Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lumberjack 100 - the rest of the story

Thankfully we checked the discussion forums on Friday morning. Word was that wind and lightning and rain of biblical proportions had socked the Manistee/Wellston area. A quick call to our hotel in Manistee confirmed they were without power, and a flurry of phone calls later had home base moved to Cadillac. We hit the road just after noon, and met up with my teammates Jay and Todd at the venue to pick up our packets. After checking into our hotel, we went out to a nice dinner (steaks for the guys), got our things ready, and headed to bed early.

Jay, Todd and I left the hotel around 5:15am and headed over to Big M. Our wives did the sane thing and stayed in bed, intending to be there when we came through after our second lap. We arrived at the venue, unloaded, put our jerseys and number plates on, and listened in to the rider's meeting. There was to be a ~2 mile roll-out on the paved road before we hit the trail, the storm left a few downed trees, only a couple you had to dismount for, and there were a couple of foot deep sections of water.

We rode up to the start down the road, and Todd and I staged about mid-pack. I think Jay was a few rows behind us. A sound of a horn, and we were rolling! Todd and I rode in at a nice easy pace, hit the singletrack, and very shortly after hit the opening climb. Off our bikes for the first of many times, we hiked up the hill with the rest of the pack. At the top, we settled into a brisk pace. The "inner loop" of the course was hilly, but other than the opening hill everything was rideable. Of course what goes up must come down, and come down we did in a fun flowing fashion. Eight miles later, the "inner loop" ended and the "outer loop" began. This was near the parking/finish/pit area, so there was a group of spectators cheering on the riders. A nice thing to keep the motivation up. The outer loop started with a flat section for a couple miles, with some tight turns and a few open stretches. Gentle hills picked up, and at ~ the 12 mile mark we passed the neutral aid station. Neither Todd or I stopped on lap one, keeping a brisk pace. We rode together (or within sight of each other) for the entire first lap, riding with a pack, gradually passing the riders in the pack, and then catching the next pack.
A couple miles past the aid station, we hit another major climb, which was followed by a screaming fun downhill. This downhill put us into some lowlands, which led into the "couple spots of 12 inch deep water". Well, those couple spots were a series of ~200 foot long stretches of swamp! Todd and I rode through most of them, walking the last one due to traffic.
The last 7 or so miles had a series of big uphills and downhills, culminating with a huge uphill about 2 miles from the finish. For riding/walking this climb, we were rewarded with a blazing 30mph downhill! Another flat-ish section of flowing trail brought us through to the pit area to end lap one.

Coming through the pit area.

We pitted, and I filled my camelpack, picked up a fresh bottle of Hammer Sustained Energy and HEED mixture, and promptly hit the trail for lap 2. Todd was still in the pits, in fact that would be the last time I'd see him until we were finished. Lap 2 was basically a continuation of lap 1, but with me riding mostly solo and catching up with a couple packs of riders (and getting caught by a few riders also). The only SNAFU I had was at about 4 miles left in the lap, I sucked my Camelpack dry. I was also starting to get a touch of a headache. So, I took a couple of Advil, and decided to take my Hammer Endurolytes a bit more frequently.
When I pitted after lap 2, our wives had arrived. There was no staying to chat, as I refilled my pack, grabbed a fresh bottle, and was gone.

Lap 3 began rather uneventful, with my 3rd hike of the day up that hill. I was basically solo by this time, the 250 riders now being spread out along the course. Towards the end of the "inner loop", I caught up with Wayne (an experienced endurance racer, who I've ridden with before). We rode together until the aid station, where we both stopped to top off water supplies (me having learned from running out late lap 2). Since he was using bottles, he was gone before I was. About the time I had caught up with Wayne, the cramps were starting to rear their ugly head. Thankfully minor at this time, I continued taking my Endurolytes and was ever mindful of my hydration to keep them from getting worse. Thankfully I could also stave off the cramps a bit by altering my posture while climbing.

Once again in the pit area.

When I pitted after lap 3, I was saddened to find that Jay had thrown in the towel. He said that he had mis-judged his hydration and caloric intake, and was starting to hallucinate. Scary stuff indeed! They also informed me that Todd was behind me, but did go out for lap 3. I let Brandy know that I was already hurting and cramping up, but intended to give lap 4 a go. She handed me a banana, which I wisely ate.
Lap 4 started with a slow walk up the hill, and one last trip through the fun flowing stretches of the inner loop. I'll freely admit that I gave a quick glance over to the parking lot at the transition to the outer loop, when I realized that I still had 17 miles to go. The beginning of the outer loop, being flat, went uneventful. At the aid station, I topped off my water again. The nice lady working the station asked "anything else?", to which I pointed at my bike and replied "how about a motor for this thing." She laughed, and then said, "but then you'd be disqualified".
I rode off from the aid station, hiked the big hill a short while later, bombed the (now brake bump filled) downhill for one last time, and waded through the swamp. In fact after lap one I stopped even trying to ride through the swamp.
I think that if there is a Hell, it very much resembles the last 7 miles of the Lumberjack 100. The downhills seemed to get shorter, the flats seemed to go up, and I swear someone added in a couple climbs after I completed the first couple laps. So it was no small relief when I saw those 3 black downward arrows on a yellow background with the word "Caution" that signalled the last 30mph screaming downhill. I knew I was home free.

Brandy told me that my time was right around the 9:19 mark, which was well under my 10 hour goal time. Best of all, I HAD FINISHED.

We made a team decision to forego the awards ceremony, instead going to a local bar/grill in Cadillac for dinner. We were too tired to do much of anything else.

Two days later, the results were posted:
In the Mens Singlespeed class, 56 riders started, 31 finished, and I placed 11th! My official time was 9 hours 18 minutes and 54 seconds. This was also good enough for 36th overall amongst all the male finishers. My teammate Todd also finished, with a time of just over 10 hours.

Glad to be done.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lumberjack 100 - the short version

Yesterday was the first of my key focus races this year, the Lumberjack 100. My goals were: to finish, and if I did finish, to do so in under 10 hours. Nothing about winning, or podium finishes (the winner would be around the 7 hour mark), but none-the-less, a good goal for me (ambitious but acheivable).
Three of us from Team Sandbag, Todd, Jay and myself headed up on Friday, after a flurry of last minute lodging changes. We got an early start in the morning and headed over to the race venue.
We started with a roll-out on the pavement leading up to the trail system, and ~2 miles later we were on the dirt. Shortly after, and it was hike-a-bike up the opening hill (the first of many hills I'd hoof it up). Lap one was ridden for the most part with my teammate Todd. We kept up a brisk pace.
I started lap 2 without Todd (he was still in the pits), and rode with various packs of riders. Laps 1 and 2 had me feeling great.
Laps 3 and 4 were spent solo for large chunks. I did ride with Wayne from the mysinglespeed.com team for a portion of lap 3, but he pulled away from me at the neutral aid station mid-lap.
Lap 4 was pretty much survival mode for me, walking up a large number of the hills, and the sheer agony of the last 7 miles.
Both goals were met for this race, with me finishing the entire 100 miles in right around 9:20. None of us (Todd, Jay, myself, or our wives) were up to heading to the awards ceremony, electing for a dinner out and an early bedtime.

More detail to follow...