Mountain Magic

The mountains. They are powerful. But I was served a big helping of humble pie and with just enough inspiration à la mode to somehow keep pedaling and finish the Breckenridge 68. But this isn’t just my story. Let’s start at the beginning.

Last year two self–professed Roadies entered, as a team, and finished a different race, the Firecracker 50. We were 10 minutes off the podium and 20 minutes from first place and we had a goal for 2011.

My sights were just on the podium itself, but I think Jenny was looking a little higher.

So then things get a little fuzzy, but after consulting my text messages I was able to reconstruct the debacle of our 2011 Firecracker 50 registration.

In January I reminded Jenny that registration was coming up and that it would fill up fast. And that’s exactly what happened.

On Feb 26, 2011 at 5:47 PM a transcript of text messages between me and J. Kumbier:

Me: Grrrrrr firecracker full! I put us on the waitlist!

JK: S#$@. S#$@. If there’s any other race you want to do I’m in…

;- ) [smiley face]

[ Fast forward to July 8th, 2011. ]

I’d been thinking about the Breck 68 for months but kept talking myself out of it with a litany of excuses. For starters we’d never ridden that distance on a mountain bike. And more importantly not at altitude. I looked at finishing times for the previous year for women at our racing level. Most were 8 to 9 hours. The longest I’d ever sat on my mountain bike was 5 hours.

On Friday July 8th I left Jenny a phone message that went something like this:

“We’re going to do the Breck 68. Solo. Not a team. That’s 6, 8.” I said the last firmly and distinctly into the phone so there could be no misunderstandings. She called me back from the middle of a training ride. I looked at the caller I.D. and smiled as I answered the phone. The race was in 9 days.

Our plan was to stick together. Our race was more us against the race itself than finishing at the front. We certainly weren’t looking for the podium. This was going to be seriously hard. We were just looking to make the time cut-offs and to finish.

The first lap went pretty well. Although Jenny was having mechanical issues with her brakes rubbing. And then her front wheel almost came off – twice! We stopped 3 times to try to adjust and fix the front wheel, and we still finished that lap in 4 hours 17 minutes. We wasted about 10 minutes in the pit area and then we went out for the second lap.

In the second lap my wheels fell off. At least it seemed that way. The doubts crept in, the panic bubbled, and then it began to rain. I knew we were NOT going to make the 4:30 cut off at Boreas pass. And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to make the cutoff.

Jenny kept trying to reassure me, “We’ll just climb to the top of the pass and then we’ll go home.” I think I mumbled, “OK” and kept pedaling with my head down.

Despite my certainty we arrived at the cutoff checkpoint at 4:10, with 20 minutes to spare.

I got off my bike to get some fluids and food. I might have said to Jenny quietly that I felt a little woozy. The next thing I remember was a course marshal leading me by the elbow and telling me to sit down for a few minutes.

I collected my thoughts and drank some fluids and looked up at Jenny from where I sat and then peered down the trail, and then gazed back up at the beauty of Boreas Pass. We’d made the cutoff and I knew if we didn’t keep going and at least try to finish we’d both be mad later.

I think Jenny could have finished a lot faster without me. Between all the time we’d already spent at altitude combined with the unknown, my stomach was distended and very bubbly. Bubbly in the nightmare cruise ship kind of way. I kept pedaling with Jenny about an 1/8 of a mile up the trail in front of me. She’d look back once in a while to make sure I was still there.

In the end we did finish. I thought that perhaps we had the honor of being the Lantern Rouge but some poor soul finished 32 minutes behind us. He was the last one.

It was physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m so glad I had a teammate and my friend to keep me company.

Jenny, I can’t wait to do it again next year. I’m pretty certain we can do it an hour and a half faster.

A few stats; all of which are true:

  1. Our official finish was 9 hours and 56 minutes; the last rider finished in 10 hours 32 minutes.
  2. One case of Mix 1 was used and shared with friends and spectators over the course of this event.
  3. Four PowerBars, 2 PowerBar Energy Gel Blasts, and an untold number of PowerBar Gels were used to get us through the race.
  4. I remembered my FlexPower before the race, and that it was to help my legs and not to be accidentally used as chamois cream.
  5. We sprayed our selves with KINeSYS to protect ourselves from the intense Breckenridge sun.


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