Prescott Monster Redemption

Redemption is an actual event, and spending yourself outside is one of its voices.

new colored elevation relief maps, coming to the next version of TopoFusion

This route has been haunting me ever since I twisted my ankle and dropped out of the Prescott Monstercross race. My ankle still isn’t back to normal, so there is a constant reminder, and it has certainly had a profound effect on my spring/summer.

I was looking for a nice long ride, and also looking to get out of Tucson’s heat. The plan quickly hatched — a rematch with the monstercross route. Paula came with, and we dropped in to her ‘doc’ in Phoenix on the way up.

“It’s so nice out here….”

I think she said that ten times in the first hour we were at our camp in the pines. Someone has been forced to spend too much time indoors and in a hot town at that. Injuries suck. We went for a pleasant spin on trail #305.

Trail #305, aka smooth butter. The perfect trail to have right next to camp. It was great to see Paula out on the bike, and I had to keep it easy because my legs only knew one word: fatigue. I didn’t slow down one bit after last weekend’s XC race, but just kept the pedal to the metal, riding a wave of momentum that I did not want to end. But I knew it eventually would. 60 miles of mostly singletrack, with 10k climbing, all around Prescott? That just might do it.

We accomplished little in camp save for observing the dancing clouds. The sky was a rollercoaster, fast moving and dynamic, all through the weekend.

I started Sunday morning, from camp, warming up on smooth butter, then rolling through town, at unnatural speeds (40+ mph!).

Meteoric tail winds blasted me towards the Granite Dells, blasted me towards fate. The Dells are a giant playground of slickrock, with enough moves to challenge even the hardiest of rock monkeys. For some awesome photos in the Dells, head over to Eric Nelson’s spot on the web — those shots are from the same morning I was out there, though we never bumped into each other.

I kept it conservative, since the primary goal was to come out unscathed. The injury has affected me so greatly that I was getting nervous and a little nauseous as I approached the spot where I twisted my ankle. I walked through it cautiously, and felt a bit better about it in doing so. There are some awkward spots out here, even walking your bike.

Awkward spots, awesome spots. Though I kept it cool, I rode some nice steep lines and had some good reads on the terrain. I didn’t have Eric coaching me this time, so I did miss some stuff and get lost for brief moments, but it was big fun. I really need to get back there with my big bike.

I didn’t calm down until I was well out of the Dells. About the time the adrenaline and nervousness wore off I started really feeling my tired legs. The wind was ripping into me, and I actually felt cold! Dark clouds were billowing behind Spruce Mountain and Thumb Butte — several hours away on the route. I regretted not bringing my rain jacket, thinking I had muscle enough to keep me warm. But now it seemed like muscle was lacking. And I started worrying about mud after hitting a tiny pocket of cement-like soil near the baseball field.

My thoughts were clouded in doubt, but I kept pedaling just the same.

Lucky for me the trails of Prescott are so engaging that it was easy to distract myself. Flow doesn’t quite describe it, but it feels like you descend more than you climb, which is an amazing thing when your legs are hurting. Shooting down into Granite Basin, I thoroughly enjoyed my ankle’s ability to absorb landings — last time I had to baby each launching pad, or avoid leaving the ground altogether.

Trail traffic. This ain’t no XC race. You have to keep your head up, find your own water and most importantly, stay on the route! I didn’t have Dan to follow through here, so I made at least a dozen wrong turns, always paying careful attention to the GPS.

I reached the spot where I finally called it during the race, sending Dan on his merry way. I figured I was at least 10-15 minutes slower than our pace then (TF confirms, 10 minutes off), so I had my work cut out for me.

Around this time I discovered one ability remained strong — singlespeed power. Standing and mashing gears 4-5 higher than normal didn’t just go well, it felt incredible. It started because I knew I’d need to match Dan’s SS climbing pace in order to beat his time, and it turned into a definitive style. Most of the route flows really well singlespeed style, since there aren’t too many sustained climbs. I had the advantage that I didn’t know the route, too, so I would attack every climb like it was only going to last 30 seconds, even when it was five minutes long. It led to pain, more often than not, but also to speed.

I had so many moments of hitting things just right — cresting hills with the perfect amount of momentum to rally into the next turn without braking — wrapping around banked turns and shooting up the next rise, feet connecting gears to ground at the perfect time and the perfect cadence. I thought fast and the faster I thought the more it came true.

I started getting a little grumpy on a long road climb/descent near White Spar. Dropping into the campground I realized it was because I’d been riding almost five hours and was starting to bonk. After filling up on water, I stuffed my cheeks full of Powerbar crack nuggets, like a squirrel would with acorns. I waved at the campground host, but he just stared at me, dumbfounded.

I switched screens on my GPS for the first time and did a little math. Whaaa? I have 2.5 hours to cover the next 10 miles and still post the fastest time? Double check the math, stuff the cheeks full of nuggets again, check one more time. Yep, it was looking good.

A reasonable person, legs feeling as mine did and on the verge of bonk, might have taken this opportunity to ratchet things down a notch or two — coast in so to speak. I never even considered it. The fact that things were going well served only to fuel the fire and make me pedal harder.

Good thing, too. Trail 396 was a highlight of the whole route, taking the singlespeedery flow to a new level. “I feel like I’m averaging 15mph, while gaining elevation…”

I had to back down for the last few pitches of Spruce Mtn. The steepness and deep gravel forced me into granny gear, and my legs tightened up and screamed at me. I caught glimpses of the lookout tower (above) but couldn’t remember if the route goes all the way to the tower or not. I begged the GPS line to dive off the side of the ridge, because I was done climbing, NOW.

The GPS line did as I begged, and besides two gut wrenching sting climbs on Smith Ravine, it was all speed and glorious singletrack ripping, all the way back to camp. I finished the loop in 6:24, just over 45 minutes faster than the previous fastest time.

One of these days I’m going to get tired, but that day is not today.


Did I really see this, or were my eyes inventing colors, through sweat and blood?

Or these guys? Hopping all over the place after a self-destructive but oh-so-enjoyable Bugs/Molino “workout” / shred session.

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