Friday, August 15, 2014

Breck Epic Stage 6 Complete

The 2014 Breck Epic has come to a close!  After 6 stages of racing on some of the most incredible trails around Breckenridge CO it came to an end today.  240 miles and 40,000 feet of climbing was advertised, but it was closer to 230 miles and 32,000 feet of climbing.  My legs are pretty tired right now and I am looking forward to a few days off the bike.

Before the final stage this morning we used the inflatable legs to improve our circulation.  The owner of the business even brought us shots of espresso during our 20 minute session.

The weather for the final stage was Colorado picture perfect.  Temps were in the low 50's with only a few scattered clouds in the sky.  The mood was festive and we were all looking forward to the last 32 miles of racing.  Rain the night before made for slippery roots and mud puddles out on the course but that only made us smile even more.  The last day of a stage race is always bittersweet.  You wish it could continue since life is so simple when you are on the bike.  Eat, ride, eat, sleep, repeat!

The aid stations were full of festive refreshments.

It has been a long week, though and I miss my wife terribly.  Do you think she would serve espresso to me while I sit in a recliner ;)

Crossing the finish line after 6 days and 29 hours on the bike!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Breck Epic Stage 5 Race Report: major hump day.

Breck Epic Stage 5 was to be where we would reach our highest elevation of the race.   We climbed up Wheeler Passm just shy of 12,500 feet AMSL today.  The weather forecast called for isolated rain showers throughout the day so we dressed for the bad weather.  After a good night's sleep and the leg feeling better I was looking forward to this stage.

Smiles at the start line.

The real kicker of this leg was the fact that we climbed 3,000' in the first 7 miles.  We came out above the tree line around mile 4 with only 1,000 feet of climbing behind us.  I could not figure out how we were going to climb 2,000 feet in 3 miles.  Once I was above the trees though it became very obvious.  In front of me was a steady stream of multi-colored jerseys working their way up the pass.  The gradient was so steep that everyone was hiking their bikes and they were just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other as they ascended the mountain.

Picture 2:  Reaching the top of the pass the Breck' support crew was once again handing out racing supplements.  I heard a report at the end of the day that they handed out 12 lbs of bacon, 4 lbs of Skittles, and went through 2 bottles of whiskey.  I took a hand up of bacon and Skittles but the thought of doing a shot of whiskey at 12,500 feet with a 3,000-foot descent ahead of me kept me from reaching for the glass.

We reached the floor of the valley and hopped on a 6 mile paved bike path that took us out to the town of Frisco.  For the return to Breckenridge we climbed up Miners Pass.  Crazy steep and rocky ascent for 1,500 feet.  From there we joined up on the Peaks Trail.  This is a locals' favorite with technical roots, wooden bridges, and quick descents and climbs through the forest.  I was having a great stage and joined up on the wheels of a duo couple for the last 5 miles.  They had a lot of positive energy and we had fun zorching through the forest to the finish line.

A bit later I was able to catch this shot of my buddy Jim crossing the finish line. 

Today's stats:

28.2 miles
4 hr 19 min
Elevation Gain 4,639 feet
Garmin track here

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Breck Epic day 4 race report

Drew was too tired to report much tonight.  I talked to him and he was in high spirits, as day 4 was done and there are only 2 more to go. Other racers are going very fast on the downhill and he may be loosing some time there, but he is in one piece and that is very good.

He sent me this and some pictures:

"Today marked one of the longest legs at 42 miles and 6,600' of climbing.  I woke up this morning worried about my tendonitis.  Last night I thought I was dealing with an IT Band issue, but after a little research discovered the root of my problem.  I ended up taping my leg which was extremely helpful.

By reducing the movement of the muscle, day 4 was bearable."

He did stop to take some photos that I had requested.  Thanks, Drew!
If y'all have been looking at the satellite imagery under his Garmin track, you may have noticed that the river bottoms look really strange.

They look like there are large sand dunes piled up in the flood plane.  (Click on the image to enlarge.) Those are tailing piles left from mining for gold by dredging. Here are two close ups.

Basically, to get at the gold that is present in the river gravel (gold that has eroded from the ore bodies in the mountains), a large dredging machine sorts and washes the gravel.  The heavier gold sinks to the bottom of the machinery.  The sand, silt and gravel is spit out the back of the dredge and piled up. Then the machine is moved and another pile is made. It leaves a messy, non-functional river channel, but at least there isn't a lot of heavy metal or chemical contamination.

Plans are in place to reclaim some of these areas to get them back to a natural mountain river channel, but that will take a lot of money and time.

What we humans won't do for fancy jewelry!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Breck Epic Day 3 Race Report

Breck Epic Stage 3
by Drew

Distance 35.8 miles
Time: 5:48:37
Elevation gain: 6,200'

There were several climbs and the course was a little confusing today.  The aid stations were moved (penned in by me on the elevation chart) so I decided to take an elevation profile with me.  I taped it to the top tube of my bike for easy reference.

Stage 3 included two major climbs.  The first climb over French Pass topped out at 12,000 feet.  Oxygen was lacking and even the simplest bike handling skills were difficult to complete.  When we reached the top there were supporters handing out bacon, Skittles, and Coors Beer.  My head was pounding and the air was thin.  I politely declined the support food and descended down the backside of the pass.  High alpine single track trails with stream crossings and loose rocks.  We descended down the back side to an oxygen rich environment of 11,000 feet. We traversed the backside of the mountain ridge on the Colorado Trail and then climbed back up over Georgia Pass to descend back in to Breckenridge, Colorado.

Garmin track here.

Today involved a lot of climbing and I had an old IT band issue resurface.  My performance was off a bit with this issue, but I survived the day and spent the afternoon and evening massaging the IT bands and getting them to loosen up.  Jim and I even went to a local promoter in the race event parking lot called "Elevated Legs". They put big compression boots on your legs and they inflate and deflate over a 20 minute period.

 The premise of the operation is that they inflate the foot chambers, then the calf chambers, then the lower quad, and finally the upper quads.  This helps the blood in the legs flush out the toxins. My legs felt better after this session.

Overall it was a good day and I hope that my IT bands tomorrow decide to cooperate.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Breck Epic Day 2

Here is a report from Drew about day 2 of the Breck Epic Stage Race

I tossed most of the night prior since my body is protesting the increased aerobic outlook.  The morning started out cold and clear.   The alarm went off at 5:40 am and the coffee pot ritual was initiated.  Good thing my roommate Jim likes his coffee in a similar fashion.... Motor oil!

After a hot shower with coffee ("Cower") to try and put some moisture back in to my sinuses, the two of us drove down to the registration tent to drop off our aid station bags and eat breakfast.  The drop bags mostly contain dry clothes in case we get caught in an alpine rain shower or hail storm.  Even with raincoats carried in our hydration packs, it is important to get warm clothes on as soon as possible to avoid hypothermia.  Throughout the day there are usually 2 aid stations placed out on the course.  It is a nice safety blanket knowing your distance from an aid station and the fact that you have something warm to put on.

Once breakfast was complete, I had a few bike issues to attend to.  My rear shell was out of true, my brakes were rubbing against the rotor, and the rear derailleur cable had stretched and was affecting my shifting.  In the parking lot is a SRAM tent.  SRAM is a industry leading bicycle component manufacturer.  Their service techs were offering neutral support to any racer in need.  I fit that category today.  They fixed all of my issues (bike related, that is) in 10 minutes flat.  The leaders at SRAM have an organization that they strongly support.  The World Bicycle Relief Program (WBR) uses donated money to purchase parts to build bicycles for communities in developing nations in Africa.  Educating women in developing countries dramatically increases the overall education for the general populous.  WBR bikes are given to women with a stipulation that they obtain a high school degree.  The program has seen great success in many countries in Africa, including providing disaster relief to victims of the 2005 tsunami in Sri Lanka. The SRAM tent was not charging us racers for their services, but we were invited to donate to the WBR cause.  Of course I dished in some cash.
  The bike in the foreground on the right side of the photo is one of the bikes distributed.  Solid construction and compatible to haul water, firewood, and other people.  Because SRAM is so well connected in the bicycle industry each bike costs only $147 to produce.

The race each day kicks off at 8:30am.  Everyone races for different reasons.  I race against myself and attend these events to enjoy the camaraderie.  When I start a big race I allow the testosterone junkies to fill in the front of the start chute.
 Here is my view on the start line with 300 racers. 

The stage today had two seriously steep climbs with a total of 5,500 feet of ascending.   A lot of people crashed today on the technical terrain with two entrants going to the hospital.  I understand the need to go fast, but the technical downhills with baby head rocks all over the course makes me a bit more cautious.  The total distance of the course was 38 miles and I completed it in 4:54.

 At the finish in one piece with a smile for good measure. 

Today was a great stage with many spectacular views of the surrounding mountains!

Every evening we attend a racer meeting outlining the course for the next day. 

Tomorrow is going to be a very tough stage, reaching altitudes of 12,000 feet above sea level. Check back tomorrow for another update.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Breck Epic bike race Days -2 through Day 1

Drew and our friend Jim decided it would be fun to do the Breck Epic 6-day mountain bike stage race this year.  I knew better.

Here are some updates and photos he has been sending me.

Thursday (Day -2 in my time accounting strategy.)
 -Packed and ready to go

-Evening spin on Emerald Mtn in Steamboat Springs Co after a 6 hour car ride.

Friday (Day -1) they arrived in Breckenridge to acclimate for a Sunday start. Saturday (Day 0) they picked up their race packets and went for a little spin.

And fueled up for the big day.

 -The view from the condo they rented.

Day 1

Race start was 8:30 AM.  Both Drew and Jim posted a link on Facebook so I could follow them live through their Garmins. It is comforting to me to see their little dots moving slowly through the forest throughout the day since that tells me they are not on stretchers.

Drew posted this: "Incredible high alpine trails today. Started out without a cloud in the sky. Things change real fast around here. 68F for the high and 44F for the low. Threatening clouds and thunder but the rain held off until the end. 36 miles, 5000' of climbing. I finished in 4:22 and placed 46/86 men's 40 solo division. I really enjoy the grassroots feel of this event. Time to go roll around on the floor and stretch......" Editor's note: that  big white tube thing in the first picture is Drew's beloved foam roller which he used to roll out tired muscles.

Here is the Garmin track.

And the stats from his Garmin:
Avg speed 7.94 mph
Time 4:22 (4 hours 22 min)
Distance 34.69 mi.
Elevation gain 4692 feet

Jim said "Awesome single track and the terrain at 11k feet is crazy. On the flip side, I'm not sure I've ever pushed my bike that much."

Good job on Day 1, guys!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Her Beautiful Wedding: my niece gets hitched

How often does a normal mortal have the honor of marrying a young couple in love?  Drew had that chance in late July and I was especially proud to be the minister's wife.

We flew to Denver on Friday morning and promptly started the vacation at the Inverness Hotel pool 

Friday evening was the rehearsal dinner at my sister's house.  All my siblings were in attendance from far away.

Brother B and fiance
Brother T and wifey
Q: We had both been at the pool, but which of us used sunscreen? (A: Drew. That fetching shade of pink is his normal color, while my glowing red chest should be a less painful color.)

Niece J and Sister M

Lovely ladies: niece  and sisters

Sister M and hubby

Bro in law and his fam

Which is my sister?

The younger gen.

The other side - they were so nice!

The groom and buddies play pool

At the end of the evening we had a quick shower for my niece, organized by my super-planner sister.


Saturday, after the good food and drink from Friday night, I needed some exercise so two of my nieces and I walked around the hotel neighborhood.  On the walk we encountered a gopher colony.

I'd never seen so many gophers in one small place.  The golf course next door must have some elaborate anti-gopher devices to keep out this herd. Carl the groundskeeper had to be on the staff.

Soon it was time for the big event. 
 Drew got all mic'ed up so he could be heard celebrating the marriage.

The wedding was held at a beautiful venue near Denver.  The only problem with staging this beautiful outdoor wedding is that the rain had begun an hour prior to the wedding.

But right at show time the rain mostly stopped so the processional started...

 with the strapping men...

and then the darling ladies.

And lastly the beautiful bride and her father. I could not believe how beautiful and mature my cute little niece who used to play fashion dress up with her cousins looked.

But as soon as the wedding party was in their places, the rain started again
and we thankfully moved inside.

Since the wedding was quite short, standing in this lovely stairway was not a problem.

The bride and groom are not of the religious sort, so they asked Drew to say words about love, commitment, and marriage.   They and their guests clearly have good senses of humor because the Sporcle joke went over well (Sporcle is an online quiz game that the bride and groom may spend a bit of time playing).

Minister Drew incorporates humor into the ceremony.

Enough fun and games, they're married already! The first kiss.

All smiles after the wedding.

In the few minutes after the wedding but before the reception, we snagged the photographer to capture the uncommon moment of Drew in a suit and me in heels. 

One of my favorite moments was the announcement of the bride and groom at the fun dinner reception.

The best man (groom's brother) and maid of honor (sister of the bride, niece Laura) gave excellent, funny, and sincere speeches.

And there was dancing

First dance

Father daughter dance

Let's just say that if my dad had been present at my wedding, we wouldn't have been nearly as cool as this.

The night went on, and so did the open bar, and before you knew it Drew and I were closing down the hotel bar after holding the shuffle board table for four games and elbowing our way onto the dance floor amongst another wedding party.


All that merry making made us hungry; the Inverness' award-winning bunch fixed that!  Oh my, what a spread! 

The newlyweds at brunch; what a cute couple!

 My sister and her newly-extended family

Drew had to work early the next morning so he hopped a flight to Vegas after brunch.  The plane had to put on extra fuel to carry him because he ate so much.

It isn't often my immediate family all gets together so we planned a few extra days to enjoy some of Colorado. Finding activities that all of us like to do, however, can be challenging.  Our first activity was antique store browsing in Castle Rock.

Our second activity was relaxing back at my sister's and gobbling leftover wedding desserts and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory goodies.

Enough for one day.  We made some plans for Monday and called it a day.

No, not that kind. This kind!

This is the best family picture I've seen in a long time.  Gosh, I love this picture.

We wanted to take the cog train to the top of Pike's Peak but tickets were sold out so my brave brother and brother-in-law drove the lot of us in large American vehicles up a seriously steep and winding road so that we could stand atop a 14er.  

At first I was grossed out by the gift shop on the tippy-top of a mountain, with its fudge stand and racks and racks of souvenirs.  But then I ate a fresh doughnut from the snack bar.   It was my first doughnut since the VooDoo doughnuts back in Oregon when I swore off any impostors. This doughnut, although a cake doughnut as compared to my favorite raised maple glazed, was authentic and made me glad to be a car-drivin' American tourist.

Enough doughnuts.  Get a look around the top of the world.

But don't fall off!

Large crystals of microcline feldspar (pink) in the Pike's Peak Formation, a ~1 billion year old granite.

Brother T

Brother T points to the switchbacks of the end of the 13-mile hiking trail to the peak, like "yeah, we did that." Ha.

Once the doughnuts and souvenirs were consumed, we drove back down the curvy, busy, two-lane.

Please, Bro, make that turn.

A video of the hairpin turns road. 

 Luckily we had fudge to keep us calm. 

Pike's Peak granite might be 1 billion years old and the mountain uplift may have taken place 60 million years ago (Laramide Orogeny), but the really crazy stuff has all happened since humans came along. 

Those signs were at a break test station. We had to stop and let ours cool down.
Of course there is another souvenir shop and snack bar at the break test station. America.

The next activity was Garden of the God.  I had personally been really looking forward to this. A few of us went on a short hike.

The younger generation bouncing on top of hoodoos. 

Our destination was the Siamese Twins.
I didn't realize it until we were there, but the Siamese Twins is one of the pictures on the vintage family postcards I used to decorate our guest room a couple of years ago, as I detailed in this post.

 Siamese Twins, upper right, on the front of a 1930s postcard in my guest room.

Here we all are in the belly of the Siamese Twins.  I wonder if this formation will be renamed to Conjoined Twins to be more PC.

Horseback tours were in progress while we were enjoying the park.  Somehow, being eight feet up on a shod horse on slickrock going down a steep incline with no helmet, as are some of the riders in this video, does not seem like a particularly safe tourist activity.
  Crazy horse-ridin' tourists!

More of the rock formations in Garden of the Gods.

I very much enjoyed Garden of the Gods.  I would love to go back again and hike all the trails and have a picnic.


After all the tourist stuff (and no actual lunch stop), we were looking for some chow.  We found this place - Rudy's Country Store and BBQ

It was perfect for us because we could each order our own thing at the counter and sit family style.  It was very tasty too.
Lots o' ribs went down.

After that we headed back to the campsite in Colorado Springs where a couple of the parties were staying.  Brother B lead the way on his three-wheeled motorcycle.

A long but fun day!


Tuesday we said good bye to some of the family and the rest of us enjoyed another day of being together.  Rain was threatening so we didn't dare hike Castlewood Canyon. Instead, we wandered through the Denver Botanical Garden at Chatfield.

The place contained lovely gardens and a restored ranch, complete with animals.

We toured inside a greenhouse made especially for butterflies.
Video of butterfly in the butterfly house.

A very lovely morning!

While we us old folk were strolling the botanical gardens, the younger set was exploring downtown Denver.  Here are four of the five musketeer cousins.


After lunch at Cheesecake Factory minus the cheesecake, we headed back to sister's house for more relaxing.

The next day I was supposed to leave at 6 PM on a paid ticket (Drew advised that afternoon and evening flights have been jam packed with no non-revenue passengers getting on.) but somehow my reservation got cancelled so I had to quickly buy one of the last two seats for sale on the 2 PM flight.  At the airport I ran into someone I know.

He just happened to be passing through on his way to San Antonio.  How funny.

That wrapped up the wedding/family reunion for me.  Right now, the newlyweds are safely on their honeymoon, my traveling siblings are safely back at their home bases, and my host sister finally has some relaxing peace and quiet.  Until next time, Hooray!