I wrote last time that “a lot of things have to go right” for an AZT thru-ride, let alone a record race.
If ‘things’ are going right, it should look kinda like this:
Less like this:
Sitting nauseous and bonking, under a tree at the top of the Bellota section of the AZT, I knew I was done. But wasn’t ready to accept it, just yet.
I packed everything I needed for a week+ on the trail. Except my stomach.
I’d done my homework, done my practicing.
A Mountain sunset intervals
Done my ‘training’, done my dreaming.
I had helped get more than fifty others out on the trail. Zooming along, tracking, living life.
One, in particular, very zoomy and very full of life.
Did my best to get her ready, for a late arrival the night before and quick turnaround to the start of the race. It was hard to let her go, hard to focus on my race and not everyone else’s.
Starting one day late was not enough. My head was not in the game.
Cott tank, where’s the water?
It didn’t matter, my stomach sucked all the water out of me. I went searching for water in the Canelo Hills for the first time, ever.
Dehydrated, lovesick and crawling. My bike fell to the ground, with me beside it. It was nearly sunset and Patagonia was still one hike-a-bike away.
I saw Lee walk out of the Mexican place from my picnic table in the middle of town. I was trying to drink a soda. It was all I could put down that night in the hotel, as my body ached and stomach turned.
Some hours driving put me at the finish of the 300 for a beautiful, if weak, sunset spin. I scanned the far ridgelines for a cute girl on a blue bike, but knew my eyes were wishful.
ESZTER! DONE! 2.5 days. Women’s record and fastest rookie time ever. So stoked. So proud.
I succeeded in being there with food, ice cream, drinks and laughs, but failed on the photo end. Hearing the stories from Ez and Pete, fresh off the trail, was priceless. I spared them the drag ride to Superior, dropping Pete off before heading back to Tucson.
Recovery proceeded in grand fashion.
The desert inspired me to get out there, the stories and riders of the AZTR inspired me to get back out there.
poppies on Canelo West!
I found a window. My head was in the game.
The Canelos went as they should, fast and canelo-flow. Tires held air. I had access to the power within me, but paced it beautifully.
My gut revolted climbing into the Santa Ritas. Two grape red vines. Fail. I’ve dealt with this before, I expect some on a ride this long. So I fought through it, and eventually got some food to stick, staved off a big bonk.
The moon rose red over the Sonoita grasslands. My moonshadow joined me for a romp in the woods. There was nowhere I’d rather be, even if I couldn’t eat.
AZT aid stations! And mile markers. I was thoroughly confused and amused to find multiple water stops in the middle of the night.
From the woods to the desert, the riding gets good and the effort minimal. I thought I had a chance of pulling this thing off. I ran a quick and efficient bivy north of I-10, and was back on the trail anything but sleepy.
The sun peeked over the Rincons for some primo singletrack.
I got to ride new-to-me trail, stunningly beautiful. I hit the Rincon Store and was stunned that nothing sounded good. Not even ice cream. Only soda. How could I not be wanting hot food, or any food?!
And then things fell apart. The easy stuff was over. Climbs longer than a few minutes. Continued exertion. Focus. Heat of the morning sun. Low elevations. A 90 degree day.
Challenging conditions for any AZT rider, but with a sub-functional stomach it was nearly impossible. If I ate I’d get nauseous and end up sitting in the shade, trying to keep myself together. If I didn’t, I’d end up sitting in the shade, bonking and trying to eat something. I was crawling.
A certain amount of this is normal. Stomachs shut down in the heat, and with big exertion. I debated about ‘is this normal’ all through Redington. Finally realizing that I have been here many times, with no sleep, faster pace and hotter temps. And I wasn’t stopping every 15 minutes. And I wasn’t nauseous the whole time.
I stuck with it, just to confirm in my own mind what I already knew. Struggling through Belotta and up and over the Hike-a-bike. I’d sit down at Molino, weigh my options and see if a big break gathered any motivation or a better stomach.
It didn’t. Pascal happened to finish his ride as I was sitting there. 40 minutes later I was home.
A lot of things have to go right. One thing sure didn’t. But I am sure glad I tried.
As they say, failure isn’t about falling down, failure is staying down. I will be back for another go at the 750, that is certain.
Luckily the whole project of the AZTR was a roaring success. From Eszter’s flawless run, to Max’s second fastest time in the 750, to Aaron’s crushing of the 300 (speaking of not staying down). The many stories and characters this race brings out is immensely rewarding. I’ve heard many tales of kindness and inspiration from the trail, many big goals and dreams that have resulted from it. As quite a few have told me, I’ll join in saying “I’ll be back next year!”