The Double Mohican – it’s one of those epic long rides that every mountain biker in Ohio should attempt. …maybe.
At Mohican State Park, near Loudonville, Ohio, there is a 24.5 mile singletrack loop with about 2700 feet of climbing that is considered to be one of the best places to mountain bike in the state. If you haven’t been there before, then I highly recommend it. I have competed there at least a half dozen times, but I had never actually ridden there on a non-race day.
The Mohican 100 is coming up on May 31, 2014. This is the largest mountain bike event in the Buckeye State and I’ve been trying to get some longer rides in before the big day. I’m planning on doing the 100k, which is about 62 miles (remember that number folks, that’s what drove my insanity).
The 100k, which I’ve only done once, was the hardest mountain bike ride, both physically and mentally, that I have ever completed. It pushed the limits of how long I enjoy being in the saddle in a given day. I bonked hard and thought I might DNF. When I finished in 2013, I said that I was glad that I did it, but I would never do it again.
And here I am. Training to beat my inaugural time.
Cory Knight, Nahum Burt and I had decided that we would attempt a Double Mohican to train for the event – two laps. None of us had ever completed two laps and we weren’t really sure how it would go. Cory had tried once, but bailed in the second lap and failed. This made the challenge feel a little more daunting. Plus, several people had told me that they thought doing two laps at the state park was harder than doing the 100k, which is a mixture of singletrack, gravel and backcountry roads.
Harder than the 100k? I was a little intimidated to say the least.
Early Morning Start
The night before, I was hanging out with some friends and took the night off from my strict diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. I knew I had a big ride the next day, so I allowed myself to indulge in a few extra pieces of pizza and maybe one or two more beers than I normally would drink.
I woke up at 2am with some gastric distress and couldn’t fall back asleep. My mind began thinking about the big ride that was coming up. Laying in bed wide awake was driving me crazy, so I decided to drive to the state park while I was awake. I figured I would get sleepy again, so I just planned on snoozing in the parking lot until my friends showed up at 7am.
Somewhere in that dark, quiet drive, I started to do the math… 100k equals 62 miles. 24 miles per laps (plus a little extra to and from the parking lot). 2 laps is about 50 miles. I need 12 extra miles. I will ride 12 extra miles and get in the full 62 to simulate the 100k.
Instead of sleeping in the parking lot, I threw a light on my bike and I was on the trail by 4:49 a.m. I wasn’t sure that this was a good idea. Could I ride the unfamiliar, rocky trails at night? My Light & Motion Stella 150 bike light is great (Check out the reviews on Amazon), but it’s not as powerful as the industrial lighting the 24 hour racers use to light up the night. Would I regret riding these miles later when my friends showed up and had fresh legs?
I just decided to go for it.
Riding in the dark was a lot of fun. It’s like riding a completely different trail. Owls were hooting and coyotes were howling (at least that’s how I remember it). The maneuvering is trickier. Finding your line in the rocks is a challenge. It’s much harder to take advantage of the downhills. I was braking quite a bit. To put it mildly, these 12 miles were slow and inefficient. I was doing a lot more work per mile than I was used to.
Gradually the sun started to rise and daylight appeared. I had ridden out 6 miles and was now returning down the same trail. As the day grew brighter, my speed increased and it was like I was riding 6 completely different miles of singletrack.
I returned to my car to rehydrate and wait for my friends. I felt energized from my early morning ride, but I was still nervous about the challenge ahead.
The Social Three Miles
When Cory and Nahum showed up, they couldn’t believe the crazy adventures that I had already undertaken. I hung out at the car while they got their bikes and gear ready. We weren’t really planning on stopping back at the car after the first lap because we wanted to simulate a long day in the saddle similar to the 100k.
We headed down the trail and chatted about the types of stuff that mountain bikers talk about – epic rides, upcoming races, cool gear, mechanical mishaps… It was fun.
I led the pack and kept the pace slow because I didn’t want us to overheat early in the ride. I knew there was a lot of climbing ahead and it would only feel harder in 40 miles.
About 3 miles in, my bladder started to feel full. Apparently, my body had extracted all it needed from the previous night’s beer.
“I’m going to stop to pee,” I said, “You guys keep going and I’ll just catch up when you need to stop.”
In our previous long ride attempts, we had larger groups and inevitably there was a lot of stopping for mechanicals, bathroom breaks, resting, eating, etc. Nothing big, but all the pausing had cut into our mileage and I was determined to keep the momentum moving forward so that we could accomplish our goals for the day. I knew there was no way to cut the ride short in the middle of our second lap.
I watered the forest and got back on my bike. I didn’t rush to catch the guys, because I figured it was just a matter of time before one of them had to stop. But, about a mile later, my bladder was filling up again. Maybe I had over-hydrated while I waited for them? No big deal. I drained the main vein and kept going.
I rode on by myself and thought about the day ahead… golly gee, gosh darn it (that’s how I curse in my head). My freakin’ bladder was calling my name again. How much beer did I drink last night? This is starting to feel ridiculous.
Two more times I stopped to pee. These weren’t little piddles. These were gushers from my loins. If I was laying on my back, I could’ve challenged Old Faithful to a spouting contest. Where was all this pale, yellow liquid coming from?
At that point, I was less than 10 miles in and I knew that I had lost a ton of ground to my riding mates.
I never saw them again. Dun, dun, duuuuuuun…
Alone With My Thoughts
I had packed some earphones, but I left them back at the car (or so I thought a the time. Look in your Camelbak dummy!)
(Shameless plug alert: Check out reviews of my 100 oz. Camelbak M.U.L.E. on Amazon. This is my go-to hydration pack for long rides.)
No music. No podcasts. Just me and the trail and 40 more miles to go.
My lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me. Worse yet, the three Krispy Kreme doughnuts that I had indulged in on the drive down were starting to bother me. (Side note: Krispy Kreme is no longer part of my nutrition plan for the 100k).
I was feeling tired, mildly sick and I wasn’t sure if I was going to see my friends again. My mind was being sucked into a dark hole.
Could I finish this ride? Why did I eat and drink too much? Was I going to feel this bad the whole ride? Could I fall asleep while riding my bike? What if I bailed after the first lap? Why did I ride 12 extra miles at 4 in the morning? Was that really a good idea? Why are my feet so large in relation to my height? Will my children grow up and fall into a life of crime? When I’m ready to go back into the working world will anyone hire me? Why did I bully Keith Kowalski in the 7th grade? I was such a jerk. Why can’t I stop thinking these ridiculous thoughts?
No. No. No. I punched myself in the face. (I did not literally do this.)
No. I did something that I don’t normally like to do. I stopped riding. I sat on the side of the trail to eat a Clif bar – which you can also find on Amazon.com – and collect my thoughts – which are not for sale on Amazon.com …yet.
The Long Slow Grind
I wanted to pace myself to avoid bonking, but this was starting to get ridiculous. My sluggish legs continued to churn, but I was surprised at how slowly I was progressing. My ride in the dark was slow and my first “official” lap wasn’t quick either. I was already starting to worry about the snail pace of my upcoming second lap. Would I ever make it home?
I tried to banish the negative thoughts. I wanted to write about the trail, so I stopped several times to take photos of some of the notable sites. I paused to eat some snacks. I stopped more often than a COTA bus. But, these brief breaks did not replenish me. I just kept thinking about how they were extending my day.
So, I just kept pedaling.
The mile markers ticked by. The sign posts are normally a symbol of progress to me, but today they just reminded me of how much further I had to go.
I just kept pedaling.
…and eventually the end of the first lap was coming to an end. It was the longest, slowest lap in the history or Mohican State Park. I did not feel like the strong rider that won my age group at Scioto Trails. I was a blind-folded three-legged turtle dragging an elephant through the forest.
I decided to go back to my car and collect my thoughts. I needed to regroup. I needed my headphones. Maybe music or a podcast would help take my mind off of things.
I sat on the bumper of my Rav4 with my shoulders slumped. I had survived the first lap, but wasn’t sure where I would find motivation. My headphones were nowhere to be found in the car. I searched my Camelbak. They were with me the whole time. I’m an idiot.
I punched myself in the face. (I did not literally do this)
I took a deep breath and loaded up my gear. I needed to take my mind somewhere else, so I decided to listen to the “Freakonomics Radio” podcast. It’s one of my favorites and always help me to look at the world in a way I’ve never seen it before.
I pushed forward on my bike, climbing up the first big slope listening to a story about how families where the oldest child is a girl are more likely to break up because of a divorce.
Hmmm… that’s interesting. I reflected on this new knowledge as I floated through a rocky section of trail.
Ironically, the next story was about how some people are better off quitting. According to the story, Americans have a cultural bias towards sticking things out to the bitter end, but sometimes they would be better off if they gave up and did something different.
I reflected about the things that I have given up on in life. Had I always made good choices about when to quit and when to stick it out in life? Should I have given up the saxophone in sixth grade? Should I have continued to working as an economist in DC despite my boredom? Should I have tried to stick it out on other projects, like my podcast, Better Beer Authority?
One thing I was no longer thinking about was quitting this ride. I was 8 miles into my second lap, but I was no longer suffering. This was becoming fun.
My bike was screaming down the hills and I aggressively attacked short, punchy climbs. The rock gardens had morphed from stumbling blocks into fun technical challenges.
More stories filled my head. …about baseball …and prostitution …and family businesses. Then the podcasts stopped streaming for some mysterious reason. There were 10 more miles, but I didn’t stop to troubleshoot the issue. I didn’t need to.
My speed was up. My mood was positive. I was going to finish my goal of 62 miles and I felt strong. I still had a lot ascending to do, but I had summited the mental mountain that I had built for myself.
This wasn’t just Double Mohican, I dubbed this journey “Double Mohican PLUS®”. 62 effin’ miles of singletrack – more trails than I had ever ridden in one day. I was ready to make Double Mohican PLUS® my bee-atch!
When all was said and done, I had negative splits for the day. My second slow lap, was faster than my first slow lap, which was also faster than my early morning “plus” miles. By the time I got home, most of the day had slipped away. Those early morning adventures seemed light years away. I was exhausted, but in a good way. I struggled to prop my eyelids open until I had the kids in bed that night.
I hadn’t saved the world or cured cancer, but I had a feeling of accomplishment. It hadn’t been fast or effortless. Most of it was a struggle. I started the day just wanting to do the Double Mohican and had surpassed that goal.
Knowing that made it worth the effort. I vow to never do this again.
Thanks for all the support you’ve given me so far. It has been amazing seeing Quickdirt grow and find new readers. The positive feedback has been very motivational and makes adventures like the Double Mohican PLUS® even more fun.
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