Days 26 and 27- The Road Home

I’m not gonna lie- the drive out of Breckenridge was depressing… as was the grunt on I-70 to Denver. Within a short time, all I could see of the mountains in my rearview were the big, fluffy clouds that float over them. I set my cruise control at 80 and did my best to not look back.

The drive was just boring. I seriously considered staying up and driving through the night, but I was so uncomfortably sore and bruised up that I decided to stop in Tulsa and get some sleep. The next day, I found comfort in seeing the Ouachitas as I passed through western Arkansas. Of course, they aren’t the same, but they are where I’ve cut my teeth as both a trail runner and mountain biker, so they feel like home.

When I stopped in Conway for lunch, I felt mild culture shock. I’d forgotten how large everyone was in The South. I wanted a salad, but all of the ones on the menu included chicken. Then, I noticed that on the entire menu, the closest thing to a vegetarian entree was a grilled cheese off of the kids’ menu. I ended up ordering a crispy chicken salad without the crispy chicken.

Then, it was on for the final push to Memphis. I don’t know about you all, but I love the Memphis skyline. I knew I was home when I almost wrecked while admiring it- there was an old, rusted out truck pulling an equally decrepit trailer that was stacked well above cab-level with wooden pallets “secured” with a rope that was looped around the pallets and under the bottom of the trailer several times. He was in the middle lane going about 40 mph.

Ah… home sweet home.

Some things, you can only get in Memphis. I heard this song on the radio soon after avoiding that truck. No matter how awesome my travels are, the first line of the song (~35 seconds in, after the Biggie sample/hook) still rings true (warning, there are some “bad words” in this song)…

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…

plate

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:

IMG_0845

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…

IMG_0843