Each product we build opens us up to new possibilities to indulge in. Each indulgence becomes a learning opportunity and ultimately leads to that next place. After I'd completed the Tour Divide in 2009 I commited myself to attempting more technical, potentially more difficult Ultra races. The Arizona Trail Race is one of those races. The Arizona Trail is rocky, steep, and often unforgiving. It is a difficult thing of beauty. It was a perfect pairing for the Spearfish and an opportunity for me to play with some new ideas.
Kentucky Camp, a welcome water stop
Just as when we toured the Central Coast back in the fall of 2010, I plugged all of my gear weight into an Excel spreadsheet. Weights are listed *skin out* meaning everything I wore, carried, and pedaled, except food. This is a detailed (geek) way to determine how much I am carrying, where I am carrying it, and potentially what I can eliminate from my kit.
The bike as shown (roughly 28.76 lbs)
Navigation, zip-tied to the handlebars (included in bike weight)
Strapped to the handlebars using two simple nylon straps from the Salsa Anything Cage (1.55 lbs)
In the seatbag from front (seatpost) to back (4.11 lbs)
In the frame bag (3.27 lbs)
In Osprey Manta 25 Backpack (2.37 lbs)
In the Gas Tank (included in frame bag weight)
Worn and/or carried in my jersey from top to bottom (6.32lbs)
Total Skin Out Dry Weight (does not include nutrition and water) (46.39 lbs)
Weight of gear worn (does not include nutrition and water) (6.32 lbs)
Weight of gear carried or pedaled (does not include nutrition and water) (37.69 lbs)
Total weight with food and 3L water was not measured at the beginning (estimated at sub-50 lbs)
Stopping for sunrise enroute to Molino Saddle and the climb up Mt. Lemmon
Not knowing the AZT 300 route I went a bit more conservative and carried quite a bit of gear. I contemplated not carrying my quilt, sleep mat, and tarp. Given the temperatures and conditions this year I absolutely could have gotten away with this. When I did stop for 4-5 hours of sleep after 36+ hours on the move, I barely got my kit out before I fell asleep. It is said that we carry our fears when aiming to travel light. For me, these fears are of getting cold and wet. This year the AZT dished out higher than normal temperatures. In the past there has been snow. In the future, I'll likely make these decisions at the last minute and leave what I don't need behind. I find that the less I carry the more freedom I have, not to mention more space for burritos and potato chips.
Heading back to the AZT from Sonoita, enroute to Kentucky camp
Now that I have some understanding of the route I'll definitely carry enough (probably too many) calories to make the finish. I had a hard time taking in the calories and getting my body to absorb them in the heat. I was constantly aware of my nutrition woes and suspected the heat as culprit. It was the same feeling I had during the DK200 last year. When the sun began to set my energy level and strength would soar. The miles seemed to come effortlessly. It likely played into my taking too few calories from Summerhaven.
I started the race with 6 CLIF bars, 6 packs of CLIF Blocks (with caffeine), and an enormous bag of trail mix that was primarily nuts. This was supplemented with sandwiches, ice cream, and soda in Sonoita that I carried through the first night. Kurt Refsnider and I stopped for Mt. Dew at the Saguaro National Park visitor center and each carried a couple up Redington to savor at the beginning of the 4WD trail and again at sunrise on the approach to Molino Saddle. When we reached the Catalina Highway I was having a tough time eating the trail mix and CLIF bars that I had. I was literally choking them down knowing my body needed nutrition. Hydration was a constant, but I did manage to get in enough water along the way. In Summerhaven I took a long-ish, hour-or-so break to eat and rest before tackling Oracle Ridge. From there it was a push down Oracle and across the pipeline…where I realized I had too few calories to make Superior.
I do wonder how deep I would have gone if I'd tried to push to the finish, but I know it will still be there next year and I'll take a very similar approach if I have the opportunity to show up again.
I hope this information is of help to those of you considering doing the AZT Race or a similar adventure.
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I've had a lot of good luck and made a series of choices to be working for the brand and in the bike industry. In 2007 I signed up for the TransIowa just to see if I could complete it. I completed it and discovered a few things about myself in the process. Adventure cycling has been in my blood ever since.