– Canyon 29er Hardtail, aluminum, size L
– Continental Race King 2.2 ProTection, tubeless with Stan’s
– Ergon GS1-S grips
– Ergon SM3 Pro-L saddle
– Garmin Edge 500
– Topeak Fuel Tank – MediumOn my body for the start
– Craft Base Layer
– Topeak-Ergon bibs
– Topeak-Ergon short sleeve jersey
– Topeak-Ergon long sleeve jersey
– Topeak-Ergon leg warmers
– Ergon HX2 gloves
– Topeak-Ergon Cratoni helmet
– Adidas Evil Eye Halfrim glasses
– SockGuy wool socks
– Northwave shoes
One thing I learned the first 2 years is carry only what you need to get from aid station to aid station, which is about 3 hours max at the longest point. You can travel light for the Vapor Trail. By wearing 2 jerseys at night that gave me 6 pockets to fill with extra items like: warm gloves, skull cap, repair tools, light batteries, SPOT tracker, food, etc. I had plenty of room.
The VT125 started at 10 PM from downtown Salida, CO. This year it was evident of the town support for the event as everyone poured out into the streets to cheer us off into the night. This year, as in the past, the field was a strong ones. A lot of familiar names and a lot of new names. The first 10 miles were a neutral roll-out of town. So, we all chatted and took this time to warm up the legs and lighten the mood. Once we turned off the pavement onto a dirt road, the “race” was on. Immediately, Josh Tostado hit the front. Behind him was Aaron Gulley, myself, Sonya Looney, and a few others. It wasn’t long, and the race field was spread out. I settled into my pace as Josh pulled away. This is the last anyone would see of him, other than his lights off in the distance later in the event. Chasing Josh was 3 of us. Myself, Aaron, and Miguel Arias. We traded time at the front pulling down the dirt road. We even took turns running our lights. The light of one rider was enough to let 3-4 people pedal down the road.
With about 1 mile left until the chunky singletrack of the Colorado Trail , I went to the front. I hit the singletrack first with the other behind me. It wasn’t long and I was riding alone. No lights in front of me or behind me. I was comfortable and not taking any risks on this technical and loose trail. The only thing I had to do was settle into my rhythm for the event. I made it to the Cascade Aid Station in good time, faster that I thought I would. I filled by 3 bottles and asked how far Josh was ahead. The aid station workers said “Only a few minutes”.
The next section of trail leading up to the Snowblind Campground Aid Station is pretty burly. It climbs over and descends the Continental Divide twice. The railroad grade road to the Alpine Tunnel is a good road to get a good pace going. It was here I would see Josh’s read tail light briefly, but I would not catch. After that the course is littered with big rocks, big climbs, and techy trails. I would have a good ride through this section. The hour long hike up to the Canyon Creek descent was my most comfortable ever. Climbing up to nearly 13k, I expected to face wind and cold temps. Instead, I was greeted with a frosty ground, clear skies, and above-freezing temps. This was a first in my 4 attempts. I made a quick descent into the Snowbling Campground Aid Station where Dave Wiens was manning the station. He said Josh came through about 45 minutes ago. I had a doughnut, a 1/2 can of Coke, refilled my 3 bottles, then pushed onward to climb up to Monarch Pass.
The climb up to Monarch Pass on Old Monarch Pass Rd is not too bad. It’s a dirt road that’s in good shape. It just a matter of turning off the brain and spinning it out. I definitely wasn’t breaking any speed records up this climb. Legs were getting tired. I was climbing this road in the dark this year. Something I have never done in my previous attempts. It was a reminder I was putting in a good time on the race course. I got up to Monarch Pass at sunrise. The Aid Station workers were still setting up. They were startled as how fast Josh got to them, an were now working to get things in line for me. At Monarch Pass I dropped my lights, and all my warm clothing. I grabbed 3 fresh FRS bottles and asked how long ago Josh came through. They responded with “45 minute.” It didn’t take long and I was on my way.
The next section of trail is the best of the entire race! The Monarch Crest Trail traverses at over 11k feet for many miles. I was a little quick in dropping my clothes at the previous aid station, but I needed to. The Crest Trail was COLD! By far the cold I had seen since we left town. The entire ground was white with frost. I was riding white singletrack while following brown tire marks left by Josh Tostado. My legs were super sluggish. While this trail screams speed, I had everything but it. My hands were sore from being cold. My legs and arms were pink. I just needed the sun to hit me, but it was still very low in the early AM sky.
At the end of the Crest Trail is another aid station, Marshall Pass Aid Station. It was here the workers were cheering for me saying “Go! Go! Go! You’re in first place!” Obviously Josh had gone through before they got there. I told them that, and they were in disbelief! From here the race rides down the Starvation Creek singletrack, which is super fun! After that, riders climb back out on a steep life sucking jeep road climb to the Marshall Pass Aid Station before continuing on to the rest of the race course. Josh got back out of Starvation Creek about 45 minutes ahead of me. This time the aid station workers were ready for him. I stopped quick to fill 2 bottles, eat some Fig Newtons, and a 1/2 can of Coke.
From this point on, the course is pretty easy, compared to what we have faced. It was a lot of singletrack descending back below 10k feet. We would finish off on the fast/buff singletrack of the Rainbow Trail before a 10 mile paved road ride back to Salida and Absolute Bikes. I would pull into the finish line at 11:35 AM on Sunday for 2nd place overall. Josh would wait about 45 minutes for me.
Overall, my race time was 13 hours and 37 minutes. This was 45 minutes faster than my record setting time back in 2010! I was super stoked on the finish, and to have felt good all race except for a 30 minute moment on the Crest Trail. The race file can be seen on Strava. I can’t wait for the next years Vapor Trail 125!
Next up? La Ruta!
Editor’s Note: Thank you Jeff for sharing your amazing experience and congrats again on taking home the silver! A 45 minute improvement is impressive! To read more about Jeff’s adventures on the bike, checkout his website: www.jeffkerkove.net.