Only a rookie once but still a novice. That's my feeling right now. I've successfully finished - under some of the most perfect conditions I could have hoped for - the Vapor Trail 125. Even so, I'm hardly a veteran - very much a novice. There's still a lot I need to learn about this epic race. Another year of riding and preparing would have done us well and still will. From feeling steady on the singletrack to riding harder on the road, and having food more organized - lots of things to reflect on. I was over prepared in some areas, but completely underprepared for others. Singletrack - exuberantly prepared for the climbing and descends. The long road climbs? Yikes. Mentally drained on Old Monarch Pass. I was ready for fluids, with my drink mix and the amount of bottles I'd need, but that calculation turned into overprepared near the end. Food? I thought I had everything I'd want to eat. I was wrong and ended up not eating half of what I dragged around on the Crest trail. Both forgot I had it and was tired of the texture. A few of the things I made just didn't taste good at that time, either. And what would have happened if the sky had opened, unleashing rain and snow upon us? That would have changed the game completely.
There is a fine line between being prepared to ride long and racing long. Dancing on that line is what makes a successful endurance racer. For long rides and fun adventures, we carry everything. Both Nick and I have plenty of clothes, food, water treatment, some spare parts and a small first aid kit. If something happens, all that will come in handy. But there's no aid stations on our big days, so we have to be prepared. In the big races we are talking about doing next year, we still need to be prepared, but we don't need to carry as much stuff. There's aid stations and we need to take advantage of them. Carry less, ride faster and then need even less. Have what I know I'm going to want, like drink mix and a little food, but use the aid stations to my advantage.
With the amount of things I need to address before next season, I'm definitely still a novice on these big, back country races. That will change. Every ride, calculating and evaluating what I really need, what I can leave behind and what is questionable due to weather concerns. Safety has to be at the forefront, but the faster you go, the less time you're out in the elements. Such a catch 22 for sure. There's a year to get things dialed, with some new and some old epics between now and then. 2015 was always going to be the year for Vapor - the only difference is now I'm going back - I've seen the mountains in the depth of night and caught the sun rising. I know which roads to fear and what climbs to walk. No longer a rookie, but with plenty of learning to do.