Zen On Dirt

Camp Tucson – The backyard training camp

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The idea of Camp Tucson was a thinly disguised pickup line used by Scott several years ago as a way to poke and prod into my current life situation and lure me down to the desert if possible. I’m not really sure how well, ‘Come get your ass kicked three days in a row on some of the rowdiest, remotest, and most fun Tucson trails and then stuff your face with good food’ would have worked on most girls, but it sure worked on me. Ironically, the first year of Camp Tucson I was busy recovering from the Iditarod Invitational so I had to skip the festivities (I did indulge in the eating), but it did inspire and lead to the idea of racing the AZT 300 that year, one of those extremely poor life decisions that I don’t regret one bit.

The third edition of Camp brought back all of the classic rides and the anti-bonk breakfast at Bobo’s but had the addition of  two different dinner spots.

Third edition also brought the newly minted tradition of the Camp Tucson Prologue when Alexis and Denny showed up from muddy Logan, UT, on Wednesday, ready to start enjoying the food-rich Tucson early and ride on Thursday. Sweetwater it was. New trails. Old trails. New dinosaur friends.

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Good fun.

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12 intrepid souls showed up for Day 1. Reddington, AZT, Milligrosa. Climbing. Fun trail. Chunk descending into the sunset. Several people have showed up to Camp in years past declaring intentions of riding the AZT 300 and then changed their minds after Day 1. It’s a doozy.

Scott actually took me on this ride as Date Ride #2 back in the day. I have to say it was a brave and bold move on his part.

As predicted, the boys took off.

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As can now be predicted, after a while I took off after them. Every time I saw them coasting a flat section along the Italian Trap rollers, I doubled my efforts. I watched the gap drop, taking rough time splits at the crest of every hill, knowing that I just had to be close enough to close the gap when they got to the gates in Italian Trap before they got them opened and closed again.

The legs asked, ‘Ez, I thought we’d retired from suffering.’

Ez said, ‘This isn’t suffering. This is fun.’

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The plus side to catching them as the gate was closing, I had people to ride with/chase the rest of the ride. The downside, I’d completely blown my game plan of taking it easy on Day 1 so that I could feel good for the rest of the weekend. Totally worth it. Scott’s bike exploded at the top of Millie, so I even had someone to ride/hike the chunk with and pedal the glorious tailwind-aided pavement miles back to the Circle K.

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Dinner was consumed at Time Market. Dessert at B-Line. Tucson is a foodies paradise.

Day 2 brought the game plan of ‘I’m going to try to ride the whole loop, but if home starts to look more appealing than riding at any time, I have no shame about turning home and eating watermelon.’ The TMP big loop starts with some semi-chunk on Robles, some ‘challenging’ riding on Cat Mountain, a nice once-a-year hike-a-bike over Golden Gate, west side cruising, Saguaro National Park Dirt roads, a little bit of Sweetwater, and a finish up the Stonehouse trail back to the Genser Trailhead in Tucson Mountain Park.

I rode at a reasonable pace through the top of Cat Mountain, watching the boys blast off. To have that power…and the poor decision making skills to ride that hard at the start of that long of a ride.

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Eventually, my self restraint ran out. It was time to ride. Down Cat Mountain. Through the dips. Over the Golden Gate chunk. the 30mph winds kicked in, making the west side a hoot. When I rode the two stairs down into the wash and the three steps out of it right before turning onto Cougar Trail, I knew the day was going to be a good one. Aside from the chapped lips. The wind was doing a number on me.

If only I had the power to catch Scott…he always carries chapstick.

Rolling up to the visitors center, I was surprised to see bikes. And jerseys I recognized. The sweat stains on Scott, Kurt, and Aaron’s jerseys showed the fierce battled that they’d engaged in during the past four hours. None of them seemed to have the motivation to move. Given Scott and Kurt’s history of blowing each other to pieces, I found it funny. Aaron just happened to be the unlucky one to train up with them.

But chapstick. Sweet chapstick.

I left first, determined to be a good rabbit. It took Kurt a while to catch me. Then came Elliot.

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Kurt is officially one of the worst people to draft off of. Width. There needs to be width. 

We paused on the gas line to let a quickly closing Scott, Aaron, and John catch up before taking a new wash route out of the gas line and to Sweetwater. I dare say it was a civilized pace the rest of the way. Up the Stone House. Down to Genser. First TMP Big Loop completion ever for me. Yay!

I went to bed after a Seis burrito feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

When a Bobo’s anti-bonk breakfast couldn’t cure the big-ride hangover the next morning, I knew it was time to throw in the towel. 84 miles of battling the wind in the Santa Ritas didn’t sound like a good time. Luckily, Scott was on the same boat. As was Alexis. And Elliot.

Fun group ride time!

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Laugh.

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Then ride.

During moments of feeling okay, I’d think, ‘I should have done the loop.’ Then the road or trail would turn up and I’d say, ‘Nope.’

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Mid-ride geology lesson

Later that afternoon, after eating cheesy tots and burgers and Lindy’s on 4th, we watched the sunset while eating watermelon. ‘You know what makes me really happy?’ I asked Scott and Alexis.

‘Not being on your bike right now?’ Scott replied without even thinking.

‘Yes.’

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Two days of wicked hard and fun riding. One day of really fun and somewhat easy riding. Lots of good food. Lots of good conversations with people. A strong reminder that sometimes suffering is fun. That riding fast is fun. And that long rides are the best rides. And that long, fast rides are even better. And that when inspiration hits, go with it.

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One thought on “Camp Tucson – The backyard training camp

  1. I really loved this entry. Definitely one of my top 10 favorite Ez stories

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