Tonight, I’ll be lining up at 10 PM for an adventure style mountain bike race – my favorite kind! It’s more about being mentally determined and steady rather than how badly you can make your legs burn.
The Vapor Trail is a 125 mile loop on glorious high altitude CO singletrack (a good portion on the CO trail) and 20,000′ of vertical gain! The male record is currently held by Jonathan Davis clocking in at 13:42. I’m not certain what the female record is, but I think it’s Eszter Horyani’s time of 18:27. I am realllly hoping to do sub 17. I don’t know how long it will take me or what to expect. I really just want to finish, but a course record is definitely on my mind.
I attempted the Vapor in 2009. It was a trying year. They postponed the start to midnight because of a snowstorm and ended up cutting out part of the course due to safety. I had never been so terrified to go out on a ride that night. After I mustered the courage, my lights did not turn on at the start. I had a camping headlight and I was determined to start with the group and either figure out why my lights didn’t work on the trail, or make due for the night with a headlamp(what was I thinking?!) My pack was full of warm clothes for the snowy conditions. I stopped about 7 miles in to get something out of my pack and the zipper blew out. I had no lights and no backpack. It was game over, and I bawled bitterly all the way back to the car. That was it.
3 years later, I’m lining up again with more reliable equipment and a lot more experience under my belt. ’09 was my first full season as an endurance racer, and the first year I had ever ridden 100 miles on a mountain bike. 3 years later, I am very fortunate to be well seasoned with lots of 100s under my belt, some bikepacking races, more night riding, and international stage races. I should be confident, right?
I tried not to think about the race until today. I woke up anxious. I’ve never ridden my bike all night before, and despite my CTR training last year, I’m still a bit scared of being alone in the dark all night by myself in the mountains. A fear I’m looking forward to conquering tonight (my chest tightens as I write that). I’ve also never ridden my bike more than 16 hours. The next 24 hours will be a day of a couple firsts. I’ll be replaying my ascent of Thorong La in March in my head when I doubt myself. I’ll say to myself, “Yes, you can do this. You will do this. Never give up.”
I am intimidated by this race. I also have some demons resurfacing from the depths where I banned them last year. The gatekeeper with the pitchfork must be taking a break, because a few escaped and are back to haunt me. I quit the Colorado Trail Race last year. Something I still have a very difficult time accepting, something that still deeply and viscerally upsets me. I can’t let it go. Vapor is a hell of a lot easier than CTR, but it has some similar elements to it. I rode in my CTR shoes from last year for the first time yesterday. I’ll be wearing them in the Vapor. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes… even your own and you’ll get a different perspective. Shoes you failed in a year ago and it brings you back to a place you tried to forget. I’m hoping that I can leave that to rest after tonight. I hope I don’t have new demons to haunt me. I think it’s funny and even ironic that I am doubting myself, but I’d be lying if I said the fear and self-doubt weren’t there. The truth is that the fear and self-doubt are what intrigue me and make me want to do this race. Most races I line up for, I know what I’m getting into, I know I can finish, and I really am not all that intimidated by the course itself. Something like the Vapor, or the Yak Attack are a different story!
I’m intimidated to ride all night alone and I’m intimidated to ride my bike for that long. The finish will mean a lot to me. It will put me a place of new found confidence and a big landmark on my journey as an ultra endurance adventure mountain biker.
I can’t wait to see the stars at 13,000′, to see the soft lazy light of dawn creep over the horizon, feel the sun on my face and butterflies in my stomach as I rip Monarch Crest Trail, and hopefully even find some friends to ride with and endure the odyssey. I’m not sure what not sleeping will do to me. There is only one way to find out.
Follow the race here: http://trackleaders.com/vapor125