Vision Quest 2010. This was the year where I put everything I had into training to try and reach my potential for VQ. I hired a coach, I changed my diet, I got a road bike, I did intervals, I got a new mountain bike, etc. I was really focused and did my best to prepare myself for a sub 7 hour VQ. I wanted it really bad and ultimately came 5 minutes short of my goal.
Before going into the race I had a few setbacks. Every year that I race VQ this always happens to me. This year it was a blown rear shock on the new mountain bike, a broken collarbone and some less than perfect brakes for race day. It's ok though. One never is able to race with the perfect bike, perfect weather or perfect health. You just put in the work and hope for the best.
Got up at 3:45AM on race day so I could eat something, drink a can of FRS and try to get the bowels working. Haha. After I got to the race start and got dressed I tried to warm up by going up and down the pavement at Blackstar for maybe 15 minutes. I'm not sure how much this really helped though because I was constantly dodging cars and other bikers and I couldn't really get into a rhythm.
I lined up in the middle of the pack towards the front to try and avoid the mayhem. I was right behind Manny and Cameron at the start and I was hoping to go really hard for the first 10 minutes to get out ahead of the pack. The goal was to avoid crashing in the dark and to maximize the easy grade of the first few miles of the course. Jason had let me borrow one of his Magic Shine lights which proved to be really useful for the first hour.
The early riding was great for me. I felt good and kept a hard pace which bordered on my race pace. I managed to stay with Cameron for the first few miles and was just off the lead group when the climbing started. At that point I tried to settle in and make sure I wasn't going too hard too soon. My goal was to have a really fast time to Beek's for two reasons. The first was that I needed a fast split to get under 7 hours and the second was to encourage myself. If I had a good time up I knew I would have to work to maintain it throughout the rest of the day. If I had a bad time I might give up and start taking it easy.
My time to Beek's was about 52 minutes (my personal best is 48) and I was pretty happy with that. The legs felt pretty good and my heart rate was hovering around 180 the entire trip up. I made a mental note to try and slow down because I didn't think I could sustain 180 for another 6 hours. My goal was to ride at the high end of tempo, which is about 175 for me.
From Beek's to the Motorway I think I got a bit slower. I picked easier gears and tried to pace myself instead of maintaining the push that I had going up to Beek's. I regret this a little, but I still got to the top of the Motorway at around 1:50 something. I was hoing to avoid slower riders going down the Motorway, which has plagued me in the past. This time I was the slower rider as I got passed by two guys going down. I probably lost a few minutes on the Motorway, but I hadn't been riding a lot of technical stuff so all things considered I think it was ok.
At the first aid station the transition was pretty hurried and I forgot to get a gel from Matt and Rob. They gave me my frozen Snickers bar, replaced my water bottles and pushed me off and only after a few hundred yards did I realize I didn't have anything other than the Snickers for food. Oh well!
The trip up the pavement went really, really well for me. All the road riding and focus on pedaling technique paid huge dividends. I felt strong and passed quite a few riders on the way up. It felt like I was going faster and using less energy than the other riders around me. It was pretty awesome to see the chalk writing on the pavement from my church friends. Reading "GO RYAN MEYER" made me feel pretty good.
Heading up to the first dirt turn where my friends were I was part of a pretty big group and most of them didn't recognize me as I rode by. Maybe it was the helmet or the glasses or the spandex. They finally realized I was right in front of them though and started flipping out. Lots of yelling, screaming and then as I was almost past them Jeff ran up with some clementines that made me REALLY happy.
I was pacing Heidi Volpe up Maple Springs for a while and we talked a bit. She ended up having the fastest women's time for Counting Coup on the day at a little under 5 hours. I dropped her and caught a few other people on the way for Four Corners and I could start to feel some of the energy from earlier in the day start to leave me. I think this is where my nutrition started to let me down a bit. I need to plan better. The Snicker's bar was hard to eat and didn't help much.
My time to Four Corners was around 1:05 I think, which is pretty close to a personal best for me. I've never broken under an hour, but then again I haven't really been trying for it. Right before Four Corners I rode with a guy for a while that broke his pedal and he was actually riding on just the spindle. Haha. I can't believe we had roughly the same pace for a while. =(
From Four Corners to Santiago Peak I started to come apart a little. I was running lower gears and my legs didn't have the same oompf in them. Heidi caught me and that really bummed me out. Even worse was when she put a gap on me right before the summit of the peak. The good news though was that I was on track for my goal and I was still catching riders and passing more than I was being passed.
The descent down from the peak went pretty well and there wasn't any ice or snow this year, which made it even better. I got to Upper Holy Jim a few minutes under 4 hours, which really thrilled me. The trip down UHJ was lame though. I walked quite a few sections and like every year I was passed by 3-4 riders. It's just one of those mental blocks that I have. I don't want to take chances on race day and risk getting hurt and not finishing the race. I used to think it was a huge time eater, but in reality I think I only lose a few minutes by walking a few switchbacks and other technical sections. I'd really love to fix this in the future.
Going down Holy Jim felt pretty good. I realize my descending is my biggest limiter in racing right now, but I felt like I was riding on the edge of my ability. I almost crashed 2-3 times by carrying too much speed into a few turns. I did lay the bike down at one part of the lower section of Holy Jim, but came out ok. I kept telling myself to be a bit more cautious and to stop taking stupid risks and that probably slowed me down a bit. I will say I did pretty good on the lower switchbacks, which has caused me grief in the past.
The second aid station went really well, but I have to admit I took a little bit of extra time just to relax. Matt and Rob oiled my chain and replaced the water bottles super fast while I drank a Pepsi and ate a little. The push from them leaving the second aid station was awesome. Almost immediately after leaving the second aid station my legs started to show signs of cramping. I had been cramp free to this point on only water and all of a sudden I was having issues. Part of me was pretty happy I had survived to that point without having the issues I've had in the past.
Almost as quickly as the cramps came, they disappeared. Right before hitting Trabuco proper the legs felt more or less ok and I started the singletrack climb to Horsetheif. Nothing much to say about it except that I did the entire thing by myself. The only other riders I saw were a handful of guys descending as I was climbing. No other guys riding up with me. I had to walk several sections, but overall felt like my legs were working well and I still had some strength in them.
The hike up really hurt my time. I rode maybe 10 percent of the trail and I was really frustrated because I felt like I had the energy to ride, but my legs were cramping really bad when I tried to pedal. Eventually I hit the top and stopped to eat Fig Newtons and some fruit. In retrospect I probably lost a minute or two here and should have just kept going. But I was tired and thirsty and I told myself on the bike up Horsethief that my reward would be to eat and drink for a bit.
After leaving the last aid station I tried to push because I was doing the math in my head and thought it was going to be really close if I wanted to get under 7 hours. I felt like I might be around 5-10 minutes over my goal, but I didn't want to second guess myself later. The trip over to the top of Trabuco was really hard. I pushed as hard as I could and I was feeling weak and a little dizzy when I finally started the descent.
The trip down Trabuco was fast. I wasn't around anyone else and I wanted to take some risks. I told myself that I needed to make up time so that meant riding out of my comfort zone. I was willing to crash at a high speed or go over the bars or whatever. Just need to get down as fast as possible. The legs never cramped and the brakes that were acting up earlier were fine and eventually I made it down to lower Trabuco.
Lower Trabuco was where things got annoying. Tons of riders were coming up the trail and they kept getting in the way. I mean come on now. If you are WALKING a section and I'm riding, just move to the side of the trail! No need to stand in the middle of a singletrack and stare angrily at me. After passing quite a few people (and even tipping over on top of one lady) I made it to the fire road.
Trabuco Creek Road was rough. I kept the "ride dangerously" theme going, but in the end it just wasn't enough. I ended up crossing the finish line at 7:04, just five minutes off my goal of getting under 7 hours.
All in all I'm happy with my time and my performance. No mechanicals, no bonking and minimal cramps. Everything I had planned worked out and I really feeling the structured training paid off for me. At first I was angry after the race because I came so close to my goal only to fail. But as time has gone on, I've become more proud of the time and feel like I worked hard to get it.
I'm still waiting for that perfect year doing Vision Quest though. I'll define it as my "Matt" performance. Matt's last VQ time was unreal. He pretty much blew everyone away with a 6:30 time. I want that experience. I want to have a perfect day and move up a few spots in the overall rankings. As cool as it is to finish 35th out of roughly 200 riders, I'd like to do even better. I know I'm capable and when the time comes I'll be signing up again (assuming it doesn't sell out before I can sign up).