The Breck 100 was my first 100 mile mountain bike race. I signed up for it in 2009 without any clue what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know I was doing one of the hardest, if not the hardest 100 miler in the country. It took me 11hr 14 min. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, and I even thought I might have paced it too slow! Since then, I grew obsessed with ultra endurance races. I’ve done more 100s than I can recall and many multi-day stage races since that date. It lit a fire in my spirit for the adventure that ultra endurance racing has to offer. I had wanted to return to the Breck 100, but I always struggled to fit it in my packed schedule.
This year, there was an opening and the Breck 100 fit perfectly. I was excited to return to my first 100 miler. I was particularly excited because I was more familiar with the trails in the area after many fun weekends of riding and doing the Breck Epic 6 day stage race for 2 years.
After setting the record at the Bailey Hundo by accident (although it was only by 30 seconds) a month ago, I felt inspired to try for the Breck 100 record. The record was 9:59. It’s hard to try when you are riding a bike for that long. I found some splits from Eszter’s 10:07 time and decided to see where I was at the end of each lap. The Breck 100 is 3 different loops in Breck with Carter Park as the home base.
At 6 AM Sunday morning, our group of 100 mile freaks rolled out of Carter Park.
It had rained all night and a good portion of the day before. Rain was in the forecast and we all expected to get rained on that afternoon. Most mountain rainstorms hit around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and involve big, heavy drops of rain and lightning. As we rolled out, I realized a couple of things. First, I thought it was 10 years to the day since I did my first bike race. 10 years ago, I had been lined up to do an XC race at Sandia Peak Ski Area outside Albuquerque. I had only been mountain biking for a month and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I also didn’t have a clue what getting into this amazing sport would do for my life. I also realized that lined up with me that day were 2/3 more influential people for me in the sport. Adam and Jeff were also racing the Breck 100. Adam was there the first 3 years of my racing career. He was a pro racer, my boyfriend at the time and I went to all my races with him the first 3 years. We raced several times a month and then I moved to Colorado. Jeff Kerkove is almost solely responsible for planting the endurance and adventure seed. He created a monster. It was special to realize I had them both there, and it was the 10 year anniversary of racing that morning as the sun came up over the mountains on our way out for a very big day on the bike.
Photo: Mountain Moon Photography
Lap 1- Wheeler
For the Breck Epic, the Wheeler stage is a little different than the Wheeler loop of the Breck 100. The Breck Epic’s stage sends you up the trail so you have a decently long hike-a-bike. The Breck 100 sends you up the ski area service road which is still not easy, but rideable. There’s only about a 5 min hike-a-bike up to the Pass and then you drop down the Colorado Trail to Copper Mountain Ski Area. The descent was much easier than I remembered. It was then that I recalled that this was my first race in Breck on a 29er. What a HUGE difference.
Photo: Eddie Clark
This was my first race with a power meter. I got a Stages Power Meter that is on the left crank arm. I devised a pacing plan with Daniel. He said to keep it under my threshold the whole race. Going over several times burns precious matches you need in a 100 mile race. And then there was the fact that I did not know what my threshold was at 10,000-12,000’. Threshold wattage changes with altitude. I made an estimate and tried to stick to it. About 4 minutes into the first climb, I got passed by Rebecca Hodgetts. She looked strong and I was impressed. She wasn’t too far ahead on the climb – maybe a minute tops but I decided to stick to my pacing plan and let her go. I ended up bringing her back by the end of the climb, made my pass at the start of the DH and spent the rest of the race wondering if she was going to pass me! She had just gotten 2nd place in a tough field pro field at the Firecracker 50 as I later found out.
The Peaks Trail was also easier on my 29er. Granted, I was riding a hardtail for the whole race because it’s 5 lbs lighter than my FS bike, but I wouldn’t do it any different. I came in for lap one right on target for a record pace and I didn’t feel like I had burnt any matches at all. I knew how hard lap 2 was, so I stopped at my pit, quickly loaded up, enjoyed some words of encouragement from a few friends and headed up the switchbacks out of Carter Park.
Lap 2-Colorado Trail
I was dreading Little French – how many times I’ve suffered up that damn climb, I have no idea. I was also dreading the Westridge Climb of the Colorado Trail…and giddily anticipating the descent. I rode most of the loop back and forth with Carlos Vulgamott and Charlie Hayes- two of the toughest men on the planet. They were both racing the Breck 100 (and every race) on singlespeeds. The difficulty of the Westridge climb did not disappoint. The only thing making it bearable was riding at the easier pace I promised myself I’d keep. If I could keep it at that pace all day, I knew I’d break the record (and maybe not get caught!) The descent was ripping fun after the rain, but the rocks and roots were wet requiring extra attention. I crashed in a corner and was lucky that there was minimal carnage. I was going pretty fast and the mud was a little too soft. The ground gave way along with my tires. I was excited that I got the Downhill QOM on that section, even with the crash! I think racing downhill with a couple of the B-68 pro guys that had come around me added to the motivation! I forgot how hard the third climb of lap 2 was. Mentally, I started complaining. “This climb is too long, I think my legs are tired, I’m going to end up slowing down, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty… blah blah blah…when is this climb over? This is ridiculous… Am I behind for this lap time?” I rolled into the pit still on pace, but a little nutritionally deficient. It had been 6 hours and 15 minutes. I was on the same nutrition plan that had been effective for the last several years, but I needed food(instead of just gels) so I grabbed a sandwich as I headed out. I was also thankful for the coke I put in my water bottle.
Photo: Mountain Moon Photography
Lap 3 – Boreas/Gold Dust
The clouds were black and I was glad I grabbed my raincoat. I was a little anxious about the potential lightning above treeline, but I wasn’t hearing the grumbling of thunder. Carlos and Charlie were my company up the nasty jeep road before getting on Boreas Pass. I had been dreading that climb too. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered. The extra food and water had helped my mood too. “Well, this is it” I thought to myself. I had about 30 miles to go and I hoped I could keep the pace. The Gold Dust Trail seemed to go on forever. The initial descent was fun, but I always seem to forget how much pedaling there is on the trail. I also heard some thunder. Carlos and I quietly rode the trail. When he got off the bike to walk (SS), I decided to do the same thing to conserve my energy. I had been holding back the entire race for the final climb. I popped out in Como and accidentally grabbed Heed instead of water at the aide. I just wanted water. I needed calories, so I ate some more sandwich and the rest of my gels. That would be 18 gels for the day… I just needed more water with them. The sky was dark all around me coming out of Como and the rain started to come down. I passed Charlie yelling “I gotta break 10 hours, I want it!” He cheered after me and I put my head down and resigned myself to hammering out the next hour in the pouring rain. I stopped once to put my rain coat on. I had to pee, but I didn’t want to risk missing the record because I peed. Bailey Hundo record came down to 30 seconds, I didn’t want to risk it. The grade of Boreas Pass Rd out of Como is just enough to make or break you. If you’re fresh, it feels almost flat. If you’re tired? It will never end. Fortunately, I felt great. I powered down the pedals throwing all pacing out the window and made great time to the pass. I kept checking my Garmin to see how much higher I had to go. I was relieved there was no lightning, but I was completely soaked.
I passed the last aide. I glanced over and saw people huddled under the tent. I felt bad for people just heading out for the loop. The descent was sketchy. The road was a river and I could barely see in front of me. My hands froze at 11,400’ in the hammering rain and wind chill of the descent. As I got onto the trail at Baker’s Tank, I realized I was going to do it. The descent took forever. I couldn’t feel my hands and could barely move them. I went slowly because I knew fast braking would not be accessible. I didn’t want to make a costly error with out a few miles to go.
The rain stopped as I got off the trail and rode out the last half mile into Carter Park. I was greeted by Larry Grossman and cheers from my friends.
Photo: Eddie Clark
9:48. I had done it. Breck 100 has been going on for x years, and I was able to take the record by 11 minutes. It wasn’t until I stopped that I realized how much I was bonking. Anthony took my bike for me and I leaned on my roommate, Jeff to get me over the tent because walking was tough. Normally I finish 100s and don’t feel a thing. This time, I was sitting on the ground. My eyes were out of focus. Anthony brought me some snacks until I was functioning again. Charlie and Carlos both came in not too long after me, only 1 minute apart. The men’s pro field had 9 seconds between first and second. For us? Rebecca came in 15 minutes later, not far behind for a race that long. She posted the 3rd fastest time ever for the course with a 10:03 and a strong ride. Josh Tostado told me later that he thought the course was 10 minutes slower than previous years from the wet conditions.
Big thanks to Thane and Warriors Cycling for continuing to run my favorite hundreded in the country, and to Mike Zobbe for designing such a brutal race course!
My bike held up great. My body was beat up after being on rough trail for almost 10 hours, but I doubt being on an FS would have made a big difference. I chose to run a 28T chainring for my XX1 drivetrain thanks to Jeff. I was worried I would be missing some harder gears. It ended up being perfect. There were only a couples time I wanted a harder gear, and really I had no business using it. There were many times that I was in my easiest gear grinding away. No dropped chains or mis-shifts either. Good stuff!
Next up – Trans Rockies this weekend!!!!
Great review Sonya. Sounds fantatstic, your’re a brute! 😀
Sonya you are awesome ! Congratulations’ !
Yea Sonya!!!! Great race report. Congrats on holding back long enough to hammer up out of Como…not an easy feat.
Great race recap and wow, what a ridiculous time you put in, that’s awesome!
I burst out laughing when I read this part
“I was dreading Little French – how many times I’ve suffered up that damn climb, I have no idea.” I have ridden the Firecracker 50 the last few years so I am well aware of the expletives that go with the Little French climb, that is so friggen hard… 🙂