I’ve always struggled with sleep before races and when it’s a single day race loosing sleep before a race isn’t really that big of a deal but when your trying to recover for 6 days getting good sleep is very important. I stopped doing the Breck Epic a few years ago because it’s a really hard format for me, the days are somewhat long, but more like a marathon distance and the pace is very fast, like cross-country fast. The one advantage I have in the epic is at altitude and I know the course forward and backwards. This year coming into the race I got sick the week before the start, I figured that was it, I wasn’t going to race after being sick for a week, but as the race got closer I was feeling well enough to give it a go I figured if I got worse I could always just pull out.
Day one I started off with lousy sleep and I was feeling like I had made a bad decision but I was already here, so let’s race bikes! The first stage went pretty well, the level of competition was off the hook, the pro field was supper stacked and I finished in the low 20s and was pretty happy with that.
The stage is not one of my favorites it kind of cruises around Breck climbing every gnarly jeep road around. It was good to mix it up with some friends and get in the groove of racing, at the finish I was feeling a little better about things and had fun racing with a bunch of fast dudes.
There’s a lot to take care of every day in a stage race and I definitely had my list of things I felt like would help me get through. Directly after the stages I would do a light spin for about 15 minutes then I would drink an Infinit recovery mix while I was soaking my legs in the ice-cold river for 10 minutes. After that I would have my lunch and try to warm up after my Ice bath! Next would be bike cleaning and maintenance, then I would head up to the racer HQ for the 4 o’clock meeting, after that it would be time to eat again and chill out until bed time. This was my program for 6 days, I also decided to stay in my van at the camping area for the race instead of driving from Fairplay to Breck everyday. It would have been difficult to go home everyday and do everything and get to the meeting every night. The camping spot was great I meet some wonderful people and had lots to talk about every night and was able give plenty of advice as I was the resident expert.
Stage Two was the Colorado Trail stage, super fun riding and lots of single track, I was not doing well on sleep and I was blowing a lot of snot all day but I did ok finishing about where I figure I should be. Stage Three is one of my favorites! The course climbs French Pass and Georgia Pass and we ride a bunch of awesome trail. Unfortunately I felt like shit and had been sleeping so poorly that I was contemplating dropping out. I finished in the mid 20’s but I had thought I would do much better on a stage that suited me so well. That night I made the decision that if I didn’t get good sleep I was done I wasn’t going to tax my body like this anymore without proper sleep.
As luck would have it I finally got some quality sleep that night and felt good about Stage Four. This stage is the Keystone stage and Colorado trail backwards from the second day, lots of great single track and definitely talked to a lot of people who said this was there favorite stage. I was back with a low 20’s finish and was very happy with that and more importantly I was really glad I didn’t drop out.
Stage Five is my favorite stage and most everyone’s least favorite, Wheeler Trail and Miners Creek, high alpine single track, rocky steep and lots of hike-a-bike. The first part up the Wheeler is not a normal route that people take but to make it a loop it makes sense. After the first long hike it’s high alpine single track bliss, when you get over wheeler pass it’s a screaming fast decent to the Colorado Trail and back up on the 10 mile range for a little more hike-a-bike and then my favorite section of trail in Breckenridge, above tree line miners creek is what I love and the decent back down to the bottom of peaks trail is just gnarly! This was my best stage finally cracking the top 20 with a 16th place!
Stage Six is always my worst, it’s the shortest day and has the most road riding and I always crack on this day. I felt ok in the beginning but as soon as we hit the road I lost motivation, I just wanted it to be over. I started to get pumped on the Gold Dust trail but a stupid mistake on a bridge when I was looking up the trail and my front tire went off the side left me face first onto the bridge, this definitely took the wind out of my sails. The road climb back up Boreas Pass sucked and I just wanted to finish at this point. I was definitely cracked and started to slow peddle for a little bit but I snapped out of that after about 10 minutes and gave it all I had until the end.
At the finish everyone was excited to be done, lots of high fives and recounting the last 6 days of racing. The racing is always great but this is one of my favorite parts of racing, the people the stories the friendships it’s all part of racing bikes! I ended up finishing in 23rd place overall about middle of the pack in the pro field.
I had come into the race looking for an excuse not to do it getting sick gave me that excuse but I wouldn’t let myself quit before I even started then during the race I wanted the easy way out again but the side of me that wants to fight through won again. Every racer on some level goes through this at some point or another, you can’t be physically strong all the time but you can always fight though those feelings of wanting the easy way and push through, the only thing in my life that I am constantly in control of is the amount of effort I put in and always pushing through mentally.