Spencer Harding and Chris”Dirty” Reichel went down the southern border of Mexico and Arizona for the start of the 2023 Arizona Trail Race. The race taverse the whole of Arizona for racers who elect the 800 mile route or the abbreviated and nonetheless daunting 300-mile option. Summer hasn’t relinquished its grasp on Southern Arizona with temperatures in the 100s for the early days of the race…
Nerves are almost as high as the temperatures at the start of the AZTR this year. With the lower elevation sections forecasted to be 90-100 degrees, the first few days and a blisteringly dry summer means that water is scarcer than ever. Lael unfortunately decided not to race due to health issues just the days before the race. While her hopes of a triple crown, completing the Arizona Trail Race, Tour Divide, and Colorado Trail Race all in one year there are four other women attempting the same. Alexandera Houchin broke down the triple crown standings before the start of the AZTR. An incredibly massive feat to even complete such an amount of riding and it will be super exciting to watch the final race of the season for all of them.
By the time this post goes up, riders will be two days into their race, many more than half of the way to the 300-mile mark. There were some marked changes to the 800-mile route this year, with the addition of riding (pushing) up a majority of the Lemmon Drop outside of Tucson. Once optional this is now a mandatory part of the race for AZT 800 riders. I even talked to some AZT 300 riders who planned to voluntarily take the much harder reroute over Mt Lemmon.
With temperatures being so high in southern Arizona many riders will be carrying 6-8 liters of water between reliable sources. We saw a few people drop out on day one with some stomach issues from what I can only imagine is heat-related. At the time of writing Philippe Vullioud has taken an early lead just a bit in front of Alex Schultz in second, with Katya Rakhmatulinan holding in 3rd. After an amazing win on the CTR this summer she is definitely someone to watch in this AZTR.
Seems like some records may fall this year and some amazing feats may be completed. Keep up over at Trackleaders to see where everyone is at. Wishing everyone a fast and safe race out there, very excited to see many folks complete the triple crown this year.