|Training with rain gear (you never know for 24HOP) at Tbird. Photo courtesy of dirtbyte|
I started off the year with an attempt at some fairly structured training, including intervals and the like. I really wanted to drop some pounds as well as develop some top end that I just didn't have. This lead me to some pretty decent gains that I took into 24HOP where I had a good time with friends and even though we were in a 6 person team I managed to somehow end up needing to ride 4 laps between the start and 1:30AM including a double lap in the middle of the night.
|Entering the party/ride zone.|
|Trying to relax in the middle of the night after a double lap doesn't really work for me.|
|Ride fuel haha!!|
|Pretty sweet in race photo|
With 24HOP out of the way, I knew I had to get some big rides in before summer came. I knew that one of the best ways to prepare for the AZTR would be to get out to as many AES events as possible.
First one up for me would be the Sedona BFL - unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to make the group start, but I did it on the Friday prior to the event. This was only my second time riding in Sedona - my first time was probably ten years prior to that and something lame and short. What an eye-opener. The more technical nature of the loop had me going pretty slow for even me - but as usual I have enough stubbornness to get through. The scenery made the suffering worth it!
|The hiline descent is pretty sweet. Some sections are over my talent level, but WOW!|
|Breathtaking views all day. A little bit warm today though.|
|Pretty awesome refuel spot. A bit off-route, but worth it.|
I returned back to the normal training schedule around home for a bit. Which included seeing normal Sonoran Desert things:
|This guy was fairly upset...|
|You just never know what you might see when you go outside...|
Around this this time the heat was starting to get cranked up in the desert, and I knew I had to still build a good base. At the same time, a trainer didn't really appeal to me and I also wanted to impact the family life as little as possible.
Enter the twice a week work commute!! Commuting to work gets me the benefit of getting a training session (AM) that doesn't impact the family at all, and the one in the afternoon gets a portion of it "cancelled out" - I'd be driving some of the time anyway, so add an hour on and it's not really a big deal. So I get a 3+ hour training day with only a one hour impact to the family time. Score. Oh, and I ended up getting a new bike for it...
|No traffic jam here...|
|Riding into the clouds at the top of Humboldt!|
In May was the AES AA ride, and this ended up being the first group start of an AES ride for me. It was neat being able to meet Ray, Nancy, Jeff and others for the first time. It's a totally different vibe than doing it solo that's for sure.
|Photo courtesy of John S.|
June and July ended up being either flatter MTB rides or commutes. Nothing too much to note here, just trying to keep the fitness that had been gained over the year. It was a bit of a bad summer here. A MTBer and some hikers ended up losing their lives due to heat/other circumstances. This brought out many haters - I ended up riding the techy side of TBird to the summit on a 110 degree day to gather my thoughts and get my mind right. Here's a pic that captures how I felt about everything and the people who lost their lives doing what they love:
In September, I got some of the first bit of gear that really set into motion the rest of the year and more prep for the AZTR...
This phenomenal gear got my what I needed to start getting back into big rides, plus do a overnight route of my own design to really get a feel for what the 300 will be like.
Started October off right with a running of Prescott "Mini" Monster with Marcus - another great AES ride but we were running it ITT style, the group start goes in April usually.
Just about a month later was a test of our bikepacking skills. This would be Marcus' first bikepack and my third. This was was over twice as long as my previous longest as far as mileage and it really put the pain on us with an 18 hour first day and 15 hour second day. Plenty of hiking for me at least on day one. You can read about it here.
I can't say enough about that ride and what it did for me mentally. My previous long days never went over 10 hours. To do almost double that on day one and then follow that up with a 15 hour day was something I really needed to develop the confidence needed to put in big hours. This is good because the ultimate one day test was coming up...
The Picketpost Pulverizer is arguably the toughest ride on the AES calendar. Few attempt it, and not everyone finishes. This is a true backcountry ride. Bailout points are minimal, and way the eff out there so you better have some good friends if you need to get plucked out of there - and it won't be easy no matter what. There are a couple of good water sources, one being the Gila river. The other is in the small town of Kelvin which has no other commercial services that I'm aware of. I was weary of the route due to this, but coming on the heels of the CK/BCT ride, I knew I could finish it as long as I didn't sustain an injury to the body or the bike - that is no guarantee especially on this route. I ended up finishing right around when I hoped to - a 15 hour day. Even had a mountain lion sighting which might have helped me finish the last 8 miles a bit quicker haha! After this ride, I really felt that I now had the mental and physical ability to do the 300. My only regret is not being able to do this on the group start day... I did it the Tuesday after.
I enjoyed the following days eating too much food (Thanksgiving!!!) and relaxing a bit. There was one more event for AES (McDowell). I was really looking forward to doing the group start, but it got cancelled. I opted to do it the Monday after as there was going to be lots of traffic on the official day due to a running race. It was more a relax day for me than anything. It's funny how an 8 hour day can feel "short" after some big rides... You can check out the ride report here.
All in all I'm really happy with my progress this year and I'm looking forward to build on this for the next three months (holy crap) leading up to the AZTR.
Here's my year totals. I started out with a goal of 3600 miles, and totally smashed that. Would have liked to have gotten more climbing, but I have a feeling I'll get plenty next year!!!