The National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series is beginning its fifth season. The series consists of eight 100-mile off-road endurance mountain bike races across the United States. If you enjoy doing long races, or if you are a XC racer looking for a new challenge, the NUE Series might be just the right choice.
This will be my fourth year doing the NUE Series. It actually should be my fifth, but a bad injury during the first year of the series prevented me from doing any of the events that year. The first two years I did the series, I competed in the men’s open class with a geared mountain bike. In 2007, I finished the series in 5th overall and the next year finished in 8th overall in 2008. Last year, I decided to do the singlespeed class for something different and I ended up winning the overall series in that class. For 2010, my plan is to defend my 2009 NUE Series Singlespeed Championship and make a run for the top of the podium again.
I raced seven of the eight individual NUE Races in 2009. This year I am going to do all eight. From my three previous years of doing the series, I have learned a lot about how to prepare for the events and also how to race them. Additionally, I have become very familiar with the courses used for these events and what to expect at each race.
Each race of the series is unique from the others, but all of them are certainly difficult to do and challenging in their individual ways. The 8 race NUE Series starts in April and ends on Labor Day Weekend, but four of the races are held in the time frame between the middle of July to the middle of August. In case you are curious about doing one or more of these races this year, I have written a brief summation about each of them below.
The first race of the series for the past 3 years has been the Cohutta 100 in Tennessee. This race has about 35 mile of singletrack with about 20 miles at the beginning of the race and the rest of it at the end of the 100-mile loop. The remainder of the course is on backcountry fire roads. With approximately 65 miles of fire roads, the Cohutta is one of the fastest 100-mile races in the series, but it still very challenging because it boast over 12000 feet of climbing in the mountains of Tennessee and Northern Georgia.
The second race of the NUE Series is the Mohican 100 in Ohio. Like the Cohutta, the Mohican is one big 100-mile loop, as are most of these races. The Mohican starts in the town of Loudonville, but quickly leaves the paved roads behind for some sweet singletrack. The race then switches between a constant variance of trails, paved roads and fire roads before coming to an end. The diversity of this course and the ever changing weather in Ohio always makes this an interesting race to do.
Two weeks after the Mohican, the series travels to Michigan for the Lumberjack 100. The Lumberjack is kind of unique because it uses a multiple lap format. Additionally, it is the only race that is basically 100 percent singletrack. The last four years it was completed by doing four 25-mile laps, but for 2010 riders will do 3 laps of a 33-mile loop. Many riders did not like doing four laps and felt that increasing the lap mileage while decreasing the laps would be an improvement. I don’t mind the multiple lap format because I know exactly where and when I can re-stock on nutrition and other supplies. The Lumberjack may not be a grand tour through the mountains, but I still think it a fun and challenging race, especially if you love riding on sweet singletrack.
After the first three races, the series travels west to Breckenridge, CO for the Breck 100 in mid-July. Out of all the NUE Series Races I did last year, this was by far the hardest for me to do and it also took the longest amount of time to complete. I believe the reason this race is so difficult is because of the high overall altitude of the course and because of the many long climbs it contains. In addition to this being one of the toughest races in the series, it is also one of the most scenic with absolutely beautiful mountain views along the route. A unique feature that I liked about this race was its cloverleaf layout. There are three distict, separate loops that begin and end in a community park. Like the Lumberjack, planning nutritional needs is certainly easier to do when you come back to the same location multiple times.
At the end of July, the series travels east again to my home state of Pennsylvania for one of my favorite races the Wilderness 101. This race course has a combination of everything on it from paved roads to some of the most technical singletrack around. Like many of the other races of the series, it also has many long climbs. The mountains of Central PA may not be the Rockies, but they are still plenty of fun to explore. If you can only pick one 100-miler to do during your season, this would be the one I would recommend as a must do. I think its combination of terrain and the amount of support provided to the riders make it a real good choice for a 100-miler.
The next race of the series, The High Cascade 100 in Bend, Oregon, falls on the very next weekend after the 101 and it is also a new race in the NUE Series. I have heard some good things about this race, but cannot give my opinion about the race yet since I have not competed in it. I am registered to do it this August, so hopefully the good reports I have heard will hold true.
Two weeks later on August 21st, the Fool’s Gold NUE Series Race will be held in Georgia. I did this race for the first time last year and had a really good time, even though I was at first a little hesitant about doing a MTB race in the heat and humidity that Georgia is known to have during the hot summer months. Unexpectedly, the weather was not as bad as I imagined it would be. Even if the temperature was high that day, it probably would not have been too bad since most of the course is in the woods and riders are thereby protected from direct sunlight exposure. The Fool’s Gold Course is a great combination of forest service roads and technical singletrack. The 100-mile distance is achieved by doing two 50-mile laps, which I thought worked out pretty nicely.
The last race in the Series for 2010 is the Shenandoah 100. The promoter of the race, Chris Scott, also puts on the Wilderness 101. He knows better than anybody how to promote a race well, especially an endurance MTB event. The Shenandoah is by far the most popular race of the NUE Series. As a matter of fact, last year over 600 riders started the race. The race has become so popular because of the overall good experience the race has a reputation of providing to the riders, not to mention that it is also held on some awesome trails in the mountains of Virginia. One of my favorite parts of the course is a long section of climbing approximately 18 miles in length, which is known as the soul crusher because it comes so late in the race.
If you have never tried a long mountain bike race, don’t let the distance scare you away from doing one. I will admit that the prospect of doing a 100-mile off-road race was a little intimidating to me at first, but I was hooked after doing my first one. If you are interested in doing one, pick any of the events above, then start a training plan that includes a 4-6 hour ride during your training week to build your endurance about a month before the event and I am positive it will be a great racing experience for you. If nothing else, you will get to ride some sweet trails and be able to say that you rode 100 miles off-road. I think everyone into MTB racing should try something NUE from time to time, so come on and give it a try. You might find that you will become hooked on doing them like me.
Happy Trails, Gerry