Friday, September 08, 2017

Breck Epic: prelude, pre-riding, and Stage 1

Stage 1- Pennsylvania Gulch

Stage 1 POV video from Jeremiah Bishop

With all my prep, planning, and packing now behind me. It was finally time to point the 4runner to the west and haul some ass. Luckily I didn't have a co-rider at this point as I'm not sure where their stuff would have fit.

I packed everything and then some. I tossed the roadie and trainer in as an alternative to spinning around freezing my ass off trying to warm up in the mornings. I even brought out a pair of rollers for my condo mate to use for his warm ups since he would be limited in what he could bring on the plane.

I opted to drive out on Friday thinking it would give me a chance to get there, relax for the evening, get a nice preride in on Saturday and then fill the rest of the day with the whole packet pick-up, condo loading/sorting of the things, grabbing some groceries, and attending the pre-race meeting. My teammate Jason and I took a nice spin up Burro Trail since its close, part of the course, I've ridden it prior, and it's a nice little cross section of what Breck riding is all about. It would also give me a chance to check out my gearing selection of 32x20 which had been recommended by Dicky who has raced this thing more times than I've been to Breck... Definitely go check his recap of the race out as its much more fun than mine.

After the pre-ride I thought I must have just the right gear. It was too heavy in spots, too light in spots, and just right in very few... Ahhh, singlespeeding, always the right gear because its the only gear. In any case, it felt decent, my legs felt decent, and I cleaned the rocky sections that I was anticipating being more difficult so all in all, I felt about as good as I could facing 6 days of the mostly unknown.

In the nightly race meeting they discussed the upcoming day's stage to give us a course overview and some beta on what to expect from the trails. Having poured over a ton of data in prep, I knew this day wasn't a gimme or even a nice gentle easing into the race. No, this was a full on sink or swim toss you in the deep end kind of day to start. I assumed if I could at least survive Stage 1, I'd have a chance to get my legs under me and get on with the rest of the week. Coming into the race, I set two goals for myself. #1 finish all 6 days and get my buckle. #2 don't be the last place singlespeeder.

The day broke early. Too damn early. After a typical fitful night before a big race sleep exacerbated by breathing the overly thin air at 8500' above where I normally reside, it was early. I got up, cleared my head, and started the daily routine of trying to eat, shuttling my drop bags to the race HQ, and then coming back to suit up and get my final few things ready to roll to the start line. Today was a mass start with every racer rolling the first few miles up the pavement staged in loose groups of our riding peers. I was nervous, but still excited to get on with the day. I got in line with Jason and Andy from the shop and snapped a picture to commemorate memorialize the start.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, outdoor

A few words of encouragement from Mike Mac (aka the ringmaster of this circus) and we were rolling along in a sea of high anxiety, knobby tires, and thin mountain air. The slow grind up the pavement was a nice way to stretch the legs and got my head into riding my bike. I dropped into Aspen Alley at the start with a group of 10 or so riders in a small pack. We soon wound our way down a bobsled track of dirt trying not to let our exuberance write checks our handling skills couldn't cash.

Pretty quickly the string of riders started spreading out as we hit the rolling singletrack and we started settling into our own personal grooves. I was feeling good and kept trying to remind myself to throttle back given the long day(s)/week ahead. Some 6 miles into the ride, we hit the first real steep grades and I finally succumbed to walking my bike as we climbed up towards our first foray into 11,000'+ territory. Knowing full well that walking was going to be the name of the game in numerous spots over the course of the race, I was mentally prepped and didn't mind the distraction. It was a bit of a kick in the pants watching the people with cogs the size of roadie front rings grinding their way up the hills and slowly distancing me.

As soon as I could, I hopped back on though determined to catch up to those geared riders wherever I could. I spied another singlespeeder trudging along ahead of me while I was still grinding away. He too was commenting on the people riding their eagle equipped bikes and how pleasant it must be. He spied me though and complimented the single. As it would end up, Corbin and I were similarly matched in overall pace and would spend a fair bit of time riding with or around each other throughout the rest of the week.

Leaving Aid 1,we hooked up for a blast through the fast and twisty section of Baker's Tank relishing the tight by Colorado standard tree placements adjacent to the trail. We had a flatish transfer over to Aid 2 which was a scant 6 miles distant. I knew what was waiting after Aid 2 though as it was the venerable climb up Little French. While only a mile in length, it was much more walking than riding on the single. Once that was slain though, we were treated to the flume trail and some more downhilling before we reached the climbs back into the Lincoln Park/Prospect Hill areas that reignited the climbing for the day.

Somewhere around mile 27 or so, I could feel my stomach beginning to sour and my energy beginning to wane. I'd been pushing solidly all day, but felt like I was doing a good job of not going into the red and keeping up with my nutrition. Something was definitely amiss though as I found myself jumping off the bike to walk at almost any pitch that looked even remotely steep.

My riding compatriots unhitched themselves from me at this point and I limped along at whatever pacing I could manage. The gnarly chunky descents and the steep uphills interspersed with varied singletrack had taken their toll on me. I was running on fumes and still miles from home. As we descended back to French Gulch I knew we had a climb up V3 trail before we got to bomb to the finish line at Carter Park. I should have been able to climb V3 even on the single, yet I found myself trudging slowly along almost every pitch in the trail. My heart was pounding, my legs shaking, and my head was telling me it was time to be done. Once I finally crested the hill and could start descending Barney Flow, I finally got a little relief and some solace in the fact I'd at least survive stage 1.

As I descended into the park, the emotion of going deep and making it through the day started coming out and I had no energy left to suppress it. Crossing the finish line half crying, half gasping, half smiling, I collapsed on the ground next to one of my former teammates that came out to cheer on stage 1 finishers. I was done, cooked, gristle. I managed to find my way over to get my day 1 photo taken and then headed back towards the condo. At that point, I wasn't even sure I had the energy required to get myself and bike back up the stairs once I got there.

I finally made it back and all I could do was lay on my back with my legs in the air, hoping the pain would slowly subside.

My will to live crept back in as an hour or two passed. I got some food, some rest, and cleaned up, but I wasn't sure how I was going to keep this up for 5 more days. My roomie and I slid over to the evening's racer meeting and podium ceremony. We were definitely repping two opposite ends of the spectrum. I was focusing on purely surviving each day while he was focused on the podium. But in the end, we were still just two guys excited to be racing our bikes in the mountains of ColoRADo. As it was I'd end up the day in 11th. At least I was mostly on track with the daily goal times I'd written out a few weeks before the race and had stuck to my desk as a reminder of what I needed to focus on.

Tomorrow has to be better, right?! I mean its the Colorado trail and one of my favorite descents off the top of Westridge.

No comments: