Day 25- Breck 100 Race Report

I picked a heck of a race for a first try at a singlespeed 100.

With a reported 13,719 feet of climbing- much of it on singletrack, the Breckenridge 100 is considered one of the hardest 100 mile races in the U.S. (and, yes, before you ask… even harder than the Leadville 100).

I arrived at Carter Park early and set up a small pit area, and soon enough people were gathering for the neutral rollout from the park to the beginning of the course. At 6:00am, we were off. Loop 1 started with the tallest of the climbs (a hair under 12,500 feet) over Wheeler pass (the same climb I was on a little over a week ago when I ran in to the insanity that is mountain weather). I did my best to pace myself on the way up. Even though I was feeling good, I walked the pitches of road that were redlining me.

Once we were off of the jeep road and on to Wheeler Trail, I had some bad luck. Going up one sharp uphill pitch, the guy in front of me stalled out. I tried to put my foot down, but the ground dropped away so steeply from the side of the trail, there was nothing to put it on, and I somersaulted down the hill sideways and slid another 10 feet or so. Luckily, the ground was soft, and I rolled into a good tuck until everything stopped spinning. The descent on the other side was precarious- the trail is steep and covered in a lot of loose dirt and rocks. Even though I was being more careful than usual, I still managed to fall and split my shin on a rock. The two spills were enough to shake my confidence a bit the rest of the way down.

After a few miles of bike path, the course turned back up the Peaks Trail. After the initial climb, that’s one of my favorite sections of singletrack- a lot of rooty, punchy climbs that suit an aggressive riding style. I was thoroughly enjoying myself when the singletrack gave way to the pavement on Ski Hill Road to head back into Breck/Carter Park.

I made a quick pit stop before starting loop 2, though it wasn’t quite quick enough. As I was heading up the crazy switchback hill out onto the course, the 68/32 mile races started their neutral rollout. They got to skip the first loop that the 100 mile riders rode and began their races on our loop #2. This meant that as I was trying to pace myself on the initial climb, I was forced to either speed up or stop and get out of the way for charging 68/32 mile racers. That sucked. A lot. I lost several minutes waiting for conga lines of those guys storming up the trail.

I eventually dove back in when the guys wearing white cotton gym socks started showing up.

Once that nonsense cleared out, the course followed part of the Firecracker 50 course to the French Gulch climb. This is the same one that I’d suffered through 2x in the Firecracker course. I’d fully support operations to strip mine that mountain into oblivion.

frenchsucks

After getting through that part, it was mostly downhill for a while to an aid station where one of the workers thought it’d be cool to tell people that the next aid station was only 3 miles away with a little climb. He acted dead serious in saying it, but I was suspicious, so I filled both of my bottles. Other people weren’t, though, and tried to cover the following rather difficult portion of the course with only 1 bottle. To make matters worse, the next aid station (which was much further aweay than 3 miles) was out of plain water. Luckily, the trail snaked along the outer part of a golf course, and many of us refilled at their water fountain.

Somewhere along there, I rode with a woman who said she was in the 100 mile SS race, but I never saw her on the results sheet (even as a DNF), so I don’t know what happened to her.

During that loop, I started getting some really bad pain in my right big toe. It felt like an old running injury from a couple of years ago, so I was hoping that I could avoid getting off of my bike for anything because every time I walked, it felt like my toenail was trying to explode off of my toe. That was prettymuch the only time I was hating life during the race, and luckily, the final loop was reletively mild.

Loop 3 was, by far, my favorite. During my preride the week before, I’d taken a wrong turn and gone up a horrible, rutted, steep dirtbike trail from Indiana Creek to Boreas Pass. So, I was plesantly surprised to see that the course was routed on a much more rideable jeep trail. I made the time cutoff over Boreas by 40 minutes (plenty of time, but I’d like to not even have to think about it in the future). The descent from Boreas onto singletrack to Como was AWESOME! It went from a slight, flowy downgrade to rock gardens that were really fun to pick through. Once I made the turnaround at the Como aid station, I headed back up what seemed like an endless hill back through Boreas Pass.

The nice thing about that loop is that it ends with 10 miles of almost all downhill riding. It gives you time to relish in the fact that, barring a catastrophic accident, you’re going to finish a really, really tough race. I crossed the line in 12 hours, 53 minutes. Apparently, I was the only SS woman that finished, and my time was good enough for 5th place overall in the women’s race (all age groups- geared/SS).

F***ing Awesome.

After a podium photo and some food, I headed back to the hostel to get cleaned up and get out to celebrate. I ended up at a nearby bar (aptly named the “Dive” bar). The night almost got off to a bad start when the “way too drunk” guy started hitting on me and getting waaaay in to my personal space. I told him to leave me alone and tried to ignore him, but he was persistent. I told him that I was going to beat him if he didn’t leave me alone. Apparently, the bartender overheard and had one of the emplyees escort him out before things could get out of hand.

At the bar, I met a really cool British couple who was in Breck for a vacation. I also met an aspiring country music artist and all of his friends, who, after a few rounds of drinks, sang along with “She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy” when someone played it on the jukebox. Really great way to end one of the hardest race days I’ve ever had and the best road trip I’ve ever been on.

Day 23- Pre-Breck 100 Rambling

I tried to chill as much as possible today, though I probably did a bit more walking than what’s “recommended.” I went back to the Blue Moose for breakfast… seriously, they have the best coffee of any place I’ve been on this trip. I wish they would open at 4am for a pre-race meal like the one I had before natz.

After consuming mass quantities of cheese omelet and coffee, I went back to the hostel for a little while to let it digest and catch the end of today’s stage of The Tour (Schleck had better dig into his suitcase of courage when it comes time to TT). Next up- massage… it was niiiiiiiiiiiice (though not quite as intense as the one I had in Frisco a couple of weeks ago). And yes, my legs are still a little sore from the hike down from Elbert on Wednesday. Shut it.

After, lunch and some work on my race resume. Somehow I’d lost the previous file, so I ended up having to go back on USA Cycling and re-do most of it. By the time I was finished, I wanted to ride around a bit and stop by packet pick-up. A couple dozen laps of the pump track were in order as well:

pumptrack

So, now everything’s ready to go. This is it. The culmination of my trip. The reason why I’ve been on the road for the past 3 weeks, riding and pushing my bike up every possible hill along the way. I’ve been staring at Wheeler Pass all day today- every time I’ve sat down someplace, it’s been there, giving me the “face off ” look that fighters give each other when they step into a cage fight. Time for bed…

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Day 23- Back to Breck

I can’t lie- I was sad to leave Leadville. It’s a gorgeous, awesome place with a lot of great people. However, I’d already reserved my spot in Breck, and wasn’t able to change it. So, I packed up and headed north.

I was in town too early for check-in, so I did a little grocery shopping, visited the liquor store to pick up some local brews, had a picnic lunch in Carter Park, and wandered around town a little bit. I wanted to ride the pump track, but there were a bunch of kids/parents all over it, and I didn’t want to get shown up by an 8 year old, so I nixed that plan. When I finally checked in, not much was going on. Too early for dinner, no one to socialize with… I was bored.

(for the first time since I left Memphis a little over 3 weeks ago)

Eventually, I went to dinner @ the Breckenridge Brewery. I love how nearly every place in town has multiple vegetarian options. The vanilla porter was delicious, too. The remainder of the night at the hostel was quiet. I watched the Tour replay and had another vanilla porter. Renshaw is a courageous leadout man. Sucks he got DQ’d for keeping Dean from getting on Cav’s line.

Day 22- Bagging a 14er

So, back on Monday when I was sitting around with the hikers, John mentioned that he was going on an epic hike to collect a string of 14ers along the Colorado Trail. I said I’d never climbed one before, and he invited me to hike one with him. Um, Hell yeah!

I see you all shaking your heads- yes, I know that I’m racing Saturday, but chances like this don’t come along every day…

We decided that the perfect one would be Elbert- it’s the shortest hike from the trailhead, and it’s also the tallest of the Colorado 14ers. The hike up was gorgeous- especially once we were above the treeline. I was amazed at the wildlife up there- grouses (which you can barely see in the photos because of their camouflage), chipmunks (you can see his butt in the photo), crows, and, at the top- Marmots! One of the Marmots almost crawled into my lap- which was probably the most frightening experience of the day. I didn’t want to catch marmot fever or anything…

Once we were up there, we signed the register and celebrated with a drink. There were a lot of people up there, so we sat around and talked to everyone for a few hours.

Eventually, we started to get hungry and sunburned. We headed back down- a process that is harder on the muscles than the climb up (I’m a little sore today!). I dropped John and his pack off at the Mt. Massive trailhead so he could take advantage of the perfect weather and make a sunset summit then headed back to the hostel for the most awesome dinner I’ve had on this trip.

Day 21- more Leadville riding

Tuesday morning was my last training ride before going in to “rest” mode. I decided since the section of Leadville course that Art wanted to ride was rolling or flat that I’d take the geared bike out so I wouldn’t have to spin at 12mph for miles on end (is that weird? I take the geared bike out when there’s less climbing?)

We rode the section from the Pipeline Aid station to Twin Lakes and back. This time, I took my camera- some of the photos below are of Art creating his own personal course markings, some scenery, and a random Amanda Carey sighting:

Day 20- first day in Leadville

I started Monday morning with a rib-sticking breakfast cooked by Wild Bill and his wife, Cathy. Soon after, I was changed and out on the bike with Art and a couple of other Leadville 100 hopefuls. We rode the first 26 miles or so of the race course, which was interesting since I was on my singlespeed, and they were on geared bikes trying to take it easy. I ended up riding up the climbs ahead of them and just waiting at the top.

I’m mad at myself for not bringing a camera. There were some beautiful views out there. I had to chuckle a little bit- Art said that the first climb is the steepest other than the initial section of powerline on the “back” direction of the course. I rode most of it until the pitch near the top. While I was pushing my bike, I watched the grade, which was usually around 17-23%. Compared to what I’ve been “hiking” on the Breck course, this was a kitten.

The next climb was great- it wasn’t very steep, and there was an occasional tailwind that was strong enough to feel like a push up the hill. On the way down “powerline,” I spotted Amanda Carey (who wrote the best race report for Marathon Natz that I’ve seen so far), who was on her way up. I can see how that climb would be painful… it was a little bit more like the Breck climbs as far as length of the insane steep part, and the terrain was a little rocky.

It was a nice ride- we ended up with just over 30 miles and about 3000ft of climbing.

Once I was back, I cleaned up and watched a replay of Sunday’s Tour stage. Too bad about Lance crashing and losing all that time- it’d be more fun to see Alberto beat him fair & square instead. After that, I sat around on the porch talking to the hikers that were staying in the hostel. One girl had been at the Breck hostel the first night I was there, so it was fun to exchange stories about what we’d done since the last time we’d met. She’s on her first thru-hike, and it’s great to hear about her learning experiences along the way.

After a while, a few of us decided to go to the local Mexican place for dinner- Keith (given the trail name “Sir Mix-a-Lot” when he hiked a good portion of the AT eating nothing but trail mix) on the left, and John (no trail name) on the right:

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Keith is from Pennsylvania. He graduated high school, worked full time for a while to save money, then decided he wanted to hike the Appalachian trail to West Virginia. He got bored, though, and hitched/hopped a bus out West to hike and just explore random places. Pretty awesome for 19 years old.

John is a Colorado Trail thru-hiker. He’s going slowly and enjoying every minute. After his rest days here in Leadville, he’s going to go on an epic hike to summit fourteen 14ers (peaks over 14k feet), and invited me to join him for one. It sounds crazy enough that I just might do it.

The last couple of days, I’ve realized that the best part of this trip isn’t the racing, the scenery, or exploring new places- It’s the people that I’ve met along the way. The scouts in Whiteman Vega, the locals in Breck, Dejay & friends, the hikers, Wild Bill, Art… everyone. We tell our stories, and everyone inspires everyone else in some way. It’s something I didn’t expect to get out of this trip, and it’s beautiful.

Days 19.5- Arriving at Leadville

The drive to Leadville was great because I got to watch the elevation readout on my Garmin tick up the entire time. I also got to see droves of people on I-70 driving the other direction back to Denver in the “weekend rush hour” to get back home to work on Monday.

When I arrived Sunday afternoon, I drove around for a few minutes before heading to the hostel. Leadville is a really unique little town. When I walked into the hostel, I was immediately intrigued- the walls were covered in posters from Mississippi and Memphis blues festivals. Then, I met Wild Bill- the owner… from Mississippi! He wanted to know why I didn’t bring any Corky’s with me…

After getting the usual hostel tour, I met Art- a multiple-time age group winner of the Leadville 100. He comes up early every year to acclimate/race, stays in the hostel, and meets up with people every morning at 9:00am to take them out to different parts of the course. He’s 68, and has lots and lots of advice.

Once I was settled, we ordered some pizza, and he took me on a driving tour of the town. This place is beautiful…

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Day 18 and 19- Winter Park Super Downhill

I was totally planning to ride Loop 2 on Saturday morning, but managed to oversleep and miss the group that was leaving at 7:00am from Carter Park. My fault- I’d stayed up too late the night before at a place simply called the Irish Pub. While I’d been eating dinner, I’d seen a lot of younger people heading in, so I figured I’d go have a beer and check it out. The locals in Breck are very friendly… I ended up hanging out on the porch next to a fire pit for a couple more hours just talking to random people.

I digress…

So, Saturday, I woke up and went to breakfast at the Columbine (other favorite spot besides the Blue Moose), packed the car, stopped by the Laundromat, then headed out to Winter Park.

Winter Park is a ski resort that’s opened its lifts and runs up to downhill riders in the summer. I’d never been to a downhill course before, and had almost no idea what to expect. I eventually found my way to the race headquarters. They suggested pre-riding the course, but I’d need to buy a lift ticket to get to the top.

Lift tickets are $24 for a half day.

Um, no thanks… Isn’t there a way to ride up there?!? Sure. Take the access road.

So, I went back to the car and changed. After waiting for an afternoon rain shower to pass, I made my way up the “hill” (and by “hill,” I mean 1700 foot climb). I waved at the groups of DH guys along the way. I realized that climbing is seeming easy on a geared bike. Once at the top, I found the course markings and started making my way down. I took it pretty easy- the course was generally pretty mild singletrack with bermed turns, random small jumps, and occasional roots and rocks. There was only one uphill pitch, and it was positioned where you could carry a lot of speed into it. Pretty straightforward.

I figured since I’d get a lift ticket with my race entry, and the lifts would open to racers at 8:30 the next day that I’d just save my legs and preride once more in the morning. I changed and headed to the Rocky Mountain Inn and Hostel in nearby Fraser (which, other than the absence of The Tour on TV, was probably the nicest hostel I’ve been to).

Sunday morning, I got up and continued what has become a fun side project of my trip- breakfast at local spots. This time, it was a cheese omelet at Sharky’s in Fraser. Delicious.

I got to the race check-in, picked up my number and lift ticket, and got ready to go. Once I was back at the lift, I realized I’d never used a lift before and had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, the guys in line with me were nice enough to explain how to get my bike on to a moving bike rack before it turned and headed back up the hill. My second run was good- I noticed a few more subtle things about the course and smoothed out my turns a bit more (having never been on a DH course, I’d never really taken bermed turns at high speeds, so it was a learning experience).

I rode back up, hoping for one more practice run, but by that time, the Pro categories were close to starting, so I hung around, warmed up, and chatted with the other women who were lining up with me. Turns out, 11 expert women had signed up (2 others in my age group). The start was going to be crucial, because once you’re on the trail, passing is hard to do. They were mostly local, and very familiar with the course. I told them I was from Memphis, and I liked going fast.

We placed our bikes for the LeMans start. Some of the girls were complaining about it, but thanks to last year’s Cyclocrunk races, I’ve got them pretty nailed down. When we started, I managed to be the 3rd of the group to enter the trail (the initial gravel lead-in was about 250 yards up about a 10% grade). The woman on the front immediately took off down the hill. To my dismay, the two in front of me did not follow. 2nd place was all over her brakes and 3rd was afraid to make an agressive pass. 1st was still bombing down the hill and putting massive amounts of time on us. Eventually 3rd and I took a low line around a turn and got around the “all over the brakes” girl. I was millimeters from rubbing her rear tire on several occasions, but she wasn’t going to let me pass easily. I finally edged by her on a wider part of the trail. In the process, I gave her a pretty good bump.

She yelled at me. I wasn’t there to make friends.

By this time, we were deep into the course, and the leader was well out of sight. I let go of the brakes and let it fly. I soon caught sight of her. Every turn, she was a little closer. Unfortunately, though, her initial lead was too great for me to cover, and I rolled across the finish 12 seconds behind her. She was just turning to look back up at the hill when I rolled up and was startled that I was as close as I was (I would be really interested to know how large her lead was before I got around the other riders).

race

I was a little disappointed, but pretty excited nonetheless. The awesomeness of the day was just beginning, though. I wanted to get in a few more runs before my lift ticket expired, so I got back in line. Lucky for me, I was one chair behind Dejay Birtch and a couple of his friends (Rob and Andy). They paused for a few minutes to look at the map on top of the hill. I took the chance to go say hi. I ended up tagging along with them for a couple more runs before we went back to the base area for the podium presentations…

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podium

Dejay

By then, the lift ticket was expired, and I was ready to get back to the hostel, clean up, and head to Leadville. Days like that are what I’m here for.

Day 17- Breck 100 Preride Loop 3 (sort-of)

I was almost ready to head out the door yesterday when I realized that I didn’t have my Garmin (705). I went back to my room and looked in the usual spots- computer bag, race bag, etc.

No dice.

I spent an hour tearing apart and re-packing everything I had in the room and still couldn’t find it. I had a sinking feeling that one of the hikers that had been staying at the hostel might have “accidentally” picked it up. After exhausting all searches, I figured I was going to have to buy another one, and ended up driving an hour and a half to the REI in a western suburb of Denver to get a Garmin 500.

By the time I got back, it was after 3:00, and I didn’t want to chance doing the entire loop (the directions/map aren’t always clear, so it can take a good chunk of time to navigate), so I decided to ride the closer part of the loop and up to the Continental Divide.

Then I went to put my shoes on and found that my 705 had not been stolen, but had been safe and sound in my left Mavic since the day before. Crap.

I headed out on my ride. The initial part was hard, but not impossible. I didn’t start walking until the Indiana Creek jeep trail. It was steep and gnarly. Most of the time, the grade on my Garmin didn’t drop below 25%, and I saw as high as 39% more than once. The elevation was 10K and increasing as well. I felt as if I was going to black out a few times. That section is going to be a death march next week.

After that part, the remainder of the climb up Boreas Pass was gentle and scenic. Unlike the day before, there was no snow storm…

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I turned around and descended back down the course in to Breck. That part is going to be fuuuuun.