The Vapor trail is the kind of race that strikes fear in the average racer who’s thinking about doing it for the first time. I don’t discount the fact that it is a very difficult race, but when I hear 18,000 feet of climbing on some of the best single track in the state and it takes place at night… where do I sign up!? The night factor is what I think makes this race so difficult, a lot of people just can’t get past that, I love that it’s at night! When I ride my bike at night I feel like a little kid that’s getting away with something bad, to me it’s energizing. I never get nervous for this race I get excited because I know I’m about to partake in a big adventure!
The crew at Absolute bikes puts on such a great event, the aid stations on course are some of the best of any race I’ve ever been to. You really don’t even need to carry any food just stop at the aid station and grab what looks good, and that runs the gamut from burritos to bacon full on hot breakfast, donuts, cookies and everything in between. All of the entry fees from the race go to support the Salida trails and it’s their biggest fundraiser.
The biggest point of concern for me with this race is the weather, what to bring and wear for clothing can be very crucial. I have in the past played it very safe with lots of clothing because the weather had looked like it could go ether direction. This year it was looking like it would be perfect weather so I decided to go rather lite, regular Cuore kit with vest, arm warmers and knee warmers, warm gloves and then for backup when it got colder I had a very lite weight shell. My light set up is usually the same with Niterider Pro 1800 race on the bars and a Lumina 900 on my helmet. I try to conserve my battery’s by only using my head light on walk mode for the climbs so I can have bright lights for the decent.
I knew the pace would be pretty high this year with Zack Guy and Taylor Ross on the starting line. In past years the neutral roll out has been very fast, now they keep it very slow and even do a bathroom brake before we cross Highway 285. Once we hit the dirt the race is on, I jumped to the front with Taylor in tow, Zack opted to hang back off the start but would later be on my heals the entire night.
Taylor was with me until we hit the Colorado Trail then I slowly put a gap between us. By the time I got to the first aid I had about 5 minutes on my chasers and quickly refueled and continued on my way. Last year they had to change the course and climb over Hancock pass instead of the alpine tunnel and Altman pass, although Hancock is shorter it is a much harder (in terms of effort) climb to get over to Tomichi Pass. I could see two people behind me all the way up Hancock and then the hike a bike up to the summit of Canyon Creek trail. I knew that it was Zack and Taylor and having raced both in the past I knew they were very fast so it kept a fire lit under my ass the whole way.
The decent down Canyon Creek is probably one of the best in the state and then when you do it in the middle of the night it makes it that much more epic! I knew that at least on the down hill I was going fast enough so that even if they were pushing they probable were not making any time on me. There are so many really long great descents in this race but for every long awesome down hill there’s an even longer climb, Old Monarch Pass is case in point, it’s a hour plus climb but you know once you get to the top you get to ride the Monarch Crest trail so the payoff is huge.
I got to the top of Monarch a little before the sunrise so I ditched my bar light but kept my helmet light because it was just dark enough for a stupid crash. I have been very lucky in this race to always get sunrise on the Monarch Crest Trail and every time is amazing! My low point in the race is usually coming out of Starvation Creek and this year was no different I was really trying to push because I had no idea how far back my chasers were, but the going was tough. When I got up to the top of Marshal Pass aid that you go through twice I asked how far back second was and they told me 15 minutes so I grabbed a handful of bacon (which I had been enjoying at every aid) and took off.
I decided to give it all I had till the end just in case and really I was just trying to be under 13 hours. The Rainbow Trail at the end of the race is such a pick me up, it’s so much fun, super fast with a few punchy climbs thrown in, ok more than a few but it rips! Once I hit the highway back to town I looked at my watch and was surprised at how early it was and figured I could break the record so I hit it hard all the way back and ended up getting the record in 12hours 24 minutes almost 20 minutes faster than my time from the previous year.
In the end this race is more about the experience then how fast you do it, I do enjoy going as fast as I can and that is part of my experience with this race but it’s definitely much more than that. All I can say is you have to experience it for yourself then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.