December 31, 2019

2019: A Year Divided

Grateful. That's the one word that keeps coming up when I think back on 2019. Grateful for the opportunity to enter these silly mountain bike events, grateful for the support of my family & friends, grateful for my health to allow such things to become reality, grateful for second chances when things don't go as planned and grateful for the riding pals to pull me through a late season funk.

2019 had one huge goal: Line up in Banff, AB and ride my bike to Antelope Wells, NM during the annual Tour Divide. Training was in full swing and I was progressing nicely in spite of my crazy work schedule. I had a series of events lined up before June's departure all focused on dialing in my gear and body for the long haul.

I typically like to set some sort of mileage goal for the year. It usually hovers around 3500 or so. I've found over the years that's about my limit while still keeping peace at home. This year was a little different when you toss in a single event over 2700 miles long!! Do the math: 2700 + 3500 = 6200. So, I set my 2019 mileage goal at 6500 if all went to plan, heck I may be able to snag 7000.

The year kicked off as they typically do: a 100 mile singletrack ride with friends. The Curmudgeon 100. It's a great route for the singlespeed too.
So legit, there's now stickers!!
I mixed in a steady dose of AES rides, local rides, training rides and this bucket list ride at Hawes. The Traveling Salesman route. What is it? Ride every trail at Hawes with as little double dipping as possible. It's become quite challenging with all the recent additions, but sure was a great day on the bike.
Some bike love at Hawes.
President's Weekend arrived and so did my first bikepack outing of the year. A few of us were going to do the full pull on the Maricopa Trail, the main loop plus all the spur options. Some 330 miles of urban bikepacking bliss. What happened early on day 1 would send the next couple of months into a tailspin for me.
A slick corner of sidewalk took both me and Jason down.
I thought I broke my wrist...again. Not even 30 miles into our ride, I was done. I had two x-rays taken, both were negative much to my surprise. However, the damage was done. I ended up skipping a good portion of my annual Queen's Ransom bikepacking loop because my wrist wasn't ready for the steady dose of rocks.
The QR went on, biggest turnout yet and was a huge success.
My wrist slowly healed and allowed me to resume my training in full force (almost) and do some silly exploration rides, like our Team Loco board meeting ride in Superior.
You know you're with the right crew when all you hear is laughing.
By April, my wrist wasn't quite at 100% so I pulled the plug on my AZT300 attempt. I turned my attention to the event itself and did a bunch of rides near the Four Peaks area in anticipation of a major route change in 2020 for the riders.

Mike W. and I rode up and over Four Peaks to Sunflower via the AZT and were amazed by how much water was in the area. So much snow this year had the creeks flowing.
AZT near Sunflower.
Mike S. and I continued the theme from Sunflower a couple of weeks later going up FS201 and down Goldridge trail.
Top of Goldridge trail.
The calendar soon flipped to May. Final prep was winding down, but I had one more big shakedown ride planned. I was going to do the northern loop of the inaugural Pinyons & Pines race hosted by my buddy, Dana. I was barely 20 miles into my ride when I caught a soft shoulder of trail, went to put my foot down and nada. No terra firma. I fell solidly on some large boulders, my thigh taking the brunt. As luck would have it  (or not, depends) I had forgotten my cell phone pouch that clips to my backpack. So, my phone was in my cargo shorts pocket...right where I contacted the boulder. My phone was toast, bent actually, but my left albeit bruised leg, wasn't fractured. A win? Yes. Ride over? Yes. So, my four big rides all geared for a Tour Divide shakedown were all a resounding DNF or DNS. Hmmm.
RIP Google Pixel 2.
I still snuck in a few other cool rides including my first time up to Crown King. Not sure why it took so long to finally ride there.
Jen was also training for a Tour Divide run, so we both got a training ride in.
Mike W. and I were back at it up in rim country for some elevated riding. Sure is pretty up there.
I manage to find all the quality hike-a-bike spots. Photo by Mike W.
As the calendar was turning over to June, we had a series of setbacks on the homefront. First, my car died in the middle of the road heading to a movie date. $1600 repair. Then, barely a week later one of our home A/C units took a dump. Cough up another $6k+. Talk about unplanned expenses!! To say both K and I were gripping a bit was an understatement. I seriously considered pulling the plug on my ride. It's just a bike ride, right? One day I was telling my dear friends, Shannon & Beto about possibly not going and they were gutted for me. So much so, unbeknownst to me, that they went home and setup a GoFundMe account to keep me on track. I was blown away not only by their gesture, but the outpouring of support from family, friends & co-workers. I think everyone was equally as excited to follow my dot down the Trackleaders map as I was to ride it!! The ride goes on!!

This is a good place for the Tour Divide daily report links:


Divide Prelude
Day 1: Canmore to Round Prairie

Day 2: Round Prairie to Harvey Pass

Day 3: Harvey Pass to Grave Creek CG
Day 4: Grave Creek CG to Ferndale

Day 5: Ferndale to Seeley Lake
Day 6: Seeley Lake to Llama Farm
Day 7: Llama Farm to Basin

Day 8: Basin to Wise River
Day 9: Wise River to Montana High Country Lodge
Day 10: Montana High Country Lodge to Lima Reservoir
Day 11: Lima Reservoir to Warm River CG
Day 12: Warm River CG to Togwotee Pass
Day 13: Togwotee Pass to Cora
Day 14: Cora to Atlantic City
Day 15: The Great Basin - Atlantic City to Wamsutter
Day 16: Wamsutter to Brush Mountain Lodge
Day 17: Brush Mountain Lodge to Lynx Pass
Day 18: Lynx Pass to Silverthorne
Day 19: Silverthorne to Hartsel
Day 20: Hartsel to Salida
Days 21/22: Salida DNF
Tour Divide '19: Gear List & Final Thoughts
And just like that it was done. K swooped in to drive me home, but as I would soon find out, the real adventure of 2019 was just starting up.

Remember that early mileage goal of 6500 - 7000 for the year? I re-adjusted things after my Salida depart. 5000 would be the new goal. It was July 3rd the last day on the Divide and I was sitting at 3,623 for the year. I knew I'd have some recovery time, but then I'd get back to a normal ride routine. 1300 and change should be an easy get or so I thought. *My biggest total ever in a year was in 2016, I logged 4,341.

The next four months were a constant battle to not only regain lost fitness and motivation, but stay healthy. I had six separate relapses of MRSA, was on six different antibiotics and was completely off the bike for 8 weeks, 6 in-a-row at one point. I logged a total of 11 miles in September. Now, this isn't a pity party, it's just the way it was. The frustrating side of it all was that I felt great otherwise, just couldn't do anything with it. Doctor's orders. By mid-October my final MRSA incident had cleared and it was GO time again.

I did some really cool rides shortly after the Divide, like showing Sofiane around Brown's Ranch while he passed the time before dominating the field in ultra races in Columbia & Peru!!
Sofiane: Cool as a cucumber. He rode to Phoenix from the Brush Mtn. Lodge in northern July.
I finally checked out a new-to-me trail in Payson with Mike W.
Trail 200 in Payson is rad!!
K and I escaped the desert heat for her birthday to the friendly, cool confines of the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. It was so relaxing!!
Hotel Del!!
My six week bike hiatus began in early September. By mid-October I was more than itching to get on the trails. The weather had finally broke, which was great since I never really acclimated to the desert heat this year.

I had logged a grand total of 130 miles in the first two months of being back home. I still thought I could easily reach my 5000 mile goal, but I also didn't have the conditioning for long rides.

Friends to the rescue. I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful group of friends to share the trails with and that's exactly what I needed. I didn't need miles, I needed fun.

My first ride back was with Kelly, who I hadn't ridden with in over 2 years!! She gave me a tour of an area on the NW side of town I had never been to, Pyramid Peak. It was exactly what I was looking for.
Pyramid Peak: Follow the leader.
My legs held up fine and I was able to head back out the next day with another dear friend, the infamous Red Rock Chica. We keep in touch often, but rarely are able to meet up for a spin. The stars finally aligned and again I was able to close a 2+ year ride gap.
Haha!! Never a dull moment!!

As always, the time flew by. Here's to more trail time soon!!
The Arizona Trail Association put the wraps on the much anticipated Happy Jack singletrack project. It was only fitting that Igor and I go check it out.
Buffed out in sections, there are still plenty of rocks remaining to retain the Happy Jack character!!
George giving Robert and I a tour of Casa Grande Mtn.
Mike S. finally made the trek east across Phoenix for a Gold Canyon tour.
Jen C. crushing some rocks on National.
Honeybee cruise with the gang: Beto, Shannon, Mike W, myself & Jerry. Cheers!!

Chris Seistrup & Lael Wilcox answering questions after premiering 'I Just Want to Ride' at Campfire Cycling.
Finally checked out the newer Lower Sonoran Trail in the McDowell Mtns. with Jeff.
Started a double ride day on the Black Canyon Trail with a couple of buds.

Then wrapped up the day at Brown's Ranch with Kayla.

Even with powerlines, desert sunsets are the bestest.
Mmmeep, mmmeep!!
I was finally feeling back in the ride groove. Still hadn't really pushed any long rides, nothing over 30 miles. December was in full swing and I had adjusted my yearly goal back once again. I was now aiming to top 2016's totals. It was within reasonable reach. Go for it.
Jen & John C. and I rode a new questionable upcoming race route. It sure was scenic, but there were more than a few head scratchers on routing. Let's just say it will be sporty.
The now annual Hawesfest rolled out with an assortment of bike games, food and group rides. Well done by all involved.
I was having fun riding system trails, but I was itching for an exploratory ride. I saw a post on a local forum asking if there was a possible way to shorten the loop with the Goldridge trail near Sunflower. I started poking around and it appeared I found something.
The Cane Springs Loop was born.
Christmas in the desert.
Checking out the new Round Up trail in the Estrellas.

The annual Estrella Christmas Group ride was a hoot.
Did some exploring in the Goldfield foothills.

I was treated to a few amazing sunsets down on the tarmac, but this one was amazeballs.
We binged watched the Mandalorian series, my wife LOVES Baby Yoda and it's clear he's a fan of mountain biking!!
Met up with some buddies for a shuttle ride on the Black Canyon Trail.
Spent a few hours digging in the dirt helping to finalize a singletrack connection between Pass Mtn. and the Goldfield Mtns. Quite the view of the Superstition Mtns. from the saddle. The Goldlink trail was almost born...
It was now the final weekend of 2019 and I was closing in on my personal best in mileage for a year.
Checked out a new addition at S. Mtn: Ma Ha Tuak trail.
A storm system moved through and provided a white backdrop to our desert trails. Four Peaks viewed from San Tan Regional Park.
My final spin of 2019 was on my trusted Voodoo on Dec. 31st.
The final numbers were in: 2016: 4,341 - 2019: 4,378. Made it by that much.
2019 had come to a close. I was really proud of myself for rallying over the final two months to reach a personal best. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed how the back half of the year shook out. It wasn't about reaching a specific number of miles, that really doesn't matter. To me the miles represent adventures and I left a bunch of trail memories on the table in 2019, all for very legit reasons.

I'm so thankful, grateful for the opportunities I've had over the years to chase some of these ridiculous goals. Sometimes, things just don't stick to the script and you have to modify. That's when you find out what you're made of. I'm so glad I lined up in Banff to give the Tour Divide a whirl. I look forward to finishing what I started in June of 2020. Will I make another full attempt at the Divide? Who knows. It's not something I have a great desire to do at this moment in my life. We'll see how I feel after completing the route and some time passes.

In the meantime, I finally feel recovered from the whole ordeal and ready to take on some other challenges in 2020. See you out on the trails!!