Ok, so maybe that was a bunch of BS and between you and me if I could finish in the 7-hour range like the pros, I'd do it in a heartbeat. However, the cycling gods had different plans for me this year and I ended up spending 1/2 of a day on the trails... but I completed my third (and probably final) Lumberjack race in just under 12 hours (whew!). Here's a recap for all of you want to hear how it went. It starts off good, but by the fourth lap I was praying for it to be over. Good news is I was able to raise over $3,000 as part of my Pedaling with a Purpose effort to support the fight against Neuroblastoma (a rare form of child cancer). So, keeping that in perspective, here we go.
Lap 1 - Ooh, I feel good...
That pretty much summed up my first lap. I came in and felt great after the first 25 miles and was pleasantly surprised that my leg cramps from years past that at least "threatened" me before were nowhere to be found. Maybe my training and nutrition plan was paying off and I was going to have a great year and come in again in the 10 hour time frame. Well, at least that's what I was thinking. I passed through the pit area and got a quick drink, a bite to eat and then headed out for number two. Twenty five down, seventy five to go.
Number 2 - Did I mention there was water on the trail???
Ok, I may have missed that in my first lap recap, but the back part of the second "bigger" lap. In case you're not familiar with the format, there is a 7 mile inner loop and a larger 18 mile outer loop. The inner loop has some gently rolling hills and singletrack, but was try and tacky and great riding conditions. I recall my first LJ and the dust was so bad when we started you had a hard time actually seeing the rider in front of you. Well, with all the rain Mother Nature dropped on us this season, that was not a problem. In fact, I got to play "Swamp Monster" this year and enjoyed about 200 yards of calf-deep muck and mud that was virtually impossible to ride.
As the muck and mud wreaked havoc on my brake pads and chain/gears, my legs kept churning on. The cramps were still nowhere to be seen, which was making me feel pretty good, and I was able to keep a pretty decent pace, riding with others periodically throughout the lap. With 250 riders registered for the event this year (the larges ever), there was still plenty of company out there (at least there was at this time... talk to me again when it comes to lap 4).
I returned to the pits after completing #2 feeling still "pretty fresh" and was surprised to see Dan and Charlie both taking it easy and in civilian clothes. Charlie completed 25 and Dan got in 50 and both decided today was not their day to race. I don't blame them... it was a tough event. However, my "motivation" of PWAP and the $3,000+ in funds raised for the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation was keeping me motivated and I kept thinking of kids like Christi who will never have an opportunity to do what I'm doing thanks to the beast we know as cancer. So, I kept pushing on and started up my third lap.
Lap 3 - This is gonna suck (0r not)
In my prior two LJ posts I think I have mentioned that lap #3 has always been the hardest. I'm sure most of it is "mental" because you're half way done, but that only means you have done 50 miles (and you have 50 more miles to go). That's several more hill climbs, two more times trudging through the muck and swampy mess and 50 more miles of possible cramping. Fortunately, the cramps had only been intermittent for the first two laps and I was staying positive trying to "think" myself through this dreaded lap. I kept saying "this lap will not suck, this lap will not suck, this lap will not suck". Good thing is I think it worked and my cramping was again kept to a minimum and I kept rolling on.
At the mud bog I had a bit of a close call and decided to get a bit cocky and try to ride some of the slosh and my front tire hit a hidden root about 4 inches submerged beneath the water and just about went over the bars. Fortunately, I caught myself and all that I have to show for my fabulous "save" is a small bruise on my right thigh as I slammed it into my shift lever when keeping myself from getting a mouthful of nothing good. Whew!
Coming into the pit for my final time, Mark informed me that he was headed home with Charlie and his father. So, before he took off I was certain to have Charlie take a photo of us (yes, I'm still smiling). He and Charlie then took care of my bike and cleaned off my chain, filled up my bottles, got me some food and took care of any other of my needs before heading out for my fourth and final lap.
Lap 4 - Ok, I'm not smiling any more...
I headed out on my final lap knowing that I beat the cutoff time of 4:30. While I was smiling in the photo here with Mark, that quickly turned "upside down" as this lap was going to be one that I soon would want to forget. My prior lap had some cramping, but not as much as in years past, so I was hoping that lap four would bring me home in great shape. However, that was not the case and I paid for my prior three laps with severe leg cramping, especially in my left calf muscle and both quads (ouch).
On more than one occasion, my calf craped and spasmed so bad my to pointed straight down and I had to pedal like a ballerina, unable to drop my heal and get a "normal" pedal stroke. Combine my "on-point" pedal stroke with both quads cramping and you can get a bit of a picture of what this lap did to me. In fact, at about mile 90 I actually said out loud "ok, I'm done" but knew that I had 10 more miles to go. One pedal stroke at a time got me across the finish line in around 12 hours, but not sure if I was under or over the "magic number" as results have not yet been posted. Keep your fingers crossed for me...
Good vs. Bad
Ok, so maybe you're getting the impression by now that I may have had a terrible time this year (well if the fourth lap is any indication of the day)... not so. Granted, I could have done without the nasty leg cramps and my terrible lap #4, but there was a lot of good that came out of the weekend.
- $3,000+ for CNCF: I have to keep this in perspective, I'm not really racing the LJ for "me" but for the CNCF and in honor/memory of children all over that are battling (or lost their battle) against Neuroblastoma. Over the past three years I take great pride in knowing over $23,000 has been raised for the CNCF, money that would never have found its way to this worthy cause had I not been inspired by my good friend, Christi. Good news is there's still time to donate, so if anyone reading this would like to contribute, visit my donation site and help make a difference!
- Finishing in Under 12 Hours: Yes, if only by a few minutes, I did finish under the 12-hour time limit. Give that almost half of this year's field DNF'ed (did not finish), I'm pretty pleased with my effort and can say that I've completed this grueling event for three years in a row. Not sure if that makes me crazy, but I've heard more than one racer say once is enough. I guess the jury's still out on that one...
- Chez Jack & Male Bonding: We got to hang out Friday and Saturday night at a fellow teammate's cabin in Dublin, just minutes away from the race start. We had a good group stay there Friday night in addition to Jack any myself (Jim, Dan, Brian, Joe and Mike). We hung out by the campfire Friday night (Saturday night a fire would have been impossible, as Mother Nature provided another light show and we even got some hail. Regardless, it was a great "guy's weekend" and spending time with everyone was a blast.
- Rookie Exposure: While "only" finishing 25 of the 100 miles (which is still quite an accomplishment), one of our younger teammates, Charlie, go to experience a "big time" mountain bike race and I cannot think of how cool it would have been to have a learning experience like that at his age. I also really enjoyed having Mark in the pits as well, especially given the fact that he's a Neuroblastoma survivor - making the day even more powerful than in years past. Just last year Mark shot me an e-mail saying that he's heard of my race and wanted to help. Now, he's on the team with me, has a great attitude and is able to hang with us on all but the fastest rides. I'm really proud of him and am looking forward to years of riding together.
Now, it's time for some rest and enjoying the spoils of having Advil as a sponsor of the team. The legs are feeling better and by this weekend I should be back on the bike and enjoying riding again. Until then, however, I'm taking it easy and enjoying my accomplishment and thinking about what I'm going to do next year.
Keep on pedaling and thanks to everyone that supported me in this year's effort,
Eric, you are absolutely AMAZING! Congrats on your wonderful (and very impressive, I might add!) Lumber Jack.
I've signed up for a few runs in Central Park in prep for my own (hopefully longer) run later this year. You've been a great motivation!
Well done! And, how awesome it must have been to have Mark be a part of your team as well.
I'm looking forward to seeing what you all do next year! Hopefully raising even more for CNCF.
Reading this entry makes me want to go out and ride!
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