Vision Quest Race Report – April 8, 2017

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Vision Quest is not for the casual rider; it’s considered one of the hardest mountain bike races in the United States. The race takes place in the heart of the Santa Ana Mountains covering over 55 miles and 11,000 feet of elevation. The route starts at Black Star Canyon where you climb about 4,000 feet before hitting the first major downhill trail, Motorway. The second major climb (~ 3,500 ft) goes up Maple Springs to Four Corners and then you ride up more to Santiago Peak. The second downhill starts at Upper Holy Jim and finishes with Lower Holy Jim. The final accent (~ 2500 ft) is the West Horse Thief to Trabuco Trail loop and then a mad dash to the finish.



This was my 6th attempt and completion of Vision Quest. I was back on my full suspension Merlin 4.0 Works aka ‘The Herbalife Green Merlin’ if you follow me on Strava. I had not ridden this bike in almost a year and did the bare necessities to get it race ready. Seems to be a theme as I did just enough training to not feel too much pain. Part of me was banking on the strength and endurance gained from my previous Ironman training while the other part didn’t have the time so to have a sub 8 goal was a bit ambitious for me but I was still going to try.


It was drizzling at the start of the race. The temperature was cold but not freezing. We started promptly at 5:30am and after a few miles we reached our first fire road climb. Everything felt great and as I started to settle into the climb I started to notice some resistance. Apparently the drizzle on the dirt road was enough to create the perfect environment for mud. Not the wet and runny kind but the super sticky kind. Mud started to get caught up in my derailleur and forks to the point I had to get off my bike to remove it. At first I thought it was just me but then more and more riders started hopping off their bikes. This continued for the next 8 miles. Some parts of the fire road was so bad that you couldn’t even push your bike one foot before you had to scrap 2 inches of mud off your tires. And if you weren’t dealing with the mud, you were dealing with the energy suck from the tire sinking into the wet ground. By the time I got to the first aid station I was already 50 minutes behind my target. While I had succumbed to mother nature’s plan to keep me from reaching my sub 8 hour goal I still had the final cutoff time to focus on if I wanted to keep a DNF (did not finish) off the books.


As I rode up the second climb I was feeling good – energy was great, legs felt good, butt didn’t hurt. My legs were feeling strong and even though I was stuck in my middle gear having to grind up the entire next climb, part of me was thankful because it forced me get up to the next peak faster. Despite the wet ground slowing my time going up, my concentration went to calculating and estimating when or if I would I would make the cutoff.


It had been a couple of years since riding down Upper and Lower Holy Jim (which starts at the top of Santiago Peak). Since then it has become a bit more rutty and a little overgrown but otherwise was the same fun decent as before. At about 6 hours in I got to the second aid station for a nutrition refill and bathroom break before heading up the last climb. I confirmed the cutoff period and realized I had an extra 15 minutes more than what I initially thought. It took a little relief away but then I was told I was the second female headed up. The seed was planted and I started to wonder ‘what if?,’ what if I could catch her and finish first? I wouldn’t hit my sub 8 goal but I would have a new goal to strive for. So I saddled up and started my last ascent to West Horse Thief aka the ‘hike-a-bike’ section. About a few minutes in a rider came down looking for her phone. Apparently she had dropped it along the way. I let her know that if I saw it I would pick it up. We rode off in opposite directions. Not too long after another rider saw her phone and I picked it up to carry with me to the finish. She was too far gone for me to get it to her. All I could hope for was that she would turn around soon enough to make the last cut off and still finish. I was now in first place.


I made it to the start of West Horse Thief trail, the last cutoff, with 20 minutes to spare. The pressure to finish was off but the new pressure and excitement of a first place finish emerged.   This section is about 1.5 miles of hiking your bike up double digit grade – hitting over 20% in some places. Thankfully all my trail running really helped me to power up this section without feeling out of gas by the time I reached the top. The race finished with about 10 miles of straight downhill or flat ground which made for a fun race to the finish. Despite the strong headwind I powered to the finish line with a time of 8:43.  The second place female, the one who lost her phone, came in 24 minutes behind me.


I was so relieved to be finished.  As exhausted as I was, I couldn’t help but feel excited.  More importantly the feeling of gratitude I felt for having made it safely back and completing another race rushed to my head and heart, being expressed with a huge smile. I was greeted with high fives and hugs by my fellow riding friends who had finished their racing adventures before me. What a day that was. Who knew that race would have brought on so many challenges, opportunities, stories to share and memories to last a lifetime. While I can’t say definitely that I won’t be doing this race again I am humbled to have finished my last Vision Quest strong and with a first place finish!



124 Total Registered, 5 Women Total

47 Did Not Start

43 Did Not Finish

Out of the 34 finishers, 4 were women

1st Place Women

25th Place Overall

Finishing Time: 8:43:13


Nutrition Supplements

Night before: 1 serving Herbalife Niteworks

Breakfast: Peanut butter Toast + ½ serving Herbalife24 Prepare

On Course Supplements:

Bottle 1: 2 servings Herbalife24 CR7 + ½ serving Prepare

Bottle 2: 1 serving Herbalife24 Prolong + 1 serving Niteworks

Clif Bar at Aid Station 1

Bottle 3: 1.5 servings Prolong

Bottle 4: 2 servings CR7

Clif Bar at Aid Station 2

Bottle 5: 1 serving Prolong

Bottle 6: Left over CR7 from bottle 4 and Liftoff (only finished half)

~ 1,300 calories while on course

After Race: 1 serving of Herbalife24 Rebuild Strength

Before Bed: 2 servings of Herbalife24 Restore


Rider Information

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