2014 Vision Quest Recap

Well, that didn’t go to plan!  Here’s the short and bitter-sweet result of my 2014 Vision Quest:  DNF.

Going into this year’s Vision Quest, everything was looking and feeling good.  The bike (I thought) was dialed, my legs tuned, and my spirits high.  I had great sleep all week and the night of the race.  I went into the race expecting a strong showing to match (and exceed??!!) my stated goal of 6hrs 15min.

My teammate picked me up at zero dark thirty and we made our way to Denny’s.  I had reservations about waking up so early when my teammate suggested this, but then I remembered last year’s experience of shitting in the dark in the porta-potty near the start line and hoping there was T.P. left!  So, the Denny’s bathroom was a race luxury at 4:30am!  (Breakfast:  I had a grand slam and wrapped my scrambled eggs and turkey bacon in the wheat pancake.)

We get to the registration line, check in, and then clumsily search for teammates to distribute extra jerseys  and deliver my aid station food/hydration to. I kit up, make final gear choices (like do I use my Cygolite commuter light or go without it – I went without figuring I could poach the light of others), and entered the race staging area ahead of the Blackstar Canyon gate along with 300+ anxious riders and my 12 Kasel Cycling teammates.  This is what cattle must feel like.  And I was about to be culled.

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Some of my Kasel Cycling teammates before the 5:30 AM start.

The gate opened and off we went.  The pace at the front was brisk but more forgiving than last year.  I knew the pace I wanted to hold and the people I could generally surround myself with.  It’s a “nice” feeling to be able to draft the first few miles before the climb begins.  I kept a decent pace trying to keep my heart rate in the mid to low 160’s.  I found it creeping into the high 160’s so I backed off a bit near Beek’s.

I know the undulating terrain of Main Divide well and I don’t really start to feel good or get my 2nd wind until after Pleasants but I was slightly concerned that I didn’t feel like I had that “extra” race gear.  I was finding that I wasn’t recovering as well I normally do – heavy legs.  Just like last year, my teammate Dan passes me on Main Divide before Pleasants and he’s looking quite strong.  Awesome.  I’ll sit on his wheel and get up and over my least favorite climb on Main Divide which takes us past Pleasants Peak.  Except I can’t.

He powers up Pleasants and I’m telling myself to just keep spinning through this early poor form, get over Pleasants, and recover on the short downhill just like last year.  But the recovery never really came.  My newly formulating plan was to ride this crappy form out and wait for the major singletrack downhill, Motorway, to get back into the zone.

It should be noted that one doesn’t really touch the brakes at all for the first hour of this race so I was surprised to find that when I did have to use the rear brake, it didn’t feel right.  It felt like the fluid was solid and the slightest touch of the lever wanted to lock the rear wheel up.  There was no modulation – it was on/off.  This isn’t usually the case for Shimano’s new XT brakes which up to this point have been fool-proof.  I made note of this and hoped the modulation came back as it warmed up.  It didn’t, and my poor form continued when I had to make a stupid late-brake move on a very loose turn on main divide and the rear wheel shot out from under me.

Bang – right onto my hip I go, no chance to clip out.  I slide on the dirt/rocks for several feet and tell myself to get back up so as to avoid causing further incident to myself or other riders.  I get back on the bike and know I have some scraped flesh, but no big deal.  But I’m feeling sharp pains in the butt muscles if I try and push the pace.  Perhaps this too will wear off?  I just want to get to Motorway, have some fun on the downhill, pass some people, get to the aid station and start this race anew there.

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Mr. Grumpypants exiting the Motorway singletrack.

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Insider tip:  if during a race, you get off your bike at an aid station, you’re no longer racing.  My teammate Dan had some great legs and stayed on his bike.

It was nice to get to the aid station, but my frustration is obvious on my countenance.  I’m annoyed because I can’t generate power without sharp pain.  But the good news is after catching Dan on Motorway, I again have a teammate to ride up Maple Springs with.  I’ll again use his wheel to follow so I don’t have to think about pacing.  Up we go – for a bit.  Once again, his wheel pulls away from mine and I sink into that vague racing but not racing pace.  Dan ended up doing quite well just like his form was indicating – congrats, Dan!

After climbing for nearly an hour, I decide to abandon the race at 4 corners, taking the Harding trail exit.  It was a cold decent and I was shivering going down.  I just wanted to get off this bike, have a beer, and get some ice on my aching muscles.  In the end, my “bail-out” route was about the same distance and elevation as the counting coup but I was able to get to the finish to cheer and congratulate all my other teammates as they came in.  I had several teammates doing the race for the first time and they all finished with great times and huge smiles.  I also had teammates PR, including two teammates who finished 8th and 12th in the Vision Quest – very impressive!

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Ice pack on the butt and Lagunitas in the gut.

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It’s not all bad at the finish line.  I traded my DNF for a PILS and a hug.

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I was able to make it to the finish line and cheer my teammates on.  Here I am giving a mid-5 for my teammate Josh who finished 8th and accomplished his lifetime (j/k) goal of a top 10 VQ finish.  Congrats!!!!

Thanks again to the Warrior’s Society for putting on the race and for the year-round trail maintenance in the Santa Ana Mtns.

After the event, we had a team BBQ at a teammate’s house nearby and it was great to hear everyone’s experience, talk about future riding plans, and drink some homebrew!  A week+ after the race and I’m feeling much better and getting ready for our team’s trip to Prescott, AZ to take on the Whiskey 50 at the end of this month!

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