A Note from Fatty: We are down to the last two days of the Tour de Pink Contest where you can win a Giant TCR Advanced SL, outfitted with the all-new Dura-Ace 9000 11-speed group, not to mention a bunch of other fantastic prizes. Click here for details, or click here to donate for a chance to win.
A Note from Fatty about today’s story: This is the second part in what’s probably going to be an enormous number of posts about the six-day mountain biking stage race known as the Breck Epic. Read the prologue here before you read today’s installment. Unless you’ve read it already, in which case you should feel free to continue on without reading the prologue.
I’m glad I could clear that up for you.
When the Breck Epic began, I was immediately grateful for something I would have otherwise probably not have even thought about:
The first two miles or so were paved.
As someone who desperately needed to spend a few miles just trying to work the soreness out of my legs, I couldn’t have been more grateful that we didn’t immediately leap onto hard-climbing singletrack.
At first, I was worried. My legs hurt with every turn. But really, I didn’t have a lot of options. Indeed, my options were:
- Keep going
- Slow down
- Go faster
And of course I’m just kidding about the last option. And I didn’t like the second option. So I kind of made do with a combination of options one and three.
Wow, I just spent an incredible amount of time saying, in effect, “I slowed down.” So I must be writing literature now.
First Taste of Dirt
By the time The Hammer and I got onto singletrack, we were at least moving. Importantly, we were even moving with the main group. Climbs got steep quickly, with the singlespeeds all around us having to dismount.
We’d stay on our bikes, though — for a while. Eventually, though, we’d run out of gears, and we’d be facing a decision: burn a match and power on through? Or get off the bike and march?
We did the safe — and wise — thing: with very little in our tanks and nothing but unknown terrain ahead of us for the rest of the day (not to mention week), we’d get off and walk.
Of course, for every climb, there’s eventually a descent, with plenty of each coming frequently. Check out the elevation profile from my Strava of the day:
That’s 39 miles, with 6386 feet of climbing. And note that there’s nothing even remotely approaching flat. And most of it is singletrack. Of which a fair amount is technical.
So it wasn’t a big surprise that within the first five miles or so, The Hammer crashed on a descent. She was up on her feet by the time I stopped rolling, moving quickly off the trail to make way for other riders to get past and continue on.
“Are you OK?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” The Hammer replied, shortly.
Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret I have learned only after a couple years of marriage with The Hammer. “I’m fine” is code for “I’m anything but fine, but I don’t want to talk about it.” All would come clear, though, as a giant bruise would appear on one of her legs — the first of a total of nineteen bruises (actual count) The Hammer would have by the end of the week.
Neither of us noticed that all of her food had fallen out of the Bento Box she keeps on her top tube.
Where’s the Aid Station?
I worry that I’m drawing an incredibly unflattering picture of The Breck Epic: marching, exhaustion early in the race, and crashing.
You need to understand that this is simply the way I remember the first day. While I suppose every trail exists objectively out there on its own, nobody rides the same trail, ever. Your mood, experience, and energy all color what the trail looks like to you. You’ve probably noticed this yourself: the second time you go and ride a trail, it seems much shorter than the first time you ride it.
Similarly, if I were to go back and re-ride the first stage of the Breck Epic, I expect I’d fall in love with it (as I fell in love with a lot of the trail in the third through sixth stages).
But for now, my recollection of the day is that everything was steep (probably steeper than it really is), and long (probably longer than it was) and excessively technical (you get the picture).
All I could do was endure. Hang on. For as long as I could.
But how long would that be?
And the crazy thing is, I was thinking all of this before we even got to the first aid station.
Speaking of which, where was that aid station? It was supposed to be ten miles into the race, but we had gone way more than that. The Hammer and I were splitting my food (of which I had brought plenty), but the day was warming up and our bottles were empty.
Then — finally! — there it was: the first aid station, right around fourteen miles.
I ate most of the orange wedges they had cut up, going through them so quickly and messily that the girl across the table had to walk away.
I filled my bottle with the sports drink they were providing, tasted it, and then poured it out.
I’d make do with water for the rest of the day.
To the Pain
As the day went on, my knee began hurting worse and worse. Before I got to the second aid station, I had begun slowing down, unable to put much power at all into climbing. I’d have to get off the bike and march for easier and easier climbs.
The thing is, marching hurt worse than riding.
Except when I was riding. Then riding hurt worse than marching.
And in short, my left knee was killing me, and I just wanted the day to be over.
I kept going. I told myself that I would not quit.
Then it occurred to me that the fact that I had just told myself that I would not quit meant that at least a part of me had come to the conclusion that quitting was a reasonable thing to be thinking about.
Quitting had entered my internal conversation. That was new. And not welcome.
The Hammer, meanwhile, was slowly but surely dropping me.
That was new, too. And also not welcome. You see, while in my blog I talk up — completely honestly — how strong and fast The Hammer is on a bike, I’m also thinking to myself, “But I’m still faster than she is.”
Except I wasn’t. Not anymore.
We’d be riding together and then — without me ever really noticing the moment it happened — she’d be a couple bike lengths ahead of me, instead of the one bike length I usually stay behind her.
And then four bike lengths.
And then she’d be out of sight.
It wouldn’t matter, either, that I’d be thinking to myself, “Go faster, Fatty. Keep up.” She’d still be dropping me.
Then, when she noticed — to her surprise — that I was no longer anywhere near her — she’d stop and wait for me.
And the cycle of misery would repeat.
After The Race, Which Is Before The Race
We finished the first stage of the Breck Epic. Somehow, with The Hammer towing me and me endlessly dropping back — not using my left leg at all for the last ten miles of the stage — I got across the line. 5:29 of riding. Ugh.
We rode our bikes — downhill, on pavement, mercifully — back to our condo, where we got cleaned up.
Now we needed to eat. The problem was, neither of us felt like eating. We were both sick to our stomachs.
The irony of two peopel who normally love eating more than any two people should, suddenly free to eat as much as they like, and now suddenly unable to enjoy eating at all, was not lost on us.
We sat on our couch and watched Judge Judy, trying to get the strength together to go to a restaurant.
We decided to walk, because the streets of Breckenridge were busy; we’d have a hard time parking.
We intended to stop at the first restaurant that sounded good, which should have been easy; we like pretty much everything, and there are a lot of restaurants in Breckenridge.
But nothing sounded good today. We walked past restaurant after restaurant. Finally, most of the way through town, we stopped at a pasta place.
Which we found, once we had sat down, was no longer serving lunch, but was not yet serving dinner.
So we made a meal of a few appetizers. Which we could not finish.
We walked home. Me limping. Secretly already figuring out how I would phrase the sentence where I told The Hammer I didn’t think I could do this. But i couldn’t figure out a way I liked to say it, so I didn’t.
Not yet anyway.
Having eaten (sort of), The Hammer and I went back to the Breck Epic HQ tent, where the daily awards ceremony was underway.
Astonishingly, The Hammer and I had podiumed!
Okay, maybe it’s not that astonishing, since we were one of only three Coed Duo teams racing. And we had taken third for the day.
Still, hey. Podium!
Except — and I am not making this up at all — my left knee hurt so bad that I had a very hard time even climbing up onto that teeny-tiny third podium spot.
After the award ceremony, we went grocery shopping, figuring that henceforth, we’d eat out less and cook in more. Because that way when we were too tired to go out, we could just eat bacon or gnaw on a block of cheese or something.
I liveblogged my bit part in Leverage while I iced my knee, hoping it would feel better soon. Real soon.
We went to bed by 8:00pm.
And I was up by 8:15, barfing what little I had managed to eat since the race.
I came back to bed, telling The Hammer, “Well, at least that’s over.”
Then, at 8:20, I was back in the bathroom. Dry heaving.
By 9:00pm, my stomach stopped trying to get rid of stuff that wasn’t even there and I was able to come back to bed.
“I don’t think I can race tomorrow,” I told The Hammer.
“See how you feel when you wake up,” she replied.
And that’s where we’ll pick up tomorrow.