Brek Epic stages 2&3

The Singletrack / fun quota definitely improved for day 2 and 3 but it also got a whole lot harder. Longer distances and more climbing were on the cards for each day, making it harder to stay well fuelled and hydrated.

I found Day 2 super tough. I was flying for the first hour or two, feeling great, and then I just slumped, grinding slowly to a halt over the next few hours, until l finally stopped, got off my bike, ate, drank and had a good rest. People were streaming past me by then but I just didn't care and wanted to get to the end. I perked up a bit at some good views and flowy Singletrack but have to say I was delighted to get my Nutella and banana sandwich at the end.
Between the longer stage and epic race briefing/ presentation ceremony I really struggled to eat and drink properly after the race,with the result that I went to bed feeling a bit stressed and dehydrated. I barely got any sleep and hadn't really slept since arriving in Breckenridge, possibly due to the altitude. I'm hopeful of better recovery and sleeping tonight.

Day 3 today was even bigger again at 45 miles and well over 2000 m of climbing. Definitely more than I would ever imagine doing off road. I'm used to the fast starts of cyclocross and xc and I think I must have gone out too fast each of the first two days. While you might get away with that in a shorter race or at sea level, the altitude means you're not really getting enough oxygen to your muscles to recover from the 'burn matches' and this resulted in the full-on mid race slump on each of those days. So my plan for the third day was to just go as slowly as possible, giving myself plenty time to eat and drink, in the hope this would see me through to the end a bit stronger. The tortoise strategy.

It was pretty tough to let people I know we're finishing behind me go past in those first couple of hours. Either the steadier pace or some acclimatisation meant that today I could actually get a sip out my water bottle without feeling hypoxic and nearly falling off my bike. So I was well fuelled and feeling good. By the 'bike-pushing' stage up to the top of the hill I was starting to overtake people again. Seems we do a lot of bike-pushing in Scotland and maybe I'm more used to it. As we reached the top of the hill (where people were handing out skittles) we had a few cracks of thunder and weather-wise it all became even more Scottish with rain, hail and mud. The descent looked pretty amazing though so I got my jacket on and went for just getting down from the ridge as fast as possible. A great trail and really similar to rugged big mountain routes I know and love from home. I had a massive grin on my face at the aid station where I grabbed a dry pair of gloves from my drop bag and got back on my way. The rest of the ride was a lot of fun, with some techy trails and also fun swoopy stuff at the end. As I rolled through the finish I realised I was finishing with people who finished half an hour ahead of me yesterday. It seems that tortoise strategy and taking time to eat and drink properly wins the day after all.

I was out for six hours so the longest day yet but I finished feeling strong and that meant I had energy left to try and recover properly in the evening (with help of a tennis ball!). It's super tough for the riders who were still out there after 8 hrs, trying to come back and get themselves and their bikes ready for the next day. I always have a lot of respect for the back of the pack, they need to be mentally tough.


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