Breck Epic Blog Report
I’m going to try and keep this reasonable brief, but summarizing six days of big rides is almost as challenging as riding the trails themselves, so let’s start with an overview of what makes up the Breck Epic.
Adapted from www.breckepic.com
The Epic is composed of 6 BIG backcountry loops, each between 25 and 45 miles long with 3500 – 6000 ft. of elevation gain, all taking place at 9500+ ft. The event is unique in that it employs a cloverleaf format; each loop starts and finishes within a mile from downtown Breckenridge and utilizes the sprawling network of trails in both Summit and Park Counties.
When mapping out the courses we asked ourselves; “What big rides would we want to tackle if we had most of the day to slaughter and 6 of our best friends?” The answer lies before you. The six stages that compose the Epic are a well-rounded rider’s dream. Long rhythmic climbs followed by endless descents that make your smile muscles hurt.
These few sentences do a pretty good job summarizing the actual event, but leave out the part about how much you’ll suffer trying to complete these big rides on 6 successive days. Any one of these rides leaves your body begging for an off day, or two, and after stacking one day on top of the next it didn’t take long for the leg’s to start screaming “please quit.” At which point you basically have to tell your legs to shut-up and get over it, because at the end of this beast you’re going to get a pretty little belt buckle and have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, quitting wasn’t an option I was willing to consider. Pacing, however, became the main challenge.
I knew from the start this was not an event I was going to race, or be competitive at. For starters, I don’t live at altitude, nor did I have the time to commit to completely acclimate before the event. Also, I’d spent the first half of the year training for IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene, which knocked the snot out of me, and so I basically only had 4 weeks to bounce back and get some saddle time in on my mountain bikes.
The Breck Epic was going to be all about pacing and keeping my energy expenditure in check. I tried my best to keep the days aerobic and worked hard at limiting the amount of matches I’d burn each day. This plan worked great for the first three days, but by then I was getting restless and after a 5.5 hour day three I was ready to try and bust a move and see if I couldn’t pick up the pace a touch over the last three days.
Day 4 – Aquaduct – 41 miles, 6000 ft
The first half of this stage suited me well and I rode strong pushing the pace up the first several short(er) climbs. I hit the second aid station at 22 miles averaging about 10 mph and looking to finish up the day around 4h:30m. I knew there were still a couple big climbs to come, so I refilled my water, grabbed some snacks, drank a Coke, and hit the road.
I felt great for half of the next climb, but after exiting the fire road and hitting the switchbacks I knew I was in trouble. The efforts from earlier in the day were catching up to me and they were catching up quick. My pace fell and before long I was running out of gears. By the time I reached the top of the climb I had to pull over, settle down and eat some more food. I was hitting the wall and I still had over 12 miles and one big climb in front of me, from here on out it was all about energy management, getting to the finish and doing my best to prepare for the next day (ie get in calories).
I finally made it to the finish just shy of 5 hours and while the day challenged me both physically and mentally I knew that pending some major mechanical or a crash I was going to get through this thing. Four down, two to go.
Over the next two days, the weather started to roll in and after four days of pretty much perfect conditions (minus a little rain and hail on day one), we got our first taste of dealing with the challenges that Mother Nature can present.
At 12,500 feet things can get nasty in a hurry and on day 5 they did. As a storm front rolled through early on day 5, the race organizers were forced to stop the back half of the field at the 7 mile marker and have them all exit the mountain down the last fire road that would take them to safety before things became serious. I, however, had already passed that point of no return and was now slogging up the next pass in freezing cold rain.
Fortunately, I had prepared for the worst and was getting the perfect opportunity to test my rain gear, which held up nicely I must say. Day 5 was all about managing the conditions as best I could and getting to the finish in one piece and I was glad I did.
I knew day six would be a struggle, but it was short (30 miles, 3500 ft of climbing), and despite a 2.25 mile detour (reminder: keep your eyes up and following the trail markings), and a nasty, cold, headwind on the final climb the day went well. It had some wicked fun sections and was a cause for celebration, because that was it, I’d finished and could finally, really, rest (and have a beer).
All in all, I was on my bike for 28h:14m:10s, completed 214 miles and climbed 32,000 feet. Would I do it again? Maybe, if the right conditions presented themselves I’d entertain the idea. Do I look forward to doing similar, but different events? Absolutely! I’ve already got my eyes on one in British Columbia.
Alright I’ve already exceeded my 500 word goal, so if you’d like to see more pictures and videos check out my Facebook or Instagram feed or feel free to email over any additional questions you have about how to get through big events. This was my biggest race to date and it lived up to a lot of my expectations and taught me a few lessons along the way.
Happy training and best of luck to everyone on their future endeavors.
Live your life in the 3 dimensional world.