|photo by Andrea Tucker|
A mile into the second lap and my contacts were giving me fits. Two times one of my contacts came out and was stuck to my sunglasses. I was blinking constantly and having a hard time seeing. The frequent and time-consuming stops quickly put me from being ahead of- to behind schedule. That’s when I made the decision to throw out any finish-time expectations and to take in the experience.
Soon I was looking for the manikin head. I planned on taking full-advantage of the aid station services. I want to give a big Thank You to everyone that volunteered. All of you were incredibly up-beat, helpful, encouraging, and friendly. That became my favorite part of the race. I could be riding for miles alone and isolated but I always knew that if I made it to the aid station that smiles and friendly faces would greet me. From there I could depart with other riders and be guaranteed company for at least a little while.
Without the pressure of the clock I started enjoying the ride. Don’t get me wrong, there were times of suffering, agony, and I questioned my sanity more times than I can count. But I wasn’t worried about trying to pass anyone or getting dropped.
I met a lot of amazing and inspirational people riding Lumberjack. Everyone had a story to share. The camaraderie I witnessed was like no other event I’ve done. Everyone I encountered put helping others have a positive race experience over their own finish time.
The back end of the second lap stretched longer than my memory. The three big climbs I had noted the first time around were now about five to six big climbs. Eventually I mashed my way to the screaming single-track descent.
I loved ripping down the trail when a giant, oversized green leaf dropped from the heavens and suctioned itself across the face of my sunglasses. I was blinded nary a mere quarter inch across the very top of my field-of-vision. I did not want to take a hand off my bars going near 30 miles per hour down bumpy, sandy single track. I’ve done that before and it resulted in a very bad crash that still gives me night-sweats.
I stuck out my lower lip and tried blowing the leaf free. That only resulted in scootching the leaf upwards and blinding me completely. This is how I was going to die. I was at peace with my Maker, I only regretted that I would not be around for my kids. I took a steadying breath and initiated launch sequence: heavy feet, weight over center bracket, neutral grip . . . and go! I stealthily removed my hand from the grip and swiped the leaf like a ninja. I would live to ride the third and final lap.
|Jim's wound after trying to fly like Super Man.|
Our friend Jim was not as lucky. He noted the “Caution” sign at the top of the hill and started babbling on “Caution, eh? What’s so dangerous about this . . .” then clipped his handle bar. I hear he now holds the unofficial record for human unassisted flying distance. Nevertheless, Jim was able to get back on the bike and finish with a very respectable time.
I was experiencing early signs of heat stroke and dehydration: goose bumps, chills, and nausea. While I wasn’t feeling hot, I knew that I needed to cool my body temperature and drink more fluids. While I was at the aid station I shoved ice cubes down my bra and in my jersey pockets. Rob gave me the update; everyone had slowed down significantly from the heat.
When I couldn’t clasp the sternum strap across my chest, I knew I was experiencing some other physical ailment that I had managed to push from conscious. I made note of this development and told myself to take it easy. When I got to the top of the last climb in the first section and I just didn’t feel right, I decided to sit for a few minutes.
Because everyone at LJ100 was amazing, someone stopped to make sure I was okay. I assured him I was but he insisted on giving me his PayDay bar before he continued on. That was the best food I had eaten all day. Feeling renewed from my break I got back on my bike and continued on to the aid station.
During every hard effort I felt like I was suffocating. Later I learned that the dirt and sand I inhaled had irritated my throat and caused “esophageal spasms.” Basically it felt like I had a giant pill stuck in the base of my throat. It lasted for three days beyond the race.
I took another long break at the aid station. There were a handful of other riders hanging out, enjoying the company, food and drinks. It was so comfortable that I was in danger of staying there all afternoon. Someone had other plans for me however, that’s when it started raining. It was time to get moving.
The last 15 miles were the longest I have ever ridden. They stretched out into eternity. It was the only segment that I rode entirely alone. I arrived at mid-point of the last sustained climb and I had to stop. I was simply overcome. This place shall now be known as Contemplation Point because I talked to several other first-time Lumberjacks who bewildering stopped at the same location to collect their thoughts. We were all so close to the finish and yet we could not go on.
This all started with accepting a challenge from a friend. It ended up being so much more. It’s hard for me to put into words what this experience has meant to me.
Eventually I gathered myself, got on the bike for the last time that day and continued to the finish line. All of my friends were there to greet me.
|Crossing the finish line.|
There are so many people in my life that I could not have done this race without. I need to thank my daughter Sage and son Bear who inspire me to be more. My parents for being encouraging and always willing to help just so I could go on a bike ride. My husband Chad who was there when he said he would be. Jim. Pit Crew Masters: Rob, Jeff, and Levi. Dane and the cowbell. And Michelle for throwing down the gauntlet.
|Michelle finishing! Go Michelle!|
After the race . . .
I went up North with some of my friends to Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear National Park.
We had a condo right on Lake Michigan Beach. Every morning I walked the beach looking for "treasures": petoskey stones, beach glass, etc. And of course just to enjoy being on the Lake. It was incredibly peaceful.
There were thousands of rocks on the beach--very different from where I live where the beach is pure sand. On the last morning I was walking along and I noticed a rock peaking through the sand, the crashing waves were slowly unearthing it. It had some strange marks on the top. I stopped and dug it out thinking it might be a fossil. But it wasn't.
Someone had written "ENDURE" on the face of the stone.
It was the perfect treasure to take home from my LJ100 experience.
> Check back because I plan on doing a write-up on our awesome trip to Glen Arbor!