It was muddy, and rainy. And wet. And muddy. And cold.
The 2017 Lutsen 99er was a long ride, but still fun - in a really weird way.
The start was typical for the 99er. A little colder than usual. And wet, but it seems like it is always wet up here. And of course, the first 1/2 mile is straight downhill. And I mean straight. down. hill.
As usual, I started slow and felt my way around the field. After the big downhill start and about 2 miles on the flats along the Lake Superior shore, the course heads west, back up the hill, for about 1 or 2 miles. For a little guy, I always struggle on this climb. This year was no different. But once we turn right onto the forest service road I find new life and hit the gas.
We pushed in and out of the puddles for the next twenty miles. Smiling, grimacing. I pulled into the first checkpoint with a full head of steam.
In 2016 we had rain, a massive thunderstorm for 90 minutes. The rain was coming in buckets, punctuated with flashes of lightning and claps of thunder. This year there was no thunder, just relentless drizzle. And it was cold. The temp got down to 48 degrees and with all the rain it felt much colder. I heard that several people were even treated for hypothermia.
I got a flat tire at about mile 35, a little more than 1/2 way around the first lap. And I struggled to get it changed with all the mud & mosquitoes. I hoped the Stan's sealant would hold, and gave it a few goes, but every time I put weight on the tire it would blow again. The real cost of the flat was losing touch with the guys I was riding with. In all the flat cost me about 120 places and over 30 minutes. Truth is, the flat was probably my own fault for running with too high pressure.
The cold, rain and flat tire really combined to knock me down. After losing so many places and more importantly, a group to ride with, I became really demoralized and was never able to get my head back into it. That left for a long 60 miles into the finish.
I was glad not to carry too much. Just a water bottle in my cage, one in my handlebar feedbag and another in my jersey. Just wore a long sleeve UA compression shirt with my jersey. Definitely got cold, but layering up didn't seem right either - everything was just going to get immediately wet & caked with mud.
Ended up taking about 50 minutes longer than last year - lost about 35 minutes with the flat tire and 15 just struggling with the conditions and bad headspace.
Like I said, fun in a weird way.
Se la vie.