A place to share words and pics. Mostly bikes, but my photog eye does wander.

Bikes let the good times roll. In solitude or with friends. For a half hour or 8 hours. Pedals become the gears that turn the earth as the sun seems to track their motion, day after day. Miles become food, and you're hungry. The bike stops being a vehicle, or toy, or transportation and becomes an extension of will, allowing you to journey beyond the pain of self into the realm of almighty, joyous nature, she that feeds our souls. Pedal yourself into the maw of creation. Pedal yourself silly.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

AES Antelope Peak Challenge - Busted

And the AES season begins with the Antelope Peak Challenge, or APC. There are two flavors, the 115 miler, or the more mundane and human-capable 65 miler. We'd be choosing the latter of the two, and maybe saving the large one for an overnighter.  We'd have a respectable starting time of 8am, compared to the enduro studs, whom started the 115 at 3am, or abouts. I was really happy to finally be getting out on the APC course. It must have been two years  ago when I first started learning of endurance MtB and the AES and bikepacking, etc. and the APC was one that I remember looking at thinking, "Wow, 65 miles. That is a lot of desert, in the middle of nowhere. Sweet." It seemed like it would take a lot to get me there someday, but all it really took was a bit of time filled with lots of riding. Here I found myself, ready and plenty able. I knew I could do it, and without killing myself.

The start is 15 or so miles of road, dirt or otherwise and the pace was steady for gears, but a bit quick for the SSers. It was enough to get the blood going. The fast ones pulled out on the front, and we lagged towards the back, but I was in no particular hurry. Lots of people race these, I really just like to come out and enjoy the day. Longer the better, as long as I'm not pushing my bike out.

After a good hour or so of riding, we hit Tiger Mine Rd off of Rt. 77, and we knew single track was near. We had lots to look forward to, as it was all new to us, and there was new singletrack which bypassed the famed dread of the gasline. I might have been sorry that I wouldn't get to try it out, but not really. I like singletrack. We'd be on Passage #14 of the AZT, Black Hills.  After Freeman Rd, we'd take some more dirt road and some Painter Boy, 24 Hour singletrack back to the start.

Everyone gathers diligently at the start to hear the morning shakedown from Scott. John and I were thinking, "Maybe a hike to the top of Antelope Peak and a bonus lap to make it 70+ miles for the day?".....Maybe. Maybe not. Mornings always start optimistic.

Heading out! ~7 miles of dirt road. Yay. But happy to be rolling.
I got a cool shot of the same sign the week before when we were down for a little 24 Hour course pre-ride.

John was out for the inaugural AES ride upon his new Voodoo. Oh yes. There are two Voodoos now. I hope they don't touch and like matter and anti-matter components explode and rain bike bits all over the trail.

This new bike can cruise!

Been wanting too see this sign for a while. Finally. Now it feels like an adventure after about 1.5 hours of road grinding. Let's get to business!

Like most good things in life, Antelope Peak seems far off. But with some diligent hard work, we'd get there. Like life.
We were just getting to where I like to be - Out There. My breaths seem fresh. My legs feel free. My mind has let go of city crap. Time has dilated. We're four hours in already?! Did we get frickin' abducted somewhere? Slow the day down! This is too good.

Oh, frack off. Bastard bike bits. Hanger. Busted. Tossed derailleur into wheel, sprocket exploded. You piece of sh!t. Well, no place for anger out here. What to do? SS it. Sure. At the top of the drop before Bloodsucker wash. Hmmmm.... I swear the Voodoo's didn't come in contact with each other!

I managed to get it into SS mode, but set up as a 32x16, which is a super stiff gear for AZT riding. Ok, not gonna be pedaling up anything now, definitely not out of Bloodsucker wash. Son of a bitch. "John, I'm flipping it." 25 miles from the start. One tough gear now. End of line. John heads out to finish the loop, and get some more of that AZT. I was able to get only about 10 miles of it, not enough to satiate myself. Not only that, gremlins have invaded my Talon.....and garage too, it will seem.

So, Mom was heading down to the Old Pueblo the same afternoon. Maybe a call is in order.  "Feel like taking a slight detour, and picking me up?" Yes! I didn't have to suffer the road back to base camp. I had two hours to make it back to Rt. 77 and Tiger Mine Rd. No problem.

I had to keep moving, but did take a few seconds to screw around. I was happy that I could manage to ride most of the route back other than having 4 sizable hills to push up. I was further dejected that I couldn't finish the route, the one I had been looking forward too, and also one that would have filled in a big portion of the AZT that I haven't ridden. This would have been valuable info/experience for the upcoming AZT 300 race in April. Crap.

Sadness. Despair. Dejection. I got over them soon enough. Frustration would hang around for a spell though.

Oh, this sign. Screw this! I don't want to see this sign again! Not now! Not from behind! Oh, drat! grumble...grumble...grumble.....cuss....grumble....

My fix. Had to break the chain in about 5 places to get the length right, and I suspect that it won't bode well for the future. The chain was about 10 days old, and the derailleur just as young. Shiny bits eaten by the desert. Monies not easily earned. SSing is tons of fun, when you're in the mood.

That is one tough gear.

The rescue arrives! I got to Tiger Mine Rd probably only a few minutes after Mom passed it up. A little turn around by her, and I might have waited 10 minutes. Great timing! Thanks a million! The road ride was possible, but would have taken a bit. I was ready to hang out with the fast guys, as the first few had already finished.
Nancy put out this nice bread, cheese, and olive (ick) spread out, AND went and bought some pizzas! You rock! Thanks! The early finishers live like kings and queens!  I did minimal work for my DNF, but was still hungry. I got to hang with the fast guys like Scott and Aaron, but also got to see the first finisher of the 115 roll in, such as Kurt and Neil. They pulled times somewhere around 12 hours. Amazing pace for 115 miles. I'll take two days for that, thanks. One day, my appetite may be that big.

Scott caught this great snap of my bike with the setting sun. Just about worth DNFing for.
The day was a bust for me, having to turn around early. I got only 35 miles and 4500ft of vert in. I certainly wanted more. John came rolling in well after dark, with a time around 11 hours. I was jealous, but it was nice to see him stick it out. I'm sure finding yourself riding alone unexpectedly can have motivational effects. Easy for him to figure out though. Tales of Painter Boy made me feel like an outsider. Sheesh, the life of a DNFer F'ing suuuuuucks.  Oh, and I still have to fix my bike.

The AZT starts at mile 15 here, right about where the elevation jumps up and down. It's easy to spot my return trip. Stupid hanger.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jamboree of AZT Commenceth!

 With the new year comes a new set of some of last year's rides. There were a lot of firsts last year, and this year there will be a lot of seconds, and one of them is the AZT Jamboree. This event is put on by Mr. Chad Brown, mountain biker/promotor extraordinaire, and also benefits the ATA, the Arizona Trail Association. For the privilege of joining in on the AZTJamboree, each rider pays for a membership to the ATA which is $35, and you get a shuttle ride up to East Greaterville Rd off of the 83 which puts you at the north end of the Santa Ritas and Mt. Wrightson, and then ride north back to Pistol Hill Rd a 38 miles and 6300ft of descent later along the Las Cienegas Passage of the AZT. (There's also 4600ft of climbing too, just to keep the route honest.)

Last year I did it on the Monocog, rolling 32x20 and rigid. It was fun, I survived, but this year, I was happy to be 1x9 and have some squish. The extra fitness from a year of strong riding and the luxury of gears and bounce took the edge off the ride and I was left with a smooth, enjoyable day on the bike, which made me consider my sense of scale, currently. Last year, this was a ride to think about, plan out, even consider for considerations's sake. This year the tone was different in my prep. Lackadasical, whimsical, confident. This ride? Gonna be pretty easy. Will finish before dark. Not even 40 miles. This ride became.....smaller. I guess this means my appetite has become .....bigger.

We started out on the early shuttle, at 8am. This necessitates a 4:30am wake-up time, and two hours of driving, then a 25 minute shuttle. Sometimes it takes a long time to ride your bike. Then you start pedaling, and you forget about it all.
The singletrack that rolls downhill towards Rosemont Junction is fantabulous. It's even a great climb, which we did last November during the AES Kentucky Camp loop.

We moved further and further away form Mt. Wrightson in the Santa Ritas. She even had some snow up high. Last year during this ride, we found snow in the shady north-facing spots.

Mt. Wrightson.

Here we're just about out of the most climby part of the ride. We're about to hit a good 15 miles of easy breezy riding. Ah, the Jamboree. The AZT. Seems built, just for me. Sometimes you can't ask for more.
The grass is a bit dead here. Spring will bring the green.

Bikes and biker, taking a break. Lunch was along a new stretch of AZT which cut out some jeep road. Excellent. The new section of a few miles, was a bit rolly, twisty and fun.

With an eye for color accent now, sharp contrasts catch my eye often.

A change from Lee's excellent support from last year, SDMB stepped up and did a full on aid station, a-la Tour of the White Mountains grade. Fruit, snacks, drinks, water, and best of all - mini pizzas! Its true. And they were good. Thanks all!

After the refuel, its time to hit the road again. Or cross it, at least.
The I-10 Culvert approaching three bridges. John caught this shot as I made my way into the far entrance.

I took another attempt at rolling out of the culvert, but the sand was alas, too sandy. I rolled it out well, though. Last year I didn't expect sand and I launched it. This year morphed into intentional tradition, with the help of John, egging me on. I suppose one year, I'll roll it out and be awesome.

We also passed the newly dedicated Gabe Zimmerman trailhead along the AZT. Nice honor, but I wish there weren't a need for the sign at all.

One of three bridges. We played it smart this year and stayed up high. No trekking by the river this year! Time saved, ~ one hour.

The Voodoo busy getting some street cred.
In a short six hours and some minutes later, we rolled into camp at Pistol Hill Rd and found free beer and warm coals. Kudos to Chad for getting the free drink.

One of the rare rides where we finished mid pack. Maybe this will be our year.

It's all downhill except for the uphill parts. 6k down, but still about 4k up. Great section of trail, Las Cienegas passage.