Thursday, November 4, 2021

Leadville Trail 100

Ok, so this is only a few months late...we had a baby and stuff!


In December of 2019 I entered the Leadville 100 lottery on a whim…and got in.  Little did I know, that was going to be the start of over a year and a half of training, race postponements, more training, pandemics, expecting our first child, moving and a whole bunch of other stuff…


After getting the notification that I ‘won’ the lottery in January 2020 I started training.  I’d never done a ride or race quite like what Leadville is all about.  My plan was to do the Wilmington Whiteface (Lake Placid, NY) race which is a qualifier for Leadville.  Since I was already in the race, a good performance would have moved me up in the starting grid and been some good experience for a race of that type.  By all accounts, Whiteface is the qualifier that is most like the Leadville course.  Needless to say pandemic happened and it got cancelled.  I was still hopeful that Leadville was going to happen but not surprisingly, it too was cancelled in 2020 (along with pretty much every other amateur bike race in the world).  I was able to defer into the 2020 race at the cost of a donation to one of the charities that the race supports.  2021 rolls around and my plan is the same:  Tons of training and Whiteface to get my starting position moved up.  Well, Whiteface again got cancelled (well moved to the fall) and Julia and I had some ‘life events’ i.e. expecting a child and moving.  Needless to say I had a busy spring and summer…


Training


Throughout the winter, I had been using TrainerRoad plans to build up my base.  I do this most winters using a sweet spot based plan.  This gets me into the spring in pretty good shape ready to get outside.  Given that Leadville is a 105mi race that takes 8-12hr unless you are superhuman, my training consisted of a bunch of long rides.  Multiple centuries on the road and many 5hr days on the MTB at Kingdom Trails.  

Burke Mt at Kingdom Trails...I think we're going to need a bigger hill.


In retrospect, I probably didn’t do enough intensity to drive my FTP up (sorry only the bike nerds will get that) but I got myself to be able to pedal my bike forever.  An underrated part of really long races, be it bike, triathlon, or running is being able to take in enough calories.  So a big part of training is learning what types of nutrition work for you and training your gut to take in 300-400 calories an hour when working pretty hard.  Midway through the summer, I had a pretty heavy crash and had an AC separation, I got pretty concerned that it was going to derail my training, but ultimately I only missed about a week and it was fine by race day.  It did however put a dent in my bike handing confidence, which is super important on an MTB.  Huge shout out to Glen Gollrad, we spend a day at Killington on the XC trails and the lift served downhill which really got my confidence back.  With race day approaching I was feeling really good.  My last few big rides felt great and I felt confident heading to Colorado.  For those unfamiliar, if you finish Leadville in under 12 hours you get a cool western style belt buckle as a prize.  If you finish in under 9 you get the ‘big buckle’.  I thought I might have a crack at under 9 hours, but I really didn’t know how I would react to the altitude and that hard of a course…


The Trip


Due to the move and pregnancy, this ended up being a solo trip for me, so I made it a quick in and out.  Ideally, I would have come to altitude a week or so beforehand to get acclimatized, but for multiple reasons that wasn’t practical.  The next best strategy is to spend as little time up high as possible to minimize fatigue prior to your race.  So I few into Denver on Thursday and had a fairly eventful flight.  Only an hour or so into the flight they asked for medical assistance, there was a 2 year old vomiting and was kinda lethargic…long story short the kid was ultimately ok, mom passed out on the descent into Denver and I had 2 patients on my hands.  Everyone was ok, the paramedics took them to the hospital and United Airlines gave me a $150 voucher for helping out.  The crew also gave me a nice handwritten note.  That night I stayed with my college friends Heather and Joe and their son Tommy.  They grilled up a great steak dinner and we got to catch up on old times.  Friday had a pre-race meeting where they went over logistics introduced the elite athletes, including national champions, multiple time winners and Jennifer Valente, who about a week an a half before won the gold medal in the omnium for track cycling at the Tokyo olympics and now was racing Leadville, certified bad-ass.  After they announced her, huge ovation, totally deserved.  The organizers give this awesome pep talk/hype video which makes you feel awesome about the race the next day. 



Not a bad spot to hear about race logistics

I'm pretty sure I can beat this guy, he's only the national champion



There I am!







There was also the registration stuff, getting your number plate etc. etc.  With that done I drove back to Frisco where I was staying.  One of my dear friends from high school older sister, Melissa and her family live in Frisco and they have an in-law apartment they were gracious enough to let me stay in.  The whole family are mountain bikers and the boys Mitchell and Dietrich are crazy good downhill riders, so hanging out and talking bikes and racing was a ton of fun. They cooked up a great pizza dinner to top off my carb loading for the day.  Speaking of carb loading…if I recall correctly, my food for the day was:  6 single serving instant oatmeal cups, an entire bunch of bananas, 5 whole wheat bread and nutella sandwiches, a starbucks latte, 1.5 personal sized pizzas and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.  The recommendations for carb loading are 8g carbs/kg body weight the day before.  I’m about 86kg, you do the math.  I got a 30 minute easy ride in to spin the legs and make sure the bike survived the plane flight.  Took it easy the rest of the night and got to be early.




Race Morning


Alarm rings at 4am and I spring out of bed.  One more cup of oatmeal and water to top off the reserves.  I get right in the car and head to Leadville, about a 30min drive.  I got a great parking spot downtown only about 2 block from the start.  The race is incredibly well run, my only criticism is the parking.  Could be better organized, it’s a bit of a free for all.  I got my bike in the starting coral and went back to the car to stay warm (it was only 40-something deg at 6am!). I’m glad I got there early as I got good parking and I got my bike in the front of the corral I was in.  Traffic on the first climb is a thing, so you want to be in front of as many people as possible.  I was also in the last coral since I was a lottery entry without a qualifying time.  



Weapon of choice, ready for battle



The Race


They start the race with a shotgun blast at 6:30 but only the elite wave starts then.  The rest of the race goes off in waves, I went at 6:49.  The first 5 or 6 miles is downhill, on the road and really fast.  There is a race to the pinch point at the start of the first climb where it goes from the width of a road to 2 bikes wide.  The first climb, St. Kevan’s actually isn’t that hard except for all the traffic, only about 1000ft of vertical over 4.5mi rated cat 3 on Strava  There is an aid station at the top which most people, myself included, skip.  The descent is mostly road and super fast.  I found it really helpful to have the course programmed in on my computer so I could see where the turns were and how sharp they were.  After the descent you immediately start the Sugarloaf climb.  It’s about 1100ft vertical over 4.6mi and is rated cat 2 on Strava, mostly road and double track.  After Sugarloaf is the notorious Powerline descent.  It’s really rough double track and to be honest is kinda sketchy.  3.6mi, 1300ft down, average grade of -7.2%.  Tons of rocks and ditches, but not that technical.  I almost overcooked one corner but all in all up to this point I had passed a ton of people.  I was feeling really good at this point where you hit the (relatively) flat part of the course.  Miles 22 to 44 are rolling, with a few road sections that you can get some pace lines going and really get moving.  The next aid station is known as Pipeline and is at about mile 28.  Not knowing what to look for in the neutral aid station, I blew right by it.  For a second I considered going back for it, but I made a quick assessment of my supplies and decided I had enough to make it to the next station.  In retrospect it was the correct decision as it saved me some time, and I never ran out of calories or fluid.  The next notable section of the course is at mile 40 where the Twin Lakes aid station.  The feed zone stretches for probably 3/4 of a mile and is just a tunnel of screaming fans/crew members.  It reminded me of Wellesley College during the Boston Marathon.  Everyone is yelling encouragement and it is an awesome pick-me-up.  The volunteers at the aid stations are great, you roll in, they ask you what you want, fill your water bottles and hydration pack, give you gels, salty snacks and get you rolling quick.  I took off my vest and arm warmers at this point too as it was about 3 hrs into the race and starting to get warm and I had some climbing ahead.  A few miles after Twin Lakes the men’s leaders passed me going in the other direction.  I was in awe at how fast there were going, it was Keegan Swenson (race winner), Lachlan Morton (multiple time Tour de France racer) and Howard Grotts (national MTB champion).  Then comes Columbine…the brutal climb that gets you to halfway through the race.  HC rating,  7mi, 3000ft vertical, average grade of 8%ish.  The women’s leaders passed me in the other direction in the bottom third of the climb.  The bottom 3/4 of the climb is very hard but manageable.  The last 1.5mi is almost impossible to ride due to the traffic, altitude, fatigue and condition of the track.  Almost everyone has to hike-a-bike except for the elites.  Having to walk so much was demoralizing, I knew there was some walking, but not as much as I realized.  There is an aid station at the top where you reload and do the screaming descent.  It’s mostly dirt road so you can really get moving.  Again, this is a place where having the route mapped on the bike computer is super handy so you can judge the corners before you get to them.   Back again to Twin Lakes aid station and back to the ‘flat’ portion of the course.  I say flat, but the 5 major climbs add up to about 8k feet of vertical but the race has 13k total, so it’s not really flat.  The course takes a slightly different route back then the way out.  The one section of single track on the whole course is in a spot that he leaders would still have to contend with the back end of the race going outbound so the organizers avoid that with a re-routing.  On this section there is a significant road portion.  









The race was spread out enough at this point that I wasn’t able to get in a pace line, there was a headwind, and it was getting hot…I got a hamstring cramp out of nowhere and had to stop for a minute or two and massage it out.  That was the only time I really had any doubt about finishing, like, “if this does’t go away, I’m not sure how I ride these last 30 miles.”  Fortunately, that resolved quick but it put me in a bad headspace and the next 15 miles or so I was in a really bad spot mentally.  It didn’t help that the next major thing was the Powerline climb.  It’s 3.4mi 1300ft vertical at 7.3%, category 2.  However, the first half mile is at about 15% grade and almost everyone walks it (remember how I said it was a sketchy descent?).  The bad headspace continued with really positive thoughts like “this course sucks” and “this is way too hard for amateur racers”.  But I made it to the top and got some recovery on the descent and I got in a better mental spot.  Back up St. Kevan’s (also know as Turquoise Lake in this direction), objectively not a hard climb but it was at mile 95 or so…Then the descent down back towards town.  Once you are off the last descent you think you are home free…but you aren’t.  The last 3 miles are a slow grind up dirt roads which are sneakily uphill.   I made my way into town and going over the finish line was such a great feeling.  I’ve never been one for the finishers medals at races, but when they put that one around my neck, I’ve got to admit it was a pretty good feeling.  That was by far the hardest race I’ve ever done.  They had a ton of water/food etc at the finish line, I got some and sat down on an embankment and didn’t get up for about a half hour.  After I recovered, I put the bike in the car and walked up to the finishers party, there was great BBQ and beer.  Sat down with a bunch of random racers from the day and had a great time with a bunch of people i dint know.  That is one of the things I love about the bike racing scene, the vast majority of people are super cool and you can talk and hang with anyone.  I was talking to a guy who raced who lives in Leadville, he asked me what my time was, I told him (10h10m) and he said “That’s pretty good for someone from sea level who didn’t know the course.”  That made me feel pretty awesome.





Post race beer, top 10 beer I've ever had

Sweet, I think I'll wear it to work



Now for the bike nerd stuff:


Bike Setup/Gear:

Santa Cruz Blur 100mm travel front and rear w/lockout

SRAM drivetrain

Hope brakes

Wheels:  Nox Composite rims, Hope Pro4 hubs 

Tires: Vittoria Mezcal 2.25”

PNW Dropper post

Revelate Design storage bags (Top Tube and Saddle bag). Thanks Jason!

USWE hydration pack

Data Collection: Wahoo Element Computer, Garmin Fenix watch

Tools/Repair:  One spare tube (with one more in my special needs bag), 3 co2, multi tool, master link for the chain, tire levers, Dynaplug tubeless repair kit.  Fortunately, didn’t need any of it.


Comments/thoughts on set up:  


  1. Bike was awesome, totally flawless.  I did a thorough tune/clean before I left, if nothing else, showing up on the starting line with a clean slick bike is confidence inspiring.
  2. There is lots of talk about hardtails for Leadville.  I’d stick with full suspension unless you are a really skilled bike handler.  A few of the descents are sketchy.  See my comments on lockouts below
  3. The Mezcals were a great choice.  They have a continuous center strip that rolls fast and they have enough traction for the course.  That said, they suck as New England tires and are already off the bike.
  4. Dropper post:  Would absolutely use one.  I though about putting in a rigid post for a hot second and I’m glad i didn’t.  The pound you save isn’t worth it.  I’ve never really ridden an MTB without one so, for me, I think it would be weird.  Another bonus to the dropper is you can get really aero on the road descents which I think helped
  5. Lockout:  A definite must have.  There is so much road and smooth dirt that you save a ton of efficiently with it.  I would guess I had the suspension locked out for 1/3 of the race.
  6. Power Meter:  Very glad I had one.  Helps you pace the climbs better
  7. Gearing:  I’d get as wide of a cassette as your set up would allow.  I don’t think I’ve ever done a ride where I’ve spent as much time in the 10 tooth cog AND the 50 tooth cog.  
  8. Computer:  I’ve got a Wahoo Element which is a great computer.  I had too many screens set up and scrolling thorough them was a pain.  For similar races in the future I would set up two screens:  one with the map of the course so I’d know the turns upcoming on downhills and a main screen that shows the upcoming elevation profile along with the distance to go, current power numbers etc.


Nutrition


  1. I’ve found that for rides longer than 3h I do well on 300-400 calories an hour.  
  2. I tried to do this with 2 gels an hour (100cal each) and drink mix on top of that
  3. I set an alarm to ring every 30min to remind me to drink and take a gel
  4. For rides of 5h or so I was ok on just gels and liquid and I tried to do that for this race
    1. That much drink mix and gels got hard to take in by hour 7-8, it was just too sweet.
    2. No stomach cramping, but the taste got to me.
    3. In the future, I’d work in some solid food
  5. I took a few electrolyte tabs every hour, that seemed to help


By the numbers:

105mi

10:10 official time

10.3mph Ave speed

157w Ave Power

200w Normalized Power

139bmp Average Heart rate




Big Picture things I’d do different

  1. Have a crew. Getting in and out of the aid station would be a bit faster and you can have all your own nutrition.  Also traveling is more fun when not by yourself.
  2. Arrive early to acclimatize.  Due to our move, it wasn’t reasonable for me to be out there for a week, but that would be the best way to do it.
  3. Training:  I’d do all the long rides i did, but I’d build in some more intensity on the shorter rides, I think my FTP probably dropped a bit as I was spending so much time at endurance pace.
  4. Knowing the course would be a massive advantage if I do Leadville again.  The course is much harder than I realized and that was tough mentally.  If I were to go into it again, knowing that I would have to walk on Columbine and Powerline that would be a lot better.  I assumed I’d be able to ride those spots and not being able to do so put me in a bad spot mentally.

Lastly, massive thanks to Julia, she managed our move from Boston to Wenham when I was gone.  She was totally supporting of all the training and stuff that went into the race. Not to mention growing our beautiful baby Anna.  Would have been awesome for her to be out there for the race, but you know, 3rd trimester of pregnancy and traveling to altitude kinda got in the way:)






Friday, October 22, 2021

2n Glenn and the First CX Race

  • Human: 57 year old male, mostly mountain biker, 5”6’ 150-ish pounds
  • The bike: Fuji Gran Fondo endurance/comfort road bike, disc brakes, Shimano 105
  • The race: Boss Cross, Westford, MA 
  • The enabler/coach: Ashely (Red) Hill

Clearance, Clarence?? 
So, we arrived early enough to pre-ride the course, over grass, some roots, through a barn or two, a corral thing, ups and downs. I thought it was a super fun course, and it is not like any kind of riding I have done before.


I was, of course, in the Men’s Cat 5 heat, I felt special at the start area because mine was the last name called! In the back row naturally. 

The start signal goes off, and we are off, I’m trying to keep in contact with the second group, mostly failing, until we got to the corral thing, I mashed it thru that to catch them, almost ran into another guy, slammed the brakes, now I am in the wrong gear, and the pack motors off into the distance. 

Most of the race I am kind of alone one the course, keeping ahead of at least one guy, trying to get better at my dismounts, my remounts remained abysmal and slow! That jumping and landing on your seat looks possible, feels impossible! At some point in my second lap, a guy comes out of the pits and pulls in behind me, I pass another guy who stopped on the course, no idea why. So, now I am trying to stay ahead of these two, racing right? Cross the finish line at the end of my second lap and the bell guy looks me in the eye and rings the bell with vigor! Last lap, can I stay ahead of these two guys? Well, the answer is no, on the long start straight, down in the drops, pedaling as hard as I can, those two breeze by me, racing right? Well, I finish my last lap and “blast” past the finish line in the drops, going fast-ish. 

The instigator

Whew, I finished, no crashes, did not ruin anyone else’s race, third from last!! I will do this again, I might not ever be “good”, but it is super fun on two wheels! 

Beverly GP Cyclocross

You can tell by the fact that you can't see any 
riders behind me how far out front I am...
Thanks Jen Carter for the pic!
So there it was, my triumphant return to cyclocross racing. And, by *triumphant* I mean I didn't die. About 10 years ago I was racing quite a bit, but it's been a while since I worried about which side I needed to pin my number on or obsessed about tire pressure. Okay, I NEVER obsessed about tire pressure, but you get the point. 

With the race happening in my proverbial back yard, I had to do it, lack of training or semblance of fitness be damned. In fact, the entirety of my "training" for the race consisted of the one-lap pre-ride I did shortly before the start. 

If you want to skip past my ramblings and see some pics of my teammate/work colleague/bro, scroll below, but if you want to subject yourself to a tiresome description of the course, read on.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Arizona--2021


It's 2021, we're hopefully moving past COVID and moving towards some return to normalcy... more to come!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

RacerX Bike Maintenance Tutorial Edition 1: Bike Painting!!

So since not too many of us have been doing any rad rides, other than shredding Willowdale of course, the RacerX site has been hurting for content.  I thought I'd do a post showing how I repainted the rear triangle of one of my mountain bikes.  It was a fun project that only required hex wrenches, sand paper, masking tape and a bike specific spray paint called SprayBike.  It came out really well, and I'm tempted to do my cyclocross bike as the paint on that has seen better days.

The backstory:  My Trek Fuel EX was my first mountain bike, which I got about 4 years ago, and since it was my first MTB, it has been crashed a bunch and the paint of the rear triangle has definitely seen better days.  For some reason, my old MTB/CX shoes allowed a ton of float and my heels could rub on the seat and chain stays and over time a ton of paint had come off, to the point it was down to bare metal in some spots.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Arizona Adventures

I’ve never been one to shy away from biting off more than I can chew, so when Glen tossed out the idea of a one day epic 100-mile ride along the very remote Arizona Trail, I was in. I even started to train for it, but then, well, life got hectic, and “training” turned into drinking lots of coffee hoping that it would be a suitable replacement for proper sleep, diet, and exercise. 

It wasn’t.


Friday, February 28, 2020

How the West was Won

Phoenix to Tucson:
How the West was Won



Still reminiscing of my recent trip to Southwest Utah I told myself it was time to take a break from the desert. Where did I end up? The .......desert. Winter was in full effect and the Peloton bike at my apartment gym just wasn't enough. It was time to head back to Arizona, Southern Arizona that is. Many a Saguaro and Taco awaited my good friend Matt Beattie and I. The logistics were fairly simple: Jet Blue to Sky Harbor, Minivan, Trail forks, and throwing caution to the wind. The evening/overnight temps resembled New England, but the Sun was to make regular appearances in the forecast.

After breakfast and obligatory Starbucks we began our journey at the Pass Mountain Trailhead. Our goal was to sample the Usery Mountain and Hawes trail networks. It looked like a full day and a full day it was. Off we go.......

Saturday, November 23, 2019

The Goose and the Hoodoo......A tale of two epic rides




He sits there...... reading his paper and watching the flow of traffic passing by. Despite the temperature being in the low thirties, he is still out there.  I hit the turn signal and take a right onto the Fellsway as I nod in his direction silently giving thanks for teaching me one of life's greatest lessons. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Fun bike stuff over the last 5 months

Fun bike stuff over the last 5 months

France:  So my girlfriend Julia had some work stuff in Nice, France back in September.  Rumor has it that the Tour de France and Paris-Nice roll through there, and allegedly, there are great beaches there, so I thought maybe I should tag along.  We ate awesome food and hung out on some really fantastic beaches but about that bike stuff…

I had rented a bike from this company we-rent-bikes.com (because I figured they would have bikes) for two days when Julia was doing most of her work stuff.  I had two great rides planned with huge climbs right outside of Nice.  Unfortunately, my first ride day also happened to be the only crappy weather day we had and I got rained out.  So on the second (first?) day of riding, I chose to do the ride with the famous climbs, the Col d’Eze (rhymes with ‘fez’) and the Col de la Madone.  The Col d’Eze is very frequently used in Paris-Nice and will be in the Tour de France this coming year.  The climb starts in a random Nice neighborhood and ascends to the village of Eze.  



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tour de Heifer

The combination of camping, Vermont, and a good gravel ride makes for a perfect weekend in my book.

Those three factors came together on the weekend of June 8th & 9th as Jean and I, along with the illustrious Liz & Dan, brought our travel trailers to Brattleboro, Vermont, for the Tour de Heifer.

Brattleboro is one of my favorite towns, with a cool downtown and an amazing farmer's market, books stores, antique stores, coffee shops, and restaurants (like the Whetstone Brewery with great beers and awesome outdoor seating). We were there last year for the West Hill Grinder and had been looking forward to a return--the Tour de Heifer was the perfect reason.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Waterbury Area Trails Alliance Gravel Grinder 2019

Well, it's spring 2019, so that means rain... April, and so far early May, have been rainy, rainy, rainy. Mountain bike trails are a mess, and events like the Muddy Onion, Rasputitsa, and the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance (WATA) gravel grinder have been impacted by the rain in one way or another. I did the Muddy Onion, and while it was a bit muddy, I fortunately finished right before the cold deluge began. Rasputitsa is on my bucket list, but I haven't committed yet, and this year's course seemed miserable with not only rain, but sleet and snow.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Muddy Onion 2019

muddy onion gravel ride montpelier vermont onion river outdoors
"Fun, fun, fun," that's my summary for the 2019 edition of the classic Vermont gravel ride, the Muddy Onion.

Starting and finishing in beautiful Montpelier, and hosted by Onion River Outdoors, the Muddy Onion has been a staple on my spring ride calendar for a few years now.

Be sure to also check back to past Muddy Onions: 2018 2017 2016

We've been blessed with generally great weather for previous years, but the forecast leading up to this year's event included lots of rain. Between the late snow melt and the precipitation, some of the pre-event course pics looked like it would indeed be a muddy onion.

The lovely wife and I headed up Friday, grabbed our ride numbers, had some great food and chillaxed at the Inn at Montpelier. As if obsessively checking the weather app... okay, multiple weather apps, would alter the predictions, I just about wore out the "refresh" part of my screen.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Southwestern Sojourn




Southwestern Sojourn:
Mountain Biking Sedona



 I felt a pull towards somewhere exceptional, somewhere different, somewhere that has long been on the list.

Sedona has long been known for its beautiful landscapes and its culture. Of course, there are the Vortexes. Ever since my Reiki Master training back in 2012 I have been advised to seek out the power of the vortex. Promised a life-changing experience, I finally heeded the call. It was time to ride the enchanted trails of Sedona Arizona.

I convinced my co-worker Jeff aka JZ, to tag along. Eventually, his partner in crime Reggie was added to the roster. The Three Amigos took flight landing in Phoenix around 10:30 am. With the yearning for singletrack and an empty stomach, we hit up a co-workers family restaurant for some authentic Mexican. It was here where I discovered Horchata...my world will never be the same. 



Food coma on fast approach, JZ turned the fob of the Dodge Caravan and we made our way north on I-17. With his lead foot in full effect, our captain forged the way through cactus fields, prairies, and canyons until we reached Elysium. 

I felt like they were flipping us off



We hit the ground running (or biking) picking up our rentals at Absolute Bikes and pedaling literally across the street to some sweet singletrack. Absolute Bikes turned out to be a great shop. They won me over when they said "I am sorry sir, but we screwed up your rental.""We accidentally gave it away to someone else, but we did replace it with a high-end carbon version at no extra charge." I was willing to let it slide this one time.

Climbing up Slim Shady, it wasn't long before my legs and lungs were en Fuego. But those initial views though.....




Unable to speak a three-word sentence, I made full use of the granny gears while being captivated by my surroundings. Slim Shady transitioned into Templeton where the pedestrian traffic was heavy. Onward, Easy Breezy offered up some nice drops where this guy felt like a hero. Just call me Huck Norris. After maybe eight or so miles the sun began to set. It was time for a cold beverage.






We made our way to downtown Sedona traversing about three rotaries to get there. It felt like we were back home for a minute. The views continued to not suck as we found a great bar to enjoy another cold one...



After dinner, which was more Mexican I believe, we hit the grocery store and migrated south to our Airbnb in a town called Rimrock/Lake Montezuma. Sounds kinda cool, right? Yeah, not so much...Turns out the actual Lake Montezuma is nothing more than a muddy pond loaded with foul and some random trash peppered throughout the perimeter. It felt like a scene from Breaking Bad, minus the crap box Winnebego billowing yellow smoke. Thankfully there was no smell of meth in the air. Despite that blemish, there was a nice feature literally across the street from our house called Dry Beaver Creek. Peaceful yet strong, Dry Beaver turned into a very wet Beaver by the end of our trip courtesy of some precipitation.


The house was simple, clean, and perfectly sized for what we needed. Sounds like something someone whispered in my ear in college. There was this strange smell though...slightly dank but not too nauseating. Not whispered. I forgot to take pictures of the dwelling.

Day two was something I didn't expect, something that was not on the agenda. The forecast was less than optimal for Sedona, so I hit the Accu Weather and Trailforks websites hard as I was sipping bad coffee (Sanka?!). I concocted plan B which involved a thirty-five-minute drive west to the City of Prescott. The drive out there was nothing special and we stopped for a pre-ride taco at Filibertos. Side note...we ate a lot of tacos on this trip. I will talk about my favorite later. Reggie also eats a lot. Reggie eats like it's his job and he is dedicated to his job.


We eventually launched from Thumb Butte trailhead. I can summarize this day of riding in two words....F****n awesome! I was in love with the dirt, the creeks, the forest, the views, and the beautifully built singletrack. It was like purpose built for hardtails! There was no shortage of climbing of course, but the flow and features of the trails were outstanding. I was grinning ear to ear, except on the last climb out. After inadvertently submerging my left foot in what felt like arctic water from a creek runout I was rifling out vulgarities in my head while the snow pelted my face trying to make it back to the van. I was basically being a bitch for a half hour or so. I took a moment to reflect on the ride as I was changing.....feeling like this was not the last time I will see these trails.






Not surprising, we were all ready for a beer. Enroute to Whiskey Row in Prescott Jeff says " Hey I just saw a wild Boar in someone's driveway." Reggie and I laughed assuming he was hallucinating from the minor hypothermia he may have been experiencing. Turns out we were wrong....kinda. First stop was Ravens' Cafe for some nitro beers and cajun fries. Nice place, but it felt more like a quiet coffee shop. A few doors down we hit the next watering hole for which the name escapes me, but it too had a Raven reference. Ravens must be the state bird because they were everywhere! It was here we met two women, one being from my childhood home in Beverly, Ma. We shot the breeze while they educated us on holistic dentistry and what Jeff saw in that driveway...Javelina. Basically, it's a rodent that looks like a Boar, Wild Pig, etc..that sits in its own family virtually unrelated to any other animal. 

Our third and final stop was the Palace. An old Western Bar/Restaurant type place that had those cool saloon double doors to walk through into the dining room.  I pulled an "I'm your Huckleberry" moment while on video. The staff was all in period dress and the energy seemed electric. We ended up having the best waitress ever named Annika. Turns out she was graduating from nursing school in a few weeks! She was easy on the eyes as she introduced herself. I had to ask her immediately what was up with the dudes to my right. Looked like s**t was about to get real as they sat down. The middle guy had what looked like a Sheriff's badge and he was packing some serious heat. 

Yes, I had to make this a black and white photo.

That night ended up being a ton of fun. Prescott.....I shall return. The drive home was a little dicey and Jeff thought he was Mario Andretti forgetting that the bends in the road did NOT have berms. 

Day three's menu included breakfast, espresso, singletrack, killer views, drinking beers out of a van with a former Pro Enduro Racer, Thai food, and Salsa/Country dancing in a parking lot. Another big day of seventeen ish miles with big challenges and scenery that did not suck. Llama, Cathedral, Broken Arrow, and the Hogs did not disappoint.


That is the infamous "White Line" trail



Apres ride we stumbled across this woman with her friend living the van life enjoying whiskey and beer in the parking lot. Reggie swore it was peach schnapps. Krista Rust was her name and she was sponsored by Turner Bicycles as she traveled the world as an Enduro racer. She and her friend were going to collaborate on some guided South American mountain biking tours they told us. We all swapped stories talked of mountain biking and enjoyed the food and laughter that followed. Another great day in the books.

We convinced Krista to come and ride with us the following day as we chose to explore Made in the Shade and the very popular Hiline trail. First, espresso at the Sedona Bike and Bean shop. I will be honest and say that I enjoyed this hike. I was able to ride many of the sections, but there were a few that wreaked of badness to me. There was no shame in my game as I happily walked my bike up and down these death traps. I did love the views and I certainly loved watching Krista ride as if she could've done them in her sleep. Very impressive. Also impressive were some of the lines that Jeff and Reggie took. Nice job fellas!








What can I say, another great day above ground, on the bike, in the sun with great people. That evening concluded with Indian Food, grocery shopping, and movie night with me introducing the boys to Tombstone. Doc Holliday is still my favorite character. 

Monday, which ended up being our final day of riding due to the forecast was nothing short of a good time. We descended down the chunky yet flowy Scorpion trail. It was here that I had one of my few heroic moments on the bike. 


After a short break, I called upon the Power of Grayskull and Jesus Christ himself to help me finish a very long and chunky climb up SkyWalker. Knowing that this was my final pedal of the trip I took the time to take it all in......oxygen that is. I was breathing so heavy that my tidal volumes were eligible for the Guinness Book of World Records. ARDS aside, I smiled and thanked the Universe for the opportunity. A toast and a street taco to top it all off. The Pollo with the Sriracha Honey sauce was the clear winner.

Those were the only Javelinas I saw

Feeling bummed that we were done riding we decided to take a road trip. First was a pit stop and Montezuma's Castle!



After dropping off the bikes, Jeff and I were feeling randy as we got a double espresso at the now familiar Sedona Bike and Bean. Onward up 89A north! This was a real gem of a drive. We departed Sedona at 4000 feet of elevation and arrived in Flagstaff at just under 7000 feet. We were blown away with the diversity of the terrain, stopping here and there to capture some pretty sweet shots. FYI...falling rocks and boulders are a real concern on this road!







Much like Prescott, I was captivated by Flagstaff. How awesome is it that you can mountain bike in the Red Rocks in Sedona and forty-five minutes away you could be skiing by the afternoon? We sampled a number of breweries for which my favorites were Dark Sky and Historic Breweries. Historic makes a delicious cherry pie vanilla porter. We dined at this slightly upscale Thai place where the food was the best of the trip. They even got me to drink Saki. Not my bag baby.




Much to our dismay, the weather had turned. Mother Nature offered up some sketch with a high pucker factor. White-knuckled most of the way I kept feeling like I was back home. I mean didn't I come to Arizona to leave this crap behind?!


The sun had risen on our final day as we packed up, cleaned up, and said goodbye to the mighty Dry Beaver. Looking to kill some time before our Red Eye home we drove through Scottsdale. After typing in "Old Town Scottsdale" in the google app we were led through the beautiful palm tree-lined streets, beautiful ballparks (Chicago Cubs spring training), and galleries that had me feeling like I was back in Los Angeles. Suffice it to say that feeling abruptly changed when the GPS said "you have arrived" as we stared blankly at the Psychiatric Hospital it was referring to. What was it trying to tell us?! Was it time to face matters, or a subtle reminder that Jeff and I had to go back to work soon? Either way, there was nothing old about the Scottsdale we saw. 



Downtown Phoenix was smaller than I had envisioned, but it was a clean looking city with construction everywhere. Reggie and I enjoyed a beer at the Tilted Kilt while Jeff got himself a much-needed haircut. We migrated over to a restaurant that was recommended by Reggie's co-worker. I forgot the name but I didn't forget the food! The eggplant meatballs were the shiz. Around 9 pm we boarded. I closed my eyes for a short period of time until my nose woke me up telling me the dude to my right probably just soiled himself. The rest of the flight home was uneventful.

My final thoughts on the Southwestern Sojourn.......

Sedona is a tourist trap. That was reflected in the downtown and pedestrian traffic on the trials. By no means was it overbearing. The hikers all played nicely in the sandbox waving hello and graciously allowing us riders to pass on by.

You cannot argue that Sedona is beautiful! The trails were awesome. The views were the antithesis of awful. All that climbing and chaffing were well worth it. I did feel like I was looking at the same views at times, but again they never sucked. Would I come back???? Yes, but only if I was riding in Prescott again. I will be back to that city and I will explore Flagstaff a bit more as those two cities did, in fact, speak to my soul. 

But what about the Vortexes??!! Didn't the higher power speak to me telling me to see these incredibly powerful entities?! I am happy to report that I finally stumbled across a very powerful vortex and it left me feeling....relieved.


Until next time my fellow Racer-Xers, keep it classy and keep it real.

Cheers, 

Jason