The alarm roars. It’s 3:00am and it’s race day…Lumberjack 100! After a coffee and a bowl of oats, it’s on the road for a 6:00am packet pickup and 7:00 am race start. Although I have done some 12 and 24 hour races in the past, I can honestly say I had not anticipated the dept of the pain cave that is the Lumberjack 100. The race starts with a 1 mile or so roll out that rivals the start of a criterium race…FAST. After ripping down the pavement for a while, we hang a hard right and roll through the Big M rec area and enter the tent-lined singletrack for lap 1/3 covering 33 miles per lap and boom… a crash right in front of me. I managed to avoid carnage and was back rolling almost immediately. After a long spell of almost zero rain, the course was very dry and sandy and the dust created an almost immediate layer of mud over every bit of exposed skin and the once white sclera of the racer’s eyes fade to black. It didn’t take long to realize the effort I was putting out on the seemingly endless climb was way harder than I would be able to sustain over the 100 mile distance so I immediately dialed it back and started soft-pedaling the climbs and trying to conserve as much as I could afford. With temps predicted to hit the mid 90′s, I was happy I had the mammoth sized 80 oz Camelbak filled with water and electrolyte mix and a bottle per lap of 500 calories of water and Ensure (thanks to Chris Gottwald for the nutrition tip and Einstein Cycles for the use of their optimally placed tent to stash my bottles). At this point, I was settled in to a pace I thought I could endure over the distance, trying to take mental notes of the course for the next 2 laps, and focused on staying hydrated and fueled up for the day. The course was rad, with lots of fun singletrack and very few sections of fast 2-track and I was having a blast until I came upon the fabled run-up which is essentially straight up and dauntingly long to someone who really, really dislikes pushing their bike. I slogged to the top and got back on to realize the payback of a ripping fast gravel descent…again, this section was rad and it was fast! Breaking the half way point of the lap was a welcome sight and an awesome group of volunteers were there waiting with food and drinks for those who were so inclined. It was about this point where I was struck with impending doom when I realized I had not paid for the $5.00 parking pass and would likely have a $100.00 parking ticket on my rig when I rolled into the start/finish area… not looking forward to that.
I crossed the line with a time of 2:30 and on a 7.5 hour pace and immediately stopped to swap bottles annnd…pay for parking.
Back on the course I was a little nervous as I was only 1/3 done, the temps were cranking up into the 80′s, and I had been on my mountain bike a total of maybe 5 times total this year and my back was already pretty tight and knees a little stiff. Half way through the 2nd lap disaster struck when I threw my chain into the spokes and the chain was really jammed in between spokes and the cassette. I pulled the rear wheel out and worked for about 8 minutes to free the chain from the wheel, donating probably a pint of blood to the mosquito’s in the process. needless to say, with the bugs as bad as they were on that section of the trail, I was very happy to be rolling again. I crossed the line with a time of 5:15 and change and although I was a little slower than the previous lap, I was happy to be alive and kicking and still hoping to be around the 8 hour mark.
I have no idea where I came up with the idea I would finish in 8 hours as I found myself off my bike lying over the seat 5 miles later and at this point, I actually turned around (yes, to quit!) for about 30 seconds. It took a lot to keep going at this point, knowing I had to do another complete loop with no feeling in either foot and tingling hands. I was no longer able to drink the Ensure mix in the sweltering heat and although I was not cramping, I was in rough shape to say the least. I kept riding though and eventually I found myself half way through the lap and at the aid station and once again greeted by some of the best race volunteers I have ever encountered! After a 5 minute stop at the aid station, some cold water and a few orange slices, I was rolling and although I knew I was nearly done, I was also cognizant of the fact that I was probably still 2 hours out.
I cannot begin to explain the feeling I had when I finally crossed the line with the clock reading 9:19 and change. I have never in my life been so mentally and physically challenged simultaneously. We rode 100 miles and climbed over 9000 vertical feet in terribly hot and dusty conditions. I can safely say I am in no hurry to ride that sucker again and if I do… I’ll probably try to ride my mountain bike a few more times before I toe the line!
Oh, and I’ll try to remember to pay for parking BEFORE I start the race!