Breck Epic- Stage 5

Today’s stage was shorter than the previous four. It wasn’t without it’s challenges, though…

We actually didn’t do that first little bump at the beginning. Something about permits and insurance & whatnot for where the course was to be routed. Instead, we started at a ski resort at the base of the Breckenridge ski hill. With the changes to the course, the start would take us briefly across the hill before hitting a wide singletrack, rooty/rocky trail and beginning the ~2000ft climb to the top over Wheeler Pass. Without much room for sorting of racers, the promoter opted to start us in waves. I’m not sure what the reasoning was behind the order of waves after the Open Men, but the singlespeed women ended up in the last wave.

As I mentioned in my previous report, I was starting to feel good.

We were on the gas from the gun. As soon as we were on the trail, Jen (the woman leading the GC and winner of stages 1-4) took off up the climb, and I kept pace. We hit race traffic almost immediately. Most people did their best to move as quickly as possible, but sometimes it meant taking a rough/punchy line instead of a smoother one (Pleeeeeeeease don’t throw me in the briar patch). I was able to get around Jen when she spun out on a root (I think). I had a decent gap up the remainder of the trail until we made it to a service road. At that point, she had caught up to me and motored ahead up the road. I tried to chase, but ended up popping and nearly having to stop.

Once I regained my composure, I began getting back into a rhythm and grinding my way up the hill. I eventually made it to the next piece of singletrack that would eventually lead up and over the pass. It was periodic riding/hiking that eventually turned into a long hike-a-bike. I could see Jen waaaay in the distance, but as I continued, it seemed like the gap was getting smaller. I was hiking as hard as I possibly could and riding at every feasible spot. I imagine you’d get a similar feeling if you were trying to use a lightweight flyrod to catch a giant tuna.

As we neared the top, we raced almost all the way through the open women’s field (who had started several minutes ahead of us). I passed Jen and ended up one rider/hiker back from Open class leader Amanda Carey. Amanda took off down the mountain- a super fast, sketchy as hell descent-followed by a couple of guys. I regained my composure (again), mounted my bike, and followed. I know from geeking out with Strava that I could get a solid lead on Jen if I descended well.

I can say now that I’m a little terrified of descents from the high passes. The steep, treeless landscape totally screws with my head and makes it seem like someone has taken my field of vision and rotated it 45 degrees. Everything actually went well until I made it into the trees. At that point, there are periodic rocky sections, and the trail is bench cut. Somehow, as I negotiated some rocks, my bike and I were ejected from the trail. I flew through a really scratchy shrub and belly flopped onto a rock. It bruised my hip/belly and split my knee open. It hurt like hell, but I peeled myself out of the bushes and made haste before I lost more time.

Once I was at the bottom, It was onto a local paved bike path- A.K.A. Singlespeeder purgatory.

The path goes on for several miles at a slight downgrade. I spun/coasted repeatedly and tucked down as tightly as possible all the way to Frisco, where the trail turned off and led to the final push up the Peaks Trail back into Breck. The Peaks Trail reminds me a lot of Syllamo- short climbs, some kinda steep, with lots of rocks (it has lots of roots, too, which isn’t really a Syllamo thing, but they ride pretty similarly). It is, quite possibly, my most favorite trail of the entire race. I had no idea if Jen was making up time on me, so I attacked it with everything that I had left.

Watch more video of 2012 Breck Epic Stage Race on

I ended up being the 2nd female finisher overall (5 minutes behind Amanda Carey). Winning means gaining a little time (11 minutes or so?) on Jen. Not nearly enough to make a difference in the GC, but days like today are the ones I’ve trained for. This is why I spend hours beating the pavement in 100 degree heat or sweating intervals out on the trainer.

Breck Epic- Stage 4

I’m starting to get settled into a routine. The only thing I don’t like is that my routine begins with me waking up at 6:00am feeling like total crap. Since Monday, I barely feel like I can get out of the bed, my stomach doesn’t want me to eat, and, no matter how many cups of coffee I mainline, my head stays foggy and tired. I’ve given up on trying to eat a “normal” breakfast of eggs or anything hearty. Instead, I’ll go for a Clif Bar for breakfast and a shot of gel while I’m rolling around waiting for the race to start. Then, we line up and we’re off up a mountain, and I feel better within the first few minutes.

Today, I felt great within the first few minutes. I realized early on that I was riding with people that I was not used to riding with because they’d been ahead of me on previous stages. For the first few miles, I was getting the climb/descend accordion effect with Jen, the woman leading my race. Unfortunately, she left me behind going up the first ridiculous hike-a-bike after the first aid station.

After that, I had an excellent day. I figured out about halfway through that I must be finally acclimating to the higher altitude, because I was going up climbs feeling like I was at sea level. Most of them, anyway…


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At this point, I’m happy to sit back and see where the combination of acclimating and eventual fatigue will lead. It’d be nice to pull off a stage win, but Jen climbs like nobody’s business- both on and off of her bike (she’s gotta have a solid 4″ of leg length on me). Two more short(er) stages to go…

Breck Epic- Stage 3

The weather overnight took a turn for the better, and the skies were clear and mild as usual for the duration of stage 3.

This one has been my favorite so far. (It begs to be run as an Enduro)

After the obligatory climb/push up some mining roads, we rode French Gulch backwards. It’s a hell of a lot more fun in that direction! Then, we climbed/pushed (a lot) up and over French Pass. At the top, Jeff Kerkove was up there handing out Skittles (the video is a little long… I make a cameo at about 5 minutes in). Coming down from one of the high passes like this one is an incredible mix of exhilaration and terror. The singletrack is super narrow and steeper than it looks, so as soon as you let off of the brakes, you’re instantly going mach 11ty.

After that, it was more climbing- this time, on a slightly less rocky/steep forest road. It topped out at a little over 11k feet before we took the turn onto another section of Colorado Trail. The trail was mostly downhill. The top was flowy and smooth, and it became rockier and gnarlier the last couple of miles. Some people were a little put off by the rocks. I felt like Brer Rabbit in a brier patch.

I think I’m getting the hang of this “go downhill for longer than 30 seconds at a time” thing.

The remainder of the course was pretty straightforward up & down on jeep trails into town. I rolled in at 5 hours and change, 15 minutes behind 1st (maybe an improvement based on the increased techy-ness of today’s descents?)

Watch more video of 2012 Breck Epic Stage Race on

I’m solidly in 2nd place now and enjoying the stage race adventure. I’ve figured out that this is like an extended version of riding my first 100 mile MTB race. I entered it with expectations of racing, and I quickly realized that I needed to settle down and find out my own personal limits and start pushing them a little at a time.

Breck Epic- Stage 2

Stage 2 will go down in Breck Epic history as an “Epic” weather day. The weather at the start was 44 and about to rain. As we passed under the start gate, the rain also started, and, as the day wore on, it never stopped. The race course began by pitching up to 11k feet within the first 8 miles, descending, then climbing back up to nearly 12k on the Colorado trail (check out the map/profile here).

As I was alternately pushing/riding up the Colorado Trail, my hands started to go numb, though, at the time, I wasn’t too uncomfortable. However, at the top, it was really cold and pouring rain. I had my jacket on, but couldn’t zip it because my fingers weren’t working. I ended up stopping after the first few downhill switchbacks of the trail and asking other riders for help. Everyone’s hands had turned to ice flippers at that point, so it took a team effort, but my jacket got zipped.

The race turned into hypothermic attrition.

As I continued down the Colorado Trail descent, my entire body numbed, and my brain started to follow. I felt like I was watching a GoPro video of someone ripping down a mountain. After that, the remainder of the course was a blur of pushing, riding, shivering, and trying to look on the bright side… hey, at least it’s only 40 miles, and not 100.

I feel like I’m racing 3 of the toughest women possible. It never once crossed my mind that any of them would drop out of the race. Once again, I finished a solid second- well off of 1st, and a smaller chunk ahead of 3rd.

Days like that will break you if you let them. I was so glad that it was over, then so cold on the ride from the finish back to the condo that I cried for a minute as I descended back into town. Then, I realized that A) crying washed the sand and mud out of my eyes, which, at the time, felt f*cking amazing and B) if I didn’t pay attention as I rode into town, I was going to get run over by a car. So, I pulled myself together and made my way back home safely. The 2nd hardest part of the day was actually getting into the building with ice flippers for hands (thanks to Thom from Cyclingdirt for the phrase “ice flippers”)  I had to unzip my jacket (I’d just put it on over my camelbak), unbuckle the pack, unzip the pocket that contained my room key card, then use the card to get into the building. Somehow, I managed, though it took women’s tennis-style grunting to muster the effort for each move.

Breck Epic- Stage 1

Yeah, I skipped a day. I’ve hardly got the capacity to type this post, though.

Today’s stage- Pennsylvania Gulch- included a little bit of the Marathon Nationals course that I rode two years ago. That meant we had the pleasure of climbing French Gulch… and by climbing, I mean pushing my bike for an extended period of time.

With the course length of 38 miles, I opted to carry water in a camelback and a bottle full of kinda strong Gu Roctane. The camelback would let me basically forgo using drop bags since I could carry a gel flask, powerbar, some shot blocks, and the “mandatory for high-elevation backcountry riding” lightweight windbreaker. It worked out well, though now that I’ve got a feel for pacing, I may use bottles for stages after tomorrow (long stretch of Colorado Trail, big gap between aid stations).

The course today was relentless.


As I mentioned before, I felt great, but I realized 1.5-2 hours in that I needed to back off a bit in order to not destroy myself on the first day out. I knew that there was a woman ahead of me, but it’s a long, long race, and I’m really new to the energy budget-ing required for the week. So, I started walking a little more. It’s sometimes a little hard to convince yourself to hop off the bike when you know that a relatively brief redline effort would get you up the hill in front of you. I felt slow, but hopefully it’ll keep me going strong for the remaining 5 days.

Most of the day was a blur of climbing, pushing, and descending hairy, rowdy, rock-covered jeep roads. Repeatedly. I ended up finishing in 4 hours, 42 minutes… nearly half an hour back from 1st place. Not exactly a great place to be in a stage race. We’ve still got 5 days of racing, though, so hopefully the “half an hour back” trend won’t continue. Whether it does or not, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on.



Day 11- more recovery (again)

Since I’ve fallen a little behind on the updating, I’ll keep 11 and 12 short and sweet…

With the advent of recovered legs on Wednesday, Thursday, I was itching to go back and conquer the moto trail that we’d bailed on the day before. However, under coach’s orders, I had to take it easy. So, instead, Ryan and I drove up to Targhee and rode the Rick’s Basin part of the PH course backwards (spoiler alert- it’s easier that direction!)

I rode the singlespeed and took it as easy as possible, though, relatively speaking, that’s not 100% easy compared to riding geared.

Afterward, I went back for one last dip in Moose Creek. I also tested the “underwater” feature of the new camera. It may not take the absolute best photos, but at least I won’t smash this one like I did the previous…


By then, it was time to start dinner and packing. Friday, I’d drop Ryan back off at the airport and make the 8.5 hour drive down (up?) to Breckenridge.

Day 10- Testing the Legs

Today was my only ride with much intensity between Pierre’s and the Epic. The mid-week workout on the training schedule between race weekends is never without a tiny bit of anxiety, because if it’s good, you know everything is on track, and the next weekend will likely be kickass. If it’s bad, then the next weekend is uncertain- I’ve definitely had my legs turn around by Thursday and Friday. I’ve also been in a hole.

Since Saturday, I’ve done everything I can to help my body recover from Pierre’s. Today, it was apparent that it’s paying off. I felt like there was no altitude.

We tried a few trails near Victor. I’d seen what looked like a nice singletrack climb on a local internet trail map. We rode several miles on a violently undulating powerline road before turning onto the real climb. It was incredibly steep, occasionally rocky, usually washed out, and covered in moto tracks. We alternated between pushing and riding for a half mile (average of 13% grade for the 1/2 mile). Unfortunately, we were low on water, and I was thinking about not totally wearing myself out. So, we turned and rode back down.

I hate that. Live to fight again, though, right?

Some people would have hated our ride today. We were on an exposed, steep powerline gravel road for a while. Then, we pushed and fought with a blown out moto trail. I don’t get why people hate rides like that. They’re hard. They aren’t flowy, smooth, or even technical in any sort of way that most people think of as rewarding. It’s a mountain bike ride, though. They aren’t always pretty, smooth, ride-able, or anything else that people long for when they come across trails like this one. I’m going to have dreams about what I missed by not fighting all the way to the top.

Ryan, picking his way down a sketchy, rocky/rolly descent:


The next climb:

Day 9- Tourist Day

Tuesday, I took a day off the bike. Ryan and I decided to indulge in some of the local tourist fare. Amazingly enough, he’d suggested going horseback riding. If you’re just now joining us here at The Blog, you should know that I used to be pretty damn good at riding horses. However, I’d never suggested the vacation trail ride since Ryan (according to his own account) “might have ridden once as a kid.” So, when he said something about going for a ride, I jumped on the opportunity.

On a related note, I’d like to officially thank Mitt Romney for being so obnoxiously, controversially rich, that NBC see it fit to show the Olympic Dressage competition in a stretch for ratings. I was getting sick of swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball. I digress.

Amanda suggested Linn Canyon Ranch. I signed us up for the 3 hour lunchtime tail ride. When we arrived, we met Melissa, our guide, and Ashley and Roscoe, the horses. The ride was a gorgeous trip on BLM land through Aspen groves (some of them had to be hundreds of years old), pine trees, and open meadows. Other than Ryan’s horse (Ashley) taking him off-road through some bushes on several occasions, everything went swimmingly. After lunch, we swapped horses for the ride back, though Ashley was wise to my experience within the first few minutes and never went bush-surfing.

Afterward, we ventured over Teton Pass to Jackson and checked the Aerial Tram to the top of Mt. Rendezvous. Tourist trap? Sure. Scenic? Incredibly so…


Day 8- More Recovery

Monday was another laid back day.

After laying around and watching some Olympics, we went to late breakfast at the Teton Waters Ranch restaurant (they sell some amazing grass-fed beef there, too). Then, we followed that up with more laying around and watching Olympics while killing time before the tour at one of the local breweries.


After a little more snacking and laying around, we took off to explore some more of the local trails. I think I’m still dragging ass a little from racing on Saturday, but the scenery was worth it


Day 7- Recovery

Sunday was all about recovery.

I woke up stiff and sore, had breakfast at a local place in Victor (lord, I’d forgotten about green chili on eggs), and got a kickass massage. As soon as I was finished, it was off to Jackson to pick Ryan up at the airport.

We hung out for a little while in Jackson and had a late lunch/early dinner at a Thai place. While we were there, some bikers took a liking to my haircut. Enough so that one guy asked if I minded if he took a photo. I didn’t care, and I took one of him, too.

Speaking of mohawks… the Curiosity Mars rover landed successfully. Why is that speaking of mohawks? Well, this guy was the flight director: Bobak Ferdowsi. Maybe now, the mohawk will be seen as more of a sign of rebellious intelligence rather than social rebellion. On the other hand, there’s also the off chance that every hipster and wannabe will now decide that mohawks are the ultimate in irony. Time will tell.


Once we were back in Victor, we rode over to the pump track. I freaking love pump tracks.

Afterward, I waded in the icy creek for a few minutes to put the finishing touches on the recovery trifecta (massage, ride, and icebath).

The recovery road to Breck Epic is off to a screaming start…