Finishing time: 10 days & 15.5 hours
4th place out of 18 racers
The Arizona Trail Race 750 starts at the Mexican border, follows the Arizona Trail (AZT), and ends at the Utah border. The route is 750+ miles long and has about 100,000 ft of climbing. It’s mostly single track that winds through the desert, climbs through the mountains, and, towards the end, crosses the Grand Canyon.
In short, the ride was like an abusive boyfriend. Not just to me – to everyone. Two riders went to the hospital to have deeply embedded cactus needles surgically removed. Many succumb to gastrointestinal problems due to heat and hard riding conditions. Lots of bikes and tires were bashed and torn from the rocky trail causing numerous people to scratch. The attrition rate was particularly high this year at 66% for the AZT 750. And I went off route so many times because I ran out of food or needed repairs that I added an extra 45 “bonus” miles.
I did the 300 race last year, so I knew that the first part of the route was tough. But hey, I guess I like to flirt with the bad boys and I thought that I could handle the longer version.
Hah! With hotter temperatures this year, I ran out of water several times. My body and bike took a lot of abuse during the fist leg of the race, so, at about half-way, I had to retreat off-route to a bike shop in Apache Junction.
I could hear the AZT laughing at me saying: “Where are you going? Don’t leave me. That bike shop just sells beach cruisers. They ain’t going to help you.” Luckily, the owner was an adept mechanic and happened to have all of the parts that I needed. All fixed up, I reluctantly headed back to the route.
But then, the AZT changed it’s tune. It seemed to apologize for it’s extremely abusive nature and gave me about a days worth of riding on smooth pavement and dirt roads. By the time I reached the mountain town of Pine, I was lulled into thinking that the rest of the ride would be better. Had the AZT really changed? Was the misery over?
The next day, when I reached the Highline trail, it was basically like the AZT had suddenly come back home drunk again and went right back to it’s abusive ways. The tough riding/pushing conditions slowed me down and I had to retreat 8 miles off-route again because I ran out of food before I could reach the next resupply at Mormon Lake. As a bonus, the night-time temperatures started dropping below freezing, making it uncomfortable to ride late into the night or get an early start on the day.
By the time I reached Flagstaff, my body and bike were so beat that I was ready to just start “touring” the route rather than racing it. And I did slow down a bit and sleep in longer.
When I reached the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I purchased some hiking poles and strapped my bike and all of my gear to my back. The novelty of hiking down and up the other side of the canyon gave me a boost of energy. I stepped into the canyon around 4:30pm and hiked through the night. With only a few 20-minute breaks, I reached the top of the north rim the next morning around 9:30am (17 hours later).
Even though the last stretch to the finish covered a lot of paved road, it was no picnic. I was battling strong headwinds and fighting through my lack of sleep. During the final 10 miles, my right quad called it quits on me and started emitting a strong, shooting pain just above my knee. I ended up walking most of the uphills and did the best I could on the downhills. The hydraulics on my front brake were no longer working, so I went sliding off the trail and into the brush/cactus a number of times as I descended switchbacks.
My parents were parked right at the trailhead in the state line campground and I rolled up to their van at 10pm. I was so happy to be done with AZT. We all marveled at the swelling in my legs as I stiffly walk around the car loading my things.
As we drove off, I could hear the AZT saying: “Oh come on! I wasn’t that bad. You know you’re going to miss me. You’ll be back!”
- Osprey Stratos Backpack – my back never felt hot or sweaty and I really didn’t feel the weight of my sleep kit on my back. Most importantly, it held up really well with all of the weight of my bike and gear strapped to it when I hiked through the Grand Canyon.
- Teva Mush walking shoes – I carried all of my gear for the hike in the Grand Canyon (except for hiking poles). These shoes are extremely light (5.4 oz), packable, and have just enough tread to get the job done.
- Geax Saguaro Tires 29×2.2 – these were probably the tires used by most racers. Except for one hole that Stan’s failed to seal, the tires held up well.
Complete Gear List for the AZT 750
- Salsa Mamasita 2010
- Rohloff speed hub
- Selle Italia Flow Saddle
- Thompson seat post
- Stans Arch wheel (front)
- Stans Flow wheel (back)
- Ergon GP1 Large Grips
- Geax Saguaro Tires 29×2.2
- Stans sealant in tires
- Bell Helmet
- Sunglasses with clear lenses
- Waltz Cap
- Bicycle mirror (on sun glasses)
- Pearl Izumi sleeveless base layer
- Pearl Izumi jersey
- Pearl Izumi wind vest
- Pearl Izumi sun sleeves
- Pearl Izumi bib shorts
- Pearl Izumi cycling gloves
- Cycling socks (2 pair)
- Pearl Izumi Select MTB shoes
- Teva Mush walking shoes (for Grand Canyon)
- Boxers (to sleep in)
- Spare Tube – normal
- Spare Tube – slime
- Kevlar emergency spare spoke
- Tire boots (3)
- Spare presta valve stem
- Brake pads (1 pair)
- Chain lube
- Gorilla tape (wrapped around chain lube bottle)
- Stans sealant 2oz bottle
- Patches and 2 glue tubes
- Spare bolts (BB bolts, shoe cleat)
- Zip ties (4)
- Crank cap removal
- Micro pump
- Tire irons (2)
- Sidewall repair (2 curved needles, thread, box cutter)
- GPS (loaded w/ tracks, waypoints & maps)
- GPS mount
- Spot Tracker
- Printed profiles and resupply distance cue sheet
- Spare Lithium AA (4)
- Spare Lithium AAA (3)
- Battery-powered charger
- Multi-plug charging cord
- USB wall plug
- Smart phone
Toiletries / Meds
- Sunscreen (in travel bottle)
- Chamois cream packs (2)
- Ibuprofen 400mg
- Zyrtec D
- Travel-size toothbrush / toothpaste
- Travel-size deodorant
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Cards: Credit, Bank, Health Insurance, License
- Ziplock freezer bags (2) for random/messy food
- Trash bag for covering sleeping bag
- $80 in cash
Route Tracks and Sleeping Spots