Zen On Dirt

Sending off the AZTR

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I love the Arizona Trail Race.

I loved racing it in 2013, I’ve loved sending it off every year since. While it’s entirely Scott’s baby, I feel like I get to be some sort of step-parent to it. I don’t actually do any work to get it off the ground, but I feel like I give people good pep talks at the start line. That’s got to be worth something.

Plus, it’s the second time in the year (the first being 24-Hours of Old Pueblo) that all of my friends come to see me in the desert.

It’s such a unique route that showcases so much of what is awesome about Southern Arizona, I love to see people roll down into the Canelo Hills, ready to see so much. And experience so much. Nobody gets out of the AZT 300/750 without an adventure of some sort.

After our weekend with Salsa (post about that one coming at a later date), we headed back to Gilbert Ray for a night. We call these layover nights, they are mostly used for getting reorganized and running town errands. Living in a Scamp still requires life-maintenance days…we just don’t have to clean bathrooms. IMG_3479

But we did have to get new tires for the Scamp and grease for the bearings, Scott needed to pick up a re-laced wheel, I had to make returns at REI and Radioshack, and groceries. We always need groceries. And Seis. There’s never a bad time for Seis burritos.

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We did get out for a sunset ride.

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I’m going to miss this place.

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And Shannon was having a pre-AZTR BBQ and pool party (which devolved into a bike-building party), which was the main motivation for staying in Tucson. It’s always fun to see pre-race puttering and bike maintenance. Shannon puts batteries in a SPOT, Alexis builds a bike last minute, Elliot danced with a bag of chips…

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Alexis’ pile of bike protection from unpacking…

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Scott’s half of the job…

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Leaving late, we took another layover night in the Rincon Valley before heading down to Parker Lake before the heat hit.

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We knew we had a few hours before nervous racers started to show up, so we took the chance to ride some new-to-me AZT south of Parker up to the Wilderness Boundary. While the AZT segments beyond, the Huachuca Crest, called, I was now nursing a sore shin and a cold. No running for me. Drat.

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We’ve never camped out the night before the AZT, but I think it’s going to become a new tradition. Talking about riding bikes is always a good way to spend the evening. Nerves seemed to be relatively under control, and for those who were nervous, I reminded them that they’d done all the work, the racing was just the reward so they might as well enjoy it.

Scott has built quite the event. 74 racers total this year, split evenly between the 300 and 750.

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The leaders of the 750 came through with barely a hi-five. The Schilling crew decided to stop for a picnic 15 miles into the race.

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The unicyclist stole the show.

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As of this writing, he’s trucking along Oracle Ridge.

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Within an hour, the parking lot cleared out and we were left with just our thoughts, and a nasty cold each. So much for big riding plans.

Though I can’t complain…Parker Lake isn’t a half-bad place to hang out and nurse a bug. As it turned out, the lake was home to all sort of neat birds.

We saw a flock of White-faced Ibises who are mere migrants in the area.

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A handful of Ospreys soared through the skies.

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And the Belted Kingfisher. He flew from a tree on one side of the bay to the other and back, over and over and over. He was my favorite.

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I could have stayed longer. The grasslands of the borderlands definitely have my heart. But, as with every year, forecasted temperatures looked to be in the 90’s for the foreseeable future. It was time to go north. And that, that made me a little bit sad.

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2 thoughts on “Sending off the AZTR

  1. So much fun reading this. What an amazing race. Thinking about all the training these racers put in is awe-inspiring. I hope everyone had a fantastic experience. I saw Grorge Harris completion of AZT 300 online – so kewl!! I hope I can do this race next year! Thanks again for blog post and outstanding pics of birds.

  2. Hope Scott gave you the Santa Fe Brewing Kickin’ Chicken barley wine I gave him as my AZT 300 ‘entry fee’. I didn’t know his beverage preference and guessed wrong. Toast Scott, myself and all the other bikepacking crazies out there. Ciao, Barry

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