Departure - a term used in aviation. Modern avionics that are fly by wire systems compute the predicted flight path of an aircraft in real time. When the aircraft does not follow the predicted path, this is called departure. Often all Hell breaks loose when this happens and the avionics work to correct the departure to get the aircraft back onto the predicted flight path. If the aircraft cannot be returned to a predicted flight path, well...
And so describes my Saturday at the 2011 Breckenridge 100.
Saturday morning was a 4 AM wake-up to get ready for the 6 AM race start. Basically I packed my bag for the pit area, had my usual 300 calorie ProBar for breakfast along with coffee and some water. Then headed to the start.
For most of the long races I do I'm not sure I ever feel ready. I think about if I have done the proper training and have followed what my coach has told me to do to gauge if I am prepared, but I can't think of a time I've lined up thinking, yeah I'm ready! Maybe I'll get there one of these days, but not yet. Anywho, this is how I felt as I lined up, I have trained well and listened to the coach, will my body follow the predicted plan?
The start ran a minute or so late, then we rolled through the sleeping streets of Breckenridge at 9,510 feet to the Lift 9 parking lot where the police escort pulled over and the race proceeded up the service road of the ski lift. I have learned over the past year to start these long races at my pace, there is no need what so ever to follow the flow. This meant at times I was a little slower than the rest and at times a little faster, but after about 30 minutes I was with the racers that I'd be with until the summit of the climb at Wheeler Pass at 12,201.4 feet (per my gps).
This year the Colorado Rockies have experienced record snow falls. So as we climbed up the first pass of the race the higher we went the more water and snow we encountered. At some point above tree line part of the trail ran like a swift mountain stream, with the rushing sound of water sloshing across the rocks. As my front wheel plowed upstream the wake splashed up onto my legs and feet. It was COLD!
The first snowfield crossing proved to be a bit of a bottleneck. First the feet got wet in the running snow melt, then they got frozen by dipping them in the cold snow! Climbing across the snow burned a lot of energy, pushing and carrying the bike until the far end which required a good grunt to get up the embankment. After getting across this first snowfield, it actually felt easy to pedal the bike. That feeling went away pretty quickly though. I was glad there was no pushing or complaining amongst the racers. It was a sign everyone was suffering equally.
The second snow crossing came about and it wasn't so bad, but between the trail was sopping wet with cold running water turned to mud. It was slippery and scary, a crash would mean a likely long tumble downhill. One guy in front of me went down. I slid sideways on a pile of rocks and had a close one but stayed up.
A familiar face was at the second snowfield, Mountain Moon Photography had made her way up to nearly the top to get race photos. She is at the majority of the Colorado mountain bike races and does an excellent job. She really works hard to get around the race courses to get great action photos of nearly all the racers. I can't wait to see her photos!
Several of the photos I've posted were taken by teammate and friend Les Handy (I scraped them from his FB page). He has quite a knack for taking photos while on the bike with his quick point and shoot camera. He definitely captured some of the epic sights of this years B100! Here are two more photos he captured a few hundred feet below the summit of Wheeler Pass. Normally, this section is a painful hike-a-bike section. This year the trail was snow covered and the race had to traverse down from the trail to the bottom of the snowfield, then climb back up to the hike-a-bike section. Climbing back up was so freakin' hard, I burned several matches. I thought I was holding people up only to find once I was able to stand on the trail that I was just in front of the line and everyone behind me was struggling too. Check out these photos from Les:
At about this point I was wondering if someone could help me with my bike! This is right at about 12,000 ft!
Finally reaching the top was a relief! I took a moment to drink and look around briefly, it is quite a sight up there!
The way down the West side of Wheeler Pass starts out sketchy! I was taking my time since last year I went over the bars twice. In a few minutes I made it down to the tree line where the trail smoothed out. There is not much pedaling down this side of the course, literally it is nearly a free fall to the bottom. The brakes get a good workout. The top section has some smooth turns but as the bottom gets closer the turns get tight and some rocks poke out. There was one muddy section of rocks that was smart to dismount rather than ride. When hitting the bottom of the descent I was in much better shape that I was last year, I'm finally becoming comfortable with the fast winding descending trails and this was more evident later in the race.
The rest of loop 1 comprised of the bike path from Copper Mountain to Frisco. It is a slight downhill. Teammate Brian Sells and I worked together for a while and caught another group which we sort of worked with for the remainder of the bike path. For me, I got in some recovery time. I was feeling pretty good. A quick stop at the aid station I got a bottle of water and hit the singletrack again. The singletrack ran from Frisco to the north end of Breckenridge. On the climbing sections I maintained a constant even pace and only overtook other racers if I didn't need to accelerate to do so. On the descents, to my surprise, I was dropping whom ever was behind me. I did have one mishap at a bridge crossing. At the end of the bridge the left side had what I thought was a puddle, it ended up being a hole about two feet deep. It ate my front wheel and somehow I was able to step over my handle bars and stay on my feet as the bike did an endo. Sort of a crash, but only my feet touched the ground! Finally the pavement through the ski resort started, it was a very fast winding downhill. I reached 44 MPH on my mountain bike at some point. I remember I was constantly testing my brakes for fear of them not working at the next curve, I've never really thought about what I would have to do should the brakes completely fail!
They don't close the streets in Breckenridge for the race but do have race marshals out helping flag a right of way. I managed to get stuck behind a few cars as I came through the main part of town, I just relaxed and used the time to recover a bit more. Finally I made it to Boreas Pass Rd and followed the course markers through the neighborhood trail that ran between people's houses and popped out at the back side of Carter Park. I was feeling pretty good! I glanced at my clock, looked like I was a little faster than last year even though the course was slower! The plan was on course.
I got to the team pit and started looking for my planned food. I had planned to eat every time I came through so that my stomach would not get too empty. I couldn't find my stuff!!! I basically emptied my bag and none of it was there! So I grabbed the backup, a nutrition bar that I normally use for a pre-workout snack. I have never tried it during a hard race effort though and I was going to find out shortly how my system was going to react to it.
I was launched out of the pit area and headed up the monster climb to the Sally Barber Mine. I started kind of slow not wanting to burn a match yet and since I just ate and drank a good amount of food I thought I would let that settle first. About five minutes into the climb a switch flipped and I felt the contents of my stomach fold over like dough in a bread mixer... gulp... suddenly not feeling so good. I started sweating profusely and my stomach started churning in rhythm to my pedal cadence. I slowed a bit more and let a racer by me. I wanted to control my breathing so that when what seemed to be the inevitable happened I wouldn't choke too much. Then... blahhhhhuhhhh... I wondered if anyone saw that? Or heard it? Seemed really loud to me... Everything I had consumed fifteen or twenty minutes ago was now decorating a pine sapling.
I was shaking a little and was light headed but wanted to keep moving forward before the sight of what I just left behind caused me to upchuck again. So I started pedaling and got to the first road crossing, Moonstone Rd I think. I let another racer by, and for a few minutes tried to ride his wheel until I noticed he was racing on a team and must have been fresh (on a team each person does one loop). So I backed off to my own pace. I was not feeling good, but thought maybe things were going to clear up. Instead, my stomach and later my head, would gradually get worse only to the point of making me suffer badly for a long while before the next stomach geyser eruption an hour or more later.
More climbing some descending, and more climbing I was headed up the infamous Little French Creek. This area is very scenic but has a relentless flume trail climb. It is steep and loose. I learned from last year that if you are doing the 100 miler it is better to walk it then to burn matches trying to ride up it. I rode until my stomach started burning inside. All I had to drink at this point was my carbo/electolyte drink as I had planned to get water at the next aid station. When ever I took a drink of the carbo/electolyte drink it was like putting kerosene on a camp fire... OMG! So I was very careful and did a lot of sipping at risk of dehydration. Finally I made it over the top of Little French and had mostly descending singletrack then really fast jeep roads down to the first aid stop for loop 2.
At this point I was mentally optimistic. I was hoping that my stomach problems would go away. I had only recently been passed by a handful of the Pro racers in the B68 (the 68 mile / 2 loop race that started 4 hours after mine), and I had railed the last stretch of singletrack dropping the guys behind me. I took up a bottle of water at the aid station. As I rolled out toward the Colorado Trail (CT) I drank water hoping it would "rinse" my stomach. It didn't really seem to help. As I climb up the CT I started down another downward spiral. As I got close to the top of the CT climb the minute amount of contents from my stomach came up. ugh... I thought about laying under a shady tree for a bit. However, surprisingly I felt a little better, and it was just in time to descend the CT. So I blasted down totally having a blast. I made it down feeling okay, got a little refreshed splashing through the river crossing right before the next aid station. I got some more water at the aid station.
I was off again. As I cruised the pavement to the next trailhead I ate some energy chews and drank more water. It seemed my stomach was feeling sort of better but I noticed a mild throbbing in my noggin... As I approached the next trailhead along the Breckenridge golf course I noticed some fast moving racers coming from behind, I figured I'd let them go. Turns out they were B68 racers so it was a good idea to let them go ahead of me. I made it up the first climb and started the second, my head was pounding at this point, and my sweaty panicky feeling was returning as I could feel my stomach boiling again... guk guk... okay I'm done. Time to just pedal back to the park and get my stuff and go home.
The last ten miles I just put it in soft pedal mode. I walked part of the dirt road. Handed out a spare tube to someone with a flat. Finally making it to the top of the climb back to Breck. As I came within minutes of finishing loop 2 I had an intense debate with myself. A long ways back I had decided to pull the plug on the race, and I was still feeling like that, but even with the amount of time I lost from slowing down so much, I was still making pretty good time. It looked liked I was going to hit the park at about 7 hrs and 35 minutes, which left almost three hours to the cutoff time. As I came down the final switchbacks into Carter Park I must have changed my mind a dozen times with finally deciding to continue as I initially rolled through the start/finish area. As I rolled up to the team pit I was ready to keep going, then I dismounted the bike. The shift in posture or something jarred my tummy and instantly I said to one the guys "I'm gonna have to pull the plug..."
And that was that. I hung out for a short bit to get over some self pity and went back to the condo. When I got there my system could no longer fight the departure my body took and all Hell broke loose! I'm glad I was at the condo rather than someplace in the back country of Boreas Pass!
• Wheat Ridge Cyclery: our team shop and a HUGE thanks for the camping arrangements in Bailey as well as the awesome dinner the night before the race. You guys are pros! • Ergon Bike Ergonomics: good friends and great products for racing comfort. My GX2 Carbons combined with the HX2 gloves are a perfect system for racing comfort and protection! • Zeal Optics: as always kept the dust and pebbles out of my eyes and kept the sun out of my eyes but let me see in the shade • Mix 1: recovery drink that works! I've drank a lot of Mix 1 since Saturday! • Crank Brothers: pedals that don't break and are super light! • Stan's NoTubes: ghetto tubeless on Stan's rims is the only way I roll! • Schwalbe Tires: great traction, comfort, and durability to get through some of the nastiest singletrack • Carborocket: the hydration and calories I rely on for both racing and training, tasty and effective! • Honey Stinger: just what my belly needed at aid 6! • The GearMovement: I have been about to recover more than $7000 from my used stuff this year, Yay! Makes getting new stuff so much easier! • My personal sponsors: Golden Bike Shop and Niner Bikes: good friends who might be more like drug dealers, I'm addicted to those bikes! My Air9 Carbon did me well this weekend. I can't wait for my new bikes!!!! Thanks for making my addiction affordable (sort of)!