"Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own Generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those not yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground"
Words spoken by the peacemaker, American Indian prophet and founder of the Iroquois Confederacy Circa 1000 AD
This is the foundation by which the Warrior Society bases their principals, as they strive to maintain and improve the trails in the Cleveland National Forest. Their club is based on the American Indian Traditions of the Warrior's Society. The Warrior's Societies of the Plains Indians were made up of the braves chosen to be the protectors of the tribe and their land.
I was proud to be a part of the Society yesterday at the Vision Quest and grateful to be able to race in those beautiful mountains. The Vision Quest is their annual long distance event. It consists of 52.5 +- miles of riding with 11,000 +- feet of total elevation gain and 2+- miles of hike-a-bike.
The Warrior Society did a great job with the event and getting the trails in top condition for the ride. These are some of the best trails in southern California. It is amazing to be able to get the continued support of the locals and to get the okay to be able to get a select number of riders out there to race in a regularly scheduled event. It is apparent that the Society works hard to share the trails to maintain them and every single person was participating in some way. This was apparent during the race, as all the racers & riders were really cautious out there - acknowledging approaches and being polite as possible to share the trails. As a result, the riding was spectacular. You could not have asked for better trails and conditions, especially considering how much rain we've had. I pre-rode part of the course last weekend after it had rained buckets on Friday. It was super muddy with lots of ruts up on Blackstar Canyon Trail. All the creeks were full and the single track was rutted with exposed rock so you couldn't even ride it. This week, the trails were mostly dry but you could tell they came through and cleaned up the single track and smoothed it out quite a bit. It was AMAZING what they did in one week to get them ready for the event. WOW. And THANK YOU.
I started the day at 3 AM to get there in time for the 5:30 start. Last year, it did not occur to me to bring lights, so I wound up borrowing a hand held flash light for the first hour while chasing Manny and Bishop around because they had lights. This year, I remembered my Niterider light! I had no excuses last year...
Two of my good friends came along to support me: Ed and Scott. The race took off at a good fast pace. I was right behind Manny just getting a good feel for the race. Ben Bostrom from ShoAir was hanging behind us, along with a few of the other ShoAir guys. Ben took off and pushed a good pace but no one else chased him so I did. Ben set up a good tempo for the first 40 minutes and Manny was about 10 seconds behind us. At one point up a climb I realized Ben was pushing a single speed, and I made my move. So now, it was my turn to keep a good steady pace and little by little I was pulling away from Ben. I had over a minute lead and kept looking back and didn't see anyone. About 12 miles in at Silverado Trail Motorway downhill singletrack section, I was descending and I know from the last weekend that it was rocky and technical so I was being really careful, but was not so lucky. I flatted about a mile down and instinctively, got into the flat fixing mode, but I forgot to pack the quickfill adapter. So I had to wait and Manny was the first to pass me. He asked if I was okay and I was so he took off. Then when the 3rd place guy was coming I heard him crash. It was Ben who crashed with a front flat. He walked down to where I was and was injured and bleeding badly on his knee. So otherwise he was okay but he didn't have the right adapter. I wasted 2 quickfills of the 3 I packed. So he tried to use it on his own tube and it didn't work either. We had a long walk down the mountain where Ed and Scott were waiting at Maple Springs - at least 3 miles - and we both figured our race was over. We started to run down with our bikes, then a guy Ben knew came by and had an adapter that worked so I used up my last quickfill. Ben wished me well but he was out for the race due to the injury and had sliced his tire, too, so he wasn't able to fix his tire.
At that point, Manny had at least 7 minutes on me, and there were at least 3 other guys in front of me. I still had a lot of technical stuff to get through, and I was worried.... Eventually, I caught 3nd place and I kept on climbing away but I was feeling good and in general, in good spirits. Then, almost at the top of Santiago Peak before we descended the Holy Jim trail, I caught Dana Weber (Trek) in 2nd place. Then I saw Manny and he was fixing a flat, but he was okay so I passed him. Now I was in the lead and pushing it on the fire road toward the single track, where I never rode before. I almost crashed on the downhill so I slowed down hoping not to be too aggressive because I knew I didn't have anything to fix any more flats. Dana place passed me on the singletrack at Trabuco Canyon Trail and then it went to a fireroad that turned into a single track again but he dropped me and I couldn't see him in front of me any more. I realized I should have seen him going up the fire road so I turned around and went back down. A volunteer was now at the intersection and directed me to go the way I was supposed to be going. It seemed like Dana knew the trail really well and was over 3 minutes ahead of me by now. Meanwhile, I was trying to focus on not flatting and staying on the right trails (by the way - the trails were very well marked, so I must have missed the flag at the turn).
There was still one more long single track with hike a bike sections because it's so steep you can't climb it. Dana still had at least 3 minutes lead so I just kept climbing the long steep grade and I thought this might be my only chance to catch him. I hoped if I had a chance I could push it hard enough and near the top you get onto some fire road before the next single track descent. I caught him at the top, just before the fire road at the hardest part of the climb. He was right behind me entering the fast fire road all the way to the finish line. I looked back and saw him but I think he ended up getting a flat which would explain why I didn't see him again. I had a slow leak in the front going for a while, so I had to ride smart and best I could to keep from crashing, and since I didn't know he flatted, I just kept pushing.
When I got to the stream near the finish, instead of riding on the trail up to the road, they had us riding through the creek, and then we got on the road and finished in the campground. This I think was better and safer than the road because the cars come down the hill out of a hairpin turn right before the creek, but it left me wondering...why not finish on the road? But better safe than sorry!
So, I won with a time of 5:10:42. With that flat and waiting, which was about 10 minutes, I was very very happy with this finish!!! I felt really good on the climbing and felt strong - one of the best races I had in a while, especially considering the tough competition.
Here are the top 10 from MTB racing news:
Vision Quest Results Top-10
1, Tinker Juarez (Cannondale Factory Racing) 5.10.42
2, Dana Weber (Trek) 5.13.32
3, Manny Prado (Sho-Air) 5.18.50
4, Doug Andrews 5.24.56
5, Nate Whitman 5.37.52
6, Oliver Hutchinson 5.41.04
7, Tim Zandbegan 5.41.20
8, Guy Sutton (Cal Coast) 5.49.48
9, Pua Mata (Sho-Air) 5.53.18
10, Jason Rusnak 5.54.12
Judging all the happy faces finishing the race, everyone had a great ride. There were lots and lots of flats, broken chains, bumps, bruises, and some stitches to be had, but in the end, the Warrior Society had a great event with perfect weather, perfect conditions, and great volunteers.
Before I finish, I want to mention my new nutrition sponsor that fueled my ride and thank Hammer for taking such good care of me. It was amazing how good I felt out there, and I was entirely fueled by mango Hammer Heed, raspberry Hammer Gel, and the cashew coconut chocolate chip Hammer Bar. For the past month I have been using the Hammer Endurance Amino and Tissue Rejuvenator to prepare for and participate in the race. I definitely felt good and strong, so if anyone is wondering how I can keep this up, it is with great products like this, proper training, and lots of rest prior to the event. A special 'Thank you Hammer' is definitely warranted for this win!