In the days leading up to the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship (OMBC) series race at Mohican Cabins, there were big question marks about whether the event would be cancelled. After a long cold winter the trails had recently thawed out and needed all the drying time they could get. A threat of rain the night before made the conditions even harder to predict.
I hadn’t spent anytime training on singletrack because the local trails have been too muddy, so I was really hoping to race. It’s been a long cold winter and I was eager to get out of the basement and onto singletrack. I also wanted to see how my winter training would hold up to the competition.
Race director Ryan O’Dell announced on the website the day before that “The Season Opener Race at Mohican Cabins is ON!” and 101 racers from all over Ohio and beyond loaded their bikes into their cars and headed to the Grand Barn at Mohican Cabins in Loudonville, Ohio.
Temperatures were in the low 40s and overcast during the race. Mohican Cabins is definitely one of the most technical trails in the OMBC series and the early spring conditions made it even more challenging. For the most part, the singletrack was rideable and tacky. Their were several sections of the trail that were muddy and squishy and many racers had to hike their bikes through these sections.
In the Men’s Expert Open Division, 2012 OMBC champion Steve Twining beat out 2013 OMBC champion Ben Ortt by just over 30 seconds. It will be riveting to see how this hotly contested division develops over the course of the season.
Racers crossed the finished line looking beaten up and battered with mud covered wheels and drivetrains. For recovery, they munched on Smokin’ Bro’s BBQ Chicken and Ribs and drank Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold and Smoked Porter.
Racers gathered outside the Grand Barn at Mohican Cabins for the awards ceremony to celebrate that battles that had been won and lost that day.
In general, the course is hilly with lots of rocks. The race starts at the bottom of a hill which helps separate the pack before the it hits the singletrack. This uphill sprint is always hyper-competitive because the racers want to be in good position for the first big downhill on the course. Riders that are good at descending can speed away from the competition if they are the first to hit it.
There is a long section of the race that speeds along Wally Road and if you are lucky enough to hit it with other riders you can draft and save some energy – for the longest, highest singletrack climb of the race. You are climbing for over a mile and your quads are usually burning by the time you get to the top. It was nearly impossible to reach the pinnacle of this climb without doing some hiking due to some slick sections in the trail.
There is usually a steep downhill rock garden for the sport and expert racers, but it was closed for the event because O’Dell was concerned with the boulders getting slippery and dangerous with all the traffic. This is one of the defining features of the course, so it felt bazaar to not have to deal with it. This was a disappointment to some racers because it is definitely a fun technical feature, but for others, like myself, there was a sense of relief. I once had to get stitches because of that rock garden.
My Stats – According to My GPS
- Sport Masters Division
- Distance – 13.75 miles
- Time – 1:35:40
- Elevation Gain – 2293
- Average Speed – 8.6 mph
- Max Speed – 30.8 mph
- Average Heart Rate – 155 beats per minute (about 84% of my Max HR)
- Max Heart Rate during race – 167 beats per minute
- Average Cadence – 69
- Average Power – 199 W
- Normalized Power – 253 W
- Max Power – 833 W
- Kilojoules – 1417 (including warm-up and cool down)
- Average Temp – 43.4
- Calories – 1,146
Jimmy Knott’s Race Breakdown
My training for this race has been well-documented here at Quickdirt.com. Like I said before, I was very eager to find out how my hours this winter would translate to the trail.
About 5 minutes before the race, Ryan O’Dell made an announcement that your official race age would be whatever age you are on December 31, 2014. I was not aware of this until this moment. I’m currently 39, but I’m turning 40 in December. I had assumed that I would be racing in the Sport Veteran 30-39 age group, but all of a sudden I was faced with the reality that I was now a masters athlete. Let the mid-life crisis begin…
I was still digesting this information when I lined up with my new age group.
Ryan shouted “3, 2, 1, Go!” and the Sport Masters field took off up the initial hill. I struggled for a split second to engage my clip with my pedal. Immediately, I felt like I was falling behind the pack. These old dudes were fast as hell. What was happening? I was supposed to be the young 39 year old in a group of decripid, aging 40 year olds. I had hoped to enter the woods in the top 5, but I ended up in the bottom 3. This was not a good start.
I’m not sure if it was because I wasn’t properly warmed up, because I wasn’t acclimated to the cold weather, or whether my training just hadn’t prepared me for that fast, powerful sprint. Whatever it was, my legs weren’t pushing me up the hill as fast as I wanted them to.
Furthermore, because of the long cold winter, I haven’t done any of my training on the trail. I spent the first two or three miles of the race trying to remember how to ride a mountain bike. My handling was way too sloppy and I was wasting way too much energy with my lack of flow.
As we bombed down that first slope I had to come to terms with the fact that this wasn’t going to be a race with the front of the pack. This was going to be a game of catch-up. I caught my breath on the downhill and tried not to panic. I knew that my training had given me strength in my legs. I just needed to calm down and trust them.
When the trail spit us out onto a long stretch along Wally Road I started to gain my confidence back. There were about 4 or 5 riders who were up the road from me. I put my head down and tucked. I pedaled with a strong tempo cadence and reeled them in one by one. My legs were starting to feel good. I had lost a lot of ground to the lead pack by getting caught in traffic. They were nowhere in sight. I wanted to catch up, but I wasn’t sure how far I could push myself without blowing up. I focused on trying to be patient and just tried to race my own race.
Most of my training on the spin bike this winter has been on aerobic endurance and muscular endurance. This is good base-building. I haven’t really done any high-powered intervals or sprint work, and I definitely haven’t done any hills. That first climb sucked. The entire time my legs felt like they were on the verge of giving out. I had to focus on slowing down my pace and keeping myself under or close to my lactate threshold.
At several points in the climb the trail got slippery and I had to get off my bike and hike. This was one area where I felt like my winter training has paid off. I’ve been cross-training with running all winter and these hike-a-bikes were much less taxing than last season where I was doing no running in training at all. I was able to trot along for some pretty long stretches and keep up with the guys who managed to ride just fine. When I got back on the bike I almost felt refreshed because I was working a different set of muscles while running and giving my cycling muscles a break.
This was evident at the top of the first climb. When the hill flattened out, I recovered almost immediately and passed several people in the open field before we headed back into the woods.
The race went on this way for 14 miles. The second lap unfolded much like the first, except for the fact that I felt much more comfortable navigating the technical features of the trail. I wasn’t really getting passed by anyone and I was able to pick off riders for the entire ride. I wasn’t used to the Sports Masters category, which involves dealing with a lot more traffic than the Sport Veteran’s division.
The entire race I was completely unaware of my place in the standings. It was really hard to tell whether the guys I was passing were in my division or not.
The final climb of the race was really intense. Tanuma Tunihiko, #2074, was in my rearview mirror and charging hard. I had passed him about a mile or two back and he seemed intent on catching me. I think my heart rate felt like it jumped 20 beats per minute. This is the kind of moment that racing is all about. I stood on my pedals and churned them as hard as I could. I knew I had to be able to hold this intensity for at least 2 minutes to hold off his attack. In the end, despite his noble effort I crossed the line first.
I was pleasantly surprised when I finished and found out I was 4th out of 17. The 9th fastest time overall out of 47 sport finishers. A good finish with plenty of room for improvement. I thought it was a strong comeback after my poor start.
After the race, I drank some recovery drink and ate a snack. I then quickly found my way to the keg of Great Lakes beer that I had been promised. Dortmunder Gold never tasted so good.
Although, this ride had pushed me hard. I still felt pretty good after the finish. I definitely learned where some of my strengths and weaknesses are and know what I need to work on for the next couple of races. My endurance and seated tempo pedaling were great – this makes sense because that is the majority of what I have worked on with my spin bike. I need to work on my higher power zones. The anaerobic system that powers short hill climbs definitely needs work. Some of these items will definitely be easier to work on once the trails dry out and I can ride outside more frequently.
Overall, it was a ton of fun and I am more pumped than ever for racing this summer. I look forward to seeing everyone at the OMBC race at The Wilds on April 5th!
Also, thanks to everyone that came and said “Hi” to me. It was nice to meet some of the people I’ve talked to on-line. I really appreciate all of your support and the feedback you gave me about Quickdirt. It was very motivating. I look forward to hanging out with everyone at the upcoming races. Make sure you bring me a beer!
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