Chicken Leg 100

In the words of John Weller, "Another Day at the Office" 


Many moons ago, Charles came home for a ride and talked about how his friend who leads Dirt Church, Tim, wanted to have an epic ride to celebrate a birthday milestone this year. He was calling it "Chicken Leg 100" after a Friday doughnut group ride where they would get chicken leg doughnuts (pictured below). The idea was they would do the Chicken Leg Ride of all Chicken Leg Rides and it would be amazing. 

Chicken Leg Doughnuts 

I wanted in on this ride, very badly. Although I am not fast enough to keep up with the Dirt Church group, they do the type of riding I love -- adventure riding on non-trails trails and willing to go far to see and do awesome things. Chicken Leg 100 was a dream ride for me, a great adventure, and fortunately Tim opened it up for anyone to join his birthday celebration (as long as they had a bail out option) and even provided transportation for people and bikes to the start of the ride an hour and a half away at Tippy Dam. Wow - thank you Tim for the most dialed birthday party ever! 

For months, Chicken Leg 100 on Friday June 21st seemed so far off. Charles and I had this wedding to plan, we had travel, I had significant health issues (addressed and doing much much much better). We had other events we signed up for too that took precedence -- the Epic Bike fest in Cable and Lumberjack 100 (two weeks and one week before Chicken Leg respectively). I knew Chicken Leg 100 would be the hardest event of the year for me and I was hoping/praying that some combination of healing, training, and the other races would put me in a position to make it through. 

In a surreal passage of time, the next thing it was June 21st 4:30 AM and an alarm went off, and I turned to Charles and said "it's Chicken Leg 100 day!" We quickly got our things together, ate our tempeh-egg burritos and made it down to the meet point to catch the buses at 4:50 AM. There were probably 60ish people at the start and by 5:15 AM, we were rolling out (with chicken leg doughnuts, courtesy of Tim!) to Tippy Dam. 

The bus ride was that awkward combination of wanting to talk to a bunch of cool cyclists but also, it's 5 AM and none of us are awake. But around 6:30 AM we got to the start point, got our bikes, took a big group selfie, and ... no start whistle, just ... start riding home! 

the start of a long day! 

Within a mile I made my first wrong turn by missing the North Country Trail (NCT) trail and continuing on the road. This would be the first of about 300 wrong turns of the day. Tim's vision for the Super Chicken Leg was that we would follow the bikeable portion of the NCT back to Holiday Hills (near VASA where we live in Traverse City). However, the NCT is better known for being a great hiking trail than a mountain bike one, which means the riding would be steep, swampy, rooty, sudden turns, steps, etc. at times. Yay! 

One of many bridges

I started off the morning slow and steady -- many people passed me on a hilly but flowy 12 mile section of the trail. My goal was just to keep it light and easy, no crashes and no real effort till the last 10 miles or so. I had a water vest with 1.5L on and about a 1000 calories of my new favorite snack, jalepeno cheeze its mixed with sour gummy worms, basically rocket fuel. 

Ty, one of the picnickers! 

After the first trail section, we had the "easiest" part of the day with about 20 miles of gravel and a sandy out and back climb. This was a necessary re-route around some hiking only NCT trail, but gave us some quality time on gravel forest service roads. Through this part, I was in and out of groups, sometimes alone and sometimes chatting with other people. 

Riding with Charles a bit after skipping the aid station

We made it through the town of Mesick (the only town the route went through) and then hit the first aid station (informally set up, it wasn't clear where exactly they would be or what would be there). With more than half my water left, a long line at the water cooler, and having seen a bunch of campgrounds with pumps before this point, I thought I'd skip this aid station and just keep rolling. [Cue dramatic music] 

I soon lost Charles after a bit of gravel and, after another wrong turn, we started on the "adventure" portion of the trail, which would extend from mile 30 to about mile 80. The initial part of overgrown swamp land was a bit of a shock to the system. I thought for sure I was going to pick up 1000 ticks in the swamp (spoiler: picked up none?!) 

follow "the trail" 

Although the most challenging section (up, down, on/off bike), this was the most rewarding part of the day. It was quiet and remote - I heard birds' wings flapping, the deep croaking of a bullfrog, smelled white pine, rolled through daisy and thistle fields, and many butterflies fluttered around me through the late morning and afternoon.

 Most of the time it was just me, enjoying the sounds of nature and thumbing my way along the Manistee River, wondering what the next bend or climb would hold. But I did start leap frogging with a group of men (well, two groups of men) who I nicknamed "the Picnickers". OMG I've never seen anything like it. It was a group of men, all way stronger and way better mountain bikers than me, but they were just having picnics all day, stopping to lay in fields and pick flowers, pulling over for snacks every 5 miles, Nick at one point encouraging me to "Lo, stop, smell this, this plan smells amazing" (ok, I concede, it did smell great but it 100% looked like weed). 

John Thoreau would have loved this

It wasn't all easy and nice fields. A lot of hike-a-bike, washed out trail, steep non-rideable climbs and drops, and bridges that were a wet piece of 12" x 48" piece of wood across a muddy stream (I fell off one of these, soaking myself in mud. Scottie (my mountain bike) was completely unscathed). I was glad I wore a long sleeve jersey because there were a lot of brambles and poison ivy (Erin, I have no idea how you rode in a sports bra all day!). 


Going Up

By the time I made it to the aid station at mile 52 (no campgrounds between mile 30-50) I was totally out of water and needed to put food back in my top tube bag. I just saw the picnickers leaving as I pulled in, so I made a quick stop (thank you volunteers!), filled up water, found my "heavenly hunks" in my bag (!!! 700 calories worth of dense granola bar) and was ready to go again. The volunteers at the stop told me I was the first woman through, which was cool, but I really just wanted to catch the picnickers. #motivation 

The miles cranked away. There were more aid stations (2 or 3) and I got more water at one and a cookie, but otherwise I soldiered on, passing the picnickers at every aid station. Nick would try to ask me why I wouldn't enjoy the day and have fun (in my head "because if I picnicked like you all did, I would literally not finish. Turtles don't get picnics!"). 

Plus, I was having my own variation of fun. In this leg of Chicken Leg (miles 60-80, about 8-10 hours in) I went into a zen state. Sometimes in these long rides when I hit these states, I somewhat hallucinate and I talk with loved ones that have passed on. It's like I can hear their voices again, and it only happens sometimes on these very long rides. I had some great conversations (not crazy, I promise!) with them, like my Grandpa who died over 10 years ago, and told him about Charles and how similar they both were. 

After about 6 more leap frogs with the picnickers, I passed them at Muncie Park (~18 miles to go? home territory) but then two caught me in the woods. However I watched them make a wrong turn (I did try to tell them they were going the wrong way) and hustled my way back through VASA (definitely familiar territory again!) and finished around 6:40 PM, just under 12 hours with a grand total of 7.5 minutes off the bike the entire day. Wow! 

The chicken leg hat 

Did I beat the picnickers? No! They were there at the finish already, breaking my heart. They took an alternate way back! As Ty said after "apologies for all the picnicking and cheating" haha. I wouldn't have it any other way - it brought a big smile to see them and "try" to stay ahead as long as I could throughout the day. 

Very proud of have finished this event and although my body feels like it went through a tumble cycle in the dryer with some bowling balls and hiking boots, I would recommend it. A very unique experience and I'm grateful for all the friends, volunteers, and especially for Tim for making it happen. 

the chicken leg 100! 

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