Heros of the night - Vapor Trail 125
Its dark, it's cold - there's nothing to do but wait. Wait for the herd of crazy cyclists who think it's a great idea to ride for 125 through the Colorado high country. The riders might be the ones celebrated during and after the event, but the heros are truely the volunteers out all night and day. There were the moto riders keeping tabs on us at Blanks Cabin, then riding around and appearing at other key spots on course. The Cascade Aid station - dark and cold and the middle of the night. The volunteers there were slammed with riders when I got there, but still ensured each rider got personal attention. Needed something on the bike fixed? They had the parts. There was a fire roaring in the background and fresh burritos being wrapped to order. I didn't linger there - just stayed long enough to refil my water and throw on a warmer layer for the climb to the divide. Then next sign of civilization - other then the trail of lights sparkling in the dark mountains was the Snowblind Campground. More welcoming volunteers, offering food, water and anything else. I spent a little longer there, chatting after getting my chain cleaned and waiting for some fresh sausage for the road. I knew Tom would give Nick an update on how I was do and set off to takle the endless road climb back to the divide with a smile. Monarch Pass - the loudest of the aid stations between the traffic from the road and the shuttle bunnies wondering what we were doing. And the drop bags... The volunteers at the top of the pass were the most helpful by far - I felt bad for asking them to stop digging in my box and just started giving them directions so they could help. There was a lot to do there - between dropping lights, changing helmets, gloves and glasses, and refilling supplies. I had two people helping me and once we got rolling, it was awesome. More offers of scrambled eggs and food, which I declined. They assured me they'd give Nick a report on my status and buttoned up my box so I could roll. Onto the Crest Trail, where after hours of empty trails, it suddenly seemed crowded. Everyone was cheerfully encouraging the entire route, even the motos. At Marshall Pass, more smiling faces. I endulged in half a can of Coke and half a jelly doughnut - which they were more then willing slice up for me. I wished I'd asked them to save the other half for my next trip through as I was half pedaling, half trudging up Poncha Creek Road. Unfortunately, it was gone already when I got back. Marshall Pass was also the first place I found out what happened to Nick. They didn't know what happened, but were able to tell me he dropped at Monarch Pass. The final aid station at the start of Rainbow Trail had all kinds of tidbits of yummy treats - but I wasn't feeling up for solid food. To cheers, I rolled out for the final hour and half of pedaling.
This was one of smoothest run events I've been in - and one of the farthest flung with miles of distance between assitance. The volunteers made it happen and were always happy and cheerful. I was always happy to roll up to the aid stations and sorry to leave without chatting longer. Nick and I started not knowing how much the volunteers cared about the race, but I finished realizing it was so much more then just the riders. We tend to ignore or order the volunteers around at the aid stations, discounting the contributions they make to our success or failures. For most races it's easy to do - but on a loop this big, on a day this long, the attentiveness of the volunteers really matters. So next time, make sure to thank the volunteers and treat them with the respect they deserve. It's not easy to stand out in the cold and dark all day catering to confused riders.