The Lumberjack 2010 went ok. I came in 4th in probably the tightest top four finishing for the women's fields in a 100 miler - all within 13 minutes. The race for me however, felt like crap. It was a struggle the whole way through, both mentally and physically. Perhaps, I set myself up a little for this one in that I've been 2nd the past two years so I was trying to get my head in the frame of mind that I could win it, I have the potential... and trying to keep in mind that, well, it all depends on what legs you have for race day still and I have to accept that, but not having good legs on race day proved to be hard to accept this go around. I had to remind myself too that I just had a really good race finishing up my first stage race and most likely needed a little more recovery. The positive spin on it is I have some depth to have such a fast "flat" pace.
The long long drive out to Manistee, Michigan was pretty uneventful. I was actually happy to be doing another route for once since I seem to have been traveling down Rt 84 to Rt 81 a lot in the past several months so the "novelty" of driving Rt 90 forever felt nice. I made it to Erie, PA in 8 hours smooth sailing to meet up with Doug. We drove another hour or so and stopped for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory outside Cleveland. I behaved and skipped dessert and saved half of my enormous portion of dinner for lunch the next day. Then we drove another hour or so and found a hotel. I was eager to check in and catch the Celtics Lakers game much to my final disappointment on that one. I tried to go to bed right after that but was a tad wired so I didn't sleep all that great that night.
We hit the road again to finish the remaining 5hr or so drive to the race. Again, a pretty uneventful drive. It starts to get pretty boring up driving but I managed to not get too antsy. I was actually pretty surprised at how I relaxed I felt. I usually start to get some race anxiety on the drive to the races, but I was pretty chill. My team sponsor, MTBracenews.com, Shannon Bofelli and his wife Jen Hanks had come out to do this race and I finally got to meet them for the first time when we pulled in to pick up our race packets. They were both very excited about the race. It was Jen's first 100 miler and she kicked some butt coming in 2nd! Shannon was also kind of enough to bring more of my coveted racing fuel, carborocket, to keep me going for a while longer.
Then we went to find out cabin which was about 5 miles from the race start. It was a quaint little cabin that actually abutted the forest land we were racing in. We unpacked the car and got our bikes ready to go do a ride to stretch out the legs. We figured we might be able to hit the course if we continued on the dirt road out from where our cabin was and sure enough we found it and rode the last 30 minute stretch of it. It's really sweet riding - very smooth, sort of make me think of riding Otis on the Cape locally although not quite a punchy hill wise. I was feeling rather heavy legged on this ride but hoping that it was attributable to the long drive and not being not recovered from the stage race. Unfortunately, that smile on my face wasn't there on race day :(
We rode back on the road from the race venue and finished getting the bikes ready for race day. I noticed I had a thorn in my tire and of course once I pulled it out it started to lose air and apparently the stans sealant I had in the tire was getting pretty dried up and having a hard time sealing the hole. We pulled the tire off a tad and added more stans and thankfully that did the trick and made it through race day with no issues. After that, we headed into town to get some dinner. It's a cute little harbor/touristy town, although it's looking like it's seen slightly better times. We ran into a couple other racers, one of whom - John - I met doing Cohutta last year when I caught up to him to draft on the long flat horse cart path, and his friend Bill. They were finishing up their dinner so we just joined them and chatted for a while. Then it was time to get back to the cabin and off to bed. I still wasn't actually too nervous about the race but I did start to get anxious a bit when I was trying to fall asleep and then had a hard time getting to sleep. I try not to stress about lack of sleeping as it just makes it worse, but it's frustrating to say the least.
Race morning comes early as always. Up at 5AM, get some oatmeal and espresso in me and off to the race venue. We had to lug the cooler and other 'supplies' over to the start/finish lap area as this race you pretty much support yourself since it's a lap venue. (Race morning smile went away too.) Then it was time to ride out on the road a couple miles where the race is staged from so as to have some thinning out of the pack before it enters the singletrack. I wasn't feeling too overly anxious for a race start. We were off down the road at not too crazy of a pace, well not until about a few hundred yards from entering the parking lot and then the front of the pack goes hard core. Once the intensity picked up I was starting to feel it, of course I didn't really warmup at all except for the couple miles back to the parking lot, so it was hurting pretty good right away. The course was changed up from previous years 4-lap format to 3 laps this year and the layout changed up quite a bit, especially the first climb - it used to be a short steep sandy pitch but then it rolled nicely for a bit so you could recover pretty quickly before you had another short climb that required digging deep again. The start this year was a more gradual and very extended climb that the leading pack was flying on. I was getting passed a lot which usually hasn't happened to me on this course. It was a tad frustrating and more frustrating that my legs felt like crap and were not recovering. My stomach was also feeling rather upset. I felt like if I pushed any harder I would be yakking up those silly energy chews I ate before starting. I didn't like how this was going.
This course is usually a lot of fun. I spent the previous day saying how fun it was. This wasn't any fun today :( I was just trying to hang in there but the thoughts of being not recovered from the stage race kept popping up and how if I pushed too hard through this race in an already depleted state that I might ruin the rest of the season. I had all I could do to convince myself not to quit that first lap. I tried to remind myself that I've had several races where I didn't feel good at first but the legs and body came around later on. It was a struggle. Jen was riding smoothly behind me for a bit and then I was like "do you want to get by? I'm not doing too good here so you don't want to hang out behind me." And she went off and finished strong!
I came through the start finish area and refueled at the cooler. I was trying to convince myself that it would be ok and that this lap just ride with what you've got. At least the pack was well spread out now. I felt a little better on lap 2, but the legs just never really came around, every "effort" was an EFFORT. I made it through that lap ok but near the end for some reason I started to lose it in my head. I cracked and I haven't cracked like that in a long time. I convinced myself to pull it together before coming into the lap area since there were all kinds of spectators and I didn't want them to see me like that. Unfortunately for Shannon he had broken his front suspension and had to pull out of the race, but fortunately for me he was there at the cooler and helped me refuel etc and provided some distraction from how bad/unhappy I felt. I forged on but was pretty sour. I ran into Bill (from dinner) the previous night and he too was in a "bad state" both feeling pretty sour on the bikes today. We rode together for half of the last lap and tried to keep each other motivated like with thoughts of good food and beer after the race. He probably helped me more than I him... Then about half-way through the last lap, Danielle, who was on her singlespeed, caught up to me. I knew since she was catching up to me that it was unlikely I would hold her off for 17 miles. I was about to pass by the aid station out on the course and I wanted some straight up water so badly but I couldn't stop. I passed by with a very longing look. I also noticed Doug, who was having a really strong race, at the aid station and was going to say hi but didn't want to waste any time with Danielle coming up behind me. Danielle was riding pretty darn steady - her laps times were all the same! She finally caught up to me and passed and well, there I was finishing up in 4th with a still pretty strong time of 8:32. I still had to go off and get some of my "mental anguish" out so to speak. I don't know why I was being so hard on myself or where exactly that came from. All I knew was that I was happy I have a long break till the next 100.
So a couple beers later and chatting with fellow racers, I was feeling better. I was still disappointed at not having any legs or much fun. It's sort of a double whammy in that I get frustrated with myself for not being able to control the "break down," when I know, I just have to accept that that was it for the day. It didn't all come together on race day and that's how racing goes. I guess it's a reminder too that I can't really set out definite expectations. It's kind of better just keeping the mental set of "100 milers are pretty darn tough" aint nothing else to be said about that. Good day or bad day, riding that long and that hard is going to be tough.
Anyways, the drive back went relatively smoothly as well. I was home and reunited with Bruschi Monday night and slept in, (really late) on tuesday to catch up on all my lost sleep.
Thankfully the next 100 isn't until the end of July. I'll have some much needed time to recover and refresh for the end of the season. It feels like a lot of racing already and summer is only beginning.