Breckenridge endurance junkies debut homemade triathlon for Independence Day |

Breckenridge endurance junkies debut homemade triathlon for Independence Day

Joe Howdeyshell, left, and Matti Rowe bike towards Peak 10 in Breckenridge Ski Resort on July 2, just two days before embarking on the self-titled Breckenridge Triathlon. The pair joins three or four other endurance athletes for a mountain bike ride to Peak 10, a sunrise ski down Fourth of July Bowl, the Independence Day 10K at 7 a.m. and one 25-mile lap each for the Firecracker 50 mountain bike race. Good luck team.
Hugh Carey / |

Breckenridge Triathlon breakdown

This Fourth of July feat might be more about friends and jean shorts than earth-shattering records, but that doesn’t mean the numbers are light. Here’s a look at total vertical gain and mileage for the unofficial Breck Tri:

Vertical feet

Gain 4,040 feet — Leg one (mountain bike, Peak 9 base to Peak 10 summit)

Lose 900 feet — Leg two (ski, Peak 10 summit to Fourth of July Bowl base)

Gain 882 feet — Leg three (run, Independence Day 10K)

Gain 4,000 feet — Leg four (mountain bike, Firecracker 50)

Total gain — 8,922 feet


About 3 miles — Leg one (mountain bike, Peak 9 base to Peak 10 summit)

About 3 miles — Leg two (ski and bike, Peak 10 Summit to Peak 9 base)

6.2 miles — Leg three

25 miles — Leg four

2-3 miles — Miscellaneous travel from venue to venue

Total distance — 39-40 miles

Sources: Town of Breckenridge;

You ain’t never seen the Fourth like this.

Around 3 a.m. this morning, an unofficial band of triathletes, road cyclists, trail runners and other endurance fiends dressed in jean shorts, Norwegian Speedos and thigh-high socks loaded their mountain bikes at Peak 9 for one hell of a day: a three-mile ride up 3,100 vertical feet to the base of Peak 10, where they’ll transition to skis for sunrise turns down Fourth of July Bowl — the curved, wide-open expanse of fading snow that hangs over the ski resort long after chairlifts stop spinning — in time to catch the 7 a.m. start of the Independence Day 10K trail run back in town, followed at 9:30 a.m. by one 25-mile lap with 4,000 vertical feet at the wildly popular Firecracker 50 MTB race.

Some 12 hours and 40 total miles later — around 2 or 3 p.m. this afternoon, if all goes as planned — the crew will rendezvous at the Carter Park finish line for a traditional Fourth of July picnic, complete with lots of sitting, stretching and good-natured smack-talking, not to mention plenty of beer. So much beer.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the first-ever Breckenridge Triathlon: a homemade challenge led by the town’s own jorts aficionado, Joe Howdyshell, that may or may not become a Summit County tradition.

“Me and some of my friends like to do these crazy adventure things,” said Howdyshell, who recruited folks like road cyclist Matti Rowe and former XTERRA triathlete Jaime Brede for the (literally) half-day tour of Breck on Independence Day. “I like the idea of a human-powered adventure, all based in Breckenridge. The cool thing about this is we won’t be getting in a car at all. Everything will be happening from town, on bikes or on foot.”

The genesis

For the Average Joe, questions of “why?” loom over something like the Breckenridge Triathlon: Why start biking at 3 a.m.? Why go skiing in July? Why two races instead of one? Why drag others along for the torture?

But Howdyshell is no average Joe. He regularly reaches the podium at the Imperial Challenge — a bike-skin-ski event from the Breckenridge Recreation Center to the summit of Peak 8 held around closing weekend every year — and competed for years in ski mountaineering and sky running before launching an endurance-training outfit, Summit Endurance Academy. That led to a gig with the U.S. Ski Mountaineering team this past winter and a trip to the International Ski Mountaineering Federation World Championships in Italy, where he joined a slew of local athletes who qualified to race, including Jaime Brede, Nikki LaRochelle and Teague Holmes.

“The big reason I reached out to friends is to stay motivated,” Howdyshell said. “We also need to manage the pacing. We can’t push too hard.”

Not like that will stop Howdyshell or Brede, another fierce skimo competitor he roped into the summer shenanigans. She’s been looking for something like this — something new and different, something off the beaten path — and what better way to shrug off the same-old than with a brand-new, never-been-done triathlon-ish?

“I’ve been on that (multi-sport) circuit for a long time and I’m just ready for new adventures,” Brede told the Summit Daily before the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail this June. “I still want to compete, but I want to do races I’ve never done before.”

Leg one | Peak 10 bike

Joining Brede is Matti Rowe, an expert road cyclist and Howdyshell’s best friend. The opening leg of the day — a three-mile bike ride to the base of Peak 10 with skis, boots and other gear — should be a cinch for a guy who’s already been competing at road races for more than a month. And besides, joining anyone at 3 a.m. for a ride beats his usual Fourth of July tradition: solo bike some 85 miles from Boulder to Breckenridge.

“There’s usually some kind of huge endurance feat on fourth of July,” Rowe said. “There’s more people, there’s more variety and it can get lonely when you’re riding a bike by yourself for seven hours.”

It’s also an excuse to shed the standard Spandex and get even more revealing. Rowe admits that jean shorts are already his friend’s calling card, so instead he’ll don a Norwegian Speedo and socks for the entire day.

“I’ve tried that, but I don’t really have the thighs for it,” Rowe said. “But I do have superior tan lines and need something short.”

It also beats the butt rash from denim, he said.

Leg two | Fourth of July ski

Without a doubt, everyone in the group is amped for a sunrise ascent of Peak 10, and without a doubt, everyone is also dreading the second leg: an icy ski descent in time to reach the 10K start line by 7 a.m.

“I’m really looking forward to being on top of Peak 10 when the sun rises,” Howdyshell said. “That will be incredible.”

Rowe hates mornings, but he’ll suck it up.

“I’m really pumped to see the sunrise in the morning,” Rowe said. “Joe is a really annoying morning person … I’m more about waiting until the second pot of coffee before I start to talk.”

Another member of the group, Mark Koob of Frisco, feels the same way.

“Yeah, that’s going to suck with the hard-pack, bulletproof snow,” said Koob, who knows Howdyshell from skimo races across the state and finished a 65-mile bike tour across Shrine Pass on July 2, also self-imposed. “But you can’t complain.”

Why would you?

Leg three | Independence Day 10K run

For Rowe and Howdyshell, the hardest part of the day might be the third leg and the popular Independence Day 10K trail run, but for different reasons. Rowe admits it’s because he doesn’t run often — although he’s been pounding the pavement for at least 10 miles per week — while Howdyshell says it’s because he has a hard time slowing down.

“My natural state is go hard for an hour, but this is getting me outside of my comfort zone to train longer, go for longer rides (and) hit my fitness in a way I haven’t seen in a while,” Howdyshell said. “I want to go out there, do this and still be fun to hang around during the afternoon. I don’t just want to be lying shattered on a couch somewhere.”

Leg four | Firecracker 50 bike

As for Koob (and the rest, really), finishing the fourth leg strong at the Firecracker might just be the hardest part. It begins at 9:30 a.m., some six hours and 4,000 vertical feet after the crew started its day, and promises at least four hours of grinding on nearby dirt trails and roads. It doesn’t help that Koob rides a singlespeed bike with no granny gear for rest.

“The Firecracker after that whole long day (pause). I’m not looking forward to it,” Koob said, who also did the Grand Traverse with a friend, fellow Breck Tri-er Matt Hickey, before the Shrine Pass 65-miler. “It’ll still be a blast, so I hope my legs will keep up. I probably should have taken a rest day, but oh well.”

Rest is for the after-party, though, and everyone agrees on their favorite part of the day: that first beer.

“I think it’s pretty funny that we have a fairly competitive group, but none of us have started s***-talking yet, or making bold bets,” Howdyshell said. “If any s***-talking has happened, it’s been like, ‘I’ll bet I can have two beers after we’re done without passing out.’”

Challenge: accepted.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User