Monday, July 6, 2015

Lutsen 99er Finally!

Needless to say, it's been a bit of a crazy week.. trying to help nurse Tom back from a bad bike crash that happened last Tuesday morning while on a training ride. No, he didn't get hit by a car, but he did have a seriously nasty wreck that ended in an ambulance ride, a slumber party at the hospital and a fancy new set of stainless steel plates and screws! 

I'll be the first to admit I'm just slightly jealous of all this bad ass metal!  But even more so, I am humbled and amazed by our amazing cycling community.  Thank you for all your prayers and support last week!
Lutsen 99er was a weekend to remember and certainly a weekend that deserves its proper race recap! So I'm gonna try my best.  As many of you know I was pretty jacked up about this weekend for a lot of reasons, but deep down the truth is that I had no idea how I was going to feel on race day.  This was 4 weeks out from Dirty Kanza.  I had taken it really easy for a couple weeks afterwards and although my recent workouts were showing I was ready to rock, it still felt like a bit of a mystery to me. One thing I did have going for me was that once you race your bike for 200 miles....well, 100 miles sounds kind of short.  It felt so weird to not be intimidated by that big triple digit number.  "Just another long day on the bike" I told myself.  Yes, I've fallen off the deep end.

7:30 am race start came pretty quickly, however one of the best things about the Lutsen 99er is our hotel was literally about 200 yards from the start line. Tom and I were able to sleep in a bit longer and have a low stress warm up to the start line.  Race morning there was plenty of buzz in the air and I was soaking in all the energy and truly loving the chance to fist bump and reconnect with all my favorite racing buddies. It was also more than awesome to have my cute parents cheering me on from behind the starting gate, snapping photos, blowing kisses and such!

Photo Credit: Jay Calhoun Photography
I gave Tom a good luck kiss, made my way to the start gate to get a 2nd row spot next to Amber Markey and close behind Ally Stacher.  Soon enough were making our neutral 20mph + roll down the mountain.  A quick left at the bottom and then it wasn't too long before we took the left hand turn to climb 1,000 feet of pavement back up the mountain.  As I predicted the pace was brutal from the start, my quads were in revolt and I started "thinking" more than "racing." I dialed it back a bit and chose to save something for the last 90 miles of the race. I did end up riding my way back into 2nd place for a brief period of time, however today I'm still not sure it was the right decision, and it's left me wondering if I left some minutes on the table on the first climb.  No regrets next time.

The remainder of the race was a mixture of some gnarly, rocky double track and some fast flowing gravel roads.  I enjoyed the constantly changing terrain, but was praying like crazy through each double track section, trying like mad to avoid every single rock. A last minute crisis left me needing to ride tubes for this race and with how many flats I saw I must admit I'm super proud myself for somehow managing to keep those tubes alive!  No Bull in the China shop for this girl!!!

I spent most of the race alongside a pack of dudes, and it was a nice change of pace from The Dirty Kanza where I pretty much rode 200 miles by myself! Early on after the climb I had a blast chatting with some strong female racers Patti, Angie and Denise as we leap frogged one another.  And then around mile 60 or so I met "Daniel" in a Ski Hut jersey. This is probably my favorite thing ever about racing bikes for 100+ miles.  You always find yourself sharing in the suffering with someone... often times someone you just met. Last weekend it was Daniel and we rode together for the last 40 miles finishing just seconds away from each other.  He pulled me when I suffered mid race, I waited for him to fill his bottles,  he waited for me to fill my bottles and then when he dropped his water bottle in the pace line with 15 miles to go I told him "you'll be fine", even though deep down I thought "yikes, you might be screwed!" 

Daniel and I on the final climb!
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Jay Calhoun Photography
Finally I could smell the barn and we were making our way through the final 5 miles of the course which is probably my favorite 5 miles of the entire race as it's filled with sweet climbs and technical singletrack.  The final climb to the finish line is epic, cruel, mean, awesome, rad and brutal all in one.  It's 350 feet straight up the Lutsen mountain and climbs right underneath a bridge full of people. Hearing the roar of the crowd absolutely took my breath away, I heard people yelling my name (my brother mostly!) and it seriously brought tears to my eyes!  I was beyond stoked to be riding my way to a podium at what turned out to be a pretty strong field! Huge congrats to Ally for the win, and Amber on 2nd!

Eeek!  That's me on a podium with Steve Tilford!
Then I got to cheer on Tom to his finish line.  Tom broke 8 hours on his Salsa Bucksaw fat bike and claims to have also won the award for most PB&J sandwich's eaten. I ate zero.

Afterwards we celebrated with my cute little niece and nephew at the park.  What an awesome race and what an awesome weekend.  Huge props to Lifetime for putting on a first class event. After riding gravel all spring it was really amazing to have fully stocked aid stations ever 10-15 miles.  Such amazing volunteers. Such a kick ass finish line and even better race awards....Since I also won my age group....I won two axes!!!!  Time to go chop some stuff.
New tank from Lift Cyclewear - buy local Mpls!
Meanwhile, as if there wasn't enough stoke....I'm pretty excited about the combination of these Hed Ardennes Plus Wheels and this custom Fulton Racing All-City Macho King Frame....let the bike building begin, eeek!