For the third year in a row, I invited a small group of friends to race me on the southern 300 miles of the Arizona Trail. I ultimately challenge people to ride the route southbound and descend the trail on Mount Lemmon; why else would there be an AZT 300 if not to ride all the magnificent trail between Superior, AZ and Mexico?
What’s your intention for the race?” Jaimie asked as we gathered with others the evening before lining up at the start line of this year’s Odyssey of the VOG, which is a 350-mile bikepacking event that takes riders through the rural farmland of the Willamette Valley, the rugged and vast Oregon coastal range, and the unrelenting gravel climbs found in the Willamette and Tillamook National Forests.
Excitement and nervousness-filled conversations about bike setups, weight, steep climbs, estimated times… are you going to sleep? Over an inch of rain was forecasted to fall the next day. Some wanted to win. Most were intrigued by the adventure. I told Jaimie, “I want to be present and enjoy while challenging myself. I want to feel it.”
For almost an entire calendar year, I watched as the business I worked for tracked record profits, month after month, while I toiled away at the kitchen table of my studio apartment amidst the onset of a global pandemic.
Outlook pings governed my daily life; recurring meetings and phone calls structured my weekdays ‘to-the-hour.’ Most interactions were conducted in real-time Brady Bunch video cubes. With a cell phone and 13-inch computer screen acting as bridges to all of humanity, I was overwhelmingly connected, yet incredibly distant at the same time.
I questioned my own existence and sense of purpose. I felt both disposable and in-demand; exhausted, but left with a permeating fear of upsetting an operational chain. My manager had quit without replacement and I floated along an aimless trajectory, making up additional job responsibilities as I went. With so much unpredictability, I struggled to do real, meaningful “work.” Feeling a constant pressure to compose emails and tap away at computer keys, home life seamlessly meshed into work life. I grew tired and weary and craving fulfillment. So I quit.
FAIL 11 is the latest installment in Ryan Le Garrec’s multimedia “FAIL” series. Check out the related articles below for more of Ryan’s work.
Heading Southwest is a new bikepacking race in Portugal. It crosses the country with a set route of 1000 km and 15,000 meters of elevation gain. The route was designed to show the diversity of the country far from the clichés of coastal tourism and bigger towns. It showcases the country in a way only a local long-distance cyclist could provide. I have toured this beautiful place I call home for a while now, never have I had so much fun (and pain yeah) on the roads of this country. Massive thanks to David Cruz at finisterra.cc
The text of this story came into existence as perhaps the world’s longest Slack post. It is a message to my road cycling team in which my passion for recounting a grand adventure, in this case, the longest bike ride of my life, got the better of me. While I have edited it for readability and understanding, it largely remains the point-to-point, sometimes crude and irreverent, stream-of-consciousness post as received by my friends – So welcome to the team.
On April 12, 2022, Lael Wilcox set out to ride the 827-mile Arizona Trail faster than anyone had before. She completed her ride in 9 days, 8 hours, and 23 minutes on April 21. This is her story.
Note: Lael’s time is not recognized by the AZT Race administration which prohibits media coverage. The current official records: Men’s – Nate Ginzton – 9:10:44; Women’s – Chase Edwards – 10:18:59
A boulder stops me in my tracks. There is a dry creek bed below, a huge boulder ahead, but no trail to be seen. I put my bike down and try to think logically. First I inch my way around the boulder to see whether the trail will somehow materialize. It doesn’t. I then walk as far to the left of the boulder (west) as I can, hoping I will find a way around. Nothing. I backtrack a ways to see if I missed a crucial turn. I didn’t.
The rock is an impenetrable vertical bridge. I’m suddenly repeating ‘YOU. SHALL. NOT. PASS!’ over and over in my head. Am I Gandalf or the Balrog in this situation? Or Frodo? Or an orc? Hard to say.
And there in my periphery goes that damned black animal again, wildly running away into the sandy night just past my vision. It’s roughly the shape of a boar but it runs like a gorilla. I’ve seen it a half-dozen times at this point, though, so nothing to be concerned about. It’s harmless.
It’s mile 335 of the Stagecoach 400, I’ve gone over 36 hours without sleep, and I’ve been stuck at the transition to The Willows for over 30 minutes.
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is 800 miles of singletrack, stretching from the Mexican border to the Utah border and traversing most of the state’s major mountain ranges. With initial development in the 1990s, the hiking trail passes through several wilderness areas, requiring bike detours. The current bike route is 827 miles, including a 24-mile required bike portage through the Grand Canyon (wheels can’t touch the ground).
Ahead of me, the Arizona Trail snaked into the forest, disappearing behind the shadow of ponderosa pines, and re-emerging in a stretch of marsh lit by a sliver of moon. I dismounted my bike and plunged off a muddy bank onto a log submerged in stagnant water. After seven scorching days racing through southern Arizona, this riparian zone on the rugged southeast flank of the Colorado Plateau offered a reprieve from the harsh Sonoran desert, but without the constant pricks and jolts from agave, cholla, and cat’s claw to center on, my mind wandered where I didn’t want it to go.
It was November 2nd, or maybe 3rd, depending on whether or not the clock had struck midnight yet. I didn’t care. This time last year, I was deep in the relentless clutches of psychosis, and moving my body outside, no matter the time of day, made wrangling with grief and humiliation easier.
FAIL 8 is the latest installment in Ryan Le Garrec’s multimedia “Fail” series. Check out the related articles below for more of Ryan’s work.
Day 47 – Santo Isidoro, Portugal
My son told me the other day:
“Dad, the trees don’t use their roots only to drink, they also use them to communicate.”
When I saw these two trees, on the way back from Spain somewhere in Alentejo, I thought: “These two must have some kinda romance going on.”
Sometimes we don’t understand our reasons for doing something until we’ve fully emerged. That was my lesson learned from waffling around the start and finish lines of The Big Lonely with a camera and disconcerted heart. What is this big and lonely thing that I speak of? Described in one word by the riders themselves: it’s “relentless”, “jarring”, “cold”, “delightful” – “resilience.” It’s “incomplete” and it’s “grueling”. It’s “epic”, “stoke” and “go.” For one rider it was “mom.” Most commonly though, it was described as “community” and I found this to be a curious notion. The dichotomous idea that a 350-mile self-supported ultra-endurance bikepacking race called The Big Lonely cultivated the word “community” more than any other is sort of like a metaphor for life and all the funny ways our experiences are everything at once.
The Odyssey of the VOG (Valley of the Giants) is a 350-mile bikepacking event that takes riders through the rural farmland of the Willamette Valley, the rugged and vast Oregon coastal range, and the unrelenting gravel climbs found in the Willamette and Tillamook National Forests. The event name pays respect to the Valley of the Giants forest preserve, 51 acres of old-growth forest that are home to some of the largest Douglas Firs and Western Hemlocks on the Oregon coast range. Many of these towering giants have existed for over 400 years, and have grown to heights of 200 feet or more. While the route does not go through the hiking trails of the forest preserve, riders are still embraced by the dense trees and lush overgrowth that the remote forest provides. The Odyssey of the VOG route consists of bold landscapes, remote forest roads, and unrelenting climbs, all of which invigorate and challenge those who choose to ride it. The grand depart for the 2022 event takes place on May 28, 2022, at 7:00 am PST. Registration is now open here!
Jack Thompson set out to ride the 2021 Tour de France route as fast as he could. 3,552km divided over 21 stages, chasing down the pros on his way to Paris…
Last weekend, Lael raced the Kenai 250, a two hundred fifty-seven mile self-supported mountain bike race in the Kenai Peninsula, the only area with an extensive network for singletrack trails in Alaska.
It has been a little more than 2 weeks since the start of The Atlas Mountain Race.
The proverbial dust has begun to settle and my friend Stefan Haehnel’s 35mm exposures have been developed.
Race to the Rock touts itself as one of the most difficult ultra-endurance races in the world. This documentary looks to showcase the event’s beautiful landscapes while focusing on the struggles faced by the contestants.
Take the Andes, a mountain range that stretches for an impossibly long 7,200km down the West Coast of South America. Chuck in 32,000m of climbing, crazy gravel sections, remote towns and villages, altitudes of nearly 5000m, huge canyons, glaciers and some of the best views on the planet, and you have a heady cocktail of elements that make up the craziest ultra-cycling race in the world. BikingMan Peru – The Inca Divide.
Rue and Spencer are working on part four of the 2019 Tour Divide coverage, sit tight, it’s coming down the hole early this afternoon.