Vapor Trail 125

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow – what a ride!'”  – Anonymous

If I were to have been smacked by a car on the last several miles along the roadway heading back into Salida for the finish of the Vapor Trail 125, that quote would’ve suited me perfectly.  My body hasn’t felt quite so tired in a long time.  I’m sure it was partly due to some leftover fatigue from racing the 24 Hours of Leadville the prior weekend.  Mostly though, I think it was just the fact that the Vapor Trail 125 is a damn hard race.  Probably the hardest single day event I’ve ever experienced.

Mountain Flyer Magazine / Eddie Clark Media

I’m too tired to go through the “blow by blow” of how the entire 16 hours played out for me.  By the time I’m rested, I will have forgotten significant portions of it anyway…..    Let’s just say you start with a long climb, take a small break by going across or down, and then do it again…and again…..and again….and again.  In fact, at the 10 hour mark, I calculated that I had spent 8 of those hours going uphill.  One of those hours was spent “hike-a-biking” and a solid 20 minutes of that was spent trying to carry my bike which, much to my surprise, seemed to be made entirely of lead at that altitude.  It might’ve only weighed 28 lbs with all of my stuff strapped to it, but it felt like 80 lbs.  Seriously, I could barely hoist it onto my shoulder, let alone walk forward up a 30% trail full of loose rocks.

Sometime around day break on the climb up the old Monarch Pass road I moved into 4th place overall.  I was pretty excited and was feeling pretty good, evidently from the Little Debbie snack cake that Dave Wiens had shoved in my face at the second Aid Station.  Once I got up to Monarch Pass I gladly unloaded my lights, the extra batteries (that I didn’t need) and all of the extra layers of clothing etc. that I had loaded myself down with.  Despite having not done this event or having ridden even one of the 125 mile course, I still managed to get by not wearing a pack.  I was pretty happy about that.

After the Monarch Pass aid station, we moved onto the Crest Trail and I began to suffer.  At the last aid station, I had chugged a red bull, slurped down a bunch of coffee, and then chugged an Ensure.  It all seemed like a good idea at the time.  Shortly after that, my stomach was…well, not too happy.  I spent the rest of the day feeling a bit distended and not really able to put down anymore food.  I tried to keep fluids going in and the occasional gel, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

I finally came off of the Crest Trail and passed Aid Station 4, which is where we were to begin an “inner loop” of the course by dropping into Starvation Creek.  The descent was fun, but all I kept thinking was “Crap!  We have to climb back out of here?!”  It seemed like it took four hours to climb back out of there but, in reality, I think it was somewhere closer to one.  Also, it’s kind of funny because this is where my Spot Tracker stopped working.  Even now, I think it still shows me at Aid Station #4 at the top of that loop.  It’s quite fitting really because this is exactly where I wanted to stop and somehow my Spot Tracker knew this!

I finished the Starvation Creek loop, and continued climbing several more miles until dropping into the last section of the course which consisted of about 15 miles of trail.  Ultimately, this section did go downhill.  However, it did not do so without throwing another dozen or so ‘punchy’ little climbs at you that made me think of the phrase “beating a dead horse”.  Anyway, this trail was super flowy, fast, and fun.  It was a nice change to be able to descend this trail without braking so hard that it felt like my rotors might explode!

At the end, we popped out onto the highway for the final few miles back to Salida.  Fortunately, they were all downhill.  It did occur to me that I was ripping down the shoulder of the highway at a very high rate of speed and with not a whole lot of mental capacity going on upstairs.  The last couple of miles were just slightly downhill.  They were downhill enough for me to be ‘spun out’ on the SS, but not steep enough to pick up anymore speed.  All I could do was sit and coast to the finish line.  It felt great for my legs, but it also cost me a spot as I was passed by Jarral just before the finish.  It was pretty funny really.  He came cruising by in his big ring, looked over and smiled and said “sorry!”  I laughed!  At this point, I did not care.  I was just glad to be finishing!

Afterward, I stayed long enough to chug a root beer, then pack up the bike and hit the road.  I was bummed to miss the barbecue and the festivities at the finish, but the drive back home was somewhere around 14 hours and I had to at least get part of it out of the way on Sunday.  I made it home Monday evening and am still clearing the cobwebs from my brain.

Now, it’s back to work and get ready for iBike next week in Armpit, USA (aka Vegas)…..


~ by ketchumgreg on September 14, 2010.

4 Responses to “Vapor Trail 125”

  1. Nice to meet ya, finally and what a Killer job with your finish!

  2. Greg, thanks for sharing the details of your race. InterBike might actually be more exhausting. 🙂

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