Sunday, August 30, 2009

La Milagrosa ride

On Sunday, Zac, Johnny, and I left at 5:10 AM with lights strapped to our bikes in an effort to beat the heat as much as possible. We rolled up Redington Rd. with very little traffic, except for a few early riser Jeepers. We had made it to Mile 5 by the time the sun hit the road. Surprisingly, one of the shooters was already up and shooting at Mile 6. How early do we need to get up to beat these guys?

It sure was dark when we started.

The sun starting to rise.

The sun still not officially up when we hit the dirt.

Wake up Tucson! Most are still sleeping while we climb the road.

Zac and Johnny crossing over into the sunlight.

We did our usal climb up Redington and at the Mile 10 OHV area, Erik, Liane, and Nicole met up with us. We continued on up to Mile 12.6 and rode the Bellota AZ Trail. The hike-a-bike was killer on my legs, and this was not a good sign for the upcoming ride. The downhill to the intersection of FR 36 was a blast though. We rested under our usual shady tree at the intersection of FR 36, then did the next section of the AZT up to the intersection of the FR36A Jeep road. At this point Erik, Liane, and Nicole split off to return back to their cars, and Zac, Johnny, and I continued forward to the La Milagrosa trailhead.

Erik on the AZT.

The group at our usual shady rest stop.

We stopped at the trailhead to La Milagrosa for one last rest break in the shade. It was 10 AM. This was by far one of the stupidest things I had done. La Milagrosa is a tough trail with no shade and usually ridden in the winter time. But here we were on tired legs about to start the brutal 4.6 mile stretch of trail on a hot summer day. I didn't even bother with Clif Bars this ride. I had frozen 2 Snicker bars and stuck them in my Camelbak. I finished the second half of the first bar before La Milagrosa, figuring I'd save the second bar as a reward on the trail.

The trail starts off with "The Waterfall", a technical rock section. I haven't been on this trail in a few years, and the only time I have ridden it is on my Bullit, which has a few more inches of suspension than the Blur. We hiked down the waterfall, climbed the trail up the other side, and began our ride. Right away there were rock drops to be ridden, and I quickly switched over to getting over the back end of the bike. The Blur did rather well, and the nice thing was, I was able to ride the climbs on a much lighter bike.

Zac and Johnny at The Waterfall.

Zac hiking down the Waterfall.

We were all very tired on La Milagrosa, and as a result, would end up riding over stuff we probably shouldn't have in order to conserve momentum. There was still a lot of hike-a-bike, but I was surprised at the good time we were making. We would have to stop between sections just to rest the legs and arms before rolling again onto the next section. At the top section before the descent down into the wash, my stomach started growling. But I couldn't stop, and told myself I would stop in the wash for a snack. I rode several of the drops and made it to the wash, where I parked the bike, found one of the few areas of shade against a rock wall, and devoured the second Snickers bar.

Views from the trail:

My house is down there...somewhere.

Cool saguaro shot that Johnny took.

Zac in the shade of the rock wall in the wash.

Bike parking in the wash.

We were roasting at this point in the ride, but still had a few miles to go. We hiked up out of the wash and started the descent across the granite playground area.

Johnny and I on the granite playground.

There is a gate after the playground and at this point I got a nosebleed, probably from the heat. Yet another good reason to wear full-fingered MTB gloves. We hiked down the next steep part of the trail and came across a group of teenagers in swimsuits looking for water. Um, they were soon to be disappointed. The only water we had come across in the entire canyon were pools about a foot wide of stagnant water and yellowjackets. We rolled on and finally crossed the last wash and hit Horsehead Rd. From there we took Soldier Trail back to our starting point.

It was just over 5 hours of riding time (over 7 hours of actually being out on the trail). We reached home just after 12 PM. Ironically, at about 3PM the clouds rolled in and the monsoon rains started. I would have loved to have a little rain on the trail that afternoon because it was crazy hot. But we completed a very tough ride. The Garmin map of our track circling the mountains is here. A little over 30 miles total and over 4,000 ft of climbing on the bike.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

AZ Trail run in Molino Basin

This morning I was not going to get up early, so I figured my run would have to be at higher elevation on Mt. Lemmon to escape the heat. But luckily it rained overnight and was cloudy this morning, so I was able to take advantage of the good weather to hit a lower trail (and one that's closer to my house). I decided to run the Arizona Trail from Molino Basin. It climbs from the basin parking lot and goes all the way to Prison Camp. I didn't want to trash my legs for tomorrow's long ride, so I took it easy and took the camera with me.

There were mountain bikers:

And ponies:
And I was representing the trail runners:

All the user groups were out on the AZT. I think this section is probably the most popular due to it's proximity to Tucson. Everyone was very friendly and I think we were all out there enjoying the weather. I ran up the trail for about 2 miles, then turned around and headed back down.

Tomorrow we will be on the other side of the Molino Basin Saddle. The plan is to leave our house at 5 AM with lights on the mountain bikes and head up Redington Rd. We will meet other riders at the OHV parking area, and ride the Bellota AZT. Instead of turning around like last week, this week Zac and I are descending down La Milagrosa. I'm hoping for the same weather tomorrow that we had today!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Psycho Training Rides

I'm not going to say what these training rides are for quite yet. If you are in-the-know on events in the area and see the route, you can figure it out. I've only told a few people, and most of them do insane events and completely understand this line of thinking, or train with me anyways. It's one of those goals that you don't want to publicize until you're ready and know you've got a good chance of not backing out. Otherwise if you put it out there too early and tell the world and don't follow through, you have to deal with lots of "Whatever happened to that crazy event you were supposedly training for? Did they cancel the race?" I find it best to make something up to avoid the embarassment, like mysteriously changing the year of the race date. "Oh you must have not heard me correctly. That event I was planning for was in 2012." And then maybe those people asking will move away and forget to speak about it again.

All I'm going to say for now is that the event requires monster training for me. I came up with my own little training plan to get ready for it. Hey, I've been doing the swim-bike-run thing for years now, I can figure out a plan. And it's one of those plans where if I can survive the plan, I can survive the event. But I'll unveil what the heck I'm talking about in a future blog post. Oooh a clif hanger! I gotcha there don't I.

Anyways, back to the training rides. My first psycho training ride I did alone the weekend after the last Lemmon Squeezy ride. I figured I would just keep building off of the climbing fitness from those rides.

The second ride, Johnny and Zac came along. With the Lemmon Squeezy rides over, Johnny was worried about what he was going to do with his time. Ha! Not to worry, I've got a plan. So we rolled out from The Round House at 6 AM and started the climb up Redington Road. Redington Road is key to these training rides, and let's just say I'm going to know that road like I know Catalina Hwy. I'll be riding it every week. To avoid the gun crowd, most of the rides are on Sundays, or off-Fridays. The shooters hang out right around Mile 6 on the road, and I'm paranoid about getting hit by a stray bullet. I never ride up there on Saturdays. Early Sunday mornings people are either hung over, or in church, or hungover in church, or asleep. So there is much less traffic on the roads, and shooters on the sides of the road.

We climbed up to Mile 12.6 and hit the AZ Trail singletrack. This portion is Bellota Trail #15 (link to map here). There are some nice rollers, then a hike-a-bike up a hill, and then a really fun downhill section. There is a ton of catclaw out there on the AZ trail, so I wear long socks that I can pull up while on the singletrack and then push back down once we get back on the dirt roads. It keeps me from looking like I got in a fight with 20 cats. We only had one mechanical on the trial, with Johnny having a horrible chain issue where it was wedged between the spokes and the large rear cog. I had to get on his bike and straddle it to keep the frame from twisting while he yanked to get it out. With the chain finally freed we were able to move on. Zac got the worst injury with a front tire burn on the inside of his knee. I don't know how it happened, all I know is he mentioned his foot getting wedged somewhere in between the frame and a wheel, the wheel running over the inside of his knee, and him proclaiming he didn't crash during the whole ordeal.

We finished up the singletrack and took FR 36 (a.k.a. The Climb of Death) back to Redington Rd. I hate FR 36 with a passion. It's only 2 miles long but the climb kills me. But it's the only way to shortcut the ride back to Redington without having to turn around and go back up the AZT, or continue forward down Milagrosa, or up over the Molino saddle. Then it was smooth sailing back down Redington to The Round House.

Some pics from that ride:

Johnny and I climbing Redington Rd.

Resting in the small amount of shade at the start of the AZT.

Consulting the AZT map.

Johnny rolling over the cattleguard.

Zac on the trail.

Johnny rockin' it.

Me rockin' the socks.

Now I'm finally caught up to the ride this past weekend. The previous weekend it was toasty warm, so I knew we would need to start earlier. I set a goal start time of 5:30 AM. I was surprised when Liane showed up in the driveway, since she has to drive down from her mountain and probably left her house at 3 AM to be at my house by a little after 5. We were all moving a bit slow, so we left The Round House at 5:45 AM. The sun hadn't even come over the mountain yet.

It had rained the day before, so this morning it was 1000% humidity. Liane, Zac, and I made frequent stops along the way, mostly because sweat was running into our eyes. I did make a quick turnaround to pick up an object lying in Redington Rd. It was a little skeleton hand giving the finger. It cracked me up and made me laugh and I decided to keep it as a bike mojo totem. I will have to install it on the Blur for future rides.

The route was a repeat of the previous week except we would continue on the AZT to where it intersected FR 36A, and would take that to FR 36 (The Climb of Death) back down to Redington. The singletrack on the first part of the AZT was great, and I got into an awesome groove on the dowhill. Familiarity with the trail definitely helps. I still had to hike the bike, but I don't think it was as bad as the last week. We hit the intersection at FR 36 and took a break. I considered going up FR 36 to make it a repeat of last week's ride, but decided that no, I needed to stick to the plan. We crossed the wash and started the fun of finding the AZT. Cow trails were easier to find than the actual trail in some spots. I stopped after a few downhills to do some trail maintenance. A few ocotillos had fallen into the trail, and I certainly wasn't going to run over them. Since we would be back on this section of trail again, I removed the offending brush so that we wouldn't have to deal with it on future rides. Some of the brush was burned from the Guthrie fire earlier this year, but it was pretty sparse in this area of the trail.

We hit the intersection of FR 36A and made a beeline for a shade tree. I was getting bored with eating Cliff bars, but I did try the new Powerbar gel block thingys. A bit strange texture-wise but they seemed to work pretty well in the stomach. We rolled down FR 36A, which I had never ridden, and rode past Bellota Ranch. We finally hit the intersection with FR 36 and stopped back under the same shade tree where I had considered turning around early. Now that seemed like a good idea but it was too late. It was freakishly hot out and all of us were steaming. It was also time to review the water situation. Liane had about 10 oz left, so I gave her some of the water in my contingency bottle. I started conserving some of mine so that I would be able to make it back to the house. Clouds were rolling in over Mt. Lemmon, and I was trying to coax them to come over and cover the sun so that we'd have some shade for the Climb of Death. No dice. We had to do the climb in full sun.

I got off and hiked some areas of the Climb of Death. I was too tired and overheated to even try some of the steep spots that I had ridden last week. Liane and I made it to the OHV parking area on Redington Rd and found Zac sitting under the shade of the parking area. Liane and I both dismounted, removed our packs and helmets, and laid down on the concrete slab under the shade where Zac was sitting. We wanted to just take a nap, but it was too hot. I'm sure it was quite a scene with all of us splayed out on the slab. After a short rest we decided it was time to move on. It was about another hour to the house. Zac was already out of water, so I gave him the rest of my last bottle. Liane still had some fluid left in her last bottle, and I had about 10 oz in my Camelbak. This was also the point in the ride Zac's fork completely obliterated itself. He had about 1 inch of travel to work with, so it was slow going for him on the descents down Redington Rd.

I hit the vacuum of nothingness in my Camelbak on Wentworth Rd, about a mile from the house. We were moving slowly, but still moving forward. As soon as we hit the driveway of the house we dumped the bikes and immediately went inside to grab ice water. Liane and Zac collapsed in chairs and I collapsed on the cold tile floor. Over 5 hours of riding time (7.5 hours out on the trail) and 38 miles covered. A map of the route from my Garmin is here.

Next week's ride is gonna be ugly.

Pics from this week's ride:

Liane and I on Redington Rd.

Zac got a pretty cool angle here on the AZT.

Resting in a little bit of shade. We're still smiling at this point.

Cruisin' the AZT.

Resting in the campfire on FR 36A.

Zac chillin' out at our rest stop.

Collapsing in the OHV parking lot after the Climb of Death.

My new bike mojo totem! Found it lying in the dirt of Redington Rd. I've decided to name it "Digit," and will attach it to the Blur.

Summer Trail Run Series

Race #1 - 8/1/09: Meadow to Samaniego Ridge Trail
The Summer Trail Series was a 3 race series put on by Cat Foot Racing, with 2 races on Mt. Lemmon and one in the Tortolita mountains. Zac was interested in doing some trail runs, and I'm always game for killing myself on rocky mountains, so we signed up for all 3 races. The first race was at the very top of Mt. Lemmon, starting on the Meadow Trail and down part of Samaniego Ridge. It looks flat on the map, but it was basically all downhill followed by all uphill.

Zac, Krista, and I chose to do the shorter 4 mile option over the 7 mile option. I know that on steep, technical trails, 0.1 of a mile can easily feel like a mile, and I didn't want to be out there for 5 hours. Besides, with all the riding, my running mileage had dropped off a bit.

There were 19 racers total, with Krista, Zac and I going for the short course and everyone else the long course. We took off in a group, and I immediately felt the 9K ft in elevation. Holy cow where did my lungs go? Sure enough, the trail was a bit flat at the top and then we started the rocky descent down. This was the first time I got into a really good groove and felt great on a technical descent. I held the momentum well and picked pretty good lines. Zac was right behind me and we cruised all the way down to the water stop where we turned onto the next trail. We hit a switchbacky singletrack and popped out in a field. I was worried we had missed the turnaround arrow, but sure enough it was just on the other side before a slight uphill. We turned and started the gnarly climb back up. It was all hiking there.

I figured for sure the fastest racers were going to catch us, but it was just Zac and I. I tried to run as much back up as I could and hiked where I couldn't. On the last part of the trail I made a wrong turn and had to turn back. Zac finished and so did the first leader of the long course. We snacked on cookies and bagels as the others came in, many with tales of falls.

That week it took until Wednesday before I could walk up and down stairs without clinging to the banister for support. Turns out the downhills shredded my legs and I was cursing living in a 2 story house after that.

Krista, Zac, and I representin' the short course:

The trails were blooming with flowers at the very top of the Lemmon:

Race #2 - 8/8/09: Alamo Springs Trail

Zac and I live in NE Tucson, so it helps to have a race to motivate us to drive to the Tortolitas for a run. Race #2 was at the Alamo Springs Trail in the Dove Mountain area. We got up at 4 AM to hit the road to be there in time for the 6:30 AM start. This race started a bit earlier to help beat the heat.

18 runners participated, and we had more racers doing the short course with Krista, Zac, and I. This run started off on the Wild Burro Trail. I had remembered this portion of the run from the winter trail runs out in this area. For the short course we turned onto the Alamo Springs trail, and then Lower Javelina. We pretty much climbed up along the side of a mountain. There were some very cool rock features that we had to scramble around. I was dragging from lack of sleep, so Zac got ahead of me. I took this (poor) pic on my cell of him on the climb:

He's in there somewhere. The problem was, he was wearing a white hat and each time I looked for him his little white hat was bobbing along as he was climbing higher. I needed to stop looking ahead so much. The nice thing was that we were in the shade of the mountain on this part. We climbed back down and ended back in the wash. There was a little note on an orange sign that said to take the wash back to the start. So I followed the wash and cheered for the racers up above on the climb as I headed back. I hit the aid station and knew the path that we had taken up was right there, and got back on the path. When in doubt, always go back the way you came.

I almost made a wrong turn on the way back where the trail took a sharp turn and I continued straight. I looked down and saw no footprints, so backtracked and found the path again. Thankfully that took me to the finish where the snacks were (it's all about getting to the snacks). Zac had finished a few minutes ahead. As we snacked on the breakfast goodies, we looked for all the other racers coming in. I think people came to the finish from every direction. Some ended up on a golf course, others back in the wash. But hey, it happens in trail running. Everyone had an interesting story of where they turned and ended up and what happened on the trail.

Overall it was a great race, and good motivation for Zac and I to make it out to the trails on that side of the world.

Race #3 - 8/15/09: Butterfly Trail

The final race of the series was also the most technical as it was on the Butterfly Trail on Mt. Lemmon. Zac and I chose the 4 mile option over the 10.2 mile. I knew how gnarly this trail was, and the short course was going to take me plenty of time to complete. Earlier in the year, Zac and I had run the north side of Butterfly, starting at the top and going about 2 miles in before heading back. This time we would be starting at the bottom at the Palisades parking area. A few years ago Zac had tried to ride this trail while I tried to run it, and it was in pretty bad shape where the trail disappeared off the side of the mountain. This year much trail work had been done, and the trail had been re-cut in many areas, and lots of downed trees had been removed.

My legs were dead tired from a 40 mile mountain bike the day before, so I knew I'd be taking it pretty easy on the trail. I packed my camera so that I could take a few pics on the trail to help take my mind off the climbing. As we started, I tried to stay with Zac but my legs wouldn't have it. So I hiked and ran where I could. The trail was in great shape. For the short course, we ran out to the intersection at Davis Springs trail, and back. It was a lot of descending on the way out, which meant a lot of climbing on the way back. But it was nice and cool on the mountain, and the cooler temps helped because it was also humid and I kept having to use my hat as a washcloth for my face from all the sweat.

Race registration and racers getting ready:

One last check of the map:
Ott reviewing the course with everyone before the start:
A shady spot on the Butterfly Trail:
I was able to catch a pic of Zac as he headed back up from the turn and I was headed down:
A welcome sight on the trail...the turnaround!
Little hiker dude in a tree:

A rolling portion of the Butterfly Trail:

View from the trail:

Climbing back up:

Another rocky climb:

Lead long-course runner heading to the finish:

More long-course runners finishing up the trail:

Hanging out at the finish area where the snacks are:

This race had the biggest turnout of racers, and it was the first time most of the racers were doing the short course. At the end those of us that had done all 3 races got a great Cat Foot Racing coaster in the shape of a cat paw. Zac and I have them displayed on the window sill of our workout room. Ott and crew did a great job organizing the events, and we are looking forward to the winter series of races. See ya in the winter on the trails!