Saturday, October 13, 2012

Coconino 250: Just. Friggin. Ride.

I didn't throw the SPOT tracker in my Escapist 20 pack this time. I looked at it a couple times as I was packing my gear to leave for Flagstaff to start the Coconino 250 ride this past weekend. Note the term ride. Yeah. Ride. Not race. For some reason, that little orange box flashing green lights registers as a race device in my ubercompetitive brain.

And I think I have had enough racing for the year. 

Thursday, October 4

Les and I rolled into Flagstaff and met up with David Wilson of Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks and picked up a new frame pack for Les's bike. I also saw his well designed handlebar system that I may very well be utilizing upon acceptance into the Arrowhead 135 in January. We then found "The Place" we were to meet up in the morning and start the loop. After some moseying around in the outdoor surplus store, we headed up to the AZ Snowbowl to catch the sunset.








The colors of the sky almost precisely reflected the colors of the changing leaves below. The fiery show affects each of its onlookers in a unique way and I felt this particular masterpiece draw me even closer to the artist of such brilliance. I find Him in every mile I pedal when I open my heart to look. It seems that lately, however, my eyes have been selfishly and narrowly focused inward on my perceived shortcomings and moments like these slap me alongside the head. They bring my awareness back to the fact that the earth does not revolve around me and two wheels. I am merely a tiny part of this vast existence and lifting my eyes beyond myself and the tangible will show me true clarity. The words of Chief Seattle (which seems to be as close to the truth as it gets), echoed in my head as I sat and watched the sun disappear:

"We did not weave the web of life, we are merely strands in it..."

Feeling more content with the notion of being more a part of an amazing interconnected web instead of the outcast, skinny little freak trying to make a bike go fast all the time, I drifted off easily, slept deeply and dreamed in full, brilliant color on Thursday night. 

Friday, October 5th

Day 1 of the Coconino Just. Friggin. Ride. 

"The Place" is a mom and pop restaurant in Flagstaff that served as the start of my Coco ride. I ate a bowl of delicious Cream of Wheat, picked through some far less than desirable fruit and felt remarkably calm as my gear was well packed and organized. I was still riding Les's Minifly 100--a bike I constantly and affectionately joke about being too small for me. I have long monkey arms so I am pretty hunched up when I ride it, but since mine is still minus parts, I am more than thankful for the use of this horse. And hey, its light and fast....

I met a few new people and saw Ray, the badass SSer and eventual winner of the stage race. 



Check out my winter gloves...My fingers only freeze in Arizona--no joke! 

We rolled out of town and onto the AZ trail.  Memories of this section in the dark came flooding back to me as I began riding backwards what I had ridden in April. I was hoping to pass by the Ace Hardware lawn where I slept under a tree waiting for it to open to buy batteries, but the route threw us onto the trail differently. Each mile I rode Friday morning painted a corresponding "memory picture" in my mind of  an absolutely epic experience back in April. It was a really easy ride on fresh legs, however. We ended up riding with Vermont Jay for a great part of the day at a leisurely, fun pace. It felt kind of foreign to not be pushing hard to keep up, but instead, smiling, observing and (dare I say) pretty much gawking off and not really caring about time and distance. We created a game of Les capturing every gate we had to open on camera and even set a wager as to the total number on the whole ride. 

Beginning the dismount as rockstar Jay poses with the gate...


Celebrating and reliving some cool memories of the trail

In no time we were at the Mormon mountain trail and onto the road. We came to the "obscure double track" and in a moment of weakness, I found myself having a hard time justifying our trip into Munds to get a cheeseburger. Um, Jill. Just. Friggin. Ride.

So we bombed down the hill at ludicris speed and sat in a cafe with Jay and chomped on bacon cheeseburgers.

Don't ask. All I can say is that this pretty much reflects the seriousness of the entire day..
In no time we were here:



And then here:








And since I have not paid one dollar to a hotel (personal challenge) since a collaborative fund to get a room in West Yellowstone in March, we kept with the trend and got a really cheap room on the rim overlooking Sedona:




We ventured out onto the spectacular balcony:



And relished in this:



Yum.

Saturday October 6, 2012

Descending was the name of the game. Down and around and around into Sedona and the Circle K. In no real hurry, we chatted and joked around a bit with the others who rolled up. Broken Arrow then more Sedona singletrack:









This magic carpet ride swiftly lead to Lime Kiln trail. It provided some "good" HAB and on the descent I witnessed a ball of Handy rolling through cacti. Here is but one of the hundreds of spines that came out of his leg and side.


And this was my overall impression:


We descended into Dead Horse State Park and went Hog Wild at the BBQ and burger joint in Cottonwood. Neither of us knew for sure  what the name of the town we rolled into was until we read it on the menu. This is but one of the many things about this ride that makes me grin pretty wide.

We screwed around some more in town, making a stop at the bike shop for a souvenir water bottle and then refilled water at the last gas station before grinding up Mingus Mountain.

A look back on everything we rode from somewhere on Mingus Mountain:



And FINALLY the top of Old Mingus just after dark....Trail 105 and 106 make CTR hike a bike look like a sidewalk. Seriously. Go experience it.

Ummmm.....someone is stoked.

A nice warm fire was going when we rolled into Camp #2. Everyone kind of staked out their own tree to bivvy under. And I must say the loudest, most impressive display of snoring coming from a few trees away serenaded us all night. I giggled for a while at the sheer volume and the accompanying array of human bodily function sounds coming from other trees until I drifted off to sleep.

Sunday, October 7

We got moving at sun up but not before showing off my super sexy helmet/beanie/sleeping bag hair:


The backside of Mingus was a FAST and fun descent:



We then turned onto a powerline doubletrack, hit up Tacoma, er, Coyote Springs (icky!!!) and rode forever on fairly easy, sometimes rocky doubletrack. My back muscles suddenly began screaming at me from being hunched on a bike that is too small and no less than four times we stopped and I had to have Les practically jump on my back and help me stretch and loosen spasming muscles. Our pace was ridiculously slow as holding the same position on the handlebars was literally killing me. The easiest riding of the whole trip so far was taking an eternity. I had to keep stopping to alleviate some serious twinges. The fun, for me, was quickly fading and we were both kind of bored with the course. We got to the bridge over the Verde River and hung out (and stretched out) for a good 20-30 min before seeing two other riders getting water. Just as we got up and pedaled over to the shoreline to do the same, Lynda pulled in right behind us.

We took our time refillng water and set out slowly down more dirt road. After a couple of hot, boring miles we hitched a ride into Williams on a Polaris Ranger:


No excuses or justifications. I was just done with the ride. No desire to keep riding. None. I was melancholy and lost in thought for 24 dirty, dusty miles into Williams.

Les was a good sport and always smiling. He kept an awesome attitude every time I stopped between Mingus and the Verde River and begged him to help me loosen back muscles. And hey, what's hotter than a dirt beard?


We rode to the I40 on ramp and hitchhiked back to the truck parked in Flag:


Glad I rode. Loved what I saw. Bagged it when it was no longer fun.

Will I ride it again? Hmmmmm....maybe. But probably not. I feel like my desert time   is coming to a close for a while.

Change is in the air for me. Exciting things on the horizon. (Between the time I started and finished this blog, I was added to the 2013 Arrowhead 135 roster!)

But lately,  I have begun to openly and honestly reflect on my second season of racing a mountain bike. I have decided the next couple of weeks won't involve a bike. Time to reflect and refresh. Step back and regroup, refocus and rest my body and mind. Because I am tired.

Good, old-fashioned, honest-to-God tired.

There. I said it.

I really wish I had a big, bay horse I could spend the next couple of weeks riding. I miss that life right now.