ARIZONA TRAIL RACE
April 2014 – 2016
April 2014 – 2016
April 2014 – 2016
Paul’s first attempt at this race did not go well and he ended up having to quit after 250 miles. He had the wrong tires. After so many flats and a day of walking his bike, he hitchhiked back, deciding to be better equipped for his next attempt.
Arriving at the starting line on time has always seemed to cause Paul problems. This time was no exception. His friend, Leo, planned to ride the shorter version of 300 miles while Paul would attempt the full trail of 750 miles. After organizing a taxi to take them each to the different starting points, they thought they were prepared. However, Leo didn’t have the necessary ID to enter the military base to get to the starting line, which meant they had to take the long way round. They were both dropped off at the start of the 300-mile race, meaning Paul still had to cycle 15 miles to the Mexico border for his start. Two hours late, it was demoralizing riding against the flow of riders who had already started.
Racing hard, Paul was able to overtake quite a few riders. After the 50-mile service station, he was exhausted and decided to stop for the day, which was not quite the start he’d planned. Day two began early with the 20-mile road climb up Mount Lemmon. A killer ride but awesome scenery– rolling desert canyons full of cacti. ‘Hike a bike’ Oracle Ridge was next and would include an amazing descent. It felt good to pass the point where he’d previously quit. He was determined to push hard to make up for lost time and eventually reached Superior (the end of the 300-mile race) at 2 a.m. There were no hotel rooms available, so Paul grabbed a few hours sleep sheltering under a park bench. After a quick breakfast, he then cycled 20 miles to the next town and found a hotel.
After sleeping all day he rode through the night, repeating the practice the next day. Riding in the cooler night air was a good strategy for a while but after a few hours the second day, he decided he’d rather sleep at night as he found the ride more boring. Back to daytime riding, he left the dirt trails behind and once again was on paved trails, heading towards Flagstaff. Here, he was able to get his bike checked out and refuel.
What a fantastic feeling to finally complete the trail and even better was the feeling of making some great friends– friends who’d genuinely looked out for Paul along the way!
The next day, Paul arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Rather than dropping into the Canyon that day, he set off super early the next morning. He had figured out how to carry his bike using two shoulder straps and a bunch of zip ties. He looked down onto the river that he’d previously rafted and set off on the long hike down. Before long, the weather began to set in and Paul realized he was unable to easily get to his cold weather gear because he had zip tied his wheels over his bags!
He took some time at the bottom of the Canyon to eat some food and prepare for the hike out. Despite his calves hurting, the hike started well until it started raining and the temperature dropped. He pushed hard and finally made it to the top of the Canyon after 12 hours. He found a bathroom where he was able to reassemble his bike and after some deliberation, decided to ride another 20 miles to try and find a hotel, since he was getting very low on food. As he left, it started to snow but he just put his head down and rode 20 miles toward a hotel. There was no hotel to be found.
Looking at his maps, he found another lodge in 30 miles. The weather worried Paul. It was seriously cold and he was wearing all the clothes he packed. His water was frozen solid. There was no option but to keep going, paying attention to any place to take shelter in. The snow continued to fall and the gears on his bike froze. Paul realized that if he stopped, he would probably freeze to death. He made sure his SPOT tracker was working. Finally, with about 5 miles to go, the road cleared and he was able to gain a little speed. He was exhausted and just hoped for a warm bed.
Arriving at Jacob’s Lodge, he was about to start banging on the door when he was startled by a figure in the dark. It was his friend, Riley who, along with Brett, had been looking out for him. They had a bed ready for him. It was surreal, but such good news. Apparently, they had been following his tracker and if it had stopped, they planned to come and get him even if it meant stealing a car! What awesome friends.
The next day with calves still on fire from all the hiking, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together before setting off. Surprisingly, it was a lot easier to cycle than walk. They had a great day riding the last section and crossing the finish line together. What a fantastic feeling to finally complete the trail and even better was the feeling of making some great friends– friends who’d genuinely looked out for Paul along the way!