Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lutsen Ninety-Niner

We went up to Lutsen seeking some fun, a bit of excitement, and a little suffering to go along with it. I guess our venture was a success because we found all the a fore mentioned and then some.

"The Crew" L to R: Dale "The Irishman", my wife Patti, Crazy Bob, Kenny "The Cook", Mr. "I'm Going to the Leadville 100" Storm, and Turbo

After picking up our race packets Friday evening, we all gathered on the deck for some food and a couple of cold beers.
At the start there was a good deal of excitement and nervous energy. I had the usual pre-race jitters and just wanted to get the show on the road. Bob, Dale, Danny, and Turbo did the 99er and Kenny and myself opted for the 39er, which turned out to be 40.5 miles. The race went well and I was very familiar with the course having ridden these roads and trails many times before.

The first seven miles or so where on pavement. We started by going downhill from the ski resort to Hwy 61 along the North Shore. We rode Hwy 61 for about a mile and a half before turning left off 61 and onto the lower portion of the Caribou Trail. This was the beginning a 5 mile climb to where the Caribou Trail turns to gravel and the 99ers and 39ers would part ways.

The 99ers turned east on gravel and headed off towards Devil's Track Lake. Those of us doing the 39er continued on up the Caribou Trail to Clara Lake Road and a very nice stretch of fast rolling gravel. We then turned off on Pancore Lake Road. This road is notorious in my memory for the vicious deer flies I encountered on a ride there last year. Pancore is a real rocky and rough stretch of road, but I made good time none the less. This part of the course took us to the Sawbill Trail and the first aide station for the 39er. I stopped briefly to take in a couple of Fig Newtons before hitting the Honeymoon Trail and climbing to the high point of the entire course. Honeymoon Trail is another fast stretch of rolling gravel and my legs were feeling really good. My problem was complacency and finding myself just enjoying the ride and my surroundings. More on this in a bit.
Kenny "The Saddleless Amigo"

We turned off Honeymoon Trail on headed south on Barker Road towards north of Lutsen Mountain and the finish line. At mile thirty five we had one last aide stations which I just blew past and then we entered what I call "The Dismal Swamp", a low lying wet area that seemed to stretch endlessly and was a total momentum breaker. For me and many others this is where the race slowed to a crawl. After the swamp we hit a couple of very wet rutted climbs before we made the traverse of Mystery Mountain. This part of the course was no better...wet, muddy, rutted, slippery wet roots everywhere. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse they did. I was fortunate to make it through unscathed, but really lost a lot of time. Kenny was even less fortunate. Having almost made through the toughest section one of his seatpost bolts snapped leaving him saddleless. Not the way one would hope to finish a race, but he finished none the less.

Nearing the end of the Mystery Mountain Traverse you could hear the Poplar River and it really was a beautiful sound because you knew the end was approaching and at this point I didn't really care how difficult the final climb to the finish was. As a matter of fact, I was looking forward to tackling the climb. It was just after crossing the Poplar River and reaching the base of the climb that I encountered Kenny pushing his bike and thinking...WTF??? I had to hop off my bike and push the first section of the climb, but was able to make it up riding the rest of the way. Kenny and I exchanged a few brief pleasantries, before I rode on to the top and the finish line.

After the race I realized one thing, my competitive spirit is lacking. It seems that I was more interested in the ride and enjoying myself rather than pushing my limits and trying to beat others. In fact, it was actually very difficult for me to not stop and take photos at several points during the race. I guess I love to ride just to ride.

Bob powering up the final climb to finish the 99er with a time of 7:35 despite the fact that the group he rode with actually added about 12 miles to their ride after going off course about six miles.

Mr. Storm finishing his first ever mountain bike race with a time of 8:29. Way to go Danny!!

Bob and Kenny enjoying post race beers and conversation.

Danny Storm is going to Leadville

99 miles on the Pugsley "Ironman"

Until next year...

I should mention the fact that we all had so much fun that all of us have already registered for next year's race on June 29th 2013. Looking forward to it:)

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