Arizona Trail Race

I rest up for a few days and this is what happens:

Inaugural Arizona Trail Race

Mexico To Utah

Longest singletrack bike race in the world

Mandatory 21 mile portage across the Grand Canyon

April 23rd, 2010, 6:30am, Border of US/Mexico. Concurrent start with the Arizona Trail 300.

The photo is one that Andrea Lankford (she was the first to cycle the AZT) sent me when I did my “time trial” on the AZT in 2005. It’s of unknown origin, but the two cyclists are standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon and have chained themselves to their bikes. A sign of their dedication? To prevent them from giving up? Symbolic of the suffering and bondage of aspiring to a lofty goal on a bicycle?

I’ve always liked the photo, and somehow it seems appropriate for the first AZTR.

I became obsessed with the Arizona Trail not long after I moved to Tucson in 2000 to attend grad school. It was based on this simple observation: whenever I saw AZT signs, the riding always got good. Following that line of thought a little further led to the natural conclusion — why not ride the whole thing?

The last time I rode the AZT from end to end it was with the goal to ride fast. I had dropped out of the Great Divide Race and spent months recovering from my injuries. I decided to ‘race’ the AZT on a whim. And I pretty much had the ride of my life. It was amazing.

But it left a mark. I started the AZT 300 as a more reasonable alternative, and 2010 will be the 5th time bikepackers will head north on the AZT from Parker Canyon Lake. This time, a few of us will have started a couple hours before, at the border of US/Mexico, aiming for the whole thing.

The response so far has been amusing. Lots of cursing, mostly directed at me (!). And eerie silence from some of the usual suspects (cough, cough, Harris, cough). I think there are several that simply cannot resist a challenge of this magnitude, and to be a part of the first year ups the ante. Half serious superlatives like “longest singletrack race in the world” can’t hurt either.

But no one has committed just yet. As wimpy cyclists, the Grand Canyon traverse scares us.

Well, I can only speak for myself. I have a pretty good idea of how much it’s going to hurt, but I also know how incredible it is to pedal up to one side of the canyon, load up the bike, hike one of the most beautiful and famous trails in the world, then reassemble and continue along on the AZT. I am looking forward to it in a way, but it’s definitely a game changer. It’s not just a bike race anymore.

I’ve been raging an internal debate over holding the AZTR for quite a while now. The announcement post on has been sitting in an idle tab in my browser since 2009. I just hadn’t hit the “Post” button. Had to be sure I was committed before putting it out there. Oddly enough the tipping point was when I recalled several sonoran sunrises I had out on the trail. I can’t really explain it, so I won’t try, but there’s just something about moving through the springtime Sonoran desert as the sun rises, feeling the warmth on your skin.

The AZT Race / 300 site has been revamped a bit with more info, including, of course, maps and preliminary GPX. More to come.

4 comments to Arizona Trail Race

  • You know it was your post about that “ride of your life” on MTBR that popped my eyes wide open to this whole game, right? Heck yea I want to join you. It doesn’t look good right now though – work conflicts. But if things change…

    I know exactly what you mean about those Sonoran springtime sunsets. Sunrises too, for that matter.

  • […] January 20, 2010 · Leave a Comment AZT 300 […]

  • Ann Weaver

    Just read the story about your time trial. Wrote an article on AZT for FitnessPlus, and writing another longer one now for a four corners magazine so I thought I’d check into a mt biker’s perspective and get some more quotes. Send me an e-mail and let’s do a phone interview. Excited to see where you’re going with this now as well and curious to know how many take you up on the challenge.

  • […] ride the spine dudes are finally done. And I thought that shit was perpetual. WWSMD? The Innagural AZT Race. If I inject my penis with silicon for say…. six years, will people find me interesting? I […]

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