Pain and Suffering and Slowness: Breck Epic Race Report, Part 1

10.10.2012 | 8:16 am

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
  • Stop
  • 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.

Something New

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.

Bad Night

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.


  1. Comment by Mark | 10.10.2012 | 8:50 am

    Wow! Tough day. Since we know the results, I can just enjoy the the reports, and smile or wince as appropriate. Your logic circle on quitting is worthy of any philosopher. What will tomorrow bring…?

  2. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.10.2012 | 9:03 am

    I assume the Breck Epic people have not yet sought your endorsement….or quotes.

    Can’t wait for the next part!

  3. Comment by KevinM_Ind | 10.10.2012 | 9:14 am

    Ugh …. what a rough start …. Looking forward to the next update …. The anticipation builds ….

  4. Comment by Jim Tolar | 10.10.2012 | 9:26 am

    As Mark above points out, we already know the results, but it’s hard to imagine how you come back from here to finish the event.


    Great, as usual, write up.

  5. Comment by Kyle | 10.10.2012 | 9:57 am

    Damn dude, I didn’t know you were hurting so bad out there. I wouldn’t have bugged you chatting about the bike I won in your contest a few years ago. I ate almost nothing that first night either. The cold river leg soak served me well though.

  6. Comment by roan | 10.10.2012 | 10:00 am

    WoW your Breck Epic is already epic with pain, OH the suffering.
    Thanks for the advice on getting on a podium, only enter a race with 3 in my classification. No wonder I enjoy riding with my two other favorite riders.

  7. Comment by bikemike | 10.10.2012 | 10:35 am

    “See how you feel when you wake up”, is exactly what every general in every army tells the infantry when there is only one man left, you, and you’ve got one bullet left in your rifle and zee Germans are attacking at dawn. Exactly. The Runner would make a great general or head of the Ministry of Torture.

  8. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.10.2012 | 10:43 am


    Ministry of Torture choice! I was going to post a Betty Page photo and then thought ….uh….no.

  9. Comment by TK | 10.10.2012 | 11:17 am

    I can almost feel your pain. A wise man once said something about maybe there is such a thing as too much singletrack.

    I try to stop biking before biking stops being fun. I when I get tired of my road bike, I switch to my mountain bike. When I get tired of my mountain bike, I switch to playing golf. By the time I am tired of golf, I am usually ready to start over with the road bike again.

    I usually go through a complete cycle of this routine once per week or every other week. I think I have ADHD.

  10. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.10.2012 | 11:58 am

    To the Pain! I love Princess Bride references!

  11. Comment by Kukui | 10.10.2012 | 12:07 pm

    Ugh… what a brutal day! I would probably have given up and gone home by the end of that. And more have felt entirely justified after barfing up 300 calories of a 1500+ deficit!

    I’m so impressed / amazed / shocked / apalled that you stuck through it, Fatty!

  12. Comment by Kukui | 10.10.2012 | 12:08 pm

    … and by “apalled” I of course mean “appalled”

  13. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 10.10.2012 | 2:18 pm

    Wow. Sounds like good times. I’m really glad I know how this all turns out.

  14. Comment by MattC | 10.10.2012 | 2:52 pm

    Fatty, what kind of energy drink were they serving? It’s been years now since I’ve done it, but the Solvang Century down here always used to serve (and may still) “Spiz”…which to my taste buds is exactly as tasty as the name brings to mind…personally I think a name change would be in order….hmmm…lets see..what do I want to buy….we have Cytomax, Hammer, CarboRocket, and Spiz…I’d say I have a choice of 3 drinks from that list, even having never tasted it. Might as well call it “Spit”…which is what about everybody I know does to it immedietly upon tasting.

    GREAT writeup btw! You’re doing an admirable job of keeping us hanging. And golly-gosh, your Breck Epic was even more epic than I had imagined. I don’t know how you both did it (day one I mean)…I don’t think I’m that strong…the little guy on my left shoulder would have been whispering DNF to me since Leadville!

  15. Comment by Mickey | 10.10.2012 | 6:32 pm

    So, Fatty, I’m a troll and I’d like you to pay attention to me. Would you please pay attention to me if I use ad-hominem attacks and then moralize to you like I didn’t just abandon any pretense of a moral high ground just a moment ago?

    Would you, please?

    (Edited for clarity. – FC)

  16. Comment by jacked | 10.10.2012 | 9:09 pm

    Quietly ignore or comment……

    I am usually a quietly ignore kind of guy, but today all I can say is…

    Wow Mickey nice turd you laid there, your one class act.

  17. Comment by diverkiwi | 10.10.2012 | 9:34 pm

    Fatty, rough day!
    Love reading about it, you make it so verbose and leave us hanging waiting for more. I’m pretty sure this can qualify as literature.

  18. Comment by Jeff Bike | 10.10.2012 | 10:56 pm

    “I’m pretty sure this can qualify as literature.” I concur.

    And Troll hunting as well, good shooting Fatty!

    Oh man I had no idea you guys suffered so much, no wonder it has been so long to be able to talk about it. The ride must have been traumatic! Your writing is truly dramatic.

  19. Comment by FujiPixie13 | 10.11.2012 | 5:31 am

    “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.”

    Fatty, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything quite like that! Most volunteers I know have seen almost everything during a major race of Epic proportions. That must have been one truly spectacular example of “scarfing”. Glad you made it through the first day. You & The Hammer are amazing. Thank you for this blog. I love it.

  20. Comment by Christina | 10.11.2012 | 7:45 am

    I’m stating to think Bento Boxes are no good. Didn’t IT Guy lose all his food out of his? And now The Hammer?

    My legs ache reading this story. I bow down to your combined awesomeness. I also really, really, really hope for a Hammer version. I enjoy her one and done take along with the multipart stories. She also makes me feel so much better about my suffering.

  21. Comment by jon (a clyde from Chi-town) | 10.11.2012 | 8:55 am

    Sounds like the internal argument could have come from the left or right side, would have bested any giant, and certainly would have put the Sicilian on the carpet – to the pain indeed.

    Now I understand the “Epic” part in the name of the race… Epic pain and suffering.

    And, to your statement regarding your writing – a high art indeed – worthy of Blake himself.

  22. Comment by marishka | 10.11.2012 | 9:06 am

    Ooh! Cliffhanger! Can’t wait for the next installment : D

  23. Comment by | 10.11.2012 | 11:00 am

    Pain Cave loses it’s drama,this post seems to conture up images of entering the Pain House.,OMG I’ve only every ridden myself ‘barfy’ once after a hill climb…not pretty at all. But to think of all the riding and racing you two had just finished off and then this stage, I have no idea how you both were still standing….GO GET EM……on to the next stage..

  24. Comment by Rob L | 10.11.2012 | 11:17 am

    Damn Fatty. That is rough, but so is the general idea of doing a Super Hard 100 miler then following it up with 6 days of sweet but serious riding. Why I think it’s as bone headed as some of Dicky’s exploits.

    I think “I’m Fine” in the Husband’s Dictionary of Wife Speak is defined “Shut the f up and don’t ask stupid questions when it’s obvious I’m not fine. If you can’t bring me flowers and chocolate right now just give me a hug and don’t pester me.” Additionally you may tack on “This is your fault….”

  25. Comment by Barton | 10.11.2012 | 11:52 am

    My left knee (mine that has no cartiledge remaining from year round sports during formative years and other stupid things) started aching as I read the Leadville report. And now you’ve ellicited sympathy pains from it again. Good job. :-)

  26. Comment by Papuass | 10.11.2012 | 4:13 pm

    By any chance, can a phrase “burning a match” in this context come froma a recently released book from a certain ex-doper? I think it has not been used in this blog before.


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