Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vision Quest 2013

VQ/CC start from the Blackstar Gate
The annual Counting Coup & Vision Quest put on by the Warrior's Society was held this past Saturday. My alarm went off at 3:40am and I was quickly up scrambling to get some food down and be ready by the time my ride picked me up at 4:30am. My friend Brandon and I drove out to the start area in Blackstar Canyon and were able to grab our wristband, drop off my aid station 2 drop bag (of which I never ended up using), and get a quick stretch in before lining up at the gate for the countdown to the start. Both events start at 5:30am with a fast-paced sprint out the dirt fire road in Blackstar Canyon.

Above the clouds heading to Motorway
This was my third year doing either VQ/CC and each year I'm amazed at how fast such a long endurance race starts. The weather was perfect with a low layer of clouds that created a slight mist and when combined with the dust bowl from riding out the canyon road it created a thick layer of brown gunk that stuck to me and my bike. I found myself settling in to a nice pace on the Blackstar climb and ended up getting a PR on the gate to gate segment with a time of 43 minutes. As the sun was coming up and we climbed above the clouds, we made our way across the main divide to Motorway, the first technical descent that takes you to the bottom of Silverado Canyon where the first aid station is located.

Quick stop at aid station 1
I met my family support crew and my friend Josh who ended up riding with me all the way to Santiago Peak. I made it to the bottom of Motorway in 1:48, 1 minute slower than last year, but still probably faster than I should have in order to complete such a long ride. I think Tinker made it to the bottom of Motorway in just over 1:30 - some 2-3 minutes faster than the next rider to come through the aid station. As I started pedaling off from the first aid station I could feel the beginnings of some cramps in my legs. Thankfully they subsided and I was able to keep a solid pace up the 11-mile 3,800 ft. climb from the bottom of Motorway to Santiago Peak. Once you crest the peak there is a short, but chunky tire slashing descent to the top of a long singletrack downhill called Upper and Lower Holy Jim. I safely descended the chunky fire road from the peak to the turnoff to Upper Holy Jim and ended up getting a PR down UHJ.

Pedaling away from aid station 1
Lower Holy Jim is a fun 5-mile descent with switchbacks and a few blind corners that makes for an interesting ride when there are hikers coming up the trail. At the bottom of the Holy Jims and after a few stream crossings you get to the point in the race where the CC riders head right down the 5-mile dirt road to the finish and the VQ riders head left up the technical Trabuco Trail and to the turnoff to the last dreadful hike-a-bike, West Horsethief. I'm amazed that some of the pros climb Horsethief. It's a loose 1.3-mile 1,500 ft. climb with grades exceeding 20%. I just pushed my bike as fast as I could and ended up getting up in 37 min. which was slightly faster than my 2012 time.

I quickly grabbed a few oranges from the aid station and then began the short climb and traverse up to the top of Trabuco Trail. Trabuco Trail is a 4-mile downhill that in my opinion is one of the most fun descents in all of Orange County. However, there are loose rocky sections of the trail along with some real sharp rocks that can (and have) slashed many of my tires. I safely made it back to the aid station at the VQ/CC turnoff and began pedaling hard out the 5-mile fire road to the finish.

I finished 16th overall with a total time of 6:09, some 20 minutes faster than last year! 120 riders finished, with 25 or so DNFs and about 40 riders that didn't show. I was really happy with my time and somewhat surprised considering the amount of travelling I've been doing for work over the last 9 months.

A month or so ago I was talking with local pro, Dana Weber, about the upcoming VQ and he mentioned how when he first did the race a few years back his time was just over the 6 hour mark and he finished in the top 5 that year. It's amazing how all of the riders are getting faster and order to break the top five this year I would have needed to finish in under 5:15...the top ten was 5:46 (see below).

A really big thanks to my family for the support they provided for not only the race but over the course of the last year with putting in big rides on the weekends and even more so after travelling so much. Another big thanks to Josh Jacquot who provided some of the best sag support I've ever had! And finally a big thanks to Moots for the support they've provided over the past few years.

The Leaderboard...VQ.CC top ten finishers...maybe next year!

1 comment:

  1. Well done Nick! You performed incredibly well on race day and I'm looking forward to many more early morning motivational training/race sessions in the year ahead! It's been a superb start to the season for you, keep on grinding! Brandon (Burgemeester).