stories from the trail
Stage three started out with a 6.5 mile downhill singletrack into Sedona. I thought well all downhill could not be too bad but I was mistaken. Don't get me wrong it was a lot of fun but certainly not easy. It started off with a rather exposed portion of trail clinging to the mountain side and all I could think was do not look left!
After finally arriving in Sedona I topped of my water and belly at the nearest convenient station. Then it would be a little bit of pavement before we hit the next long run of singletrack that would take us through Devil's dining room and along the bottom of Cathedral Rock. Most of the singletrack was ridable and was a real blast and would eventually drop me out into the town of Cottonwood, AZ.
I stopped at a BBQ joint and ate a way to big pork sandwich, took me a while to recover from that! It took me entirely to long to find water to fill up my bottles. Needed it badly because the next section was Mingus Mountain and it was a long, long, long slog up! The climb started as a nice gradual paved climb then switched to a somewhat manageable fire road climb then a 3 mile death march up singletrack! By the time I made it to the summit both big toes were in a lot of pain. ( I lost one of the toenails), but it sure was an exhilarating hike up and one of the most difficult hike a bikes I have done.
After finally reaching the top the final bit of daylight disappeared. I rode down the hill looking for the other riders but not see them. I stop to ask a family that was having a nice fireside cookout if they had seen any of the other cyclist. They had not but they were very interested in the race and had been on a lot of the trails that I had rode to get to this point. Tom, Paul, Dave and Mary could not have been nicer and fed me hot dogs and potato salad. They also gave me enough water to fill all my bottles. It really made me realize that there are some really good people out there. And Tom will be mentioned again soon.
Tom and the gang left and I tried to sleep but once again did not sleep well at all. Next morning I rolled out and my legs felt fine but I just felt a little disconnected. Things that I should have handled easily were just giving me trouble. I thought I just needed to get into a rhythm and all would be good. I descended on some really smooth and fun singletrack until I crossed 89 and hit some gravel for a bit. Then we turned onto a road that followed a powerline, nothing to crazy but some babyheads. And there is were it happened WHAM, I went down hard after falling asleep at the handlebars. Luckily it was minor damage to the body but it did some damage to the bike.
I awoke from the fall 3 miles from the road I just crossed (89) and a long way from my car in Flagstaff. And here is where Tom really came to the rescue. He had given me his number the night before to let him know how the race went. I sent him a message and in about 15 minutes he showed up to give me a ride to Flagstaff! I can not tell you how appreciative I was. This guy who I had just met came and picked me up and drove me a good 70 miles one way to my car! The race did not end the way I wanted but I was so fortunate to meet such a great family and hope to get out and go for a ride with Tom and his boys in November!
Iron Cross race day started at 03:45, with a 3.5 hour drive to Williamsport PA., I wanted to make sure I got to registration early and found a good parking spot. I was successful at both and wound up parking very close to the starting line. The race started at 0900, and as I had expected I was off the back letting the hammer heads do the "neutral" 3 mile ride out of town. About 2 miles in, my SPOT fell off the bike and I had to make a fast u turn to retrieve, this put me behind the MOTO and officially DFL.
The course was awesome, a well blended track consisting of empty country paved roads wandering thru the valley along with both packed and loose gravel sections climbing to the summits. Thrown in for "fun" miles of leaf covered double track and a few miles of rocky single track requiring the utmost concentration. As I am NOT a mountain bike guy, I was mostly successful on the single track segments. I did hike a few hundred feet or so of steep rocky downhill. I was able to meet up and ride with a nice group of 3 others for a few miles. We all had about the same level of ability on the rocky sections so we "buddy" rode until the next pave section where the "cross" bikes shined vs my heavy "over tired" Fargo.
About mid way through the race mother nature decided to step up her game. We left the starting line at about 38 degrees. Forcast was for overcast day with strong winds and highs in the mid 40's. I elected to do a 3 layer torso starting with my Foxwear power dry base layer, followed with a full length partial zip wool jersey and last my 2014 SBR short sleeve jersey. I only wore a Foxwear power stretch base layer and SBR BIBs for my legs. Of course my shoe selection was my cold weather boots with wool socks. Liner gloves and a pair of no finger cycling gloves were the ticket for MOST of the day. As I said earlier, Mother Nature had some interesting weather in store for us, about 1100, half way up a nice double track climb the SNOW started falling. Not heavy, and never really stuck to the ground.
The second of 3 check points held the preplanned stores I needed to continue the race. Being at the bottom of a loooong paved decent the weather was warm and sunny. I fueled on the remaining food I had brought and refilled water and Perpetium bottles ready for the next leg of the race. There were still quite a few folks at the rest area as I left, giving me hope that I would NOT be the last to finish. Making the next turn and starting up the long grade to the summit, the weather again shifted into blustery, snowy conditions. At the top I was able to get a wonderful view and pictures of the squall line that was about to batter me on the decent. In deed the temp dropped and for the first time all day my fingers got cold.....real cold...so I added another layer of silk liner which helped a bit.
About midway down the decent, the MOTO caught up with me as I made the turn from paved to muddy double track. Immediately after making the turn, I was again riding with a fellow cyclist, well sort of you see he was "sweeping" up behind me and pulling all ot the trail blazes. CRAP, I was DFL after all. When we reached the next "challenge" he quickly reminded me that what came next was a bit of "hike a bike". Remembering how crazy WigWam was at last year's Iron Cross Race, I was prepared....mentally...for what was about to come. Just as planned the grade increased and the push the bike to the top turned into a carry the bike segment. As we rounded the "last" corner the top was in sight. I told my trail mate "the sweeper" I HOPE we are NOT climbing THAT rock face.......well we did. It was about 300' of almost vertical climb with the bike off my back. At least the path was obvious from the numerous other riders that had already made the assent. When I reached the top I was ELATED and met with cheers, music and BEER.
The elation was soon replaced with disappointment. Alas I had missed the final time check for the next point and would have to "ride" in the truck back into town, some 17 miles away. The good news is that I had conquered all of the "good" parts of the course as most of the remaining miles were hard packed gravel and asphalt.
I "officially" rode just over 46.7 miles and 5.75 hours. Much better than 2014 attempt but leaving me a NEED to return next year and FINISH. In summary, the event was well organized and the route was amazing. Great job to all of the people that made this race happen and the course workers that sat in the cold making sure we made all the right turns.
The true start of the race was a few miles from where I had parked, had to do a little route finding to get to the true point of beginning ( I get turned around easily even though I am a surveyor!). Luckily the clock does not start until you get to the designated spot!
This was the first time I have ridden in Arizona and the singletrack certainly did not disappoint. We would be on the AZT for the next 30 miles. Before long I had arrived at the Marshall Lake. I made the mistake of not filling up my water bottles and paid for it a little later with some cramping ( I never learn)! Just outside of Horse Lake we hit some double track for a short period then we were onto an old railroad grade. I could image the old logging trains running through the woods. Then back onto some great flowing singletrack and was really enjoying the smooth rhythm and speed. I hated to see the singletrack end but eventually we hit Schnebly Hill Road and the climb to the first nights camp overlooking Sedona, Az. The first stage total miles: 54 miles (including some extra riding because of missing some key turns!) Stage one complete and feeling really good, other than not quit drinking enough fluids. That evening it was nice to socialize with fellow racers and admire some intriguing bikepacking set ups. The racers were from all over the country, one of the guys, Jeff, came from all the way from Florida. We talked about races we have done before, what gear we liked and why, we shared how we prepared for the race and what food we packed. It was nice to connect with others who shared the love of bike packing…
That night I did not sleep well again, I think it was due to the excitement of the race and that the stars were just so amazing and the sky crystal clear; I just couldn’t stop admiring them and wait for the next day! Sedona was only 6.5 miles downhill the following day. So should be easy I thought but it did not turn out that way! Stay tuned for the Stage two story.
Here is the link to trackleaders please follow along!
I’m entering the final few days before the trip. The bike is still in the shop and waiting for a boot from Cannondale to arrive, hopefully by Wednesday. Planning to do a quick shake down ride on Wednesday as on Thursday afternoon I will be leaving directly from work to make the approximately 7 hour drive to Flagstaff, AZ for a Friday morning start.
Right now I’m still on the fence about taking a backpack for this race as I would prefer to have all my gear on the bike. Just hoping water is available along the route which should allow me to get away with only carrying four water bottles. The weather looks to be almost perfect for a bikepacking race, daytime temperatures in the lower 70's and nights in the 40's. Another reason to assume that a little less water may not be an issue.
I will be using a large seatbag for the sleeping gear and food that I plan to carry. Also have jersey pockets which will hold a surprising amount of food. The water bottles will be attached to the frame of the bike. Overall this should be a very light setup while still providing me access to all the things needed for a few nights out in the woods!
The tracking page will be posted in a couple days and I hope you guys will follow along! The photo ops should be outstanding on this route. I’m very excited and can not wait to start!