Wow! Crazy! What the heck! Seriously! Oh my gosh! Amazing! Woah! And every other exclamatory phase that you can think of. That is the best way I can think of to describe the first stage of the Breck Epic.
This is a tough race. In fact, if you search the hardest mountain bike races in the world, a lot of people will cite this event. That’s part of what drew me to this race. The pure difficulty of it.
I’m pretty tired from stage one, so to explain it all right now, well that would just be too much. But here is a summary of that that is The Breck Epic: 450 races, from 20+ Countries, racing 210+ miles, all at and above 10,000 feet of elevation…oh yeah and it’s 6 days of racing in a row. Sound gnarly yet? Let me tell you about stage one.
The alarm went off at 5:45 AM. Race day! Up and out of bed quick and easy (that won’t be happening on any day other than stage one). The excitement was extremely high.
As I stood on the start line. I was beaming. I am so happy to be here. I’ve wanted to do this race before I was even capable, but now I am capable, and I am here. As we rolled out of town I felt….terrible.
Oh my gosh. Those first few miles, minutes, hour(s), I was in the pain cave. I couldn’t breathe. I literally felt like I was in slow motion. My body wasn’t working the way I wanted it to. Every climb felt like it was impossible and every muscle in my body complained that my lungs weren’t working. At 10,000 I knew I would hurt, but I didn’t think I would be wheezing in this way.
I watched myself fall back through the group. Lots of men were flying by me and even women were starting to pass me at a speed much greater than I’m accustomed to. I was frustrated, but not panicking. I wanted to panic, but with 5 days left, I couldn’t allow myself to. Not yet.
At one point I found myself in 6th. That wasn’t ok. I started to push harder. I moved up to 5th. I pedaled with 4th place for awhile. I found a bit of relief in following her wheel and letting her set the pace. Before I knew it, we had caught 3rd. “Ok Hannah. You’re in this. You can do this.”
It started to POUR rain. When I say POUR RAIN. I mean POUR RAIN. Soaked to the bone, freezing cold, immediate puddles, couldn’t see the trail, riding with my rims underwater, rain. I’m sorry, I don’t think I emphasized that enough. There was NO trail. It was a RIVER.
When we hit mile 20 I knew we were about to ride the largest climb of the day. I went to the front and set a harder pace. After a few minutes, I looked back. I couldn’t see anyone. I surged ahead. I started to push hard up the climb and my body was finally responding. I started to repass men which confirmed that I had increased my pace.
When I hit the top of the climb someone told me that 2nd was only 30 seconds ahead. Really? Sure enough, a few moments later I saw her. A few moments after that, I was on her wheels. We rode together for awhile in the freezing conditions. Eventually, she pulled aside to let me pass. From that point on, it was a race for the finish. I too was freezing. I couldn’t push my shifter anymore. My hands were frozen. Yet, somehow in these (some might say) miserable conditions, it all seemed suiting. Why not make one of the hardest races out there just a little bit harder?
I finished 2nd on stage 1 of the Breck Epic! Woohoo!! On to stage 2 tomorrow…
All Photos by Bill Schieken (CX Hairs)