Saturday, March 6, 2010
On March 20th I will line up at the mouth of Blackstar Canyon on my Turner Flux for the 2010 Vision Quest mountain bike race. "VQ" offers racers 56 miles and over 11,000 feet of climbing in the Santa Ana mountains. The last time I did this race was in 2008 (race report here), capping off my Baja Travesia training. I wore a Gregory adventure racing backpack with all of my water and food for the race and just wanted the longest, hardest ride I could find. Vision Quest fits the bill! I finished that race in 7 hours and 8 minutes, a bit behind friends and heavy hitters Slater Fletcher Keevin Blue and James Walsh. (James, you dropped me on the hike-a-bike! Very embarassing for a so-called adventure racer!)
There are many other endurance mountain bike races around the country. Some are longer, higher, or more technical...and some have LANCE but few share the history of Vision Quest or have the same amount of climbing per mile. While other races have grown, Vision Quest has remained small with a limited field and a loyal following among California's mountain bike racing crowd. There is no doubt that VQ is one of the toughest mountain bike races in the USA and a fantastic benchmark for climbing and descending skills.
This year I have a few weeks of good mileage under my belt, in the 400-500+ mile range, over 22hrs/week, so my goal is to pace and fuel intelligently and let the chips fall where they may. (Hopefully over an hour faster than 2008). My race fuel is dialed-in as it has been since 2008. Vitargo + nuun.
In addition to the usual Vitargo + nuun, I have a been testing a special secret go-fast ingredient in my bottles for the last several months that only my training partners know about...FEIN. FEIN is caffeine citrate. It is marketed to drinkers at bars, but works exactly like a can of red bull and can be added in powder form to any beverage with almost zero taste. Vitargo + nuun + FEIN = Rocket Fuel. Now you know. And no, they don't pay me a cent.
No matter what my finishing time ends up being, this will certainly be the toughest ride of the year so far and a solid building block for longer and harder races this summer. One of the best parts of Vision Quest is racing alongside some friends on our "home turf". These friends and I can all agree that the VERY best part will be clinking and drinking some well-earned ice-cold Green Flash or Stone IPAs after the race.
Running concurrently, there is a shorter event on the first 3/4 of the course called the "Counting Coup", which basically eliminates a gnarly scree switchback hike-a-bike and rocky downhill from the end of the Vision Quest course.
I was able to find an amazing YouTube video of the Counting Coup course from last year's race. Apparently the racer/videographer had a handlebar-mounted camera and took a few minutes of footage at a time of some of the course's highlights. The long fireroad climbs, ridgeline traverses and singletrack descents are worth a look if you have ever wondered what the riding is like in Orange County.
Bike Magazine has a list of "The 10 toughest races in the world".
Vision Quest made the list.
Orange County, California
Southern California locals know: Vision Quest packs more pain per mle than most any race. The stats tell part of the story, but not all: Racers climb 11,000 feet in 56.5 miles. "It takes most people at least hours to finish," Says semi-pro Jason First. Named after Native Amerian ritual that involved wilderness journeys, personal growth and hallucinogens, the race crushes competitors with steep climbs and rough, shaley descents. "It's hard to get through without at least one thing going wrong", First says. Near the end, on the precipitous upward slopes of the West Horsthief trail, severe exhaustion is known to produce stranger visions than any peace pipe ever could.