Saturday morning the alarm was supposed to go off at 3 AM but I woke up at 2:57 AM and turned it off before it would have a chance to wake up the wifey.
True to form being that I work in the IT world and am technically always "on call", my phone rang at 10:01 PM the night before with an issue that I would need to take care of. Meh. So much for a good nights sleep.
I was already loaded up and ready to roll, I just was waiting for Marcus to make his way to my place from Chandler. He rolled up and we got his loaded up then we made our way to the McD's to hit up a little bit of food, then the easy drive up to Flagstaff for a 7 AM race start. Made it to the Safeway and did some usual pre-ride activities and such. Talked for a bit with a few guys I knew (Joe, Brian, Eric) and then finally got to meet "Angry" Ray. Thing is, he's not very angry (unless you're a bike crank I guess). I was expecting a middle finger salute, but got just a firm handshake and a smile.
Saw some other riders that I "knew" strictly from reading blogs - but I was a bit too anxious to intro myself. My introverted self being in full effect in this case.
We got started and had a neutral roll to the start of the Elden climb and before I knew it, we were off. I watched the fast group take off and I settled in for a long but manageable climb up Elden road. Marcus hung for a bit, but eventually I dropped him but I knew he would come around. We were going to ride our own rides but would be together most of the time. Right now I do the big climbs a bit better but he rocks the DH and our normal flatish terrain paces are about the same. It worked out pretty well. I was really happy that I was able to keep Nancy and Brian in view the whole time.
Ended up at the top with a beautiful view
From there, fun descents and more beautiful trails:
Once we got to AZ 89 we made a pit stop for water and ran into a bunch of riders including John S who was out doing his own big ride with some overlap of our route. He was having a bad day, but we still got to talk about a few things. He took off in front of us and we were a bit behind him but we had acquired a follower - a guy who was doing the route but didn't have a GPS or cue sheets from what I can tell. He would stop when we would, and follow us the best he could, but he was starting to lag behind and eventually Marcus and I made the decision to drop him at one of the gates where we waited five minutes for him. We just couldn't let this guy impact our ride anymore. The decision weighed on me for the rest of the day, but I knew that there were riders behind us and a busier section of the AZT where he might find help if he needed it. All of that to say that if you are going to do these races, have your crap together and be responsible for yourself.
We passed John for the last time as he stopped to take some photos of us - here is the one he got from me. Thanks John!
After that, there was a bit of climbing to do but then the trail relented and we had quite a few fast flowy miles as we approached I40. Good stuff. Then we were back to climbing a bit, nothing big, but the day was getting long and we were getting ready to be done.
In true AES fashion, there were a couple of kicks to the nuts as we approach town and are actually right next to roads that would get us back to town... only to turn right and do some pipeline climbing and descending into a crappy headwind. Then another decent climb to get back to some trail on Elden. Finally the end came and it was a quick a smooth cruise on road back to the Safeway.
There was a decent group of riders still hanging out so Marcus went in a grabbed a few beers and we talked about the day and gave Ray a hard time about the end haha.
All things considered, I was really happy with the day and my performance. For me, these events are always about finishing. I think for most people they are. My previous ITTs have always put me at either dead freaking last or very close to it. Of course people are always DNFing these so just finishing is good enough for me. But this time Marcus and I came in middle of the pack, so I am super stoked about that. AES AA Results
Can't wait to do more of these events in the future.