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.
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…
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!
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.