Friday, August 19, 2016

BreckEpic Stage 6 -FINISHED!!

Day 6 start. Lyna gave us extra smiles.
Me high 5ing Drew at the start. Photo by Lolly

Me at the start. Photo by Lolly.

Breck Epic is finished.  Stage 6 was hard, not because the stage was particularly hard, but because I was physically, mentally, and emotionally empty at the start line.  The stage itself was the perfect finish stage: 3300 feet of climbing, 30 miles, fun singletrack climbs and descents and gentle gradient fire road climbs and descents.  The volunteers at the aid stations and the other riders were festive. But I was so completely spent that I really struggled.  The one thing that got me through today was Drew.  He sacrificed his day to hang back and ride with me.  Even after he couldn't clip out on a tight switchback and sprained his ankle, he cheerfully pulled me through the entire stage!  He was my rock today and I know I would have been out there much longer if he hadn't been there to get me back on my bike after two emotional breakdowns.  

We finished in 3 hours, 59 minutes and 39 seconds.  

Drew and Lucy finishing together!

 We enjoyed a pickle, mayo and potato chip sandwich at the finish, just as a major hail storm broke out.  If it wasn't for Drew, I would have been out in it.
New favorite sandwich: pickle, mayo, potato chip on fluffy bread.

Andy loved the stage and made his goal of finishing in less than 30 hours for the week.  Brad finished strong in about 3 hours and loved the flume trail!

I need to pay homage to my Trek bike.  It performed exceptionally well this week. She's a good one!

My BonnieBlue Trek 9.8 top fuel
My cockpit I've been starting at all week.  The profile Andy made for all of us on the left. That was a lifesaver to know what was coming up!
The right hand side of my handlebars.  The "Blink" sign was a reminder I made to myself because I forget to blink and my eye dries out and my vision goes blurry.  The Eye Heart U is a little sticker Drew sneaked onto my handlebar this morning. I didn't notice it until the start line, but it helped get me through this day.

I'll do another post in a week or so after I've had a chance to digest this accomplishment. Right now, after a chill beer at the condo, we are headed to the brewery!!

First night bruised ankle.
Post stage 6 at the condo. Blogging in action photo by Lolly.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

BreckEpic Stage 5 - a ridiculous hike-a-bike excuse for a stage

Look at our smiles at the start of stage 5.  I would not have been smiling if I had realized how incredibly ludicrous today would be. Photo by Lolly.


Drew (right) at the wave start. Photo by Lolly.
Me at the start. Photo by Lolly.
Stage 5 is promoted as the Queen Stage by the race promoter.  The course goes up and over Wheeler Pass and was to be some of the most difficult trail to ride, with significant hike-a-bike.

The first 4 miles were fine. A climb up a wide rocky singletrack and some gravel road to the aid station.  Another mile in the saddle and we started the ~45 minute hike-a-bike up switchbacks to a pass.  We knew this was coming and the views were incredibly beautiful.  There was a skinny trail descent.  After that, the day got a little bit stupid.  There was more hike-a-bike on a hiking trail to another pass where people were handing out fresh cooked bacon, skittles, and sour patch kids.  I took some skittles.  They were tasty.   

Andy and Drew at the bacon/skittle hand up station on Wheeler Pass

Hard to take selfies while riding at 12,500 feet.

The view from the top (photo by Drew)

Cooking bacon at Wheeler Pass.

Sunny skies before the storm rolled in. (Photo by Drew Jordan).
 Then some intermittently ridable off-camber hiking trail as the dark clouds built.  A right turn back UP to another mountain to take us hiking (on a hiking trail) on a wide open ridge line as thunder boomed around us and it started to hail. 
Last photo before it started thundering, lightning and hailing.
 The next 3 miles of hiking (on a hiking trail) exposed to lightning in a hail storm was so scary I felt sure someone was going to die.  I cried and would have turned around except that I figured the way back was likely longer (it wasn't). I didn't know I had 3 miles of hiking my bike on a hiking trail ahead of me.  Did I mention this was a hiking trail, and not a trail where bike should have been?  With 200+ racers pushing bikes in hard-soled mountain bike shoes and metal cleats, we did some serious damage to the wet trail.  I think Breckenridge Resort is crazy to let the race promoter run this race on their hiking trails.

The trail down off the ridge was gnarly.   I couldn't ride very much of it, and even less because there were hail drifts piled in the trail. I slid out once, tweeking my handlebars so they were sideways.  I straightened them as best I could.  Finally, upon entering the trees, the aid station appeared.  Luckily, my bag was there, but Andy and Drew's bags had not made it because the road into the aid station was too rough. Maybe that's a clue to the promoter to ditch this route!

After the aid station, we traversed through the trees on a trail that would have been pretty fun had it not been raining and making every little rock and root and bridge a slippery death obstacle.  By this time, my spirit was broken.  I was so relived to have not been struck by lightning, not have gotten hypothermia (I had enough extra clothes with me to avoid that), and not wrecked and broken my teeth out (one guy did), that I just rode slowly to the finish, hiking up every little hill that was too sloppy for me to try to ride.  About two miles from the finish, another thunder and lightning storm moved in and I felt sure they would pull us. But no, the promoter would rather just let us slow racers die. 

The end. 
The top pros finished in 2 hours 45 minutes.  The guys were around 5 to 5 and half.  My time was 6:22.  I think the last racer in was around 7 and a half.  That big of a spread is just a ridiculous way to run a race.  Bike races should be run on bike trails, not hiking trails, and no promoter in his right mind should send 200 people hiking on a 12,000 foot elevation ridge for 2 hours on a summer afternoon.  Ridiculous.  I'm still so angry I could cry and I've been off the trail for 6 hours.

I would not advise anyone to race the BreckEpic as long as the route for stage 5 is the same as it was in 2016!

Tomorrow is our last day.  I'll be ecstatic if I finish.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

BreckEpic Stage 4 - what a difference a day makes

Stage 4, oh my.

On paper, this day should have been similar to yesterday's fiasco of a ride.  Today was 42 miles and 6300 feet of climbing with a 2000 foot hill climb on the back half of the day.  In reality, today was roses compared to yesterday.  I know a lot of it had to do my better attitude (I kept channeling Drew's positive energy "Just keep pedaling!", and with being better recovered today, but the trails were also a lot more fun and rideable.  Also, we only went to 10,500 feet instead of 12,000+.

Day 4 start. Photo by the lovely and ever-helpful Lolly Sneed

Whatever the case, I finished in a respectable 5 hours and 57 minutes. I think I was 5th in my cat. 

Drew had a rough day today, most likely  because my coughing kept him up last night. We will remedy tonight.  Andy flatted and that cost him some time.  Brad was strong and steady as always.
We've now completed 4 days of this endeavor. The end is in sight!
Blogging for you during recovery time using the poor-man's version of "Elevated Legs"

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

BreckEpic Stage 3 - what was I thinking

Here are the good things about today's stage:
My chest cold is pretty much gone.
Overall, my body is holding up as well as can be expected. My butt is sore but not the worst I've experienced, legs are tired, but not cramping, back is a little sore but that's to be expected, neck is really sore but tolerable, and NO KNEE PAIN!!
Drew and I lucked out with the worst of the weather today.

We are half way done with this bitch of a race.

start of stage 3

OK, that's as positive as I can be.  Today was hell.  42.1 miles 6245 feet of climbing. Took me 6 horrible hours and 35 excruciating minutes.  By mile 2 I knew it was going to be a tough day. I had tried too hard yesterday and I was going to pay for it today.

The route took us over French Pass, which involved a hellacious hike-a-bike.  About 10 minutes from the pass, thunder boomed overhead.  I walked faster. On the downhill side of the pass I got rained on a little and it was cold.  As I was putting on my raincoat, the woman who I was vying for 3rd place with passed me.  I followed her down to Aid 2 but she blew through it.  My thought was, "if that girl can blow off an aid station at the bottom of a cold, hard descent, she deserves the podium more than me!" I let her go, and honestly, I am relived.  Now my goal is just to finish this insane attempt.

That was mile 10.  The next 30 were no more fun.  Long gravel road climbs, technical descents that I was too tired to enjoy, and the one trail I was looking forward to, a new trail along a flume, turned out to be boring and long. 

I finished about 10 to 15 minutes slower than I should have compared to my competitors and 5th on the stage, which puts me in 5th overall.  I don't care.  I just want to finish.  Today was one of the toughest days on a bike that I can remember.

End of day 3

Monday, August 15, 2016

BreckEpic stage 2: fun trails, but Lordy it hurts

I was hacking all yesterday evening and into the night, despite chain-sucking on cough drops and a gulp of NyQuil before bed.  Poor Drew moved out to the couch around 11 pm.  My chest finally quieted down after a second dose of NyQuil around midnight. 

But by morning, I was feeling better. Jim, on the other hand, was not.  His 5 day old injuries got the better of him yesterday and he decided to pull the plug on BreckEopic 2016.  :-(

I was pleased that I was feeling mostly better, because today would be longer and harder than yesterday.  The route was supposed to be 39 miles and 6000 feet of climbing. 

Day 2 start. We were down 1. Photo by the lovely Lolly Sneed
Today's stage turned out 42.5 miles and 5800 feet of climbing on some fantastic singletrack.  The trails were really superb!  Nothing too technical, tons of flowing swooping trail through high alpine forest.  We were really out there today!  I came upon a guy who had just broken his collar bone 4 miles from help.  I told the ambulance at the next opportunity. I hope he is OK.

The fantastic-ness of the trails did not, however, make up for the fact that I was on my bike for 5 hours and 44 minutes.  Ouch!!  And it only gets harder from here.

In the end, I finished 4th on the stage and now I'm in 4th over all by a measly but huge 2 and a half minutes. That seems like a gap I could close if I keep feeling OK and don't have mechanicals, but at the same time, the ladies ahead of me are all able to beat me by 5 or 6 minutes each day. 

Andy and Brad rode together today and finished ahead of Drew and me. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

BreckEpic Stage 1

Way back sometime near the end of 2015, I decided I should probably race the BreckEpic stage race.  Drew did it in 2014 and said that if I wanted to do a stage race to conquer the lingering fact that I didn't complete that other one we did (BC Bike Race in 2007), this would be the one.  I needed a goal. We signed up.

So did some of our friends.We rented a condo.

Yesterday we took a little spin to test the legs at altitude, and make sure the bikes were working, and, most importantly for me, see if the cold I was coming down with was going to be a factor.
looking down to Breckenridge CO
 Things seemed ok.

the start banner and my Bonnie Blue bike

Until last night.  The cold moved to my chest and I coughed until midnight, when I finally felt so bad that I was keeping Drew up that I moved to the living room recliner so I could prop myself up.  That helped. I got about 6 hours of sleep.

Regardless, we made it to the start line.  

And that's where the smiles stopped. :-)

The stage was hard, but honestly, not as hard as I thought.  I tried to keep my heart rate down, knowing I have 5 more days at least as hard as this.  My throat was really sore and vision in my right eye got fuzzy only an hour into the race, but generally my legs and lungs felt OK, considering the ~10,000 feet average elevation of the stage.

I ended up completing the 35 mile, 5100 feet of climbing stage in 4:40, which is good enough for 4th place in the women's 40+ age category.  I didn't expect to be that high, so I'm worried I went too hard today.  We'll see tomorrow.

As for the rest of the gang, they all survived.  Brad kicked butt. Andy did too.  Drew came in ahead of me a ways, and Jim, with his recent crash, limped in a bit after.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cotopaxi to Banos: travel and settle in

For our last few days in Ecuador, we decided to head to the warmer and more tropical town of Banos. (There is supposed to be a tilde over the "n" in Banos but I can't figure out how to make Blogger do it.)

We said goodbye to our llama friends at Secret Garden

and shared a pickup truck ride to the town of Machachi with a few other departing Secret Garden Cotopaxi guests.  From Machachi, we somehow managed to catch the correct bus to Banos, although there were some moments of doubt, since our Spanish wasn't as good as we thought.

On the bus to Banos.
 After about 3 hours on a Wi-Fi enabled and very comfortable bus, we arrived in town and walked to our hotel.

La Floresta hotel, a very nice hotel on the edge of Banos but within walking distance to everything.

Our room is the one with the hammock on the balcony on the second floor to the right of the bamboo tree. A nice location!

The room was too big for us, but the Internet said that's all that was left.  I'm pretty sure the hotel was not nearly at full occupancy, but a splurge at the end of the vacation was not against our rules.

After a little down time, we ventured out to check out the town and find something to eat.
We could have stayed here!

And we could have eaten here!

There were a variety of street foods on display.
 We settled on a place that Lonely Planet said had good authentic Ecuadorian dishes.  Oh boy were they authentic.
I'm just pretending to eat the chicken parts that were floating in my soup.

The fish was good, once you got past the scales and eyes.
 Drew didn't have much to eat because everything had meat in it, so he was OK stopping at la panaderia (bakery).
I'd been too long without American doughnuts. This giant, bread-y and not sweet enough doughnut-like creation made me happy.
 We had a few hours before dark so we decided to go for a hike across the big river and up into a less-populated area.  One attraction on this bridge is to jump off tethered to a bungee cord. Lots of people we loitering about on the bridge and one woman was getting talked into jumping by a man. We walked a little farther and were taking in the view from afar when she finally jumped.

The tiny red speck in front of the zig-zag scaffolding below the bridge is the jumper.  I don't know if she didn't jump correctly or if the bungee cord is not very stretchy, but she bounced, hard.  I'm pretty sure she has back problems now.
 The goal of our hike was to see Tungurahua volcano behind the town. Shop keepers said there had been a pretty significant eruption a few months prior, but the mountain was quiet now.

The city of Banos and Tungurahua volcano in the background.

Obligatory geology picture.  I think this is low grade metamorphism.  

Obligatory happy couple picture. This might be on the Christmas card too.
 There was supposedly a trail that would take us on a loop back to town, but we couldn't find it, so we backtracked on the paved road in time to grab some pizza and beer. 
We searched high and low for a restaurant that had microbrew beer.  The menu at this place said they did, but when I ordered, the waiter said they were out.  My disappointed and border-line angry expression prompted him to run out to a store or different restaurant and get some for me.  We tipped him well.
Our first impressions of Banos were that the town is a lot more touristy than other places we had been but it has an air of adventure. Another full day would tell if those impressions were correct.