Two more stages have come and passed, each dealing out their fair share of suffer faces and maniacally laughing with joy faces. One face for the climbs and one for the descents – you can figure out which goes with which.
After probably feeling the worst I have ever felt on a bike during stage 3 (did I mention we had to climb over the continental divide twice?) I felt a little better during stage 4. I certainly wasn’t going any faster mind you, but at least my panting and gasping was a little more under control, and my self-loathing muttering decreased significantly. Stage 4 was the longest stage (if you don’t count my detour on stage 1), and it was a long, hot day that really made you appreciate the aid stations. The Breck Epic volunteers are dialled, and everyone is upbeat, positive, and helpful, going above and beyond to make sure you get what you need and on your way. Also, now past the halfway point, you get to know the riders around you since you more or less ride around the same people each day. A pleasant sense of camaraderie forms between people who would otherwise be strangers, and a funny quirk of these encounters is people will often ask where you’re from instead of your name, which ends up being your distinguishing feature. My Breck name randomly switches between Kokanee, Canada, and Edmonton.
I know I said earlier that stage 3 was the worst I’ve ever felt on a bike, but that was before stage 5 where it was back to me uncontrollably panting as we climbed and pushed our bikes up and over Wheeler pass, which tops out at 12500 feet. There sure isn’t much oxygen up there, and I really suffered like crazy to get to the top. I had to dig deep to summon my inner donkey to be able to stubbornly just keep putting one foot in front of the other to get to the top. Once again though, the views were quite amazing, and there’s also something quite awe-inspiring looking behind and ahead of yourself and seeing a continuous, snaking line of mountain bikers slowly zig-zagging and inching their way up a mountain. Awaiting us at the very top was your choice of a whiskey shot, bacon, or skittles – I went for the triple crown and took all three, a choice no doubt mediated by my severe state of oxygen debt. A super fun rock and boulder filled descent followed that the Thunderbolt mixed with a bit of whiskey handled magnificently. I’m probably one of the slowest climbers out there, but I have to admit I’m taking great pleasure in bombing down the rock gardens yelling at people tiptoeing down to get out of the way…
Unfortunately for me, that was pretty much the only descent of the day and the rest of the stage was a long, climbing slog back around to Breckenridge that felt like it would never end. It did though, accompanied by a sense of relief that there was only one stage left.
You get to eat a lot when you’re stage racing, and as a result we’ve been enjoying the various coffee shops and restaurants around Breckenridge all week. To celebrate the return of Karen from the hospital we indulged in a fantastic meal at Relish. She regaled us with entertaining stories of her hospital stay – make sure you get her to tell you them; they are great 🙂
One stage to go, and I think we’re all looking forward to the big finish push. Will let you know how it turns out!