A year ago I was lining up for The Lumberjack 100. The preparation was done. The nervousness was still there, because the daunting task of 100 miles stood in my path. A task that many riders stronger than me have failed. The only thing left to do.....was ride.
I have a handful of teammates heading to the Manistee area today to prepare for the race tomorrow. They have done the work. Now they just need to ride. The anniversary of this event got my brain working and thinking about how the hell I even finished such a long race. Blank. My mind was blank, but I was taken back to last year and I remembered some of the details. Here are some of them.
For me, back of the pack. No reason to be a hero here. I was at the race to finish and I know my limitations. Brian and I headed to the last row and a few people trickled in around us. Nervous. It was more nervous back here than it was in the middle of the pack. It seemed more nervous back here than the it was in the front row. Of course, they are professionals....but the nervous conversations between the riders back here was interesting. Not all were confident. Some were over-confident. Most were excited to try to finish.
The pavement leading to the singletrack seemed a lot longer than it was. The roar of 300+ sets of mountain bike tires on pavement sounded like a parade of monster trucks. The nerves were growing here because reality was setting in that we were riding 100 miles. The first major climb was a conga line, 2 wide....and as long as I could see. The leaders were gone. I didn't see them again until later, when they lapped me. Patience. Gotta have patience. Can't blow myself up on the first lap and risk not finishing. Gotta go fast enough to make the cutoff time. Dang this hill is long. The thoughts are bouncing all over the place. Pace. Pace. Pace. That is what was I was trying to focus on the most. Pace. Ride your race. Don't hurry. Pace. When I reached the aid station at 17 miles in I was happy. But at the same time I was thinking "holy hell...that was only 17 miles??". It seemed like a long time to get there but I was keeping my steady pace. Feeling pretty good. Grab some food. Go. It really starts to thin out for me. Still seeing people around every bend. Riding with a few here and there. But people are settling in and riding their own races now. I see the sign that says 5 miles to go. Whoo! Almost done with the first lap. 4, 3, 2....the miles tick away and I am feeling pretty good. Just keep that pace, don't blow up. Drink. Crud.....I am behind on fluids. Drink, pace, drink, pace...oh...parking lot. Lap 1 done. People cheering like crazy for us as we roll through. Hit the tent. People are helping like crazy....so I can relax a second. Bike...good. Camelback swap. Bottles. Go get em'. Nothing but encouragement from teammates and friends. Leaving the pit area people are still cheering. 2 to go.
It is quieter now. The trail looks different. Much more defined than a few hours ago. How long until cutoff time? Still have plenty of time because I was on pace for my first lap. That cutoff time is the only thing I am worried about now. Well, the cutoff time and this long climb that doesn't want to end. Where is everyone? Feels like I am alone....wait.....there are a few people. Good. I am on course. Pace. Cutoff time. Pace. Cutoff time. 40 miles in. Not feeling too bad. Drink. Pace. Cutoff. Drink. I wonder how Brian is doing. Hope he got his tire fixed. Drink. Pace. Wow, this flat feels amazing. I am holding a decent pace right now. Drink. Rider....closing in on him fast. It is Todd. He looks like he is struggling....
"whats up Todd?"
"HEY SEAN!!!! Rockin, your looking good! Go Go"
"keep on truckin'
Dang, he is struggling. Hope he can keep going. Must have started too fast. I am feeling pretty good and DRINK. Pace. I gotta get to that aid station before the leaders.....RIDERS BACK.
You have got to be kidding me. I am only 44 miles in...better slide over. Holy shit they are flying. Jordan, Tinker, Tanguy leading and a guy I don't know. Wow. Fuck they are fast. Gone already. lol. Just keep spinning man...they are professionals....you just want to finish. Cutoff. Pace tells me I am doing alright. Where the hell is that aid station. Ribbons.....finally. Half way home. The aid station is like a party....but everyone already went home. lol. The workers are awesome....tons of encouragement. Half way there Sean, see you next lap. After the aid station it is quiet again. I have to walk more hills because I just can't justify killing myself to try to slowly climb. Plus, the walk gives my body a break from the bike. The bike is working good though. How is my time? Average speed tells me I should make the cutoff. Drink. 5 miles to go on the second lap....cool. I am doing alright but that last lap is gonna suck. Don't think about it. Just get back to the pit. 4, 3, 2.....ah....I hear the pit area. Seriously.....only 1 to go. You got this. Roll into the pit and swap bottles and camel. The worker bees attend to the bike and clean out some leaves. Good. Tom says "Hey, you made the cutoff....so good job. Also, every person we have sent out on the third lap has finished. You have all day now....enjoy it....but get your ass back out there....see you in a few hours".
There were a lot of people finished. Doesn't matter. Just go. The crowd is already shrinking but it doesn't matter. The ones that are there cheer and wish good luck as I leave the pit area. Then, the solitary confinement begins.....
Final lap...33 miles to go
This cliff bar tastes like shit. I throw it out into the woods because I just can't eat anymore. I am full. Legs are tired. Body is tired. But I only have 33 miles to go. I can do that. Trail looks like a highway now. Holy hell this climb is long. A rider? hmm. Just keep spinning...just keep spinning. It is beautiful out here. What a cool place to ride. The event has been cool. I just want to finish and get that patch. Plaid. lol. I wonder where Rick got that idea. At this point my mind is all over the place. But I keep plugging away. The miles slowly fade away and I am thinking about the aid station. Hey, there are a few riders. Not surprising....everyone is fading now. I am doing ok...my plan to pace has worked well for me and I feel like I can finish. The people that started too hard are who I am catching now. The conversations are short. Hey. Hey. that is about it. A woman asks me how I am doing and we ride together for a while. I stated that I just want a finisher patch and she was excited to learn of this award. I accidentally gave her a reason to continue by talking about the patch. It was nice to have a conversation with someone who was suffering just as much as I was. Someone that was experiencing the same emotions....totally in the moment. We catch another guy and the three of us are talking about how we are feeling, drinking, and just enjoying the situation. Eventually I have to leave them because I had to ride the pace I was comfortable with. Wow, I left them. I am feeling good. Aid station? Hmm. Seemed longer last lap, must have been the conversation. Now the aid station looks like the aftermath of woodstock. desolate. just the workers. These people are amazing, coke, snacks...anything else? Gotta go, 17 miles to go. I am going to finish this damn race. Cathy says "see you at the finish Sean, good luck". Off I go into solitary again. The climbs seem longer. Legs are blown. A rider? Yeah, this dick is gaining on me like I am sitting still. "Hey man, you need anything...I am support....have water, gels....anything?". No, I am good but thanks. Hey is there anyone behind me...or am I last? "dude, there are a handful of people back there....you are surely not last....keep plugging away". Cool. Not last. Would it matter? Nope. Finishing dead last in a 100 mile race is better than not finishing. Where is that 5 miles to go sign. I am ready to be done. Ugh, I need to drink more. Holy shit, I don't remember this climb. Am I getting delusional? Nah, I'm good. I am doing this. I see it....5 miles to go.....oh man. Maybe I can quicken my pace....hahahahaha....yeah right. Just keep spinning. 4. As the 3 miles to go sing passes I catch the glimmer of a rider ahead of me. Sweet, maybe I can catch him. This keeps my mind occupied for the next mile as I finally catch Fred. Took me 98 miles to catch you but here we are. We continue on towards the finish and I just keep pace with him....it was nice to have someone to talk to. Suddenly, the parking lot. Oh dude....we did it.....
I did it...100 fucking miles on my mountain bike. I wanna take a shower. My family? Wow, that is cool. All these people congratulating me. Dang. Maybe this is bigger than I realize.
"well done man"
"love you honey, proud of you"
"1st try!!! awesome"
It was finally over. I was done. I had my finishers patch. I wasn't last. I had a plan of attack for this race and I followed it. It worked. I paced. I drank enough. I didn't blow myself up trying to be a hero. I just had a very long ride in the woods.
Good luck to my friends racing Lumberjack 100 tomorrow. Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. You guys are awesome and I wish you nothing but success.