The Vapor Trail 125 is a one of a kind mountain bike race! It is 125 miles with 19,000 feet of climbing on some of the most fun and burly trails you could find in Colorado. Oh yeah, did I mention it starts at 10pm? I don’t know why more races don’t take place at night, it’s so fun. Riding at night just adds an element of adventure, it feels like you’re getting away with something…
With the elevation profile alone, this race should scare the crap out of you! Add to that the fact that it sends you way out in the backcountry, if something happens, you are on your own. I love this element of the race and I really don’t stress about it like I do with other races.
This year’s race was looking to be a great one with perfect weather and warm temps. There were about 70 people in this year’s race and we all rolled out of Salida in a neutral start. The pack stayed together for about the first 30 minutes until we crossed Highway 285. Then it was game on! The start was not as fast as some years and that was fine with me. I got to the front and settled in to a pace I felt comfortable with.
When we got up to the Colorado trail there was one guy about 30 seconds back and the trail was dry and loose definitely a bit sketchy. I remember telling myself “take it easy, it’s a long race”. I had already almost slid off the trail several times, then about 2 hours into the race I was ripping down part of the trail and all of a sudden my bike just goes out from under me. So I’m flying through the air, having enough time to think to myself that this is going to hurt and it did! I landed directly on my hip and ribs in a bunch of rocks. At first I thought my hip was broken and I just laid there for several minutes waiting to see if I could move. By the time I started to get up, Chris Alstrin came up to me and stopped to see if I was ok. I didn’t know at that point but I told him to go ahead and I would make it at least to the first aid station.
I got on the bike and started to pedal It was painful but I thought I could ride it out. Adding insult to injury my front light mount was broken, so I had to use my helmet mount light to get down the rest of the trail to the aid station.
Luckily when I got to the aid they were able to zip tie my light back on and I decided to push on, this section of the race is where you are out in no-mans-land and once you’re in you’re committed to go the distance.
It’s a good 2 hour climb up to the first of several hike-a-bike sections I was feeling ok on the dirt road but when I started hiking I was second-guessing my decision to continue. I was having a hard time getting on and off the bike and now my ribs were really hurting. By the second and longer hike-a-bike I was not in good shape but the only option at this point was to go forward. After nearly an hour hike, you get up to the top of Canyon Creek trail. Usually this is my favorite part of the race: high alpine gnarly riding that leads into berms and whoops and it goes on for about an hour. This turned out to be hell, I couldn’t even balance and kept riding off the trail, which in spots could have been very bad. I was moving slow in this section and it was very painful, I suspected I had some broken ribs and by the bottom I decided to pull the plug.
I always try to finish races no matter what, but this time I probably should have stopped much earlier. Stubbornness is usually a good thing in endurance races, but this time it got the better of me. Continuing was not the best decision I have ever made, but no one has ever accused me of being smart. Nonetheless, I will be back to do this race next year because it is so fun and embodies everything I love about mountain biking. Of course, now I need redemption for myself…