Breck 100 - Collapse at Como

Two laps done, one lap to go - the longest lap of the race. Having pitted at Jamie's house, I rolled through the lap/finish line with a smile for Larry G. I was entering uncharted territory as I headed south on the sunbeam trail towards Boreas Pass road. Not only was I about to ride my mountain bike further then I had ever ridden,, I was also riding my bike for longer then I ever had -eve in my slowest iron distance race it had "only " been seven hours on the bike. I was already at seven and a half hours with thirty plus miles to go. All that and more roiling  around in my head as I turned off Boreas Pass road for the first section of single track. I was still feeling okay but I knew I was getting tired. Now was the time to be mentally strong and keep focused on the next few minutes, not the next couple of hours.
The goal for the next few hours - reach the finish line!
Photo - Nick Thelen

The Blue River single track connected Boreas Pass road with Indian Creek Road. It meandered thru trees with a few punchy little climbs. Nothing technical but fun and quiet riding. Private property lined either side of the trail - huge homes tucked away from the world. Too soon,, the fun ended and we popped out onto the road. From there until the top of Boreas Pass, it was climbing. Nothing but climbing. Indian creek road was paved at first, with more huge mansions on either side of the road. A gradual climb, I was able to settle into a descent pace and eat something. At the stables and the road pitched upward a little steeper. We kept climbing on, now kn dirt, until the shooting range. Then it got steep for a moment - still fairly smooth but really steep. Just before the creek crossing the road leveled out. I had to walk the second bridge in the creek because I messed up my line and didn't want to bounce off rocks.

Then the fun really began. I had ridden most of Indian Creek during our preride and was hopeful to get at least that much. Not so much a trail as a rocky 4x4 track, we climbed up and up. I made the mistake of looking ahead of me to the south. Oh yeah, time to cross the continental divide again. And it looked so far away. Just focus on pedaling I told myself and put my head down to concentrate on picking an efficient line through the rocky trail and rough double track. I was going slower and slower, struggling for each pedal stroke. Out of gas and running out of energy. I finally gave in and started pushing. Tried a few timed to get on and ride but it was too much work. I was pushing faster then i was riding and if was taking less energy as well. Some of the 68ers around me kept riding, very slowly pulling away. I had hoped to ride more of that section and when Jamie blazed by me on her way to a 2nd overall in the 68, it was a blow mentally. I knew she was riding less then me and lived on those trails, but still. She was riding and making it look easy. I was walking...

And I walked the rest of the way to Boreas Pass road. As an old railroad line, Boreas Pass was a respite from the steep climbing we had just tackled. But it wasn't mentally soothing I could see exactly where we were headed due to the lack of tree cover. And it was a long way away - or so it seemed. I found some friendly 68ers and tucked in behind them. Wheels to follow always managed to make the feel easier climbs easier. It didn't seem to take that long to get to- and surprisingly, I was just a little over my projected time to that point. Maybe I was working thru some of that fatigue and would be able to pick up the pace kn the east half of the divide. I snagged my bottle and a potato at the aid station at the summit. But I didn't dawdle at all. With angry clouds building into towers over the mountains and thunder rumbling ever more frequently, I wanted down. Off the pass and into the trees on Gold Dust Trail.Luckily, one of the most fun descents of the entire race was coming up on Gold Dust. Sure the CT was awesome, but Gold Dust is pure enjoyment on two wheels.

It started raining just as I dropped onto single track. At first, just a light mist that was enough to start mud puddles forming in the low sections of trail, then a small stream formed down the center of the trail. Despite the rain, I was still moving pretty quick on the upper section of Gold Dust and having fun. But it was getting colder and the rain was starting to intensify. I made swift work of the fast descent and took the sharp right hand turn near the camp ground as thunder kept rolling. Rain poured down harder and harder. Just before the mud pit where I was planning on walking anyway I stopped to get my rain coat out. I was also happy to have my arm warmers on as the temperature had plunged with the rain. No sense in freezing my tail off and getting soaked when I'd carried the darn coat this far... I walked my bike through the mud as pea sized hail started pelting me. Good thing for the helmet! Unfortunately, the next section of Gold Dust, the really fun bobsled run like section that dropped down to County Rd 50 was more a river then a trail. The high, banked walls that provided so much fun under dry conditions funneled the rain into the center of the trail. A stream of mud instead of tacky single track. I was pretty ginger going down that section - not wanting to slide out on a root or tear a sidewall on a rock. I still managed to go off trail once or twice before the road crossing. I was covered in mud, my bike was covered in mud and my waterbottle was just filthy. Oh well.

But as soon as we crossed the road, the sun was sparkling and the trails dry. The dark clouds drifting away over the mountains to the east, revealing blue skies. How's that for racing in Colorado? Ride one mile and the weather changes! I walked the two bridges of Tarryall Creek and peeled off my coat. Didn't need it anymore - no sense in roasting. The trail was perfectly dry as we got under tree cover. I was really happy that that section of Gold Dust was dry. It was more technical then the top half, with a few long rock gardens and lots of roots that would be very tricky wet. Dry and tired, I knew there were going to be sections that I was gonna walk. Wet and tired? Don't want to even think about it! It was rolling down all the way to Como, with a few punchy climbs to keep the legs awake. My pace wasn't super fast anymore, but I was smooth through all the rocks, and efficient in the roots. Approaching the rock garden I knew I was going to walk, I warned the guys behind me "At some point, I'm gonna be off and walking." One of them responded "yep, me too..." Whew - no pressure then! I hit my dismount point and hopped off the bike. That was the last section I planned to walk. I pushed my bike carefully through the rocks, no running for me at that point, and got back on. The rest of Gold Dust meandered through aspens, with tight corners and sidewall eating rocks. I kept my weight back, stayed in a comfortable gear and steered the bike smoothly - searching for the most efficient line down to the road.

Just after the trail opened up onto the road leading to Como, one of the Yeti Betis passed me. She seemed so fresh and happy to be on her bike - still spunky after all those miles. Tall, ponytail and riding a yeti - I was sure it was Natalie Ryan, one of the other women in the 100. We talked briefly and then she was gone (It wasn't Natalie, but one of the other Yeti Beti riders - I was too tired to notice the lack of an Aussie accent when we were talking!) I watched her ride past the Como aid station with a wave and keep on trucking. My heart sank - I wasn't going to catch her... I had to stop and get a clean waterbottle and some food.

With some food in me and a water bottle that wasn't covered in mud, I still had hopes for a solid climb back up Boreas Pass Road. Yeah - hope is such a precious thing... I turned northward and looked up again at my next goal - so far, so high, so many miles away. And it quickly became obvious that I had nothing in my legs. The stretch of Boreas Pass between the Como and North Tarryall Creek road was gradual, but I was in my 24 - spinning with no energy to even try my 36. Not good, not good at all. I tried a few little accelerations, hoping to shake the lead out of my legs but there was nothing left.

My pace slowed to a crawl on North Tarryall Creek. Spry seeming 68ers kept passing me, streaming by, offering encouragement. I attempted a few times to get on wheels, hoping for a tow to the top of the switch backs at least. No go - I'd almost make the junction, then just fall off the pace completely and watch them climb away. I ate my Chocolate Raspberry Roctane, hoping for a burst of energy from the quick calories and caffeine. Nothing. By the time I finally reached Boreas Pass Road again, all I wanted to do was stop. Stop, get off my bike, sit down and take a break. The clouds were so pretty - drifting across the mountains around me - a blanket of white and grey. The mental and physical low I had been worried about had hit with a vengeance. And unlike the 24 hour races where I'd imploded with two laps to go, there was no going back to the camper and laying down while Nick was out riding. I was on my own. The only way to get back to camp was to keep pedaling. So keep pedaling I did. Phil and Paul from the Tour would have been all over me had I been racing on the roads. But I was alone with the suffering - me vs the fatigue, me vs my bike and the climb. A long, gradual climb with glimpses of the ultimate destination around every turn. Stopping was so appealing - but it wouldn't get me home, to the finish line. I had miles to go, but just put my head down and stayed in my easy gear and kept pedaling.

Finally at the top, I stopped for moment. Time to catch my breath and down half a banana. Less then ten miles to go - and most of it was down hill! Off down Boreas Pass I went, tucking low and aero to maximize my speed. Kept reminding myself to shift before the turnoff at Bakers Tank. A steep uphill waited there and I'd been caught off guard during the pre-ride. I didn't want to walk anymore. Just before the turn, another woman caught me. She was in the 100 - we rode together up the hill, with her talking about working together to try and break 12 hours. I couldn't stay on her wheel on the gradual climb on the single track just north of the Tank. But I wasn't giving up that easily - not this close to the finish line.

On my cheat sheet, I'd written at the second Boreas Pass aid station "Go like hell for the finish line." While my time was going to be quite a bit slower then I'd hoped, that still applied. Go like hell for the finish line - find the down hill and let the bike fly. I caught the woman who'd just passed me right after the trail tipped down hill. I quickly slipped around her, offering compliments as I passed. Around the switch back, jumping roots - the bike soaked it all up. The pre-ride made me comfortable on the tight trail sliced out of the mountain side. I proceeded to catch and drop two men in the tight, steep section before Boreas Pass road. A tight left, then a tight right and I was almost done. A few rolling climbs, another steep descent. I caught another guy just before the final, steep drop back down to Boreas Pass road for the final time.

Wait, I'm done! I can stop pedaling now! Yay!
Photo - Nick Thelen

Here comes the smile - with Mom, who volunteered out on the second lap
Photo - Adam Pulford

Onto the blacktop and I didn't look back. Tucked tight into aero on my mountain bike, trying to eke as much speed as I could on the downhill run. It was a desperate race to try and break 12:00 - but I knew I wouldn't be successfully. There was just too much distance left and only a few minutes to go. A hard right onto Sunbeam Road, then bolting across the pavement to Sunbeam Singletrack. Kept it smooth, kept it fast, but it wasn't enough. I made the traverse across the top of Carter Park to cheers. The loop past Jamie's, then into the finish chute. 12:04:41 - well off my goal time. But a successful race in that I'd finished and finished strong. And I was still smiling - bone tired, everything hurting, but a smile on my face. My first 100 mile mountain bike race - like with so many things, I went for the hardest one and passed the test. Yes, I struggled at times and had a full collapse at Como. But I was able to hold it together and keep moving forward - I never gave into the demons. So while there are things to work on for next time, I'll take a fine finish this year!
Women's Pro poduim - Amanda Carey, Jari Kirkland and Me (3rd pro, 4th overall)
Photo - Nick Thelen


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