Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Week 'Til Nats

Grocery run #1. Natural Grocers I love you. 
I first heard of 24 hour racing 13 years ago in a bike magazine about Chris Eatough's feats. I thought how dreaming it would be the easy part but had no clue how to ever sets goals to achieve it. Fast forward 13 years and I'm confident entering my first 24 hour solo which happens to be the nationals one week from Saturday at noon. I'll be entering the abyss once again this season which is what I make every season about - going bigger, going deeper, and finding the way to suffer more. To fight in the dark and convince yourself that failing is not an option is a great space to challenge yourself and see what exactly you're made of. For the most part, I have failed to break myself this year. Mentally yes, it was done but was quickly turned around at the summit of Granite Peak at Vapor Trail 125. Maybe it'll be at the 24 Hours of Colorado Springs Nats and that'll be ok since I'll finally feel where the ceiling is...for now. I may be a virgin to 24 hour solos but something tells me this is only the beginning to pushing this kind of limit. This race will put the "ultra" in endurance racing for me and I can't wait for the test. Not sure what exactly to expect but I'm sure my own intimidation will be enough to chase and push me through the course which Ben Welnak and I checked out earlier today. I'm very satisfied with the course, err, maybe the sand traps could be saved for the golf course but I got some great tips from Ben today so if I can stay upright and smooth, things should pan out well. Easier said than done. Thanks also goes to Jonathan Davis for giving us the hookup for GPS course routing. The course is like a plate of spaghetti and even with the Garmin course uploaded, we still got lost!

Hydration fuel of choice, CarboRocket. Half Evil 333 was on backorder so Brad hooked me up big time with sample packets to hold me over!
Thank you Honey Stinger!
Not sure if I'll need the ginger ale any longer since Ben has taught me the delicious homemade version, so good!
Homemade ginger ale and working towards eating more raw foods! I could've used this recipe all summer long!
Fully equipped with Honey Stinger, Starbucks DoubleShots, Snickers, and of course, Coca-Cola.
Funny the influence of other racers have on each other. Got the Sour Patch Kids from Lynda Wallenfels, Twizzers: Michael Scott, Marie Calendar's Pot Pie: Bill Martin, good ole peaches from Eszter Horanyi, and the Detox tea influenced by the obvious. 

See you on the trails,


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vapor Trail 125 Race Recap: 17th Place

This story starts after the Park City Point 2 Point race when, days later, I was still on cloud 9 from the weekend's race. I followed it with a few days of rest by a couple of hard 3-4 hour efforts on Wednesday and Thursday, thinking that my next race was soloing the 24 Hours of Colorado Springs Nationals. Little did I know that at 9:45pm on my way home from work on Thursday night that I would think differently. I initially thought about the Vapor Trail 125 and how the race start was in 48 hours. I kept thinking how it would be a great race for next year's schedule until I questioned why I wasn't racing this weekend. Sure, my legs were taxed, a late entry was unlikely, I was not prepared mentally, my bike needed work, I had no idea what 100 of the 125 miles of the race were like, and I was time crunched with my work schedule before and after the race. I've always thought that if my mind's ready, my legs will usually follow, and therefore I did what I could to make it a possibility.

A gorgeous full moon all night.
The weekend was a blur. Leading up to the race was a mental fiasco. The Vapor Trail 125 is not a race you should enter for the first time on a whim. I kept on telling myself that if I make it successfully to the end, luck was on my side. And it was. Things somehow magically fell into place, I received a ton of support from my coworkers, family, and race organizers just to get me to the start line. Friday, I was in disbelief and ecstatic when I got the last race entry twenty four hours before the start. I couldn't thank Heidi enough! Since I got the go ahead, it was time to scurry and logistically plan for a race more adventurous than I've ever been involved in. The Vapor Trail 125 is called the "high altitude ultra marathon mountain bike enduro" for a reason. It begins at 10pm from Salida, Colorado and ventures into the darkness of neighboring national forests for a 125 mile megaloop with 20,000 feet of climbing. No sleep and it's like a eating contest while riding a bike. The course follows many trails including the Colorado Trail, Monarch Crest Trail, Rainbow, and even includes two hike-a-bike sections, one hike summiting Granite Peak (elevation: 12,958) at approximately seven hours into the race. I swear it must've taken around an hour to climb rock over loose soil in the late dark night. I've never bitched so ferociously during a race, not even close. By the time we reached the summit, my calves were numb from carbon soled shoes (yes, I did make the mistake) and I was humbled by the mountain that broke me. I got what I was there for, a mental beating. Countless times I thought of quitting and mentioned to a fellow rider that "if there were a chopper to air lift me the F outta here, I'd take it home."

Climbed this...and then some.
Luckily there wasn't a chopper, but there was frost from freezing temperatures, plenty of unnecessarily layered clothes, the sunrise and possibly the best damn downhill I've ever descended. While still at the peak of the summit, it was gorgeous despite how cold it was. The number in my head all night was 641 since that was the time the sun would come up. I knew if I persevered, then I could make it the entire race. I then began the meanest descents I've ever had in my life. Eight miles of of pump track descending was something I've never seen before, only heard of. Little did I know that from this nine hour mark until the finish, I would feel incredible on a bike. I assumed that I'd be good for nine hours, then fall apart slowly for the remainder of the race, when in fact it was the contrary.

After the descent, I stopped at aid station 2 and who's making pancakes and sausages for us in a raccoon hat? Dave Wiens! How in the hell can you not be inspired upon seeing him? I scarfed some tasty pancakes, sausage, red bull, name it. I took off with a fresh set of race legs and began the multi-mile dirt road ascent and dropped some more riders while riding into the thin air. I'm not sure if it was the sleep deprivation or the strong current of prerace anxiety, but there's a lot I don't remember. I think my focus was right on and therefore glued to the trail and nothing else for nearly the entire race. Next thing I remember is the Monarch Pass feed station where the best volunteers in the universe were waiting and cheering me on. It was the feed station of a lifetime, you don't get many like this. The volunteers were so fantastic that it was like my bike had it's own pit stop and so did I. While my bike was getting the ten point inspection, I was catered to by hosts of a dinner party with massive amounts of food and greetings. They told me I had 45 miles left, what I was heard was that this race is nearly over. Heidi and the other supporters gave me some kudos, my bike, and even more inspiration to go race my bike. I ripped out of the feed station and did my best to race the next 45 miles like it was a cross country race.

I then arrived at the next feed station to descend and ascend the dreaded starvation loop. It was a fantastic singletrack descent but every foot you descended, you know you need to climb back up which was a tough pill to swallow 100 something miles into the race. When you reached the bottom, you were to climb a five mile constantly pitched dirt road that never seemed to end. It was as if you were on a treadmill and I couldn't help but think that making us race this was so wrong in so many ways, but necessary. Hell, I'll do that loop three times if they'd take the hike-a-bike out of the equation. From then on it was the "it's all downhill from here" quote that you get nearing the end of races when instead you have dozens of punchy climbs left. I never take that phrase seriously! From then on, it was Rainbow Trail which rips like Lair O' the Bear but for miles and miles of tasty thin singletrack! After being dumped onto the road in Salida, I tucked on the descent and time trailed the way to the finish line.

When I finished, it was strange. I didn't feel like the race should be over. I had the same feeling at the PCP2P just last week. I'm not sure how much longer I could've gone at that pace but I wanted to know. Nothing truly hurt, I was simply fatigued. My nutrition was spot on and didn't have a single muscle cramp. I guess I'll find out at the 24 Hour Nationals in over two weeks from now just how long I can go. I'm not going to lie, I'm drooling at the freaking mouth for this one and plan on turning myself inside out for 24 hours. For now, supposedly I'm to take it easy until then and not ride much, which is when I suffer most.

After the race, I was fortunate enough to stay at Michael and Lacey Scott's place. I owe a huge thank you! I got to spend some time after the race in Salida with Michael, Lacey, Curt Wilhelm, and Jonathan Davis which was a great wind down in a gorgeous town. We all had great rides, including Jonathan who smashed the record and crossed the line in 13 hours, 42 minutes! I'm very fortunate to have had the go big or go home attitude lately or I would have never pulled this off. Next year, I plan on having the same month of September, PCP2P, then the Vapor Trail 125, but next time I'll be ready!

Garmin stats


Mountain Flyer Magazine write up

Vapor Trail 125 Video

Monday, September 26th Amendment: Still reflecting of the affect this race had on me. I look back at the destruction that Granite Peak inflicted upon me. I now believe that I was cursing this mountain so much not because I wanted to quit but because I knew I wouldn't let myself quit. It just wasn't an option and frankly, after being forced to quit the 12 Hours of Snowmass one year ago, it's not a place I ever want to return to. It's the worst feeling I've ever experienced related to cycling. That feeling slingshot me through the winter for anticipation of redemption. There's just nothing so disheartening to lie in your hotel while the race races on. As much pain you induce during a race, there's much more pain involved when you quit.

See you out there,


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Park City Point 2 Point 2011 Race Recap

I've left a piece of me in Park City, Utah. Somewhere on the singletrack just raced upon, maybe where I laughed out loud and by myself at the pure joy of it all. I still have a cheesy grin on my face and remember all the great people I met - racers, supporters, locals. It was a weekend that even before it was underway, something told me, I'd never want it to end. I loved the atmosphere.

Like the "M" on Lookout Mountain, Park City has theirs.
The Park City Point 2 Point race was 80 miles by 14,000 feet of climbing. 95% of the trail was singletrack and the rest, fire road or double track. The Bailey HUNDO should take some notes. Mile for mile, the singletrack was even better than the Breck 100. When it was rocky, it was hella rocky, the roots were ginormous, but if and when you could smooth out some lines, it was ultra fast considering how late in the season it is. I once and only once had the opportunity to raise my head and take a mental snapshot of my surroundings before I was required to focus all of my attention back on the trail.

On race day morning, I was up at the first strike of my alarm at 4:30am, well before sunrise. I had the typical race day jitters, intimidated mostly by my own expectations. Breakfast was the usual race day fuel, I collected myself, and set off onto the dimly lit bike path toward the start line in nearly freezing temps at 35 degrees!


Many other racers were shivering at the cold like I was, it made me feel a tad warmer that I wasn't alone. They divided the racers according to their anticipated finish times. Therefore, I started with the second wave of riders in the 8-9 hour finisher group. When Jay announced the "ready, set, GO" I immediately launched off the front of the pack of who knows how many. I'm not sure if I was simply fired up, if I was the only realistic 8-9 hour finisher, or because I operate best in cold temps, but a minute after the start, I was way ahead of the group entering the first singletrack. I looked back once because I've never experienced such a quiet start and saw that the riders were a hundred yards behind me. The first 12 miles were at Round Valley in order to organize riders before hitting narrow singletrack up a switchback climb. This climb eased into 2400 feet of climbing with minimal descending, reaching the first aid station along the way at mile 28, where I could resupply my own nutrition products. I swear, I felt like there was an army of volunteers meeting my needs and I couldn't thank them enough! I then set off to finish the rest of the climb, prompting myself to eat and hydrate regularly and ensuring that I was riding on the cusp.

I have difficulty remembering a huge chunk of the race. It's all a blur. I do remember a guy in the woods outfitted with a swamp thing or yeti costume handing out fresh and crisp dollar bills to racers passing by. Random and freaking hilarious, I love the people at these events! After the mile 37 water station, I descended like a madman into the forest of gargantuan roots and trees just wide enough to allow my handlebar through. I took off screaming downhill because I knew Sonya Looney was behind me and was picking up speed. She's a badass rider and inspiring to the local riders and race scene. So, it's always special to race with her, and the likes of Kelly Boniface, and Rebecca Rusch to round out the top female riders yesterday. As for the male riders, Alex Grant got the win, followed by Tinker Juarez, and Josh Tostado who was helpful during the course recon the day prior. Back on the trail, I was successful at the downhill slalom amongst trees until one had gone unnoticed. It was hidden behind another tree and surprised the hell out of me. I hit the tree hard first with my shoulder, then I ricocheted to the other side of the trail and hit another tree with my hip, all in mid air. I picked up my bike in a state of uncertainty, fearing that I may have broken my collarbone. I must've looked like I got tossed out of the ring by an MMA fighter, it was ugly! I next picked up my mangled bike and collected myself. In the meantime, Sonya Looney passes me groaning at the side of the trail. That was the last time I saw her and later realized that I finished ten minutes behind her and a few minutes behind Rusch. Not bad!

As anticipated, it became a race from feed station to feed station. There was another sustained climb and tough descents that make the Steamboat Stinger and Breck 100 feel like a cake walk. I arrived at the mile 56 feed station where I could resupply with my own fuel for the second and last time. Again, the volunteers were tremendous and in my daze, I remember having four fellas helping me at the same time. Typically, as the race grows older, the more brain dead I become. So much that I initially had a volunteer looking for a Denver Broncos cooler which was back at aid station one, 30 miles away. Damn it, I can't be trusted late in a race! I eventually found the right bag and pounded half a Coke and a Honey Stinger waffle, not knowing what was in store.

Up until then, I had felt like my legs had shown up for a race for the first time since the Gunnison Growler in May. They were solid until mile 56 and I had no complaints. But, after the feed station, I felt like I had hero legs and was able to crush the course. Since I'm very calculative when it comes to crunching numbers during races, when I reach mile X, I can turn it on as if the race is nearly over. Mile X was mile 56 this time, two thirds of the way through until the finish. It also could have been the Coke or possibly that it takes hours and hours to for my legs to warm up and firing on all cylinders (i.e. at the Breck 100 it took 8 hours). Climbs became flats, flats became descents, and descents were the most synchronized moments I've ever had on a bike. It was more of an extension of my body than ever. It was surreal. I think in 24 miles, I must have passed at least a dozen riders, my Dad would say I was riding "like a bat outta hell."

I officially crossed the line in 8:46:05 for 9th of 87 riders in the 30-39 Age Category and 61st of 355 total riders for the Overall. Had I entered the Open Class like I should have, I would have finished in 36th. Final results here. Garmin stats here.

Relaxing at Stefan's place for the weekend. Nothing like the U.S. Open to ease me before the big race. Go Nadal!
This was hands down, the best race of the summer in regards to the course, event production, and personal results. Jay Burke organized the event and I was fortunate to have the chance to thank him for his efforts. Also, I was able to introduce myself to the CarboRocket founder, Brad Keyes, who shared tons of CarboRocket support at the aid stations along the way and continues to support me in my dream to make it onto the podium. Another huge thanks goes out to Schwalbe for tire support, the Racing Ralphs were perfect for this race! Thanks to Honey Stinger for their Gels, Chews, and Waffles which coupled with CarboRocket Half Evil 333, it's helped sustain proper nutrition throughout the long and brutal races. We'll see how they do for the upcoming 24 hour solos!

A special thanks to my friend Stefan, who despite not being in Park City at the time, he was incredibly hospitable in allowing me to stay at his place for the weekend. It made for an incredibly relaxing and successful weekend!

This race was right up my alley and a great springboard for my first ultra endurance solo race, 24 Hours of Colorado Springs National Championships, where I anticipate doubling that amount of climbing in one day. I've been waiting for this race all year and couldn't be more excited.

Here's a quick video of this year's race, watch for swamp thing handing out dollar bills!

I'll be back in Park City next year!