Race Report--Sinjin and the Breck Epic

August 21, 2023
Race Report--Sinjin and the Breck Epic



August 21, 2023

Greetings Catacombs Family—

Most of us at Catacombs Fitness do what we do in the gym to be better at life. Some of us use our fitness to play in the outdoors; others of us use it to wrangle kids or stave on the effects of aging. I love hearing our members’ stories of adventure and tests of fitness from the outside world.

One of our longtime members, Sinjin, just completed the Breck Epic 3-day mountain bike stage race. We are so proud of his preparation, consistency, and commitment. Read on for his story.

I got my first mountain bike at 14 years old. As a kid growing up in the fruit growing town of Paonia, Colorado, the idea of a bike that could help me escape teenage angst and explore the many ditch roads, forest service trails, and deer tracks surrounding my childhood home was this kid’s dream come true. Mountain biking was in its infancy, as Marin County, California and nearby Crested Butte were emerging as the hubs for gritty hippies building klunker bikes out of old Schwinn frames with fat tires and beartrap pedals that could deal with this expanded, rocky terrain. As I got older, I idolized groundbreaking racers like Greg Herbold, Julie Furtado, Missy Giove and yes, Ned Overend as they took the sport from a bunch of thrill-seekers on two wheels to legit international cycling powerhouses.

Through college and into my thirties I raced on and off, but then in my forties got pretty serious about training and getting faster, better, more competitive. I joined a few sponsored race teams and was competing in many events a year in cross-country, 50 and 100 mile races, and even a few 12-hour and 24-hour formats. In 2010, I stumbled upon an event I had never thought about - a mountain bike stage race called the Breck Epic.

The Breck Epic idea was hatched in 2009 and styled after Canada’s TransRockies staged format, but with each day starting and finishing in the town of Breckenridge. I was captivated by the idea of setting up shop in one location, racers and staff starting together each morning and then meeting and dining together each night over an entire week. Oh, and it was big - over 250 miles and more than 42,000ft of climbing over 6 days - bigger than anything I had ever tried before. In 2010, I finished all six days…and absolutely loved it.

Over the past decade I have in essence stopped racing, and honestly have ridden my bike less than any other time in my life. But last December, searching for inspiration to get out and ride more, and generally create a nudge to be outside more during spring and summer, I signed up for this year’s Breck Epic - 13 years since my previous attempt, and 10 years since my last mountain bike race. I wisely signed up for the 3-day version rather than the full 6-day, but that still would be a pretty big feat for someone who has not been training hard on the bike for over 10 years.

In February, I handed Coach Linda a scribbled note listing my fitness priorities for the year. First item on the list was “finish each day of the 3-day Breck Epic and feel good about it…” She jokingly replied “nobody feels good after a day at the Breck Epic,” and that was all the motivation I needed to get serious about being ready. With our snowy weeks lingering into spring, I spent a lot of time on the trainer in my office just spinning the legs, but as the days warmed and got longer, I transitioned putting in the miles on the road. At the same time, I layered on strength work at Catacombs, staying consistent with WODs and private sessions with Linda every few weeks. I knew I needed to build the strength I would need to sustain through long days, day after day, but not go crazy trying to break any records, and prevent injury. I had to be diligent, especially in the WODs, to not worry so much about trying to push heavy weight every session (sorry Joon), and be disciplined about good form and better range of motion to more completely strengthen my entire body. I also started to address my nutrition - more protein, a bit less carbs, chill out on the alcohol, and generally be more thoughtful about my food, hydration, and sleep. I started taking Athletic Greens every day to boost vitamins and minerals, added in supplemental protein, and focused seriously on hydration, most notably by increasing my electrolytes by drinking LMNT every day.

In April, I rode the Moab Gran Fondo, a 60-mile road ride starting in downtown Moab that took us through the La Sal mountains and back into town. As a fitness test and tune-up for a few more months of training, it was perfect, as it revealed that my muscular strength was maybe stronger than I have ever been (after more than 2 years of consistent work at Catacombs) while at the same time signaling the need for more time in the saddle to solidify my base cardio fitness. I backed off from the WODs and my sessions with Coach Linda switched to more mobility and stability work for my creaky hips and knees. 

As spring turned into summer, I started doing longer rides and bigger climbs to prepare for the onslaught of elevation I would be dealing with in Breckenridge. I took a week off from work in June to simply train and rest and eat. But what was amazing and unexpected, was that I was getting faster too. My Strava results, most noticeably when I wasn’t intending to push hard, were paying off in faster times and longer rides, with less effort. And the big climbs I was doing (like to the top of Kennebec, top of Bolam, Missionary Ridge, and repeats in Horse Gulch, Dry Fork, and Twin Buttes) were all getting faster. Stoke was really taking hold and I was starting to believe!

Bike racing is a team effort - it’s nearly impossible to do alone - at least very well. From Linda and Cody and Tracie at Catacombs supporting and encouraging my fitness and nutrition, to Regan being a supportive partner and putting up with my long rides and being tired and grumpy all the time, it really has been a great experience with so much help from this community. Knowing that I am not going to set any records or stand on any podium - my goal was to finish every day, feel strong and positive and ready for the next day, then the next. Because of the encouragement from so many people and the work that was put into being mentally prepared and physically strong for this event, the proof is in the results!

Post-race update…

Tl;dr…I finished!!

Stage 1 (Pennsylvania Gulch route) was 36 miles and just over 5,200ft of climbing - I felt energetic and strong from the beginning, but knowing that I had two more days ahead, I successfully held back and conserved my energy. I ate well, hydrated well, and generally managed the day nicely. My goal was around 5 hours, and I came in at 5:05…not bad!!

Stage 2 was a 6+ hour street fight on the Colorado Trail. I never zippy and didn’t really get into a rhythm over the day. I again ate and hydrated well, but the fatigue from the day before was apparent. Over 42 miles and 5,900ft of climbing, my goal time was 5:30 but I rolled in around 6:20. Humbling, for sure.

Stage 3 (Circumnavigation of Mt. Guyot) took us up and over the Continental Divide twice, and over 12,000ft three times over the course of the day. This was the “Queen Stage” of the six-day race, but the biggest for me at 40 miles and over 6,000ft of climbing. I felt better than Stage 2, and while it took even longer (7 hours and 35 minutes including a 25 minute flat change…) I finished stronger and with more energy than the previous day. 

I ended up 13th in the 3-day, 50+ male category and am pretty proud of that - a solid, successful effort grounded in our work at Catacombs and some smart training and race management. Now it's time to get back in the gym for winter volleyball season!!

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