at Sweetwater trails. (photo by George)
I was lucky enough to be able to jet out to Tucson this past weekend for Singlespeed Arizona. To make everything even more awesomer, SSAZ was bookended with a couple grueling days of Bike29 "team building exercises."
Two weeks ago, I crashed pretty hard on some ice on my road bike here in Asheville. I still had a fair bit of pain in the top of my hamstring and my low back when I left for Arizona but wasn't sure how that would play out on the trail. My attitude about SSAZ was that if I rode slower, I would get to be having a good time out on the trail longer. I was not exactly taking any of it very seriously.
Arriving on Thursday, I met up with the crew of George, Dicky, and Keller. We connected with Dejay, Mike Stanley, and various other great people and the evening progressed pretty quickly from building up bikes and sitting around, to a night of moderate mayhem.
At some point along the way we grabbed Doug and Mandy as they came in on their storm-delayed flights from the Northeast. Also at some point Dejay kicked me really hard on my already bruised ass, which hurt, but I forgive him. Many other things happened too, which will go unmentioned to protect the not-so-innocent. Fun times.
Friday started right, with bacon chocolate chip pancakes at Bobo's. YES. (Photo by Douhg.)
Friday I missed out on the car washing saga while I had lunch with my brother, who was in town from Phoenix for some guitar-related errand. Once I reunited with the Bike29 crew we got it together for a spin around some nice flat cross country trails on the edge of town.
Squinting at the strange ball of fire in the sky, taking off armwarmers, exposing pale winter skin. (Photo by George.)
Doug, George, and Keller grooving on the Fantasy Island trails.
Rich ran over cactus... hooray for Stan's
It was pretty great to be riding in the desert again. But based on that mellow ride I was suspecting I would have trouble on any long climbs or real power moves during SSAZ because just rolling around easy my hamstring kind of hurt.
Saturday was the day. The weather was absolutely stellar, clear and crisp, and the day looked to be a great one. While the rest of team Bike29 stayed in the car listening to Iron Maiden because they were afraid to brave the 45 degree temperature, I assembled my bike, drank some espresso, and started getting pretty psyched for a good long day of riding bikes.
Do what that man says. (Photo from Dejay's facebook)
Eventually we all got our shit together and after some wise words from Dejay we were off for a long neutral roll-out to the trail. At the end of the pavement we all stopped and removed our front wheels for a complicated version of a LeMans start. Then there was some nice gravelly climbing for a while, with some great views of Tucson behind us, as we headed up toward the trails.
Mandy and I at the aid station.
The aid station was well stocked with pickles, red licorice, Tecate, soda, oranges, and other appropriate refreshments. Thanks to everyone who was responsible for putting together that spread, as it was much appreciated. George had to not race due to a knee issue, and he and Stanley were doing great work cruising around making sure everyone had fun all along the way.
After the aid station the singletrack began with some extremely fun swoopy trail followed by some not-all-that-fun sand bogs. Trying to power through the sand, my injury started to give me issues with some tweaky pains in the hamstring and center of the lower back. Not unexpected but still a bummer. As the trail developed into a series of long uphills I was sure I could cruise through to the end despite the pain so decided to make the most of it.
Pushing bikes out there somewhere.
Some more uphill, then some truly awesome loose and technical downhills, then some icky ORV trail where I was really suffering. Honestly, I really like riding singlespeed on technical trails and xc but it can sure get depressing on rolling gravel. Eventually the route circled back to the aid station for another visit, then off in another direction onto the best trails of the day.
Dark Horse George and Mandy
Unfortunately by this time the pain was worse and it was starting to affect my riding. Luckily I was just behind local awesome person Rudi during a lot of this section, which meant his good mood rubbed off on me. It also meant I was able to follow his lines through the rocky sections... when I had the skill. Dang, that ninja can ride.
Goofing around just after the tequila tree.
Heading down Milagrosa I spaced out and rolled right past the famous tequila tree. I realized it a couple hundred yards later and turned to go back up for my shot, but some guy who was standing around at a techy section offered me whiskey from his flask to save me the trouble. So, I guess technically I missed the tequila tree although I did get something.
Eventually the endless beautiful technical trail had to end. Right before the last descent I saw a hawk fly overhead carrying a lizard in its talons, through the clear blue sky and down into the saguaro-dotted rocks. It is easy to come up with reasons to skip a trip like this, and a giant hassle to arrange life in order to make it happen. But the effort is worth it in every way. Regretful to have finished the ride, I rolled off the trail at last and back to the start-finish of the race.
The various "pain management" I'd partaken of out on the trail had not done all that much to actually manage the pain. My back really hurt quite a bit. It was still hurting that evening when we went out for the post-race party at the Surly Wench. In a way I was kind of bummed that my first decently long mountain bike ride of the year had been so rough on me, and started stressing out about all the big plans I have laid for later in the year. 2011 may be the year for giant crash-and-burns for me. Or it may be filled with glorious victory. In reality, it will probably end up somewhere in between. 2011. Yikes.
The rest of Team Bike29 dragged my ass out of the post-race party before I was ready to call it a night, but in the end I guess that was probably for the best as we had more bike riding to do the next day. We headed out to another nice XC trail system on the other side of Tucson, and I was happy that the pain from the day before was mostly diminished. Maybe 2011 won't be full of crash-and-burn failure after all.
Sweetwater. (Photo by Dough)
Another night, another grueling alcohol-based team building exercise. We headed to Rudi's for an excellent backyard barbecue, then since it was Dejay's birthday assorted good folk rolled out to a brewery. There was some sort of football-oriented event on television sets everywhere, but we managed to ignore it fairly well. We hit a second bar for a while, then once again I got dragged out of a party by people who had more sense than me. Well, some of them had early morning flights and some of them were passing out on the curb, so yeah, it was probably time to go.
barbecue in Rudi's trials course/ backyard
Team building exercises with Keller, Mandy, and Doug at the Buffet Bar
SSAZ was a great time. I got to ride some fantastic trails that I am still thinking about. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen and convinced me to come out for it. Shout out especially to George and Mandy of Bike29 for figuring out the logistics and getting the transport, and for generally being the coolest crew I would ever want to race for. I am super happy to be wearing the jersey again this year. And of course, biggest thanks to Dejay for luring all the best people out to the desert for a couple days of bikes and mayhem.