Monday, June 20, 2011

Lumberjack 100 Miler 2011

Oh, where to begin my book...

The couple of weeks between the Transylvania Stage race and the Lumberjack 100 were incredibly busy, mostly in good ways. It was part of my motivation to bag the last day of the stage race after getting sick there, to get home on Saturday to have a all day Sunday to rest, recover, get caught up, etc., which I am very thankful I did. It was a full week of work and family stuff -- niece's high school graduation, dad's retirement party, which meant lots of family around to hang out with...etc., etc. It also meant I got little riding in and not as much sleep as I would have liked which was a tad frustrating but it was what it was.

Needless to say, I figured I should be "fresh" for the Lumberjack. The women's field was incredibly stacked, much like the stage race. I was trying to get in the mindset of "I have done enough of these 100 milers that I should really truly try to push and see what I have, and if I bonk, I bonk." Of course, I knew that would be semi-contingent on how the legs and body felt on race day. I was after all, feeling a bit spent from all the activity heading into this race. So, mostly, I wanted to have fun. I do not make my living off racing so there should be some pleasure in riding a 100 miles (haha!).

I had some new travel mates this time around. Down at the Cohutta 100 back in April, I had run into a friend/fellow racer I had met ~5 years ago at the Jay Challenge in Vermont - a 65 (er, I mean ultimately a 72 mile) torture fest that had 'broken' me and had me crying at the end of it vowing to never ride my bike longer than 2 hours ever again (that lasted huh?; what is wrong with me?). I didn't have anyone to travel to the Lumberjack with so Chris invited me along with his friend Matt. They lived in Poughkeepsie, NY so it would only be about 3 hours to get there. I told him I'd give it some thought as I had been debating bagging the race altogether for another one later on in the season, but I decided to go with them.

I headed out Thursday morning to Poughkeepsie and arrived at Chris' just around noon. Chris had given me directions to get there either via Rt. 90 or Rt. 84 to Taconic Parkway. I took the Mass Pike (90) since I've been driving 84 all the time. The directions seemed so straightforward that I didn't bother to look at a map before heading out. I got on the Taconic Parkway and thought it was 8 miles south from Rt. 90 to the exit I had to get off at, but I was chatting on the phone and had probably gone well over 8 miles by then, and started to realize, hmm., maybe I should have looked at this on the map. So I called Chris and well, it was 8 miles off the Taconic Parkway, but many miles heading south on the parkway first.. Got it. It was really simple.

I arrived around noon and Chris' buddy Matt showed up about a 1/2 hour later. We packed up Chris' mini-van and hit the road to Youngstown, Ohio, about 6 hours away. Oh joy.. the beginning of many many hours in the car. It was a pretty uneventful trip. We chatted a ton about biking of course -- training, nutrition, strategy, etc. Chris asked me what my goal was for this race. I was like, huh, I guess to do better than last year. I try not to set myself up for a bad head day on the chance that if I'm not feeling great, I don't want to have the added expectation of killing it, even if that is ultimately what I want to do. The Jay Challenge had taught me to be cautious of too lofty of expectations. I hadn't even looked at my time from last year on this course. I had guessed it was around 8:20 or 8:30 (it was closer to 8:30). Anyway, Chris and Matt were great traveling mates. We all got along well and were accommodating to each other, although I think they were perhaps a bit more accommodating to me, giving me, the "well you're the pro", which kind of cracks me up.

We ate dinner at an Applebees somewhere over the border into Ohio (or maybe still in Pennsylvania). Getting a beer was very tempting, but I behaved knowing I was probably still trying to 'catch up' from the crazy busy weeks I just had. Then we stayed at a cheap hotel in Youngstown. Matt is an early bird which wasn't a bad thing as it was probably a good thing to hit the road at a decent time since we still had many many miles to get to Manistee, MI. Chris had mapquested the various routes to take to the race with going through Canada being the shortest and fastest. He's from Netherlands originally and has a green card and thus didn't want us to get hung up at the border (and who knows how long it could take at the border regardless). By Chris' calculations we would have 7 hours to drive on Friday, but the GPS calculated it out saying 9hrs. Yikes! That would get us there about 5pm and we still wanted to get a ride in, get dinner, get everything set for race day...but thankfully, it did really only take 7. And, thankfully Chris and Matt were pretty chatty and fun to hang out with so the time didn't totally drag. Chris is also quite the cook. He quite generously shared his delicious banana bread with us.

We arrived at the race venue just after 3pm and picked up our race packets. I caught up briefly with some friends. Then we went to the cabin I had rented for us to settle in and get ready for a ride to loosen up the legs. The cabin is basically on the back side of the course so we rode from the cabin to the race start/finish area and back. I felt pretty good considering I had just spent 17 hrs in the car over the past two days. The legs were a bit heavy and dead at first but I did a couple of hard efforts on a climb that helped kind of open them up and that made me feel a bit more awake.

We cleaned up and headed into the small town of Manistee for dinner. It was reasonably early still so I suggested we head down to the waterfront on Lake Superior since neither Chris or Matt had gone in the previous times they had done this race. It was a beautiful evening out, warm, sunny, cool breeze. The water looked inviting (but chilly). I had been wondering about the "good morning buttercup" Matt said to Chris that morning, but then I caught a picture of them holding hands. I told them I would blackmail them to their wives :) (completely joking around here/silly).

We ate at the restaurant I have eaten at the past couple of years for dinner the night before this race. I knew it was pretty good food and shouldn't pose any problems for racing the next day. I refrained from a beer or glass of wine again. We hit a grocery store for final supplies, post race snacks and beer etc. Then, it was back to the cabin and preparing for race day.

Man, the mosquitoes are ridiculous there. There was a nice little deck with chairs to sit outside and enjoy the evening with the very late sunset (close to 10pm since it's at the end of the eastern time zone), but we'd have no blood left to pump through our body for race day if we did that. So, it was to bed before it was dark out. I felt like I was like 5 years old again.

I didn't sleep all that great that night but I was, for once, actually not overly anxious or nervous about the race. It's usually race nerves that keep me up. Anyway, 5am comes early regardless and the thoughts of "why the heck do I do this" coming flooding through my brain. I ate some oatmeal and downed my coffee and then we were off to the race, about a 10 minute drive.

We set up our cooler and other bike parts/supplies for the race at the start/finish area. This is the one 100 miler that I do that is 3 laps. The mosquitoes were pretty bad that morning and thankfully I was able to bum some bug spray off a friend. I forgot mine in my car back in Poughkeepsie. I was still surprisingly calm for pre-race time, especially given the many talented riders in my field. I knew I should be pretty fresh, but I was worried that I hadn't done a ride longer than 4hrs in quite some time. Normally, by this point in the season I have done several 5 or 6 hour training rides. I also wasn't quite what kind of impact the busy few weeks would have on me once I got several hours into the race. I reminded myself again that I don't do this for a living so just try to have fun out there and if you feel good, go with it.

I actually did warmed-up with a couple hard short efforts to get the legs opened up. The race starts down the paved road a couple of miles to help spread out the pack before dumping onto singletrack for the majority of the race. So, you have to be ready to go super hard to make sure you have good position getting into the singletrack or else you can lose a lot of time on the first lap. I'm sure I have said this in my blogs in the past, but I hate the starts like this - a few 100 mountain bikers all jockeying for the front spots. It is quite stressful. I tried to stay pretty close up front as I could but wasn't doing an overly good job of it. Once we hit the singletrack, I realized I was kind of farther back than I had hoped to be. That, and I hadn't tracked who of my competitors were ahead of me.

I made some stupid passing decisions that I sort of crashed myself but thankfully didn't take down anyone else. I apologized quickly, but was annoyed with myself for the wasted effort. I wasn't overly happy with the pace of the group I was in and you can lose a lot of time right there in the beginning as there really aren't great places to pass on this course. And early on in the race, no one wants to let you pass since they all want to pass whoever is in front of them.

I finally kind of settled in and found a 'spot' of my own. I find in these race that I always seem to end up around the same group of racers for a majority of the race. You pass them, they pass you and so on.

I felt pretty good for most of the first lap. I can't say I felt like a superstar or anything, but my effort and heart rate and feel all seemed ok. But by the end of the lap, I had started to feel the effort already and was a bit disheartened by that. I also didn't know what position I was in. I knew there were at least 3 women ahead of me, most likely more. When I came through the start/finish area from the first lap, someone said I was in 3rd which I knew was wrong unless Amanda or Cheryl had dnfd. Highly unlikely.

I refilled my camelback with my Carborocket powder mix that I had pre-measured out in ziplock baggies. (I finally got to meet Brad Keyes, owner of Carborocket, my awesome sponsor - very nice guy. He had a great race on his single speed.) I made a bit of a mess on my camelback since I was in a hurry. I grabbed an Odwalla bar, ate half and stuck the other half in my pocket and hit the trail again. The 2nd lap is tough since you have gone pretty hard the first lap, especially since the trails are super fast, flowing awesome single track. There are no major big climbs which means you are pedaling all the time pretty hard. On a course with big climbs (ie, Shenandoah or Wilderness 101), you just find a smooth climbing pace you can hold for, oh, an hour or so, and then you get to descend for a long time and hence get a long recovery, or use you legs in a different way. The Lumberjack course is just go go go. So, now you still have 2 more laps and your legs are starting to feel the hard effort.

I got in my head a bit too much this lap. I was not enjoying it and how hard it felt. I have been starting to think I don't want to do these 100s anymore. Of course, they are always hard. I don't know why I assume they will ever feel easy. Anyway, I convinced myself that I would only do the two more on my schedule this year and next year, none. I would just take a nice break and go have fun riding some awesome trails out west and enjoy a good beer or two in the evening. Get up and repeat. And then, I would remind myself to make that decision at the end of the season. Nonetheless, I convinced myself to keep going. I just tried to keep riding steady and try not to worry too much about getting caught from behind. I was assuming I was in 4th at this point which was confirmed (if I wanted to truly believe the person telling me at the start/finish area).

I finish Lap 2 and stop to refill my camelback one more time. I figured I wouldn't want any food so I gulped some water and hit the trail for the final lap. It was nice to know it was just one more time, even though it was a long one more time in comparison to doing short 2 hour races where a lap is done in an half-hour or less. I actually felt pretty good starting out on the lap. Fairly early on in the lap I saw Vikki up ahead and eventually caught up her. This of course was motivation. I chatted with her briefly asking how her ribs were feeling after hurting them at the stage race (she came in 3rd still there with broken or badly bruised ribs!). I passed her on the next climb. She had told me Cheryl (2nd place) was about 5 minutes up. I thought, ugh, 5 minutes is pretty significant and Cheryl is such a strong rider.

I just kept riding strong and was happy to feel like my legs felt better this lap then the last lap. I had tried to calculate out whether I thought I would be able to do a sub-8hr 100 here, but I was guessing given my lap times and having taken about 8 minutes longer on the 2nd lap, and my last like would likely be at least the same or longer that a sub-8hr was not probable.

I was passing some guys on the final lap and one of them told me Cheryl was about 2 minutes up. I was inspired in that if that were true, I had been gaining time on her. And not too much longer after that I saw her up ahead. I finally caught up to her and just stealthily stayed behind her and a guy she was right behind. I hadn't quite decided how to play it out. We were about to hit the aid station which was half-way through the lap. I was starting to figure I would just see how we both felt on the next climb to see what she had in her legs still and to see what I had left. To my surprise, she stopped at the aid station for water and I didn't need to stop since I had plenty left in my camelback so I rode right on through wondering if she realized I was right behind her and/or saw me pass her.

I was hoping she didn't see me and then she would be less likely to dig deep to catch me again. I figured it was highly unlikely she didn't see me or that someone wouldn't have told her I passed. I kept trying to look back to see if she was coming up while reminding myself that she is a very strong rider and if she catches me, well she catches me. But I didn't see her and I just kept riding hard. (She told me after the race that she figured it was coming up on her that far into the race and at that point she had bonked.)

Eventually, I was in home stretch where I knew Cheryl wasn't going to catch back up to me. I started to calculate out my time and realized that hey, I have 6 minutes to get in for a sub-8 hour race. I have 5.. I have 4... and finally I knew I would make it in on time and finished in 7'57". Woo hoo!!! My first 100 under 8 hours and a 2nd place in a really strong women's field. I was stoked. My lap times were 2'36; 2'43" and 2'37" --very nice to see a big drop on the last lap :)

I couldn't wait to get my shoes off and get off my saddle. My shorts are getting a bit old and the seam for the chamois was digging in to my butt quite nicely, or not nicely, for the last few hours. It was rather uncomfortable to sit after that. I got cleaned up, which was a chore. My camelback mouthpiece has starting leaking a bit so I had carborocket sticky water on my legs that had attracted quite a lot of dirt/dust. It got warmer out than had been predicted too so it was a challenge to change when I was still sweaty.

I ate post-race food and chatted with some friends/racers waiting for Chris and Matt to finish up. They both had strong races, although not quite as good as they had hoped but they didn't get too hung up on that. We headed back to the cabin to clean up and then headed in to town for some food and a beer and ice cream!

We got back to the cabin and packed up the mini-van that evening as we were heading out at 5am since Chris and Matt both wanted to be back home to work on Monday. I was like ugh.. I usually do this drive over two days but oh well. I had figured I would just crash in Poughkeepsie Sunday night and finish driving home Monday morning. It wasn't too bad heading out at 5am, granted they both did all the driving. I had offered to drive but they were quite kind. So, I spent some time in the back trying to nap, and then riding up front to avoid getting carsick and so on for oh, 14 hrs. We made back to Poughkeepsie a little after 7pm. I wasn't completely cooked so decided to drive the 3 hrs home so I could sleep in my own bed and hopefully sleep in really really late.

I was pretty wooped driving home. My left eye kept twitching on me. I did make it home safe and sound, well except for one close call with a deer. It took me a while to fall asleep, probably too much caffeine. I did sleep in some, but not as much as I had hoped so I need to catch up. This week is looking kind of busy too though.

It's a nice long break till the next 100 - end of July. I will probably do some local short races before then - hoping to race Putney, VT Root66raceseries this Sunday.

Thanks for reading this far :)


  1. Woo Hoo - goooo Potter! I am so happy for you! I will brag about this to Donny and Allen. Love reading your blog - keep up the great effort!

  2. Congratulations; and kudos to you on your mental perseverance! Thanks for the extended race report as it is always fun to read what people are thinking during such a hard and long race. Whew! Enjoy the rest of June and July!

  3. Awesome Karen!! Great job with that last lap. Thanks for the report.
    - Rob