Monday, July 6, 2015

Firecracker 50 AKA My Battle with Altitude

To celebrate America's birthday on Saturday I decided to race my bike 50 miles at the highest elevation I have ever ridden. Although I didn't think much of it when I signed up, this turned out to be one of my favorite races of all time! Here are some highlights of a very long, very high, very painful race.

This race was huge! Like seriously, epically huge! There were more than 1,000 people racing their bikes, either doing the whole 50 miles solo, or paired up in teams of two. The size of the participants wasn't the only huge aspect of the race either. The start had the HUGEST crowd I have even seen at a bike race, kids and families lining the streets of Breckenridge, giving high fives to the racers as we rolled through downtown during the neutral start. It felt like racing a world cup there was so much hype :)
The pro ladies during the neutral roll out. It was pretty fun to start with the men (and use them to draft... :) good views for days)
The whole race was really really high. The town of Breck is at 9,600ft, and the rest of the race was between that and 11,100ft. Remember I live at about 1,000ft so the elevation was a HUGE deal to me. Fortunately I have a really smart coach, and awesome friends who gave me great advice about racing that high up. Their advice worked out really well because although it was hard, I felt pretty good the whole 4 hours and 13 minutes of racing. 

The course, while it did include it's fair share of fire road, was amazing! We climbed an awesome old railroad grade to 10,800 ft, descended some sweet, smooth, flowy singletrack, climbed a second time on super steep rocky  creekbed like trail to 11,100ft, and then rode up and down and all over in the forest on techy, beautiful trails back to town. The absolute highlight was riding the French Gulch section (the super techy climb) on the second lap because I passed three pro dudes who had to walk on this climb. Oh and the last portion of trail was 'flow trail' esq, which was an absolute blast on lap one, but very hard on lap two when I was gassed. 

The volunteers were out of control good. They had bottles of water or sports drink for us at EVERY aid station on BOTH laps, had gels and solid food, and went out of their way to get me what I needed (solid food on lap two!) They also made the most incredible post race food, I had a heaping plate of the best salad of my life, chili AND BBQ chicken. 

The pain, while contained for the most part during the race, was off the charts at the finish. I don't know if my emotions get out of control because I love racing bikes so much, or what happens to me, but I sobbed like a little girl on the way back to my car after finishing partly because I hurt so much and partly because I don't know why.
Stoked to finish in front of a few of the pro guys I passed on the second lap. 
The finish (even at the end of lap one) was awesome. Larry Grossman (the dude doing the announcing) made me feel like a rockstar when I crossed the line, and not only did I win dollars, but they also gave me TWO trophies, a jersey AND a rad patriotic water bottle! I did not go into this race expecting to win, but it was a very nice cherry on top of an incredible racing experience.
These ladies rock! So honored to share the podium with them :) 
And last, but most definitely not the least, the absolute highlight of the weekend was the generosity, excitement, and support I got from the cycling community (both from people I already know and love and from the rad people of CO). My old team mate Bryan and friends from Boulder let me crash their camp site on Thursday night (AND fed me delish coffee on Fri am), because I didn't plan on doing this race and was a little panicked trying to find a place to stay on Thurs afternoon. Nick from Breck Bike Guides (possibly the cutest bike shop on the planet, which also sells awesome bike art) helped find me a place to stay on Friday night so I wouldn't have to camp in the rain at 10,800 ft. Total strangers Jeremy and Teresa very generously provided me with an incredibly comfortable bed and were the most gracious hosts (esp considering they didn't even know I would be staying with them until about 6 hours prior to my arrival). I was not expecting anyone to know me, but there were spectators on the course cheering for me by name, and I got to eat my post race meal with some super cute, and also seriously fast juniors from Boulder Junior Devo team! I love bike people, I could go on for a while about how rad they are and how many nice people helped me out/cheered me on/congratulated me... I am so humbled to be surrounded by so many great people. 

Moral of the story is that you should start planning now to race the Firecracker50 next year! This race rivals Downieville as my all time favorite bike race :) Well done Firecracker 50, well done!

1 comment:

  1. Always FUN to read about you having FUN & WINNING at bike races!!! Keep it up kid!!