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:
I never would have believed that I could possibly get a more awesome hand-up in a race than a handful of Skittles from Jeff Kerkove at 12,000 feet.
And yet, a mere two days later, in the penultimate day of racing the Breck Epic, it happened.
I shall describe what happened in just a moment. You will not disagree.
This is a Race
The fifth day of the Breck Epic was all about one giant climb up Whistler Mountain, followed by one giant descent.
We started the day from a ski resort, and immediately started climbing. As was our tradition — and frankly, rightful location — we started near the back.
And began passing people. Lots of people.
In fact, we passed the second-place coed team (the Blisses). And then we passed the first-place team (I can’t remember their name, because we never really talked with them). The man of the team was pushing the woman, giving her an assist up the mountain.
I had three reactions to this:
- “Hey, that’s totally illegal, but still kind of sweet.” In fact, the winning team had been warned on doing this from the previous day. But you know, when your wife is hurting, you still want to be chivalrous, rules be damned.
- “Hey, why aren’t you giving me a push?” As a liberated and modern man of the two-thousand-pre-teens, I am absolutely not averse to a little help from my wife. Hence, I looked over at The Hammer and said, “Anytime you feel like you’d like to give me a push, just let me know.”
- “This is an unusual place for us.” For the first time I can remember during this race, The Hammer and I were the lead coed duo team. Frankly, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure.
As a result of our sudden and unexpected dominance among the coed teams, we — for the first time since the race had begun five days ago — skipped an aid station.
This weren’t no time for jibber-jabber. This — due to this strange turn of events — was a race.
Let’s Take Our Bikes on a Walk
Before too long, the steep dirt road we were riding on turned into steep, rocky singletrack. Rocky and steep enough, in fact, that we were forced to walk about as often as we could ride:
Before terribly long, though, we could ride again.
And after that, before terribly long, we’d have to walk again.
But we didn’t care. We were marching in a line, taking in the stark-but-beautiful scenery, and honestly just really enjoying ourselves.
As you can see, the trail gets really stark once you’re above treeline.
What’s That Smell?
As we neared the summit, I caught a whiff of something. Something very good. But it just didn’t make sense. So I kept my mouth shut.
And then I smelled it again.
I had just about made my mind up to go ahead and — crazy as it sounded — say what I was smelling when The Hammer spoke up:
“I swear, I smell bacon cooking.”
“So it’s not just me smelling it,” I said.
“No, I smell it too,” said the guy behind me.
“I’ve never smelled anything quite so delicious,” I remarked. And it was true. While The Hammer and I had a difficult time eating before and after racing, we felt fine and were able to eat without difficulty while we were racing.
Then, as we crested the summit, we saw where the smell came from: A man, crouching by a little fire (it was impressive that at 12,500 he was able to make a fire at all), frying bacon in a little pan.
We rode by, waving. And wishing.
But then the man stood up and ran over to us, handing us each a small piece of freshly-cooked, hot and delicious and smoky, bacon.
My eyes are welling up even as I type this. It was that good.
Many times since then, I have thought about that instant, for a couple of reasons. First of all, because I see it as a perfect example of kind-hearted humor. Because it’s funny, the thought of the surprise and obscureness of handing bacon out at 12,500 feet to mountain bike racers. But it’s also really nice. The kind of joke you’d want to be known for.
The other thing I’ve thought about since then is whether, in the universe of hand-ups, if there exists a hand-up better than hot bacon, freshly-cooked over a campfire at 12,500 feet.
I cannot, for the life of me, think of anything that trumps this.
Hard Descent, Easy Descent
If you look at the elevation profile above, you can see that following our big climb, we had an even-bigger descent. One that started out so incredibly technical that we slowed to a crawl and Team Bliss — by far our superiors, downhill-wise — blew right by us.
Once again, we were not in first place. However, we were at least no longer in last place. Which still seemed like a nice change to us.
Eventually we got down to the end of this rocky, ledgy descent and were met with . . . even more descending. But this time, the descending was completely different than anything else we had ridden the entire race.
It was this:
Yep, a gently-descending bike path.
Ordinarily, I would roll my eyes if this were included as part of a mountain bike race, but this week of racing had left me beat. I was absolutely overjoyed to be zooming on pavement, ticking the miles off at an unprecedented rate.
And The Hammer was grateful to find a working restroom on the side of the bike path.
Hey, little things mean a lot.
At about 18 miles, we got to the last aid station, where The Hammer plopped herself down and commenced to enjoy her daily picnic. I, meanwhile, remained standing. Eating my sandwich, but also kind of wanting to get going, seeing as how — for the first time since the race had begun — we had a chance at finishing not-last in the coed duo category.
As a wise husband, however, I said nothing. The Hammer would ride when The Hammer was ready to ride.
While we were there, the third place team zoomed in, grabbed something to drink, and flew through — clearly in a rush to regain their not-last position.
The Hammer continued eating, unconcerned. I stood by, wisely silent.
A few minutes later, The Hammer finished her picnic, gave the person working the aid station a hug, and then said to me, “OK, I’m fueled up. let’s go kick their ass.”
I wondered if it would have been more grammatically correct to say “asses,” but wisely continued to remain silent.
The trail turned uphill, which was good for us. It remained moderately technical (without being so technical as to force us off our bikes), which was also good for us.
The Hammer was in the mood to catch this other team, and that — more than anything else, really — was really good for us.
Within two miles, at the base of a steep pitch, we had caught the second-place team. “Have a great ride!” The Hammer called, as we attacked the hill, dropping them.
As far as I know, they did not reply.
For a while, I kept looking over my shoulder, but I never saw them again. (On that stage, I mean. It’s not like they disappeared off the face of the earth or anything. Just in case you were worried.)
We crossed the finish line, strong and — for the day — in second place (although, thanks to my knee pain in days 1 and 2, we had no chance at all of getting anything but third / last place overall) for coed duo.
Almost as if we were really racing.