Race Report by Charlie Gilmore, member of The Path Bike Shop Race Team.
Fifteen years ago I set a goal of finishing the Warrior's Society Vision Quest as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Since that first year, Vision Quest has become an annual obsession for me and this year I was hoping to finish my 15th consecutive. This was also my first year racing with The Path Bike Shop and my first Vision Quest on my Spark RC. Several weeks leading up to the event I was dealing with a lingering cold so I wasn’t sure how I would feel on race morning. I didn’t feel great race morning but I contributed that to the fact that it was 3:15am. I grabbed a cup of coffee, my traditional race morning peanut butter and honey sandwich and headed to the race start in Blackstar Canyon. I had plenty of time to get ready and even got a nice warm-up in which I usually don’t find time for. The weather was perfect which made it much easier to prepare because I didn’t have to worry about wearing or carrying extra layers.
The race started at 5:30am sharp and I could instantly tell that the warm up helped as my legs felt ready to go. I knew I was riding well when I hit the top of Blackstar in near record time for me and I felt strong across the main divide and down motorway. At the first aid station I quickly took on some water and headed up Maple Springs. I was definitely starting to feel fatigued at this point but I began catching other riders which kept me motivated. I crested the top of Santiago peak and had a clean run down the back side and Holy Jim trail. It is a bit demoralizing at the second aid station when you see Counting Coup participants turning right to the finish and you know what is in store for you so you have to stay mentally tough at this point.
I took on more water, a quick honey stinger waffle and headed up Trabuco. It was starting to get warm but surprisingly my legs felt good and I wasn’t suffering from cramps. I reached west Horsethief and got ready for the long hike ahead. I actually rode more of Horsetheif than ever before, partially due to the extremely low Eagle gearing I have on my Scott Spark RC. Relatively speaking I rode a small percentage of Horsethief but it was still motivating to ride more of it than normal. Once I got to main divide, I took on more water and headed out for the final bit of climbing and descent down Trabuco trail.
There is a section of Trabuco that you double back on so as I was descending I was navigating around riders still heading up. I could feel their pain, especially since it was getting hotter and I tried to shout words of encouragement as I rode by. My descent down Trabuco trail and the final 5 miles down Live Oak were trouble free and I managed to finish with my best finish time and 3rd overall. In fairness, many of the fast riders didn’t start due to the date change and other race commitments they had but I will still take it! It was great seeing several other Path riders participating as well and I can’t thank The Path Bike Shop enough for the amazing support I receive, the new friends I have made and the incredible bike they helped me get onto.