Christianson pedal to victory at Breckenridge
Jarad Christianson, originally from Fillmore County, enjoys biking. A lot. And he’s gotten pretty good at it. As proof, he recently placed first in the 30+ group in the very competitive Breck Epic Mountain Bike Race in Breckenridge, Colorado. Jarad recently interviewed about the experience.
When asked to describe the Breck Epic, Jarad explained that the race took place over six consecutive days, from August 15 to 21, with a specific ‘stage’ covered each day (much like the Tour de France ). But the Breck Epic differs greatly from the Tour in that it totals around 240 miles, with 40,000 feet of vertical drop. And as Jarad added, âMost of it is above 10,000 feet here at Breckenridge, so it’s mostly high mountain running, low in oxygen. “
Jarad said his love of competitive sports came from his days on the track in high school. âThe experiences I had in Fillmore Countyâ¦ on the track or in any sportâ¦ the lessons I learned from the coaches of the Lanesboro / Fillmore Central Track Team have stuck in my mind. ” Jarad said that in high school he competed in middle distance races (800 meters and 1,600 meters) as well as the triple jump. He said the 800m, in particular, requires a competitive runner to know exactly how hard to push during the race. âThis is also how mountain biking,â Jarad added, âThe 800 has familiarized me with that mindset where you push just below your limit.â
To illustrate the physical demands of the six-day event, Jarad said, âSo for about twenty hours my average heart rate was probably 155 or 160 over six days. On the fourth day, I would wake up wondering why I am doing this. So it’s not just about competing with other people, but it’s really against yourselfâ¦ getting over that and just working at it.
Describing how he ended up in Colorado, Jarad said that after high school he went to college at CU Boulder and then returned to the Midwest for a few years. But he said he had returned to the Rocky Mountains and ended up in Breckenridge because several of his college friends were there. Due to a running injury, Jarad could no longer run like he did in school, so he started to cycle, and eventually mountain bike.
Jarad said he has competed in mountain bike races for the past four years and that the training required is a considerable time commitment. He said: âTo get to that level of the podium or to be competitive like that, it took me five to six months of solid training to get to a level where I could run and keep pace with the six day race. immediatelyâ¦ It’s a big commitment. You have to train between 16 and 20 hours a week to be competitive.
According to Jarad, the support of his family, girlfriend, workplace and sponsor is essential in his pursuit of cycling competition. Jarad’s mother, Tami Christianson, was at the Breck Epic and volunteered to staff one of the aid stations along the trail each day of the race. The main sponsor of Jarad is a local bike shop, Avalanche Sports. He said he was very grateful for the equipment and mechanical help provided by his sponsor, to keep him in the saddle on a well-tuned bike at all times.
Luck has been on Jarad’s side during his four years of racing. He said: âI touch wood, I never had a flat tire during a race. But two years ago my shifter came off my handlebars completely, so I kind of had a single-speed bike for about 20 miles a day. Jarad said he had also avoided major accidents so far. However, accidents are always a concern, especially on narrow trails. âTypically we’ll have fire sections of roadâ¦ and then the majority of the race each day, I’d say 90%, is on a single track that’s just wide enough for the handlebars of your bike, really. “
The Breck Epic 2021 had between 450 and 500 runners in total, across all categories. Jarad said that typically around half of the contestants are from outside the United States. He said the remote location and the physical demands create a unique bond between the runners. âWe all do this needlessly painful thing to each other. And so once we’re done with each day, it’s this lovely camaraderie.
When asked if he had had any significant wildlife encounters, Jarad replied, âNot during the races, but there has been a lot of time when I’m going down a hill, and there will be. , for example, three moose on the trail, and you just gotta go as fast as you can. During the fifth stop of this year’s Breck Epic, Mother Nature stepped in. Jarad explained, âOn the fifth day we had to climb almost 13,000 feet high and over what’s called the Wheeler Pass. And the weather got really horrible about 30 minutes later. So we were up there in the clouds. There were times when I couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of me. And it was raining, it was raining and it was snowing. It was pretty scary.
Jarad also spoke about some unique and humorous factors for this year’s Breck Epic. He said: âOn Day 4 of the race, there was a random man with dozens of Fireball Whiskey shots lined up on a tree stump, telling us to take one. I didn’t think it was in my best interests, but it was pretty funny because he was in the middle of nowhere. Another day someone was cooking bacon on a camping stove and handing it out about 12,000 feet above sea level. âElsewhere along the trail, Skittles candy and beer cans were also found. set up so runners can participate if they wish.
Looking to the future, Jarad plans to continue training and running. If possible, he would like to gain more sponsors and ride at a more competitive professional level. Jarad’s total time for the six-day event was 20 hours and 32 minutes. This gave him over an hour ahead of his closest competitor in the 30+ age group. Jarad was able to wear the “leader’s jersey” throughout the race and ended up increasing his lead by more than 10 minutes on the last day of racing. For his victory, Jarad received a plaque and a special jersey. But he said his favorite “prize” was simply the recognition of winning and achieving his goal.