I finished the Vision Quest. That alone is great. Seriously. But I also made my goal time of just under 6 hours 30 minutes. Good enough to be the 32nd rider (of 120 finishers) to cross the line in a timed but not a race kind of epic event. Unlike most races I participate in, the end result really isn’t what is celebrated or talked about by the racers and volunteers.
Of course during the race/ride you have blinders on, focusing on your time, concentrating on being smooth, worrying about the riders pulling away or closing on you, not allowing that minor twitch in the calf develop into a momentum-killing cramp, and countless other immediate things that capture your attention at that moment. But thankfully, mountain bike riding, or really just being active outdoors, operates at a visceral level in which the subconscious pleasure center of the brain absorbs emerging endorphins and is fortified on a steady stream of visual, audible, emotional, physical, and spiritual sensations. With time and reflection, one is left with experiencing and feeling the ride/race as a composite whole rather than just the small individual brushstrokes from which it’s comprised. It’s not too uncommon to hear racers after such events compare notes about how a certain section didn’t seem or feel that long… when in fact it is.
So I could go into detail, but really, my takeaway from this experience is that I can certainly push my body and mind through a lot and come away enjoying it. The stats are impressive and I set PRs for most of the sections on the course and I did it all through a bad back during the first half of the ride and some gnarly cramps during the final half. Things I vividly remember:
- Waking up 1 minute before my 3:30 AM alarm excited for the day’s adventure.
- Carpooling with my teammate John and joking around like giddy teenagers from nerves and excitement.
- The 5:30 AM XC-like start… a crazy (evil perhaps?) fast pace which created a dust cloud that when combined with the fog-like vapor in the air produced a fine sheen of mud on your bike, legs, and glasses!
- The sinuous stream of lights from riders above and below me on the Blackstar Canyon climb.
- The first sun rays shooting through the dense clouds up on Main Divide road.
- Pillow-like clouds above Orange County which are generally reserved for window-seat views out of John Wayne airport.
- Known and unknown racers encouraging one another and the camaraderie of riding with teammates during different sections.
- CRAMPS!!!! I’ve never comprehensively as much or as frequently cramped as I did on this ride.
- Supporters everywhere. It means a lot in this kind of setting.
- Poison oak on either side of the lower Trabuco trail and trying to avoid it. Unsuccessfully.
- The never-ending morphing into the everlasting hike-a-bike climb that is West Horse Thief trail.
- Feeling a 13th wind come over me knowing it’s all downhill once I reached the Trabuco trail.
- Upon crossing the finish, first hearing and then seeing a cheering wife.
- Post ride relief and FOOD!
Some photos that capture some of my first bullet points, courtesy of my teammate Diego:
In my previous post, I thought a 6HR 30MIN effort was possible. I was able to just make it with an official time of 6:29:08 thanks to a fast paceline effort with some friends from the Troupe racing team at the end! My completed VQ segment chart with actual race times in the far right column compared to my race goals and previous best times:
Strava file & stats:
Now that it’s over, I think I might stick to the Counting Coup next year! A special thank you to all those in the Warrior’s Society who plan and execute this terrific event each year.
UPDATE: Two new photos courtesy of Patrick Day who captured riders starting their descent down Upper Holy Jim: