Last year I raced the Breckenridge 100 NUE Series Race and was completely conquered by the course. I also had a mechanical problem on top of the first long climb that made an attempt at winning the race impossible for me. But, even with the mechanical issue and the difficult course, I was very happy to pull off a second place finish last year. Feeling that I could only improve on how I did in 2009, I decided to give the Breckenridge 100 another try this year.
There is no doubt that Breckenridge is a super hard 100-mile MTB course. The overall high altitude of the race, which is held at between the elevation of 9500 and 12000 feet, combined with well over 12000 feet of total vertical climbing on three different and distinct loops is a brutal combination to overcome. Of course, doing the race on a singlespeed bike only makes the fight against all the climbing and the high elevation even more difficult to complete.
To make the race a little more bearable than last year, I decided to use an easier gear and also thought that knowing the course layout from my previous attempt would help me improve my finishing time. But, even with these two advantages over my 2009 race, I knew that I would still need to contend with attempting to breathe at the high Breckenridge elevation with a much lower oxygen amount than I am used to breathing at my home in Pennsylvania. Knowing where I was on the course and my better gear selection certainly did make the race less difficult than my 2009 attempt, but my inability to collect enough oxygen with each breath was enough to keep me in a world of hurt for the majority of the race.
At most of the NUE Series Races, the race begins with groups of riders forming in packs of equal ability and working together. This is a good thing, as it seems to make the miles and time tick away a little quicker. At Breckenridge, however, things immediately split up during the first long, one-plus-hour climb up and over Wheeler Pass, which starts off the race. From that point on, riders come and go, but there is little opportunity to develop any long lasting working relationships on the trails. The race becomes a long solo journey, with an occasional hello to another rider here and there. Fortunately, there is plenty of natural beauty around the surrounding mountains of Breckenridge to enjoy and help pass the time during the race.
I put in my best battle against Breck this year, but she did not make the competition an easy one. I thought my preparations for my journey this year would make things easier for me than my 11 hour and 6 minute trip of last year. I was wrong. Yes, my time was faster. Almost an hour faster than my 2009 effort, as a matter of fact, but Breckenridge still put me at a level of hurt that no other course has done. The hard effort I put out was good enough for a third place finish in the singlespeed class, but the beating the course gave me did not make me feel like a podium finisher.
Yes, I am happy about surviving and finishing the race. It was certainly a hard task to do on a course that completely defeated many race starters by placing a DNF next to their names. So, I guess that I should not feel completely conquered by you, Breckenridge. But, I will never again let myself feel like my pre-race preparations are enough to help me claim victory over you, for you will always be one of the hardest races on my list and should never be underestimated. Breckenridge, you have my total respect for kicking my butt not once, but twice; and, all the while doing it with a complete look of magnificence.
So, with the Breckenridge 100 complete, I have now finished four of the eight 2010 NUE Series races this season. Currently I am leading the series in the SS class, but a lot can still happen since only a racer’s best four of the eight races count for the overall. My plan is to do all eight of the NUE Races, with the next race being one of my favorites of the series, the Wilderness 101 in Coburn, PA on July 31st. A week later I will travel out to Bend, OR for my first attempt at the new NUE Series Race, the High Cascade 100. The last two races of the series, the Fool’s Gold 100 in Georgia and the Shenandoah 100 in Virginia, are also two races that I really enjoy doing. If you’re doing one of these races, I will see you there. If not, you should really consider getting your name on the starting list before it is too late.
Happy Trails, Gerry