Lutsen 39er 2011 Race Report

Yesterday, June 11th, I was joined by 2 unicyclists (Joe Lind and Bob Clark) and 80 bikers for a combo 39 and 99 mile mixed terrain race starting in Lutsen, MN. They didn’t have a separate uni category, but we learned Friday night checking in that we were the only 3 in the 39er single speed category. The three of us rode 36’s with 150’s and a brake, not knowing how much of the course was road or similar surface and how much would be too technical to ride. I also discovered that my camera stopped working right before the start, which was a bit disappointing.

The race started on pavement, with a half mile of flat ground, followed by a mile of downhill. When I hit the downhill, I could just barely see the last biker twisting a corner out of view. At the bottom of the hill Joe realized he still had his seat at off-road height so he stopped to put that up a bit, where Bob and I pushed on. At the turn for the big uphill (~ mile 3) Joe caught up and Bob, notorious for flying up hills, started to push away. Within a mile of the big uphill starting Joe and I never saw Bob again. I learned later that he saw a bike he thought he could catch, and went for it. The next 7.5 miles was sheepish uphill, shallow uphill, and a tiny bit of flat still on paved roads where Joe would push into a 50 meter lead on the steep parts, and I would win back on the shallow/flat sections.

At Mile 11 we turned onto a nicely grated gravel road that was a mix of flat and uphill. At this point Joe and I were keeping each other at about a 12 mph pace on the flats and shallow uphills, which we kept up until we hit the harder stuff, much later. Joe and I stayed within about 100 meters of each other the rest of the race. When we got to the first aid station, mile 15, we were informed that Bob had left about 5 minutes before we got there. I can say now that we got to that rest stop at about a 8.6 mph pace, including about 1000 feet of climbing. The black flies at the rest stop were very bad, so we only stayed for 2-3 minutes, packing extra food and picking up water. The gravel road still seemed to be all uphill, with a few flat ground breaks. Around mile 17 we were tailed by an ambulance for a few minutes before it decided to pass and wait at the next corner.

At Mile 20 we hit the next turn, onto another gravel road, again seemingly all uphill. This one lasted only about a mile, turning at 21 onto a logging road. Initially it was about the same as the gravel, but quickly turned into mild double-track and got worse. There were sections of loose rocks, embedded rocks, steep and loose uphills (for a 36’er, anyways), and sand just deep enough to sink into. It was hard enough that I fell at the top of a couple of the hills, and we were down to a much less stellar pace. All the while asking “When do we get to some downhills?” At mile 24 (99er mile 50) is when we started seeing long course riders, and they were flying the other way. The lead group was still about 6, with 4-6 riders still within a half mile. The logging road gradually shifted back towards being a nice gravel road.

At mile 30 we hit the second rest stop. I was feeling tired, but not as tired as I expected. According to the split (which was recorded as we left) we were still around an 8.4 mph pace. We hung out food/watering up and chatting with a couple straggling 99er riders before hitting the road again, back to nice gravel with a disproportionate amount of uphill. Around mile 34 I started to cramp a little, so I took an extra break to stretch and eat/drink extra, hoping that would solve it. It did, for awhile. Around mile 36 there was about a mile straight of shallow downhill followed by a bit of flat and then back to the uphill. At this point I checked my watch, we were about 4:25 minutes in. Only 3 miles left, we could do this in 5 hours still! When we hit the uphill, Joe and I were cramping where we could ride as long as it was slowly and we didn’t have to stand to climb the hills. After walking a climb neither of us made (due to cramping) Joe said “I’m not bad, but I feel like my legs could lock up at any minute,” Which I followed up with “yeah, I know that feeling” And trying to mount. Upon launching, my left (push off) leg did lock up, and I howled a bit from the pain, definitely not staying on.

After some stretching we managed to get up and riding again, only to hit the xc ski trail a mile later. It was about a mile of flat, mud pitted terrain that I might have had a chance at riding fresh, but with the cramping was definitely not going to happen. We walked almost the whole thing, riding a few 100 meter sections when we could. Every mount was hard on my left calf at this point, and I started launching from my heel, instead of the ball of my foot. Harder, but a little less painful. The last mile was still on ski trail, but it was more like loose double-track, just shallow enough uphill to be ridable with the cramping. The finish was on a flat, smooth piece of gravel road, but I didn’t have it in me to do the 20 mph sprint to the finish like I wanted, so I settled with a mosey. We made it! Now where’s the salty food? Here, take my timing chip so I don’t forget and have to pay for it.

Bob finished with the bike he managed to catch on the big uphill, with a respectable time of 4:16:53. Joe and I just missed my goal of 5 hours, at 5:07:03:60. I beat Joe by 30 hundredths! Joe and I averaged about 7.3 mph, where Bob managed 9.3 mph. Even though it ended/started in the same place, I cannot figure out where all the downhill was. It seem like at least 3/4 of the ride was uphill.

Afterwards we hung out, cheering on some of the 99 milers that finished early in the pack, got some real food and drove the 5 hours home.

Course Map;

I also found a rather poor video of the start. It was a chip - timed race, so the exact crossing wasn’t too important;

Nice ride and good write-up. Sounds like a good 36er course.

Congrats on finishing and great write up :smiley:

I’ve had that same experience. I’d ride gental Muni and it felt like a slight uphill. Later I’d ride the same bit the other way and again felt like slight uphill of about the same steepness.

Thanks. Yes, definitely a good course for a 36. While it was billed as a mountain bike race, our version was more like a 30 mile road ride with 10 miles of mild off road/mud in the middle. After talking with a couple of the 99er finishers after the race it sounded like we’d have been way over our heads on the long route, due to more than just the 10 hour time limit.

Trolling on twitter I found a few pictures, including this one of me just after the start line.


Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share it with us. One of these days I’ll be able to do the longer distances.