Lumberjack 100 mile - NUE series race
100 mile race number 2 for 2019, the Lumberjack 100! This one was in the middle of nowhere Michigan; I panned on going back in December when I looked at the NUE schedule mostly because I had never ridden in Michigan and wanted that new trail experience. Little did I know how popular it was. I set my alarm to registration time of 12pm EST and I think I tried to register just a tad too early because the site said registration wasn’t available and I was thinking I got my time difference wrong and maybe it was actually 12pm CST, so I waited an hour. Well, that was too late because in that hour 450 other racers beat met to registration and it was completely full. Now I have to get in! I put myself on the wait list ASAP and went ahead and got plane tickets hoping and praying that someone will sell me their entry. A month out I was getting pretty nervous since I was still 20 people down the list so I frantically start posting on the FB feed asking if anyone will sell me their entry and finally a week later I get a transfer spot, a little close for comfort.
Bike: Cannondale Scalpel SI (same setup as the Mohican)
Friday during packet pickup it is raining pretty good. I’m now concerned since I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid a rainy 100 mile race thus far and keep hoping it will let up at least for the start on Saturday. I ask about how the trails handle the rain and they tell me it is super sandy and drains very well other than a short road section, so that’s encouraging.
Another 7am start so another 4:30am wakeup for breakfast and 30 min drive to the course. The Lumberjack is a lap format race, 33 miles per lap with the opening lap an extra mile long to add some road to stretch out the start. So, its still raining and against my better judgement I skip a warmup just so I can stay dry. Last year the race director implemented a wave start with self seating waves 2 minutes apart and since the feedback was good they maintained that type of start this year. I put myself in the middle wave (8-10 hr finish time estimate), and off we went. I was relived that it wasn’t a sprint start, which oddly many other 100 milers I’ve done end up being way too fast at the start just to stay with the group. Only a 2 mile start on half pavement and half dirt road and we are into single track. Things were still bunched up, but not too bad. The toughest part was at the bottom of hills the rider train was so long that each hill was essentially started from a stop due to the line of people. After the first lap, I stopped at my drop bag and a volunteer helped me peel off my jacket since it stopped raining, I grabbed a dry pair of gloves (best decision I made all weekend to bring and use an extra pair since I had already developed dishpan hands), swapped out my bottles and crammed a PB&J into my mouth and I was off for lap 2. Slow start to my 2nd lap as I chewed my lunch and one of the local ladies passed me on the first climb. After I was done eating, I slowly caught up with her and rode her pace. Not having the traffic made all the climbs so much easier since momentum would take me halfway up most of them as long as I stayed off the breaks. Each lap had maybe 1.5 miles of dirt road broken up into 3 sections which made it perfect for eating and drinking right when you need it. The course is very non-technical, nice, fun, friendly singletrack, perfect for a 100 mile distance.
Chatting with Summer, the local I was following into the third lap, told me one of her crew said she was sitting in 7th or 8th so I thought ‘hey a top 10 finish out of 42 women is respectable’ I’ll take it. I was perfectly happy sitting behind her and another lady that I was playing tag with from Idaho (her first 100 mile race; awesome!), but they were loosing steam and I was getting antsy so I headed out ahead of them for the last 7 or 8 miles. With 2 miles to go and the last little bit of road a rocket of a women passed me that I hadn’t seen before, I tried to grab her wheel but I just didn’t have it, so I watched her go. Then about a mile later on the last big climb I caught back up to her, she was walking a short steep section and I struggled passed her in my granny gear digging into whatever I had left. At the top of the climb it was pretty much downhill for the last mile so I let it rip, when things flattened out I knew there were only a few hundred yards to go and I hear a bike behind me. Crap, now I have to try to find a sprint in my legs, so I give every bit of me that I have at the finish, the bike is beside mine at the line and bars are banging together, my heart is about to explode and I can’t feel my legs anymore, then I look over and it is some random dude! What? Why? I don’t understand! Someone came up to me and asked what that sprint was all about and I told them ‘I don’t know, I thought it was one of the ladies I just passed’. The woman I was concerned about was a little ways back. Maybe the guy thought I wasn’t trying hard enough?
I ended up 7th place overall, they do podium 10 deep so I got to stand up with the other amazing riders I shared the trail with. The first time 100 miler Anna from Idaho got a podium as well at 10th, way to go! I hope to see her again at my #4 Pierre’s Hole where she said she may do the 100K
My takeaway from this race: Great organization, everything ran smooth great after party and food with super nice people. Fun trails, not very technical and not a lot of climbing making it a great first [100 miler] timer course. Though I had my full suspension, that I always use, a hard tail would probably suffice for any level of rider. I inadvertently had my shock locked up through mile 70 when I finally notice and opened it up making a nice comfortable last lap. I don’t know if I will get back due to the logistics of getting there, but I would highly recommend giving this one a whirl.
Mohican 100 mile - NUE series race
I am long overdue for a recap my Mohican 100 adventure before my memory is overwritten by the next 100 mile adventure. I know I’m missing bits and pieces, but here is the gist of my experience. If you are thinking about doing this one in the future give me a shout as I may be able to dig up more out of my hazy memory if the right questions are asked.
Bike ridden: Cannondale Scalpel SI full Eagle 12s gearing with a 30t chainring
My first 100-mile race of 2019 I flew into Columbus Ohio from Seattle as a direct flight, the airport is small and thankfully, the rental car facility is attached to the airport. One of the biggest hassles of flying with my bike is the shuttle bus, which is always overcrowd and it is a lot of extra loading and unloading of my bike; I will take rolling it an extra 100 yards any day. I picked up a truck and made a quick stop at a Whole Foods as I headed out of the city since I wasn’t sure what kind of food would be available in small town Ohio for the weekend.
I arrived at Loudonville and assembled the bike with minor casualties, the two mini screws that hold my brake line to the Lefty protector had snapped off, nothing that a couple zip ties couldn’t remedy. Always travel with zip ties and duct tape! If you don’t need it today, you will the next time. Getting ready for my preside it was quite warm and humid out, but I figured I should try to acclimate even if I only have one day, so I went to a random starting point and do about 3 miles in tracing back the same 3 miles. The trails had gotten a significant amount of rain a few days ago, but were in great shape now with a few puddles that were avoidable. Fun flowy Single-track with some nice roots and rocks thrown in making it fun. After a probably too long for day before a hundred ride, I headed over to packet pickup. All went smoothly as I picked up my number and the goodies that came with registration; super organized and helpful.
After a good night rest I woke at 4:30 to eat and get everything loaded in the truck so I can get to the parking area by 6am. There was a short mile ride from the parking/finish area to the start which is a good easy warm up for the day, but of course I am running behind and when I finally show up to the start in Downtown Loudonville there are easily already 400 people lined up (something like 600 are registered). About 70% are 100km riders and the other 30% doing the full 100 mile. The 7am start began with a neutral rollout through town and up some pretty significant hills with a few locals giving beer and whisky hand-ups at the top of the biggest start hill, darn it I picked the wrong side of the road to be on! Though probably best to skip the early morning whiskey in lieu of finishing my first big race of the year. After 2 or 3 miles of road we are still fairly bunched up and into the single-track things came to a standstill. I generally have phenomenally bad starts and for a 100 mile race but it’s going to be a long day so I generally chose not to burn any of my matches this early in the day. The first 3-4 steep climbs ended up as a Congo walking line, which I had easily ridden the day before, but that is just how it is with the big mass starts, no big deal. Once in the thick of the single-track I’m having a great time keeping pace with a big group of guys that are just slightly slower than I want to go but was probably for the best. I work my way around 15-20 guys and gals get to a pace I want to sustain. At the 20 mile aid station I spot an outhouse and take care of that business while I have cover. It is so humid pealing my jersey off to take care of nature’s calling is mighty uncomfortable (I’m so jealous of the guys who don’t need to fully strip just to take a wee). The next section has some good steeps and rocky areas that have me hike a biking a bit and due to the lack of skills of a dozen riders in front of me walking on some potentially fun technical terrain. Then we end up at the infamous “waterbar’ section that has about 10-18 inch deep slick mud with 50 or so hecklers alongside to watch us riders crash. I make it maybe 10 feet before I decide crashing at mile 35 is not a great plan nor is mucking up my drivetrain and risking a mechanical, so I shoulder the bike and tiptoe my way through the muck.
At aid station 3, 46 miles in the 100k riders split to head to the finish and I end up riding all alone into the second half of my ride. Nearly all alone for the next 30 miles but after being bunched up and riding other people’s pace it was a bit of a relief. A short road section and back into single-track. This is a much more rugged and remote area and out in the open sun where in the heat of the day really took its toll on me. These trails were obviously not ridden much with the climbs extra steep - which meant more hike a biking for me - which I didn’t feel so bad when I caught up to another lonely rider walking the same sections. If not for the recent rain more of it would be ridable (for me), but the slick and the grade made the effort not worth it. I was then relieved to get into some gravel roads, but it was definitely not a ‘break’ with constant undulation and steep pitches of 10-20%; who knew there was so much climbing in Ohio? Finally, I found myself on a pathway which was nearly flat for 10 or so miles. For me these sections are the worst, being alone and knowing I have to push… this a race after all. I figured if I was going to get any kind of respectable finishing time I had some ground to make up, so I pushed a solid tempo for 40 min or so for the 10 miles of pathway. I saw a handful of beavers (it was right along a river), and one deer crossing my path and seconds later her fawn tried to cross just as I appeared and it scrambled back up the side of the hillside, such a cute little thing. Just when I think I’ve missed a turn I arrive at aid station #4 where my last drop bag, and my last planned fueling awaited. I grabbed another 2 squares of Pb&J repacked my goodies and headed off. One of the volunteers said I was only the 4th or 5th lady to come by, which made me think that maybe I have a chance at top 5! 5th place is still a $200 purse so as I departed I saw another lady pulling into the aid station and my motivation was now kicked into high gear and I dug in to find anything that was left.
Another 10 miles of steep up and down gravel playing tag with a couple guys that would pass me on the climb and I would fly by on the descent. (What’s with that guys?) Then into a short section of more primitive type single-track with steep sections that were mud slicked and so I am again off my bike and blisters are fully formed on my heals from my bike shoes (which are definitely not made for hike-a-bike). I came to several signs for aid station 4.5 stating it’s the best aid station 10 years running, full bar and bacon! Then a sign for a bridge “walk to be safe ride to be fast”, then a couple little 10 foot bridges and I’m thinking huh? Then I get to “the” bridge, which normally isn’t a big deal, short ramp up and maybe 50 meters across so I proceed on riding. However, this cable bridge has me swaying back and forth every pedal stroke and my handlebars are getting precariously close to the cable handrails, then the exit ramp which is an easy grade down but I’m a little off balance due to the bridges motion and end up hitting my handlebars back and forth on the wooden handrails the whole way down. Yikes! That got my HR up again! But I survived, laughed it off, and a couple strips of bacon and a just in case water fill up in one of my bottles and I’m rolling again. A few more miles of dirt road then I was into the last bit of the single-track in the Mohican Forest where we started and I’m rejuvenated knowing that there are only a few miles left. The climbs felt easy and made me feel a little better about hiking some of the steep stuff back at mile 60 knowing that they really were that steep, and it wasn’t just me being tired and wimpy.
Then to the finish and party! Well I wasn’t 5 or 6th ( I think I was 7th or something), but I had a great time! Complimentary beer at the end was had and I forced some food into my mouth, which after a race like this I always have trouble eating for a few hours. Chatted with some of the other racers; locals to Canadians down from Toronto. Music was playing beer was flowing, I can’t say anyone had the energy to dance but all in all everyone seemed happy even after the huge effort that it took to finish whatever distance they signed up for.
I had a great time, maybe not the fastest out there but I managed to keep a smile on my face for every racer and volunteer I encountered. I am so grateful I can participate is events like this because it takes a certain type of person to race these and a certain type to put them on and all of them are positive influences in my life.
Thank you to the race director, the racers and all the amazing volunteers for making this Seatllite feel welcome and showing me a good time!