As you all might have seen, my boyfriend Matthew Turner endured a long 300+ mile mountain bike packing race a couple weeks ago in Arizona. He finished 2nd out of at least 40 participants and made it in about 37 hours covering rugged terrain and had to do all day and all night riding. I am so proud of his accomplishment as he is already excited for his next big race... Gravel Worlds Lincoln Nebraska! But in the mean time he will be doing training and other gravels races. As you all love it here is his amazing recap of the race.. Enjoy!
Flagstaff to Williams-
It was a chilly 6am start at Flag Bike Revolution. Directly after rolling out with a large group of fellow riders and friends we got stopped by an Amtrak train loading up with its passengers. Riders around me shivering from the cold air. Im very happy I started with my jacket. Once we got moving again we rode as a group along the urban trail out of town. It was a neutral start until we hit the Schultz Creek rd. As soon as we started up the climb of Schultz Creek Ezra one of the strongest riders in the group took off. I rode up to the first section of single track on the AZ trail in the top 10. After 20 miles or so on the AZ Trail I was able to move my way up the field to where I was in 2nd by the time we finished the first major climb and single track section of the race. After the single track multiple riders including myself came back together Yo yo-ing back and forth depending on terrain since we were on a good mix of different bikes. From drop bar bikes, to single speed and regular mountain bikes. The leader of the race Jacob Miller who was on a full suspension Mtb with minimal bags stayed ahead through the initial 80miles to where the first resupply would be. Ezra, Andrew and I would arrive at the gas station outside William just minutes apart. Ezra had resupplied and headed out as I was chugging down a chocolate milk and loading up my bike with calories and water. As I was about ready to head out, Matt another rider passed the gas station without stopping, assuming that he stopped just a little later down the road in Williams itself, and @strempke arrived as I was getting ready as well.
Williams to Jerome-
Once I left the gas station and rode through Williams I am by myself. The route takes a quiet road out of town for a handful of miles before turning back onto the dirt. From here on we descend down a well maintained dirt road. At the end of the dirt before we cruise down the emptiest paved road I’ve ever been on I come upon some trail Magic for the racers. I drink a coke and take a gatorade for the road. Descending down to the Verde River coasting in my aero bars taking a much needed rest. I can see what looks like part of Sedona in the distance. The climb back out from the Verde River is Hot and sandy. I stop to take a photo of the largest bloom I’ve ever seen from an agave plant. It was the size of an average tree. I seem to make good time and catch up with the leaders as we crest the summit and ride down into Jerome to restock. Ezra and I arrive at the cafe right as they are closing and luckily buy some sodas, juices, and water. We leave town as quick as we can to possibly try to reach the Black Canyon trail off Mingus mountain before it gets dark. Right before we begin the climb we get told by a local if we know where we are going and that this road is not meant for bikes and if we really want to go that way since there is no cell service. We tell her this is the route we intend.
Jerome to Camp Verde-
Leaving Jerome and starting the climb up Mingus Mountain I am reminded of the chuck and steep climb that it is. Having ridden this section last year I was familiar with how difficult it is. Luckily hitting it this year as the sun is setting compared to last year in the middle of the day with the sun baking down. I am able to ride most of the climb but it is still slow going. I ride alone into second
place up the climb, but I do not make it to the single track in time before it gets dark. Just as I crest the climb I need to turn on my lights. I missed the turn on to the Black Canyon Trail single track but don’t go too far past. I decide to take a break in order to put on my leg warmers and jacket. It is probably best that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into on this trail at night. Knowing that there are sketchy cliffs along side the trail, I take my time for a while, but in the dark I can’t tell quite how big the cliffs are. The trail eventually opens up towards the bottom and I can pickup the pace and make some good progress. Once off the trail and back onto pavement, I cruise in my aero bars the 20 miles to Camp Verde. Everyone driving past must be so confused why I’m riding at midnight on this road. I roll into Camp Verde to the McDonald’s. After some time and convincing for the drive-through to let me order some food, I get a Big Mac, Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Two large cokes, a large fry, and a McFlurry. I ate the food and took a quick 15min nap on the bench outside the McDonalds. Once I see Andrew and Ezra arrive into town and roll up to the gas station I get my stuff together and pickup a few more items at the Gas station. I leave Camp Verde in 3rd behind Andrew and Jacob.
Camp Verde to Stoneman Lake-
As I leave Camp Verde the long dirt climb soon begins. Camp Verde being one of the low spots on the course means it’s a long ways back up to get to flagstaff. In the middle of the night it is difficult to see where you are climbing too so this climb feels like it goes on forever. As soon as I think I am at the top the climb continues. Eventually when I do reach the top and get onto the Mogollon Rim the road gets rockier and chunkier. I feel as if I’m being watched by a kitty cat, but I have my podcasts in and they keep me going slowly moving along the rocky gulch. Just before Stoneman Lake, I decide to sleep. I hop into my emergency bivy with my down jacket at 3am. I sleep for an hour until 4. One rider (Andy) passes me while I’m still laying down and another (Matt) passes as I am packing up my gear. Once I get going again the sun is starting to rise and I can see a glimpse of blue in the horizon. I quickly pass the second rider that passed me while I was packing my bike back up. I then a little later on in the morning pass the rider that passed me while I was sleeping somewhere before we get back onto the AZ trail, but I never see him. My Circadian Rhythm kicks in with the sun now warming me up and I feel relatively good for the day to come.
Stoneman Lake to Lake Mary
I took a short break before starting back on the AZ Trail. I sit on a log along side the dirt road to eat my apple fritter and finish the last of my coke that I had bought at the gas station and McDonalds in Camp Verde. This next section was very twisting and turning with lots of rocks. It was very slow going with having to go through cattle gates almost every 10min. Eventually the trail arrived at a camp ground where I was able to refill my water and check out the luxurious bathrooms that I only wished were around when I was wanting to go to sleep, but honestly glad
they weren’t because I would have slept for a lot longer. I really hope someone out there made use of them. The trail after this progressively got nicer and faster going. This final section of the AZ trail went by quickly and I hit a rolling dirt road descent where I passed who I thought was leading the race riding in the opposite direction. He was pulling out of the race, but I was not sure why. I pushed tried pushing hard on this dirt road knowing the rider ahead was on a single speed and this slightly down hill road was to my advantage. I stopped to check Trackleaders and where everyone was at, I realized I was not too far away, but still a lot of ground to make up. At the end of the dirt road and on the next little stretch of pavement I stopped at the Lake Mary General Store where I bought a RedBull, Chocolate Milk, water, and a Rice Krispy. I drank the red bull and Chocolate Milk on the spot, filled up 2 liters of water and went on my way to try and catch the leader, knowing we still had plenty of single track left.
Lake Mary to Flagstaff
I left Lake Mary all fueled up with what I thought I needed to get to the finish. I was wrong the final 50miles would take me quite a bit longer than I thought. The initial section of the finishing stretch of the AZ trail was by far my favorite of the entire route. It was flat and rolling and fairly easy going with a few technical section that I was able to ride. I then hit the hike-a-bike out of Walnut Canyon. I remember hearing someone talk about a hike-a-bike at the end so in my mind this was that hike-a-bike. Little do I realize how many more hike-a-bike sections there will be within this final stretch of trail. During the last 3 hours or so I began to see things that were not there in my peripheral. I thought I saw multiple hikers sitting along the trail that were not actually there. I kept thinking I was seeing camp grounds in the distance that were nothing more than some trees and rocks. I don’t really like to look at my milage when doing these races, and I was on my second wahoo of the ride, luckily I brought a backup since my first wahoo stopped working in Camp Verde. On this last section I kept thinking I was just about to the final Schultz Creek Downhill. Eventually I stoped to look where I was on my Gaia map on my phone and realized I still had a 2,000 ft climb to do in the final 15 or so miles. I ran out of water at the base of this climb that easily took me an hour or more to do. I was mostly walking my bike, riding across the few flat sections of the climb. Luckily I was in the shade at this time in the evening, so I knew I would be able to manage without water until the finish. The descent from the top I passed a horseback rider and lots of riders coming up the trail for their evening ride. My feet and hands were not happy about the long downhill but It was nice knowing I was back in a familiar area and soon only had a small section of pavement to the finish and pizza at Pizzicletta in Flagstaff. I get into town and am only about 100 yards from the finish, but I get stuck on the opposite side of a train from the finish line. I lay there on my aero bars knowing Ive finally completed one of these epic races, but everyone waiting upon my arrival including my dad that had made the trip down to Flagstaff with me and my family on FaceTime. Luckily someone with the race comes from under a nearby bridge and directs me to follow him with the races permission since my Trackleaders dot had said I had finished.
My original goal was to just finish the race. I am very happy to have completed it in 37 hours coming in 2nd only 1.5hrs behind Andrew a very well known rider/racer with lots of bikepacking experience. The third time is the charm! After scratching in last years Pinyons and Pines and the Utah Mixed Epic I feel relieved to finish, knowing I knew I had what it took. I wish I could have stayed in Flagstaff longer to celebrate everyones efforts completing this very challenging route. Thanks to Dana who made this race possible, and to all the riders that took part. This community is amazing and I am happy to have made some new friends. I can’t wait to line up again.