On Sunday, May 4th, 2014, mountain bikers from across the state of Ohio and beyond gathered at an old airstrip in Scioto Trails State Park to battle for the title of “King of the Mountain”. Except, we don’t really have mountains in Ohio. This race course was about as close as we come though. Pro/expert racers had to conquer 4200 feet of climbing over the course of 29 miles, which made this the most vertically challenging race of the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (OMBC).
(I want to see “King of the Mountain” on the race flyer next year. Winner gets a polka dot jersey.) 🙂
Brian Schworm, riding for Pedal Power, left no doubt about who was King that afternoon. He destroyed the Men’s Pro/Expert field by 22 minutes with a super-human time of 2:11:20.
AnnaJean Dallaire, from Papa John’s Racing, topped the women’s field with a time of 3:06:50. However, the most intriguing women’s result was logged by Shannon Tenwalde, Paradise Garage Racing, who beat all the guys in the Sport Singlespeed category in a time of 2:01:05.
Before the event there was a tribute to Annie Rooney, who raced in the OMBC series and was killed by a drunk driver last year. Tecumseh’s Revenge was nicknamed “Annie’s Race” to pay homage to the contributions she made to this event in the past.
I first met Annie last year when we both joined the Combo Race Team. I had the opportunity to spend time with her at several events before she lost her life. She quickly became one of my favorite members of the team. Annie was one of the smartest, most interesting people that I’ve met in a long time. Beyond mountain biking, we shared an interest in documentary filmmaking and travel and we never ran out of things to talk about.
I didn’t know her for very long, but when we hung out it felt like I had known her forever. She was sorely missed at Scioto Trails on Sunday, but it’s nice to know that her impact has not been forgotten.
Great Day For Racing
Temperatures were in the mid 60s to mid 70s throughout the event and the sun smiled down on the racers.
Early in the week, Ohio was hit with massive amounts of rain and there were discussions about whether the event could even be held. Scioto Trails has a high percentage of fire roads and multi-purpose trails in the course and that made it one of the best places to stand up to the week’s nasty conditions. There were muddy areas throughout the course but they were more like short technical challenges rather than long slogs through the muck.
The fact that there were only 6 DNFs out of 122 racers seems to support the notion that trail conditions weren’t the defining factor of the day.
The Race Course
The Scioto Trails race course was about 9.5 miles per lap with novices doing one lap, sport doing two and expert three. Each lap had three big climbs – Fire Road 5, The Three-Tiered Bitch and The Wall. This added up to 1400 feet of climbing per lap (Novice 1400 ft, Sport 2800 ft, Expert 4200 ft). This is more climbing than any other race course in the OMBC series.
The start/finish was located at one end of an old airstrip with the singletrack starting at the opposite end. Racers had to sprint about a third of a mile to the first section of trail. There was a sharp right turn into the woods where the trail started climbing immediately. This was where the fun started… and the traffic jams. 🙂
Jimmy’s Race Statistics
- Division: Sport Masters 40-49
- Finished 1st out of 13
- Distance (According to GPS): 19.41 miles
- Time: 1:49:55
- Average Speed: 10.8 mph
- Max Speed: 30.5mph
- Elevation Gain: 2809 feet
- Calories: 1235
- Average Heart Rate: 155 bpm (84% of Calculated Max)
- Maximum Heart Rate: 169 bpm (91% of Calculated Max)
- Average Power: 198 Watts
- Maximum Power: 846 Watts
- Normalized Power: 247 Watts
- Work: 1288 KJ
The Race From My Perspective
Scioto Trails had me nervous and excited at the same time. I had a frustrating week of training leading up to the race and was worried whether my legs were ready to perform. (You can read my training report for more on that) On the other hand, I knew that if my body was rested then this course was perfectly suited for my strengths at this point in the season.
When the Sport Masters division was called to the line I was able to get the pole position on the far left side next to my nemesis, Chris Knapp of Team 614. Our storied rivalry goes back several years and our competitive hatred is only slightly outweighed by the convenience of carpooling together for distant races and course pre-rides.
I like lining up next to Chris because he sprints off the line like a jackrabbit and I never have to worry about him getting in my way. My goal was to sprint down the airstrip in Chris’s draft and enter the singletrack in second place behind him. Unfortunately, Kunihiko Tanuma had a different plan. I heard him passing on the inside right. I tried to take his tire, but in the last seconds of confusion before the trail I fell to back to fourth place.
The first section of singletrack is a hard right that goes straight uphill. You lose your momentum in the turn and then have to power up the short steep slope. In my preview write-up of the course, I warned racers to get to this section of the trail first to avoid a traffic jam. It’s rideable, but I knew some poser would slip and cause a back-up that cost racers valuable time.
Today, I was that poser.
My momentum slowed behind the first three racers. I chose a slick line and my rear tire spun out. My bike came to a halt and there was a chorus of curse words being shouted as riders piled up on top of each other. Oops.
This was not a good start. I had a moment of panic. My heart rate was exploding and I felt technically inept. My early race goal of second place was slipping away as the first three riders rode away from me.
I quickly pushed my bike up the hill and hopped back on. I knew I had to dig deep and not let these guys get away. I sprinted along the singletrack to catch up. Luckily, Tanuma’s pace was manageable and allowed me to recover and regroup mentally.
I knew that I had about a mile until I reached Fire Road 5, which is a long 2 mile gravel climb. This was the moment I was waiting for.
For better or worse, because of scheduling constraints, I’ve had to do a lot of my training on a spinbike in the basement. Read More About My Winter Training This is not great training for the demands of riding singletrack, but it happens to be perfect training for the tempo pedaling that is required on the long slow climb up the fire road. In past seasons, I hated climbing because I was 30 or 40 pounds heavier. Last year I lost a lot of weight and I no longer consider myself at a disadvantage when ascending. These two facts put me into a good mental spot for tackling the slope.
The majority of my pre-race strategy was firmly centered around this climb.
When we first hit the fire road the speed was a bit intense. There were no technical features to slow us down and I felt like the lead group was riding above threshold pace. I didn’t think they could maintain this all the way to the next section of trail so I tucked in behind Knapp and tried to pick up a bit of the draft to save energy and wait for the group to slow down.
After a few minutes, my prediction came true. The intensity dropped and I occasionally needed to hit my brakes to avoid hitting the tire in front of me. I decided to pounce. I picked up the intensity and took the lead. The group followed me. There was about a mile left, maybe five minutes, until the road turned back into singletrack. My mind switched over to interval training mode. What level of intensity could I maintain for 5 minutes and would it be enough to drop anyone? If I did pull away would I be able to recover on the singletrack or was I just burning myself out way too early in the race. Only time would tell.
After several minutes, the group started to dwindle. That motivated me even more. When the road started rolling up and down I pushed just as hard on the downhills.
By the time we hit the singletrack it was down to Michael Mikes and me. I couldn’t see anyone else in a quick glance over my shoulder. I let Mikes go back into the woods first. I needed a pace car and a chance to recover. I wasn’t familiar with Mikes as a racer, so I was nervous about whether I could keep up with him. We sailed through the woods. The downhills were amazingly fun, but then we reached the bottom of the next climb – the Three-Tiered Bitch and reality smacked us down a little.
Mikes and I both dismounted and began the long hike-a-bike up the climb. My strategy from the beginning was to hike this hill and the next to save my legs a little. I was worried about the other racers catching us, so I wasn’t content with walking. I ran as fast as my weary legs would carry me. My lungs gasped desperately for air, but I put my head down and focused on tackling the challenge.
As I approached the top, I turned around and to my surprise I could no longer see Michael.
Was this really happening? Was I really leading my division? I was both excited and nervous. This was unfamiliar territory for me. We were only 4 miles in to a 19 mile race. Had I gone out to fast?
I mounted my bike at the top of the trail and sped off.
I was catching sport racers from the younger divisions and I still felt pretty good. I wanted to go fast, but I was worried about conserving energy too. If someone caught me, I wanted to be able to respond.
This was the race of my life. My research, my weight loss and all of my winter training was starting to pay off. The hours I had logged on the spin bike were finally translating to the trail. Everything was clicking. There were zero mechanicals – no flat tires. I spent most of the race in disbelief waiting for some sort of disaster to strike.
Around mile 16 I could feel my quads starting to seize up. I worried that I had pushed it too hard. I ratcheted back the intensity on the remaining climbs and prayed that nobody would catch me.
When I crossed the finish line I was still in shock. This was, by far, the pinnacle of my mountain bike racing career so far. I staggered around the finish area and dragged my bike back to the car – too tired to walk, but too excited to sit down.
Today was a good day.
Quickdirt is a web site dedicated to figuring out how to get faster on a mountain bike. Those that are new to the site might assume that I have always been fast, but this is definitely not the case. I have spent a lot of time at the bottom of the sport division and have racked up tons of DNFs.
It wasn’t until I lost a lot of weight in 2013 that I started to see my finishing times improve. That inspired me to learn more about training for races and I got even faster. Telling my story here is a way to hold myself accountable. But, it also serves another valuable purpose. I hope that I can inspire you to embrace a healthier lifestyle and unlock your inner athlete.
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