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24 Hours in the Canyon - Which Canyon is that?

Chad was unable to come and help me in the end so I ended up going solo (not quite as planned). After the 6 ½ hour drive I arrived at the mini canyon of Palo Duro in Amarillo Texas.  Typical of me I arrived late, with packet pick up closing at 9 and me arriving about 5 minutes later. Managed to persuade the lady to let me in though and pick up my packet with the all important bracelet so that I could camp there in the Canyon. Set up my tent up in the dark and went off to bed!

When I signed up for this ride i thought it was 100 miles in the Canyon on a road bike and then 9 mile laps in the Canyon on a mountain bike.  Turns out thats not quite what I signed up for - its actually 100 miles in the canyon followed by 8 mile laps also on a road bike - however even that had changed because of flooding it is now 5.8 mile laps!!  Not very interesting laps - basically down the road turn around and back!! Never mind.  Good thing is I only needed to take one bike - bad thing is I would really have liked to have both my Time Trial and my road bike but I have just sold my road bike and am in the process of getting a new one! So I am just on my time trial bike after all - which is fine!!

Next morning I check out all my stuff - tons of gels and bars, one helmet with lights, one without - feeling pretty good - everything seems to be in order! I am ready to go.  The only problem is I couldn’t find my double water holder so only have one water bottle on my bike. Not really enough but I hope that the Aid stations will be quite close together!

12 noon start - rolling along the bottom of the Canyon - everyone heads off at full speed as usual - I took it easier and even then my heart rate is out of control as always. 180.  Probably about 8 miles across the bottom of the Canyon before the hill up. My tt bike doesn’t have the best of gears so I just went up the hill in my easiest gear and before I knew it found myself out front on my own - not really where I wanted to be.  I was trying to take it easy and get my heart rate under control.  Reached the top where it was flat and windy - cross wind at first - got into a good rhythm, still trying to lower my heart rate. I wanted it below 170 and it was now 175 - so I was easing off as much as possible.Reached the first Aid station and stocked up on water and then turned south straight into the head wind for the next 20 miles or so on a flat boring road!  I was not enjoying the ride very much - head down, trying to control my heart rate. I was also disappointed that the Aid station didn’t really have any food, I was thinking they would have!

Stocked up at the next station and then we turned again, this time with a cross wind and a road that soon deteriorated - I was now suffering, not feeling good - didn’t seem to have any power in me. Reached the 45 mile mark and was able to stock up with some snacks.  I think it is the wind that gets in my head - I really don’t like the flat and the wind! Everything was hurting, my legs, hands and bum - it was a bumpy road and I was miserable.  The worst thing was that I was feeling so weak.  Hate that. Felt I had eaten and drunk enough before the start but maybe not!  After riding south for a while directly into the wind we turned west again with more of a cross wind, so this was a bit better. Still flat!

We finally turned north heading back towards the start - I saw a lady there and asked her for some water thinking she was with the race support - she wasnt but still kindly filled my water bottle. This was good as I was getting low and it was really hot. A mile or so later a support truck pulled up and also gave me some more water.  Another 5 miles and there was an organised rest stop. I felt terrible - got off my bike and sat there in the shade - it was unbelievably hot. They gave me a coke and some ibuprofen along with lots of water.  I had an energy bar and a gel, just trying to eat and drink as much as possible. I must have sat there for about 20 minutes feeling awful. I think I was the 7th rider to reach the stop but another 10 riders passed me as I tried to recover. 

I finally got up and figured I needed to carry on - it was a slog! I definitely had a little more energy and we were still going north so with the tail wind - so that was all good.  Before the rest stop I kept looking at the power meter which is only showing 100 watts and yet I am killing - whats going on?? Now I am definitely feeling a little better. At about 85/90 miles there was another rest stop with a very nice family there. So I sat there for a while and chatted to them while stocking up.  After this we turned back towards the canyon into a cross headwind - 10 miles across and then a good downhill back to the camp. I went straight to my tent and found my life saver - honey smoked salmon! This is what I had eaten on the Arizona Trail Race and it seems to be a good tasty fuel. Sorted myself out, changed my top, got rid of all the extra baggage I was carrying, ate and drank tons!  Ready now to start the 5.6 mile loops!!

Against All the Odds

So my plan was to sleep when it got too hot. But I needed some shade. I am now on a dirt road , climbing - it’s hot and miserable so I was looking for somewhere to stop. I was also tired and just looking for a tree to lie under for a while - but there is nothing. Maybe under some rocks? But the day before I had coming whiz zing around a corner and nearly went straight over a rattle snake lying right across the trail. I had pulled off to the side to stop and take a photo of it. It must have been asleep all the time I was doing this because as soon as I jumped back on my bike it suddenly reared up and started rattling at me!! Luckily I was already on my bike and could get away quickly!! So today looking at the rocks as somewhere to stop I thought to myself there’s probably a rattle snake in there so maybe not. Finally I found a tree offering a little shade - not great but I tried to lie down and sleep. After about an hour I got fed up and decided to carry on going. I was feeling pretty good so that was OK. I carried on to the bottom of Mount Lemon. At this point I needed to sort out my flat tyres again, having already used up all my CO2 canisters. There was a bike shop earlier that I had missed. So there was a good hike a bike section here, some uphill work to do before reaching the paved road. By now I am exhausted, everything is hurting, I need some water and am feeling fed up!!By this time my Garmin has also decided to stop working completely. I had taken with me two options of charging my Garmin. One was a charger that worked off AA batteries - it had come with 4 rechargeable ones. I had assumed you could use regular batteries as well. But no this wouldn’t work. My second way of charging was from my dynamo hub. However although this did work to charge the Garmin it also managed to freeze it so that I couldn’t follow the map. This caused to me get lost a few times. Then I would stop and update the map, find myself off the trail which then caused the Garmin to start its “recalculating” a vicious circle!! I tried all the settings to try to turn off this recalculation option but just couldn’t work out what to do ( I had been able to on my lord Garmin). Every time I sat down to try to use the internet on my phone to research how to do this I had no signal! This meant I had to keep stopping to let the Garmin catch up with my whereabouts - and often I had gone the wrong way whilst doing this. Very very frustrating!!

On the Mount lemon climb, it seemed to be a never ending road. I knew Summer havens wasn’t too far so my goal was to get there and then really try to figure out how to recharge my Garmin. Only 8 miles, only 5 miles to go. I carry on going but nothing seems to be working for me. I had with me a bike light that worked off my dynamo hub, which wasn’t brilliant decent but not super bright However I also had my really good night lights which I used for technical riding in the dark. The idea was to switch between the two as necessary, knowing I could always recharge the regular light. Of course these lights stopped working - everything on my bike stopped working - but never mind I could use the headlight that I could Velcro to my helmet. Ah that is if I had brought the correct helmet with me. But I hadn’t. No sticky pads on this one. But that was fine as I had some zip ties with me. Great. However the ties started rubbing on my head and gave me a big bruise which was really annoying especially the next day.

Anyway - climbing Mount Lemon - my dynamo front hub had stopped working - I really don’t know why. I don’t really want to stop on the dark and investigate. My Garmin completely dies. I am not too sure how far now to Summer Haven. . There was a shop there which I needed and hopefully I could also have a sleep there. My headlight then dies completely - I am in the dark and exhausted. My hands are on fire - almost numb - the road is killing me !! So at this stage my lights and Garmin are not working and my phone is about to give out! Riding, standing, walking - just trying to get up this hill! Just trying to keep going and hoping I am going the right way!! The trouble is that although this is the Arizona Trail Race there are a lot of detours to follow. So although I am following this road according to my map I shouldn’t follow it all the way to the top.I try to follow the cues but cannot make sense of then in the dark. I am totally fed up at this stage and decide to get my bivi bag and sleeping bag ( against all my original plans) and get some sleep at the side of the road!! Despite putting all my clothes on I wake up a short time later freezing cold so just roll up into a ball and try to see it through. Finally I am so cold that I get out of the sleeping bad and start running up and down the road doing interval sprints trying to just warm up. I am finally warm enough to pack up and get back on my bike. I have no water and no energy but know that the town of Summer Haven is so close. So I keep going and just a quarter of a mile up the road I get to the Palisade Trail Head with some water. This gives me enough energy to carry on. I met up with another rider at this stage and then rode into Summer Haven where thee is a store with some electrical sockets - great at last I can get this whole problem sorted. But no - my Garmin still won’t charge. I asked Emil if I could check it with his lead - yes that worked fine. So obviously something wrong with my cable despite it being brand new. So we then had a discussion as to whether it was worth waiting till the shop opened to stock up before we set off again. I decided to go and change into my riding gear ( still had my sleeping stuff on from the previous night) the the lady appeared and said she would open up,early as soon as she had taken the dog for a walk - this was about 8am. Feeling much better now but was going to have to reply on maps and cues. Unfortunately this meant stopping every 5 minutes or so.

The next section was supposed to be rally bad but I think I was so distracted by having to stop and follow the cues that I found it quite OK. However yet another flat at this stage. There is cactus everywhere. I am riding more slowly and carefully than I have ever done before trying to keep my wheels on the trail and away from the cactus.it was a case of trying to follow the cues and follow tyre trails hoping to make the right choices each time. I got through the section ok. It was kind of fun at this stage - rolling for a while. Then I took a left towards the town of Oracle where I hoped to be able to buy a new leads and some food. It is now in the heat of the day so I am looking forward to finding a nice restaurant with a good hot meal - then I will be ready to get back on my bike and ride all night again. A plan!

I tried several shops - plenty of micro USB leads but no mini ones. I finally found one that I thought might work , although I am now about 5 miles off the trail. It is a multi pin lead and I still can’t get it to work - even try breaking it apart. There is a steak house so I decide to go and eat. I ate and reorganised myself - sorting out my bags throwing away trash etc. also remembered how to reset my Garmin and although worried I might lose my maps by doing this still thought it worth it to have a Garmin that actually worked and could show me where I was. This worked and I didn’t lose my maps. Rejuvenated and restocked and easy to go. Feeling good with some great riding ahead!
Another flat - I checked the tyre for cause and patched it. Just along the road and another one - once again I though I had checked and removed the offending thorn. So many flats thee must be a cause - so I keep checking. Sometimes I just need to pump my tyres. Despite this I am catching and overtaking people, feeling good and enjoying the ride. It is getting dark but I have enough juice in my Garmin. I figure if I can reach the next point - Calvin - then I will be able to recharge again. No problem. More flats. I had required my lights earlier that day - the wires had become separated, probably caught by a tree previously. So it was now dark but all was well. It was a single track and although my light was working it really should have been attached to my handlebars so it turned with the bike. As it was it didn’t really light up,the path as I need it to. I decided my better lights were needed - however I had run out of zip ties or tape to fix to my helmet so just had them dangling at my side for a while. Not very helpful. So in the end I decided to turn my lights off completely and this worked pretty well - it was a rolling trail and I could see ahead fairly good. It was really good for quite a while. Then it got a bit steeper and ore technical so I had to turn on my front light again. I reached the river bed and crossed over. I am still feeling pretty good though and confident I was going to get through this stage. Then I pulled into a water bed and got another flat. Completely flat this time - at least three cactus spikes - this tube was done! I pulled at least 5 Thornes out of that tube. I knew my replacement one had a hole in it so I took my time repaired the hole and replaced the tube.
I continued on the dirt road until I came to a really fun, flowing track with a tailwind behind me. I am riding really well, flying and having a great time. This was awesome. It was about 1 am and I was now confident I was on track to get to the next point by about 4 or 5 am and then I could get some sleep. I am back on track. Everything is finally working for me. I have enough charge on my Garmin. Everything is good. I am passing people again and eventually recharge the Freeman cache of water and so stick up. Plenty of food and feeling good for about another hour. And then yet another flat. Then it really hits me. Rather than try to find the hole yet again in the dark I walk for a while and then decide to rest.
When the sun came up I was ready to try to repair my flat. However I could not find any patches. On top of this I had forgotten to switch off my Garmin so it was now dead. So now I am not too sure where I am but start walking anyway. Then I thought I could repair the tube with my old one with the 5 wholes in it and sandpaper and glue. This did work for a while. Then another rider came by and I was able to borrow two patches from him. I am off again and riding well but unfortunately no Garmin so back to stopping to read the amp and cues. I followed tyre tracks at one point which then ran out so I retraced my steps. Then I was back and forth down different trails trying to get back on the route. Eventually I found a signal on my phone and managed to get back on the trail. 5 minutes later and I had another flat. No patches left so I pump and ride a few times. Then I decide to try to peel off an old patch from the tube I have cut up and great that does the trick. So off I go - it seems to be holding. Climbing and climbing now and I can’t understand why it is taking so long to get to the next town. Because I had messed around so much I was running low on water. And of course I had yet another flat, which is repaired in the same way. I thought I would soon be at the top and then it would be downhill to Calvin. But it just didn’t happen Zara I was just zig zagging up and down. More flats - more pumping and riding. More holes, more old patches. Then I walked to what I thought was the top ready to ride down. But after the first down we turned and started up again.
Hike a bike for a while and yet another flat. I am totally fed up by now - all I have done today is try to repair flats - it seems to have taken me hours to do what looked about 5 miles to the next town. I finally get to do the downhill - my tyres hold and I take it steady. I pull into a car park and take a good look at the map. There is a Rangers station just down the road. The trail went up and left alongside a hill and at this point - probably a rash decision but I was so exhausted and fed up - Superior was the next town in 40 miles and I had no idea whether there was even a bike shop there. My lights and Garmin were playing up and I had enough glue for another homemade patch and that was it. So I decided to take the road. That was it - end of race!! I was totally burnt out. I felt i had got nowhere - it was ridiculous. I had made a bad choice of tyres and was paying for it. I took the road down to the Rangers Station. I stocked up with water and found a guy who gave me a lift to Superior. Arriving in Superior I checked into a hotel room and felt great - yes I felt great about it. Superior was the end of the shorter race so people kept on congratulating me for a good time and I had to explain my situation. No regrets though - I am glad I stopped when I did. The last 40 miles to Superior would have been impossible with my tyres as they were. I didn’t even want to look at them. Instead I went to the Dollar Store and bought a T shirt and shorts to wear and then hung out at the hotel. I felt great - surprisingly!!!!

Friday - Off to Race with High Hopes

Well – I finally made it to the start – this is turning out to be quite a disaster. I got picked up this morning – absolutely fine – and we drove to that monument which I thought was fine. I had a track on my map – to take me to the start so off I went. It turned out to be a really steep climb and I finally reached the start of the Arizona Trail at 10 past 7. I was now totally confused as there was no one there and I had not seen anyone as I rode down the trail towards the start. No tyre tracks – very confusing! My Garmin wasn’t picking up anything and then when it eventually did it said I was near a course and then kept recalculating and recalculating. So I rode further along the Pass before realizing I had gone completely the wrong side as I pulled out the written cues. This is when I realized the start is not at the start of the actual trail but somewhere else completely. It is at the actual border there in the Park. My fault!! So I rode down having trouble with my Garmin as I don’t seem to be able to turn off the “recalculate” and because I was “off” the trail it spent all its time “recalculating” which was not a help to me trying to follow it.
I finally found the road I needed to be on and eventually reached the start – just an hour and a half late!! Perfect – just what I needed – a two hour workout before I had even started. And I really need to figure out how to reset this Garmin. – this is going to kill my battery.
As well as this I have had to pump up my back tyre once and my front tyre once – so all in all a great start – oh yes – one more disaster at this stage – my Go Pro. SD card error every time I switch it on. Well – I guess I had better get started!! Still looking forward to the race despite being an hour and a half behind everyone already!

The Story from the Arizona Trail Race Thursday

Made my way to Tucson, Arizona for the start of the Arizona Trail race. I had been really looking forward to this first race of the season – though as usual preparations were a bit of a rush having only just finished work on the mountain! Had trouble finding the taxi guy at the airport and then managed to lose him as we walked to his car – me lugging my big bike box around. Anyway – all was well and we made it to the hotel in Sierra Vista in plenty of time for me to get my gear ready! In fact too early to check in at first.
I needed some iodine pills and a new camelback bladder so after putting my bike together I went into town to buy theses few things. Successful trip so returned to the hotel feeling pretty pleased with myself. Realised I had a ridiculous amount of energy bars – my plan is to have one every half hour or so. As I was getting my bike ready I discovered that my Garmin was missing. Frantically searching – but cant find it anywhere! So I assumed I had left it back in Denver still plugged in. My only option seemed to be to buy a new one! I then trawled the internet to see if there was a store with one available – not a lot of luck there. So I thought I had better call Leonard to check my Garmin really was there! He searched at home and said it was nowhere to be seen – abut did find the lead I had been using! So in that case I must have packed it. The only thing I hadn’t unpacked fully was my sleeping bag and sure enough there it was tucked into the side of my stuff sac behind one of the straps.!! So, I had found my Garmin – that was great! Happy boy!
My taxi was booked for 5am and there was an iHop across the road open 24 hours so breakfast would not be an issue. So I could get off to bed nice and early!! Feeling good after breakfast the next morning. And was ready for the taxi. He dropped me off at about 6am, but unfortunately I had assumed the race started at the start of the Arizona Trail and so asked him to drop me at the Monument which turned out to be wrong. I just hadn’t paid enough attention! This is when my Garmin and I fell out big time!

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Charity
Throughout all of his cycling endeavours Paul supports Lupus UK and the Lupus Foundation of America. Through his adventures Paul has raised thousands of pounds for research into better lives for Lupus sufferers.
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About Paul
Paul Spencer is a British born endurance athlete who competes in long distance cycling events and challenges.
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