Soaked: Breck Epic Race Report, Part 2

10.17.2012 | 3:19 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is part of my race report for the the 2012 Breck Epic. My writeups for all parts of this story can be found here:

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

If I had known it was going to be a day like this, I’d have stayed in bed.

In fact, I nearly did anyway. My knee felt ok — I could walk with only a slight limp — but it sure didn’t feel great.

We checked the weather: 40% chance of rain, pretty much through the day. That was actually good news, for two reasons:

  1. 40% was lower than the 60% the forecast showed when we went to bed the night before.
  2. 40% is better odds than a coin toss.

So we started getting ready. We put food and rain clothes in each of our two drop bags, figuring it was best to be safe. We made breakfast burritos, again, hoping they would be easier to eat that day.

They were not.

The profile and distance for the day weren’t too dissimilar from the first day of the race.


42.4 miles of singletrack, with 6322 feet of climbing.

We got to the starting line, which today was in the heart of Breckenridge.

We stared at the sky, which was dark and grey. In my mind, I increased the odds of rain sometime during the day to 100%. The only question was when. And how much. So I guess that’s actually two questions.

The starting time arrived. And then it passed (the only day the race started late). We continued to look at the sky, worried.

It began to rain. Big, slow drops. The kind of rain where you don’t get hit often, but when you do you can feel it.

The Hammer and I decided we’d better get the windbreakers (because we each have two rain jackets, which were in our drop bags) we had with us out and put them on.

As we did so, the race started.

And so we got to have the peculiar experience of standing at a starting line, struggling into jackets, while watching every single other racer ride away from us.

To Aid Station 1

The first few miles of riding in the rain are always wonderful, because they allow you to picture yourself being hardy and steely-eyed.

The Hammer and I found ourselves in a good-sized group of people, all laughing about how muddy and wet we all were already, as well as how grity our drivetrains already sounded.

None of us were thinking — at least out loud — about what the day would be like if this rain continued. And especially, none of us were talking about what it would be like if it got worse.

And why would we? After all, the rain was letting up a little bit, to the point that The Hammer and I took off our semi-soggy windbreakers and ride in short sleeves. We were wet, sure. But we were climbing, so we weren’t cold.

As for my knee, well, it was doing OK. I wasn’t riding fast, but I was riding. Plus, I had loaded up on Advil, and had more in my jersey pocket. Which I would take later in the day, kidneys be damned.

Then, shortly before we got to the first aid station, the rain picked up. So we arrived at the first aid station completely soaked. We swapped out to our full-on rain jackets. Unfortunately, because we thought that rain would become a worse problem later in the day, we had put our best rain gear in our second drop bags.

For example, the gloves I had put in this drop bag were $10 semi-winter gloves I had bought at Kohls a couple years ago. And the jacket was something I had bought at a tourist trap during a hiking trip about ten years ago.

To Aid Station 2

We headed out of the first aid station . . . and into hell. A very, very wet hell.

The rain went from “hard” to “torrential.” People’s faces were completely black from mud. Several times I was especially glad that I had two eyes, because a gob of mud would fly into one eye; I could blink blindly with that eye until vision cleared, while I used the other eye to continue riding.

Because we never stopped. We just didn’t ever want to stop.

Somehow, we knew that if we stopped, we’d become even colder. That the shakes would hit us even harder. That the rain would feel even fiercer.

So we kept going, actually passing a lot of people that day. I noted to myself — more than once — “that person looks even more miserable than I feel.”

Now that I think about it, though, I expect other people were thinking the same thing about me.

My knee began hurting. The rain came down, harder. The climbing remained steep, and technical singletrack became running streams.

And I confess: I began to complain. But only in my mind. See, I would have complained out loud, but The Hammer was still smiling and being positive and riding along like this was some kind of exciting adventure. Even though she was just as wet and muddy as I was.

And she was quite a bit colder than I was, judging from her shaking and chattering teeth.

Yet, The Hammer abided, riding strong and staying positive.

So I kept my trap shut. Most of the time.

Survival Mode

We made it to the second aid station. The Hammer quickly switched into her better, warmer, drier rain jacket.

I did not.

Nor did I change into my water-resistant gloves.

I have no reasonable explanation for this, other than to try to describe what I was thinking, which kind of went like this:

  1. I’m really cold. And wet
  2. I wish I had my better jacket and gloves on.
  3. But in order to put my better clothes on, I’ll first have to take the (completely soaked and basically useless) coat and gloves I’m currently wearing off.
  4. If I take my jacket and gloves off, I’ll be even colder than I am.
  5. I don’t want to be colder than I am. Not even for a second.
  6. So I’m not going to change clothes.

Yeah, it’s possible I wasn’t thinking at my very very best at that moment.

As The Hammer changed and I stood around constructing addle-brained syllogisms, other cyclists arrived, some looking even colder and wetter and worse than I felt.

A volunteer got on the radio and made a call to Mike McCormack, the race director.

“Racers are starting to look kinda sketchy as they come in,” the volunteer said.

Mike replied, “Give them the option of pulling out of the race. If the weather keeps getting worse, we’ll make it compulsory.”

The part of my brain that still processed language noted how awesome it was that Mike had just used the word “compulsory.”

I looked at The Hammer to see if she had heard what was going on. She had.

“We’d stand around waiting and shivering and freezing longer if we stopped here waiting for a ride back to town than if we just finished the race,” The Hammer said, pragmatically.

So we kept going, hoping that the last big climb of the day — which was coming right up — would help us warm up. And it worked. We both felt warmer, although we had to slow way down because my knee was such a mess.

And then we hit the singletrack, which was now a fast-flowing river. The Hammer took a fall in this, splashing hard and smacking her hip into a rock.

Meanwhile, I could no longer use my left leg to pedal at all.

Then came the downhill to the finish line, chilling us both to the bone. But we made it. We got to the finish line.

The problem was, we then had to ride — downhill — another three miles to get to our condo.

It was the worst, slowest, three miles of my life. I could barely turn the cranks; The Hammer kept distancing me.

I began to wonder if I would make it back to the condo at all.

But we did. Somehow, we did.

Back at the Condo

So we parked our bikes in the underground parking, not even bothering to lock them up. Hoping, maybe a little, that someone would steal the bikes and let us off the hook.

We went up the hall to our condo, got out the little plastic keycard, and swiped.


I swiped again.

Nothing still.

I swiped and swiped.

More nothing.

The Hammer got out her keycard and swiped.

Nothing continued to happen some more.

We began to fret. If our keys didn’t work, we’d have to bike to the center of town to get replacement keys. And we did not want to leave the house.

I started machine-gunning the card in and out and in and out and in and out of the key slot.


Finally, I looked at the card, which was wet and slightly muddy. Maybe if I wiped it off? Dried it?

But we had nothing to dry it on. We sere altogether soaked.

So I peeled up my bike shorts and rubbed the card on my relatively clean thigh, then waved the card around madly in the air for a minute.

I swiped the card, and it worked.

Never have two people laughed with more sincere relief.

We stepped into our condo. I planned to immediately strip down — get out of these freezing soaking clothes as quickly as possible.

“Wait, there’s the camera,” said The Hammer. “Let’s get pictures real quick.”

And I am so glad we did. Here they are. All of them.







What I love about all these photos is that The Hammer’s got her teeth clenched exactly the same in every single shot. Like her moth is frozen in that position.


We left our clothes and shoes and helmets on the kitchen floor, in a soggy muddy mess. Later, we’d take them to the carwash, where we’d hose them off, along with our bikes. And then we’d wash them (we had been smart enough to rent a condo with a washer and dryer). Twice.

For now, though, we just wanted to get warmed up, via approximately an hour in the shower. Thank goodness for a hotel-sized water heater.

Even so, we continued to shake violently through two episodes of Judge Judy. I refused to ice my knee, saying I would go near nothing cold until I stopped shaking.

We didn’t go out to eat, opting instead to stay inside and make spaghetti — which we both agreed was the best thing we ate that week.

“If it’s raining tomorrow,” I said, between mouthfuls, “I quit. I will not get on my bike.”

The Hammer did not argue.

PS: At the award ceremony that evening, I talked with CyclingDirt. Here’s the interview:

PPS: Did you catch my lie in the interview? Did I sound convincing?


  1. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.17.2012 | 3:41 pm

    What no Hot Tub?????

    you opt for the washer and dryer but not the hot tub. If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re getting old. (just you Elden)

  2. Comment by FatCarlos | 10.17.2012 | 3:48 pm

    Oh no. Her “moth is frozen”!

    For more fun, read it with Inspector Clouseau’s accent.

  3. Comment by zeeeter | 10.17.2012 | 3:57 pm

    Well, in the words from the little chap on the trike at the end of The Incredibles . . . those photos of the pair of you were “Totally Wicked!”. Classic. Awesome. You must be nuts. Both of you. Well done on persevering though!

  4. Comment by sdcadbiker | 10.17.2012 | 3:58 pm

    “Do you ever think about bagging it?”
    “No, not really”.

    Totally convincing; you even held eye contact when you said it! I watched that video when it was first posted and totally believed you. I’m still not convinced that the lie isn’t in your blog rather than on video. But whatever; that was another great report! The races where we suffer are the ones we remember most.

  5. Comment by Brian in VA | 10.17.2012 | 4:41 pm

    I’ve determined that the Hammer is one of those people who appears to have a smile on her face all the time…sometimes it’s the frozen moth look of course, but from a distance you’d say, “Wow! That woman is really smiling broadly! She must be having a great time!”

    You, on the other hand, Fatty look like death in spandex.

    Great report, man. I’m typing this from a condo just outside Breckenridge and it’s the first time I’ve ever been here and I can see why you’d love it! I may have to try MB after all!

  6. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.17.2012 | 4:54 pm

    I commuted home one night 23m in the rain last spring. I do not remember a smile on my face, even when it was done.

    Well done on your effort. I agree with Brian in Va that your look is rather decrepit, like a much older man, someone like me. You might want to ‘bury’ these pics (yours of course). The Hammer may see a glimpse of the future, and from your posture and face, it’s not going to be pretty.

    Can’t wait for the next installment!

  7. Comment by Anonymous | 10.17.2012 | 5:07 pm

    Advil-KBD – it could be the name of a great rock group.

    Good report, but, i am sorry, elden, it did sound like you were prevaricating when you said the rain did not bother you.

    (There, i used prevaricating in a sentence. now i just need to look it up and that word is mine! – I hope it is a word.)

  8. Comment by Anonymous | 10.17.2012 | 5:08 pm

    DeathinSpandex could also be a band name.

  9. Comment by Anonymous | 10.17.2012 | 5:11 pm

    @BrianinVa – DeathinSpandex could be the name of the next great indie rock group. Or DethinSpandex and it’s a metal group!

  10. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.17.2012 | 5:13 pm

    Here I note the name of the next great rock group, and my laptop forgets who i am, so I comment as anonymous. Hmpf.

    Also, to BrianinVA – DethinSpandex could be the name of a metal rock group.

  11. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.17.2012 | 5:16 pm

    And to make matters worse, my laptop fails to register my second anony comment, so I pathetically redo it three times wherin it registers a trifecta making me look very very … something. I give.

  12. Comment by LidsB2 | 10.17.2012 | 6:29 pm

    My wife asks if you were harmed by the small furry animal attached to your chin.

  13. Comment by Jenni | 10.17.2012 | 7:43 pm

    I have been that cold. Actually, I’m that cold when I ride all winter. And I stand in the shower and boil myself to a nice shade of lobster, then get under a heating blanket for 3-4 hours. I can totally feel your pain.

    Ahem. Shouldn’t you be writing a story for me right now? – FC

  14. Comment by Scott | 10.17.2012 | 8:10 pm

    Fatty – well told story, as always. Just one question – is that a Members Only jacket??

  15. Comment by Obstinate Roadie | 10.17.2012 | 8:29 pm

    I had a nearly identical experience just the other day. My first time on a mountain bike in two years just happened to coincide with a 40 degree monsoon. The teeth clenching, the mud, the shivering; I know it well.

    The worst part was that we had to walk up every hill, until the mud was so bad we no longer even had enough traction to walk. At that point we turned around and got a ride in a warm car back to the start.

    This experience has only reinforced my roadie obstinacy. Glad you made it through.

  16. Comment by wharton_crew | 10.18.2012 | 12:14 am

    With the denta-clench look that the Hammer is modeling, I gotta say that I’m a bit scared. If there were any sharp objects in the room, it’d be Bates Motel with that smile frozen to her face! I say that with all due respect…seriously Hammer…don’t hurt me…

  17. Comment by Nancy_in_MN | 10.18.2012 | 4:07 am

    I still think the Hammer looks better than you, Fatty. It’s a good thing she’s got pretty teeth, because we sure see a lot of them! I’m picturing how difficult it must have been for her to move her lips enough to cover her teeth, let alone speak coherently.

    I’ve been that cold and wet on a ride once as well. Ride volunteers kept trying to force me into the ambulance to “warm up” (they say I was blue) but, and perhaps I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time, I was certain they were going to do bad things to me in there as soon as the doors closed.

    @Clydesteve I’m glad to find out who “anonymous” was, posting and sounding just like that Clydesteve guy. Love the DeathInSpandex band name and I wondered if you have seen that bit about mamils? Middle Aged Men In Lycra. I ride with a lot of mamils and they are the best sort of people.

  18. Comment by Skippy | 10.18.2012 | 4:12 am

    With the news of Lance standing down as Chairman of LivesTRONG , i have returned to using the wrist band !

    I do this to acknowledge the 28M people fighting Cancer and would urge others to follow my example !

    Here is not the place to debate the issues , but with several family members lost to Cancer , it is my way of holding their memory current .

  19. Comment by FujiPixie13 | 10.18.2012 | 6:26 am

    Hey, Fatty, just a hint for future freezing cold races/rides. When you get back to your room, make some coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, anything hot to heat your core from the inside, THEN hit the shower. Your body will thank you for it and you’ll feel warmer much faster. :o)

  20. Comment by Barton | 10.18.2012 | 7:05 am

    MANIACAL. That is the word that came to my mind when I saw your photo, Fatty. The Hammer looks like a breath of fresh air in the spring in comparison. Meaning, of course, you look like you should based on your description. She looks like she experienced a totally different race in completely different conditions (maybe warm, artisenal mud to your cold smelly clay pack).

    Glad to see day two was only SLIGHTLY worse than day one. I’m hoping your knee gets better and not worse throughout the week (time – and your blog – will tell).

  21. Comment by Christina | 10.18.2012 | 7:09 am

    The Hammer abides.

    Truer words were never written.

  22. Comment by GenghisKhan | 10.18.2012 | 7:42 am

    I thought the lie was 2:07-2:18, but the real followed right after, 2:20-2:33 and nyah, not convincing–you got all shifty eyed!

    Great write up and great pics. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Comment by centurion | 10.18.2012 | 8:23 am

    The look on your face says “Are you f*****g kidding me?’ The look on The Hammer’s face says “I’m not kidding, and I will kill and eat you if you do not obey”

  24. Comment by Cornbread | 10.18.2012 | 8:44 am

    Awesome marketing! I want to ride the Breck Epic, just like I want a case of the shingles!

  25. Comment by TominAlbany | 10.18.2012 | 8:57 am

    I can’t wait for Part 3(4)!!! Also wish to know how much training you do in monsoon weather?

  26. Comment by Team Coffee Nook | 10.18.2012 | 9:07 am

    Saaaay…that is a nice rain jacket. How about a fund raiser with the jacket as first prize?

  27. Comment by Mark | 10.18.2012 | 9:13 am

    No wonder they call it the Breck EPIC! The Hammer’s clenched moth is to try to quell the shivering; been there too! You guys are awesome!

  28. Comment by Ariziona Guy | 10.18.2012 | 9:54 am

    I was on a double century once, riding a Tandem, and we had rain that started about 30 seconds after we started. The water floated all the grit up, and we went through 4-5 flats (at least one where we mis-mounted the tube to hear it explode as we pumped it up) and were out of any new ones trying to patch up the punctured ones with numb fingers.

    By lunch (~115 miles) I had had enough and I raised my hand for the sag wagon. I was then told there were over 100 people ahead of us and it would be over an hour before a seat would open on the bus, so we got back on the bike. The sun came out not long after and we ended up with a nice (flat-free!) ride to finish it off.

  29. Comment by bikemike | 10.18.2012 | 9:56 am

    Looking forward to the fun part. There is a fun part, right?

  30. Comment by AKChick55 | 10.18.2012 | 11:13 am

    That was me in September for the Bike MS which was scaled back from a 2-day event to a 1 day 25 mile event. We had rain, cold (45 deg), and high winds. They were calling for sustained 50-80mph winds for Saturday afternoon and Sunday. We Alaskans are tough, but not that tough! I cheated though – I had my new company logoed cross jacket (light and warm) and opted not to put a layer on under my rain pants. I was going to try for two 25 mile out and backs but after the first 25, I was too chilled and was also very gritty and muddy as was my rims and brake pads. I can very much relate to the Hammer’s “smile.” That is a Chris Horner expression if I’ve ever seen one. :)

    Love the race report. I would love to ride with the Hammer if I could ever keep up. She is one of the most wonderful, warm, sweet, fun, positive, happy people I know. Her awesome energy vibes rub off on you, even if you’re not riding. Love the Hammer.

  31. Comment by MattC | 10.18.2012 | 12:12 pm

    Sorry to burst any bubbles here, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that is not a smile the Hammer is displaying…yes, it shows teeth. But so does a dog right before it bites your head off…that is a look of a quick and certain death for the very next person to even mildly annoy her.

    I love the last shot the most…where Fatty has a forced “camera-time” happy face going, and the Hammer’s look has turned into pure psycho-lady…like she’s looking at you thinking about how you’d taste. Look at the eyes…very scary! If there was an actual person taking that last shot I’d bet they are currently missing, never to be found.

    I agree you are both nuts (in a good way tho)…and certainly you both are infinently stronger (mentally and physically) than I…can’t wait for the next installment!

  32. Comment by Ed | 10.18.2012 | 12:33 pm

    Your post-ride appearance would be perfect for Halloween costumes. The kids (and most adults) would be terrified!

  33. Comment by Craig Manthe | 10.18.2012 | 1:41 pm

    That was the best, coldest, most brutal, most epic ride of my life. Everyone that rode that day is now tougher because of it.

  34. Comment by Jenni | 10.18.2012 | 3:49 pm

    Ha!! I’m writing, I’m writing!!

  35. Comment by toxic | 10.18.2012 | 8:44 pm

    That’s a “the terrorist told me to smile or they would pull out my fingernails” smile.

  36. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 10.18.2012 | 10:19 pm

    Just wondering. What happened to your cleaning deposit on the condo? Or is that now in arbitration.

  37. Comment by MattC | 10.19.2012 | 10:26 am

    davidh…now THAT is funny! Just about spit out my potato chips and coffee (it’s break time).

  38. Comment by Markb | 10.20.2012 | 1:04 pm

    Great blog posting. I rode the breck epic also this year and yo yo,d positions with you guys daily.

    Stage 2 was horrific the worst day on a bike of my life truly dreadful conditions persistent rain and the sheer drop in temperature it went from epic to survival get off the mtn and make this end.

    Great site and blog and stay fast


  39. Comment by Kiwi | 10.21.2012 | 10:32 pm

    Davidh, I was thinking the same thing too! LOL

    Just so ya know, DeathinSpandex is my new 80’s revival hair band.

  40. Comment by Bicycle Bill | 10.26.2012 | 4:22 am

    That first picture of you, Fatty — if that isn’t a three-mile stare, I’ve never seen one.



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