POSTED BY JOEY - I'd been wanting to take part in the Arizona Trail Race for years.  Similar to the Colorado Trail Race, it's a free, unsupported, subculture bikepacking race along the AZT.  Unlike the CTR, there are two options for length:  A 300- or 750-mile version.  The 300 starts just north of the Mexican border and finishes outside of Phoenix in Superior.  The 750 takes in the entire AZT from Mexico to Utah, and includes a mandatory portage through the Grand Canyon.  In 2013 I'd been set to tackle the 750, but last minute events at the shop conspired to keep me in Durango.  2014 was a wash for riding.  With the season rolling around this year, the AZTR was in the back of my mind, but it wasn't until organizer Scott Morris cajoled me that I began seriously thinking about making it to at least the 300.  As Scott said, "The 300's not really that big a commitment - it can be your base miles!"  Although I hadn't been riding much - and "training" not at all - he encouraged the spark that was already there in my mind, and less than two weeks prior I found myself making travel plans, signing up for the race tracker, and refreshing myself on all the course knowledge I'd accumulated in 2013.  Torpedoes be damned - I was going, regardless of whether I had to close the shop, regardless of my lack of riding, regardless of pretty much anything.

And so it was I found myself a few miles north of Mexico on a Thursday night, packing up the bike and trying to mentally prep for the Friday morning start.  It had been almost two years since my last bikepacking race - much too long.  Had I brought too much gear?  Was it a dumb idea to carry ALL of my food and skip all stores?  Was a rattler going to strike me in the middle of nowhere with no hope for getting out in time?  None of it could matter now - the only way out was forward.

I'll tell the rest of the story through photos and captions.  Click to enlarge, hover for description, arrows to navigate: