You hear about cyclist in our community talk about the Lumberjack 100. It’s like THE race that is held high on a pedestal and once you can say you have actually completed it, you have arrived as a credible cyclist.
Some say, “I just want to be able to finish it.”
Some say, “It’s on my bucket list.”
Some say, “I’ll NEVER do that race!” Hey! That was me!
The Lumberjack 100 is over 9,000 feet of climbing through one of my favorite trail systems: The Big M. The meandering sections of trail lead you through pine forests that smell amazing as your tires crush the trail littered with needles. Then you go through these “aspen tunnels” of swooping single-track, followed by trail covered with a canopy of hardwoods that take you over some super-fun rollers. There are sections where you feel like you are riding in a scene from Jurassic Park as the ferns line the trail on either side of you as far as you can see. Oh…did I mention the punchy uphills in between what feel like endless climbs? 100 miles on dirt is not the same as 100 miles of pavement or gravel.
It is my 5th year riding for Founders. Many of my team mates had done the Lumberjack 100 & encouraged me to give it a try. I always felt it would be impossible since it fell on the same week that I wrapped up my classroom and completed report cards. There was also the fact that I had NEVER ridden 100 miles of dirt single-track in 1 day.
I considered it a fun race for me to help out at the aid station. But at last year’s race I felt the tug: “You’ve gotta do this!”
My goal was to COMPLETE not COMPETE since I had spent the week helping Rick, Cathy and Tenner get ready for the BIG SHOW. (A TON of work goes into this race. It’s like having a wedding and inviting 1,000 guests.) Friday was spent selling swag and chit-chatting with the racers at packet pick-up. Tenner kept saying, “You need to sit down and relax a bit” but we were super busy! Luckily, around 7 PM Rob & Jeremy were heading to dinner so I jumped into the Scooby-doo van & they gave me a lift back to the cabin to prep 3 hydration packs filled with Infinite Nutrition, make some potatoes and pack my secret weapons: Sweet potato waffles with almond butter and some home-made steel-cut oat bread PB&J’s. NO GU PACKS FOR ME!
The 4:15 AM alarm came waaaaay too soon. I got up and blearily ate an english muffin swiped with PB&J and drank my usual Mocha Frappuccino with coconut water & almond milk. I got dressed and pulled on some arm warmers since it was only 44 degrees. We arrived to the Big M hearing the traditional song of the whippoorwill and the hub-bub of racers waiting to pick up their race packets that Cathy & I spent hours stuffing. Before I knew it, it was time to head over to the start.
As I made my way down the road with Jenny Scott, my mind wasn’t in the usual “race mode”. We chatted about the ax she was wearing on her helmet and looked for a place to line up. When Rick announced the race start, we all rolled out in a big blob. Some faster than others until we swerved around to enter the single track. It was like the highway merging into one lane. Each man (& woman) for themselves. The tools barging in where they felt they deserved to be. The first 10 miles was a slow train with no momentum to charge up the short punchy hills. I could have sworn it was my slowest lap. Things began to spread out a bit and I just kept a positive attitude. I made it to the Founder’s support tent in less than 3 hours. My husband, (Tenner), Jeremy, Summer & her husband were all there to strip my hydration off, sling on a new one and re-fill my gas tank. Thanks, guys! On to lap 2.
Lap 2 was lonely! Where were all of the choo-choo train guys from the 1st lap? Once in a while I would ride along and come across a lone soul, encouraging them that we were more than half way there. Once I reached the aid station I had accumulated a list of things Cathy could text Tenner about: Fingerless gloves, Booty balm, & 1 Bayer Back and Body (since I had wiped out and bent my pinky and cut my knee.) I remember taking my Carb-0-rockets regularly to avoid cramping & hearing Jeremy in my head, “Keep drinking!” Round 2 was nearly over! Another thanks to the pit crew while I made a pit stop.
One lap to go! I knew I could do it if I just stayed positive and just kept pedaling. There was not a moment when it crossed my mind to quit. I HAD to finish because I was not going to sign up for this again next year! It seemed to take forever to get to the aid station, I kept thinking, “I will be crossing the little bridges any second.” But it would always be the wrong pine forest with ferns. Finally, I saw the peace signs Cathy had hung up just past the little bridges. I was almost to the aid station! I couldn’t stop. I was afraid it would have hurt too much to get back on again. I looked ahead and could see Dennis! It gave me motivation to catch up to him. I climbed slowly behind him until I found my voice. “Dennis! It’s Marnie!” I shouted. He had done this thing 9 times and was going for the 9 hour mark.
“Marnie! Good job!” he replied. “We’re almost there.” We rode together for a bit until we hit Fire Tower. Dennis B. Murphy put that bike on his shoulder cyclocross style and ran up that Mo-Fo!
“You’re the man, Dennis!” I hollered, so impressed as I barely had the energy to walk my bike up that hill. I knew the sketchy gravel downhill was next and I could recover for a bit. I looked at my Garmin and seriously thought I would finish under 9 hours! (I forgot that time stops when you go less than 1 mile per hour.) I couldn’t believe it when I made that final downhill flyer toward the finish. I had a huge smile on my face knowing that I would finish. I crossed the line just over the 9 hour mark to the cheers of the crowd, most importantly my husband & team mates. Tenner handed me my “Lumberjack 2015 Finisher” patch and told me I made the podium! #10 for TenCate. I’ll take it!
The Lumberjack 100 is in the books, off the bucket list. The race I would NEVER do was done. Next year, look for me at the aid station! I will be wearing a sombrero, shaking maraca’s & handing out PB&J’s, encouraging YOU! YOU CAN DO IT!