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Racing, riding and adventure by bike

2013 AZTR 300 day 1

Right; enough with the flowery self indulgent AZT wrap up. Instead, this is the full ride report with photos and stuff that everyone is really interested in rather than me just moaning and feeling sorry for myself.

Firstly, from an archive sense for people googling AZTR blogs in years to come – I set out for the full meal deal. It didn’t come off and instead I pulled the pin at the end of the 300 and these are my experiences:

Day 1 started early in the morning. The alarm went off sometime shortly after 4 am and Rich Wolf and I cobbled our things together for our ride out to the start line. The absolute legends at Sun ‘n’ spokes took us out for dinner and drinks the night before and then rolled up to drive us the hour out to the border for the 630am start. I can’t thank those guys enough. Not only are they are really great group, but they also have a really nice bike shop. If you’re heading out on the AZTR, don’t write off Sierra Vista for getting last minute gear – they have a great store and can help out. I was expecting a town full of tumble weed so was really surprised when I discovered it’s a thriving little town.

 

The ride to the start line confirmed one thing – it was cold. I’m pretty sure in one of the hollows on the drive I saw 40F on the cars temp guage and it would have only been 5F warmer at the border.  I got changed into lycra at the last possible minute and gave my jeans and shirt to the shop for rags and was wishing I had decided to bring leg warmers with  me while we posed for the obligatory start line photos.

 

The border

In Mexico

I did the illegal border jumping move and posed for a photo in mexico before again jumping the border fence and riding off the start. How can you go all the way to the border and not be able you’ve stood in Mexico?

The 750 starters

As you’d expect in such a long ride, the pace off the start was pretty leisurely. We noodled along up the first climb and started to string out as the miles ticked over. Someone forgot to tell Sean Allen and Aaron Denberg however. Those two took off smashing in the big ring at the first flat fire road section. I figured that would be the last I would see of them.

Obligatory 'selfie' near the start

We had a quick navigational head scratcher at the first single track junction where the GPS file made the turn appear to be much earlier than it was and we rode around in circles for a while looking for how to pick up the trail.

At the Parker Lake Trail head, we paused briefly to try and figure out the etiquette – do we just keep rolling through or do we hang around and head out with the 300 riders in an hours time? We elected to keep rolling through, sitting around for an hour didn’t sound like much fun.

The batteries in my spot were also flat. I had a spare set of lithiums I had been carrying around for who knows how long and so I put them in the spot at Parker Lake. Nope. They were dead too. Hmm – batteries at Patagonia then.

About  2 (ish) hours after leaving parker lake, Aaron Gully went past like a bat out of hell. It was one of those – i’m going backwards moments as he scorched through at XCO race pace on a completely unladen bike while I was grovelling along like a fat kid at summer camp (For the record, Aaron went on to finish in 2 days and 4 hours and set a new record).

I’d heard people refer to the Canello Hills as rough going and they weren’t overstating things. Lots of HAB. Lots of sandy washes (to become a recurrent theme on the AZTR) and lots of punchy climbs.

Get off and push

 

I spent some time ‘riding walking with Aaron Boatman and Jason Murrell. They were making slightly better time than me so I let the pedal hike away, content to take things at my own pace. A couple of hours later, I came back into contact with Jason again when we both talked each other into a nav error. We chatting away and came to a locked gate. We both lifted our bikes over, only to immediately realize that we were off track and had to lift it back over again. To make matters better, we left a nice set of tyre tracks in the sandy wash where I’m sure we probably suckered quite a few other people into that same move. Dave – I know we got you 😉

About mile 20 there was a mishap. My brand new camera ejected from my chaff bag after i neglected to close it properly after the last photo op. I doubled back to pick it up and was hopeful for a few scratches at worst. Instead, the camera was toast. The lens wouldn’t extend/retract and it was completely inoperable. Damn it. Thankfully it was a cheapy camera, however I was still suitably annoyed.

The next to catch me were Chad Brown and Pete Basinger. They were motoring along nicely (actually, I had an hours head start on them so they were indeed motoring!) and still riding most things while I was off and pushing, trying to save the legs for what was to come. I tacked onto them as we descended onto the road into Patagonia and then peeled off to grab some food at the General Store. I had some peanut butter museli bars and some fudge brownie things with me still but I wasn’t really liking either of them so I bought something or other to choke down and then headed on up the road towards Sonoita.

I burned myself a bit too much trying to chase down Jason who I could see just up the road. I caught onto Chad and Dave’s wheel and eventually Dave and I moved away and had a chat as we continued to climb towards Sonoita. Dave was running single speed and was absolutely smashing it on the road section. He’s a strong guy.

Sonoita – I was feeling like crap. I’d been coughing up some ugly green lung boogers all morning and a coughing fit just before hitting town left me feeling like I was going to throw up. At one point, I had to leave the store  because I thought I was going to yak all over the floor. I bought some ‘real food’ here: An egg and mayo sandwhich and a small burrito to carry with me along with my own body weight in Gatorade and I choked down some sort of food  before rolling out of town and a bit behind Dave.

The memorable bit of this stop was Neil arriving with a sagged fork asking if I had a shock pump. I pointed at my rigid fork and shrugged. He eventually tracked down one but all the pressures looked good, something had gone ugly internally and he was out of luck. This is memorable as he managed to ride the blown fork for the rest of the day. Ride into Tuscon the next morning. Buy a new fork and still finish ahead of me. What a legend.

I chugged along in a fairly unhappy place. I wasn’t feeling it. I really wasn’t enjoying the ride very much so far and the stupid cough was only getting worse. I couldn’t seem to find any flow and so I just went forward hoping/knowing things would always get better. Not a good way to start a long race. Especially when you’ve flown half way around the world to get to the start line. Never the less, some days are really hard to get in the right head space.

Ezster joined me for about half an hour and I fed her my story of woe. Not cool Ross, not cool. If you feel shite, keep it to yourself. Geez, Just smile and make conversation. Eventually, Ez tired of me harshing her unicorn and rainbow laden buzz and dropped me hard on the next bit of sniggle. She was unbelievably strong given that she was backing up from Iditabike and she went on to crush the womens record for the AZTR 300.

The last half of the Santa Rita mountains (I think) was really good. It had some excellent pieces of single track and  I was really enjoying being on the bike for the first time all day. I was awestruck by the views as I popped out onto a fireroad overlooking distants mountains. The iphone Pano doesn’t even being to do it justice. I was digging the view so much that I missed the next AZT junction and continued to bomb down the lumpy fire road for another half mile before realizing I’d blown it and had to turn around and climb back up. At least the view was nice.

I really enjoyed the sniggle through until Kentucky Camp. It was a lovely time of the early evening to be riding and I bumped into Ray at KC when I topped up my Camel Back. To be honest, I had no idea how far I was going to make it in a day on the AZT so I had set Kentucky Camp to be my minimum distance. Anything past there was a bonus. So to be filling water still in daylight was a huge psychological boost.

I decided to eat some real food and broke out the egg sandwhiches. After being in my bag for the better part of 4 hours, the packaging was all distended and I decided it to play it safe and skip them. Thank god I did. I later read a report of someone who did eat them who got pretty sick so I think I dodged a bullet there.

afternoon perfection

 

 

As the trail got dark, the going got tough. The trail through the Las Colinas was increasingly becoming climb-descend-repeat as it wound it’s way through some fairly tough terrain and there was cactus and loose babyhead rocks everywhere. I was pin balling around and making some bad line choices and generally riding like a muppet. I was trying to look after the tyres as sharp rocks were in the forefront of my mind.

Probably about 8 or 9 pm I bumped into Dave playing with a cut tyre ( It turns out he was sewing a side wall) and then shortly afterwards, I came across Sean Allen in a world of hurt. Unfortunately, he’d taken a massive OTB and landed right in the middle of a Prickly Pear. He was filled with spines that weren’t coming out in places that were very sensitive. His race was over. I asked if there was anything I could do but there wasn’t, he was going to painfully hobble through to a road and drop from the race. All I could do was keep on pedalling however his crash was playing on my mind a bit as I continued on into the night. I’d had a couple of step off’s already and even something so simple in the wrong place could mean an arse full of spines.

Sean eventually came across a border patrol car who dropped him into town and he visited the ER and had several painful hours as the needles were extracted from his sorry person.

The chunky up/downs ultimately were replaced with some awesome flowy, buff trail that was just spin and grin. It was slightly downhill and just carving corners around cactus. It went on like that seemingly forever and made for such a nice respite after the hammering I took in the Las Colinas.

I spent quite a bit of time through this section trying to remember where riders of previous years 750’s had ridden too. I thought I remembered Jill had made it to around the I-10 underpass. I knew that was around the 100 mile mark so figured it would be a good place to pull up for the night. Even though it was still early (about 22:30), I figured I would be better off riding in daylight than crashing into prickly pear as a sleep deprived  zombie. Besides, I wanted to resupply in Tuscon the next morning so wanted to leave a nice warm up ride so that when I arrived, everything would be open.

The temps were oscillating between warm (I was still just riding in a jersey, arm warmers and nicks) to freaking freezing as I dropped down into low lying gulleys. I decided I would pick my bivvy spot by a combination of a) flat ground and b) warmth. Unfortunately, the two seemed to be mutually exclusive. The flat sections were always in the low areas and the warm parts were always on off camber ridge lines. I eventually found somewhere that looked good enough and rolled off the edge of the trail amongst the prickly pear and pulled in for the night about halfway between the Sonoita Hwy and the I-10.

I swept a spot clear of rock with my hand, rolled out the tvek ground sheet, neo-air and sleeping bag and fell asleep under the shooting stars no more than 10 meters from the side of the trail. I awoke once to the sound of coyotes howling far too close for comfort and then awoke about 5am to my phone alarm for day 2.

 

 

I peeled off and

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