Friday, July 3

Seriously? & The parking spot for my Breck Epic Tale

Fer crissakes. They gotta be kidding.

Maybe they just wanted to take the opportunity to misspell both my names.

Do they know I was kidding? I guess it's on... just me and Charlie. The rest of the field should just stay home.

All the links to the articles on

Stage One
Stage Two
Stage Three
Stage Four
Stage Five

and the cut and pasted version....

The whole Breck Epic Story:


Before my Breck Epic adventure even got started I spent two and a half days in Steamboat Springs riding with the folks from Moots and doing my best to acclimate (unsuccessfully) to the lower altitude there. On Saturday I headed over to Breckenridge with my partner in crime (if breathing heavy while stepping up to a curb is a crime) Peter Keiller of Misfit Psycles. We spent the day wheezing about town and doing the spectator thing at the Firecracker Fifty Marathon Nationals. Afterwards we spent our last night under a roof before the race would begin on Sunday, and the first of five days in tent city (where only eight other totally hard core and awesomely rad racers were staying).

The first stage of the race was a prologue hill climb; a seven or so mile grunt, as in up with little down to payback the effort of the day. I ended up first in the single speed starting grid, just about the last place I wanted to be. To make matters worse the rider starting thirty seconds behind me (Dan Durland) was certainly someone I considered one of the fastest in our class.

From their position at the starting line the spectators could see a whole mess of the first climb thanks to the switchbacks on the side of the exposed hill. I decided I would at least try to keep Dan behind me until I was outta’ sight. I punched it on the switchbacks, and whatever the “it” was I punched, it punched back. Hard to believe, but I felt like I had popped just minutes into the climb. I made it into the trees just as Dan made his pass, and so at least I accomplished my only goal of the day.

After that my uphill went downhill. Crampy feelings started twitching in my right calf. Rider after rider that had started behind me in thirty second intervals began to make their way past me. David Wilson was riding a 22X16, and he managed to pass me on a flat section of the course. All I could do was watch in disbelief as he spun away from me, not only making me doubt my gear selection, but also my preference for single speeding over something less strenuous…like knitting.

Once the fifth single speeder stomped past me I was left alone to wallow in my own self-pity. I started to realize what it would truly feel like to be a fish out of water. Well, not exactly. If I were a fish out of water I could always hope that a sadistic redneck would eventually cut my head off and put me out of my misery. No, it is my destiny to do what I can to get my ass to the top of this climb as best as I could and head back to my cold tent to dwell on tomorrow.

The only highlight of this fifty-five minute suffer fest that I can recall was being beaten about the head and ass with a giant plastic sunflower by Dejay Birtch. This highlight was sullied by the fact that I had to follow his naked buttocks for a period of time after that. I’d like to at some point forget.

As I was typing up this report in the local rec center a stranger asked me if I saw the “tennis game” today. He told me it was “epic.” I wanted to ask him if they played the whole game uphill, but all the typing I had done left me too short of breath to respond.

Stage One:

Waking up every hour with a parched throat and a lack of water in my tent was interesting. Laying there shivering for the last couple of hours before breakfast was something more than interesting. Getting outta’ my tent and seeing frost on the ground phenomenal. What a way to start day two of the Breck Epic.

I knew today would be a slightly better stage for me than the previous days prologue. All the climbing was gonna’ lead to some downhill single track. Happy day. The sun came up and the frost gave way to an incredible morning. By the time the race started it was sleeveless weather.

After the neutral roll out the real climbing began. I tried to keep some of the guys that had stomped me the day before in sight, but quite a few of them got away. The fish out of water thing kicked in as I had trouble catching my breath, and I did my best to keep my superhero efforts to a minimum. By the time the climbing was over, there was not one other single speeder in sight. I found myself mostly alone on the descent, and by the time I rolled into the first aid station I had been out of gels for a while. I’m not sure why, but there weren’t any gels at the aid, so I rolled on with a fresh bottle of Heed and a prayer.

From that point on things got a little fuzzy. I’m not sure if the thin air was getting to my brain or if it was my hunger, but I felt like I was watching helmet cam footage of someone else descending down the mountain as opposed to actually being the pilot of my rig. I’m still perplexed when I try to figure out what it was that caused that strange feeling, but maybe it’s better that I don’t look too deeply into the matter.

By the time I rolled into the second and last aid station of the day I was in the mood for some nutrition. I horded a handful of gels for peace of mind, and assumed my lame aerotuck single speed position as I coasted down the paved road to the next section of climbing. Once I hit the climb I estimated it would be another two hours to the finish. I really had no idea how much riding was left, so I settled in for the long haul.

I bridged the gap up to another rider to see if he had a computer. He did not, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask him if he had any idea how much further it was to the finish.

“Six miles,” he said.

“Only six more miles to go?” I asked him delightedly.

“No, six miles from the last aid station,” he replied.

Holy crap! I had settled in for a shit ton more riding, and now I’ve only got minutes to go. I left the bearer of good news behind, and went on the hunt for some riders I had let go earlier. They weren’t in my class, but I wanted to catch them as a matter of principal. When I finally caught them there was barely any room to pass, but I heard the lead rider say the word cramp, and I gunned it at the first opportunity. Two inadvisable passes later I put my head down and hammered more or less just to justify the sketchy passes I just made. I could hear the finish line down below, and being an excitable boy I blew right off the edge of a turn and almost down the hill. Of course the two riders I just passed got to witness the whole thing, but I scrambled to my feet quickly and rode the rest of the way to the finish line in a most uneventful manner.

It was a big improvement on day one, and I’ll keep you posted how things go on day three.

Stage Two:

Sitting in the port-o-pottie breathing heavy was a solid indicator of my lack of acclimation. There’s no place in the world that I’d rather not be when I’m breathing heavy, and that would be the blue water closet. So there you have it. I’m giving in to the situation, and I am no longer in denial. Everything hurts just a little more up here in the thin air of Breckenridge.

So stage 3 had us rolling a neutral start up a paved road into the stratosphere. I decided to roll along with the head of the single speed field to see how it looked up there. Amazingly as I was already out of breath at the rolling pace. The top five guys seemed jovial and relaxed as if they were out for a cool down ride. I decided I was no longer concerned about my dreams of at least climbing on the podium once, and I have resolved myself to just enjoy the ride as much as inhumanly possible.

The climbs were pretty heinous today. But we were rewarded with some wide open, wicked fast descents. The kinda’ stuff I like. Go as fast as you want, and if you crash it will be real easy to find the body. Tomi McMillar is out here riding a fixed gear, and I must say he is carrying a bag of hammers and dropping them at will. He flies by me on the climbs, and I wriggle past him as he does the high-speed blender boogie through the debris littered roads and trails. If he wasn’t riding a fixed gear, I have very little doubt that he would be the highest ranked lowlander in the single speed field.

Back to me.

Today was more of the same: a marginal performance in pursuit of a midpack finish. With eleven riders in the single speed class shooting for sixth place (my lucky number) seems as good a goal as any. If I recall correctly we were over 11,000 feet three times today. The best thing about going above 11,000 feet is that 9,000 feet feels awesome. Well, maybe not exactly awesome, but I’m certainly happy to no longer be above 11,000 any more. At least today I took the time to take in the sights (there were plenty), and I avoided the red line whenever I got close to it.

The pity party ends now. I’ve become an aggressive tourist, and I’m absolutely digging the trails. The course markings are the best I’ve ever seen, and unlike the other stage races I’ve done I dont think I’ve ever felt even remotely unsure that I was going the right way. The trails are fantastic, and the company I’m keeping on the trails are some of the familiar faces I’ve seen at other endurance races. Aside from the lack of oxygen (which can be bought at the grocery store or at the local oxygen bar), there hasn’t been anything to complain about. Great food, roomy tents, a promoter who listens to suggestions, courses that are hard, but not so hard that it’s just a sufferfest. I’m having an incredible time.

Stage Three:

Given my new attitude towards the “race,” I decided to turn my back on one of my moral race “standards”: I swapped gears mid-race. I don’t know what I was thinking when I mounted up a 32X19 the day before the race started, but it was time to admit I’d made a mistake. I could barely turn the 19 over on the climbs without feeling like my head was going to explode, so I dug into my parts bag for some relief. I’ve never run anything lower than a 20-tooth cog, but luckily my generous cog sponsor hooked me up with a 22 tooth. I was saving for a Christmas ornament, so I guess the tree will look a little stupid this year.

After my gear swap, Peter and I went in search of an interweb signal. We were up late (well late for geriatric folks). We didn’t get to bed till after 10 p.m., and it was hardly a restful evening. I woke up multiple times gasping for air and wondering if there was something seriously wrong with me. After a few nervous non-breathing events, I reached for my Albuterol puffer and within minutes I fell asleep.

I woke up later than I wanted to with Peter yelling “Richard” into my tent. Trying to hurry to get ready was not really a good idea, so I cut some corners and got myself as ready as I could. The neutral start was much more neutral than the day before, and I felt a ton better on the lower gear. On the long climb up to 11,000-plus feet I felt so much better. I was able to hold back a little bit to save energy for the two big descents of the day.

After a killer downhill I began the long slog to the top of French Pass (12,500 feet). Rock and rollin’ mountain man Vince Andersen passed me on the way up and was actually able to hold a conversation (well, half a conversation anyway) as we pushed up the mountain. I guess spending some time on Denali will do that for you. Anyways, Vince monster mashed his way past me, but I planned to do my best to exact my revenge on the following five mile rocky descent.

I managed my pass only to give way to Vince and his lungs on the next climb. I checked my course profile that I taped to my bars and planned to exact my second revenge on the eight-mile descent from hell that loomed ahead. Miles of balls to the walls descending and a few semi-considerate passes later, I found Vince. He obliged and let me pass when I rang my bell.

I knew I had to keep Vince behind me on the final climb if I wanted to stay away, but no dice. He was on me in no time, and destroyed any chances I had at making it close at the line. He ended up putting somewhere around two minutes on me and in doing so caused half of the big shuffle in the single speed category.

Today’s 43-mile ride was one of the best I’ve ever been on, period.

Stage Four:

I finally made it through a night with minimal sleep disruptions and woke up in plenty of time to get ready for stage four. Today we were headed back out well over 12,000 feet again, and I was gonna do my best to at least look around and enjoy the scenery while I as above those pesky view spoiling trees. The course started with a “warm up” climb before we went out towards the big one of the day. A couple of times I could see the two single speeders who are right in front of me in the GC, but I backed off and saved what I had for the major climb.

What a climb it was. I could see riders strewn about above me, and after awhile the stragglers below. It was just ugly, pretty scenery, but the hike-a-bike was never ending. By the time we topped out we were way above the tree line, and the wind was kicking. My fear of heights heightened as the exposure increased, and I did my best to not get blown off the mountain. Once the trail dropped down I didn’t feel any better until I got down below the tree line where my body would get snagged up in the trees if I wrecked.

Once the beat down of a ten-mile technical descent ended the course dawdled down a bike path back towards Breckenridge. I basically sat there and rolled down the grade not even making the futile effort of trying to add any speed with my 32X22. At least six or seven riders big ringed their way past me, but at least the breeze was nice. Once the recreational trail ended we entered a trail system that would have been very enjoyable in the other direction. In the direction I was going it was more like a punch to the throat. Technical, nasty, rocky, rooty, ledgy…everything I would normally like in a trail if I hadn’t just hiked my bike over a 12,500 foot pass.

I ended up chasing down a few of the riders who used their superior gearing to pass me on the recreational paved trail. It hurt…a lot. It seemed like the trail should have ended about a half hour earlier than it did, but eventually I poured out of the woods and across the line way behind the usual suspects I’ve gotten used to spending my day with.

I’ve been told tomorrow will be easy. I don’t know about that. I’m thinking my definitions of easy may not correlate with the local’s on any level. Either way, it’s the last day, and I’m gonna’ do what I can to earn my “Bad MF’er” belt buckle.

Stage Five:

I woke up feeling mentally okay. But I was definitely feeling worked over from the effort of a hellacious stage 4 over the 12,500+ pass. Knowing it was the last day I was determined to put everything I had into it, and see how far it took me. From the start I hammered (a term I am using very lightly here) past a few riders so I could get into my single speed rhythm free of the geared crowd I was in when I hit the narrow trail. The legs responded well enough, but I was easily red lined with the extra effort of trying to make clean passes in the woods.

Eventually all the single track climbing ended with a casually graded gravel road. My 32X22 that had served me so well over the past couple of days was now an anchor. I had to spin some major RPM’s just to keep my Moots moving in a forward direction. I could see the high mountain pass in the distance, and I could also see Tomi on his fixed gear reaching the top ahead of me turning his now very practical 32X18. If I was gonna catch him I was going to have to hang it out a bit on the descent.

The first part of the descent favored those of us that could coast, so I put Tomi behind me in short order. When the pitch of the trail lessened Tomi stuck it to me and left me behind jubilantly. Once we bottomed out and readied ourselves for the last major climb of the day, we were once again even Steven. Then Tomi took advantage of his superior gearing and strength and left me spinning my way up the backside of the same pass all alone. As I could see Tomi shrink into the distance I could also see fellow single speeder Brian Hollister getting larger in my sights. I kept my windmill legs turning, and when we reached the top Brian stopped for a beverage while I kept my head down determined to catch Tomi.

Unfortunately the descent began on an open fire road. I could just see Tomi now (in my imagination), feet propped up on his fork, pedals spinning in a frenzy, his larger-than-mine body being pulled towards the center of the earth at a higher rate than me… shit. Brian was right on me, but even though he weighed more than me I think he had tired of beating up on me all week and decided to let me go. When I finally hit some real trails again I decided I would hang it out in an attempt to catch Tomi before the finish.

Eventually I could see him up ahead, and I closed down on his rear wheel. I rang my bell, but Tomi did not acquiesce to my pleasant request for a pass. If I was ever gonna’ pass him he was going to make me work for it. I just about slammed into him multiple times, and it was evident the only way I was gonna’ get past him was to T-Bone him in a corner and hope I got back on my feet first. Since we’re friends, such underhanded racing tactics hardly seemed warranted, especially since we were racing for fifth at this point. We rolled out of the woods and with the finish line in sight Tomi gave me “the look,” but I just sat up and let him go. He earned it, and there was no point in sprinting after the man who just whooped me on a fixie.

So that’s how the Breck Epic ended for me. I started out in 8th place after the prologue, clawed my way up to 6th midway through the race, and after two stages above 12,000 feet that’s where I ended up in the single speed class. Sure I had high hopes coming out here, but I was in for a definite reality check. There are some certainties in life, and one of them is that you will suffer at altitude if you are not fully prepared and acclimated. Even though the event was extremely hard, I would still say that it was well worth doing. The scenery, the camaraderie, the promoter and the staff, the courses, the meals, you name it. The Breck Epic was spot on, especially for a first time event. It was definitely the challenge I was looking for, and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for a great stage race.

Before I drop out of the lime light and back into my little world of anonymity, I’d like to thank Breck Epic promoter Mike McCormack and the folks at Mountain Bike magazine for making this all possible. It was a pleasure and a privilege mixed with a whole lot of pain. I’d also like to thank my main sponsor Moots in Steamboat Springs, CO, for putting up with me for a few days on either side of the race…even when I locked myself out on the Fourth of July.

Ahhhh, if not for the kindness of others I don’t know where I’d be.


Leyonce said...

Looks like you haven't lost contact with the web wide world. Thanks for posting. Looking forward to the race blog. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I thought it said Dike-y when I first read it this AM. Nia and I miss you. L, P

Anonymous said...

kick azz out there!!!

Get your skinny ass move'n like a hooker chasing down hugh hefner for spare change.