So once again I decided to subject myself to the punishment of the Lumberjack 100. My first attempt at this race was in 2008. I was very prepared physically that year, but maybe not as much mentally. At about the 40 mile mark that year I hit the wall hard, major dehydration and my blood sugar crashed so I only managed 50 miles. Las year I signed up, but due to a lack of riding had to cancel. So again I signed up for the 2010 edition, hoping this would be my year.
Training had been going pretty well, though I would have liked to get some additional long rides in before. It was too late for that so the day before the race was here and I loaded up my stuff in Todd’s truck and we headed north with Todd’s buddy Kevin to handle our pit duties during the race. We made it up to Wellston, checked into our cabins, then headed to Big M to get the tent set up in the pits for the race and grab our packets. Brad showed up shortly after us so we all headed to Manistee to grab some dinner. After that it was back to the cabins to prepare everything for the morning and get to bed early.
My alarm went off at 4:45am, way too early to get up for a bike ride in the woods, but I dragged myself out of bed to get some breakfast. By 5:30 we were on our way to the race. We were only about 6 miles up the road so we arrived and unloaded with plenty of time. The race was set to start at 7am sharp, about 1.5 miles down the paved road that leads to the parking area there. They do this to spread the field out a bit since the race is a mass start of 300 riders.
For 2010 they had changed the race up a bit. Instead of the typical 4 lap, 25 mile course they went with a 3 lap, 33 mile course. One of the changes was the addition of a couple two track and dirt road sections. I thought this sounded like a good change, but wouldn’t know until we started riding. The promoter gave some last minute instructions, I wished the guys around me good luck and we were off. Right from the start I took it really easy, just pedaling at a comfortable pace. I knew it was most likely going to take me 11+ hours so no need to burn all my matches too early.
The first 5 miles or so were a bit crowded. Nothing too bad, but we were creeping up a lot of the hills. I was thankful for my gears and was feeling bad for those on singlespeeds. Once we hit the first section of two track everything opened up a bit and the race stretched out. This section was a great opportunity to get some electrolytes and grab a gel. Most of the first half of lap one went good, I was feeling strong and keeping my heart rate somewhat under control, considering the climbs out there. A few miles before the aid station I caught a rider who just didn’t seem comfortable on the singletrack. He was weaving around quite a bit and slowing me down on the descents, but I gave him plenty of room and waited for a safe opportunity to pass. On a descent through some pine trees he caught a stump right in front of me, which sent him flying over the bars. He immediately popped up, yelling that he broke his collar bone. By this point a number of other riders stopped so we all asked if he could walk his bike out or if he needed help. He immediately grabbed his bike and started heading towards the aid station so we headed out to forewarn them that he was coming.
The rest of that lap went pretty well. I took a brief break at the aid station, then headed on. Around the 20 mile mark we hit some more dirt road, which was smooth and fast. That felt great to just cruise on. About 5 miles later we hit a section of trail that was new to the race with two steep climbs. After a few pedal strokes I thought I had better save my legs so I was off my bike and walking. Shortly after this section I was on the home stretch of the first lap, an awesome bench cut section of trail that flows amazingly. This section ends with a fairly large climb, but at the end of the climb is a screaming fast downhill, followed by some flat trail, leading into the pits.
It felt great to roll into the pits feeling pretty strong. My first lap time was 3:19, about 10 minutes faster than what I had hoped for. Kevin helped me fill my Camelback and handed me two fresh bottles. He was a bit concerned I might not be taking in enough calories, but I felt good so I stuck with it. Each lap I consumed two water bottles mixed with an 800 calorie HEED solution, took two gels and ate a half a banana at the aid station for about 1050 to 1100 calories per lap. I also went through most or all of a 100 oz Camelback.
Lap two started fine, though I started adopting the save the legs strategy on a lot of the big climbs. I still felt pretty strong and knew I could climb them, but there was a little twinge of cramping there so I figured I was better off walking the worst of the climbs. Plus that gave me a chance to get out of the saddle occasionally. Once I hit the two track that I had loved on the first lap I was alone and I didn’t love it any more. Actually it kind of sucked, a bit sandy and nobody around to pace off of. This was around 40-45 miles in and I figured I was hitting my mid-race wall. That lasted for 10 miles or so, probably until I hit the aid station. Getting off the bike, talking with people and hearing some words of encouragement really helped (thanks Marti). Back on the bike I was on my way again. With about 10 miles to go in lap two I crested a hill to find two of my teammates, Chad and Todd, resting on the side of the trail. I stopped and chatted for a bit, they had started out strong, but were both starting to have a bad day. We rode together for a bit, but I kept pedaling when they stopped for another break. Back through my favorite section of trail and into the pits again. This was a little bittersweet, I was pumped to know I only had one lap to go and still felt pretty strong, but I still had 33 miles to ride. I was already 7 hours into it and had at least another 3 ½ hours to go. The good news was I had beat the cut off by an hour and a half. They had a 3:30pm cutoff to start your third lap to make sure nobody was stuck out in the woods in the dark.
Lap three went pretty good. Probably about mile 70 through around mile 80 was the worst of this lap, but still not bad. I hit the aid station for the last time and was excited to only have half a lap left. Kevin was working a volunteer shift at the aid station so he came right over to top off my bottle and see how I was doing. After a quick rest break I was back on the bike and pedaling pretty strong. I think the adrenalin was flowing at this point because my spirits were good and I was really fired up about finishing. That last 10 miles or so may have been the most enjoyable of the entire race. I was starting to pass a number of racers, many walking their bikes or riding really slow. I would ask everyone if they were okay and if they needed anything, but nobody did, they were just worn out. I didn’t really feel it though; I was just smiling as I cruised through some amazing trails, knowing it was almost over.
There’s a spot on the trail, with maybe ¼ mile to go where you can see the parking lot. My first two trips through it was a rush to get there knowing I was almost back to the pits, but the third lap was something so different. Once I rounded that corner and saw the glare of sunlight reflecting off windshields I hopped up on the pedals and started pushing it. A quick look down showed 10 hours and 55 minutes. My first thought was good, under 11 hours. Then I started to worry though that part of my first lap my timer was on auto pause so it would stop when I stopped. How long had it been stopped for? Hopefully not more than a couple of minutes. As I approached the finish line I heard people start cheering, cowbells ringing, then I saw the clock. It read 10:55 so I had plenty of time. I rolled across the line, grabbed my finishers patch and headed over to our tent. Wow did it feel awesome to be done and have finished the whole 100 miles.
Congratulations to my teammate Brad for killing it in 8 hours and 15 minutes. Also congratulations to Chad and Todd for sticking it out and finishing. Lastly, thanks to Kevin for all the help in the pit.