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.