Lumberjack 100 – first race of the season. Second time on single track this year. Longest ride to date road or MTB only 5 hours. Expectations were necessarily low. Figured I would work on nutrition, hydration and trying to maintain intensity for the uphill sections of the race.
Course was 33 mile loop consisting entirely of forested, sandy single track. Lots of tight tree squeezes and flowing turns. 100 milers do 3 laps. I was going for two laps. I was the race organizer and only participant in the Lumberjack 100k. Everyone else was riding a 100 mile race. My best time at Mohican for 100 k was 8:40, so I was hoping to break 8 hours for this race. Elevation gain for each loop is bit less than Mohican, but Lumberjack loop is 8 more miles so the hills are less of a factor.
Our Team for this race consisted of Kevin “Energizer Bunny” Millstein, Jim “Finish or Die” Snyder, and Ethan “Youngblood” Millstein. After back to back mudfests at Cohutta and Mohican, Team Millstein was hungry for a dry, fast race; one not requiring a complete post-race drive train overhaul. They got it.
This being our third season of MTB races, we are getting the routine down. Arrived at venue by 5:45, set up our support area with pumps, tools, spare parts, water and a new addition – the lap time slate board. Youngblood’s brilliant idea was to mark down our times for each lap as we came through so we could keep tabs on each other. And so YB could gloat about how much faster he was than us before the race was even over. He had given the Kevan and Jim a 2:00 handicap to motivate them. Amazing how fast he has gotten in a single year of riding. Kid’s got skillz . . . and youth . . . and he is only dragging about 135 pounds up those hills.
For the start, we roll out a mile or so down the road to spread the 350 person field out before we hit the single track. The horn sounds. A frenzy of peddling ensues and I watch Team Millstein pedal off into the distance. “See you guys at the finish.“ I settle into a comfortable tempo pace and join a long train of riders snaking up the single track. The first five miles of the course are largely uphill and I let the group set the tempo and hang on for the ride. Not worth passing in this much congestion. Just uses up limited energy stores just to end up back in the middle of a long train. And the crash risk is real. Better to wait until the field thins out.
The occasional new rider attempts a pass, the vets growl at him or her for not realizing the futility of passing in the middle of the pack during the first 15 minutes of a race that for most in this group will last 10 to 12 Hours.
My pace is brisk. 10 to 12 mph versus a “normal“ 8 to 8.5 mph pace for a race like this. The introductory 5 miles of hills come and go and the train motors on with “Diesel“ holding pace. We are riding hard, but comfortably. I am chatting with the rider behind me who is also planning an attempt on Ironman Wisconsin later this year. He laments the difficulty of the course we are riding. Others echo his sentiments and bemoan the hills. (Funny I am thinking that Noah or Joanne could ride this without being technically challenged and being thankful that the hills are barely noticeably). Ironman guy cuts off the conversation in mid sentence after explaining he must maintain his focus to not crash. In the distance, I think I hear a faint thud and moan.
At about 1:40, we hit the 1st aid station at about 19 miles. Most of the train stops for refreshments. I realize that Ironman guy didn‘t consciously end our conversation. Speedy Gonzalina (she passed us early and the train reeld her back in near the aid station) tells me Ironman guy had crashed hard a few miles back.
I grab a PBJ without slowing down and motor on. Big mistake. Three miles out from the aid station, I realize that by water bladder is empty. The weather was warm and I was doing a good job of staying hydrated. But for the next 1:15 I am forced to slow down and awkwardly reach for the “emergency“ bottle, I stuffed in my bottle holder at the start. Eventually, I give up and only drink when I am forced off the bike by over steep climb. I go from an intake of 35 oz of fluid per hour to less than 15 oz. I also managed to leave my train behind at the aid station, so I have no one other than myself to push the tempo. I am all by myself with no easy hydration. I do my best to smoothly navigate through the 2nd half of the first lap, imagining myself as a stream of water flowing down the endless darts and dives that make up the trail. It helps a bit. But I pull into our support station after lap one down a few quarts and paying for it with some queasiness and disorientation. 3:18 for my first lap, better than 10 MPH. I feel like a rocket . . . until I glance at the chalk board – Kevan and Jim clocked in at 2:54 and Ethan came through in a blistering 2:39 (the little runt is with the race leaders!).
I take a bit of extra time to switch out water bladders and to pound down the nutritional secret weapon – organic PBJ on whole wheat tortillas. A handful of fig cookies and an extra bottle of cold water didn‘t hurt either. Satiated, but still behind on my hydration, I start climbing the hills that make up the first five miles of the course. I do my best to dig deep and keep pushing myself, but I am approaching the dark place. My mind wanders. I think of chocolate bars and whether my pace is good enough to get me a buckle at Leadville. I crank it up on the hills and forbid myself from walking even the steepest inclines. I desperately look for a rabbit ahead to push me faster, because I am not doing myself any favors by loosing focus. I don‘t want to end up like Ironman guy.
I focus on hydration and flowing. I am a human stream. This helps. After an hour or so, I am feeling good again.
Now my challenge is different: I start thinking of all the reasons why continuing past the 100k mark to “finish“ the 100 miler is a bad idea. Coach told me NOT to do 100 miles because my recovery would get in the way of the hill repeats necessary to get me through Triple Bypass and get me to that Leadville Buckle. But all these other riders think this is a 100 mile race. I don‘t want a DNF. “It‘s not a DNF if you never intended to ride 100 miles,“ I tell myself. “You are the race organizer and only participant in the Lumberjack 100k.“ It‘s not working. I am having this overwhelming desire to keep racing at the end of my second lap. Luckily, the second helping of steep hills and climbing at the end of the 2nd lap helped knock some sense back into me. By the time, I reached the finish line for the second time; I was realizing that lap 3 would be no picnic. In fact, it would be a debilitating ordeal. “Stop now while you feel good.“ I told myself. “Those hill repeats on Tuesday will do you more good for TBP and Leadville than another lap.“ Those races are your real goals. This is just a training race.
I cross the finish line at the end of lap 2, note the 65 miles on my speedometer, and pull into the support station. I grab my chocolate bar, a bottle of fresh water, toss off the backpack, and put my feet up. 7:10 for 100k is a great result. I am done. In a class by myself, 1st place in the Lumberjack 100k.