I decided to sign up for the Breck 68 this year. I wasn’t originally planning on doing this one and had planned on doing the Front Range 40 in the Fort; but that one was postponed to the fall due to the fires we’ve had.
Since I’ve done the Leadville 100 multiple times, one of the first questions people ask is, “How does it (Breck 68) compare to Leadville?” If you want some measureable sort of stats, Breck 68 (really 70 miles) has an altitude gain of 8514 feet or 121.6 feet per mile of racing. Leadville 100 (really 103 miles) has an altitude gain of 11,142 feet or 103.2 feet per mile of racing. So, mile-for-mile, Breck has more climbing.
Know that elevation gains are based on barometric pressure readings, so others may have slightly different amounts of elevation gains for the events. The measures previously mentioned were for Leadville 2011 and Breck 68 in 2012.
Leadville has nearly zero singletrack and is mostly fire, forest service or jeep roads. Breck is loaded with singletrack. While Leadville does require a certain minimum of mountain bike skills to safely navigate the course and not hold other riders up, those with limited mountain bike skills would be very unhappy at Breck. Breck has tree-lined singletrack; rough, rocky climbs and descents; stream crossings, narrow trails that are open and have exposed mountain slopes to one side; steep, loose climbs; steep and rocky descents; smooth singletrack that winds through the forest; riding in an old mining flume drainage and on top of another one - plus more. Breck has the sort of stuff that makes mountain bike riders smile and giggle uncontrollably – that is when they aren’t suffering.
There are any number of websites that attempt to quantify difficulty of courses by heart rate, power, suffer scores, etc. What none of them can easily quantify is the beating a body takes from navigating rocky, technical courses. My triceps were screaming for mercy on the last technical downhill.
In the simplest of words, the Breckenridge 68 course is more difficult than the Leadville 100 course and most certainly the Breckenridge 100 course is more difficult than the Leadville 100 course.
As I told someone yesterday, mountain bike courses are a matter of taste and preference – not a matter of “good” and “bad.” It’s similar to differing tastes in food. I love hot Mexican food and my friend doesn’t like it at all. It doesn’t mean either of us are good or bad, heroic or wimpy – just different preferences.
I enjoy both races and would not hesitate to either of them again.
I rang the bell and rode extra fast past the fireing range...
Mine shaft turned toilet at the Como general store.
Historic roundhouse at Como. From the informational board, "Hard-working D, SP&P locomotives could be serviced in either Denver or Como. Built in 1881 by Italian stonemasons, the Como Roundhouse originally housed six engine bays where engines could be locall be rebuilt and an iron turntable where engines could be turned around."
A view of Breckenridge ski area from Boreas Pass Road
I decided at the end of last season that I wanted to do more early season racing in 2012. To meet that goal, I signed up for the Voodoo Fire race in Pueblo, Colorado, the marathon (66 miles) distance. It is a three-lap course, with each lap (you guessed it) being around 22 miles. My Garmin shows the first lap at 23.3 miles, but lap 1 includes a mile or so of start that isn’t included in the other laps.
Colorado has been unseasonably hot. Athletes that did the race last year said it was a full 25 degrees hotter this year. The start temperatures were around 47 degrees and by 2:00 pm, my car thermometer read 83 degrees.
The course is nearly all single track, which is both a joy and a curse. Though the race had a wave start, it wasn’t long before the various categories were battling for positions on the single track. Passing people meant selecting one of three options including burning up the legs by powering through the powdery talc-like soil and dodging cactus and low brush; waiting for a loose shale section; or really biding your time and waiting for the very, very limited double track. Though some places were much better for passing than others, some impatient riders made risky moves that cost them a fall, or worse yet took out another rider.
There isn’t a lot of climbing in the course, compared to some of the high mountain courses in Colorado. The limited climbing makes the race a great way to start the mountain bike season, because most riders have limited fitness in the spring.
For me, shale attacked my rear tire on a benign section of nearly flat trail about two thirds of the way through lap one. The shale put an inch-long slit in my tire as if it were sliced by a knife. I booted the tire and limped my way back to the finish line where I ended my day.
Riders with flats were all along the course and collecting at the finish line. It’s hard to say how many riders scored a dnf due to flats because not all of them are shown on the finish list – but suffice it to say a lot.
Other riders, like Bill Frielingsdorf, didn’t have any tire problems and went on to score a podium finish. Congratulations to Bill for a strong ride and finish.
Left to right, BillFrielingsdorf (Peloton-Specialized Fort Collins), Nathan Collier (Pedal Pushers Cyclery), Taylor Thomas (E2 Cycling Team Fort Collins)
I’d definitely consider doing this race again because there is plenty about it to like. Though people that ran beefier tires than I did still had tires slit by the shale, I think a heavier tire reduces the likelihood of problems. In addition to a heavier tire, I’ll consider running three to five pounds more pressure in both tires.
When the biggest challenge is to simply complete the event...
...perhaps the Colorado Trail Race is for you?
The Colorado Trail Race: 470 miles and 65,000' of elevation gain winding through the Colorado Rocky Mountains from Denver to Durango. Approximately 300+ miles of singletrack at elevations ranging from 5500' to a gasping-for-breath 13,200'. The CTR is a monster! If the monster is in a good mood, you may experience Colorado's beautiful sunny blue skies and wildflowers blooming as far as you can see! But, be warned — the CTR's mood can change on a whim, and you may just as likely find yourself getting besieged by massive hailstones and lightning bolts. In short, don't come to this race unprepared — no one will be there to rescue you.
The CTR is similar to The Arizona Trail 300 and The Great Divide Race. There is no entry fee, no support, no registration, and no prize money. It is a self-timed ITT (Individual Time Trial): all that is provided is a route description, a suggested start time, and a list of results. However, all individuals participating are strongly encouraged to donate time or money to the Colorado Trail Foundation. Without them, we wouldn't have this trail!
My first mountain bike race, and first stage race, was August 31 of 1997. It is easy for me to remember the exact date because I recall lying on the floor of a hotel room wishing my legs felt better. I was having another slice of humble pie, when the television broadcast was interrupted to let us know that Princess Diana had been in a horrible accident. The race was the King of the Rockies stage race in Winter Park, Colorado.
I remember I wanted to do a multi-day race and when I looked through the available races, the Winter Park event was the one that fit best. I had raced several triathlons that season and had solid tri fitness. I was riding a hard tail mountain bike with cantilever brakes. I had prepared for the race by riding local trails near my house. On home turf, I could average about 13 miles per hour when I was pushing pretty hard. I figured the Tipperary Creek point-to-point stage, stage one, would take me a couple of hours to complete.
I remember starting on a two-track road with a good amount of climbing right at the start of the race. Racing with beginner women, I was picking off rabbits and feeling pretty full of it. It seemed that my threshold training from triathlon was serving me well.
Once at the top of the climb, I remember a long descent through what seemed like a river of loose shale. Looking down the hill was a garage sale load of pumps, bottles, jackets, arm warmers and other miscellaneous items that the riders before me lost. While I was busy death-gripping my handlebars and trying to keep my teeth from chattering out of my mouth, all the people I passed on the climb were flying by me with ease. Dang.
After that descent, I remember a lot of really sweet singletrack. I decided not to worry about where I was in the field (I was pretty sure I was close to last, if not last) and just focus on keeping the rubber side down.
I didnt have a cyclometer on that bike, but I was watching the ride time on my watch. I was just under two hours and figured I had around 15 or 20 minutes to go before crossing the finish line (averaging that magical 13 mph). I checked my water bottle and it was close to empty. Not to worry, I'm almost finished.
Rounding the corner I saw a woman at what appeared to be an aid station. I was riding fast though there when I shouted, How much further to the finish?
Oh honey, youre only half way.
Wooooaaaaaaaah as I grabbed a lot of brake. Guess I should fill that water bottle or hydration pack, eh? And, Ill take a slice of that humble pie.
I immediately released any notion of finishing around two hours. Good thing, because I finally finished in 3:30. When I crossed the finish line, my husband was there and the first thing he said was, Are you alright? Where have you been?
I knew that translated to, You told me youd be here an hour-and-a-half ago and you look wrecked, what happened?
After I got cleaned up, we went to dinner. I tried to eat, but could barely get anything down. My legs were beginning to seize up. We went back to the hotel room and I tried to do some self-massage to get my legs to recover more quickly, but I really couldnt touch them they were so sore. Ill have more humble pie, thanks.
I remember lying in bed thinking that I couldnt have anything, including a sheet, touch my legs because they hurt so bad.
After not sleeping the entire night, I told Del that I might not be able to race stage two; mostly because I wasnt sure I could get on the bike. Secondly, I wasnt sure I could pedal. Seriously, my legs hurt that bad.
I decided to just ride a bit of the race and if I felt bad after 20 or 30 minutes, Id just turn around and descend when the course was clear. By this time, Im packing several slices of humble pie with me. They were heavy.
Once I started riding, I felt okay. Not great, but okay. The longer I rode, the better I felt. Wow, thats weird. I never did feel great, but I felt good enough to finish the stage. I felt better at the end of the stage than I did at the beginning. Interesting
That race was the beginning of my addiction for mountain bike riding.
It has been 12 years since that event and I have kept the Tipperary Creek race on my radar all this time, hoping one day to go back. The route is no longer part of a weekend stage race, but it remains the last race of their summer series.
In the past, one thing or another kept me from racing again. This year, after some encouragement from Bill Frielingsdorf, a pre-ride with Scott Ellis and an available calendar, I decided to do that event again.
The only expectation I have this time is to enjoy the course, the mountain bike fitness, and skills Ive accumulated since 1997. A bit of that humble pie remains in my pocket, likely never to be fully removed.
I must admit that I planned to see aliens and spaceships on the group ride today. My first encounter with the spaceship was in 2000 or 2001 and I'm a believer. Yes, a spaceship landing pad is just outside my hometown of Loveland, Colorado. Hard to believe, I know.
Steve Douglas, one of my riding buddies from the Ft. Collins Breakfast Club group ride, was not a believer-until today. And we have photos.
Before I get to today's ride, I must go back to August and the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. Steve had mechanical difficulties that day and it wasn't such a good race for him. Similar to others that have had no-so-good races, he proclaimed the day after the race, "I will NEVER do Leadville again."
Several days after the race was over, he posted the gory details of the event on an August 21, 2007 posting titled, "Leadville, Aliens and Suffering". You can find that posting here and you will have to page back to find the August 21 post.
The most critical piece of that post is:
"Would I ever do this again? ... Mark these words: I will only do this one again under 2 conditions: 1) When Aliens announce their presence to this planet or 2) If my brother says he wants to do it.Keep in mind there is little chance of either of these things happening!"
I present to you photographic proof that Steve has met with the aliens - well, at least one alien. Below is Steve posing with the handcrafted spaceship and one small green alien, who's name I did not catch.
This alien spaceship was handcrafted by Russ (Russ's Machine Shop). In all of the alien excitement, I did not get a photo of Russ and Rick, who I assume is Russ's son. We'll have to go back another time.
In addition to handcrafting the spaceship, Russ has a garage filled with ever-so-beautiful Indian motocycles, a gas pump, a handmade three-seat motocycle (Ed, help me with that engine again in the comment section) and even a John Deere bicycle. Check out the photos below.
Now I think the aliens may have been a bit peeved at non-believers because our 45-mile ride had five flat tires, one mechanical chain drop/jam and time in the ride when the group was separated by a series of errors. Apparently the aliens were testing us.
When the group got split, I received a call from Ryan in the other group asking if our group had been abducted by the aliens. This was proof to the aliens that people are indeed believers.
The ride finished safely, with several people talking about aliens. I think we will have great rides from this point forward because we have full alien support.
And Steve, I'm sure you'll be cutting a check and sending in your entry form for Leadville in January of 2008. With alien support, I'm certain you'll be selected in the lottery.