A swollen knee. An incoming storm. The pressures of putting on and tracking a rapidly growing event. I made the call late Thursday night to switch to ITT status, and go it alone. It was a difficult decision to make. I had been looking forward to racing with the crew. But at the same time, I sensed something new. I sensed an independence and willpower that, if anything, begged to be tested alone.
I watched as the leaders destroyed the first half of the course, only to be shut down on Mt Lemmon under a powerful winter storm system. I couldn’t believe it when Kurt Refsnider pushed through and came out of Oracle Ridge still ahead of record pace. Amazing stuff. With my knee, its low tolerance to cold and my general weakness, I knew my chances of finishing would have been close to zero.
As I watched the race my phone was silent, and my inbox even quieter. No one was asking last minute GPS or SPOT questions, no one was looking for a place to stay or a ride to the start. Ah, so this is what it’s like to just race! I was able to focus on my race, make last minute tweaks to my kit, and stay off my feet/knee, actually getting some rest. All the while, energy was building inside me. I was so ready to get out on the Arizona Trail and ride until I couldn’t ride anymore.
That was exactly my plan. Go for broke. Throw everything I had at it. Finish with daylight — sunset in Superior. Stop only when absolutely necessary. I had been resting and dreaming of the 300 for so long that my body ached to be moving and loathed being at rest. The ~10 hours of “sleep” the night before was torture as I dreamed of nothing but moving along the trail.
somebody is a little excited to finally be riding! photo by Chad Brown
Chad and Kendall dropped me off at Parker Lake, and I’m off. I feel the energy of the forty riders I sent on their way two days ago. The trailhead was buzzing with excitement and nervousness that morning, and so too, am I.
swell 1-track in the Canelos – a rare sight!
I’m looking for the rock that slashed Aaron Gulley’s tire. 2.5 miles in, tires still holding air. I dreamt of tire failure, I’m choosing my lines carefully.
Not carefully enough. Canelo east stings me with one slice. A patch and it shoots back up tubeless in a jiffy.
Canelo west instantly flats the Racing Ralph with a knife stab. This is not the way anyone wants to start a 300 mile race. I briefly consider trying to find Chad for a do-over tomorrow. Instead I start with the needle and thread and think back to my Mom teaching me to sew. I can’t remember the right knots, I forget to even start it correctly. The stitches are tight, but neither end is secured, so I slather it with glue, throw on a patch and figure the pressure of the tube will keep it in place. For 290 miles..?
My sidewall paranoia is even worse now, but I continue with my mantra of “confident respect” for all things AZT.
Smiling at the poppies on the side of the trail. Legs are good, day is perfect. Keep it rolling.
My other mantra is “no desperation.” So many times I end up moving with desperation — to hit a time split, to get somewhere before dark or to avoid or worry about some other issue (like sidewall failure). Wasted energy.
It’s difficult to move without desperation, knowing what a solid Sonoita split time is. Even though I lost 45′ to flats, even though the wind is out of the north and dragging me down. I’m in and out of Sonoita in a hurry, still on good pace.
Climbing still into the wind, I don’t know any more splits, the flats are behind me and I am free to ride my own race. The wind is making me feel slow, such a contrast to getting pushed through Kentucky Camp with Aaron and Ashley. Feeling slow is only just that — a feeling — keep pedaling.
note the sticky foot prints next to the tire tracks — there was much suffering here
The trails are strangely empty, for a weekend. Yesterday’s big storm even scared off all the campers and off-road enthusiasts. The only inhabitants I encounter are the ghosts of AZT 300 riders, lost to the devil’s clay of Las Colinas. The evidence of their frustration and turmoil is all over the trail. Some of them called it, some continued.
Am I really enjoying Las Colinas? Yes, the sun is up! I don’t fear the darkness or the long night. It’s just something that happens, and being a little further ahead doesn’t change that.
I’m happy to reach the forest gate and proceed to thirty miles of easy night riding. I know it by heart, feel at home on it, having spent so much time working on it and riding it. I think of the cheerful bickering between Bernie and the Flintman. The time I didn’t lay out enough trail for the crews and had to hastily invent a set of climbing turns away from I-10.
What’s this? Headlamps coming toward me? Must be someone looking for me… no, it is just two riders out for a spin. At 10pm on a Sunday night. Cool by me.
The wind has died, so I feel fast again. Perfect. The trail is getting fast too.
Ducking under the freeway culvert, cold across the bridge, tip-toeing through the slasher rocks and stupid gate, warm memories of driving the golden spike above Posta Quemada. The night is gliding.
The Rincon Valley is freezing. The trail kept me warm, but Old Spanish Trail is not a trail at all, and has nothing to offer but lifeless coasting and the occasional passing car. It’s midnight, and all I can think about is the little climb to Saguaro National Park, the warm air above and the heat of the effort.
After 15 hours on the bike, I stop to stretch the back and get organized for the next big push. I pull out my Carborocket burrito and mix up a big batch. The next water is on top of Mt. Lemmon.
The east end of Broadway holds relief from the piercing wind of the pavement. Climbing Redington does too, but I find myself out of power before the top. I’m walking, and I’m not really sure why. Somewhat nauseous, burping and grinding to a halt. Too many calories, or too high a pace earlier in the day? Or just the natural tendency of the body to shut down at the witching hour? I decide to drink a bunch of water and lie down for 5 minutes. It works. I go from walking Redington to cleaning guh-narly climbs on Chiva Falls. Oh yeah.
The washes are so deep and so cold. The moisture of the big storm is still all around, creating a chill that covers me and tells me I should be at home, warm and asleep. “This is stupid, why did I think this was fun, or that I could do this?” “I feel horrible.” “Home is not that far away.”
But neither is the Arizona Trail. A clever moment — I can use my sleeping “pad” as extra insulation under my jacket! There we go. I’m coming back online as the ‘side door’ steepens and ascends to warmer, drier air. I can’t wait to get back on singletrack.
What is that? Another light? A racer? But who could out riding at 3am, this far back in the pack? I give chase, but soon realize there is no chase, the light is coming toward me! I see the bikepacking gear and say, “looks like you are going the wrong way.”
“No, my GPS says it is this way.”
“Beto, it’s Scott.”
“But the course is this way.”
“It’s Scott… I organize the race, I know the course… ”
“Oh, Scott! OK, I am lost.”
“Let’s go! I’ll show you.”
still smiling, and not faking it one bit
Beto is the first AZT racer from Mexico, and is in such good spirits, despite having just wasted a bunch of time backtracking. He tells me of the night he spent worrying he would get blown off a ridge in the Santa Ritas. About his GPS dying and the dozens of bonus miles he did. Looking at his bike and giant pack, I’m thinking he will be off and walking most of the singletrack, but he sticks to my wheel. “I used to be good at the technical. Not the downhill racing, but the technical climbs.” It showed. I don’t think I could have ridden a lot of what he did with his big pack on.
We cross Redington Road and move onto the open ridgelines. I notice he’s no longer behind me, and keep it rolling. I was so fast here on a singlespeed, but that day my adventure was over so quickly. Today (which day is it again?) the adventure is just beginning.
The sun is coming up. Already? I wanted to be further along.
Pushing my bike over Molino, the first direct rays of sunlight hit me. I remove my glasses, turn my naked eyes to it, and make an 8 bit video game “power up” sound effect. As “big” Mario now, I take bigger steps, stomping my way up and over the hike-a-bike.
The downhill is a hoot, more technical than I remember. I remember rallying it with Mike Curiak in 2008. I remember cleaning the stair step at the top. I think of Kurt and Aaron getting nailed by the storm two days ago. Ooof.
It’s J-Bake! I’m glad to see him still in the fight. We exchange the highs and lows of the trail so far, and discuss ailing knees. I’m keeping mine warm with a double layer fleece sleeve on top of my knee warmer. So far it is working, in that my other knee is hurting just as bad, so the injured one must be relatively happy!
I head out onto the Catalina Highway and instantly think of training rides with Krista Park. We smoked some good climbs up here. I’m worried I’m going to feel like a slug by comparison, but all I can think it “wow, I’m already up this high and didn’t have to climb the bottom stuff.” My legs feel good. I’m not pushing tempo pace, but a steady 6mph, after 24 hours on the bike? I’ll take it.
Time for a break, just to get off the bike for a few seconds and break the cycle of the grind. The road is beautiful and empty on this Monday morning.
Empty except for bikepackers! It’s Mark Caminiti and Tanner Morgan. They are enjoying the grind and have tales of mud and 100 pound bikes to tell. Good to see they are more than ghosts. Tanner joins me for the rest of the climb, picking my brain about the route ahead and how to plan. I wave as he dives off to Summerhaven for hot chocolate and pizza. I should want badly to do the same, but I never even consider it. I head directly for the crucible, I head directly for Oracle Ridge.
From shiver descending to baking sun, just like that. This is incredible. How can it be this hot, at 7800′? And how can there still be snow?
“Wicked” is the only word that comes close to describing this trail. It’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen it, but it’s still wearing me down. My feet are aching, my hands don’t appreciate death grip braking, but it’s always one or the other.
My grin grows more and more wicked as I “get away” with riding ledges and crazy switchbacks that I shouldn’t have. My front wheel gets held and I do a half endo. Whoo… that was close. Good thing all that weight is back in the seat bag.
Through the ‘traverse of death’, the hike-a-bike doesn’t bother me, it’s wide open. As I’m riding more and more, it hits me, “this is adventure riding at its finest. This is mountain biking.” I turn around and stare at the top of Mt Lemmon, still white, and think of where I started and how far I’ve come. The best I’ve done in this race before was making it here in the dark!
The magic gate, the road to Rice Peak cracks me up. I can only imagine the pit in people’s stomachs as they see the steep road, a guaranteed push ahead of them, only to be directed off a hidden side road at the last second. Directed off onto a road just as steep, and just as crazy to ride, but downhill.
I see fresh cuts from Tim McCabe and Fritz’s handiwork during the snowstorm. This is hard riding even without getting hit in the face by branches 90% of the time. Thanks guys.
3 hours from the top to American Flag. That is good time. It’s hot and I am feeling it as I climb through Oracle State Park. This part is frustrating me, for some reason, since it is of my own design. I know that the other route is no easier, but I can’t help but be hard on myself. I’m reluctant to turn off into Oracle, as I know it’s going to be a time suck. But I need food.
I’m searching for a sewing kit and batteries, and not finding them. The guy behind the deli asks me, “are you doing the full or the 300?” My brain short circuits. He’s not the only one that already knows about the race. He’s been making sandwiches for the racers and at first I decline. Then I find myself mumbling, “so tired… so tired…” as I stare blankly at the batteries. I had crushed Oracle Ridge. It crushed me back. “Sign me up for a sandwich.” For the first time in the race I voluntarily sit down and take an actual break. I eat the sandwich and chill in the shade outside the store. I’m so happy to be where I am, my hands and feet are so happy for the rest.
Stoke is building as I fly under the Arizona Trail sign, hunting singletrack at high speed. The break and sandwich is paying off — I have unprecedented strength. I crush and clean all the switchback wash climbs but one. I’m making good time even by APC standards. Onto the gasline bypass!
Though my body is strong, I can sense my mind is weakening. Willpower steady, focus firm, but I’m starting to think of myself in terms of “we” and starting to have conversations with myself. “We should really get off and walk a bit, give that poor guy [the hands] a break.” “Me” is only in my head, and the other body parts are different entities. “Did we just pass the corral?” “When are you going to stop doing that?” “When are we going to eat something?”
Parts of my brain are taking over duties usually handled by those that regenerate with sleep. I’m functional, but slow, and beginning to see things as the sun lowers and I approach 36 hours on the bike. “That’s another rider, I know it.” “Look, they have set up red pin flags all around their camp.” “Look, that is too green to be anything natural, it’s another rider.” “Or is it?” I get there and the pin flags are purple hedgehog blooms, the green blob is just a bush. I only convince myself there’s no rider when I’m standing right there.
[It’s interesting because I wasn’t lonely, or longing to catch someone, it’s just how my brain was dealing with the sleep deprivation. I wasn’t disappointed when I realized no one was there, just frustrated because I was wrong, and I knew I was losing it.]
I catch myself having a conversation with the gummi worm in my mouth. “How’s it going in there little dude?” “You taste good, don’t you?” I’m not trying to be funny with myself, I’m really trying to talk to it. Then I realize what is going on, and start cracking up. This isn’t good. I’m going to have to sleep. There’s no way I’m going to make it through the night like this.
I crest Ripsey’s little brother, start flying down the ridgelines. My mind bends as I blend into the desert. I’m not sure where I end and the desert begins. It’s so big and so open, so beautiful and so full of color. And what am I? I am not sure. I am purely defined by one goal. My goal of forward progress, of movement. That’s all I know of myself, and the purity of the moment is so refreshing, so cleansing.
The conscious mind returns to strength. I’m knocking out the gasline bypass and the sun is still up. It’s GORGEOUS out here. The trail is faster and more flowing than I could have dreamed. This is it, this is what it’s all about. Nothing hurts, but everything feels. Pure white.
It’s past sunset and I see a rider on the side of the trail. The only way I can be sure is to talk to it. “Is that Marshal?” “Hey Scott!” We exchange a few quick words, and I say something about using the last available light. “You may see me soon. I have been riding for 36 hours now and may crater at any moment.”
I navigate just about every trail surface and feature in the dark, from drops and switchbacks to rocks and sand. But no craters. It’s still warm, and every time I realize I’m not wearing knee warmers I start smiling. As I hit the roads after Antelope Peak the temperature finally drops. I make my way to the Freeman water cache to fill up and get organized for the next big push. Strangely, my eyes are not heavy, but there is water nearby, so I tank some recovery drink, eat my thawed burrito and set the alarm for 15 minutes.
I shoot up, feeling strange that I’m not moving north on the Arizona Trail. I can see a light that *is* moving north on the AZT. It’s Marshal.
“I didn’t realize you were time trialing it, Scott.” We chat as I pack up, then wish each other well. I have no expectations for night 2. I’m so tired, and any progress is progress, I tell myself. No matter how slow.
Luckily the next 10 miles are very fast and very easy. The Boulders segment is so much fun. I knew I could at least make it through here. Anything more was pure bonus points.
It’s such a relief to be moving fast again, but the lack of challenge is putting my mind on auto-pilot. I’m also outrunning my lights for the first time in the race. I pull myself out of a zoned state, while carving corners through yucca and cactus. I realize that I do not know where I am. I know exactly what I am doing — racing the Arizona Trail and heading north. That purpose and state of mind is unwavering, but it doesn’t depend on being in any place or at any time. I can’t remember if this is the first night or the second night. And I don’t really care. All I know is that it’s night and I’m riding a super fun, fast and flowy section. Rincon Valley? No, soil isn’t red enough. Cienega? No, I think I already did that. Oracle? The sun was up when I was there. Oh yeah! I just left the cache… I’m on the Boulders!
Turn left on to the powerline. Bonus miles from here on out. Who knows, maybe I can get up and over Ripsey? Wouldn’t that be something. It seems pretty far fetched, but I feel good.
This segment can drag on, even during the day. The hills hurt, the rocks annoy, the singletrack is hard to follow. Tonight it’s just not that hard. I’m crediting good fitness with keeping me awake, making it so none of this hurts like it should. Descending to Ripsey’s wash I catch myself losing balance on a dismount. Whoah. How am I able to ride so well if I can barely walk?
I start pushing up Ripsey, riding at first, then walking. I’m doing it. I can make it to the top, for a ridgeline run through the stars, a dance through the sky. I’m writing poetry in my head. All lost into the darkness of the night, sadly.
I’m moving, and don’t want to stop, but it’s like pushing through a thick fog. We can move faster if we stop. Set the alarm, turn off the mp3 player, lay down. Come on. I promise it’ll be faster in the long run. I have to convince myself. I don’t need to sleep.
There’s a mouse hole right next to where I throw out the pad. I should move, but instead just put my water bottle on top of it. 10 minutes of rushing images and crazy dreams, I wake up right where I want to be. Keep pushing.
the classic Ripsey ridgeline photo, at 3 AM
I know this view, I remember it. I can see the lights of Kearny and of Florence, I can see a million stars above and all around me.
The thought occurs. Is this a good idea, to be descending Ripsey’s switchback attack, right now and in this state? You’ve made it so far. Sunrise would be amazing up here. Movement calls louder than safety. I can always dab and walk.
I do some of that, but also a lot of riding. Lefthanders feel natural and roll around nicely. It’s the righthanders that are terrifying in the dark, so I dab and flip the bike around. I think about texting Chad my switchback score, but I can’t even keep track of it for two turns. It’s taking everything I have to stay on it, and I’m loving the challenge.
I stop and happen to check my tire’s incision. I had stopped worrying about it, but it’s clear the sutures have failed. I take note of one that is still in tact. Ride a little more, and notice it’s gone. Damn it. I was going to make Kelvin before sunrise, but I couldn’t risk the tire splitting and blowing a tube. I pull it all apart and don’t realize how bad a spot I had chosen until I start trying to sew. It’s so windy that I can’t thread the needle to save my life. Eventually, all I can do is laugh. Laugh at the circumstances that led to me sitting on edge of Ripsey, at 3am, going on 48 waking hours, trying to thread a needle in the wind. Then finally getting it, and losing the thread to the wind and having to start over.
This time I start the stitch correctly, with an anchor knot, and double up the stitches. I still don’t know how to end it, but I glue and patch, then cover the wound with duct tape to protect the thread from rocks. Alright, let’s get to descending.
The trail across Florence-Kelvin road is so long, and climbs ever so unnecessarily. My mind had fixated on sunrise past Kelvin, but it is already happening. Why is the trail climbing so much? It’s the only section of the whole route I was just begging to be over.
Kelvin is full of surprises. First, it’s frigid cold. I try to remind myself to enjoy it, knowing I’m going to get cooked in an hour or less. The ADOT yard is open, and the crews are already working. The railroad has all sorts of machinery on it, making all kinds of noise. I grab a full load of water and head out. What? The trail crew is already working too. I stuff the rest of my muffin in my mouth as I wait for them to turn off the excavator and wave me through. “Good job. We let 10 racers through yesterday.” “Thank you for letting us through!”
I only make it a few miles down the awesome trail before I realize I’m dreaming while awake. I follow crazy thought patterns that seem perfectly normal, until I snap back to reality and think, “none of that made sense at all, and has nothing to do with the task at hand, why was I thinking that?” I look at the sun, already baking exposed skin, but there is no powerup available. I try to ride a little more, then get off and slump to the ground. For the first time, my body is saying “enough.” I fight to stay awake. If you can’t get to your GPS and set the alarm you could end up sleeping for hours. Get up. Get UP! I do the math, double check the AM/PM on the GPS, and as a last thought… wait, you have to turn off the music or you won’t hear the alarm. Whew. 10 minutes and I’m awake with a clear head.
The friendly neighborhood tail wind has begun, just like each of my rides this winter here. I love you, friendly neighborhood tail wind! I’m flying and destroying the climbs like they aren’t even there. This trail is so much fun it’s ridiculous.
The moon dust flies, the poppies come out to play psychedelic tricks on my mind. I was sure they would all be gone by now. I take a photo to prove they were real. Yep, it’s on the camera screen, must be real. The trail surface is smoothed by riders in front of me and the big storm. I’m so lucky, and I can taste the finish. Just a few more hours. This climb has got nothing on me.
I turn away from the river and the heat hits me like a wall. Ouch. As the climb goes on I feel like I’m moving backwards. It can’t possibly be this hot, can it? I’m unable to ride up even the smallest of hills, and I’m taken back to my Hermosa Tours experience, getting a completely toast rider through a very long climb. “The shoe is on the other foot now.” “Oh how the mighty have fallen.” I’m toast, but I’m going to keep moving all the same.
Things get worse and worse until I finally end up on my butt, freaking out that I have done permanent damage to my feet. They hurt so bad I feel like I can’t pedal, can’t walk. My hands are screaming at me, I can’t shift. My head, my stomach, my butt, anything that hurt mildly before had become an emergency. At least in my mind. What is happening to me? Heat stroke? It’s not that hot. I have plenty of water and am getting electrolytes and calories.
looking a little cooked
Maybe I’m just shutting down again — the last nap was hours ago. Seems like a good plan to me. Crash out in the shade. My last waking thought is, “where is my SPOT? What if I wake up even worse and need to hit 911?” “Where is it?”
As before, I’m ten times better when my 15′ alarm goes off. But my mind is fixated on being ‘in trouble.’ Turns out I have a very deeply rooted survival instinct. 🙂 I struggle for an hour to convince myself that I’m fine. I’m not toast like the rider I got through this section before. I can’t seem to shake that memory, or the idea that now one of the voices in my head is responsible for getting me — the toast me — out of here safely. Leapfrog shade spot to shade spot. Take it easy. I stand in one shade spot and wonder, “why am I standing here? I feel fine. Let’s go!”
I power up one of many steep ramps on the way to ‘the top’, on the way to the view of the Inner Canyon. That’s proof positive, right there, I am fine. Now let me ride!
It was a fine place to lose myself. In the midday heat, in an alien landscape, so beautiful and mind bendingly colorful even without the effect of 50 hours on the bike. I loved it — each and every crazy minute I spent riding through there. My power is coming back, minute by minute, and by the time I exit the Inner Canyon, I am rapidly approaching a rider in front of me. It’s Jill Hueckman, first place in the AZT 300 and first woman to ever attempt the full 750. “Sorry I couldn’t get more extremes of temperatures for you…” I don’t remember anything else we said. We were in our private shells of suffering, and both could think of nothing more than the finish.
Look at this, this is just gorgeous. Am I really here? I was desperate for the finish and for a cold drink, but also sad that movement on the AZT was going to come to an end. I still had a lot more to give, lots more power in the legs, even though the finish held plenty of suffering yet.
I jump off the bike for a wash crossing, and when I try to get back on it’s clear something is wrong. “How did that happen?” Front tire was flat. The sutures are still in place. Gah, the tube just failed and was spitting stans. I walk to a spot where I can lay back and try to work halfway in the shade. It’s too hot to stand around. I put in my last tube and pray to the MTB gods for 7 more miles of inflation. That’s all I need. I would walk it in if I had to.
The last miles are just as slow in the hot afternoon as they are at 1 AM. Fun trail, but just never ending. Why am I still on this side of Picketpost? Seriously?! I’m so nervous of every cactus and rock, not wanting to flat again. Eventually I settle down, especially when I get in walking range of the finish.
I scan the parking lot. A bikepacking bike on the back of a truck. Yes!
“Do you have anything cold to drink?”
“No, only water.”
“What?” I couldn’t fathom how someone could be at this parking lot without cold drinks. It was Les Handy, waiting to see Jill finish the 300, and since she was continuing on the 750 he couldn’t give her a cold drink, so he decided to reduce the temptation he just wouldn’t have one.
He did have some water that wasn’t ‘acid hot’ like the water in my bottle. I went to the shade and Leslie laughed at most of the things I said. I have no idea what I said. I was just happy to be in the shade, no longer under threat of flats, and stopped! He gave me his smart phone and with my muddled brain it took me a half hour to log in to bikepacking.net and post a one sentence comment about wanting a ride to Tucson if anyone was around.
first place in the 300, well deserving of a hug
Jill came in an hour or so later, and was full of crazy stories of her own. She was so full of life and so stoked to have finished the 300. Leslie gave me a ride over to the Arboretum, while Jill rode over. We found plenty of cold drinks, some sandwiches and other goodies there.
finally at rest after 300 miles and 53 hours – photo by Leslie Handy
And apparently I fell asleep on my arm. I probably could have fallen asleep standing up.
What an incredible ride. I’ve written about the non-stop flow of a bikepacking trip or race before. Instead of going home and going back to daily concerns, the ride keeps going and the energy feeds on itself and builds. You become one with the bike and one with the aim, the task at hand. But this ride took it one step further. I can’t believe I was able to push through so much brutal terrain with almost no sleep — just a handful of short catnaps — none of which actually felt like sleep. I had some bad luck, wasted some time, fell apart, but also had tons of good luck, saved time and kept it together remarkably well. Can I go faster? Sure. But I am quite happy with this effort. Though it set a new course record, I think Kurt’s ride in the actual race is more impressive. He had to battle a ridiculous storm on Lemmon, spend time recovering from it, and still rode nearly as fast as me. He’s still the king of the AZ Trail.
The big goal was sunset in Superior. After napping by the Arboretum and talking to Eric Foster and Brad Mattingly, I decided to pedal into Superior just as the sun was setting. It was just a paved climb on a busy highway. But the air was cool, the sun was gone, replaced by the warm glow of deep accomplishment. I’d made it to Superior long before sunset, set a new record, and finally conquered this beast.
Thanks for reading. Long ride, long report. I had to take a nap in the middle of writing it! 🙂
A few thank-yous. Tim McCabe for the AZT stoke, trail work and help organizing. Chad for the support and rides on both ends. LW Coaching for the training plan that was a great guide to preparing for this thing. Krista for all the training rides and example of dedication. Kurt and all AZT racers for the inspiration in the race. Jonathan Buchanan for his enthusiasm and reminding me of a few missing pieces in my kit. And last but not least, the Arizona Trail Association — for the trail itself!