A 10 pm start time means a 9 PM pre-race meeting at Absolute Bikes. Shawn, gives roughly 50
Looking at the start list I had a good idea of who to keep an eye on....plus, you always have a few sleepers to count on. Past race finishers and rookies with a proven track record to go fast at the long distance had me with a list of about 6 guys. Personally, I feel this is an event were those with past event knowledge have a huge jump on the others in the field. So, with that in mind, I was in no hurry at the start. I rolled out of town and towards the Colorado Trail at a perceived exertion that was about a 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10. As we rolled out a group of about 4 guys went off the front. They didn't get far....as they dangled about 500 yards in front of us.
We hit the Colorado Trail and began the 2 hour push to the 1st aid station. I kept my pace smooth, steady, light, and safe. I took no risks on this section which is known to take a few riders and bikes down. By the end of this section I rolled into the 1st aid station about 30 seconds after the leaders, Kevin Thomas and Cameron Brenneman. I knew of Cameron and his strong track record as a mountain bike racer.....Kevin I was unsure of. While they filled their hydration bladders, I filled 2 bottles and left the aid station before they did. This year I raced light. No pack. With the aid stations and my nutrition and clothing needs, I was able to jump from aid station to aid station with no extra weight.
I left the aid station and began the ride up to the Alpine Tunnel (11,500 ft). I was shortly joined by Kevin. We exchanged names and chatted a bit. He was on a singlespeed....and moving along at a good clip. As we pedaled up the railroad grade road we saw Cameron coming up behind us. I increased my effort a bit...but not much. With in about 20 minutes I was alone. No lights in any direction other than the ones I had on my bike. It was roughly 2 AM.....and I was warm under the crisp clear night (little frost on the ground, but the warmest VT125 I have raced) when I began the hike over the tunnel. I had along warmer cloves and skull cap, but never put them on all race. Once at the top I looked down to see the lights of Cameron and Kevin. I descended down the back side to the west side of the Alpine Tunnel. From here it was up to Tomichi Pass.
The climb up to Tomichi Pass is a jeep road. Said jeep road is steep, loose, and full of baseball size rocks. With good legs you can clean it. Heading up to the pass I was caught by Cameron. He was flying and looking strong. I let him go, as I was not going to push that hard this early. Now in 2nd place, I hit the top of Tomichi Pass which then put us into a short descent on a dirt road to the hard right turn onto Canyon Creek Trail. This is the beginning of a looooong hike-a-bike.....almost a 1 hour hike to 12,500 ft. As I pushed up the trail I was looking for Cameron's head lamp up the trail....but never could see it. It was very well that his pace had him hidden from my perspective. Shortly into the climb, I had the beginning of what would become a 3 hour 'black' moment. I couldn't eat, drink, and was lacking energy and power. I struggle to lift my bikes over the rocks. My bike felt like it was 50lbs....even though it was only 25 lbs. As I struggled up the climb, I was caught by Kevin Thomas and his singlespeed. We chatted briefly about the temps and he keep going. His hike-a-bike speed was out of this world....or else I was crawling that slow. Wasn't long he was at the top....and on his way down the back side. When I reached the top I could see his lights down below on the long singletrack descent to aid station 3....which was run by Dave Wiens. Shortly before the 3 aid station I caught back up to Kevin. We pulled into aid station 3 to a unprepared aid station team. They didn't expect us this soon. I asked Dave if we were in 2nd and 3rd. He said we were the first ones in. What happened to Cameron? We would later find out he missed the Canyon Creek Trail to the hike-a-bike turn off and lost over an hour to us. I filled my bottles and grabbed some food and left to climb Old Monarch Pass Rd. Still in my 'dark' slump, I ticked over the pedals as best I could with no sign of Kevin behind me. The sun was also now starting to come up.....as I could see the black silhouette of the mountains and pines. About 60% up the dirt road climb he passed and dropped me like I wasn't even there. WOW!
At the top of the climb is Monarch Pass...and the Crest Trail. I reached the aid station with no sign of Kevin. Aid station members said he left 7 minutes prior to my arrival! All racers had drop bags here, so I grabbed fresh bottles, got rid of the lights, stripped off the layers of warm clothing, and grabbed the iPod. I jumped on the bike and began the slow chase until my body would get its second wind. While I was still in my slump, the sun, which was now up was helping my mojo. I was beginning to eat and drink again without feeling like barfing it back up. The later half of the Crest Trail I was back to going a little bit faster. I began my chase of Kevin.
Next up was a loop on Stavation Creek which had an sick singletrack descent.....then a stupid hard climb back to the top. I ended up catching Kevin at the end of the descent. I started the climb out of Starvation Creek......only to have Kevin catch me....then drop me while I suffered to turn over my SRAM XX 26x36. He just stood and powered away from me. At the top of the climb was aid station 4 again. I refreshed my bottles....as Kevin did also. Kevin left before I did. I took off for the Silver Creek trail after Kevin.
The remaining course favored me and my geared bike. It was mostly all downhill and/or rolling. At the end of Silver Creek is the final aid station before hitting the Rainbow Trail. As I pulled into the final aid station, Kevin was there filling his hydration pack. I filled my bottles for the final 16 miles. Kevin and I would start the Rainbow Trail together. Kevin actually gapped me after about 5 minutes of riding together. He cleaned a section...when I stumbled and had to dismount and run. I was now back in chasing mode. I could see him ever once in a while.....but had a heck of a time bridging up to his wheel! In the final mile of singletrack I finally got Kevin back in sight...which is what I needed with the 7 mile road descent to the finish line. Kevin dropped out of the single track about 30 seconds before I did. Once I hit the road, I locked out the Rotwild FS bike and chased him down. Unable to pedal on the downhill paved road, Kevin was in an aero tuck. Me, I had 20 gears to choose from. It didn't take long to catch and pass him. I would pull away from Kevin and put 3 minutes into him as I would go on to take the overall win and set a new course record at the 2010 Vapor Trail 125. My finishing time was 14 hours and 26 minutes. The 3rd place rider would come in about 1 hour later. No doubt in my mind Kevin (2008 winner and former record holder) was the strongest on the day....but the singlespeed limited him in some aspects. Really bummed for him, but we all chose our equipment prior to starting. Can't image what time he could turned on a geared bike!
Here is the race bike just after 14+ hours of racing. Also, for those tracking the race at home and your concerns about the tracking quality during the event....my tracking issue was most likely caused by having the SPOT zip tied to my down tube under the water bottle.
Heart rate and elevation data off the Suunto T6
Overall during the entire race I estimate I spent about 10 minutes total stopped. This was to refill bottles at the aid stations and to strip on my lights and warm clothes at Monarch Pass.
Full event results posted here. Keep in mind the times listed are the times of day.
Link to local press on the event.
Link to event recap by Mountain Flyer
At least for now, that is a wrap of the 2010 season! The JRA season now begins for a few months.