7.05.2011

A Lumberjack Story.

There is a little event here in Michigan that in it's few short years as garnered quite the reputation for itself. Little might be drastic understatement, epic properly explains the Lumberjack 100. Every event we're proud to be part of, often working with Race/Event directors to determine the proper prize for the event. Since releasing the limited edition Lumberjack Plaid image rims, there was really only one proper event for them to land. We left it up to Rick Plite to determine the worthy rider to win these gems back on June 18th.

We couldn't agree more with Rick's choice, Nicholas Mehl. Who put everything he could into the finishing and in the end was able to and took home the DFL award. Rick was able to get Nicholas to do a little write up of his experience from the race and we are privileged to give you his perspective on the race. Enjoy.

Flight of the Lantern Rouge
[photo by Tony Newton]

“Are you the last one,” was one of the first things I heard as I rolled across the finish line.
I finished. An accomplishment all in its own after abandoning last year and having that loom ever since.

I sure didn’t feel like I was last. “No,” I reply. “There was one guy at the aid station after me but he took off his helmet and sat down.” I did the very same thing last year at the same aid station on lap two so I knew what he was going through.

“Too bad, because if you were last, you’d get these wheels.” This I time I registered the voice as Rick Plite, the organizer, as he shook my hand and handed me my finisher patch. He also had a set of really cool set Velocity P35’s in Lumberjack Plaid.

I may have mumbled something like “I’m not going back out there.”
I finished. I won. It didn’t matter that the guys who really “won” had been done for six and a half hours, were most likely well fed, clean, rested and thinking about their ride tomorrow. 13 hours is a long time and all I wanted was out of my bike shorts. A beer and some solid food would not be turned down, either.

Walking back towards the car I first realized the parking lot was almost empty and then the weight of everything I carried in my pockets. Even empty, the 1L bladder, tools, food and phone seemed heavy. The extra bottle I acquired on the trail wasn’t intended, but needed. The aid station placing seemed perfect this time around. No bonks so everything with the food and water went right, almost. The first half of lap two had me running out of water just before the aid station and knowing that it was getting hotter, I was wondering what I’d do to get back to the start/finish area. Then on a bumpy downhill, there was an insulated Polar bottle laying in the trail. Bonus. It got rinsed out quick and didn’t need to worry about hydration the rest of the day. I wasn’t keen on carrying the bladder and a bottle in my pockets but it sure was better than a pack.

The jug of water and my garden sprayer that was intended to clean my bike between laps given the nasty weather forecast the days leading into the race were good for cleaning me up. That’s where I found the raw sections on my calf and shoulder. Lap one, a little ways after the aid station, we cross a road that looks a lot like the road we cross before the aid station. “Wow, I wonder how much that would cut off a lap,” was the last thing I thought before I missed the gravel bridge over the ditch. What should have been an easy ramp back into the woods had me laid out in true yard sale fashion in the middle of the trail. “I deserved that,” was all I thought after picking everything up. But, hitting the ground only once over a hundred mile race isn’t bad.
Once the dirt and some of the stink were rinsed off, dry clothes were great. Now to find food. Walking back over to the lodge, my legs were reminding me of the day. Only cramped a little at miles 87 and 92 but they were still not happy. Like always, the post-race spread is great. Burritos! My buddy Paul came this time for support and he had one the night before as I was trying to eat something that would be more beneficial than me fogging the trail. But given the mosquito level this year that may not have been that bad… It also felt good to just sit and enjoy not moving. Paul had to play Jiminy Cricket in my ear and tell me to keep moving every time I stopped. So I enjoyed my burrito and a beer not moving. I think I milked it for a good 15 – 20 minutes which was as long if not longer than any of my lap breaks.

A couple of the guys that were manning the aid station when I last went through came over and sat around with us. In the few minutes I was there (my first stop on lap one was four minutes, the others were about that, too), I must have made an impression in my delirium because they still thought I was entertaining. It must be a tough stint working the station, swatting mosquitos, and having a bunch of guys hollering “I need Coke.” Or this. Or that. I guess if between you and another guy were only a couple minutes over the length of the race, it might make a difference, but I saw it even in the back third where I thought I was rolling. These guys were here on their own, treat them well. Say thanks. Do the mosquito dance. Laugh.

The aid workers said there were at least two or three riders behind me so the wheels were not an option. But hey, I finished and that was my goal. I never felt like I was sweeping the course so it didn’t bug me not to “win” them.

I never did feel like I was moving that slow. Consistent, yes. But slow, no. I was still in the denial stages of being DFL.

My first lap was almost spot on the same time as last year (which I thought would be better because this time my mechanicals registered nil). The leading trio caught me at mile 43, almost the same exact spot as last year, too. This time it didn’t crush my motivation, though because seeing more than one rider in the lead so it let me imagine the race unfolding. They were dodging trees and racing to win. I was going to finish so I needed to rely on a bit more imagination to entertain myself.

Since I was moving a lot faster on my 2nd lap as I hadn’t given up like last year, I didn’t see as many as the elites go by. Amanda Carey was a polite blur of red that came by way before Cheryl Sorensen did last year. “Rider up.” “Thanks.” All the good stuff that makes you want to help get out of their way. Except for the one bad apple who came up on a downhill section. “Get out of my way,” a couple times as I hollered back “it’s not clean.” Finally did find a spot for him and I muttered “bite me” as he went by. About 15 seconds later the woman running in 2nd place came up on the same section and as polite as everyone else and I looked a lot harder for a good passing zone. I really hope she passed him on the line.

My consistency started to show towards the end of the 2nd lap as I was passing quite a few riders not continuing on. Not just stopped by the side of the trail (there were a couple of them as I took my lessons from Paul and told them to at least keep moving) but just riders that were “broken.” Even last year, giving up wasn’t an option until the mechanical, more or less, forced me to.

The third lap was quiet. I saw as many deer as moving riders (three) and the first 10 miles really hurt. “Too much stopped time in the pits,” is what Paul’s voice kept saying in my head but the GPS told me it was also uphill and the trail felt like riding on wood chips. Going into the last aid station I was feeling better and sucked it up to start standing on the pedals which I hate doing on the full suspension. My 2nd half of the last lap was almost spot on the same time as the other laps (2 hours +/- a few minutes so all of my added time per lap happened on the first half) and I still felt good. Towards the end, even with the cramps, I was going to finish and that was more than enough to fuel my forward motion. Once I saw the road and new the finish line was close, I gave it my all so that’s why I gave Paul the scowl when he asked why I didn’t dig deeper to crack sub 13 hours. There was no deeper.

By now, we’d been sitting around the finish telling stories, eating dinner and waiting for the last riders to come in. The longer we waited the more I really started to worry as I know that I wouldn’t want to be stranded out in the woods knowing there was no one sweeping up behind me.

About that time is when Rick wandered over and told me they had pulled the last two riders from the course. Whether they came peacefully or were trying to flag down anyone to take them home, I don’t know. But, having already admitted and accepted “defeat” with the wheels, the shock and excitement was all the better. The pictures really don’t do my expression justice as I was so toast from the ride but I was ecstatic, really. I came into the race with the pure goal of finishing. Any type of award was out of the question as I know I’m not the caliber of rider to place at the top. But to come home with a cool set of wheels AND finishing was all the better.
Once again, thanks to Paul for the support. The post-race drive back to camp, everything during the race, and just being around was huge in making sure my mental game didn’t falter. I might have to let him borrow the wheels if he ever gets a 29er.

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