Monday, June 16, 2008

Another Suffer Fest - The Lumberjack 100

This past weekend I traveled up to the northern part of Michigan to compete in the third race of the NUE Series, the Lumberjack 100. This course is different than all of the others in the series because it is all single track, well except for the first 1 mile of paved road section which leads the riders to the single track. Yes, that's right 99 miles of single track. In addition to being different by it's enormous amount of single track, this race is also a multi-lap race instead of being a one big loop race. At the Lumberjack, there is an inner loop that connects to an outer loop, which then forms one big 25 mile loop of trail. Riders then do 4 loops of this big 25 mile long loop to make the race 100 mile.
I think that having a predominantly single track course does make this 100 mile race tougher mentally than the others. Most of the 100 mile races out there provide a mental break by giving some road or fire road sections which do allow a rider to stretch out, eat, and just put the hammer down without having to worry about any unknown technical sections of trail ahead. At the Lumberjack, it is very important to stay focused on the trail during the entire race. Taking your eyes off the trail for even a split second could definitely cause an up and close visit with one of the many waiting trees which tightly line each side of the trail. The Lumberjack Course also wears on a rider physically by having many short steep climbs and fast descents added to the tight, twisty and sandy single track. The race information sheet says that a total of 13,000 feet of climbing is completed over the 100 mile course. In the end, it all just adds up to one tough race course.
Last year the Lumberjack was made difficult by the extreme heat that the area was experiencing at the time. Well, this year we did not have the heat wave, but we did get hammered by the biggest rain storm that the area has seen in 30 years. The storm dropped about 11 inches of rain on the area. Now, in Western PA and most place in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 11 inches of rain would create a complete quagmire of mud. In Michigan, this amount of rain did cause for some flash flooding and road closures, but no real muddy trail conditions overall due to the very sandy soil. The rain actually made the sand, at least initially in the race, more predictable. The rain, however, also created three long and deep water/sandy-mud holes at about the mid section of the course, which there was no way to avoid. These holes seemed very similar to the mud-bogs of the Blackwater Race in Canaan, WV. I found it to be faster to ride through these holes, but most riders were running/walking their bikes though these bike swallowing course hazards.
Why so much talk about the course in this blog writing??? Well, because I think that the course was the biggest battle of the day for me. I had probably had one of my best and longest sustained starts at this race. I started real fast, probably way too fast, riding with all of the big guns of the series, Schalk, Eatough, Price, Plews, Simonson and Tanguy. I was able to hold the fast pace for almost the complete first lap, until one of those big guns decided to attach up one of the bigger climbs on the course a few miles before starting the second lap. My legs and body said if you try to hang with that attack you will not be around at the finish. So, as hard as it was to do, I watched the group ride away from me. I was then left in no-man's land, with nobody insight, left only to do battle with my own demons on the course. And, that is exactly what I did for next eighty miles, other than catching some lapped riders and trying to pass them. So, it was basically just me and thanks to Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 22 (Firstwave) a bunch of old alternative tunes from the 80's dancing around in my head that kept me rolling towards the finish.
Not until the last lap, with about 15 miles to go, did I actually catch a rider on my lap. The rider that I caught was Trek Pro Michael Simonson. The interesting thing to me about catching Mike is that at the last three 100 mile races that we have done together, I have caught Mike every time in the last quarter of the race or so. He always starts off super fast, but for some reason has faded at the end of the race and has not been able to hang-on for the finish. This time when I caught him he said out loud to me "not you again, Mother F#*ker!" I knew he was saying it in kind of a joking/humorous way and so I just laughed and said back to him "No, I really don't know your mother in that kind of way." He then pushed on the gas and really started hammering the single track again. I was hurting, but managed to hold his wheel, until we hit the three deep mud-bogs. I did like I had done before and stayed on the bike. Mike, on the other hand, decided to run them. I picked-up time by staying on the bike and then heard Mike scream out something from behind. I knew that this might be my only opportunity to get a gap, so I dug deep and rode the next 9 miles to the finish as hard as I could manage. I did not see Mike again until the finish, with him about 4 minutes off my pace. This finish put me in 6th place overall out of 250 racers. Another suffer fest completed! -Gerry


Solo Goat said...

nice ride - great finish. congrats - ernesto

Jason said...

"Battling demons" for 80 miles? Way to kill it. That's a lot of single track too. Seems like this one would be one of the harder ones with the loops and no roads to recover (mentally AND physically).

simonster said...


I think the foul language was more directed at myself. I thought for sure I was going to make it in for 6th, but once I got dropped, I knew you weren't far behind. When you caught me, I had just slammed a double caffiene gu. Maybe that's why I had enough in me to hit the gas! Nice job.