I awoke yesterday to another cool Colorado morning. It seems as though we haven’t had a summer this year with only a few days in the 90s. Usually by this time of year Colorado has had quite a few weeks of 90 or 100 degree temps. So with it only being in the upper 60s when I awoke yesterday, it couldn’t be a better day for racing my mountain bike 68 miles. Phil the Thrill actually showed up at my house around 7am to join me on the drive up to Breckenridge. Both Phil and I are doing a monster bike ride next weekend, so he decided to come up to the high country to watch the start of my race and to get a huge bike ride in of his own.
We arrived in Summit county around 8:30 and spent a half hour setting up my GT Dirt Coalition Tent near the start/finish area. The race venue was at the same spot as the Firecracker 50 at Carter Park in Breckenridge. It seems like this park is becoming the endurance race start/finish area for many mountain bike and trail running races. Yesterdays race was my final race tune up before taking on the Leadville 100 on August 15th. The course was comprised of two 34 mile loops going deep into the high alpine terrain surrounding Breckenridge. I originally thought that there would be a lot of overlap of the Firecracker course, but to my surprise we only hit maybe 20% of the same trails. Heading out onto the first lap we had a police escort out of town on Boreas Pass road before hitting the dirt. My legs were feeling great and quite a bit stronger than the Firecracker. One thing I did differently yesterday was to run my Garmin GPS displaying only my current elevation, % grade, and average speed. My goal for the day was to break 7 hours meaning I would have to average 10.0 MPH or more. The first lap of 34 miles put me right around 10.2 MPH average and I was still feeling great. I definitely think it was a mental advantage to not look down at my mileage every 30 seconds and I will probably employ this same strategy in Leadville.
The second lap, I was told before the race, would be quite a bit more difficult than the first since it would go up and over Boreas pass twice. Bear in mind Boreas pass is at 11,500 feet. So heading out on my second lap I had 2 fresh water bottles and downed quite a few calories in the form of “delicious” hammer gels. My legs were still feeling fresh and I’m pretty sure I was still smiling. The second lap was more or less an out and back to the little town of Como on the other side of Boreas pass. The singletrack riding was absolutely amazing. I had no idea that Breckenridge offered such incredible riding until yesterday. The trail that they dumped us onto just off Boreas Pass that descended all the way to Como felt more like a bobsled track than a mountain bike trail. The soil was soft and I could take chances in the corners without feeling like I’d lose traction.
After that long singletrack descent the last part of the race was the long slog of a climb up Boreas Pass from Como. Had my legs still been fresh I think the climb up the pass would have been a piece of cake. However with over 50 miles clocked and a stiff 20mph headwind up the pass, this was a hellish way to end a race. The top of the pass never seemed to get any closer, but I did finally reach the summit for the downhill all the way to Breckenridge. Those last 5 miles of downhill proved to be taxing on the body, but coming across the finish line with a time of 7:20 I was more than happy with my performance. I probably would have been below my 7 hour goal had the course actually been the advertised 68 miles instead of the actual 70.5 miles. So with my time of 7:20 that put me just within the podium position taking 3rd place.
So overall I highly recommend the Breckenridge 68 for the amazing trails, low key feel, and some of the most spectacular views I have ever experienced in Colorado. My next race is the big one…the Leadville 100 and I am happy to report I am READY to take it on.