The run up to this year’s Lumberjack could hardly have been more stressful.  Last minute parts for the bike that almost refused to arrive.  More time adjusting derailleurs and reinstalling wheels than I care to admit.  One of these years I’ll just take the day off before the lumberjack and then it’s stress free living.  Planning to leave work early ended up not happening, and I struggled through the rest of that Friday knowing what kind of drive lay ahead of me.  As race day approached my beverage of choice was not approaching fast enough, thanks to fed ex, and my not reordering in time.  The CarboRocket himself made sure the beverage was available with a world class display of customer service.  He could not possibly have gone more out of his way to help.  With the car packed, the first stop was the CarboRocket restock depot.  Derailled by a horrendous hour long trip through Grand Rapids at midnight that should have taken about 9 minutes total.  And with that all that lay ahead was open road.  Continuously in the way of that road were my now heavy eyes.  It became apparent sometime after G.R. that I would not make the cabin in the woods destination el Jefe had set aside for us.  I had to settle for a rest stop still 1.5 hours out from the race course.

 

The morning came faster than I thought possible.  Such speed left no time for breakfast.  So I unwrapped a Clif bar and threw down a quick bottle of the CarboRocket 333.  As soon as the gun went off all the nerves and the memory of last night’s travails were instantly gone.  All that lay ahead was 1 mile of pavement and 99 miles of dirt.  The trails were in glorious condition.  The only fault to be found in the woods was the leaves covering the trail for the first lap. Hours worth of tweaking the brakes and derailleurs paid off.  When the bike runs smooth and the legs listen, a ride can last in your mind forever. This course is almost magical for me.  The singletrack approaches perfection. There is so much to be said for knowing the course. Turns sneak up with less severity.  Descents can be charged with confidence.  The climbs, well you have an idea, but they always last longer than you remember.

 

3 laps, 33 miles each.

 

Lap 1:

Full of promise, pushed past the point I had prefered to begin the race.  But damn those trails are so much fun it’s hard to dial it back to a responsible pace.  Even at 33 miles there is little remembered from the first lap.  It somehow goes by so quick that all of a sudden you are in the pit area looking for a restock on water bottles and wondering how the next lap is going to compare to the first lap.

 

Lap 2:

It was apparent almost immediately that the first lap’s pace was to much.  So I retreated back to the mantra I had kept in mind in my training leading up to the race.  Go slower to go faster.  It’s counterintuitive, and it sounds down right lame. But it’s what got me through the race.  Having raced bikes for almost two decades the hardest thing to learn sometimes is not to pedal with all you have all the time.

 

Lap 3:

About a quarter of the way through the each lap is a long sandy flat two track through the northern Michigan pines.  This section drags on each lap seemingly longer than the previous.  It got dark in those pine barrens.  The mind reals and as you find yourself spiraling into a negative swamp of despair you have to keep pushing through the muck.  Getting through the pines was a solo effort.  As the next singletrack section began to unfold, a rather chatty fellow approached and he distracted me enough to help me pull myself out of the swamp.  As I got rid of the muck from the mire, I began to discover a power that was not available in the swamp. Dialing back the pace payed huge dividends.  As the race continued I was beginning to feel as though I may be able to beat my personal best for the Lumberjack.  Checking the time on my clock was confirming that I was on track to come in 1/2 hour under my best time ever.  Start at 7:00am, and now it’s 2:00. Wow that’s 7 hours. With about 5 miles left, it looked like a 7 hour 45 minute ride.  That’s 45 minutes faster than my best.  Knowing I could beat my time fueled a great resurgence in my pace.  I found power that had been in the bank, deposited during lap 2.  The miles began to really tick off once they got into the high nineties.  Finishing strong with a surge to the line I was crushed to cross the finish line and see my time.  8:45.06, that’s exactly one hour slower than I was anticipating.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…Chicago time.  So much for false hope.

 

As soon as I received my patch for finishing the race, my disappointment was almost completely eliminated.  It’s just a patch, but it really is much more.  That patch, my third,  is a symbol that I can look at and know that I finished an insane amount of mileage on one day.  Almost 9 hours in the saddle.  The day ultimately went according to plan, even if everything leading up to it did not.



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