Saturday, June 20, 2009

Breckenridge 68 Semi Recon

Chuck and I headed out to Breckenridge for a couple of days to ride the Breckenridge 68 course. We have never done a mountain bike race this long and wanted to get to know the terrain a little better. Plus, the race will take place at an altitude of between 9,500 and 11,500 feet, so we wanted to get our lungs acclimated!

Our first day we decided to ride the first loop of the Breck 68 course which is 32 miles. After heading up some rocky singletrack, we got kicked out onto a dirt road and stopped to check out this old mine. So far so good. After this, we had a little descent on the dirt road, followed by lots of climbing.

We had to take a few liberties with interpreting the race directions because none of the dirt roads had signs. Actually we just had to make a big guess as to where the heck the race could possibly be going.....

Umm...... Yeah..... Well, we ran into some snow. We, however, were definately not going to let that stop us after only 6 miles or so of riding. We were motivated!!! We were not going to let mother nature win.

We also felt very proud of ourselves because we looked to be the first cyclists up the trail this spring!!! No other tracks but huge elk hooves marked the snow.

I am trying my best to keep from walking directly through the knee to mid-thigh deep snow.

After some snow slogging we came upon a lovely stream. A lovely frigid freezing ass cold stream. But that was great news because the race directions mentioned a creek crossing! We were right on track.

After the stream our dirt two track diminished slightly. Our trail became a tiny singletrack thread up the mountain. This pic is looking down the way we just climbed.

The "trail" was not what you would call rideable at some points.

We just kept toughing it out, and somehow the trail became even more slender, a mere hint of a thread, and almost disappeared under the new spring growth. I was impressed and equally terrified that mountain bikers actually raced on this intensely challenging trail. At times there was a stream of snow melt running directly down our trail.

Looking back at the town of Breckenridge. If you look closely you can see the ski slopes way in the background.

The "trail" is now getting above the treeline.

We kinda lost the trail under the snow here. Chuck is going up ahead to see if he can find it. What he found was a nice goat path. Actually it wasn't even that nice.

It was a dead end for us.

We were at 11,800 feet in elevation and finally decided we missed our turn and headed back down the mountain for a few miles.

On the way down we found a rocky trail to the right and thought it may have been the turn we originally missed. Now, except for maybe the first 20 minutes or so of our ride, we hadn't seen a single cyclist. After a few minutes of climbing I looked up and saw a green and black jersey descending down the trail. Crazy thing, we knew who it was!!! It was Sonya Looney, a pro endurance mountain bike racer, whom I had met at my first race this season. She was in Breck preriding the race course for the weekend as well. As soon as we stopped to say hello, we ran into 3 more bikers.

So we were finally back on the correct course, but Sonya told us she had to turn around only a bit further up the trail due to snow that was 5 feet deep.

Chuck and I were not up to more hike-a-biking through snow, so we all turned around and did a nice little group ride back to Breck. Chuck and I rode for another hour on the path toward Frisco so we could get close to 5 hours of riding in for the day. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, we only rode about 10 miles of the 32 mile race loop.

I was pretty happy to find out that the dreadfully challenging and not very rideable "trail" was NOT going to be in the race!!! Small victory for the day :^)


Our second morning in Breck we peeled our carcasses out of bed and shoved huge mouthfuls of delicious pancakes and eggs into our faces. We had another big day of riding in front of us. We joined together with Sonya Looney and Jeff Kerkove (check out their blogs for more on their Breck experience) to do some riding on the other loop of the Breckenridge 68 course. The second loop of the course is 36 miles long. Jeff turned off after a few miles because he wanted to ride some of the Breck Epic course. So Chuck, Sonya, and I were left to climb our hearts out.

We climbed for 10 miles or so. Breakfast felt like a brick in my stomach.

Storms looked to be brewing as we neared the treeline. We would occasionally feel a few sprinkles as the temperature dropped.

Sonya and I riding along.

We all decided it was best to turn around now before it was too late and we got stuck in a thunderstorm out in the middle of nowhere.

On the way back we hit some singletrack that was actually in the race course. Lots and lots of roots and rocks littered the trail. It was fun but a bit sketchy on my hardtail.
We stopped to climb on some old mining equipment in the middle of our trail.

On our way back to town we ran into a friend of Sonya's, Mike Nice, who was in the middle of riding the Great Divide race. The Great Divide is a solo, self supported race that starts in Mexico and runs all the way to Canada. Mike said he was doing the race backwards and started in Canada, and that he was 1,100 miles and 2 weeks in. Plus he was riding a fixed gear single speed with flat pedals and no front suspension. Ouch. And Wow! Humbling, for sure.

We rode for a few more miles on some sweet singletrack near town to get 4 hours in for the day. All in all we got some good riding in, but only 15 miles of the actual race course! We said goodbye to Sonya and packed up the car to head home.
Back to work tomorrow!!! Thank God for Starbucks......