Sunday, April 27, 2014

Whiskey Off-Road 50

Up to Prescott, AZ for the 11th Whiskey Off-Road.  This time I decided to go for it and do the 50 mile ride "50 Proof".  So signed up, trained for it with rides on the backside of Mt Lemmon and felt pretty good.  Two weeks ago, I went up to do a pre-ride.  Someplace out on Skull Valley Road, I managed to crash my bike on a flat dirt road surface, getting into a bunch of loose stuff and applying too much front brake and having the front wheel wash out.  That caused a nice gash in my arm, a banged up rib and a little loss of confidence.  Crap !

Back to Prescott on Friday the 25th, with a forecast of rain and snow showers for Saturday morning.  I am sitting at a restaurant on Whiskey Row, watching the folks that are doing the 15 mile ride, which happens on Friday afternoon, and thinking maybe I screwed up signing up for this.  Well, never mind, back to the hotel, early to bed and up at 6 am to lots of rain.

Went to Starbucks and fiddled around until about 7:20 ( its still raining, and raining pretty nicely and there are flakes of snow ), and then went over to line up for a 7:30 start and to see if there were any race changes. Nothing announced, and we roll out at 7:30 and up Copper Basin Road.  I climb pretty well and think I was maybe close to the middle of the pack, when we got onto the single track.  When you get on it, you can't really pass other riders and people stop and start and get hung up on all sorts of things, and it went that way until we crossed Copper Basin Road again.  Several folks were stopped and I went around and on up.  The rain had turned into snow and the snow was accumulating.  The wind was blowing very strongly and we heard at least two trees blow down way back up in the woods.  There was enough snow that it was hard to read the number plates on other riders bikes.

Snowy Single Track ( photo via Facebook from Steve Lumar )
Snow at trail intersection with Copper Basin Road ( it got MUCH heavier )
We started seeing riders going backwards down the trail.  The number of riders going up started diminishing and these people coming down said "there's two to four inches of snow on top".  I remember thinking "lets go see that, if it gets scrubbed at least let it be for something good", and just kinda ignored them and went ahead.

When I got up to Trail 48, I put the bike down and had a short break.  The riders coming up ( and there weren't very many ) were hard to see, there was enough snow and wind driven snow that it was hard to figure out if it was a guy or gal and what they were wearing and what kind of bike they had.  I have never been in a white-out, but I "think" this was beginning to get close to one ( at least for a desert guy ).  Hands were freezing, the rest of me was pretty good.  Thought about quitting, but I hate quitting, that SAG ride last year in Death Valley was a lesson I don't want to repeat.

When I stopped and put a foot down, the mud and snow would accumulate on my shoes and I found that my pedals were completely iced up.  Could not clip in, and trying to ride unclipped was a mess as my feet would slide off the pedals.  Saw one guy with some boots on go by me, thinking that I need a pair of those.  Didn't take any pictures as my fingers could barely operate my shifters let along poke on iPhone screens.  This is on a piece of trail with water bars, and way too much time was spend screwing around with trying to clip and and ride something that is hard for me to ride on a sunny clear day.

So I begin to ride down 260 trail and NO ONE is passing me ( unknown to me the whole 50 mile race was stopped someplace before Trail 48 ).  I am out there above the freaking clouds watching the grapple come down, being stung in the face, and having a pretty good time, just slowly picking my way ( I am not a great descender ), down 260 trail.  When I get to the bottom, there is a bonfire.  I get warmed up for a few minutes, and that was the last of the snow for the day.  From there, we went up FR 51, then made the turn onto Skull Valley Rd, and I saw the lead riders coming back up ( Nuts, these guys are like 16 miles ahead of me !! ).  Strong gusty wind in the face descent to Skull Valley, I climbed well coming back up all the way to Sierra Prieta overlook and then rode the single track sections back to the road leading back to Prescott.   At one place a lady volunteer says "hey there 50 rider, show these 15 milers what a dirty bike looks like".  My bike was muddy, I was muddy, and there was a line of what turned out to be the 29 mile riders now doing only 15 miles that I was merging into.   These guys are all strong ( and clean !! )  and I am dragging butt, but I passed a whole bunch of them all strung out on a hill they call Cramp Hill, and got some very nice compliments, made me feel pretty good.

Anyways, back to Whiskey Row with a time of about 7:30, showing up at like 3 pm.  I think I was number 350 out of 360, but you know it's all good.  There should have been over 600 people doing the 50 mile ride and those guys and gals all got turned around pretty early in the race, so glad to have finished.  I think I might have actually placed ( really ! ) because I was in a class called "Distinguished Male" and apparently there were 3 of us, with me being number 3.  ( ha ha ha ha )

Next week, Chino Valley Grinder.  Should be more typical of what I will see on the Divide.



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