All posts by sweetpigcustombikes

bara tíu dropar


Just ten drops

an old world idiom from Iceland, the translation, just ten drops, or, just a little bit.

This is our whirlwind trip to Iceland, packed with adventure, bara tíu dropar.

Geothermal pools, yeah, lot’s of those, real fancy ones like the Blue Lagoon and then there are the random countryside hot pots as they call them (Iceland is basically a damn volcano island).

Geysers, check (see above^^)

Valleys of Fire, check (see above^^^)

Immense waterfalls, check. (planet’s 2nd most glaciers)

Amazing grub, lamb, fish & chips, lot’s of fish and chips!

Any adventure of mine has to have beer: Einstok brewery!

Icelandic holiday music & Icelandic karaoke

hahaha, yes, we did all these things in 4 short days.

Surprisingly memorable moment: a local flea market.

On with it then,

96 hours of Iceland – bara tíu dropar 

Day 1. BNA-BOS-KEF: Blue Lagoon at 9am

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Most US flights leave the Eastern seaboard and are overnight. We were on Wow air, $250 RT from Boston!, and landed at 5:50am in Keflavik; a small airport about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik.

One of the most popular questions for arriving tourists is “It’s 6am in Iceland, what the hell do I do now??”

As luck has it, the Blue Lagoon, arguably Iceland’s most popular attraction, is only a 20min drive from the KEF airport.

Right.So, 5:50am, landed. By 7 we were thru customs, checked bags in tow.

#1 thing to do before you leave KEF: goto Duty Free and buy your booze! Saying Iceland is expensive is a gross understatement.

Here’s what we bought at Duty Free

1 12 pack Einstok ipa. 1 12 pack Einstok pale ale. 2 bottle of red wine.

10 chocolate bars. Oatmeal, Raisns. Bread. PB&J.

That’s Breakfast, Lunch, snacks, and life-saving flavored waters.

This took roughly 20minutes.

Done.

We took the shuttle to our rental car location, which took about a total of 30minutes.

20 minutes to check out the car and get oriented and by 8am we were off.

{Sidenote: The roads are wide, gps works, very easy to navigate. I have Verizon so for $10/day you can flip your service to international plan, viola! Waze, Biotches. }

We were in the Blue Lagoon parking lot by 8:30am, it was so dark, and raining, and cold. *December, there are only a handful of daylight hours each day. Throw-in twilight and dusk, and you have maybe 6-7 hours of useable light.

Jena dug out her suit. I rustled a Einstok (local ipa) out of the duty free box, it was, after all, 2:30am.

The Pros of being at the Blue Lagoon, in December, when they open at 9am.

  1. There are no lines
  2. Zero light noise. It’s pitch black outside, which makes the hot pool experience even more surreal. The stars are popping and if it rains sideways (it rained sideways), dunking your head under the 90 degree water feels amazing.
  3. There are no people in the blue lagoon. Well, there are hardly people there. We saw maybe 20. Compare that to a sunny day, there can be thousands at the Blue Lagoon, or what is commonly referred to by locals as the world’s nastiest bathtub.
  4. The sunrise is amazing.
  5. Cons:
    1. They have alcohol huts, serving local craft beer and prosecco.
    2. There are silica face masks, algae face masks, and they’re included with your ticket.
    3. Inside the facility, they require that you take a shower and use soap (gasP) before you enter the pool. Which, tbh, after a full day of travel, this was really nice.

    Those are the cons. We don’t blame you if you change your mind.

click thru to read more about the islands largest hottest coolest geothermal bathtub. 

Travel for 24 hours then spend 4+ hours in a geothermal pool with cold beer and algae face masks, the perfect way to kick this off.

The problem: we now had to drive to our Air BnB rental in Reykjavik, which was a short 45min drive. Easy right?

Ugh. Soooo tired.

I drove with my head out the window, occasionally slapping my face. Jena promised not to fall asleep and she almost made it out of the Blue Lagoon parking lot before she was cutting timber.

Our 1br Reykjavik apartment was perfectly located at the end of the peninsula, an airy seaside getaway with great views of the Northern Sea and lighthouse. The property was very modern and provided everything we needed for our basecamp. A short 10 minute drive from city center, allowed us to pop over for lunch, dinner, drinks, and just far enough away to enjoy the serenity of the sea. Didn’t hurt that this was probably the steal of the trip, roughly 80/USD day.

After our first day, a 24 hour travel bender, followed by the Blue Lagoon noodle and then we drove to Reykjavik. We had arrive too early to check in! Crap. We found a local fish house near the rental property and, famished, gorged on Iceland’s fish and chips (sooo good), and a bottle of wine.

Bellies full, buzzed with wine and exhaustion. We finally settled into our neat seaside property, and subsequently slept for a solid 12 hours….about 4 hours past sunrise. Oops. LOL.

Day 2. Reykjavik – Golden Circle (Gulfoss – Geyser) – Reykjavik

Self-guided adventures.

Many locals recommend the tour busses. I think this is more a function of safety in the Winter (high winds, snow ice) and also tourism (easy way to see the sights if your thing).

We’re not tour bus people though, and the golden circle is easy to drive!

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Frantic that we had slept our day away, we snarfed some duty free oatmeal, guzzled some coffee. Packed a carafe with more coffee, 2 PB&J samiches, and out the door we went. No clue, what lay in store, other than to drive the Golden Circle to Gulfoss, and then go with it from there.

The weather had been crap all week and the forecast was more rain and wind, mid 40’s. So we put on our warm dry layers, grabbed our chow, and out the door we went. Since we were on a sun-clock, and had slept until nearly noon, we decided to drive to the furthest point on the golden circle, and then work our way back before it got really dark.

At the midway point of the Golden Circle, in South Iceland, is Gulfoss, the iconic waterfall on the Hvítá (White) river, which is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier, the Langjökull.

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Above is a cartoon of how the river basin has eroded over time.

We arrived at sunset, and surprisingly, the rain had stopped and the clouds blew open.

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This is where the story gets a little sappy. Apologies in advance, but I had every intention of proposing to Jena on a fat bike in the snow, under the northern lights.

Sadly, the weather wasn’t interested in cooperating, it wasn’t quite cold enough for snow, so it rained the entire time, sideways.

The bike touring company lady whom I had been planning the entire plan regrettably cancelled our reservation, and recommended an alternative plan.

She said that Iceland was full of mystery and beauty and that I would know when the time was right…so naturally I didn’t share her enthusiasm. {meanwhile, I was carrying Jena’s engagement ring in my jacket pocket, in the rain and wind, terrified that I was going to lose it}

Right. Back to Day 2, Gulfoss.

Following a short 90min drive from our Reykjavik air bnb, we arrived at Gulfoss just before sunset, parked our jeep and scrambled down the path towards the sound of roaring water.

Since the weather had been foul all day week, there really weren’t many tourists there, maybe 100 or so total. Just like the day before at the Blue Lagoon, it appeared we had the park almost entirely to ourselves.

We took lots of photos on our descent from the elevated gravel parking lot to a large rock shelf that was riverside, which served as an observatory for photos.

A man from Scotland asked if I would take a photo of he and his wife, and then again.

A couple more photos on the way down, I obliged the Scot. Jena was off doing her best Ansel Adams impersonation.

As we approached the landing area, the clouds pulled apart to present a soft orange hue over a beautiful blue sky. The lady from the bike touring company wasn’t full of beans. .

I wandered past Jena and began surveying the area, and found a spot that provided a great vantage point of the roaring river and falls.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to ask, and was thinking about how much sunlight was left when over the sound of the river, the Scot, asked if I would take just one more photo and afterwards, I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking ours.

As I handed my iPhone to the gentleman and anxiously looked for Jena, I informed the man that this would be a very special moment, and asked if he would kindly take a bunch of photos.

I waved for Jena to join me on the rock ledge. The Scot, frow burrowed, looked confused. I said he would figure it out soon enough, just take a lot of photos. His wife smiled and nodded affectionately as if she recognized what was going down. Dude on the other hand, I gave him my vote of confidence as I reached for Jena’s hand and positioned her next to the ledge.

She smiled.

I felt like there was a tornado in my gut.

We looked at the Sunset and each other, smiling. I was surprisingly calm at this point.

I looked at Jena and she seemed to recognize something was up, “what’s wrong?” she asked.

I offered back, “Honey, don’t be mad.”

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The sound of people clapping and whistiling could be heard.

I did not drop the ring.

She said yes.

The rest is kind of surreal.

We wandered around Gulfoss a bit longer, enjoying the moment, taking in the views as the sun was fading, the sound of roaring water.

At dusk we loaded-up the car, still smiling, and began our trek back towards Reykjavik, engaged.

4. Day 3 Gljúfrabúi, “the one that lives in the canyon”

So, there was this Youtube video that helped bring us to Gljúfrabúi – the secret waterfall.

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Gljúfrabúi, a short 90min drive from Reykjavik, is really an adventure and worthy of the time. Having the right gear, waterproof boots, pants, jacket…basically waterproof everything, a change of clothes (’cause you’re gonna get wet anyways), and of course, some cold beer in a cooler in the jeep.

Squeeze thru a crevice in the canyon wall is easy. Not busting your ass on the slippery rocks and subsequently finding yourself in the cold water, that’s the trick.

As you enter the cave, the sound of roaring water is amplified off of the canyon walls. It’s colder and there’s water spray everywhere, like a giant misting shower.

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The secret fall is also conveniently located next to the giant waterfall, Seljalandsfoss

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^^^Jena

Successfully made out of Gljúfrabúi and relatively dry. We walked back to  Seljalandsfoss and followed a path behind this giant waterfall. Amazing. Of course, I wandered down a rocky ledge to be near where the water crashes into a giant pool. Dumb. For a moment it felt like I was in a whirlwind of water. Then I just realized that I was soaked, to the bone.

Ha. On our hike out, we stopped at a tiny shack near the parking lot. We passed on the wool clothing items ($$$$) and went for a hot serving of some hella good lamb stew.

Swapped clothes in the parking lot and off we were – followed by some shenanigans on the way back towards Reykjavik..

5. Reykjadalur Valley – Valley of Fire

We had this marked as a must-do activity. When Princess Sleep-in-the-Jeep-Alot, woke from her slumber, she asked if we had time to stop, since it was on the way back to Reykjavik.

*Note: locals had recommended avoiding this activity since the weather had been so foul.

So naturally, we completely disregarded that advice, and decided to do this hike

in the cold & windy rain

….and at night. LOL

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Marching up through an Icelandic valley at what I would describe as twilight, just a vague hint of light left in the sky, not quite dark yet. Of course, it was spitting rain and getting colder, with the occasional gust of wind that made the cold rain against your face sting just a bit.

Pretty amazing adventure.

We passed a few bubbling 200 degree hotpots on the way up, and eventually arrived at a stream that locals had constructed wooden sidewalks and a wind shelter.

It was dark thirty now, and notably colder. The wind had begun to really kick.

I was stoked to get in, using the light from my iPhone to find a deep section of pooling warm water.

Always the wise one, Jena bailed on the dip.

I ducked behind the wind shelter, kicked off my hiking boots and gear. Within moments I had some board shorts on and was in the water.

To my dismay, it wasn’t super hot, but I was proud of making the trek and reaching the valley of fire soak, at night no less, in spitting windy cold af rain.

Until I had to get out. LOL

Changing in the dark while with spitting rain/ice and gusts of 15mph SUCKS ASS.

But damn, that sure was fun and memorable.

Fortunately, we met a couple hiking out as we were leaving, they had headlamps *note:take headlamps next time.

We made short work of the descent into town, thanked our trail mates for sharing their head lamps (and assuredly avoiding injury using our iPhones to find our way back.

We were back in the jeep towards dinner and a beer.

5. Downtown Reykjavik

Iceland is the size of NYC.

Reykjavik, the country’s capital and largest central populous at 125k people, and is roughly 100 square miles, or, the same size as say, North Las Vegas. 

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Top 100 Cities Ranked by Land area in square miles, 2010

So not a giant city, but it sure is dreamy.

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photo credit: Diego Delso

Located on the southwestern coast of Iceland, on the Faxa Bay, the thing we appreciated about our time here was the density of the city. Our rental property was at the quiet end of the peninsula, or, drive to the end of the road, look for the lighthouse, and park. Quiet, serene, with nice views of the bay.

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The really neat thing about a dense city, is that you can go from jammies to scandinavian night life in about 20 minutes. Which we did, every evening following our adventures.

For the sake of time, I’m gonna blow through our city experiences, which as a reminder, were after our adventuring, so, pretty much beer and food joints LOL

(a). Sweet Pig Gastro Pub

Cool dive right downtown with really interesting eats

  • lightly cured arctic char
  • smoked puffin
  • minke whale
  • Icelandic horse carpaccio

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Can’t say we’re big fans of the horse, but, the local suds helped wash it down and we move on to the free entertainment emanating from the basement:

which was fun and also the most Non-Scandinavian thing ever, Katy Perry.

(b) Bryggjan Brugghús Iceland’s first brewery with amazing food and a private music room.

This may have been my 11th serving of fish & chips. The suds were on point.

Luck was on our side as a local band, YLJA was performing holiday melodies #FREE!

Wiping the last of the fish and chips off my face, I ordered a couple more pints and we settled into a private listening room for the show.

YLJA – “Ylja was formed in 2008 by guitarists/singers Gígja Skjaldardóttir and Bjartey Sveinsdóttir in Reykjavík, Iceland. With a common passion for vocal harmonies and love for the acoustic guitar, the two friends embarked on a musical journey – always trying to expand and broaden their sense for creativity.”

You can check out more of these ladies music here on Bandcamp

(c) Icelandic Fish & Chips

We had the Ling and Tusk. Seriously, for 1490 ISK (13 bucks) this was probably the best fish and chips I have ever had, IN MY LIFE.

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Jena enjoyed hers so much she broke out into a ELO song.

Weird twist of fate – we were enjoying our meal when to our surprise, the Canadian couple we did the Valley of Fire hike with, came over to our table! Sadly, we did not get a photo (like the one time I’m not snapping photos), but definitely a testament to how small Reykjavik really is.

Oh, the local beer, Einstok, is really tasty.

Okay – last food/beer joint to share

(d) Mikkeller Reykjavik 

We like beer, if you haven’t noticed. We also like adventuring. This place was on our list because of the beer, and in part, the house of the Mikkeller taproom.

Mikkeller & Friends Reykjavík is placed at Hverfisgata 12 – the house was built in the early 1900’s by a Guðmundur Hannesson, MD – and served as both his residence and the country’s first x-ray clinic.

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Lot’s of holiday ipas on tap, so, in full transparency, I had more than one.

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10. Moving day, 3pm flight.

One last stop on the way to the airport. The downtown Reykjavik flea market.

Something that we enjoy doing (when we’re not hiking in the dark, or, drinking beer), is experience the communities we visit.

Translation: People watching and cheap local gifts. 

The flea market didn’t open until 11. The airport was a solid 45min drive. We had to drop the rental off and check out bags.

Really, we had no time to do this, but by now I’m sure you’ve figure out we’re not conventional travelers.

We finally found some local wool gifts we could afford. Everything in Iceland is expensive, everything, wool tourist gifts are near the top of the exported goods sold, and as such, are near the top of the $$$ gifts. The idea of the flea market was in no small part to another traveler who recommended the flea market as a place to find wool products as a more reasonable price.

The two ladies in the photo above, were hilarious to deal with. We purchased a number of socks and mittens, and the bartering was pure gold. Not between myself and the ladies, mind you, but between the two ladies. They would smile at me, and then bicker at each other in their native tongue, about what god only knows, tap on the calculator, and then bicker some more. I was finally presented a price that was ridiculously less than the prices we had seen at the shops around town and out on the open road.

Done.

Jena, of course, in her absolute obsession of her favorite band, Electric Light Orchestra, found, you guessed it, a near mint condition ELO album.

and, my personal favorite score – I’m always hunting local art, our house is littered with what I would describe as a shitshow of bad art.

Long story short, and to wrap this up – there was a tiny booth, an obvious art vendor, loads of paintings and sculptures. High on the wall, this really neat landscape painting, really favored the landscape of Iceland.

Similar to Van Gogh type in style, large brush strokes, lots of acrylic, the colors were slightly faded from time but looking at the painting, my observation was that it was of one of Iceland’s many lava fields that are covered in moss. Green colors juxtaposed against Earthy dirt and iron.

Me to Jena: Think we can get this home?

Jena: Not sure…

Me to Vendor: Do you ship?

Vendor: No (broken english), but there is a post office nearby.

Jena: I’m not sure we have time.

Me to Vendor: How much?

Vendor: 50k kronos….

Me: {thinking…calculating in my head…}

Vendor: {look of despair}…I mean, 40k kronos.

Me: {furiously tapping on iPhone, converting ISK-USD……$330USD}

Me: If you can get it off that canvas board and roll it in the next 10 minutes, I’ll take it.

Jena: {look of bewilderment} – How are you going to get that home?

….

The rest is semantics.

We rolled the painting. I hit a ATM machine in the flea market, withdrew 40k ISK (small 3USD fee), paid the man, rolled it and wrapped it with some weird string ornaments. We put the painting into some plastic bags and then we hauled ass to the airport.

Dropped the rental jeep.

I cringed when we checked our bags with WOW – thinking the extra carry-on would cost 3 million dollars. The attendants smiled and moved-us along, no charge!

I stuffed the paining in the back of the overhead compartments, and that’s where it remained until we landed back in Boston, and then the same for our Nashville flight.

Fast fwd a few more weeks and the painting has a new simple DIY frame, made out of oak lattice board, distressed and stained dark.

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That’s a lot of memories crammed into 4 days in Iceland.

If you made it this far, you deserve a damn beer.Hit me up and I’ll meet you sometime for a cold one and help you plan your trip to Iceland. We really recommend you visit.

Thanks for reading!

 

Epilogue. BreckEpic, 1 week later.


The drive home was not bad.

Surprisingly.

We made it home on Beau Jo’s pizza, coffee/diet cokes, and listening to some of the creepiest HLN murder mystery radio (we missed you Eric!).

To help pass the time Sunday morning, I time capsuled myself back to the early ’70s & jammed to some concerts.

*sidenote, my 3 favorite:

  1. Black Sabbath, 1970 Live Paris
  2. Zep – Dazed & Confused, 1972 LA Forum
  3. Traffic – Low spark of high heeled boys, 1971

On with it then. Some parting thoughts & photos as I say goodbye to the 2018 #BreckEpic.

BTW, #3, above is really good, it pairs well with wine and these musings.

7 days ago we finished the 6 day #BreckEpic. This is by far, the most difficult thing I have ever done on a bike.

Individually, each single day seems relatively manageable, like a normal epic ride kind of feeling.

But two days in a row, at elevation. Oof.

Three days? Cuss words. 3 hurt, bad.

We would have been happy to stop at 3 days. (and this was when Jena and I asked ourselves, wtf did we sign up for 6).

4 days. Numb. Everything numb. Can’t eat enough. Losing weight. Beer consumption at all time low.

5 days…Day 5 was the worst. Wheeler’s {expletive} Pass.

Jena and I both agree, if it weren’t for 5 hours of hiking our bikes over 12’k feet, we would probably sign-up for 2019 right now.

Wheeler, to simply put it, was like getting kicked in the junk. For 5 hours.

Dirt and tears after day 5. That kind of stage.

6th day.

aaaaaaahhhhhhh.

That was fun.

Smell the barn kinda ride, and for 3.5 hours, we smiled and laughed (minus the 12 miles of 4% climbing). But mostly we romped thru some sweet sweet flow and let the big dog eat coming in.

Beer and taco consumption at all time high!

Life is good. We survived.

Thinking back. There were times where the focus was so tight. That gawdman belt buckle.

One step in front of the other, breathe. Repeat. For hours. 

hike a bike

Yeah, this was fun, but in a sick kind of way. Hanging out at elevation for 6 days at 9500′ is no easy task. The first couple of nights, folks in our group stated that they were laying in bed with a hummingbird in their chest. My resting HR the first night was 140.

ONE FORTY. lol

Damn Flatlanders.

Riding  Pushing a mountain bike up gnarly single track for 5-6 hours a day, over 11 or 12k’ for 6 consecutive days, well that’s a physical effort that requires more mental grit that physical fitness.

Earlier in the week, I touched on the dark places the mind will take you when the body goes well past fatigue. We all went there. Some stayed longer than others, but we all went to the badlands in the corners of our mind.

That’s where a good dose of love comes in, and how I’ll wrap this adventure up.

The community in Breckenridge is amazing. The entire community comes out and supports this event. The mayor rides and kicked off the week, stating how proud he is that the promoter passed on the bid from Ironman. The passion they share, for their little town and amazing network of trails, is difficult to comprehend. Smiling faces at every aid station, no matter how remote, isolated (and exhausted) we felt, there were local folk sharing their love to help each of us get complete our respective races.

Three particular volunteers, who (IMHO) exemplified the soul of this community. Each, on the course everyday, and in a personal way to me made a lasting impression.

1. Mike the SRAM mechanic. Evidently Captain Destructo rode my bike and broke my new SRAM Eagle cassette. Mike was kind enough to replace my cassette and get me up and going before the continental divide shoe debacle that was stage 3.

2. Keep Pedaling Chloe. She was at every aid station, best I can remember, on every stage. Her ears always perked, she would give a hard look of encouragement and her being there was a pleasant distraction from the pain emanating from my legs. Her human was pretty nice too.

3. And then there was Ava.

Sweet Mrs.- “I make the best damn train-wreck samiches on the planet” – Ava.

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@MathenyEndurance recommended we ask for the “Jamie Driscoll”, which was basically everything from the feed table, crammed onto two slices of bread, skittles bananas waffles goo, eeeeeeeverything. 

I passed. I did however, inhale at least 3 or 4 of the Ava Classic, white bread, miracle whip, pickles & potato chips. Kind of like those tiny little burgers from White Castles, but better.

SO DAMN GOOD.

There are so many other volunteers that make up the soul of BreckEpic. The 3 listed above were my favorite though.

The most important love though, that came from the knuckleheads that got us into this in the first place, and equally important, the friendships we forged with fellow sickos, while out on the mountain each day.

Thanks Friends, old and new, for helping Jena and I survive. We love ya’ll and want you to know we’re not doing this again. Nope.

Until the next post-ride this Fall or Winter, where we drink tequila again and someone breaks out a laptop.

You can do it off the couch someone will say….

…..

…….

Shitballs.

Thanks for the memories. Enjoy the pics.

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#BreckEpic18 #DonateLife #BeTheGift #TeamTransplant#TeamSweetPigQueenofthePotRoasts #HattieBsRacing #LittleHarpethBrewing #MathenyEndurance #888wordcount

 

 

 

 

#BreckEpic Day 6. Gold Dust Woman


Mission accomplished. Beer intake is at a weekly high and belt buckle has been secured.

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Short work of this tonight.

We survived.

I slept really well, with the help of some benadryl and melatonin, and a beer.

Nerves over breakfast. Aid bags? Tire pressure?

We rolled to the start line at the local ice rink parking lot.

8:56, wave 27 (the really slow wave).

Team B was ready.

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Today’s finishing stage, 30 miles and ~3500 miles of climbing, a pittance of what we had endured this week.

WE BLOWED TODAY UP.

Well, comparatively speaking, that is.

The first few miles was pretty easy, twisty single track out of the parking lot, only had to climb for 3 miles and Jena only had to wait for a minute or so…

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Some sweet flow back down and then some more single track that dumped us into a another 3 mile gravel road climb,  Boreas – Tank to top that rolled into the first aid station at mile 10. (that’s 6 miles of climbing if you’re counting like I was).

@MethaneyEndurance was there with our aid bags. Jena and I made short work and we were off.

We dropped back into the woods and hit the famous Gold Dust flume trails, cruisey-fun single track, where Jena proceeded to put the hammer down. {FWIW – this was really fun and we only almost crashed balls three times}.

Rocketing out of gold dust, we were spit out onto a gravel road that turned into another damn 6.5 mile climb.

IMG_2845Jena cracked the whip and put me into the pain cave for the next hour. A gradual 4% over the next 6 miles. I looked like a rabid dog as we rolled into the aid station at mile 22. Drooling all over my top tube and wheezing like I had smoked a pack or two.

We had a quick bottle swap. The volunteers told us it was 99% downhill to the finish.

I didn’t share dude’s enthusiasm, given the leg-beating-climbs we endured this week.

The next 10 was downhill though.

And it was so much fun. A little bony, but we just let the big dogs eat.

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From here in, it was probably the most fun single track we rode all week.

More sweet single track. Flying downhill like a scalded dog.

We rolled across the finish line, hand in hand and I yelled out with tears running down my dust-marred faced, “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHH!”

We finished with our fastest time of the week, just under 3:50.

Big smiles on our face.

We hugged, and cried. We screamed out loud in exclamation that we had done it.

The feeling was surreal, and as I type this, I have goosebumps (as I reach for my recover beer).

Comparatively speaking, today’s stage was a softball.  I don’t think I hiked my bike for more than a minute or two.

Which is a damn miracle.

{One day I’ll insert a professional photo here that the event photographer snapped, until then, this is a crappy photo of Jena and I, and said photographer.}

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I need to cash out for now. We’ve had a big day, week. There’s a lot of emotions swirling and I’m still processing what we accomplished this week.

For now, I’d like to leave a simple statement with you, as well as some photos.

BreckEpic is legit.

However.

Epic is in the eye of the beholder.

This is my opinion only, but I think there’s plenty of stoke out there, it’s not necessary to gut yourself over six days for a damn belt buckle to say you did some epic shit.

Crit racing.

Epic.

Trail running.

Epic.

Family of 3, getting-up at 6am and doing the local hammer ride. Yeah, that’s epic, for sure.

I’ll stop for now. I do plan on posting a deeper dive into this experience and all the folks that were part of it, later.

For now, I’ll leave this with you.

……

….

We got that damn belt buckle.

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#BreckEpic18 #DonateLife #BeTheGift #TeamTransplant#TeamSweetPigQueenofthePotRoasts #HattieBsRacing #LittleHarpethBrewing #MathenyEndurance #653wordcount

edit: great video of today’s stage

 

 

#Breck Epic Day 5, Wheeler’s Pass


Roots Rated describes today’s route over Wheeler’s Pass, “The Wheeler National Recreation Trail is one of the best places in the White River National Forest to hang out with wildlife and get a slice of alpine glory all to yourself. Following the ridgeline of the Tenmile Range, this steep, high-mountain route in the Colorado Rockies has breathtaking views of both Breckenridge and Copper Mountain. Despite being a mixed use trail open to mountain bikers, equestrians, and even the occasional trail runner, it’s more likely that you’ll pass a marmot up there than another human.”….

Unless you’re one of the 600 dumb bastards who paid to drag a mountain bike up and over 3 Wheeler passes today.

Today’s stage was ridiculously hard. That’s putting it lightly.

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I’m going to try and keep this short. Lot’s of pics kind of entry, because, well to be honest, we’re beat and could use a visit from the ether bunny tonight.

I did manage to choke a beer down following today’s stage, in case you were wondering. More a result of missing the second aid station and doing my best to make weight for tomorrow’s stage. I’d have drank a cup of warm pee I was so thirsty.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s rewind and go from the start, photo collage style to hopefully keep this short.

6:30am we’re trying to figure out how to make the hike-a-bike more tolerable.

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If you haven’t been following this circus, you may wonder about why we’re stuffing trail shoes in our camelbacks. This will help.  but mostly, because pushing a bike at elevation for hours on end, kinda sucks in mtb shoes. Cliff notes:this worked well.

IMG_2660This morning’s start was time trial mode. Waves of 10 people, sent out every 10 seconds. Our friends Brian and Alicia were 8:21, our group was 5 min behind, at 8:26. The weather was dry, and it was sunny, low 50s.

We were still smiling.

We hit the road. Evidently BreckEpic made note of my recent snarky comment about a 60sec warmup followed by climbing, and put us straight into some singletrack climb, literally right out of the parking lot. I watched Coop and Destructo roll away and within half a mile heard Jena ask “take a log off?”

Of course, the single track eased right into the photo below,

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Which is just the tip of the ‘ol hike your bike for hours iceberg, and today’s theme.

This was mile TWO.

The first aid station was at mile FOUR.

FML.

Reminder. Today’s stage sent us directly upto and over 12’k to Wheeler’s Pass, where we would spend the majority of the day.

Of course, getting to the first summit, that’s the trick.

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Following the first aid station, our form dialed-in from a week of hiking our bikes, we set off.

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The great thing about walking at 0.025mph, at elevation, if that you have plenty of time to take photos while you’re gasping for air.

IMG_2704This is the hike your bike face for 2 hours to the first ascent, Wheeler pass.

IMG_2729The slog to the second summit. Was a bear.

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EuroProAF form.

I have to give a shout out to our coach @mathenyendurance, over the last 6 months, he’s been great in getting us as prepared as possible. Some things you can’t prepare for though, like not having brake pads after 4 days of choke-holding the brakes when flying in from 12k’.

I discovered early this morning as we hit the start line that my pads were shot. We were about to roll and the event mechanic was like, “you’ve got half a mm or so”, followed by, “I wouldn’t do today’s descent on those”…

Daniel saved my ride. There were not Shimano pads to be found. Of course, I did bring some, but they were in my toolbox back at the house, 1/4 mile away.

Daniel was running sweeper today, so he offered to goto the house and grab the pads, and then ride-up Wheeler and try to catch me before the descent.

And then he did.

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He caught me just as I was changing shoes and getting ready to drop down Wheeler to CO trail. He swapped my pads and bled my brakes in like 3 minutes, gave me some tips on the descent, a bonk-breaker, and off he went, back to sweeping.

Amazing.

I think the dude is probably one of the nicest human beings I have ever met, and an amazing athlete, coach, and Father.

If you need a coach- click thru and check him out. 

But enough about that spider monkey, I’ve got to get to bed!

The hike-a-bike went on for nearly FIVE HOURS.

I ran out of water before the final summit.

Badlands trail. Super rocky.

The darkness started creeping in.

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Third pass. Mile 10. Time to head down.

Except for one tiny problem.

We’re not pro mountain bikers. The drop in and first few miles were SKETCH AF.

I crashed balls within 3 minutes.

We walked with our bikes some more.

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The total dive in was a little over 6 miles. Super steep, blown out and dry. We were able to ride a mile or two closer to the bottom.

Then unknowingly, we missed our 2nd aid station at mile 19.

We ended up riding thru a section of the course and ended-up adding a little of our own.

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^^^this is not the course you are supposed to be riding on.

We rolled into the finish just a hair under 7 hours. Dehydrated, hungry, sore everything.

We explained to the officials what had happened. We followed the arrows and at a fork in the trail there were multiple markings. We followed the ribbons.

I guzzled two bottles of water. We offered to go back out, just don’t take us out of the buckle. We are so gawdamn close.

Their response was surprising. We would not be going back out. We had met the expectation for stage 5.

The emotions came out.

I had a beer.

One more day, Ya’ll. Pray for us.

Nite

#BreckEpic18 #DonateLife #BeTheGift #TeamTransplant#TeamSweetPigQueenofthePotRoasts #HattieBsRacing #LittleHarpethBrewing #MathenyEndurance #1000wordcount

edit: you can view today’s stage over Wheeler’s pass here

 

 

#BreckEpic Day 4. Dark Place, 80424


But you gotta hike your bike first.

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Following stage 3, we were in a bad place. I had one beer, and did not finish it last night, that kind of bad.

We were sore. Pushing your bike for 3-4 hours will do that. Riding a mtb for 3 days in a row has a similar effect. Folks are tired. Our bodies are starting to feel beat down. The mental challenge has begun, “why are we doing this?”, followed by “how are we going to do three more days of this?”. 

Thankfully, we slept okay. Some with ear plugs, some with ambien. Some, with both.

6am this morning, folks were guzzling coffee and busy making preparations for another 40 mile 6500 day.  A silver lining, would be that we would stay below 11k for the better part of the day.

8:30 am. Our little group from Nashville set-off on their respective #BreckEpic day 4 start.

The standard in Breckinridge is that if you’re going to ride bikes, you get a 60 second warm-up before the climbing begins. Mass start. Up a paved road for a mile or so. Surprisingly Jena was not in launch mode (yet).

We hit the first stretch of double track at mile 2 or so, a Strava segment titled pavement to Glen’s house says this little bugger averaged 16% for .6 miles.

Crammed in like a sardine, surrounded by everyone from the back of the start line, we crawled upwards for the next 4 miles or so. Jena was gone.

I was not hiking my bike.

A moral victory.

The next 5 miles were pretty enjoyable. Sweet single track, some modest climbs. We made the first aid station, mile 10, in an hour an change.

We ate some waffles and took some water. A quick note to share. We’re riding our mountain bikes in great open spaces around Breckinridge. In some cases, at the highest elevation. Every day, we’ve been blessed with amazing people who volunteer their time to make that as each of us arrives at each aid station, that we have our drop bags, food, and hydration. The volunteers have been amazing this week, a standard for all events to follow.

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We set off with lighter spirits, Jena making a remark that I was “climbing well, must of brought my rally legs”….we all know that’s a load of baloney, but, I smiled knowing that I had only hiked my bike for a moment today.

That would change.

The next 10 miles were similar to the first 10, some fun single track, some fun descents and one awful climb.

Following a really fun descent, that bombed down into what appeared to spit us out of the woods, there were course arrows pointing to the right and volunteers shouting “hard right hander, off-camber climb.”

Vomit Hill.

A goat path of a road. No, that’s not fair to the goats. This was actually a water runoff I think.

Strava says it’s called King Fisher Lane, a not so friendly, 1.3 mile climb at 12%.

The photo at the top of this entry, shows Jena, hiking her bike up Vomit Hill.

We hiked for 30 minutes or so.

Then another sweet ride down into the ranch aqueduct, the flattest 2 miles of single track that we have ridden this week, likely in all of Breckenridge.

It was at this point that Jena tried to ride me off her wheel here.

Tempo she said.

Moving on (read: I need to get to sleep).

Throughout this week, we’ve been surrounded by crazy like-minded people, out here suffering on their mountain bikes. A common theme among the suffering, regardless of where a person is from, or what type of fitness they may have, there is one common place the folks talk about avoiding.

The dark place.

Climbs. Bonks. Descents. Mechanicals. Sore legs and tired fannies. The aggregate of riding in the mountains for 6 days, at elevation.

I’ve heard stories of surgeries, work responsibilities, travel and sickness.

Trying to do something as ridiculous as a 6-day mountain bike race, with various challenges, will, at some point, take you right into this dark place.

Everyone has one. No one wants to go there.

Positive words are bandied around each day, “look up at the beauty“, “you’re not in the office” and my favorite “shitballs”

Well, okay, that last one might be mine, but it seems to bring a smile when I see someone with the pain face as we start to hike bikes up another ridiculous climb.

The spirit of this race is pretty cool. People offering good vibes to bring a person back.

There was a lot more climbing today, the last beast was an exposed 7 miler that dumped into some more single track. Then a ride across a saddle of the mountain, some more sucky climbs, and then the drop in home.Talladega Burms. Those were memorable on the dive back into town.

We’ve a big day tomorrow.

The Queen stage. Wheeler Pass. We’ll ride our bikes push our bikes for 3 hours, up over 12k’.

Time Trial start tomorrow.

8:21 Sugarbear & WonderWoman

8:26 Megatron, 2.1, Tankass & SWG.

My money’s on Jena.

From dark places, there will come light.

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And yes, looking up does help.

Thanks for reading. Nite folks.

#BreckEpic18 #DonateLife #BeTheGift #TeamTransplant#TeamSweetPigQueenofthePotRoasts #HattieBsRacing #LittleHarpethBrewing #MathenyEndurance #863wordcount <<<yikes. Sorry!

 

 

#BreckEpic Day3, The Death March.


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Breck Epic stage 3 took us up over the continental divide, twice, today.

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We found out the hard way. The elevator was broken.

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So we walked our bikes.

A lot.

40 miles and 6600′ of climbing. I’d wager that more than half was spent in hike-a-bike mode.

Going up over 12k’ was pretty special. Doing it twice in one ride, was kind of mean.

We pushed our bikes today.

A lot.

From the parking lot, we managed a reasonable pace. We did the first 5.5 mile climb in an hour. I was only partially anaerobic trying to hold Jena’s wheel, as we entered the first section of rocky  doubletrack.

I only walked for a few minutes on this stretch, and considered this a major victory.

Then we hit the base of the French Pass trail, or what will be referred to from here on in our inner circles, as the trail that destroyed Ben’s shoes.

base of clmb

The French Pass trail gains ~2500′ in a little over 2 miles.  Look at the photo above. That behemoth is what we rode our bikes into. Well, we were riding at the base.

Co tinental divide pass

It gets steep, quickly. Too steep to ride. Not much oxygen to breathe. The trail is more like a rut with grass high walls. Nearly impossible to ride for us mere dirt mortals.

We spent the next 1:25 crawling with our bikes up to the summit. Our strategy became to take 15 steps pushing the bike. Then take 15 seconds to recover. Then repeat.

The reward was worth it though, as we scrambled to get a rain jacket on before the plunge back down.

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The dive down from the French Pass summit was one of those descents that is equally invigorating and terrifying. Sorry, no pics, but a good case of jelly arms from the rattle of the rough drop in.

Michigan Creek road to Colorado Trail. Another beautiful summit, preceded by a God awful 5 miles double track climb. Yes, there was more hike-a-bike here.

Which brings me back to the mention of Ben’s shoes…

IMG_2584Evidently, the mountain was too much of a burden for his shoes to bear. The sole separated from the shoe on the hike up thru the French Pass, or, it might have been the hiking up to the Colorado Trail….it might have been the hiking at the start of the ride.

Too be honest, we’re not sure when, but it was clear that his little piggies were ready to break out. Fortunately someone at the aid station had some duct tape, and violà, instant shoe repair.

Back in action.

We summited the Georgia Pass, 11,598′.

The reward for climbing over Georgia Pass, the 4 mile descent. Pretty sweet. Thankfully the ground was okay after Ben assaulted it after hooking a small pine.

Unfortunately his other shoe could not say the same.

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Look at those glorious dancing shoes. I mean, you can’t make this up. The sole from the other shoe came part.  Thankfully there were some hikers at the bottom of the Georgia Pass descent that had, yup, you guessed it, some more duct tape (black this time, matchy matchy).

It’s getting late here, so I’m going to fast forward thru the rest of the awesome suffering.

more climbs,

more hike-a-bike,

some sweet exposed single track.

and what seemed like the longest 2 mile finishing stretch.

We survived day 3, barely.

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Sidenote: two of our friends are wrapping-up their BreckEpic 3-day race today. Jena and I were glad to spend a little time with both Eric and Ben this week. We’ll miss you guys these last three stages.

BreckEpic Stage 4 is on tap in less than 12 hours. Aqueduct.

Pray for us.

Nite.

 

 

ps – check out this video recap of day 3! 

#BreckEpic18 #DonateLife #BeTheGift #TeamTransplant#TeamSweetPigQueenofthePotRoasts #HattieBsRacing #LittleHarpethBrewing #MathenyEndurance #613wordcount

 

#BreckEpic Day 2. Everybody suffers.


“Behind every thing beautiful, there is some kind of pain”, Bob Dylan. 

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‘Ol Bob probably never thought his lyrics would crossover to mountain biking. Definitely applies here.

Breck Day#2. Ride Report.

Breakfast with the crew. We rolled out for our 8:30am start. The Sun was out. We were smiling and anxious for the day’s ride.

That would all change pretty quickly.

Mass start. ~600 or so mountain bikers starting at the same time, uphill. At least the road was paved road for the first mile or so. Some folks were in launch mode from the go. We were anxious but we were chatting. Spirits were good.

I made it onto the opening stretch of single track. A section of double track that was tight given there were lots of folks packed-in.

I bumped wheels with a fellow and had to put a foot down. Bums.

I made it 1.25 miles and then had to walk. Sounds about right. There were so many people on the trail, it was not possible to do anything other than smile and cheer folks on as they rode up this relatively easy section. Probably for the best now that I thing back.

Then the real climbs came.

BreckEpic Day2 Heinhous hill

The above photo was taken at mile 2 or 3, after climbing from the start. Gold Run Gulch road is the official name of this stretch of road, just under mile, averages 16%.

More climbs.

Sawmill Road followed the gulch at around mile 5. The locals also call this section Heinous Hill.  Yeah, that seems about right. I’m certain I was using some special language of my own to describe this one.

I walked a good bit of that one. We took a hike-a-bike selfie with a Pam, a teacher from Chicago.

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Lots of hike-a-bike.

We made lots of friends today. That’s the spirit of BreckEpic.

Mile 5.5 to 10ish, we finally got some descending in.

Kind of fuzzy for awhile. We road thru an area called Galena Ditch, which was a really narrow section of singletrack that (if I remember correctly) was part of a reservoir.

An aid station at mile 13. SNACKS. The volunteers were amazing.

A little more climbing, up out of the basin then at mile 15 (or so) that dropped into another section of twisty fun single track. Everyone was smiling again. There was a section of shutes, evidently where an old mine water runoff was, that was too good to not stop and ride again. Emily Magli was commandeered to take this cheeseball photo

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Then the climb of the day, Colorado Trail climb. 2 miles at 10%. Oof. The entire climb was  nearly 4miles and averaged 5%. The climb topped out at around 11,200′.

That one hurt.

Jena was on fire. She climbed like she had wings on her shoulders. Fatass here, took his sweet ass time, talking to basically anyone that was on the trail.

The Summit provided views that were amazing. It was a little chilly. We put our wind vests on, took one photo, and then off we went, 7 mile descent on-tap!

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Moving this along. Aid station at mile 30 provided much needed food & water. We had been on the bikes for ~6 hours and were getting precariously close to missing our time cutoff.

*sidenote: finishers of the 6-day BreckEpic get a sweet belt buckle, this is our goal. Somehow finish, even if we have to crawl to day 6

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You can see the motivation now. #BMF.

Jena and I decided to pick it up a notch, roll mode (LOL) for the last 10 miles.

About those last 10 miles…they hurt. More than half was climbing. Every time we thought we were done climbing, yes, more climbing.

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We kept it together, and finished, just a hair under 8 hours. I have to give Jena credit, she managed to tow my ass in over those last 10 miles in a little over an hour. Surprisingly, we averaged close to 7.5mph for the remaining 8.5 miles or so.

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Belt Buckle preserved.

We hustled back from the finish. Got a 12min creek dip in, during which time I ordered take out from a local mex joint. All the tacos, nachos, and quesadillas. We want them all.

Breck Epic Stage 3 is in 12 hours. Mt. Guyot. We go over the continental divide twice, 40+ miles with 5500′ of elevation gain.

Thanks for reading. Send us good vibes, we’ll need them.

Time for sleep.

#BreckEpic18 #DonateLife #BeTheGift #TeamTransplant#TeamSweetPigQueenofthePotRoasts #HattieBsRacing #LittleHarpethBrewing #MathenyEndurance #716wordcount