Ever since my injury this spring, I’ve been longing for a huge day in the saddle. My training has been going really well, so I set a date for a double century, three weeks in advance. I was nearing the end of a training cycle prepping me for the Gears for Good ride around the Grand Illinois Trail. The GIT is touring route, mainly on pavement and rails to trails. I wanted to test out the rigid setup on the Cutthroat since I had always run a Lauf suspension fork.
With a week to go, I laid down my fastest ever lap around the Prescott Circle Trail. My aim there was to have minimal stop time and keep a pace I could maintain the whole time. That plan worked out perfectly, so I applied the same principles to the double century. My first round trip to Flagstaff covered some gravel, which I decided to skip for this ride. I was hoping to ride two 8 hour centuries back to back.
Friday morning before the ride, I called Jeff “El Freako” Hemperley to see if he would join me for night laps, just in case I decided to ride more than 200 miles. Jeff is an Ultra-Runner, and a record-setting Singlespeed Ultra-Endurance Cyclist. He sometimes has a runner pace him at the end of long distance running events, I wondered if he’d do the same for me in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday. He said he was in, and I told him I’d have a tracker up and I’d be in touch.
Friday was a total scramble to get all of my work done, get the route finalized, tracker up, bike packed, and on top of it all, I got the news from ESI Grips that they would be willing to set me up with an official sponsorship! I had a friend in Chino Valley head over to ESI to pick up some bar tape, there was no way I could have picked it up in time. Later, when I drove out to Chino to pick it up, I helped her with her printer, and it was a race to get back home and wrap the bars. 11:30 p.m. and I was finally in bed.
The alarm went off at 3:00, I was ready for the day and popped right up. Coffee and three bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, while I mixed up Tailwind for the water bottles. A couple of minutes past 4, I was rolling.
Heading north on Willow Creek Rd. then 89 towards Chino Valley at that hour yielded very little traffic to deal with. Usually that stretch of road through Chino is the worst, hardly any shoulder and lots of people wanting to drive too fast. After Chino Valley, there is a decent shoulder. The moon rose just 45 minutes before the sun came up.
The first 25 miles were mostly downhill and flew by. Since I had a good shoulder, and there was some light, I did my first live video of the day. My second mission for the day was to raise awareness of the Gears for Good fundraiser ride I had coming up. We were still over $400 short of our goal, and I hoped we could hit the $1000 mark while I was out that day. The next 25 miles were a gradual uphill to Ash Fork. I had already ridden through my first National Forest of the day by mile 55.
I passed by Ash Fork and got right onto Interstate 40 heading east. I don’t mind riding on 40 since it has an enormous shoulder. What I did not know is almost the entire stretch from Ash Fork to Flagstaff was under construction. As I approached the work zone, it appeared that the work was all done and they were just waiting to pull the barriers. I crossed the barrier and rode where there was no traffic. A short while later, I passed an ADOT worker in a truck, he told me just to stay in the construction lane the whole time, sweet! About 2 miles later, there was a Highway Patrol SUV pulled over with its lights flashing. I nodded to the officer as I passed by. A second later I heard his engine roaring to catch up to me. He rolled down his window just to tell me the same thing as the ADOT worker. I had the fast lane to myself all the way to Williams. There was even a Port-o-Potty exactly when needed.
I took old Highway 66 through Williams and stopped for just a few minutes at the Safeway to refill water. I try to refill with the outdoor water stations since you can get a gallon of filtered water for 35 cents or less. I mixed in some more Tailwind and off I went. No time to dilly dally. When I merged back onto the interstate, the entire eastbound lane was shut down, all traffic diverted to the westbound side. Since I had the whole lane to myself, I posted my second video for the day. The fundraising was gaining a little momentum. I blasted my way to Flagstaff to ride my fastest century ever, 6:37, not fast by road bike standards, but it was well ahead of my estimated pace for the ride. When I arrived in Flagstaff, it was time to get some real food in me. I stopped at Chick-Fil-A for a couple sandwiches, a chocolate shake, and lots of ice water.
I ate lunch while I waited for Chris Pekham to show up. The NICA races were in Flagstaff that weekend, he was camping at the trailhead with all the racers and his girlfriend’s son. We got lost for a second riding through the NAU campus, then got back on track with the Flagstaff Urban Trail system. We found our way to Fort Tuthill where I ran into several friends who coach the local High School teams. A bunch of the kids said they saw me riding that morning. Ron Hart, who works at ESI Grips snapped a pic and I headed out of the park and down 89a into Sedona.
The ride down the switchbacks was fun, I passed a van from Florida right away, they were going very slow and I didn’t have time for that. The next car in front of me was hilarious. The person on the passenger side was sitting outside the window shooting video so I played along and danced in the background. Once the road leveled out, I pulled over several times to let cars pass by. There is no shoulder for that portion and there’s plenty of gawking tourists to be wary of.
Almost as soon as I started the descent, I could feel the hair dryer of warm air and headwinds coming at me. The coolness of the morning was gone. When I got to the Circle K in Sedona, I took a break in the beer cooler, then filled my water bottles with ice water. I continued on 179 south to Beaverhead Flats Rd. and cut over to Cornville and Cottonwood. I stopped at the Maverick to get some more ice water and a bunch of drinkable calories. The heat through the last section made it hard to put down anything but ice water. I drank a protein shake and some vitamin water, and grabbed a 24oz Arizona Tea to drink on the way over Mingus Mountain. I posted another video, and since Ron had already let the cat out of the bag, I declared I was going to go for the triple century. I felt like it was still sort of a bold move. I was barely over 160 miles and still had a 12 mile, 3500′ climb staring me in the face. I wasn’t feeling great in the energy department, and my knees were starting to bother me a little bit. It would take a lot to make me quit now, I was all in. Knowing what lies ahead, I had to take it easy going up Mingus Mountain. I set my limit at 5mph heading up the steepest portion of the climb to Jerome. Pulling into town, a motorcycle was pulled over, probably for riding way too fast. I stopped at the fire station to rinse the salt crystals off my face and refill my water. As I drank my tea, two police cars went skidding around the corner up the hill. Moments later, two paramedics showed up, jumped into the ambulance and sped off up the hill. I took my time drinking the tea, and rolled up the mountain. I set 6mph as my limit for the top section, last time I cruised up this part, I blew all my energy, something I couldn’t afford to do, and I was already running low. At the first viewpoint, I saw what all the fuss was about. The same motorcycle was in an accident with a car. It looked like everyone was ok, just beat up and in shock. The miles ticked away when suddenly a red Toyota pulled up next to me, it was my old boss, Micah from Tec Rehab, cheering me on. A couple miles later another friend, who I had called out in my last video, joined me to climb the last couple miles over Mingus.
The hardest part of the ride was behind me. We stopped at the top so I could mix up some more Tailwind so I could make it to Prescott Valley. We blasted down the hill as the sun set in the distance.
We rode down Robert Rd. until we got to Chuck’s turn off, and I carried on to town. It wasn’t too late and 69 was still plenty busy. I took the frontage road and the bike path until I arrived at McDonald’s where I ordered a much needed large chocolate shake. Boy did it hit the spot!
A few miles later and I hit the 200-mile mark, right around 16 hours, just where I had hoped to be. I wanted some more real calories in me before starting the night laps. I stopped at Chipotle and ate a veggie burrito and drank as much Coke as I could get in me. I had backed off the caffeine for most of the day, saving my intake for later that night. I didn’t want to stray too far from home, just in case I got too sleepy and had to stop, so I mapped out a 37 mile loop with a good shoulder. After topping off my water, I headed out of town on Williamson Valley Road. I made note of when I passed Jeff’s neighborhood, so I would know when to try contacting him. I called him to give him warning, but there was no answer.
I made the turn onto Pioneer Parkway and rode until I hit 89a, which I followed all the way to Fain Road, then to 69, and back into Prescott for the first lap. I did the math in my head and sorted out that a loop coming into town on Willow Creek would put me at Jeff’s house just before 2 a.m. and I could ride one lap with him to hit the 300 mark. When I looped back into town, I stopped at Maverick to drink a protein shake and a can of coffee.
I tried calling Jeff as I got closer to his house, still no answer, I tried texting, nothing. I pulled of Williamson Valley Rd. and when I got to his house, there were no lights on in the bike shed, none in the house. I tried to make a little noise while I was changing my tail light batteries. Maybe the dogs would wake him up? Nothing, so I knocked on the door, now the dogs were up. Freako answered the door with naked legs. He had totally spaced it and said he was out. I was feeling good still, so I only gave him a little bit of a hard time before leaving, alone.
I barely made it to Pioneer Parkway when I could feel my phone vibrating in my pocket. It was Jeff telling me to stay put, he was on his way. I waited at the scenic overlook for a few minutes when I realized, why am I just sitting here? This is a mileage goal, not a course goal. I rode back to Jeff’s along the only logical route I could think of. Jeff had a different plan, took a route I didn’t know existed, and we missed each other. Now I was trying to catch him. We finally met up and continued back on the planned ride. We chatted as we rode, me barely able to speak and ride trying to keep up on the short climb. We hit the downhill and I was happy to have my gears to keep up. We stopped at the Maverick at the Prescott Country Club for more calories where we sparked a conversation with some kids in line. I think they were probably just starting a road trip, where mine was just ending. They couldn’t believe we were riding already, let alone I had been riding since the previous morning.
As we rolled back into Prescott, I hit the 300 mile mark for the first time ever! Jeff split off towards his house and I took a long way home to make sure there was no chance of being shortchanged. 299 isn’t 300 and that wasn’t happening today! My Garmin tends to have its recorded distance shortened slightly when uploaded to the web. When I got home, Sarah was outside waiting for me to give me a big hug. 303 miles in 25 hours! I checked the donation website, and we had just received the last $66 needed to hit our $1000 goal. What a great way to end the day!
Thanks again to everyone who made this day possible, especially those who contributed to the Hemophilia Federation of America’s Gears for Good Charity. You have helped many families in need with your generosity. Shout out to Hike Shack in Prescott for the Tailwind that keeps me going, thanks to ESI Grips for keeping my hands comfy, and thanks to Oveja Negra for supplying all the bags to keep my gear sorted.
Next up, the Grand Illinois Trail, then the Coconino 250!
A Story Ridden and Written By: