Saturday, April 18, 2015

Josiah's Arizona Trail Journey

Disclaimer: This blog is very long winded and will likely be very boring and/or irrelevant to anyone not involved with bikepacking racing.

After 2 years of having an Arizona Trail Race 300 DNF weighing on my shoulders, I decided it was time to KO this route so I could put it behind me.  I have really wanted to see all the sections of the trail north of the desert, so I figured if I was going to ride all the hot desert sections of the AZT 300, I might as well ride the 750 route so I could ride the higher elevation pine forests as well... little did I know the amount of suffering I was signing myself up for.
Being that this race is so early in the year, there wasn't a lot of time for any long rides, so I mostly trained at very high intensity of computrainer for 30 minute and 1 hour sessions.  It was a big question in my mind if this would be sufficient for training to do a ride that was so long.  Nevertheless, I was going to give this thing a try and find out.
My flight into Phoenix got in on Wednesday night.  This allowed me just enough time to get the bike all set up on Thursday morning for a shakedown ride in Phoenix before heading down to the Mexican border with my friends Mark and Mike.
I must say that the drive down to the border was much longer than I had imagined.  This is the first time it hit me just how far I had to ride my bike: and on hiking trails, at that.
When we arrived at the start line, we decided that we would camp 1/4 mile up the road from where all the other racers were going to be camping, since Mark had brought a grill and he and Mike were going to be cooking up a pre-race feast of burgers for me and we did not want to make all the other racers jealous.
At 10 till 7, I headed down the hill to meet the other racers for the 7:00 AM departures.  I had just enough time for a quick photo next to our pathetic border fence before heading up the road back towards Montezuma pass road.
Ready to take on this trail? not really!

The lead group of us made it to Parker Canyon Lake(300 start) around 8:20.  I made a mental note to the fact this gave us a 40 minute head start on the faster azt 300 riders, since they start at 9:00 am.
It was around 10:30 am when Jay Petervary and I were HABing up the big push before Canelo pass road when we heard someone coming up behind us.  I could barely believe me eyes when I turned around to see Kurt Refsnider pushing his bike up behind us.  I was running the numbers in my head and figured that Kurt had closed a 40 minute gap on us in just 90 minutes.  How is this possible?  It helps being super human I guess.  It also helped that his bike had so little weight on it that it was practically pushing itself up the hill as Kurt was walking.  He was not bikepacking at all.  If he was carrying anything, it was food, not camping gear.  Nonetheless, that was still extremely impressive for anyone to be moving so swiftly through the Canelos as he was.
By the time I rolled into Patagonia, the heat was beginning to get to me and the road grind from Patagonia to Sonoita that I was looking forward to hammering out was now looking like it was going to be a slog, a crawl in which I would struggle to keep my stomach in check and my head from over heating.  I did not help that I ignored my senses that were telling me that I needed to stop and eat something in Patagonia to avoid a blood sugar bonk in addition to the heat bonk.
Leaving Sonoita was difficult.  I was already in a bonk and going back out into the heat was not appealing to me at all.  I was almost convinced that I needed to sleep in Sonoita and try again tomorrow.  Still, I convinced myself that I can't let the trail get to me this early in the game and that I needed to get out there and start putting miles behind me if I was ever going to make it to Utah.
Luckily the miles from Sonoita to Kentucky Camp were easy and allowed me to keep my effort level low enough to narrowly remain below my threshold for overheating.  Shortly before Kentucky Camp, Kaitlyn Boyle came flying past me.  Since the sun was now on the horrizon and the approaching sunset was offering some reprieve from the days heat that had oppressed my energy all afternoon, I decided to try to keep up with Kaitlyn, as I seemed to be able to ride faster on downhill segments when there was someone in front of me, as I was not brave enough to ride blind corners at high speed without having someone in front of me so I could see where it went.
Leaving Kentucky Camp, I decided to roll out ahead of Kaitlyn, assuming she would probably catch me on the first downhill.  By the time I hit that first trail out of KCamp, I was finally getting back into my groove and feeling good, as the cool nighttime temperatures were finally dropping in.  The trail from K-Camp all the way to Tucson is pretty much all fast and fun, less a few areas (namely Colossal Cave).  It did not take long before I caught up Rich Otten and Robert Orr.  It just seemed natural for us to all ride together.  I took the lead as my eyes seemed to be more suited for trail navigation at night.  Gate after gate, I would get to the gates first and open them, then I would take a short water sip break while I waited for the other guys to come through the gates and close them behind us.  It wasn't long before Kaitlyn caught up with the group of us and before we knew it, we were a full fledged posse of 4 of us taking on the desert of southern Arizona through the night.  Leading out the group, I was constantly coming face to face with these little suicidal red-eyed birds who would sit in the trail and play 'chicken' with me as I came barreling through on my bike.  They would not move off the trail until I nearly hit them.  Many times, I would slam my brakes last second to avoid running them over because they wouldn't move.
One of the neat sightings of that evening was a javelina that was running down the trail to get away from us.  This was the first time I've seen a javelina in person, so that was pretty neat.
The posse of 3 of use that was still pushing (Rich decided to stop and camp a few miles back) rolled into La Sevilla campground just before 2:00 am.  Robert and I began getting our camping gear out and preparing to grab a couple hours of sleep before the push to Tucson and up mt Lemmon.  After about 3 minutes of sitting at a picnic table reading a set of note cards she wrote for herself, Kaitlyn got up and let us know that she was off to do some more riding.  That girl was on a mission.  It takes a very driven person to get up and charge forward at 2:00 am when you are already at the perfect location to sleep.  I would never see her again, but she would later win the Women's 300 race and even came within hours of clinching the Women's record for the route, so Great Job, Kaitlyn. (plus she beat Ray Hemmele, which is all that really matters)
(don't worry readers.  As the ride goes on, my memory fades and the stories will get shorter and far less detailed)
The morning of day 2 came around far too soon.  That first sleepless night, filled with tossing and turning and far too much noise coming from the tent campers across the camp, did little to replenish my body or refresh my legs from the 120ish mile push the previous day.  Still, Robert Orr and I began to get up and pack our things to head down into Tucson for some breakfast/lunch at the safeway deli.  About the time we started getting ready to leave camp, Dillon Taylor came rolling up.  He had spent the night camping on one of the switchbacks on the downhill into colossal cave, nearly getting run over by all of us who passed by him that night!
The 3 of us rolled into Tucson, where we have determined that all there drivers are jackasses who seem to have no regard for human life (you know the kind... the ones who will pass another car in a 2 lane road coming the opposite direction straight towards bikes who are in that lane)
In Tucson, we headed off route to hit up the safeway for resupply.  This is where I discovered how bad of a mistake I made the previous day by not putting sun block on.. oops.  We ran into my Buddies Mark Allen, Mike Speer and AZT connoisseur John Schilling at the safeway on their way out to section hike one of the wilderness areas:  all of whom were quick to point out how much I had gotten sun burned the day before.
Leaving Tucson, the route heads up Redington road to Redington pass.  This road seems to be angled just perfectly to rob you of all cooling effects of the wind while allowing the sun to focus all of its strength directly on you while you climb into the world of ATVs and jeep motor heads.  I purposely took my time on the climb up Redington Road because of my experience in 2013 of having food poisoning that began boiling in my stomach on the hot climb up Redington.  I was determined to get to the top without having my stomach flip on me.  When I made it to the top of the climb, Dillon and Robert were sitting on the side of the road taking a quick break while they waited on me.  We all headed out to begin riding the insane ATV trails that eventually led us back to the arizona trail.  These ATV trails were nothing less than punishing and steep, constantly climbing, but never gaining any elevation.
We made our way to the Molino hike a bike(HAB).  I had a faint memory of the molino HAB as being not that bad.  I had made the push once before while I was sick with food poisoning and I had somehow reasoned that if I could have made the climb when I was that sick, then it must not have been that bad.  That was a very bad assumption.  That hike a bike was nothing less than terrible.  To make matters worse, I was beginning to have to ration water to make sure I could get to the solar fed water supply in the molino campground before running out.  Another surprise that I did not remember from 2013 was having to walk down half the downhill into molino basin.  There's nothing more annoying that pushing your bike up a boulder filled climb only to have to push your bike back down the other side because it is not ride-able either.
Once we got to Molino Basin, Dillon and I began our search for the solar fed water tank we had heard so much about.  When we finally found the tank, we discovered that it was locked inside a fence.  I was really starting to get mad at Arizona and the fact that they seem to try to make it impossible to get water in that state.  Not knowing if there were legal repercussions to jumping the fence to get water, we decided to proceed to attempt the Lemmon climb with what water we had left and stop on the side of the road to filter any water we would find on the way (which we never found since it was dark)
I had to slow up and let Robert and Dillon leave me behind on the road climb, since I didn't have the water required to process any calories.  Slow and steady was my plan to get me to Palasades where I had planned to get some water and continue riding into the night.  Once I got to Palasades, I was so parched from rationing my water, that I decided I needed to camp out there and get some sleep and hydration before continuing.
After 8 hours of down time, I was feeling like a new man when I woke up at Palasades.  This seemed like a popular stopping point for a lot of racers, so that made me feel slightly better about my decision to stop.
First order of business for day 3 was get get to and take down the Oracle Ridge trail.  This is the point where my experience from 2013 would end and I was somewhat looking forward to seeing new trail, but nervous about what lies ahead, given all the horror stories that are told of Oracle Ridge.
When I first started riding Oracle Ridge, my first thought was "this isn't so bad".  Shortly followed by "wow, that's a lot of exposure".  Then after about a half hour of riding sketchy, exposed trail, it seems like the trail just disappears into the bushes.  It was time to let the trail draw blood, as the only way to proceed was to push the bike straight through the brush and cacti.  Luckily, there were a couple of hikers who were taking a break up on the ridge that I could stop and have a few good laughs with, or my sanity might have been in real jeopardy.  About 15 minutes after passing the hikers, my sanity took another significant blow when one of those hikers was passing me!  how does this happen????  I felt like the trail was just wide enough for me to push my bike down the trail while I walked through the thorn bushes beside the trail.
Luckily, the Oracle Ridge Trail itself was fairly short.  Unlucky is the fact that the doubletrack that followed wasn't really any easier.  The road was chunky enough that I was walking downhill to avoid crashing... and then there's the 45 degree uphill double track.  I fear the truck that made those tracks!
There's just nothing fast about that trail as it pointlessly takes you the long way around Oracle and to the highway, which I hopped on to head back to Oracle and get some lunch.
The Oracle Patio Cafe seemed like the place to be if you are an AZT racer, so that's where I went too.  It was a great opportunity to relax in the shade and visit with other racers.  After lunch, we all headed over to the circle K before heading back to the trail.
Thankfully, a few clouds had made their way into the sky while I was in Oracle to offer me some relief from the afternoon heat.  I ended up catching up with Rick Miller and was riding with him when we saw our first gila monster of the ride.  Naturally, we took a break to take a picture, but my phone was on it's last leg, so I didn't get any pictures of my own.
Gili Monster - Photo Courtesy of Rick Miller

As with every evening out there on the 300 route, as the sun got lower and the temperatures got lower, my mood and energy seemed to improve.  Night time seems to bring me new life where I can once again mash on the pedals without the heat making my stomach boil.  The trail seemed to get faster and faster the closer I got to freeman road, and the cooler the temperatures dropped.  I came up on a gate a few miles before freeman that I thought I had to go through.  When I dismounted the bike, I swung my ankle straight into the cholla.  My achilles tendon instantly locked up.  Other than pulling what needles I could out of my leg, I wasn't sure what to do, so I figured I should just press forward and hope that it would work itself out.
The trail after freeman road seemed to be even faster than the trail leading up to it and my legs seemed to be getting stronger after stopping at freeman road to eat a Reuben sandwich that I had carried from the Patio Cafe in Oracle.  I would really like to see a picture of what this area looks like during the day time, because my mind could not quite grasp at night what this area must be like (I'm thinking flat power line trail).
The trail was fun and the miles were melting by until all the sudden, started dropping into one sandy wash after another.  The fun was instantly sucked out of my ride and the energy was sucked out of my legs.  One drop into deep sand even caused me fall off the bike and tweak my wrist (luckily only a minor sprain that would go away by morning).  Feeling zapped from pedaling in and out of the washes, I decided to call it a night right before what I presume was the Ripsey climb?
A common theme when doing these multi-day events is that every day, it seems to get more and more difficult to get up in the morning.  Day 4 was no exception to this.  I woke up feeling defeated and had developed a cough every time I tried to breathe in the dry desert air.  There's no better motivation for a bikepacking racer than to have another racer ride by your campsite as you are getting up in the morning.  The motivation that morning came in the form of Rich Otten (tupperware bikepacker).  I chased rich up the climb but I had no chance of keeping up as the trail dropped down towards the Gila river and I had to constantly dismount my bike for all the sketchy downhill and switchbacks.
Having just filled with water at the cache just before the river, I didn't feel a need to go to the trailer park and pressed onward, deeper into the Gila canyon.  I didn't make it 10 miles from Kelvin before the desert sun had me moving at a crawl and desperately searching for any shade to hide under.  I felt like I could hardly move without getting over-heated and it was forcing me to drink way more water than I had planned on.  I started looking for ways to get down to the Gila river so I could get some reprieve from the heat, and filter some additional water into my pack.  Everywhere I looked, there was a fence keeping me from getting to the river.  I started getting angry with Arizona again.  This seemed like it was yet another example of where there was water sitting right in front of me but I wasn't allowed to get to it.  Was I truly not allowed to go down to the river?  I'm not sure.  Maybe the fence was just to keep cattle out of the river? either way, I did not have a good feeling about going down there not knowing for sure if I was allowed.  So I pressed on away from the river.  Even as the evening began to fall, I was still over-heated and still hiding under thorny bushes to escape the sun.  I had convinced myself that I could nap in the afternoon heat and just ride later into the night to make up for lost time.  What this theory didn't account for is the amount of water I was consuming just laying out there in the heat.  I had somehow used up all but about a liter of the 7 liters I was carrying before I had even gotten to the climb out of the canyon.  I think I was consuming so much water because the dry air had caused my nose to become a blood clotted mess that meant every bit of dry air was coming through my mouth and drying out my throat.  By this point, both Alice Drobna and Rick Miller had passed me.  I had briefly mentioned to Alice as she was passing me that I was going to be running pretty low on water.  I didn't mention just how low I was going to be running, because I did not want her to be tempted to give up any of hers.
After making the big climb out of the canyon, I started seeing some promising waypoints coming up on my garmin.  Anything with the words "tank" or "springs" would get my hopes up.  However, the 'tank's were just dried up mud ponds.  Therefore, my next point of interest became 'Trough Springs'.  This sounds promising, right? well, when I got to the point on the garmin, it turned out to be off route.  Was it worth going off route to get water? yes.  But was it worth going off route for a water source that I wan unsure about? not it my mind.  I knew I could make it to superior without water from where I was at since the sun was down and the temperatures had dropped, so I wasn't willing to risk wasting time without water to chase something that might not even have water.  About 6 miles from picketpost, I was just cresting a climb when I hear a voice coming from ahead of me "Do you need some water?".  I was in amazement.  There was no sweater sound to my ears in that moment than those words.  It turns out, that voice was from a girl named Chance, who was thru-hiking the grand enchantment trail and had ran into Alice earlier in the evening and Alice had told her that I was running low on water.  Thanks Chance and Thanks Alice!
After drinking a bottle of Chance's water, I was revitalized and ready to knock out that next 6 miles of trail to finish up the 300 mile route and start heading out on the roads towards Phoenix so I could start climbing out of the desert and into the pines the next day!  As I promised myself, I gave it a good push that night and was able to make it to the other side of Apache Junction before camping on the side of the road.
Day 5, I packed up and headed out to goldfield ghost town in hopes that I might find someplace to grab some water and breakfast, as I had ridden right past all my resupply options the night before.  I was able to find a spigot for water, but nothing was open there till 9:00 am, so I hit the road to keep with the notion of 'relentless forward progress'.  I was not really expecting to be blown away by any of the sights on the Apache trail, or any of the road detour for that matter, so I was completely surprised by the scenery at canyon lake as well as all the lake views on the way up the Apache Trail.

Canyon Lake

A short climb and a quick downhill after passing Canyon Lake let me to an old western town called the Tortilla Flats.  There was a line forming at the door of the local restaurant, as they were 15 minutes from opening.  This gave me just enough time to apply some much needed sun screen before going in to devour an omelet filled with chili (so good) and getting a cinnamon roll to go.
It was amazing how easy all the proceeding climbs leading up to Roosevelt dam seemed after actually having a real meal in my stomach to give me energy.  I highly recommend everyone who lives in the phoenix area should ride the Apache Trail section at some point.  Even though it is dirt roads instead of trail, it has some of the best scenery of the entire route and the traffic was virtually non existent, which made for a great ride.
Roosevelt Bridge

Pedaling on the shoulder of the highway made for some fast/easy miles, which were very welcomed after the past 4 days of pedaling/pushing on brutal trails.  Great progress and positive thoughts... until POP, HISS.  It took me a moment of disbelief to realize that after pedaling hundreds of miles for days through trail that is littered with sharp, jagged rocks and cacti that I had just somehow sliced my tire riding along an asphalt shoulder.  After inspecting the damage, something had sliced the tire straight across the entire tread face.  The only fix was to throw a tube in, then gorilla tape the tire back together with the tube inside.  Realizing that there was a bike shop in Payson, I called them to see how late they were open.  They close in 1.5 hours at 5:30... I think I can make it.  Little did I know, just how much work I had left to do before reaching Payson.  I was digging deep and pushing hard to hammer out that road section and get to that bike shop before they close.  Then all the sudden, the route crosses over to the west side of hwy 87 and I look up and realize just how much jeep road climbing I had to do to get there.  At this point, I was running out of steam and had to accept the fact that I wasn't making it to Payson in time.  I climbed from desert to pines and arrived in Payson just as the sun was going down.  I turned on my phone to make sure no major events were taking place back at home and the first thing I see on my phone is a text from Jeremy at 87 Cycles in Payson saying that he will be there to fix my tire!  After a mexican dinner and a visit to the bike shop to get my rig back into working order, I was off in hopes of making it to Pine, az.
it's only 20 miles of mostly dirt roads that separates Payson from Pine.  How long could it possibly take?
Well, the answer to that question shocked me.
This section of the route was, without a doubt, the biggest physical and emotional blow of the entire ride.  I suspect it is because these were 'detour' miles so I was anticipating these to be somewhat easy miles.  Well, there's no easy miles to be had in this section.  It was dark and cold and I was exhausted from a hard day's effort, but from what I remember, these dirt roads are all fall line roads, many of which were too steep to ride up.  I even walked down a couple of the downhills because they seemed too sketchy to ride in my current mindset (which now I learned that Tanner Morgan went down on one of these descents!).  When I dropped into the valley where the tonto natural bridge is at, it was SOOOOO cold down there.  I was cold and tired and needed a place to sleep, but all I saw everywhere I looked was private property signs so I wasn't feeling very welcomed anywhere.  Then I saw a trail magic cooler next to a driveway.  I decided to sleep at this driveway since I didn't feel like the owners of a trail magic cooler would pose any threat to a bikepacker.  I woke up the next morning to the home owners offering me some coffee and offering to let me use their bathroom.  They are great people who I hope other future racers get the chance to meet when they roll through there.  They are actually the people who have the trail log book that Scott Morris talks about in his blog about their 750 tour last year, so their house is right before you get to the log book.
Camping spot (photo courtesy of Rick (trail steward)

Right after their house, the trail turns from dirt roads to bushwhacking trail for the next 3 miles or so.  These were some of the most difficult miles of the whole trail. My legs were already so cut up from cacti and brush on the 300, that this extra bushwhacking was just adding insult to injury on my lower legs.
I was dreading the Highline trail after all the horror I have heard about, but I was surprised to find that it was actually 90% rideable.  The miles were not easy by any means, but if your head is in the right place, you could actually have a lot of fun riding that section.  There are some sedona like burms and evens some amazing views once you do those couple HAB pushes from the bottom to get you up onto the Highline itself.
Once I exited off of Highline and start climbing the rim on the powerline trail and got near the top, the garmin track crosses into the woods to the right of the powerline.  I could not find where that trail was over there, so I went back and made that evil push straight up the powerline trail.  When I finally got to the top, I saw the trail that the garmin was leading to and this trail would have been SO much easier to get to the top.  Perhaps it might have been handy to have a higher res gps track in this section so I could find this trail.
I was so beat from the final push to the top of the rim up that near vertical powerline trail that I bivy'd up before the sun even went down that day.  I awoke that next morning to the sound of wild turkeys.  The condensation from my breath was completely frozen inside my bivy.... This was awesome for me.  It meant I had finally escaped the heat that has oppressed me for the past 5 days of my life!
Although I was on the top of the rim, where everyone had promised me that the trail would get easy, it was still quite difficult with a lot of pushing up until I reached hwy 87.  I took a slight detour on hwy 87 to go to the spigot at the ranger station, since my water filter was frozen and unable to process water from the stream that morning.
When I returned to ride the trail to the north of 87, I was pleased to find that it was finally fast and easy.  This was the beginning of the Arizona Trail becoming a fast and constant mix of double track starts (this will be common all the way to the south rim with a few exceptions)
I was in disbelief of how many elk herds I ran into that day between blue ridge and flagstaff (simply amazing display of wildlife)
I rolled into double springs campground to find Robert Orr frantically looking at cue sheets to try to figure out where he was in respect to Flagstaff and if he should go back to Mormon Lake or push forward to Flagstaff.  The Spigot was off, as expected, but the trail crosses a stream right before you roll into the campground, so filtering water without having to detour into town is super easy.
I ended up making use of the dumpster at the double springs campground to dump about 15 lbs worth of food that I had carried from the border and could not see myself eating (now I'm kicking myself, wondering how fast I could have gone if I wasn't carrying pointless weight)
I left double springs feeling like I had a supercharged engine after dropping all that extra weight.  To add to that, I was feeding off the adrenaline of knowing I had just passed one of the riders who I had let slip away 3 days prior!
This momentum only lasted me about 10 minutes before I tore out a sidewall on my rear tire and had to stop to sew it back together.  When Robert Orr passed me, he was kind enough to lend me some of his gorilla tape to aide in my repair since I had used all mine on my highway repair and to repair my shoes which I tore the treads off of on the Highline trail. Luckily, I was able to keep the tire tubeless: and it held all the way to utah!
Flagstaff was a great place to get a room and get one last sleep recharge before the final push to the finish.
Flagstaff was also a great place to restart on my food supply since I had literally just thrown everything away at double springs campground.  I decided that a flat of cinnamon rolls and case of apple fritters was just what the dr ordered to get me to utah.
That trail out of flagstaff the next morning was great.  It was so fun and so flowy: even though it was a 2000' climb.
Trail leaving flagstaff climbing towards the snow bowl.

There was actually quite a bit of snow and mud up on the north side of the snow bowl, so the downhill free-ride was severely hampered by sessions of walking around muddy trails or tires getting buried up in snow.
Near the high point of the trail.  Arizona Snow Bowl

Looking back towards the San Francisco Peaks after descending.

Once the trail turned to double track, I was completely in my element.  It was full on road biker in aero bars mode.  I was going so fast through some of those sections that I knew that I had to be putting huge gaps on racers behind me and eating up huge gaps on racers in front of me.  I knew I was making great time, but didn't realize how good of time I was making until I caught up with Aaron Denberg and he told me how much gap I closed on him that morning.  Finally! Trail where I wouldn't get left behind on some technical/sketchy downhill!
One mental mistake I had made was to let myself believe that the "grand view trailhead" must be close to where I am going in Tusayan.  This didn't really hurt me other than the emotional let down when I got there and figured out how much further I had left to go before I was going go get dinner at a mexican restaurant.
The trail out of Tusayan towards the rim was much slower than I had expect and was making me mad because the trail is hard to follow and seems to disappear and reappear without notice.
Once I dropped into the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I put my headphones in and tuned out the world.  I just wanted to stay awake till the sun got up and cover as much ground as possible while the temperature was down for the night.
Dropping into the Grand Canton.  Just after midnight.

By the time I got to the cottonwood campground, it was already light out and my pack seemed to be getting exponentially heavier by the minute.  When I started climbing, I started questioning if my legs had the strength to make the climb with all that weight and my sleepless brain didn't seem to have the ability to balance myself with that weight.  I started wondering if I was going to have to figure out a way to lighten my load.  I had planned on getting shoes and trekking poles from the post office and shipping all my camping gear back home so I didn't have to carry it: but since I did not want to wait on the post office to open, I was hiking in cycling shoes and carrying all the weight I planned to send home.  About 4 miles from the top, I started wondering if any backpackers would be interested in a free sleep system.  I was asking myself if a lighter load was worth giving away $350 worth of camping gear and had convinced myself that it was more than worth it if that's what it would take for me to be able to finish this race.  However, I didn't seem to ever get passed by any backpackers coming by, only trail runners.  And I figured a trail runner wouldn't want to carry my sleeping system any more than I did, so I just suffered through it and kept pushing on.  I wanted to take breaks so bad, but the breaks were never worth the effort of taking the bike off and getting it back on my back, as well as the time I knew I was losing by taking those breaks.
Death march to the North Rim.

When I finally reached the north rim, a group of trail runners was happy to help me get the bike off my back as well as share a few good laughs with me about all the suffering that had taken place in that canyon that night.
My legs were trashed at the top (I never hike) and I wondered if I was even going to be able to pedal my bike.  To my amazement, after taking an hour or so to collect myself, I could still pedal my bike, even though I was unable to walk "I hope there isn't much HAB on that last segment" I told myself.
Eventually I made my way down to Jacob Lake Inn for dinner, after which, I set out to KO the last segment of trail.  I was so mad at this last segment of trail because I thought it was supposed to be downhill but it didn't seem to want to make this easy for me.  The trail seemed to want to break down what was left of my soul and leave me empty and without the will to finish the ride.  There was something about the soil, small rock mixed with fine sand, that just seemed to suck every ounce of energy out of my canyon fried legs with every uphill.  I kept remembering how Ray Hemmele told me that John Schilling said that the trail was all downhill.  But yet, everytime I hit a downhill, it seemed to be succeeded by an uphill that would take me right back to the elevation I was at before the downhill. "downhill my ass" I kept saying to myself.  To make matters worse, the trail kept disappearing and leaving me to consult my garmin to figure out where it went.
After a couple hours of this emotional abuse, the trail finally crested the hill that overlooks the finish.  Then, after way too many switchbacks, it finally led me to the finish line where my buddies Mark and Mike were anxiously awaiting me (actually, they were fast asleep in their tent).

I remember telling myself at least 1000 times during that ride that I never want to do that ride again in my life because it sucked and was so hard in so many ways.  But by the time I got to the end, I started wondering how well I could have done had packed lighter and planned a few things a little differently.  I feel like I wasted so much time and left so much time out on the course.  And it doesn't help knowing that my setup weighed SO much more than the rest of the front runners.
Will I be back?  I'm not sure.  But there is something inside that really wants to know how fast I could do it.  Does it want it bad enough to come back and do all that suffering again?  Only time will tell, I guess.


  1. That last section is 'mostly' downhill!! Mostly. :) Well done sir!!

    1. Perhaps my perception of what 'downhill' is was skewed after the canyon hike? all I know is everything feels like work by that time.

  2. Good write up. Robert Orr is a buddy and I just talked to him today about his race, so I enjoyed reading your account.

  3. Great job! Lots of dedication and hard work.

  4. I just read this an am inspired��

    1. I'm glad this post could offer some inspiration for whatever your next journey may hold!