I had zero anticipation for Lumberjack while driving through Torpedo, OH and up through Michigan with all of its flatness. My knees bothered me a bit during Stoopid 50 a week before, so I was also worried about doing my first century this year-in the woods. I basically rolled off the couch in April the morning of Mountwood and decided to start riding my bike again.
I can't count on both hands the number of races I DNF'd last year due to mechanicals and flats. I spent most of the eight hour drive reminding myself that I quit Tour de Lake, Stoopid 50, Hilly Billy Roubaix, bailed on Shenandoah for financial reasons, quit Iron Cross and finally just stopped riding altogether after Thanksgiving. We took a trip to San Francisco for Turkey Day, rented bikes and rolled around the city some, but I even crashed riding up a sidewalk near Golden Gate bridge and got food poisoning from some bad fish we had the first night we got into town.
The night we hopped on the train headed back to San Jose for our flight, my Mom called and told me a good friend of mine had died over the holiday somewhere in Georgia. This really hit hard because of how long I had known this person. He taught me how to drive a car with a 'stick shift' and was a great movie goer person.. just fun all around guy. We were the same age- he died. So, I learned way too quickly that life is very short and I decided that I wasn't making the most of mine and set goals for this year.
Finishing Stoopid 50 was my first goal. Mission accomplished! Lumberjack was the dreaded goal- along with Wilderness 101. I finished Lumberjack. Thank God.
Friday night we pulled into the Big M ski area just outside of Manistee, MI. Immediately we were mauled by skeeters and horseflies. I look like someone was shooting golf balls at me and have the bruises to prove it. We were getting ready to do an easy pre-ride of the course when a group of folks from E. Pa rolled up. I turned around, and Vicki says in her adorable Scottish accent- 'Hello Chrissy, hows it going?'.... I felt like she was saying 'Hello, Chrissy.. I can't wait to beat you by 2 hours tomorrow...' and off we skedaddled into the woods as quickly as they could possibly roll. My legs weren't feeling it. It finally hit me that there were some incredibly strong women here and I really just needed to focus on finishing the race.
Just one glitch... my bike developed the most ungodly ticking noise from around the bottom bracket area. It was aweful.... I fell behind the group in the pre-ride and just started crying. So far from this point, the course looked really boring, sandy and flat. I was positive that this was going to be a bust. I was so livid that my bike was broke again that I bailed on the pre-ride and headed back to the car.
Later that evening we checked into our hotel and headed to town for dinner. The burgers were good. Beer was better. I started to calm down a little and decided that I would just ride the course as far as I could before my bike broke and then buy a new one next week. My goal was 9.5 hours.
I woke up feeling good about the race. I wasn't sold on a hundred miles yet, but I was a little excited to get out and just ride my mountain bike. I lined up somewhere mid-pack among 350 racers. Bottles check. Flat stuff check. Computer check. Song stuck in head check.
We started with little warning and began a one mile race along the road- 25mph on mtbikes then suddenly- singletrack. We herded ourselves into the woods like cattle. If you stepped out of line you were screwed, so I pushed as hard as I could for the first lap. I made a mistake and didn't grab water at the first check point and really cooked my legs on the second half of the course. I was averaging almost 12mph and really happy with how great I felt. I had no idea where I was compared to other women. Daniel Musto passed me on her single speed like I was standing still and I just snickered a little. I was surprised at how much fun this course was.
We weaved in and out of massive pine forests with a carpet of ferns and pine needles cushioning the ground. There were only a couple small sections of double track snowmobile roads, and the only rock garden I rolled through looked like someone dumped a 5-gallon bucket of gravel on the course. There was a surprisingly large amount of climbing- just short steep punchy climbs with fun flowey descents to follow. I was really having fun.
A friend of ours from home who had recently moved to Michigan and runs XXC mag caught up to me and pedaled a good bit of the first lap and a small portion of the second lap.. It was nice having a wheel to follow through the woods and a little motivation. When I know someone is watching, I tend to be a bit more critical of how I'm performing. I felt aweful my second lap though. The pine forests started to feel like being trapped in a cedar chest and my eyes were getting sore from all of the sand. It was all I could do to keep grabbing wheel after wheel and roll around the course as quickly as possible. Normally, I'm busy getting sidetracked looking at the scenery, but it really never changed. So I kept pedaling.
The ticking noise bothered me little. I rolled across the lap line at 6:28 and happy with that I found the motivation to head out for the 3rd lap. I was really having a great time! To top it off, I found Mahokey at the tent when I rolled in for water, happy to finally catch back up to him. The little things right! To my demise, he stopped at that point, happy with the 66 miles he'd already pedaled and I was on my own this lap. Shoot! There goes the tandumb again... I hopped back on my bike determined to finish in under 10 hours and not get beat by the tandumb. I felt great on the 3rd lap. I rode conservatively during the second lap and decided it was easier to run up some of the punchy climbs.. I watched nervously as my average speed continued to drop and an alarming number of welts formed under my kit from skeeter bites. I tried to scream "WHEEEEE" on all the fun little descents and after scrambling up what would be the last climb of the day I gave it everything to get back to the finish line in 10hrs. I was solidly disappointed after how well the first lap went that I came in this late, but I finally crossed the line at 10:06 with the biggest grin on my face. Not only was this my first 100 mile mountain bike race, but it the first century of the year for me. I finished. My bike was still ticking and I got attacked by another horsefly at the finish.
Some guy congratulated me and handed me a Lumberjack 100 patch. Finisher. I drank the first cup of beer I could score in less than one gulp, downed a burrito, a second cup of beer and hazily headed to the lake for an ice bath. I think 27 women started the race. I finished 12th.
The next morning we drove down the western side of Michigan for a change in scenery and stopped for breakfast and a peak of the lake. Water temperature was a whopping 52 degrees. There was an old army tank parked along side one of the roads... I should have climbed underneath it with my jersey on and got a photo taken to demonstrate how my arms felt after riding the entire course rigid. I wasn't incredibly sore... just stiff and amazingly now just a couple days later I feel great.
Post by Chrissy B.