Rocks and the Gila 100

We commenced the riding of rocks, as a recovery day of sorts, looking towards the weekend’s big ride.

New line… but still no brakes! Bail, bail!

New pads and a bleed weren’t enough for Chad’s bike, sadly.

My bike was available for riding.

oof, no harm, no foul

But it wasn’t always quite enough.

There we go.

At least the brakes work… a key ingredient in these types of situations.

Aaron was along for the ride, ‘observing’ as he said, getting confidence back after a big break from the bike.

We pedaled the CP singletrack over to Baby Jesus, having heard rumors of its resurrection.

you’re ready for the lunch rock now

Such rumors were true. It’s a hootin’ hollering good time. It’s been too long since I’ve been anywhere in that area — it is simply gorgeous.

Back on the main trails, there was still some time for micro hucking.

photo by Chad Brown

I don’t know if I’d call that one an actual huck, but I’d hesitate to call it micro. My heart rate spiked just as I rolled into it with too much speed to bail. As expected, I clanked out the rear suspension (using an old DT shock, temporarily) but was composed enough to hit the next two rocks after it. Oh yeah!

Riding rocks is good for the soul.

another big ride for the lev

So are long solo bike rides in the desert. The Gila 100.

I’m drifting in and out of consciousness, snuggled up next to Ez. Where am I, and what time is it? Am I on a plane, flying somewhere?

No, a big bus is taking us somewhere cool. Picketpost. I can barely make out the faces around me, and soon they are just lights weaving in and out of canyons. Ahead of me, behind me.

Moon peeking between thick cirrus, the night is warm. Warm with the fire of focused effort. Energy well spent.

Dawn’s dim, I can see the inner canyon, feel it. Like wandering down a dark hallway you know so well, feeling your way. Knowing where you are, truly knowing.

Stealing glimpses, trying to stay on the trail. There is beauty in racing through the beautiful.

not quite the saguaro I was looking for, but close. it was a good place to fix a flat

How else can you see so much in one day, in one flow? Dawn to dusk, Arizona Trail all the way, with nary a paved road to cross or look at in a hundred miles.

The conflicted feeling of being completely lost in the desert while following a (kinda) marked trail and a GPS line. Digging deep into your legs while feeling that it moves you through the landscape so effortlessly.

This is the flow of a long ride in the desert.

Streaks of yellow poppies and green grass in our periphery, pushing race pace with Max above the river. Fighting to urge to stop and take photos is harder than pushing the pace.

Ripsey’s got nothing on me today.

Antelope Peak, I have missed you

I feel so alone, even though some are chasing me with all their might, and others are ahead. The path ahead is rarely traveled, raw and burdensome. Hated by some, loved by others. Even the fresh tire tracks ahead do little to convince this is a place people frequent.

Above Bloodsucker, I stop to install earphones. Suddenly I am not so alone. It’s Chad!! He’s dropping into Bloodsucker at warp speed. Time to motivate.

My body could respond with sputtering or refusal, after seventy miles, but instead it purrs and revs into action. Is racing type 1 or type 2 fun? I ask myself. I ask myself frequently. Am I having fun, or is this just going to be fun afterward? The answer, today, is unequivocally, yes — this is fun. Extremely.

Low moments arise, like being relegated to walking up the final pitch to the top of Bloodsucker’s climb, hamstrings on the verge of cramping. It’s the only time I wish the finish were closer. I’m even looking forward to the five awkward wash crossings before the finish, especially because I can look back at each one and see if Chad is on my tail. If not, relax.

The sun is still shining on me as I crest the finish ridgeline, to the tune of cheering APC racers above me. Hunter navigated the course faster than me, without a GPS. Chad followed behind, solid quelling Max’s pre-race big talk. Max rode in after dark, tail between his legs, but still completing a hell of a fast ride. Eszter kept a super steady ‘ride’ (not race) pace, passing people who decided they’d rather be plucked from the trail than find their own way off it. More on that later, perhaps. It was an interesting night watching for headlamps coming in the distance.

Thanks to Chad and all things AES for the fantastic day. Huge congrats to him for crushing the course, taking a big chunk off his time, besting Max, and pushing me to the point of cramping. Awesome. Riding the AZT from Picketpost to Oracle is one of the best big rides out there, period, and perhaps the best way to lose yourself in the desert.

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