“So, have you decided if you are going to Arizona yet?” I asked. “I’m not going,” she said. The answer to the following question then filled me with hope, as she said, “I cancelled yesterday.”
See, I had actually cancelled my room a few days prior. My reservations were for 3 nights at the Motorlodge, one of the nicest, most eclectic, hospital, motels I’d ever stayed in. My experience has been so good there, that I typically make my reservations for the following year as I am checking out the current year. Once done making reservations and checking out, I climb back into the car for the long drive home and to enjoy the freshly baked cookies the Motorlodge gives us as a parting gift. So, being reservation-less, and now dog-less, I was frantically exhausting all options I had to try and find a way to still make it out to one of the pinnacle races available to mountain bikers in America. The Epic Rides , Whiskey Off-road.
Luckily for me, I got a room at the historic Hotel St. Michael, right in the center of all of the action. If I wanted to see what was happening in whiskey row, I just peered out of the window. The room was small, and the shower controls were very finicky, but the location more than made up for all of the little quirks. I should also add that the hotel staff was beyond nice. Due to the location, this hotel was so convenient, that we are considering it for our stay next year. I don’t think my wife wants to be lugging a baby a half mile to and from the Motorlodge multiple times a day. That’s not to say that we are abandoning the Motorlodge, just taking a break. I do think the Motorlodge would be a much better choice in a couple years, when our daughter would rather be out on the porch playing, instead of stuck inside a cramped hotel room.
We left pretty early in the morning to get out the Prescott in time to get settled into our room, for me to pre-ride the new section of the course, get checked into the race, and make sure my bike was prepped and ready to go. My pre-ride was a blast, but probably a tad too long. I ended up doing just shy of what the 25-proof race is. It was good to get in a lot of single track descending on my new Cannondale F29 Carbon 1.
After the pre-ride, I cleaned my bike up, made a few last minute adjustments and then got ready for a nice meal at the Firehouse Kitchen. I ordered from their happy hour menu. It left me with just enough food, and a bit more money in my pocket. The food was good, just like the service.
This year, I intentionally woke-up earlier, got suited up and did a warm-up, that was useless. With the implementation of the new starting corrals, and with my time last year being very slow due to my injury, I was already going to be 200 people back, even if I was the first to line up. So, at around 6:40am, I lined up for the race. Yeah, the race did not start until 7:30am.
After what seemed like forever, the gun went off and the race was underway. I slowly moved up a few places, without digging myself into too deep of a hole. I saw a local SoCal guy (Kevin) and tried to keep up with him. Once we hit the dirt, and were approaching the first s/t section, I passed Kevin. I thought he would catch me later on, but I never saw him again, until the finish.
The trails were typical Prescott greatness. The new addition to the course was supposed to help cut down on traffic jams, but it didn’t really do much. I ended up having to walk a few sections because someone, 25 riders up, has no technical riding skills. After getting down the first long descent, I kept pacing myself and got to the first aid station about 5 minutes behind my previous best time (bear in mind we had an extra 9 minutes of trail added prior to this point).
The descent to Skull Valley was just as long as ever. At the turnaround, though, I realized that I need to convince someone to do bottle hand-offs for me. It seemed as if 90% of the people around me had this luxury. I had to stop and fill up the old fashioned way. With full bottles, I set off on the even longer journey back up.
I rode well and paced myself well, but still managed to bonk about 5 minutes from the 3rd aid station. My pace slowed, a lot. After getting more water, I perked up a bit, but not for long. Cramps started to come and I was doing everything I could to keep pedaling. I got to the last aid station and knew the downhill was finally here. I was happy even though there was still plenty of work to be done. I’d at least get a little break.
I managed to ride the rest of the course and not get hung up on the dreaded cramp hill. I stayed as strong as I could riding through the city into the finish, but I know I was riding slow. Once making that last left hand turn into the finish chute, I gave it my last few pedal strokes and crossed the line. Not really where I wanted, but I couldn’t complain. I had a good, smart race, without any crashes or mechanicals.
After the race, I ate. A lot. We went back to the Firehouse Kitchen. We went to the Gurley (not to be confused with Girly) St. Grill. We got some ice cream at Sonic’s and some frozen yogurt at…some other place. I’m sure I ate more, but that is all I can remember right now.
I woke up early again on Sunday and got out for a recovery ride. Prescott has a lot of great trails and I like to try and get out to ride some new dirt whenever I can. I rode a trail, I think it was called Trail 9318 or 9418. It was a blast. Rolling at the bottom, then flowy at the top. I rode up to a portion of the Whiskey course, then descended back down and pretended I was one of the Pro racers warming up for the race.
After my pre-ride, we got breakfast at the Bistro St. Michael. Then, packed up and headed home. The drive back always seems longer, and less exciting, than the drive out there.