Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vapor Trail 125 2010 Part 2 Into the light.

When we last left our heroes......they were headed into the dark side.

We hit the gravel road and began to climb. Here it was crucial to keep the pace fast enough but not so fast as to blow up later on. We did have another 120 miles or so to go.... Many people had turned their headlights down low or had turned them off and were poaching others light. I alternated between my head lamp and handlebar lamp just 'cause I like pushing buttons. The map and profile below show this section up to the first single track. We had about 14 mi at about 4% average grade. I just rode along behind people as much as I could as there was a bit of a headwind and why not save some energy. Several riders were already jockeying for position and going to fast but let 'em. I finished this section at 11:31ish (it says 11:41 on the results page but I think they entered it incorrectly) Click on the picture to see it bigger. As we approached the single track I pulled my leg warmers up and tucked them in as I had them pulled down. I also put on my warm gloves. It was a nice and cool temperature and very comfortable.

At the single track beginning, some guys were waiting and getting our numbers as we went through. Here it began to spread out quite a bit. It was very fun and fast single track with some really rocky sections and some steep switchbacks and stream crossings. The lights were great and I was really going pretty fast. I ended up riding with Tim on his big single speed from Crested Butte here and there on this trail. Towards the end we were rippin and he missed the trail as it turned on a road and went to the aid station. We went across the road and kept on the Colorado Trail. We eventually hit a road and no trail markers. We were pretty sure we were in the top 5 riders as we looked around and retraced our steps. And sure enough we found everyone. We just lost a little time. Tim was very apologetic and I think felt bad especially after I berated him and thoroughly let him have it in front of everyone. Well actually he did feel bad but it was as much my fault as his as I wasn't watching but just following. He got me a beer at the end so all was forgiven. As can be seen, we actually dropped a bit of elevation on this section and there were several steep hike-a-bike sections. According to the official results, we pulled in at 3:20 am or 5:20 into the race.

At the aid station, there were breakfast burritos, Oreos, hammer gels, water, Gatorade and fruit salad. I had a few Oreos, Gatorade and a little fruit. I also tossed some gels in my shorts under the elastic on my thighs. All the usual suspects were here. Jordan, Kerkove, Stubbe...... At this point, we followed the old railroad grade up Chalk Creek. The map below shows that this section that I would finish in the dark at 6:12 in the morning was long, at high elevation and had long downhills (single track).

The first part of the old railroad grade was again about 4% grade but seemed to go on forever. I passed Jordan and he didn't look good. He concurred that he didn't feel good. He would drop at the next aid station at Snowblind campground. I rode with the CB boys Tim and Matt here and there eventually dropping them. Finally we neared the Alpine Tunnel. At this point, the trail deteriorated and had old rail ties (I guess) laid across the trail to preserve it and make it bumpy. The Alpine Tunnel is now impassable so you have to climb up over the ridge that separates it from the other side. Now it is very steep and you hike. I stopped and checked my blood sugar and put on my wind jacket. I decided not to put on my balaclava or head band yet. The hike was good place to turn down my headlamp and check out the stars. Very cool in the wee hours. Finally I reached the top and rode down to the other portal on the very steep rocky singletrack. This began the sections of trail that I had ridden. I knew most of these very well. I actually didn't recognize the trail down as the descent until I got to the old wooden turntable and railroad building. For railroad buffs this is actually really cool as they have preserved many old structures including a water tower on the road up. The road now drops along a very cool work of engineering. In the daylight you can check out a rock wall built in the 1880s that holds the old railroad grade in place. The wall is several hundred feet high and was put up by hand. We turned to the left towards Tomichi pass. This road is steep and rocky. Lots of ATV traffic here--in the daytime anyway. So it was a grunt up to the 800 ft or so to 11900. I could see a few lights ahead of me but really had no idea of what place I was in. I knew several people were going harder than they should and could be hurting. It was also starting to get colder. Tomichi Pass summit was welcome. Now I had a huge advantage as I knew the next trail, Canyon Creek, very well. We descended the pass for about 1/3 of a mile and 150 ft. Here you take the single track and basically hike/carry your bike up VERY rugged trail up 800ft to 12,600 ft. I passed a couple of guys climbing here that didn't know the trail and it was getting in their heads as they thought that it may just go on forever. At the top at around 4:00am, I turned off my lights for a minute to take it all in. It was still very dark. There to the south was Orion not quite standing upright. I thought of Lila and Julian sleeping in their beds with the Orion constellation that we had made with glow-in-the-dark stars on the southern wall. They were nice and warm. I was just about to head down about 3500' of screaming single track in the dark.

Down I headed. The trail at the top is steep and tricky with some rocks that could send you into the abyss (especially in the dark). I caught a guy from Fort Collins that I had talked to on the way up. He still had his shorts on--no warmers. I tried to ask how he was doing as he was having some hard time negotiating the trail. I said he'd better put something on-I knew as we dropped it was just going to get colder. It did but I never felt that bad. Some riders afterwards had said their water had frozen and one guy said he had to get wrapped in a blanket and jump at the aid station. I saw some frost on the ground here and there. The trail was fast. The big 29in wheels were eating up the trail, I knew all the tricky spots, and I had both lights on high. Utterly fast and sweet.

About 6 miles or halfway down, I passed a "horse camp" where an outfitter takes people. The trail turns and the single track is not quite as steep and sandier as you drop. Near the end my headlamp began to lose charge. I saw a headlamp in front of me and began to chase it down. Then I slipped into a long puddle that had formed next to a log that was parallel to the trail. My right ankle hit the log and was nicely twisted. I tried to walk on it and then pedal on it and it hurt too bad to put much weight on. I just got back on my bike and "rode it off." After a few minutes I was able to move it again. The light got up the last hill a ways however. I climbed this short 300' climb and then rode the descent where my headlamp died altogether (I still had my handle bar mounted light working) to the aid station at Snowblind campground.

Dave Wiens has been manning this aid for several years. The light that I had seen had just come in ahead of me--I later found out it was Max Nuttleman. He used to live in CB and I knew him pretty well but I didn't recognize him at the aid station. I sat down and demanded a pancake. I had a pancake and some peanut butter and jelly bagel. Now if I could've eaten the bagel that Dave had dropped at Leadville 100 and OCHS from CB had sold on Ebay for $860, I would've been really good to go.

I checked my glucose again and it looked fine. I took some insulin as the bagel was big. Dave said I was doing well and in 4th place. Really? He also asked if I had seen Stubbe. I said not since the first aid and I had assumed he was ahead of me. He had dropped early for some reason.
It was a bit surreal at the aid as it was dark and cold. Some teenage guys were just milling around the table not really doing much, a lady was helping and Dave's son Cooper was running around in a big fuzzy bathrobe shooting a foam dart gun. I hung out for quite a little while as I was feeling a bit off-almost like I had just ridden all night. I got going and pulled out of the aid. There was the guy from Fort Collins that I had seen at the top. He looked disoriented as I pointed him in the right direction to the aid (he didn't make it any farther than this). I then rode down the smooth road towards Old Monarch Pass with one light as the sun began to lighten the sky.

Stay tuned as we ride into the light and the classic Monarch Crest trail.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vapor Trail 125 2010 The Race Part 1

Riding all night and most of the next day, riding in below freezing temperatures at 12,600 feet in the night, riding 125mi on a mountain bike, lots of climbing-somewhere in the 20,000 ft vicinity, and miles of single track that are known to destroy tires. These are all things sum up the Vapor Trail 125. And I have to say the whole dropping down 4000 feet from 12,600 feet with below freezing temperatures was perplexing me as well. I hate to get my feet cold. And then how to juggle the insulin with a race this long. And oh yeah a headlamp that would last 8+hrs and light the technical single track lit only by stars.....

Anne was much more worried than me. I think she had visions of me in the crashing in the dark on the side of a mountain freezing. OK that could happen... Or who knows what else. I think the whole thing overwhelmed her. I thought my other adventures would have smoothed it over a bit. I guess not. Maybe she could sense my nervousness about it....

So I'd been thinking about this race for a while. Of course friends from Gunnison have been doing it and it grew on me. Wiens had done it a few years ago and spoke of it with awe in his voice. Which is something, considering the races he's done. Others like Jason Stubbe and Jordan Carr had done if a few times and survived. My real problem was that we are always back in school for a few weeks before this started and I had been burned out from doing Leadville 100 so riding had tapered and I didn't have lights. So this year I sent in my resume since I originally didn't plan on Leadville. Yes to do this race you have to be invited or send in a bike resume. I emailed Absolute bikes and sent in a resume. I put Dave Wiens, Brian Riepe and Jason Stubbe as references. I wonder if they called any of them. Brian and Jason are incredible athletes (and Dave of course) that I knew pretty well... So anyway they let me in.Then once you get accepted you downloaded the entry form. This basically consisted of you putting your name, town and a haiku with crayon. So here's my haiku.

ATVs asleep
Iron horse in my minds eye
So good rainbows end

I thought it was very symbolic as around Pitkin where we would be at 2-3 am is chock full of ATVs and they would all be sleeping. Then we go over the alpine tunnel (a closed railroad tunnel from 1880s at 11,500ft) and then the rainbow trail is the last trail before we hit blacktop back to Salida. I didn't win....

So like I just mentioned riding long rides during this time of year can be difficult. A week before the race I did get a chance to go over and ride some of the course for a long day. Other than that all my rides were close to an hour with a few 2-3 hr rides thrown in.

Gear preparation.
For the week before the race I threw all of my bike clothes including some of my winter ski gear into a pile that migrated from the mudroom floor to the kitchen floor and back to the counter in the mudroom and finally back to the kitchen floor. I decided to wear my wooley socks, winter bike gloves, shorts with legwarmers, my very old long sleeve jersey, a vest, a wind jacket, and my windstopper Nordic ski jacket. I had a warm skull cap that I had ridden with only a few weeks before but I still can't find after emptying every cupboard in the house. So for my head I threw in a balaclava and a headband. My 1990s era leg warms would not stay up anymore, my helmet broke the day before the race and I needed a new tire. So I had to hit the bike shops. I also had to get lights. Luckily I have friends with killer lights. Matt Burt loaned me his and I rode a few times early to check em out. Then I hooked up with Brian R and got a couple of super killer Lupine lights. Man, these things were bright. And turned on low for the climbs they should easily last the whole night. Which tires? It killed me to think of riding 125mi with very heavy tires but I had had a lot of flats on races this year so on the heavy ones went. A couple of Bontrager 29in tires. The front was a new one with some killer tread for the killer single track. The final item was a blinking red light for the roads out.

Word on the street was that the aid stations would be stocked with everything from Oreos to Dinty Moore beef stew to Wiens' pancakes. So I decided I would take enough Power bars and Gu's to make it most of the way to the second aid station about 8 hrs into the race. Don't wanna run out when you're taking insulin...

Saturday Sept 11 race day.
I got a ride with Jordan over to Salida at 6pm with Jason in the car behind. We pulled into Salida and went to Absolute bikes. It has a coffee shop attached to it with a door directly into it. We got our numbers and Spot GPS trackers. You didn't have to wear the tracker but I did so Anne could hopefully see me move so she could tell I was alive. The only problem was that sometimes the signal wouldn't get picked up and it would look like I hadn't moved in a while and other peoples' weren't working so it was hard for her and my family to track who was actually in the lead. After getting my Camelback set and my drop bag thrown in the truck up to Monarch pass for the daylight hours, I went into the coffee shop and watched the open mic night and and had some espresso. I hung out with a few Crested Butte boys, Matt S (I mainly know him as the guy that I can beat up the hill but is crazy fast going down), Tim, Chris (Ezster H's boyfriend/husband?). And finally at the table was the girl who was giving out Kep's pollen balls and also Kep's sister. A great group. I ended up seeing the Matt and Tim during the race more than others. So at 9:00 we had a short prerace meeting and then we headed down to the bridge on the main drag and lined up for the 10pm start.

There were a surprising number of people out to cheer us on as we followed a police car out of town. We cruised along at a very moderate pace to keep everyone together. As we rode, several deer tried to cross the road in front of us. We had to stay as a group to cross highway 285 outside of town a few miles and then we hit a dirt road and it was game on. Stay tuned for Part 2. Into the dark side.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Vapor Trail 125 2010

Well at least I have something fun to do today. Aunt in NYC is remembering 9-11 again, Sister in NZ just had major earthquakes and their house will need some work...

Why did I sign up for this again?? The Vapor Trail is definitely the hardest race (probably) I've ever tried. As I write this, the race will begin tonight, 9-11-2010, at 10:00 in Salida, CO. It is 125 mi and climbs up into the mountains to the west over such passes as the alpine tunnel, Tomichi pass (followed by Canyon Creek singletrack trail topping out at 12600ft), then on to Old Monarch pass (a smooth road with a good 6-7% grade. Then onto the new Monarch Pass followed by the famous Crest trail to Marshall pass. At Marshall pass is a cruel joke to send us down 2000ft of the narrow and technical Starvation creek then back up the dirt jeep road to Marshall pass again. Now onto the Famous extension of the Crest-- the Rainbow Trail and back to Salida.... 18-20,000ft of climbing depending on who's data you use and most is above 10,000 ft.

So here's my bike for the adventure. The Superfly 100. Should be fast enough. I do have tires that are quite a bit heavier than for Leadville as there are many rocky sections. The Crest is notorious for flats. I mainly don't want to have to change one in the coooold at 12000 ft in the dark! Will be below 20F for a good while until the sun comes up.

Yes our tomatoes froze behind the bike. We took the cover off too soon a few days ago.

A week before now I had noticed a small crack in the seat tube.... The trek rep said it wasn't life threatening so I could ride it but they would send a new frame anyway. OK it won't break...
I rode Signal peak behind campus the other night to check out my lights I had borrowed from Mr Mountain Flyer, Brian Riepe. They are ridiculously bright but I still seem to get in a weird trans riding at night. So all was good going up the 1000 climb but then coming down near the bottom I hit a rock and blow out a side wall. then I notice my helmet strap has come loose from the helmet--still on my head just the back part that you tighten up is disconnected for good. Then I look up for a second almost at the end and hit a rock and crash really pretty hard. So now bruised knee, hip, and shoulder. Ouch... Hopefully the race will go better!

So at 6:00 I'll catch a ride over to Salida with Jordan Carr, who's done it a few times and I'll try to finish the race and maybe hang with the fast guys.

If you want to follow the race, they are hooking GPS trackers on us so there is live tracking click here at

Here are my possible times (mountain time) that I could do on a good day. I'm kind of guessing on these....

Aid station 1 at chalk lake at 30 mi 1:30 am
Aid 2 at Snowblind Camp Gnd (Dave Wiens don't let me stop) 6:30
Aid 3 Top of Monarch pass 8:30
Aid 4 Marshall pass 1 9:40
Aid 5 Marshall pass 2nd time 12:00
Finish 2:30 (16:30 hrs)