An Epic Adventure
The Breck Epic -- it's more than a grueling mountain bike race.
Just looking at the miles and elevation gain for each of the 6 stages doesn't tell the whole story. Racing day after day and trying to recover all while being above 9,500 feet is a unique challenge. Sleep itself, even when not racing, can be difficult at this elevation. It's not unusual to get winded from simply walking a short flight of stairs in Breckenridge.
I've been to most editions of the Breck Epic since it began in 2009. That first year it started on July 5th, immediately following the Fourth of July fixture, the Firecracker 50. I raced the Firecracker that year and watched as teammates tackled the Epic. I don't think any of us realized how the race would grow to attract riders from across the globe. I just knew that I wanted to be a part of it the following year -- and I did. I've raced it a handful of times since and each time I've gained a greater appreciation for what Mike McCormick has built.
Coming off Boreas Pass to Baker's Tank during Stage 1, 2010
I hoped to race the Epic again this year, but realized in the weeks leading up to the race that I'd have a hard time sticking to work commitments while focussing on performing well. The dedication required to ride strong throughout the week is immense. While the months of training ahead of time are obvious, most people don't realize that it's difficult to do much else other than eat, drink, ride, sleep, and tend to you equipment. This means temporarily setting aside everything else while pushing your body and mind to their limits. Thankfully I still got to soak in the race's atmosphere while sampling Beta Red and Enduro Bites to competitors.
Leaving The Dredge Aid Station during the Circumnavigation of Guyot Stage
Before a race begins I'm usually excited by the thought of all the food I'll need to eat to stay fueled; however after a few days of racing I'm so fatigued that my usual voracious appetite vanishes and eating itself become something I have to force myself to do. By the second day things start to become a blur. By the third day it's tough to remember which stage you're on. By the sixth day I'm thankful that I don't have to ride my bike the following day -- and that I'll get to sleep in. This race brings a level of fatigue greater than I've experienced elsewhere.
At this point you might be wondering why I'd be attracted to doing it yet again. The truth is, it's the relationships developed throughout the race that make it special. It's the day-after-day mutual suffering incurred with people you've never met before and the friendships this creates. It's the competitors who offer you a little encouragement during moments when you're questioning yourself or the decision to put life on hold for a week to do this race that make it special. At some point everyone who competes in the Breck Epic will experience a low point -- some of us more than others -- and it's often fellow competitors who help get us through.
Despite not competing this year, I'm still a bit sad that the race is ending today, but I'm already looking forward to the Breck Epic 2020!