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Adventures on a bike; sometimes on foot

2013 AZTR: What worked & what didn’t

Here’s a few thoughts about what I got right and what I got wrong:

The stuff I got right:

1. Tyres – Maxis Ardent EXO 2.4 up front. Maxis Crosmark LUST 2.1 out the back. Rock solid. Zero tyre issues – The AZT is no place for light weigh racer boy tyres.  I ran my tyres pretty soft (18-20 psi in the front and about 23-25 psi in the rear) which seems to go against local advice however I got away with it and didn’t cut either tyre. I did stupidly remove the mother of all thorns from the front tyre which hosed sealant for a while but that was operator error.

2. Rigid – I made the right call to stick with what I normally ride rather than putting on a squishy fork just for this race. Rigid wasn’t a handicap if it is what you are used to.

3. K-lite Dynamo front light. I love that thing – there I said it! It didn’t make a whole lot of light in the chunky stuff but the standlight meant I could spool it up on the faster bits and then get by on the standlight when it slowed down and my dehydrated brain couldn’t forget to have fresh batteries. Make sure you have a supplementary helmet light for the HAB though.

4. Bike Bag Dude frame bag – awesome and robust. I stuffed it to bursting point and it was rock solid. It held more than my medium sized frame had any right to fit.

5. Warm clothes. I tossed and turned about whether I had the right mix. I erred on the side of taking more than I thought I needed and ended up using it all when bivvying at the top of Oracle ridge.

6. 40 degree bag with a SOL bivvy to cut the wind if needed. I had a tarp in case it rained but didn’t use it. I’d still take the tarp in future for a 750 because being able to self rescue is a big deal.

7. Fitness – I was’t the fittest I’ve ever been but i wasn’t far away from it. Running out of legs was never the problem.

8. Pear Izumi X-alp shoes. They worked great for the mixed riding/hiking i encountered. I have some numb toes on my left foot since i push with the bike on my right hand side and it was my drive side leg- so to speak.


The stuff I got wrong:

1. Trail knowledge. I deliberately went into the ride a little underprepared as i didn’t want to take the spontaneitiy and adventure out of the race. That was a bad call. There is still plenty of adventure to be had while still knowing how much to buy and when.

2. Water filter. I only took aquatabs. My advice to anyone looking at doing this race is put water filter on your list right after bullet proof tyres. Being able to utilise more trail side water means you can run a lighter bike which is much kinder to things like knees.

3. Backpack – I used my regular camelback and I was a bit short of space for fitting in extra food. I needed to be able to cram in some light weight but bulky food items.  Next time i’ll be rocking an Osprey Talon 22.

4. Not sleeping on it before pulling the pin. I should have had a good 8 hours sleep and some anti inflammatories before deciding whether to press on or not.

5. Breaking my camera 15 miles into the race – bonehead move.

6. Having a loving wife in the country and a sense of being on holidays in the lead up to the race. My head was never in the right place to start the ride and I struggled from day 1. I would have felt very differently about the race if I had a sense of “well what else do have I have to do but ride?”.  Next time I’ll plan the lead up very differently.

7. Not being an ambi-pusher. Whenever I was pushing my bike I always pushed from the non-drive side. My left knee got sore and my left toes went numb since it was my driving leg. Next time I need to alternate pushing from both sides of the bike.

8. Believing in unicorns, rainbows and the magic of the desert. True, the desert is quite magical for about 2 hours a day. Sunrise and sunset. Through the rest of the day it is a monotone of rocks, spines and heat so be prepared to enter ground hog day and make peace with that before you arrive. Having been there once, and being for-armed with lowered expectations, I’ll probably marvel in the subtlety next time around and fall in love. Either that or I’ll be stuck talking to rocks in the midday sun again.


So why exactly did I drop out?

Umm, I’m still scratching my head over that one. I think it was a perfect storm of about 7 things that convinced me:

1.The knee pain was real and I was genuinely worried about it, however I don’t think it was as bad as I had convinced myself while on the trail. Knees get sore when doing this sort of thing. It doesn’t mean the sky is falling in.

2. I had been sick for a few days before starting and never felt ‘right’ the whole time. It was playing on my mind a lot.

3. Getting badly dehydrated at the end of day 2 made me very nervous about getting into trouble in a less forgiving spot. At least I was on a highway and could have thrown myself into traffic to get assistance if needed – unlike the middle of the desert.

4. Not having a water filter was stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t ever ride AZT without one kids.

5. Bumping into Jason and getting the offer of a ride out from the end of the 300 suddenly sounded very appealing. If I didn’t have an escape option, I probably would have sat around at picket post for 20 minutes feeling sorry for myself and then continued on down the road.

6. Too much of a holiday vibe before the race. After months of solid training, to stop riding for a while and wander around a foreign city was a breath of fresh air. It was impossible to get back into the ‘zone’ for the start.

7. I was being a sooky la la. Normally when I do these sorts of things I’m really positive and really enjoy it. This time I was just a sook.


“So did I hear you say next time?” You may ask.

Hells yes. I’ll be there in 2014. Much like a sneaky ball of cholla, the AZT has gotten under my skin. I’ll work at all the things I did wrong. I’ll squirrel away the money for the airfares and in 12 months time I’ll be freezing my arse off at the border again looking for redemption. Until then, there are a lot of things to look forward to. Big HuRT is coming around fast, GDT can’t come soon enough and GSB/Kiwi Brevet are on for 2014. It’s a great time to have a bike and  sleeping bag!


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