A year is a long time to be working towards a goal - espcially when there’s so many individual milestones to be met along the way. In 2018, ...

Sep 15, 2015

Saying Thanks - Vapor Trail 125 Volunteers

I did the same thing last year - writing about the volunteers of the Vapor Trail 125 before actually getting the race report finished. Why? Because without the volunteers, the race would near impossible to do except for the dedicated few self-support bikepackers in the group. So it is really the volunteers who deserve the kudos and congratulations for putting up with stressed out, mentally fatigued and possibly impaired riders at all stages of the race.

Cascade Aid - in some ways the easiest aid station but also the hardest. The volunteers have to be there, ready to help from midnight on. It's the shortest time period for an aid station in the race, but the riders are all clustered together still and it's dark - making it harder to help. Nick and I met one of the volunteers at that station before the race. She was visiting from Oklahoma and was helping out "because it sounded like fun and you guys are amazing." No affiliation with any of the racers - just wanted to be a part of it. I was in and out too quickly to see her, but Nick did and said hi.

Snowblind - Dave Wiens and his Gunnison crew take the dawn shift for volunteering at the Snowblind Campground. It's the first sign of civilization after 34 miles of darkness, brutal road climbs, hike-a-bike and thrilling descents. From hot coffee, pancakes and sausages, the Snowblind crew knew exactly what you needed to push on to summit of Monarch Pass. Encouragement and moral support - along with a warm blanket and a chair to rest in that was what you needed - was also readily available. Another quick pit stop for me - just long enough to get some water, a glass of OJ (Yum!). Then it was on to the next checkpoint.

Monarch Pass - This year the high school racing team helped out at Monarch Pass. They'd raced the day before and I think they might have been a little tired still... Food was cooking - eggs and bacon, but the kids were moving a little slow at times. I was lucky - I had Keith Darner (Director of the super fun sounding Monarch Crest Enduro) helping me personally with everything I needed. I was more organized then last year with the drop bag, but still took a little longer then I wanted - the chair was feeling really good at that point.

Marshall Pass - The two pass checkpoint is one of the hardest aid stations on the race, I would imagine. They have to be out there from the early morning hours as the leaders come through and then till late into the afternoon waiting for the back of the pack. Riders are already tired when we get there, and we are faced with the beauty and hell that is the Starvation-Poncha loop. Dropping at that point is so easy - just point the bike down Marshall Pass and coast down hill... The volunteers there need to be able to balance encouraging riders to keep going, but being aware of physical and mental issues that might put the riders in danger. They are also faced with the hardest part of the race - being one of the few stations with a firm cut-off point, having to tell riders that their day is done. For reasons outside their control this year, the Marshall Pass crew was working on limited supplies and didn't have all the luxuries they normally can offer. But the volunteers made up for it in enthusiasm and encouragement. Seeing the riders twice - once before Starvation and then after - and the differences in attitude that 11.5 mile loop brought with it highlighted how challenging this event really is.

The last official Aid Station was at the start of Rainbow Trail. A final checkpoint before the last push into town. Just a small table loaded with food and supplies. Another firm cutoff point though, and another point where the volunteers have to be aware of rider condition when encouraging them to keep moving.

And those are just the official check points. This year, Jefe B and Rachel A set up an impromptu bacon station on the Palisades. A sight for sore eyes, their warming bonfire after the chill of dropping off the Continental Divide.
Earl Walker - one of the race organizers - was all over the course on his moto. From tail vehicle on the road out of town to the checkpoint at Blanks. Then again just before the start of Tomichi Pass - on the other side of the Divide. Always aware and enthusiastic about everyone. I think I saw him twice more during the day - at Monarch and Marshall Pass. I was able to get info on how Nick was doing every time I saw him, and he passed along the same info to Nick.
Tom Purvis - another one of the race organizers and truly the face (or voice) of the Vapor Trail 125. In the two and a half minutes I was in at Snowblind, he cleaned and lubed my drive train and gave me updates on how everyone was doing. Again at Marshall, he was checking with the volunteers and providing encouragement to the riders. How much did Tom drive during the race? More then we rode - I'm sure! And yes, everyone in Salida has to have a slightly shy, crazy eyed dog named Vicki! I'm sure there are many more behind the scenes organizers and volunteers who work hard through out the year to make sure we riders have a smooth and safe race. If I didn't say thank you before, then I'm saying it now - Thanks to all the volunteers, race officials and everyone else involved in putting on the Vapor Trail 125. All your hard work really makes for an outstanding event.

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