I tell ya what; I honestly don’t know how I lived without GPS in the cars all these years. Friday I plugged the Lat and Long coordinates of the LumberJack 100 located in the Manistee National Forest in Michigan, up there between Grand Rapids and Traverse City and pointed the Jeep in the direction of the arrows. 7 hours later we arrived at the Big M ski area in Michigan. No maps, no planning, no worries!
We saw Ross and Tif as we pulled in and went off to pre-ride the first 7 miles to see what the self titled Big M’fer is all about. Fun, smooth flowing single track with small pits of sand thrown in to keep ya on your toes is what it is. No huge ½ hour climbs, no rocks, hardly any roots. Connie was digging the flow of the trail! After riding we went to the cabin and then on to the local inn for sum grub. Brett rolled in around 10:30 as Ross & I were making last minute race prep. The one last minute change I made per Ross’s story of last year’s race was cutting back on the thickness of the two hour bottle of Hammer stuff. It made perfect sense per my past experience (not being able to digest Hammer stuff during lasts year 90 degree 160 mile ride across Indiana), race day was supposed to be in the 80’s so I thought that strategy would prevent any nutrition disaster.
5:15am strolled around mighty fast - get up, eat and go. Ross and I rode to the venue to warm up a bit. The race started down the road from the single track at 7:00am. 240+/- racers jocking for position. I got in the top 20 and was witness to the most spastic riding I’ve ever seen my super smooth calm teammate race. The start was straight up a small but mighty hill. What made it so mighty were the troughs of sand leading up to the climb and the heaps of sand on the bottom, steepest part of the hill. We entered double file and then someone fell. This threw Ross into the deepest of the sand and he was all over the place, pinging and knocking off riders trying to maintain some kind of momentum. Then he jumped off and back on only to hear his drive train scream with pain and pop and Ross was off swarming into yet another uncontrollable sand pit and nearly taking out another handful of riders. I held up a bit and he jumped in and then we hit the base of the climb. I guess not one rider made the lower portion of the climb, all dismounted and ran up the wall of sand according to Tif. Ross and I made it to the single track in the top 15ish. As far as I could see we were all pacing along the single track. I was tucked in behind Ross and Ernesto and they were behind a few other riders. I was content and just eased into the pace, but then spastic boy wasn’t finished, we where on a downhill and he decided to pass Ernie on a crazy section, Ross steps it up, pushes down on the cranks and swerves left into the high ferns & grass, sticks popping and flying Ross has nowhere to go as Ernie was on the rear tire of the guy in front of him, they slam elbows a bit, I’m thinking what the F you doing Ross. I thought for sure Ernie was going to hold his line but I guess he figured safe then sorry and finally let Ross in. We continued tempo for ¾ a lap then on the open field climb the pack split. I backed off a bit, content with the start and my position I decided to race my race and see what happens.
After watching spastic boy, the rest of the race was status quo and every bit as normal as a 100 miler could be. It only had 8000 feet or so of climbing but that was very deceiving because the course layout was rather flat. You were constantly working and hammering the flats, pedaling most of the time, trying to not ping off any trees at high speed, there was never any real recovery. The only issues I had was sever lower back pain on lap 2 and 3. I figured it was due to the tight hamstrings but more then likely it was the pounding speed of the course and my week core strength. My hands also blistered up good, but that’s what I get for not riding much single track this year and conditioning my hands to 100 miles of singletrack. I did hit the same tree twice, so hard the first time I really thought I had broken my carbon handlebars, but all was good!
I dig the format of this race, it’s not a 100 mile single loop but 4 - 25 mile laps. Its nice having access to my awesome pit crew - my lovely, smiling and encouraging wife each lap. She finds ways to inspire me to finish faster – like... “hurry up, the bugs are eat’n me alive” so the sooner I could finish… her suffering would end with mine! Also I like not having to rely on aid stations for 100 milers, you just never know if your stuff is gonna be there? I took enough Hammer Nutrition and water to get me through each lap and that strategy worked to perfection for this race. I really did not feel any super lows, or have any nasty stomach issues associated with heat and fatigue. It was also great to be able to gauge your lap times to see how the suffering was relating to previous laps.
18th place #37 Kevin Daum 1:46 3:47 5:55 8:07
1:46 lap 1
2:01 lap 2
2:08 lap 3
2:12 lap 4I tried to stay consistent with my lap times. I was shooting for a under 8 hour finish, once again missed it by a couple of minutes but considering I’ve been off the bike 4 of the past 6 weeks with pulled hamstrings I’m glad I reached my goal of a top 20 finish. Shoot, the rest and recovery probably helped more the hurt! I’ve been trying to figure out ways to get faster and break the top 15 or maybe even the top 10. But when I analyze the results and rider profiles I should be sit back, grab a beer and be happy for what I got. Do I want to sacrifice any more then I already have for the sake of a few more positions - F YA! Sure I could lose 10 more pounds but then I’d be skinny rib cage meth dude. Can’t do anything about cutting down my 6’4” size. I can train and ride more but I'd be stuck with the guilt of leaving my son Landon and wife Connie and wondering if they'll pack up and leave one day. All the cycling magazines are reporting about the abuse of drugs in our sport, maybe that’s the way to get faster, all the cool kids are doing it! I could quit my full time job and have time for training, riding, family, fatherhood, but I don’t think the $500 first place prizes for some of these events could be close to supporting your trip costs plus entry fees let alone costs of living and raising a family.
It is what it is and I’ll take it.