You can follow my progress for the Arizona Trail 750 at http://trackleaders.com/azt -I’ll be wearing a SPOT tracking device so you can see exactly where I am on the trail at all times. The forum on bikepacking.net will also have information throughout the race. My good friend Mike Szerszunowicz has been my partner in planning all of this madness and is racing the 300 mile version, so look out for him too!
It’s 2am and I’m still not packed to leave for the race tomorrow, but I’m not too tired yet and am itching to get some of my thoughts about this race on paper. Er, on the internets. There’s so much to this race that I can barely keep track of it myself, so attempting to explain it may be futile, but I’m gonna give it a go.
As I alluded to in my first post about this race, is it is self-supported. What does that mean exactly? I have to carry all of my own stuff. I can get water, food and even bike parts, if needed, along the route. I just cannot have any outside help, ie someone meeting me and handing me clif bars. Why? To level the playing the field. It’s a stark contrast to something like the BC Stage Race where you pay thousands of dollars for support along the course and food and a place to sleep when you are done with each day. Even the famous Leadville 100, which is no doubt a hard race, has support from race staff and personal crews to give you food and water and anything you might need. All you have to do is pedal your bike. In self-supported racing you have to find your own food and your own place to sleep. It’s only you! If you have a mechanical that is unfixable you have to find your way back to civilization to get it taken care of.
750 miles and almost as many concerns
The Arizona Trail Race differs from other self-supported mountain bike races in a few ways. One is it has way more single-track, which is actually mountain biking. This is more fun, no doubt, but almost always slower. And because it is a multi-use trail there is a lot of hike-a-bike, sections that are unridable. I’ve heard stories of racers bringing extra shoes for the long hiking sections…
Speaking of hiking, the 750 version includes traversing the Grand Canyon on foot. While carrying your bike on your back. 23 miles. Why? National Parks do not allow bikes to be ridden off-road. And the giant hole that is the Grand Canyon is too big to ride around reasonably. Since the official Arizona Trail goes down and up, so does the race. I just got back from Chris’ house where he sewed up a waist band contraption to hold the bike up and against my hydration pack.
GPS- I’ve never used one. I’m nervous about following a red line for a week. I’ve some maps and a general idea of where I’ll be, but the GPS is the key.
Tubeless tires- I’ve some new tubeless tires which are nearly impervious to punctures, as long as they don’t fail. Awesome, right? But if they fail, that’s it. Outside of a bike shop you have to then resort to tubes. And in Arizona that means slime tubes. So, even though I’m running light tubeless tires, I’ve got to carry a pair of slime tubes.
Water!- The most important nutrient. There are waypoints on the gps files with water sources, but I’m still nervous about having enough and getting it when I need it. Having never been out there is a huge disadvantage.
Rack-less bag system- Racks are so 00′s. Lighter and faster are bags that attach to your seatpost, handlebars and just about anywhere else on your bike you can strap some stuff down.
My set up
I’m riding a steel 29er hard tail with 2.2 tires. The biggest tires I’ve ever ridden! I’ve H-bars and a dynamo hub, and the SuperNova E3 Triple light. With the GPS mounted to the stem the front of my bike looks more like a space ship than a race bike.
Weight- Every extra thing you need to carry adds up. The winners of races like this go insanely light- all gear, tools, etc under 12 pounds or so. Bike touring folks probably have 30 pounds. I’m toward the light end, but not doing anything silly/ultra light.
Food- I’m bringing a tiny Trangia stove and hope to cook to 2 quick meals a day- oatmeal in the morning and ramen noodles with peanut butter for dinner. My cooking setup probably comes in at under a pound- but is still a luxury many racers go without. I will get food at towns on the few occasions I pass through them, but veganism definitely gives me more limitations than other racers.
And here I’m going to have to cut this post short! I’m running out of time and have a few other things to do- like file for an extension for my taxes and find my sunglasses in the explosion that is my room. But I have to address one thing, albeit inadequately: the why. Why do this? Here’s the simple answer: Being out in the world, moving forward, on your own is one of the most pure experiences one could have. Without getting too hippy or John Zarzan on you, it really shows you what being human is about. Emotionally and physically. And why race? Not just go out and ride? The pressure/eustress of a race lights a fire in me that pushes me more than I would otherwise. I love it! Which also explains only sleeping 2.5 hours two nights out. Owell!
I’ll try to post a photo of my bike set-up before I roll out. And updates to my twitter the few time I’m in cell reception, and I’ll ask my crew here who is receiving my SPOT updates to post to the Swarm! twitter, but that is not guaranteed. You can always follow the race in real-time at http://trackleaders.com/azt. And lastly, thank you to all of my GREAT friends who have come through and helped me in some way. HUGE efforts with my bike, my gear and well, me. It’s so appreciated and I’ll be thinking about each and everyone of you while I’m riding over the next 7-10 days!