On paper, Lumberjack is one of the “easier” NUE races. With no major climbs and just 3 laps of 33 miles of fun single track, it can look like a cake walk, but it’s not. Lumberjack is hard. Really hard. With 90 miles or so of single track, you never get a break. With the race just around the corner, here are some hopefully helpful tips to make Michigan’s most famous 100miler just a little bit easier.
In addition to preparing with hours and hours of training, make sure your bike is just as ready. Make sure your chain/cassette/chain ring are in great condition, tires are perfect with new sealant, and brakes have new pads. If there is something that you’ve been holding off fixing, it will break out there. Most importantly of all, don’t wait until the last minute. You’ll rub your local bike shop the wrong way if you show up Friday morning asking for a shock rebuild and a replacement Chris King freehub body.
Lumberjack 100 is somewhat unique in terms of NUE races because instead of one giant lap, you do three. This presents some pluses and minuses. The down side is, like the Siren’s Song in The Odyssey, the thought of passing the starting area fully stocked with cold beer, camping chairs and team tents can draw you in for a DNF. The first pass is rather easy, the second pass takes some willpower.
The up side of passing this area multiple times in the race is it provides an opportunity to fuel up, re-stock on supplies, lube your chain and chamois (preferably with different products), and fix anything that broke on the previous lap. It is good practice to bring a bag with an extra kit, rain gear, some tools, first aid, spare tire, a few CO2’s and tubes. Hopefully you’ll never touch it, but it’s there in case you slash a tire after an epic downpour it will be there. If you have a cooler, stock it with lots of ice and bottles for each lap. I prefer to ride with a new set of dry gloves each lap as 8 hours of sweat will make for some beat up hands.
When you see someone else eating, eat. In 100 miles, you can easily burn 10,000 calories, and it’s almost impossible to stay in the positive. Same thing can be said for hydration. If you want to make it to the third lap without feeling like this “stupid race” will never end, you need to do your best to start water and fuel intake early and often. Once you go past this point, it’s hard to come back.
And don’t try anything fancy/new. Race day is no time to experiment on fuel. If you normally only eat granola bars and gels for races, trying to mimic your buddy’s “highly successful” McDonald’s McDoubles and “carb-rich” Budlight only plan may not be the wisest (although if it works for him, whom am I to judge). Have food that is light on the stomach that packs more than just simple carbs. Gels are great for a pick me up, but your stomach will start rejecting them when the miles add up. Real food like sandwiches are the better long term choice.
Get In and Out:
The first NUE race I did, I looked at my moving time vs finish time, and it was over an hour difference. This time was spent recovering, eating, and relaxing. That is a lot of time that could have been spent spinning at 4mph, adding to the overall goal of finishing 100 miles. When you watch the top guys go, they are in and out in under a minute. While this may be a bit extreme for someone just looking to finish, anything more than 5 minutes makes getting up and rolling harder and harder.
Take your time: Lumberjack is won over 7 hours, not the first 7 minutes. If you find yourself going Iceman Pace with your heart rate pegged, back off. My best NUE race ever, I just rode like it was a Sunday stroll until a 2/3rds into the race, followed by passing every single speeder but one in the final 30 miles. Being a jerk 4 miles in because the guy in front of you made you put a foot down is not going to make a world a difference in your race, and chances are you’ll ride with him the rest of the race anyways which makes for an awkward 8 hours.
I’ve done around 15 NUE races and never once have I crossed the finish line and said that was easy. One of the top NUE Pro’s was quoted as saying there’s never an NUE race that he hasn’t wanted to quit at least once during the 100 miles. Know that everyone you’re riding with is probably feeling the same way. Just keep spinning (and eating and drinking) and soon enough you’ll get a coveted Lumberjack Finisher’s Patch.