Lumberjack 2013 – Ten and a Half Hours of Fun

the-boys

Ok, so maybe not “all” of the 10 hours and 32 minutes that it took me to complete the 2013 Lumberjack 100 can be described as “fun.” But I can say my return to Michigan’s first 100 mile mountain bike race (there are others now) went even better than I expected. This update is a bit late, given that the race was June 15th, but at least I’m getting this posted before the calendar flips over to July!

Friday night I traveled to my teammate Jack’s cabin nearby the event just west of Cadillac, MI and met Charles (also on the team) and one of Jack’s good friends from Ann Arbor, Kyle. While the cabin has had some improvements since my last Lumberjack (several years ago), I was pleased to see the record player was still going strong. Nothing like classic KISS to get you in the mood for 100 miles of mountain biking!

Race day came early and we were up and around by 5 am. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but the temps were expected to get into the 70s by late morning. While I showed up at the line with a sleeveless base-layer and arm warmers, I’d shed them half way through my second (of three) 33.3 mile laps. The start rolled out with just under a mile of paved road to get the blood pumping. Hoots and hollers filled the crowd as we funneled into the parking lot and through the rows of onlookers cheering us on. Then, the trail got REAL narrow and we went from riding 6-10 riders across to single file, which slowed things down considerably. It was slow going for the first 5 -7 miles, with people over-reacting to braking ahed of them, sticks on the trail causing issues (one guy caught one in his back wheel right in front of me and I barely missed his crash) and a constant dust cloud that kept me coughing well after the pack spread out.

Before the Race

Jack and I rode together for most of the first lap, which was nice to have some company. The trail was in great shape with some new sections added since I raced this the last time. A few years ago they changed the format to three 33.3 mile loops. The last time I raced it was four 25 mile loops and I will admit I liked this format better. Much of what was added included gravel two-track and other sections that gave your body a bit of a break instead of constant singletrack. There still was a LOT of climbing, with some of the hills simply un-ridable, forcing racers to get off and push their bikes up the hill. By the time I was on my third lap, even some of the hills I rode on the first lap seemed easier to walk up (or at least that’s what my legs were telling me).

Coming in after my first lap I felt pretty good. I’m riding a new bike this year, switching to 29″ wheels and also front-only suspension. Prior years I was on a more traditional 26″ wheeled full-suspension, so I was anxious to see how a hardtail would treat me after 100 miles. My Trek Superfly SL Pro did a great job and I felt very comfortable on it, even finding after 100 miles that my back did NOT hurt (which was not the case with my last race). Heading out on lap #2, I was able to push it a bit and it was nice to ride the beginning part of the course at regular speed (unlike the first lap). At the mid-point I stopped at the aid station and this is where I made what would become a bad tactical decision. The volunteers cheered as you arrived and were very helpful, offering drinks and food to help keep you going. One of them said “How about a BP&J with Fritos? Everyone’s been raving about them and they give you a nice sweet and salty snack.” Why not, I thought. At the rate I was burning calories I figured it couldn’t hurt and who doesn’t like PB&Js and Fritos… About five miles later, I realized my gut didn’t care for my food options and started to revolt. The remaining miles of my second lap were pretty difficult, because in addition to my gastro-revolt, the leg cramps started and I was beginning to crave ice cold Gatorade (but didn’t have any in my cooler at the pit).

When I came in after lap #2, I was able to bum a bottle of Gatorade off another team (YUM!) and that really helped. My stomach issues started to feel better and I was ready to take off for my third and final lap. It was at that moment I looked back to find the three leaders coming across the finish line. After 100 miles of racing, I was amazed to see all three of them coming across the finish line within ONE second of each other! As impressive as that was, I had to get back to reality and accept the fact that I had another 33.3 miles to go. So off I went…

All Done
All Done

On my last lap I didn’t set any land speed records, as I had to stop several times to tend to my leg cramps. But when I was riding (and not huffing it up the hills) I felt pretty good. The bike was handling well, my back felt good and I knew that I’d be finishing the race. If you’ve ever rode the trail, you may recall coming in the final part of the loop you catch a glimpse of the parking lot, which is the sign that you’re just about done. As with years past, the sight of the cars off in the distance caused an instant smile to come across my face. I had done it, and after coming across the line, realized that I did it in “record time” (well, for me at least). It’s hard to compare “apples to apples” since this was 3 x 33.3 miles and prior races were 4 x 25 miles, but I’m going with it!

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Now, my training focus is shifting to triathlons for the remainder of the year and I’ve strapped on the running shoes again and hitting the pavement. I’ve got two Olympic triathlons coming up (one in Cadillac and another in Ludington) before my 70.3 distance triathlon at Cedar Point in September. I’ll still find time to get in some mountain biking, however, as I’ve found that to be a great cross training workout and should help me with my biking and overall power. I’m also looking forward to getting back on the track with my good friend (and RAAM stud) Kathy.

Yeah, it was dusty out there!
Yeah, it was dusty out there!

State Games of Michigan MTB Time Trial

State Games Time Trial – June 22nd, 2013 – Belmont, Michigan – Cannonsburg Ski Area

I hate climbing.  Climbing on a single speed is pure torture.  However, it’s also your chance to blow the doors off of everyone else on the trail.  Cannonsburg Ski Area, home of the 2013 State Games of Michigan MTB time trial, has roughly 600 feet of climbing over a 6 mile circuit.  That doesn’t seem like much on paper, but the way the course is set up, you’re either climbing or rapidly descending – there’s very little opportunity to spin your legs out and recover.  So, in preparation, I rode the course on 3 occasions prior to the race (for a total of 5 laps) to figure out which gear I’d be able to push for 18 miles.  I started with 34×16, dropped to 36×18, and settled on 36×19 following my final prep ride.

Speaking of that…

The Friday before the race, I decided to head to Cannonsburg for a nice easy spin to loosen up my legs and make a final decision on my gearing.  I wasn’t entirely sure how the race course was going to be set up, so I opted to ride the entire loop, including the complete skills section.  The skills section is divided up into two parts – the first part has drops and jumps that you basically just avoid if you’re riding XC, and the second part has a steep climb and then some fast descents (and more avoidable stunts).  One section that isn’t avoidable has a quick descent that ends in a roller which pops you up in the air before immediately dropping into a downhill turn.  You can probably guess where this is going.  I hit that roller, popped up, landed on the decline, carried way too much speed into the turn, lost my line, and ended up slamming the left side of my body (including my jaw) onto the trail.  I sat up and took stock of myself to make sure I wasn’t severely injured: my ear was full of dirt, my right wrist was somehow jammed, my knee was swollen, and my jaw had some road rash.  I had also twisted my bars around on my steerer tube.  Fortunately I was ok to ride, so I muscled my bars back into position and gingerly finished the circuit.  Not exactly what I had in mind for the day.

Anyway, on to the race.  It looked like we were going to have a pretty full field of sport SS riders competing, with Eric Wolting, Byrne Johnson, and about 7 other riders registered.  As it turns out, only 6 of us showed up.  With this being Eric’s home trail, I wasn’t really fostering any ideas of winning – I was going to go out, ride hard, and see where I ended up.  I was definitely sore from my crash, but I knew I’d loosen up as I rode.  The organizers had arranged the course so that we were starting right up the longest climb, and they had excluded the section where I had crashed the day before (which I was grateful for).  My start time was 12:03, and with just a handful of other riders in front of me, I was on course.

The first climb was rough.  I had warmed up, but I still felt a bit like wet garbage.  My goal had been to catch as many of the riders that had started in front of me as I could during the initial climb in order to have less trail traffic during my first lap, but I believe I only caught two of them.  I then spent about a mile on the wheel of a 50+ rider in the singletrack before I could safely get by him on a two-track climb.  I passed a few other riders during my first lap, and checking my time as I started my second lap, it looked like I was doing pretty well – and I hadn’t been passed by anyone who had started behind me.  As I started my second lap, I ran into some heavy trail traffic from the riders who had just started their first lap, but it wasn’t anything unmanageable.  I passed a significant number of people on the climbs, and was passed myself by a few riders who had fresh first-lap legs.  Oh, I should also mention that it was nearly 90 degrees out, so that didn’t help anyone.  Other than increasing fatigue and dealing with traffic, my 2nd lap was uneventful.  Coming around to start my third lap, I heard someone yell something along the lines of “GO WOLTING!”, which meant that he wasn’t far behind me.  This was not good news, as he had started 3 minutes back.  My legs weren’t feeling great, but I kept my pace up as much as I could.  About halfway through my third lap, he caught and passed me prior to the creekside section.  There was no way I was going to be able to make up 3 minutes on him during that last lap, so I made no effort to try to catch him.  I focused on maintaining my pace, staying conscious on my bike, and finishing strong.  I ended up with a time of 1:22:14, which was good for 2nd place in my category and 13th out of about 120 overall.  Eric had absolutely crushed the course with a time of 1:17:58, which was first overall for the sport class.

I enjoyed this race quite a bit, and I was definitely happy with my 2nd place finish.  And although I love riding at the Fort, these hilly races are convincing me that I need to do more of my training on trails with greater elevation.  – Adam Cefai

SGpodium

First Race of the Year…

Days before my first mountain bike race of the season starts off like every other, I lack confidence in my ability and my mind fills with negative thoughts giving me reasons as to why I will lose and embarrass myself: I haven’t had much time in the saddle…there’s a new baby in the house and I can’t sleep…my bike is acting up when I shift in 2nd gear…I don’t know the trail…my wheels are 26inches…I am racing chicks 15 years younger and my flippen hair is turning grey…etc…

The race was at Dr. TK Lawless Park in Jones, Mi. It is a 10 mile twisty single track with lots of ups and downs. I have only ridden the course once so I was excited to hear that Dwight and David made plans for us to meet 9am Memorial Day to ride. Well Memorial Day rolled around and it was 50 degrees and raining. Dwight picked me up with our bikes loaded. I was under the impression we were just going to meet the Goffs, go have breakfast and if it cleared up we would ride. Wrong! Those crazy men still wanted to ride! Since little Goff (12 year old Dillan) was up for it, I didn’t want to be that wimpy girl and agreed to a lap. Really what the heck we were already there. The trail was greasy, our clothes were wet and glasses fogged. I have to admit it was fun, but I was happy to be back at the trailhead as I assumed we would be done and heading for some hot cocoa. To my surprise, little Goff wanted to do another lap! I grudgingly agreed, I figured screw it, my makeup was already ruined and I couldn’t get any colder and muddier than I already was. (Darn kid came from that crazy Goff gene pool!) Hindsight I am sure this experience greatly helped me!

Race day came with word that my nemeses Emily Andrews would be competing. Throughout the NIMBA series last year we were strongly pushing each other for podium placement. As much as I love her personality and how we antagonize each other on the trail, I wasn’t feeling ready for her this season…I anticipated a serious butt kick.

I was excited that Andrea was able to make a race with me as she is one of my best girlfriends and teammates. We were able to get a couple warm up miles in together. At the time it felt as if we were going to do our casual ride chatting about life etc…It didn’t hit me until we got to the start line that we would be competing, not just against other girls but each other! Since it was a time trial she was taking off 30 sec. behind me with Emily being a min. It was supposed to be a competition not a group ride.

You would think this was my first year racing not first race of the season. I had my long sleeve jersey on over my short sleeve with intentions on taking it off before the start. Unfortunately I freaked myself out over tire pressure and double checked that and then headed to the start. It wasn’t until I had a minute before takeoff when I realized I still had it on. Upon start, my silly self-fumbled to get into my clip. Soon after I finally got rolling, I was to make a left off the pavement and go up the sandy hill. I completely forgot about the sharpness and over breaked and climbed at about 6-7 miles an hour. I knew I was in trouble because Ryan (Andreas fiance’) was already there waiting to cheer her on. I wanted a redo!

Despite my concerns, I ended up doing pretty good!
Despite my concerns, I ended up doing pretty good. That’s me in the middle… (first place)! 🙂

It didn’t take long into the single track to realize how greasy it was. I was slipping all over the place. At times the trail was tight, curvy, and rooty. I found myself looking down at the roots and not ahead at what was to come. My tires slipped all over the place, even rolling into a tree head on but fortunately I was going slow enough that it just stopped me in my tracks. The trail twisted around so when I saw a glimpse of a helmet or heard a break squeak I swore the girls were on me! It pushed me to go harder but that also came with additional mistakes. On the flats and down hills, I peddled as hard as I could to make up time. When I reached good speeds they were accompanied by screw ups on greasy corners. I didn’t crash but had 3 dead stops preventing me from going off the trail. Finishing the race I was so disappointed in myself…I swore I couldn’t shake the girls and they were on me the entire time. I seriously wondered how I ever called myself a mountain biker. As I complained about my skills I saw two of the men I passed and started to realize they were the riders I was hearing on the trail! I finished in 53:25. I was shocked to find I had the lead by 4 plus minutes and really wasn’t as sucky of a mountain biker as I thought! The conditions were slick and everyone had issues!

~April Parrish

Hanson Hills Challenge!

Hanson Hills Challenge – June 2nd, 2013 – Grayling, Michigan – Hanson Hills Recreation Area

I put an exclamation mark in the title, because that’s going to be the most exciting thing in this report.  By far.

After a hellish and unplanned 14-hour Saturday at work, all I wanted to do on Sunday was race.  I had a couple of options: the TK Lawless time trial in Vandalia, Michigan, or the Hanson Hills Challenge XC race in Grayling.  I hadn’t ridden either course, but since the Hanson Hills challenge was part of the MMBA championship points series (in which I’m participating), I opted for Hanson Hills.

I left Kalamazoo around 8 a.m. and made the drive to Grayling in 3 hours flat.  Soon after arriving at Hanson Hills, I ran into Battle Creek locals Byrne Johnson and Jay Bridgeman (both of Custer Cyclery), and then rode around for a bit of a warm up.  Although it had been relatively nice out when I left my house, Grayling was another story altogether – it was somewhere around 40 degrees and incredibly windy.  On June 2nd.  No one was thrilled about this.  After we finished warming up and complaining about the weather, Byrne and I made our way to the start, where our class (sport singlespeeds) were first off the line.  Also present was Eric Wolting, who happens to be annoyingly fast; Pam Bufe (the lone female singlespeeder who has been at almost every race in Michigan this year); and a few local gents I didn’t know.  The field was about 8 or 9 deep.

Before I get to the race, a few notes on Hanson Hills: having never ridden there, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  I read some course descriptions online, which claimed it was “fast and flowy,” and saw some Strava segments which showed about 600 feet of climbing.  I don’t entirely agree with the “fast and flowy” description, and here’s why: there are two long climbs (one at the beginning and one towards the end), and there are a TON of short, sharp increases in elevation that completely kill your momentum (mainly during the first 7 miles).  The majority of the course is singletrack, and much of the trail itself is rather soft with frequent sections of pothole-like depressions.  The singletrack isn’t particularly technical, but it really seems like a nearly endless series of quick climbs and descents, only a few of which were smooth and “flowy” (i.e. possible to carry most of your momentum from the descent up the next climb).  Regardless of whether I agree with others’ descriptions, I do believe it’s an excellent and challenging course.

Anyway.  Based on what I had read, I decided to keep the 33 x 14 gearing I had used at the Stony Creek Marathon.  Again, I was running the heaviest gear of the group (nearly everyone else was running roughly a 2:1 ratio), and I took the holeshot at the start followed immediately by Eric.  The very beginning of the course was about a half-mile of two track that led into the long initial climb, and I was the first into the singletrack.  After about a mile, I washed out a bit on a sharp uphill turn and Eric went by me.  For the next six miles, I kept him about 100 yards ahead of me, but it was clear that the gear I was running was a bit too tall.  I was doing fine keeping pace, but a tall gear is basically useless when you’re having to slow down and speed up constantly due to changes in elevation – it’s just harder to get going, and when you do, you’re slowed again by the incline.  I think if I would have run something closer to a 34 x 16, it would have been perfect for the course.  No matter – around mile 7, my chain started skipping.  And then it started locking up.  And then it fell off.

I dragged my bike off the side of the trail and, not having any tools on me, just sort of stared at it.  One of the links in my chain had bent and popped, and I didn’t have any way to fix it.  As I was thinking about how far I’d have to walk back to the parking lot, Byrne stopped and offered me a chain tool and a multitool.  The man is a saint.  I tried to take the bad link out and shorten my wheelbase using my sliding dropouts to accommodate the shorter chain, but it was too short.  I then put the bad link back into the chain, kind of bent it into position (using my man strength while quietly crying) (the part about crying is a lie, possibly), and was able to get going again.  However, this repair took me over 20 minutes, and absolutely everyone in the entire sport field had passed me.  Since my chain seemed to be working as I didn’t hear/feel any skipping, I thought I’d just finish my two laps and enjoy the ride.  No dice.  About two miles into my second lap, right after the initial climb, my chain broke again.  And this time, it flung quite a bit of itself into the woods somewhere.  Since I was behind basically the entire sport field and therefore didn’t have to worry about trail traffic, I just coasted the trail in reverse back to the start.

While I was definitely disappointed, I’m sure worse things have happened in the world.  I mean, probably, right?  Eric went on to win our class, with a local rider placing 2nd and Byrne placing 3rd.  Now to examine my bike to figure out why I keep breaking chains, and to get ready for the State Games time trial in a few weeks.

– Adam Cefai