. I watched as he pulled away into the darkness, occasionally catching a glimpse of his light warning me of any uphills approaching.

A light rain began to fall during this stretch, but we could still see the moon. I figured it would pass over quickly and it did. There are a few short climbs on Escondido, enough to remind me how hard this day was going to be on the SS. We turned north onto Cinch and I was sort of hoping we wouldn't be doing the Scenic climb, but then I saw a few headlights begin to elevate around the mountain. Scenic, here we come.

About halfway up I had to walk a bit and a few others passed by. We hopped on Pemberton for a short bit, then down Shallmo Wash to the Comp loop staging area where a MBAA event was being held later that morning. We knew about the race and our route overlapped the course for a bit. We figured we'd be very close to being off of it by the time the racers came around.

In the meantime, Jeff had asked me if I had any BB7 brake pads with me since he lost one of his rear pads early on. Nope. He ended up riding over 90 miles with only front brakes, nice. To make matters worse, his chain snapped barely a half mile into the Long loop. Gah!! Nancy and I hung out while he got things figured out. We got rolling again and I could feel my legs had tightened up a bit from standing around. I made a conscious effort to keep my breaks short for the rest of the day.
Trailside chain maintenance.
Hints of blue sky & sun in the early morning hours.
The clouds stayed thick all day towards Four Peaks.

Joe caught up to us as we were leaving the comp loop area and the four of us would stay close to each other most of the day. I was feeling good as the miles ticked by and we reached the west end of the Regional park to rejoin Pemberton once more. I took a short snack break as the others rode on.

I started up Coachwhip trail keeping a keen eye out for racers. Sure enought the two frontrunners came flying down the trail. I stepped off the side of the trail as they flew by, ridiculously fast!! Of course I had to be told by a rider that 'there's a race going on today??' Yeah, no kidding. That's why I'm off the trail standing next to my bike. It was cool to see a bunch of friends tearing it up, all of them saying 'hey' as they flew by. I ended up walking most of the Coachwhip climb to the Windmill split, it was just easier to stay out of the racers way by walking. Once on Windmill we were off course for a while as the route climbed to the top of Prospector trail. I pushed a lot of the way over the final 1/2 mile or so.
Top of Prospector and the hardest part of the day over. Only 60+ miles to go!!
I rolled down Prospector and to my surprise cleaned the short Dixie Mine climb. I thought I'd see more racers since I was back on course, but they only rode through this section once. I was really looking forward to getting up Boulder trail and onto Gooseneck. It's downhill-to-level most of the way to where we had some coolers stashed near the Rio Verde rd crossing.
Cool rock formations along Gooseneck.
Dark clouds hang over Four Peaks.
Mesquite tunnel near a stock pond.
Caught up to the gang at the cooler!!

I made quick work of my Los Hermanos bean burrito and left the cooler a few minutes before the others. My legs were feeling good and we were now about to hit the fast groomed dirt of Brown's Ranch.

I stopped to top off water at the trailhead and I had almost gone through 2L. I took off once again just as the others rolled up. The next few miles were a blur, rippin' down Hackamore trail then Jeff had the route peel off onto some of the old Pima/Dynamite 'Legacy' trails. Mostly cut-in by motos, there are plenty of whoop-de-doos. This particular section winds its way through a massive boulder field. I found myself pushing up many of the short steep inclimes. Heck, I had my only fall of the day here when I lost my footing on the pebble covered rocks while in HAB mode.
P&D Legacy trail.
This will be part of the new Brown's Ranch expansion soon enough. I just hope they retain most of the character out there. These trails were fun, but they took a toll on me with the SS and arriving at mile 60 or so on the day. Oof.

I was glad when we rejoined the Brown's Ranch stuff north of Cone Mtn.
Cholla Mtn.
I took another snack break as I merged onto Hawknest trail. We were riding it eastbound, which meant a gradual 4+ mile upslope. Jeff, Nancy & Joe all rode by me while I snacked.
The trusted Voodoo in SS glory.
I think I was about halfway across Hawknest when I noticed the clouds to the south were looking grim. The flow of moisture was coming from that direction and a few miles later I knew we'd be getting wet, but when?

I was really hoping to make it to Gooseneck before the rains came, but conditions were deteriorating rapidly as I turned west onto Renegade. This was my first time riding Renegade westbound, the uphill direction. I wasn't exactly looking forward to grunting up the climbs, but it turned out to be pretty good. I was a bit surprised to hear the clap of thunder and a few lightning flashes - it's January!! One particular flash was a bit close as I was up on a short ridgeline, need to get off of this pronto!! The rain began to lightly fall as I wrapped up Renegade and I knew the heavy stuff was imminent. The rain jacket came out when I reached the turn for High Desert trail and not 2 minutes later the skies opened up!!
Here comes the rain!!
The trail instantly turned into a river, but still rode great! My feet were soaked so there was no sense in trying to dodge puddles. I blasted through all of them like a little kid. The deluge lasted 10-15 minutes and had pretty much stopped by the time I exited The Divide trail. It took a while for my braking power to resume, but all was good.

The route zigzagged around Granite Mtn then made a beeline back towards Gooseneck. I found Jeff & Nancy at the cooler once again and I think Jeff was surprised when I mentioned how awesome I thought it was riding through the downpour.

I chugged a Mountain Dew and the three of us began the mostly downhill final miles.
The Sun made its presence known for a bit.
A double rainbow showed up too on a few instances.

It was looking like we'd finish under sunny skies, but that wasn't the case. It began raining on & off over the final few miles, nothing too hard though.

My GPS decided to die at mile 98 and the connection had gotten wet therefore I couldn't use my cache battery to top it off for the last 3 miles. Oh well. That's another reason why I run both a GPS and the Strava app. I like to have my ride data, kind of a ride data geek!!

I finished up shortly after 5p, sky still light. 101 miles complete on a singlespeed, my biggest to date. I was pleased with the ride overall, but I still like my gears. There's a place for both bikes in the stable.

There were only a few of us hanging around at the end which was a bit of a bummer. What really hit the spot were the two crockpots of chili that had been cooking all day and a hot shower!!

A huge thank you to Jeff & Nancy for hosting the event once again and thanks to Joe for more chili & cornbread. Perfect ending to a great day on the trails. Until next year, cheers!

Route flyover:


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January 13, 2017

Ripsey!! Team Loco Edition

Once again weather was threatening to alter ride plans for the weekend. The forecast was indicating showers arriving late on Friday. We had a small group ride planned for a Ripsey loop, but as the time grew near only Shannon and I ended up going.

No problem there. We both had huge ride plans for the following day so this would be a super chill picnic pace type of ride. Plus, there was a short connector I wanted to check out that omitted some sandy jeep roads & powerline riding.

We agreed on a 10a start time and I was thrilled to sleep in a bit...then sleep some more!! Oops. I arrived about 20 minutes late and we saddled up for the ever exciting climb up the Florence-Kelvin hwy. (4 1/2 miles of graded dirt road that tends to drag on) It went by quickly having someone to talk to on the way up!! Too bad we didn't have a donut stop at the top like last time.
The flat top section of the F-K Hwy. Photo by Shannon.
Our route took us farther west on the F-K Hwy, out to Tecolote rd. A seldom used dirt ranch road. It rides well, but does have some sandy sections.
Mtb multi-tasker.
Tecolote rd.
A few miles later I began looking for my 'shortcut' to the Arizona Trail (AZT). It looked like a fairly obvious 2-track on satellite, but as I have found over the years, this isn't always the case on the ground. Today was no exception as we rolled right passed the turn. We went back to where my track had us turning and all we could see was desert. There was a patch of ground that had less vegetation so we started riding that way. Sure enough, that was our 2-track which eventually began to resemble one. A half mile or so later we arrived at the AZT where it splits off the powerline and begins the Ripsey segment heading north. Win!!
Well defined 2-track!! Photo by Shannon.
I don't think I had realized that Shannon had only been on the Ripsey segment once and that was during the AZT300 last year!! She was looking forward to checking it out on fresh legs & a light bike!!
Shannon putting me to work for the ATA. Photo by Shannon.
The powerline road runs left to right, my bike is on the AZT and our vague 2-track fades off into the desert.
Dropping down into the Ripsey drainage.
I was thrilled to see this road has finally been fixed. It was extremely eroded making it tough to walk up in the past.
A 'pedal position tip' (inside pedal to the rear, i.e. right-hand turn, right pedal farther back) helped Shannon clean a ton of switchbacks today!!
Grinding the SS up The Big Hill.
Up we go!! The Hill always looks more daunting from afar, but it actually rides pretty well. Photo by Shannon.
The upper 6 switchbacks always give me fits, but I managed to clean 2 of them today. Photo by Shannon.
The top of the climb gives way to one the best views along the entire AZT. I always stop here for a few minutes to soak it all in, it's an amazing place even on a overcast day. We had joked about there being a bar atop the ridge and today I made sure we at least had a beer. The Ripsey Roadhouse was open for business.
First pours and what a view!! Photo by Shannon.
The upper 6 switchbacks of The Big Hill and view of Mt. Lemmon. Photo by Shannon.
Best ridgeline in AZ?? 
Top of the World.
So many colors. Photo by Shannon.
Wheelie practice. Photo by Shannon.
Starting the 5 mile descent to the Kelvin trailhead. Photo by Shannon.
Little bit-o-tech on the way down.
One ridgeline leads to another.
The entire Gila River Valley makes you feel so small.
Steer clear of these guys!! Plenty of chollaballs on the trail today.
This downhill is part of the switchback attack section, some 13 or so of them. Photo by Shannon.
Shannon demonstrating the awkward switchback approach, yet she still cleaned it!!
A perfect 30 mile loop on a cloudy day. Thank you AZT.
We decided the AZT is the perfect location for all future Team Loco (#locorides) board meetings!! Which passage to ride next?

Route flyover: