Starting to feel a bit recovered from last weekend’s Fat Pursuit up in Idaho. It was a taxing 125 miles through the snow globe. So much wind, fresh snow, and warm temps made it a difficult trudge and that made this old body hurt. It was a good time up there, seeing friends, making new ones, pushing my mind and body, learning so much, and being outside in winter is always special.
I got asked a lot during the race weekend, “Hey Jefe, What’s Next?” As an endurance athlete, I get this a lot. Folks are curious, they want to hear about some wild crazy hard ride that is out there. I am usually cooking something up and setting my sights on a target down the road. Right now I am actually 100% not sure what is next. I didn’t answer truthfully to most folks, as right now it is time to find more work and that racing is gonna have to take a back seat for a bit. I just didn’t want to go there, so I just evaded the question. I am a bit embarrassed to be honest, I wish I was focused on training for the next thing.
Instead I got to find a job! It was amazing getting to be my daughter’s caretaker this summer and fall, I wouldn’t trade that time with her for anything, butt only working part time didn’t put any money in the bank. Then I was sick for a good bit of November, in December the bike shop was super slow and I missed out on much work for a couple months. Bottom line is our finances are not good right now and my family doesn’t need that stress. I am not excited about my prospects for employment, but that is reality right now. Believe it or not but racing bikes doesn’t do anything to add to the bank account, even with an amazing sponsor it costs a good bit to do events!
I am still looking at a couple races this summer, still hoping for way to register for ITI in 2023?!?! For now the bucket list has to wait, while I buckle down and put some money in the bank.
Have to admit that I am often a mess. I am full of anxiety and so much of it. I am stressed out and in general doing a poor job of processing my stress. Being a parent and husband is by far the hardest thing I have done and I do it everyday. All the adventures, races, all those cold, dark, scary epics seem easy in comparison. Partially because those were mostly dealing with me, and once I dwelled deep into my head, that wasn’t so bad.
I have also been in this head space of hurry up and get er done. Most of my racing was done with this mindset and it works well for getting from point A to B quickly. Still I wasn’t always “there”, in that I was looking for the next checkpoint, the next top of the climb, the next time split. Always hurrying along in racing, adventures, and in life too. This mindset has made life in many ways more difficult.
Right now I am training, or trying to train, for winter ultra’s on a bike. I have been captivated by winter travel for decades and the bike has lead me to wanting to take it to another level. The ultimate goal is the ITI in Alaska. I have been mildly obsessed with this ride for way too long and I am working on getting there next year. The path to this has been so long and I am now feeling glad that it is Nowthat I am getting close. In some ways this sounds silly, I was so much stronger in past years. I hiked, skied, and biked so much more, I was fit and strong, but I was still rushing through it all. One thing I kept reading about in doing winter ultras was folks saying don’t sweat. Don’t work so hard that you soak yourself, and stop as needed to adjust layers. As simple as it sounds it went against my entire racing experience of grit your teeth, deal with the discomfort and get er done. While there is still plenty of grit and determination needed, there is also this primary need to listen and be smart.
Thank goodness we can always evolve! It is hard, but I am rewiring myself in this process to be more attentive to my body, to listen to the winds, and to take action. Through the simple act of stopping to take off a layer before it is too late, or the reverse, I am changing my ways on and off the bike.
The other morning I was out for a quick ride while the girls slept. The stars were out and shining strong and bright. The air was cold, but my systems were working and I was warm, and dry! Normally my head is filled with disquiet for the first hour or so of a ride, all the noisy demands of life still intruding on my headspace till the meditative settles in. This morning it felt so great to be pedaling. Still I stopped for second to look at the sky, as it was calling to me. The stars were just amazing, it seemed like complete silence took over, I swear I wasn’t even breathing as I took it all in. It felt different out there that morning, I felt different. I didn’t want this short ride to end, I didn’t want to stop, and I somehow wanted to take my family along with me to experience this. I wanted to take the whole world with me to feel this. It really is impossible to explain how important and fulfilling it is to be out there, taking in this amazing beautiful world we all share, all while traveling along on a personal journey that means so much to me. Powerful indeed.
I have been reflecting on this and all the rest of my life, it is all rolled up into a huge ball! There are so many times when I feel desperate and feel like this path I am on is too much. I can feel the stress I cause my family. I need to be working more. It is so hard to balance it all and often I fail, but I don’t want to give up on this crazy dream. Moments like the one I had the other morning remind me that maybe it is worth the struggle, the problem is, is it worth the stress to my family? Hard to answer that honestly, and wish they knew how much it means to me. I really wish I could share the immense feelings I get while out there sometimes, I am hoping to find a way to do so in the future. Always more work to do, but we can make magic out of our messes if we focus and keep trying.
I wrote a post yesterday and a good friend commented that we are always evolving in reference to the sentence I wrote about spending a big chunk of the year taking care of my child, “I wasn’t working towards any personal goals, I wasn’t evolving as a person.”. I can see the wisdom in what he said. We are always growing and learning. I still feel like I wasn’t evolving personally. I was so focused on taking care of everyone else and numbing myself to hide the lack of personal growth from myself. I believe that to evolve we must take the learn knowledge and do something with it, that is the growth that makes us better.
This start of a conversation reminded me that I used to say “Hard is not Bad”. I think we humans are fully capable of doing incredibly hard and difficult things, history is full of this, we are here cause someone in our ancestry was tough, smart, cunning, and able to endure. I also think we humans are very attracted to easy and soft, we are especially drawn to this when pushed by other things in our lives. I can see how when my child was born and I was crushing myself working so hard, trying to make up for the fact that I didn’t have much money, or a great paying job, by working harder and longer, doing as many chores as I could, trying so hard to get ahead in any way I knew. I did all those things, but I was also drinking and smoking a lot. I was numbing myself any time I wasn’t working hard. I was trying to soften my life where I could.
Luckily I snapped out of the drinking thing little over a year ago. One of those things you look back on and wonder what the actual fuck was I doing. But I will admit I was still smoking too much, I was still unable to face my reality and instead was numbing myself to get by. It hurts to admit it all to myself, but I was unhappy about my life. I felt disconnected from my dreams, I felt wholly consumed by my responsibilities, and trapped with child and chores. Instead of getting to the roots of these problems, I continued to numb myself just to get by. Well all the experiences of life were building up in me. The big rides I did this year really did open my mind and fill it with ideas and energy. This bubbled up and leaked through the walls I tried to contain them within. I really do want more and I really am willing to face all this negative energy I was hiding away. Hard isn’t bad, in fact dealing with the hard things allows us to take all we have learned and use it to grow, excel, evolve. All I can say is Hell Yay.
Life has been crazy for a while. It is really hard to describe how much everything changes when you make a tiny human and they send it home with you. It is freaking intense, for one you don’t sleep and I mean it is true, it has been over 2.5 years since I got regular sleep. That alone tweaks your life and leaves you drained and unprepared for everything else. You also, all of a sudden, have a shit ton more responsibility. Long gone are those days of feeding myself and a dog or two, squeezing by with everything else. Combined with marriage and owning a house it is a lot to take care of and I am that guy that puts most of this before myself. I worked hard for the first 2 years while doing so much else, like parenting, chores, house improvements, and trying to stay on the bike as much as I could. It was exhausting to say the least.
This summer I took on the role of primary care giver for our child, only working part time and spending most days learning and exploring with my little girl. While sometimes hard, it was mostly awesome. She is a very special human and getting to be with her and see her grow and expand is simply the best. Some of the best time spent, but I wasn’t doing much else besides parenting, working a few days a week, and doing chores. I wasn’t working towards any personal goals, I wasn’t evolving as a person.
I did manage to get out on a few big bike adventures this season, an ITT of the AZT300, the CTR, and impromptu ITT of the Gunny Loopy Loop Shortie, well to be honest they were all more or less, off the couch. These were amazing experiences for me, it is very powerful to be on the bike for any period of time. The longer the ride, the deeper my brain goes, the more I explore myself. I came out of these with lots of ideas and energy to do more on and off the bike. Sometimes coming home to my crazy busy, sleep deprived life, much of that energy and ideas would get lost and left un-nurtured. I also went into these events without much prep. I headed to AZ for my 300 ride after only hatching the idea 2 weeks prior. The CTR and the Loopy I did 100% off experience, I didn’t train, I had hardly enough time to get my gear together.
I still have some big ideas and goals. I want to race the ITI is Alaska pretty bad, been in my head for almost 20 years. It also terrifies me and that is something I like most about it, learning to be prepared for something a bit scary and new makes me excited. Part of my journey to ITI is more winter riding and racing and I amazing to be ready for JP’s Fat Pursuit in January. After some good long talks I can feel my family behind me on this and that feels good. It sounds so small and funny, but making that mind switch to making this goal a reality and not just on the back burner, is immensely gratifying and empowering. On a quick ride yesterday I felt the trail extending outward and onward, a step along the path towards my dreams. Tinkering in the garage getting my Big Iron dialed in for riding on snow, (Hopefully some snow, still dry as a hell here), felt purposeful and rewarding. I am excited, I am very much looking forward to this journey and what comes of all that mind space that comes with these amazing experiences.
2022 is still over a month away and winter has yet to even hit Colorado, but there has been a lot of interest in the 2022 CTR already. So instead of waiting till the first of the year to get the info out there, gonna get it out there right away so folks can start to plan.
The Group Start for the 2022 CTR is going to be Sunday, August 14th, 4:AM, Waterton Canyon TH/North Terminus of the CT. Group Start will again be limited to 74 riders. There will be no official registration as this is not an official race, same as last year. Trackleaders will be used to keep track of the majority of riders, as it seems most folks want to be tracked, folks not wanting to be tracked can of course get a spot in the Group Start. None Of This Will Take Place till sometime the end of June!!! Please do not contact me to get on a list till June. Be patient, Keep Planning and Training, but there will be no Registration of Any Kind, including Trackleaders, till sometime in June!
The reason for the August Group Start and field size limit is the impact the CTR has on other trail users. In 2021 there were an amazing amount of folks out on the trail, so many hikers! There is quite a few less trail users in the month of August and that is that. July ITT’s are of course welcome.
Rules are the same as last year and feel free to read them over. Course will hopefully be the same as well unless there are significant changes to the trail, wildfires, etc.
I was hoping to ride the Shortie Loopy Loop with the group on September 4th, but life was so busy at that moment that I sadly sat it out. Luckily a little window of time opened up while grandma was still around and I hastily threw myself together. I got all the food, bags, and gear sorted and loaded by 4:20:AM on Monday the 20th and I headed out onto Loopy.
It was magical. The mountains, though familiar, are still amazingly beautiful and compelling. The leaves were about peak gold on the trees, while also covering the ground and dancing through the air. The moon was a bright, constant companion out there, hanging huge in the dark sky, sending white light streaking across streams and ponds. The moon had a couple of bright planets and all the stars to keep it company, except that one that came streaking down as I climbed Rocky Brook Road. The trails and roads were quiet and at times empty of other users. The weather was gorgeous, warm sunny days, hardly any smoke, no rain or snow, but it was damn cold at night. Other than being cold and the night long, it was a wonderful time to be out there.
It was also torture. The trails were rough, so much dirt has been shaken loose from the rocks by a summer of use and abuse, leaving not much more than rocks in so many places. My body was not the least bit ready for this beat down and my legs and hands were protesting from the get go and the route didn’t let up. At 160 miles I almost took the highway home, Gold Creek Trail crushed my hands, feet and knees, I couldn’t imagine what Fossil was gonna feel like. The night was looong! So much darkness, and with no bivy gear that meant a long night of riding and pushing and also falling asleep on the bike riding and pushing. I ended up taking about four 10 minute naps in attempt to keep my eyes open and rubber on the trail. The whole night was laborious, it took so long to cover any miles as I was riding sloppy and falling asleep, also my water bottles froze solid so there was no water, that meant not much food. Oh and it hurt! I swear every step and every pedal stroke hurt deep in my legs, knees, hands, and forearms. Still I kept drudging along, still I was incredibly happy.
I finished the Shortie Loopy Loop just before 8:PM Tuesday the 21st. 39.5 hours after I left. 193 miles, 27,000′. It was a battle to keep going as it hurt so much and I was worried about how late I was running.This Loop is HARD! No doubt, some of the hardest riding I have done, and yet so compelling. I am already wondering when I can get back out there for more. These experiences are so powerful for me. I go from hating life and wanting to get as far away from other humans as I can, to longing to get back to my family and thinking of ways to help others. There is something incredibly powerful about being out there alone. Letting my brain focus on that task, makes for a happy brain. All the garbage and debris that has built up over time, gets sifted, sorted, or tossed. So Good for me and my head, just wish it didn’t have to hurt so damn much, my hands are crushed, I am unable to grip with my right hand, my legs are so sore and grumpy.
I love being out there in the mountains traveling under my own power. I love pushing myself to see how far, how fast, how long I can go. Yet, throwing myself at these rides without any real training is really kicking my ass, the impact on my body is not great. I can’t seem to stop myself, I feel as though I just have to get this stuff every chance I get, cause I do love it so much. I have to admit that while I am out there I have this conundrum of thoughts. I wonder if I shouldn’t hang up this obsession and be there 100% for my family. There just isn’t much time to spend on training and prepping and that makes all these rides much harder and more painful. Yet once home, I can hardly wait to get back out there, to feel it all again as it makes me feel so alive, so purposeful. I am wavering on this seesaw and it will be interesting to see how it goes.
I just wrapped up my 2021 Colorado Trail ride last Thursday. It was a wonderful and painful trip from Durango to Denver that was full of memories, visions of the future, and so much emotion. I have a long relationship with this trail and with anyone who has experienced the CT it gets in your blood and to quote my friend Justin, it becomes “a ribbon through my heart”. For the CT does not touch upon you lightly, it beats you down as it shows you light you never knew existed, it tears at your mind and tortures your ego. It is anything but easy, but it is compelling beyond words, for after a 27+ year relationship with this trail and I am still somehow unable to stop thinking about, visualizing and wanting to come back to it.
Way back in 1993 I was living in Gunnison, Colorado, working a shitty job in a kitchen, making minimum wage, and living in a trailer with 3 other guys. I was also wondering what the hell I was doing with my life, I was full of piss and vinegar and had no idea what to do with myself and all that angst and energy. I was into listening to music, drinking too much coffee, and smoking cigs. I didn’t do much other than hang out at the coffee shop doing those things, plus doodling and playing chess. A friend working at the coffee shop was planning a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail and with permission, I latched on and we began to plan. I had never hiked much, never backpacked, and I didn’t know a damn thing about being outside or traveling under my own power. I was a naive, confused, “green as hell, boy”, but I knew I wanted more and wanted to try something Big! It wasn’t an easy road to get to Waterton Canyon that summer, I almost didn’t make it there. There were so many ups and downs, very tough decisions, and some very dark personal moments along that path.
On that first trip we just made it to Monarch Pass, but I learned so much about being in the woods, myself and most importantly, that there was other ways to live than what I knew/was taught. In fact after that first trip down half of the CT, I was hooked on being outside, planning the next adventure, and scrapping by to make it happen. Since I have returned to the Colorado Trail many, many times, like an old friend I crave its company, its lessons, its solitude. Everyday life has always been a drag for me, I have a hard time doing the normal stuff and it tends to beat me down to the point of not knowing what the fuck it is all for? Before the CT experience, I would often spiral down till I hit the deep dark bottom of the well of despair. I didn’t have any holds, no steps, nothing to break up that fall. Once I had the perspective of the big, rad things I could do with my mind and body, this made dealing with that down spiral possible. Knowing there is amazing things around the corner and always planning the next one, kept me on target, gave me something to look forward to that was strong enough to pull me through the dark bullshit of life.
I can not express how important that first trip on the CT was for me. I am pretty sure it saved my life, certainly changed it profoundly, and while I am not rich or set up, I wouldn’t trade all those experiences for anything, esp money. Cause that is what I keep learning, experiences are always greater than things. Things never make you want to live another day, but the light of possibilities at the end of the tunnel, in my experience can.
Since that first trip on the CT, I have returned many times. I finished hiking the trail to Durango a few years later, hiked again, from Durango to Kenosha Pass in 2000. Started riding bikes again in 2001 and rode the CT from Durango to Gunny with my dog and Bob trailer, then in 2003(?) I rode Gunny to Denver. Finally in 2007 was the first Colorado Trail Race, and things went even deeper. After that first race on the CT, I was obsessed with what I could try with my new found mind-body connection. I returned over and over to race the CT and see how hard I could go, it was a bit of a dangerous and depleting hobby. I really wanted to give it everything I had, and while in retrospect my level of obsession seems a bit extreme, it was very important to me and helped me find more reasons to keep trying, living, reaching.
Fast forward to 2021 and I just finished my 9th Colorado Trail Race! The trail is busier than ever, so many Thru-hikers, and Bikepackers, kind of amazing to see so many folks out there getting some CT. While it isn’t always easy to share, it is empowering to see so many people out there getting to experience that magic ribbon. I had a great trip, including some great conversations with myself, some powerful realizations, and lots of self discovery, also two shooting stars, lots of moon glow, star light, amazing sunrises and sunsets, and so many flowers and mushrooms! I really thought this was going to be my last race on the CT. Have to admit right now that is probably not the case as I can feel the pull of that dirt ribbon as it threads through my heart and it is pulling me back out there!
Wanted to share my bike and gear set up for this year’s Colorado Trail Race.
Why Cycles El Jefe, size large. Singlespeed, 33×24. Pike Ultimate 130mm. SRAM Guide G2 RSC, 180mm rotors, metal pads. Revel R30 Wheels, I9 Hydra rear, SON Dynamo front. Rekon 29×2.6 EXO+ Rear with Cushcore XC, Rekon 29×2.8 Front. 125mm Fox Transfer. Answer 20/20 bars with inner bar ends, 40mm PNW stem with built in light mount. Ergon GA3 Grips. Ergon Saddle. Lots of Purple Bits.
Bags are a mix of homemade framebag, downtube roll, front roll, and tiny saddlebags, plus a dope ass Jpaks Footlong and Feedbag. Also will have a small hydration vest at the start with water bladder, both pack and bladder will fit in frame bag as food is consumed.
The Kit I take is a refined bit of gear that has gotten me through many an ultra, there are variations on the basic core stuff depending on my sleep needs, ambient temps, weather forecast etc. For this year’s CTR I am hoping to push pretty hard and not sleep much, weather looks possibly wet. Therefor I am bringing a good bit of clothing to handle the weather, ultralight Escape bivvy sleep set up for simple short duration sleeping. Befree filter, 2 Liter bladder, 1 bottle for Hydration. I carry a good bike repair kit, a simple first aid kit, and a simple hygiene kit. Clothing: Wearing; Long Sleeve Sun Jersey, Patagonia Dirt Roamer Shorts, 2Under Powershift long boxers, wool socks, Shimano ME7 shoes. Carrying; Marmot Rain Shell. Salomon soft-shell knickers. Synthetic Puffy Vest. Wind Breaker. Wool Long Sleeve T. Headband. Windproof fleece gloves. Wool Knickers. Waterproof Shorts. Plastic bags for feet. Extra Socks. Bike Repair: Two Tubes,1w/sealant. EDC 100c Pump/EDC Tool. Tire Levers. Dynaplugger w/extra plugsx8. Big Air w/head. Superglue. Needle/Thread. ZipTies. Bailing Wire. Duct Tape. Spokes/Nips, 1/F, 2/RR. Masterlinksx2, extra chain links, cleat boltsx2, valve core, tubeless valve. Lube. Collar to lock out dropper if failure.
Lights/Etc Klite Bikepacker Ultra and Fenix PD35/~6 18650 batteries. Etrex 20 for navigation, spot 3 for tracking, phone for pictures and post race pick up, Anker Slim 10000 cache battery to keep phone alive.
Thank that is about everything. Happy to answer any questions anyone has got about my gear choices.
Last time I rode the Arizona Trail was back in 2010. Life has changed a whole lot since then, priorities have shifted tremendously, free time/training windows are almost all eaten up by everyday life, and I am now a week away from being 48, how did that all happen?! My goodness I have reflected on all these changes and it is so wild how much life can go another direction, and as much I as sometimes miss big solo adventures, I am on the ultimate family adventure! The Arizona Trail has changed a bunch too, lots of new trail replacing older erroded trails and roads, less pavement, less resupply, and much more use. Regardless of all my worries and I had more than enough, I was excited to see it all.
Going into this ride was such a roller coaster. The past year hasn’t been easy, I pent up a good bit of stress during this time and with life being so busy it has been hard to get outside enough to deal with those energies. All that anxiety just waits for something to come along, to attach itself too, add it’s weight and complexity and general ugliness. I also hatched the idea for a AZT 300 ride only 4 weeks out from my start date, giving myself a shit ton of work to do in short time, while ramping up my riding a touch and continuing to work, dad, husband. Oh Yeah I love being busy, right, now I was running! The little extra riding was tweaking my left knee a bit. My guts have been a complete mess for months, eating has been a chore and some normally ok foods were just not possible. I was only getting in 30 mile rides as my biggest milage, and intervals seemed extra painful. So many nights I would feel all this anxious weight descend onto me, smothering my breathing and laboring my thoughts. It may sound overly dramatic, but it is crazy what stress can do to you, these past weeks have been exhaustingly full of all this worry. Still I got my stuff together and headed south!
I arrived at Picketpost the night before my start to camp, ride, and meet up for a photo shoot the next day. The sun was scorching hot, adding to my stress. Luckily being in the desert and getting things finalized, instead of just thinking about it, was much more productive in nature. That afternoon I headed into Tucson to meet up with Eddie, drop my car at his house and get a ride to Parker Canyon Lake. Got there just as the sun was setting, Julie and Bruce were there headed to sleep for Julie’s early morning start. They offered to lend me a sleeping bag and pad so I could just be dropped off and start with my streamlined, no sleeping bag kit. I got set up in the sanded tall grass among the cow pies, set my alarm for 1:20AM and tossed and turned for a five hours or so. (I will come back to this, but people can be the best and I am going to try and make more of a thing of it in the future)
I hit the Arizona Trail at 2:04AM on 3/30. My head still felt full and heavy. But there is nothing like throwing a leg over a bike to get me going in the right direction, even if that means riding the Canelos in the dark! I wasn’t trying to start off fast, as that rarely works out for me, but every time I looked at the splits I couldn’t help but notice I was crawling. Then I noticed my Etrex wasn’t auto scrolling and I kept losing the track, I paused for a few seconds too many times to try and fix it, but could not remember how to remedy! I was a bit frustrated. Then I missed a turn at SR82. I stayed on a new section of AZT for a good mile or two before realizing that I was way off. I can not describe how mad I was wasting time, energy, light, water and food! I tried so hard to calm down as I turned around to get back on track. Then a hour later I did it again, totally went the wrong way for a good bit, maybe another 1.5 miles or so, before realizing. This time I got so mad, so frustrated. I felt like totally screwed up my timing for water, food, my whole trip. I beat myself up unrelentlessly and hard for over an hour. I just couldn’t believe I did such a silly, preventable mistake. Not sure exactly what opened up, but I started processing all this wound up energy pushing me to be so upset. I started to see the roots tracing back to things, how it was tying into my own brain, my own life, my everyday actions and reactions. Holy Smokes, I was starting to really digest this stuff.
By the time I hit La Sevilla I was in a pretty damn good mood. I had come around to see how lucky I was to be right there, right then. That I was just gonna ride my bike, not stop much, not blow up, just ride and be, let go of the expectations of others and myself. When Timon rolled up I wasn’t upset that he was that much faster, or that I messed up so bad that he caught me, I was simply amazed at his riding and stoked to see what another human could do. That alone is a huge milestone for me. I have worked so hard to be able to ride these rides, that sometimes I am envious of those who seem to glide thru, feels so liberating to let go of that.
I spent the rest of the first day riding along when it felt good and hoping off to hike Anytime it didn’t feel good. Yes I walked a lot. At times it is very hard to not berate yourself over walking so much with your bike along side you, but I swear it works. I made the Rocking K with time to spare, but once getting my food reorganized I didn’t end up needing much so just some bonus gummy worms, cold drinks and rice crispy! Then Reddington, and back to the AZT. Then Lemmon. Dang what a mountain, so long of a climb, such a neat ascent with the lights of Tucson slowly getting lower and lower, the trees getting bigger, the air cooler with every turn.
After Lemmon, the gnarly little Sunset Trail takes you into Summerhaven and then up next, Oracle Ridge! For those who have ridden or hiked the AZT I will spare you the nitty gritty details of the route, but for those who have not experienced it, holy smokes there is a bit of everything out there. Smooth buttery flowing trails that are effortless even on a loaded bike, to Oracle Ridge; a chunky, loose, washed out, burned out, down tree covered mess of a trail; and of course just about everything in between. All part of the journey, all integral to the process. I started Oracle Ridge with lights and finished down in the desert back in the full heat of the desert sun, freaking amazing!
Up next is a huge chunk of Sonoran desert all the way to the end at Picketpost Trailhead, some 80+ miles later. Turns out there is a ridiculous amount of new trail out in this section, I don’t know the break down, but this section is mostly sinewy, wash crossing, ridge climbing and dropping trail. Swirling along on sweet trail under the raging hot sun for hours made me really feel disorientated as to where the actual hell I was going! Yet I let the trail roll me along like the tide, while constantly checking my GPS, and drinking water water water. It was a pretty good day and I was keeping on the pedals so miles were melting behind me. In fact I noticed I was catching up to some splits I taped on my bike to give me motivation. This made me give those pedals a bit more gas, made me stay on the bike a bit more before hopping off.
At the Gila River, I had made up a bunch of time on those splits. Somehow I was flying. I was half convinced I was doing bad math, even so I still used this to push a bit harder. It hurt deep inside my legs like never before in my life, I swear it was agony, but it also felt amazingly satisfying. On the huge climb out of there I still walked a bunch, but I forced myself to stay on as much as I could. Even with such a hard effort your own dot on the GPS barely moves, is difficult to absorb that you are crushing yourself, but the finish was still so far out! My eyes were getting blurry from 44 hours of no sleep and my head fuzzy from all day in that sun. So I stopped, laid on the trail, set my alarm for 10 minutes and closed my eyes. I fell right asleep. I swear I dreamed the whole 9 minutes, woke up right before my alarm, got up and got moving. My eyes were good, my legs a tiny slice better, my head, ah no matter, just go.
Up an up that climb goes, turn after turn, ridge after ridge, at times in the dark it felt like eternity, but when I looked at the time I was still moving good. The finish at Picketpost is great bit of trail, but you never really feel like you are on a final downhill to the finish! Instead rolling along the whole time till you suddenly you are in the parking lot and it hits you that you did it! Holy Smokes I really did it! After my terrible first morning and all the awful anxiety leading up, I ended up exceeding my own goal for the ride. I can not describe how incredible, empowering, and satisfying that feels. I really doubted I still had what it took to ride the AZT like that. Excited to see how this energy carries into other rides in the future!
>Few details for anyone interested: First Ultra without a chamois pad. Yep didn’t even take one, was great without. I usually have a lot of butt issues even when I have had lots more miles on my tush, my butt was much happier this time. My gearing was 30×21 with 29×2.6 tires, was about right. No mechanicals of note, just tightening a couple bolts. I rode a prototype Why Cycles El Jefe, the bike is so sweet, has my name on it and is fast AF!!!
>I am so grateful for the opportunity and all the support. Huge thanks to my family for the time and to Eddie, Tony, Julie and Bruce for all the help before the start and after. A massive thanks to the folks at Why Cycles and Revel Bikes, for getting behind me when no one else was interested in what I was doing, I can not thank them enough. I am blessed with great peeps in my life!
>Also Huge thanks the Arizona Trail Association for the amazing work they are doing down there. I will be sure to up my support for that organization, if you plan a trip on the AZT, please consider the same.
>Finally, I have some big plans brewing. I want to try and share more of this amazing bit of what we can do with these bodies and minds that we are gifted. My life has been changed time and time again by my experiences outside in the mountains and deserts and I am feeling compelled to share this with others, especially those that might not be able to pull it off. Much more details coming as this takes shape. If anyone out there is interested in helping out, there will be opportunities soon.
Stagnation is one creepy fucker. You just don’t realize you are stuck in a place, then find that it is eating you alive and it feels like an impossible task to get out of the muck. I have been grubbing around in the mud a bit too much lately. So hard to separate the need to feed my family and feeling like I have to go to work even if I am so done with it. I was going under while kicking with both feet, only to realize I needed to get out of that current and eddy out into calmer waters.
Crazy how powerful a perspective switch can be, especially at the right moment when desperation seems to be more reasonable by the minute. It was as simple as getting another job offer out of the blue. Wasn’t like I didn’t know that there were other jobs out there, I just wasn’t seeking, or doing it with the right mindset. I only saw another job as another job, just a continuation of the same same. Somehow that text offering me a job hit me just right and I was able to share free of the suctioning mud, get to higher ground and see that I was not stuck in anything but my own shitty thoughts.
So change is coming. Taking a couple weeks off from working, going to head to AZ for a quick AZT 300, then home for some house stuff and extra family time. Next a new job starting soon after that. Another thing I am bringing with me along these next steps, is that perspective. That we do not have to fall into the roles we are assigned. We do not have to take out our frustrations on our selves or our loved ones, be aware of this energy and do something different. I am excited to see what this season brings, lets get outside!