Rarely does it make sense to say that a thing was both the hardest, and yet funnest thing you've done. It takes a certain sort of individual to put those two phrases together in once sentence. A tad demented. A little bit off. A glutton for punishment. This is a story of being under prepared. And lucky. Really lucky.
See, I signed up to do this race early in the year when Tim and Joe first announced it. One hundred spots filled up in a matter of hours. I attribute this to two things. One; it was free. Really! Tim and Joe are strong proponents of the grass roots, minimal support[Joe has completed the Great Divide and also puts on the Trans Wisconsin, both free events]. the other reason is its Chequamegon, the king of Midwest single track. They were promising at least 80% single track content. That can't be bad, right? Back then, this event made all the sense in the world. I'm not really the most talented rider out there.
I'm a consistent mid pack finisher in nearly any race I do. Cyclocross or Mountain bike. Always midpack. Oh, I'll have an occasional good race, but overall I'm not particularly fast. I can ride pretty well technically, but I know folks that can ride my pants off that way too!
So I registered for the Chequamegon 100[AND the Lumberjack 100, more on that later], it was early in the year, and of course I could train and be ready for this, right?
I made it down to Austin, TX for a week of riding and racing. That would be a fantastic way to kick off the training. That and riding the Pugs a bunch over the winter months. Should be a good start, right? Sure was.
Problem was, that start wasn't really followed up with anything...Oh I rode my bike all right. Got plenty of road miles in. All in little spurts of 40 miles or less though. Oh, wait! One ride DID get over 60 miles. And it was a headwind the whole way. That should prepare me quite well.
Many of you who read this also know that I own and run a bike shop. This certainly takes up a bit of time to run. Then there's the family commitments too. But this is about bike riding. In the spring, EVERYONE wants to get out and ride, and its my job to make sure folks are able to do that. Spring hit, and here I am busy as all get out, repairing and selling bikes. Riding time took a dive. So I rode when I could.
So the fateful weekend arrives, I find Jeff to graciously cover the store for me and I drive up Friday night to Nater's inlaw's cabin near Spooner. Get there at 11ish after closing the store and leaving town at 6:30. Wake up at 4:15 to get ready and drive up for the 7am start time.
The start went well enough until about 3 miles in. Damned Shimano chain I had on the bike[converted to 1x9 for the race. Not doing something like that on a SS. I'll leave that to the crazies] snapped on me. Never broken a SRAM chain. Never. Why I put the Shimano on I don't know. Thankfully Andy came riding by and had a SRAM link that got me going. From that point on, Andy, Nate and I rode on. We also ran into a few guys from Mpls that were comfortable with out pace too. I think we had a group that changed from 5 to 10 depending on how strong riders were feeling.
The first section of 10 or so miles of single track was a private network that dumped us onto the Birkie trail until we were able to hook up with the Makwa trail for the next 30ish miles. The Makwa was an amazing peice of single track. You could frequently here comments of "THIS is what single track should be like" as we were hauling through the woods. I mean really. The trails there were just fantastic.
After the Makwa system, we were directed on to some forest service roads for about 10 miles. Telemark Road and Rock Lake Road are what you would think would be restful. Problem is that hills on the roads were actually HILLS. On trail, the route is coutoured, so you're never really sure you're climbing that far. Much easier to climb on trail vs. on the road. So that took a ton of energy out of us. The road section took us up to the Namekegon single track loop and the half way point for the full hundo.
We took a nice 15 minute break at the Namekegon Town Hall. Ate a couple peanutbutter/nutella/banana/crasin/honey roll ups and deli sammies. Then got going again. I tell ya, it was hard moving after that break. Took a bit for the legs to get back in the motion of the ride.
The riding was all super fantastic, but it was all starting to look like this to my brain:
After Telemark, we got to ride the Rock Lake Loop. Very appropriately named. Attached to that is the Hildebrand Loop that for me, was where my brain shut down. I simply couldn't handle ANY more input. This was mile 75 or so, of which, the predominant content was rather intense single track.
It was here where I stopped. Made the decision to ride in on the road and took this:
On probably the prettiest section of singletrack the whole day.
The road ride back in was long, but I'm glad I did it. Nate and I finished the loop together for about 85 miles. Something I'm very happy with. I'm glad I had the presence of mind to call the ride before I hurt myself. Or my bike. I'll for sure be back for next year.
Stats from the GPS:
9.4 mph average speed
34.7 max speed
8:58 riding time
10:50 total time
32.45 uphill miles
40.29 downhill miles
11.3 flat miles
11.5% average uphill grade
10.6% average downhill grade
6:23 average pace
Listening to: Thunderstorm! So nice....