Just some thoughts and experiences from a mountain bike endurance racer who likes to ride and race his single speed mountain bike a long long way on remote single track in the mountains and desert.

Friday, April 18, 2014

2014 Arizona Trail Race, 300 miles (AZT300)

Although I’ve wanted to do the Arizona Trail 300 ( AZT300 ) race for a long time I didn’t fully commit to it until about 3 weeks prior to the start date.  Most of the winter I worked and skied on the weekends with some riding in between so I wasn’t sure of my fitness.  It was a mild winter down low with the trails sporadically ridable so I was able to get some weekday rides in when the trails were dry.  I also made some desert trips for bigger rides throughout the winter so it wasn’t like I was “off the couch”.  Also, hiking in ski boots for good powder isn’t exactly easy either and I think it benefited me on the hike-a-bike sections.   I finally decided to throw my hat in the ring after feeling pretty good on a 9 hour White Rim 100 mile ride.

This plan apparently paid off!  I finished in just over 2 ½ days (2:12:50) http://www.topofusion.com/azt/results.php .  The race was 300 miles and 40,000 feet of climbing.  I was the fastest single speeder and finished 4th overall. 

Bike and Gear:  My bike and equipment setup was minimal.  Just the necessities that matched my race plan and emergency gear.  I think this is where my experience from the Colorado Trail Race paid off.  I used about the same setup as I did in the Colorado Trail Race except I didn’t bring a cooker this time.  My plan was to ride almost the entire time so I didn’t bring a sleeping bag, bivy or tent and elected instead to carry a lightweight emergency blanket which saved weight.  I rode my singlespeed with 32x22 gearing which I felt worked out well although it resulted in a lot of hike-a-bike.  My tire choice was the Schwalbe Nobby Nic with snakeskin and had no issues.  In my research prior to the race there were racers with a lot of tire issues and after seeing the trails first hand I can see why.  There are tons of jagged, sharp rocks which are the perfect size to slash a sidewall.  I was prepared with needle, thread and Stans but the tires performed great! 

Water: I had 200oz of water capacity (half on the bike and the other half in my Osprey pack) which I filled completely at a majority of the water stops.  I never ran out and never got water from questionable sources but I had tablets just in case (no water filter however).  Kentucky camp is a critical spot to top off water even though it is not far after the previous source.

Food:  This is where I had my stops and calories planned but decided to get whatever sounded good at each stop instead of a strict plan.  It could be the best food for me but if it doesn’t sound good and I don’t eat it the food doesn’t do me any good.  I had enough capacity for 7000 calories and I filled it up at both of my two food stop which were Sonoita and Oracle (This included calories from energy drinks that I poured into my Osprey hydration pack).  My plan was to graze and not eat big portions after my CTR experience.  The Sonoita store had minimal choices but I think if I had stopped there on the way to the start and took a closer look when I wasn’t rushed my stop during the race would have been much faster and I would have got more desirable food.  I went to the Oracle market for my section food stop which had a good supply and some pre made stuff.

Race plan:  Prior to the race I looked at a variety of blogs and times for previous finishers.  I typically like to ride through the night with none or minimal rest so I modeled my timing and plan after other racers that had that similar approach in the past.  I wanted to go lightweight so I didn’t carry any more than I really needed.  No luxuries!  Also, I wanted to avoid towns as much as possible since they have a way of sucking time.  No mail stops either.  Prior to starting the race I resolved that I wasn’t going to stop at any of the few restaurants available throughout the race when passing through towns and I stuck to it. 

The Race:  I felt good the night before with no anxiety but I couldn’t wait to get started.  Up to the start you can second guess your choices for gear and setup a thousand times but after the start all you can think about is racing.  

After a quick speech from Scott we rolled off immediately down a rocky hill where racers who didn’t fully check out their gear setup in advance would probably be stopping frequently to reevaluate their setup.

The first section through Canelo pass was technical and had a lot of hike-a-bike.  Especially for anyone with a singlespeed.  I was careful not to go too hard at the beginning and just rolled at a nice steady pace that I felt I could maintain for a long time.  I felt good through to Sonoita.  The front bottom of my feet were hurting a little from all the hike-a-bike.  This is where I realized some hiking in my bike shoes instead of rigid ski boots would have been good preparation.

In Sonoita I stopped at the gas station/store and picked up enough food that I thought could get me through to Oracle.

After a climb on a graded road the next section at Kentucky Camp was awesome!  I definitely want to come back and check this out again.  I had topped off all 200oz of my water in Sonoita but I chose to top it off again at Kentucky Camp which was absolutely necessary.  In hindsight I might have just got 100oz or less at Sonoita but I wasn’t sure of the situation at Kentucky Camp so I lugged all that water up the hill with me just in case.

I had my one and only crash after Kentucky Camp.  On a technical downhill I flipped over the bars but both myself and my bike were unscathed.  It got dark on me somewhere between Kentucky Camp and I-10.  This section was very rocky and slower in the dark.  In the daylight it might be a different story but I seemed to really slow down through there.  After coming out of mountains I was rewarded with a nice gradual downhill that offered the perfect break after the previous section. 

The section after I-10 to Colossal Cave started out at an easy grade then slowly got steeper but was pretty ridable and flowed well.  This is where I saw one of two snakes.  I practically rode over the tail of a diamond back but it didn’t even move.  I elected to pass up La Selvilla campground since I had enough water to get to the next stop.

I got on the pavement and pedaled to Saguaro National Park where I topped off every water container I had.  It was still dark and I knew the next section was going to be hot and I wanted to make it up as much as possible in the dark to avoid the heat.  After a very sandy section of trail and a variety of miscellaneous roads I made it to Redington Road and started the big climb up.  The route eventually splits off onto an extremely rocky 4-wheel driver trail that is difficult to ride up or down in the dark.  It seemed like there were some ridable lines that would be more visible in the daylight but in the dark all I could do was walk big sections. 

After what seemed like an endless amount of rock obstacles the old road became more ridable and the sun came out.  Then the route went back on singletrack which was pretty nice but did have some hike-a-bike sections as it steadily climbed.  I passed up the West Spring water source without getting anything and that is where the climb got nasty!  I pushed, carried and hoisted my bike up the side of this mountain.  It was brutal getting the weight of my bike and gear up some of the rock ledges and my only consolation was that my setup was lighter than some other racers.  The downhill on the other side was at least a little ridable but there were definitely sections that I hiked down.

The route then crossed the Mount Lemmon Hwy where there was some additional singletrack and hike-a-bike climbing.  The highway is visible almost the entire time on this section so watching road bikers easily motor up the paved road made the climb that much more difficult.

Eventually the trail emptied out onto a graded road that led to the Mount Lemmon Hwy.  Getting on pavement and being able to pedal continuously was a nice change although my gearing was a little hard for the climb.  I’ve never seen so many road bikers as on this section.  I did actually pass one but the rest were going by me.  I got the impression most of them did not comprehend what I was out there doing and the majority didn’t even say anything to me.  At least one knew about the race.  The climb seemed to have not top.  I stopped at the Palisade campground and topped off my water near Summerhaven. 

After climbing from under 2700’ to over 8000’ we were rewarded with the Oracle Ridge trail.  In this section and the following section where it rejoins the AZ trail you bomb down the hill at less than 2 miles an hour walking over boulders while endlessly hitting your calves and shins on your pedals because there was not enough room to down-hike with a gap between you and your bike. To top it off there was a brutal wind.  This was defiantly my lowest point!  I was ready to blaze into Oracle and reprimand them for having their name on something so unpleasant and how they could even call it a trail.  The rocky downhill eventually appeared to have some recent trail maintenance toward the bottom that made riding much easier.  However, the recent trail improvements appeared to be designed and constructed by anti-mountain bikers (Or just incompetent people).  There were square water bars used in spots that obviously did not need drainage features but created dangerous situations in corners and were not easily ridable uphill.  After that section I was thinking of demanding my donation back from the Arizona Trail Association because I didn’t want it to fund this type of poor trail construction.  This section emptied out into a parking lot then crossed a paved road.  This is where I got a little confused and took the paved road into Oracle thinking it was Hwy 77 at first.  This ended up being more miles to get into Oracle then back to the same point than the actual Hwy 77.  The positive side was I made it to the Oracle Market before it closed and I might not have if I’d gone the original way I intended.

In Oracle I stocked up on what I thought was enough food to get me through to the end.  I took the road back to where I had exited the trail.  The sun went down somewhere before I got to Hwy 77.  The next Antelope Peak section had endless climbs and drops.  The trail seemed routed through the very bottom of every wash to the tip top of every little peak which made for a lot of hike-a-bike.

After riding for about 40 hours straight I was starting to get goofy.  I was running into rocks, not steering straight and I felt it was really slowing me down.  My mind was also playing tricks on me.  I stopped to rest for the first time during the race where I laid in a wash shivering for about an hour worried about snakes and scorpions.  Even though I really didn’t get any sleep I did feel much better.  I got up, checked my stuff for scorpions and put on everything warm I had which wasn’t much.  At Beehive I got some water to get me through to the next source.  The sun came up between Beehive and Antelope Peak.  It started to heat up right at dawn and I stripped off any warm layers I had on.  At the Freeman Cache I topped off all my water containers.  Not long after I started down the extremely fun singletrack on the boulders section.  It was nice to be pedaling continuously again after a night of frequent hike-a-biking.  The Ripseys section was awesome as well except for the sandy wash section.  The Ripsey ridgeline is definitely something I would like to come back and do again.  I was glad to see it in the daylight!  The majority of the climb was ridable.  It was hot and the climbing seemed endless but the views at the top were very rewarding.  The downhill was a blast and the remaining section to the Gila River was very ridable.

I topped off my water around Kelvin.  It was very hot and my feet were killing me.  A quick soak in the river felt great!  I had ridden this upcoming last section through to Picketpost before and I was feeling good except for my feet.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel!  Somehow when it seems like I’m close to finishing I can muster up strength to power through when my legs should be noodles.  From the Gila River I was riding just about every climb I had on a previous ride and this climb is huge!  I saw 4 Gila monsters in a one mile stretch on the climb.  First I through dirt on one in an effort to get it off the trail which was moderately effective and eventually worked.  On the next three I just yelled at each of them to get off the trail and that was much more successful.  It was really windy which made the climbing harder but it also cooled me down a bit.  It was HOT! 

I really wanted to get through most of this section in the light because I knew the ending was technical and would be slow in the dark.  I made it to the top of the big Martinez Canyon climb just as the sun went down.  At the top of the next climb I saw eyes looking down on me from the top of the cliffs but I just kept pedaling. 

The remaining section went very slow in the dark.  My feet were really killing me now.  Even coasting down hills really hurt if I had to stand up.  I started clipping out and standing on my pedals moto style for the downhills.  It was difficult to figure out where I was.  There were a few landmarks that I was looking for on the trail to orient myself but I completely missed one of them and the other what much further along than I thought.  I was having some troubles steering in the technical sections and felt like I was riding a little out of control.  It was hard to contain myself since it seemed like the end was so near.

This last stretch seemed to be taking forever compared to when I had ridden it before.  Finally I rolled into the parking lot.  I was ready to be done!  The only people around were a couple who were photographing the race, big Dave, Laura and a drunk cowboy sleeping on a bench next to his horse and dogs.  It was a great feeling completing the race.  After a bit of rehashing the race with my new friends I loaded up my stuff and headed to Phoenix for some food.  First I hit a Carl’s Jr and got a burger then at the next exit there was an In-n-out where I stopped and got another burger.  I thought Carl’s Jr was better but maybe that’s because it was first…  After riding a mountain bike for 2 ½ days then getting into a truck and driving I felt like I was going 100 miles an hour.  Then I looked down and I was doing 45 on the highway…

Tough race!  But what an adventure and a great way to see southern Arizona! 

Getting ready to start
Bike Setup
View for the entire time

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Dolores 100/50

Dolores 100 & 50 Oct 5th info! The links for the GPS files, maps and detailed route descriptions for the Dolores 100 & 50 are now posted. There is also a breakdown for miles of singletrack, pavement, 4wd road... for both along with other new details on support. Check it out!!! Weather forecast is looking great so far and the aspens look to be changing as well! http://coloradoes.wordpress.com/swes-event-list/dolores-100/

Thursday, November 1, 2012

La Ruta de Los Conquistadores 2012, Finished 4th overall on a singlespeed in the 40-49 geared category

La Ruta de Los Conquistadores 2012, Finished 4th overall on a singlespeed in the 40-49 geared category.   http://larutadelosconquistadores.com/ruta2011/

Finished 3rd on the first day.  It was extremely hot!  Probably the hottest weather I have ever ridden in.  There was a long muddy section that was very muggy but some sections were ridable.  The mud was not deep, just extremely slick.  I typically have not used the optional spikes bolted onto the front of my shoes but they would have been really handy.  A large part of the climb was on pavement and the temperature was much more tolerable at the higher elevations.   This was the toughest day.  They had showers, food and the finish was very festive!  Check out the day 1 stats here http://connect.garmin.com/activity/248054107

Day 2 I finished 4th. There was a bunch of climbing but a majority of it was on pavement.  The downhill was pretty rocky and slick because of the constant rain.  I found myself wanting a little uphill so I could get a break from standing on this section.  Visibility was minimal as well toward the top.  After the initial drop off the volcano the last section was a fast fun downhill on pavement.  At times I was spun out with my climbing gearing on the descent.  There was a flat section toward the very end where I ended up getting passed by numerous geared racers and that’s where I think I got bumped out of 3rd place.  They had great amenities again at the finish which included some hard earned grub.
Day 3 was much shorter and very flat.  It started out with rafting in the morning which was a blast and totally worth doing!  I got completely blown away on the flats with my gearing.  I should have put on a tiny rear cog geared for flat to slightly descending pavement.  This gearing would have been tougher on the railroad track section but you can’t pass there anyway.  There were also racers who put in a huge effort on the beginning road sections and were blown by the railroad track section.  They were holding traffic up.  There were significant waits to cross the rickety old bridges as well.  Would have been nice to be ahead of that scenario.  Apparently the end could be sandy but due to the downpour it was fast as well on race day.  It was great to ride straight onto the sandy beach and drink some cervezas on the beach.
In the end it looks like day 3 only possibly cost me one spot (a podium spot) since I had such a lead from day 1 and 2.  I’m happy with the way the race went.  It would have been handy to speak Spanish but they were accommodating to English speaking racers.  Great experience and I met some super people! 

Prerace meeting
View from the first climb
Day 1 finish
Day 2 section
Finish on the beach
Finish on day 3
Jeff in the food line at the finish of day 3
Finish line venue

Jeff on a preride of day 2

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crested Butte 100, CB100, 1st singlespeeder, 13th overall.

Crested Butte 100, CB100.  Fastest singlespeed time and 13th fastest overall with geared racers at 9:20.  Awesome race on some of the best and most scenic singletrack anywhere.  Tough race!  http://coloradoes.wordpress.com/swes-event-list/cb-100/  Check out the stats at http://connect.garmin.com/activity/226333204 

Chilly start but I warmed up fast on the climbs.  The aspen trees were changing and were peaking.  The scenery was epic.  Lots of fun, fast singletrack.  Weather was perfect!
Great finish at the Brick Oven for beer, pizza and hinging out with friends!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

The 2012 Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Finished 3rd place in the singlespeed category

The 2012 Leadville 100 mountain bike race.  Finished 3rd place in the singlespeed category.  103 miles and 12,170' elevation gain in 9 hours.  This race was huge!  Lifetime Fitness did an excellent job organizing such a big event.  The course is an in-n-out that is mostly dirt roads with a little bit of singletrack and some pavement sections.  The route takes you through some awesome Colorado scenery.  I can see why road bikers tend to like it, there is not a lot of technical riding ability required but you defiantly need to be super strong just to finish the race.  There are some long big climbs on this course with some steep and chunky hike-a-bike sections.

With around 2000 racers I was happy to have been assigned a spot lining up in the first few rows at the start.  Once the race started is seemed like almost everyone passed me while I was completely spun out on the road section.  When we got to the first climb I start passing a ton of people back.  It was very crowded and hard to pass but I was happy everyone was still riding.  About ten miles into the race things spread out just enough to make the passing easier.  I was doing a ton of passing on all the climbs and felt good at that point.  At about ¼ of the way through the race we got on a flatter road section that was long.  Huge groups of racers were passing me drafting each other.  This section was a giant disadvantage for a singlespeed.  I’m not into drafting in a race anyway, but even if I could have jumped into a group I didn’t have the gearing for it.  On that road section I think I moved into 1st place for a while then dropped to 2nd.

We dropped into twin lakes which was beautiful!  That’s where Dan Durland was waiting with my first resupply.  There was a pretty cool section of singletrack just before the pit stop that was nice.

This was the start of the big climb.  It’s long and grueling with some false summits and steep rocky sections towards the top that most racers were hiking.  There really wasn’t any breaks, just up up up.  I was able to pass a significant amount of racers on this climb. Towards the top the fastest geared riders passed us coming back down.  Since the race route is an in-n-out this section of the course had a particularly dangerous element that you don’t have in looped routes.  There are racers bombing down the mountain and tired racers climbing up the same road weaving and trying to pass.  I only had to deal with the downhill traffic towards the top but a majority of the racers behind me had constant traffic coming downhill which had to make passing difficult since it meant moving into oncoming traffic.

The downhill was a nice break but when I got back to the road section we had a strong headwind and the geared racers were flying by me again in large groups.  At the end of the road section there is a mean climb that a lot of people were hiking.   My stomach started killing me on this section which was about ¾ of the way through the race.  I was defiantly suffering and about half way up I got passed so I moved into 3rd.  I tried to keep up his pace but my stomach was really hurting.  Even when we crested the top of the climb the downhill I didn’t feel any better.

On the last bigger climb I was starting to feel a little better.  When we crested the top of that climb I was able to ride harder and continued to feel better.  Climbing back into Leadville I thought I saw another singlespeeder behind me.  I felt pretty strong again and hammered the last five miles out without getting passed.  It turns out there were four singlespeeders within five minutes behind me.

It was great rolling into the finish line and getting my belt buckle.  They had a sweet setup with a beer garden and free food at the finish.  There was a grand awards ceremony which was probably the biggest I have ever been to.  Great to see all the other racers get their awards and I was happy to be up on the podium myself as well.  Good times!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Rico 100 mountain bike race. 1st place overall on a singlespeed.

The 2012 Rico 100 mountain bike race.  1st place overall on a singlespeed.  96 miles and 14,000’ elevation gain in 12:07 hours.  Super tough race based out of Rico Colorado!  Epic singletrack and some serious hike-a-bike above timberline.  Awesome views! 

The racers rolled out of Rico early in the morning and climbed up to the Colorado Trail where we got on some sweet singletrack that took us over Blackhawk.  We rode it all the way to the Grindstone trail.  Grindstone is a ridable, but technically challenging, steep downhill into the Bear Creek basin.  Then the route took us down the Bear Creek trail which is a bit rocky and technical but almost all ridable.  At the bottom there was an aid station.  Took me about 8 hours to get to the aid station.  I knew I was in first there but they were not far back. 

From the aid station another monster climb started.  I rode up the Taylor Mesa graded road then had some serious hike-a-bike on the Calico trail with some amazing views.  This is when the rain really started coming down on me.  After riding/hiking on a long section of Calico the route drops down West Fall Creek trail.  This trail is usually a fun fast downhill but the wet condition made it treacherous.  Just before getting to Dunton the route turned onto the Winter trail which was a mucky mess.  Normally a mostly ridable climb.  Today is was so greasy it was hard to get traction and even ride much. 

At the top of the Winter trail I got on a dirt road that was mostly downhill to the highway then took that back down to Rico with the rain dumping on me.  The finish was at the Enterprise bar and grill in Rico.  A beer and burger was waiting for me.  Nice job to the other podium finishers: Doug Byerly 2nd and Jeff Hemperley (SS) 3rd.  Great race!

The Rico 100 podium

Monday, June 18, 2012

Epic 2012 Bailey Hundo race!

It was another epic race at the 2012 Bailey Hundo with some tough competition in the singlespeed category.  I beat my previous years’ time at 100 miles in 7:47.  After starting back in fifth, then moving to 2nd with 1st in my sites for quite some time I ended up finished 4th.  This year I chose to use a front suspension fork which made the awesome singletrack exponentially more enjoyable.  I ran 32x19 gearing on a 29r with Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires front and rear.  This course is awesome!  Epic singletrack!

Bailey Hundo website: http://www.bailey100.com/

Race day started with a 4:45 alarm, quick breakfast, suiting up then riding about 15 minutes to the race staging area in downtown Bailey from the new riverside camping area by the finish line.  Everyone lined up, talked a little about past races and then with the sound of a shotgun blast we all took off immediately climbing up pavement.   The start has some pretty good climbs with a few descents and overall is not too bad on the singlespeed. 

When I got on the Colorado Trail singletrack I thought I was probably in 4th place after trying to keep track of all my competitors during the road section.  I felt good and the singletrack was really fast and fun.  I caught up and passed 3rd and 2nd about 20 miles into the race.  Shortly after I got a glimpse of Jeffrey Carter who was in 1st.  Last year I passed him which started a dueling match for the following 80 miles so this time I thought I would just hang back and keep him in my sites.  I was feeling really good at that point and thought I could have passed him but I ended up stalking him for the next 30 miles.  On a few climbs he started to pull away but I could still see glimpses of him by the time we got to road section at about 60 miles.
The road section is brutal on a singlespeed.  When racers with gears passed me they were flying and out of site in no time.

On the road section I must have slowed down, or everyone around me sped up.  At the start of the Stony Pass climb Jeffrey was nowhere in sight and another singlepeeder Jason Hilgers passed me toward the bottom of the climb which moved me to 3rd.  My stomach started bothering me around the bottom of the climb as well and progressively got worse as I climbed.  I suspected that I might be slowing down a bit. 

Stony pass is kind of a weird climb.  After two years riding it now I’m still not sure of where the actual top of the official pass is.  The first climb resembles more like what I’m used to seeing where you obviously top out then start descending but that is just a small portion of the climb.  It’s a little deceiving because there are no trees as a result of the fire but it gives a feel like your above timberline and you definitely go over what feels like a pass and not a false summit.  But after dropping I made a turn on another road where there was an aid station and started another significant climb.  When looking ahead on this climb there is nothing but a big mountain in front of me.  After climbing for quite a while I turned right on another road and shortly after started descending again but it was not an obvious pass I had gone over.  At this point it still looked like there was a mountain in front of me and another climb started but it was a much easier grade.  At this point it’s like slowly having your teeth pulled.  After climbing for a significant amount of time the road topped out and there was an aid station there.  Finally there was a big downhill and it felt great.
I could see the clouds moving in and was hoping to miss a storm since it was less than 10 miles to the finish.  It kept getting darker and darker and after passing Wellington Lake with less than 5 miles left it started to sprinkle.  Then is started to dump rain.  Then I was getting soaked by the dumping rain and the water all over the road.

Suddenly Jody Elovitz showed up on a singlespeed and passed me.  I kept him in my sites but just could catch him.  I was soaked, cold and riding as fast as I could suspecting Jody had just bumped me off the podium.  I rolled into the finish about a minute behind Jody to end up 4th place.  Great race!
I congratulated Jeffrey and Jody on their ride at the finish and we swapped some race stories then I went and got a full dish of free food and a beer.  It’s a great setup at the finish with a band right next to the scenic river adjacent to the designated camping area.
Great job on the win Jeffrey Carter 1st, Jason Hilgers 2nd, Jody Elovitz 3rd and Andrew Carney 5th!