Mountain bikers from across the state of Ohio, waited for the word to come. Would the OMBC race at Mohican State Park near Loudonville, Ohio be postponed? The sky dumped several inches of rain on the well-groomed trails early in the week. Would the forest dry out in time?
Race director Ryan O’Dell told me that back in the “old days” it was much harder to cancel or postpone an event because it was challenging to get the word out to racers. When he did make changes in the past, he had to show up at the venue anyways because a lot of people weren’t checking the website before leaving for the race. The rise of social media has made it much easier to let people know what’s going on. On top of that, racers have become more sensitive to the importance of trail care and are more accepting of the idea of switching event dates.
Ryan is now more likely to make changes or cancellations, but does so somewhat reluctantly because he knows that a lot of racers make plans around the race dates. I, for example, had scheduled my son’s 3rd birthday party for Sunday because it was a non-race day.
Eventually it was decided that an additional day of drying would be helpful and the event was held a day later on Sunday, May 18th, 2014 instead of Saturday. Sorry son.
What did you think about the decision to postpone the race? Do you think it was the right decision? Let me know in the comment section. This is a good opportunity to make your voice heard.
A Gorgeous Day For Racing
The sun was shining bright at the Mohican Adventures campground, home of the start/finish line. Temperatures hovered in the mid-50s and 60s throughout the day. It was warm enough to compete without any extra clothing, but not so hot that hydration was a big issue. In one word, the weather was “perfect”.
I had ridden on the trails the weekend before and the week’s rain had definitely taken it’s toll. Postponing the race was a good call. The extra drying was definitely helpful, but conditions were still not ideal. 90 to 95 percent of the track was tacky and fast. Rocks and roots weren’t slippery either. However, there were muddy sections and spots that slowed racers down enough to prevent a few PRs.
According to my Garmin GPS, the race was 25.6 miles long and had 2911 feet of climbing. This means that Mohican State Park was longer and had more climbing for sport racers than the course at Scioto Trails. It definitely had more singletrack. To illustrate this another way, according to my power meter, I used 1878 kilojoules of energy (this is a measure of total work) racing at Mohican compared to 1288 kilojoules at Scioto trails. That means that Mohican required 45 percent more effort than the next hardest race in the series this year. Do you think it felt that much harder?
There was a great turnout, the largest of the year, 181 racers took to the start line by my count. What I thought was amazing was that there was only 1 DNF. My guess was since the racers only had one lap, they had to figure out a way to get back to the start regardless of how they felt or whether their bikes were broken.
Was this the case? Let me know whether you wanted to DNF – but couldn’t – in the comment section. If you had a good time at the race and want to encourage a good turnout the rest of the season, then please share this article with your friends on social media.
And The Winner Is…
Ben Ortt (HWB, Santa Cruz), the 2013 OMBC Men’s Expert Champion, turned in the fastest time of the day, 1:59:28. That gave him a two-minute gap on Drew Purcell (Ride on Wooster).
On the women’s side, Lauren Mika (RDC), picked up first place in her first OMBC race of the year over Nicole Miranda (Micro Racing) and Heidi Coulter (Lady Gnar Shredders) in a time of 2:43:16.
The top sport time was from Sport Masters division winner Bill Mickey (FMBR), who finished in 2:23:01.
And, of the novices, the fastest time was from up-and-comer Cameron Reagan in the Senior division – 49:00. At that speed, he could have fit in a second lap before the awards were announced.
Good job folks!
What do you think was the most surprising finish of the day? Let me know in the comment section.
The Race From My Eyes
(The following passage is from my memory several days later. Facts have been distorted by the lens of competition, but hopefully the spirit of the race has been captured accurately)
Mohican State Park is the type of race venue where there is usually a good turnout so you don’t know who to expect at the start line. After finishing first in my division in the last race at Scioto Trails, my expectations were fairly high, but tempered by the fact that people usually bring their A-game to Loudonville.
There was one person that I was fairly certain was going to show up, and that was Bill Mickey of the Frankford Mountain Bike Racing Team. This was going to be his second OMBC race of the year. He had dominated the Sport Masters division in the series opener at Mohican Cabins. Racing against him was going to be a challenge. I wasn’t sure whether I could keep up with him, but I was determined to try.
We sprinted from the start with a familiar script. Chris Knapp and Kunihiko Tanuma were the rabbits and we were chasing them like greyhounds.
Once again, in my race preview, I warned riders about how the opening section of trail was a short, steep hill and that some idiot would come to a halt and cause a traffic jam in the middle of it. Once again, that idiot was me. I hit the climb in 3rd place with Bill Mickey right behind me. The gravel was slick and my rear wheel lost traction as I crossed a rut near the top of the slope.
Several riders jammed up behind me. I started to run my bike up the hill when I heard Wayne Bowers shout out, “Riding through!” I pulled my bike to the right to let him ride by and gave Bill Mickey a chance to move ahead as well.
Between the opening sprint and that first hill, my heart felt like it was jackhammering its way out of my chest. My breathing was intense and I felt like the race was starting to slip away from me. I was losing the visual on the lead riders and now Bowers was creating a gap between me and Bill. I didn’t want him to slip away, but those early sections of trail don’t lend themselves to passing and my body needed a little recovery before I could make any big moves.
Bill Mickey Holds a Clinic
After another mile or so, the race had started to settle into a groove. The top 5 or 6 riders in the division had created a pace line with Tanuma at the front. We were moving quickly, but at a manageable pace. Then, Mickey made a move, an aggressive pass took him one rider forward.
Crap. It’s on.
“Wayne, can I sneak by?” I shouted ahead. Bowers graciously gave me a pass and a few seconds later Mickey was moving up again.
Shit. This guy means business.
Mickey was quickly opening a gap on the lead group.
“Guys, can I get a pass?”
Knapp and Tanuma, not only gave me a pass, they offered me words of encouragement. “Go get him James.” It’s hard to hate the competition when they are so damn nice to me.
I chased Mickey and closed the gap. He maintained a punishing pace. I followed him for about a mile or two and reality was starting to set in. It was still early in the race and I was burning through muscle glycogen at an unsustainable pace. Should I stick with him and hope his enthusiasm wears off or should I pull back? I could definitely keep up for a few more miles, but this was a long race and I was worried about bonking later.
I conceded the moment to Mickey. I eased up, so I could focus on riding efficiently. I was hoping that I might catch him later on in the race, but I had to ride a little smarter for the time being. Had I already wasted too much energy?
My Own Private Spoke Junkie
The lead pack caught back up to me and I shifted my focus to holding second place.
PING!!! Dink, dink, dink, dink, dink…
What the heck? It sounded like a broken spoke. I made the quick calculation that this was not a problem that I could ride with for 20 more miles.
I pulled to the right and 2 or 3 riders shot past. That sucks!
As I stopped, I looked down and saw a stick fly out from my wheels. After a hurried inspection, I didn’t see any broken spokes. I assumed it was just a stick and continued to ride.
Dink, dink, dink, dink, dink…
Mutha! This was definitely a broken spoke.
I pulled my bike to the right and hopped off to fix it. 2 or 3 more riders zoomed by me. This race was starting to go downhill quick.
I wrapped the loose spoke around another spoke as quickly as I could and sprinted to catch up. I probably only gave up 30 seconds to the actual fix, but I knew that I had lost more when it came to fighting my way back through traffic.
I was now in 8th place (although I wasn’t certain about this at the time) and I knew I would have to burn a lot more matches to work my way back up.
Just then I passed Chris Knapp, who was fixing a flat on the side of the trail. Tire issues would continue to plague him the rest of the race.
I started making a mental inventory of the rest of the riders ahead of me – Michael Mikes, Glen Gardner (had home field advantage), Wayne Bowers, Kunihiko Tanuma (award for farthest commute), Rusty Brown (on a fat bike), and Bill Mickey. These were all solid riders and I had no idea how this was going to shake out.
I wasn’t ready to concede yet so I decided to push my limits and get aggressive.
Bigger Target: Fat Biker or Blogger?
One by one, I methodically caught and passed Mikes, Gardner, Bowers and Tanuma. Rusty Brown was further up the trail, but out of sight. He had beaten me at Mohican Cabins – on a FREAKIN’ FAT BIKE – and I wasn’t sure if I could catch him – let alone even see him again.
I caught and passed a few of the Sport Veterans and then off in the distance I saw a big, thick tire floating across the rocks and roots. Target engaged.
Rusty Brown was flying through the forest. There was one rider between him and I, but I decided that I had to catch him whether it killed me or not.
I tailed a Sport Vet for a half mile and tried to catch my breath.
“Can I get by? I have to catch that fat bike!” It sounded like a reasonable request at the time.
Then Rusty passed the guy in front of him. Frick. I caught that guy and followed him while I caught my breath.
“When you get a safe spot can I get a pass? I have to catch that fat bike!” Another Vet generously let me by.
I’m not sure if Rusty knew I was gunning for him, but it felt like he upped his intensity. My heart was racing as my legs pushed through the short punchy, wooded climbs. I finally caught Brown, but he continued on relentlessly.
In theory, a fat bike sounds much slower than a standard mountain bike, but watching Rusty weave effortlessly through the slippery conditions gave me an appreciation for some of the advantages of fat bikes. He seemed to be able to corner more tightly on the wet sections of trail. The bike quickly floated down the hills regardless of how many rocks and roots the trails presented.
I felt like I was barely keeping up. He was a sure-footed stallion toying with a trailing foal.
After several miles of trailing him, Rusty surprised me by pulling to the right and letting me pass. Huh? By my calculations I was now in second place again. Rusty trailed me for a while downhill to the covered bridge.
This bridge is the halfway point of the race and there is a long strenuous climb in the half mile that follows it.
“You’re probably going to pull away from me here,” said Rusty.
“I doubt that,” I replied sincerely. I really did not believe him. “I’m not trying to kill myself on the climb.”
I didn’t think I was pushing too hard, but I turned around halfway up the climb and I could no longer see him. I was shocked.
Lost in the Woods (…Of My Mind)
I was half way through the race. Could I hold on to second place? I had used a lot of energy chasing Rusty Brown and Bill Mickey. There was a dangerous tingling in my thighs. Lactate was building up and I was worried about cramping. I had to be careful. I couldn’t rely on powering through the rest of the hills. I had to be efficient and find as much free speed as possible. This was one of my longest, fastest singletrack rides of the year and I knew that endurance would become an issue towards the end of the race.
My pace definitely slowed at this point. I settled in behind one of the younger guys that I caught up to.
The mind games started. I was doubting whether I could hold this pace. Would my legs hold up? Had I been a smart racer or was my fast start just an energy waster? I was fairly certain I wouldn’t see Bill Mickey again, but would someone sneak up from behind?
Trails of the Rising Sun
About 20 miles into the race, my mind was still wandering. There was a long section through the pines and I heard something behind me in the distance. I took a short glance over my shoulder. Kunihiko Tanuma was storming up the trail behind me.
Kunihiko-san! Honto? Ganbarimasu Knott-san! Boku no jitenshya o hayaku hashiraseritai!
(I met my half-Okinawan wife in Japanese 201 at Ohio University)
I stepped up my intensity and held Kunihiko off for another mile or two. When he caught me I didn’t resist his pass attempt. My plan was to latch onto his rear tire for a while, but it was too late. I was weak and Kunihiko was strong. He told me later that he was pushing the big ring and felt great. Kunihiko quickly opened up a gap on me.
With three miles left I had fallen to third and developed a severe case of paranoia.
This is Tough, But I Am Tougher
Deep breath. I put my head down, as much as you can on singletrack, and focused on every pedal stroke.
“This is tough, but I am tougher.” I repeated the mantra over and over.
With a mile left I saw bikes on a switchback below me. Ugh. I didn’t want to lose another place. My weary legs churned as hard as they could through the campground. I didn’t look back. On the final road by the lake I was fairly certain I could hold these faceless riders off, but I didn’t slow down. I imagined them behind me and sprinted to a 3rd place finish in the Sport Master’s category.
Bill Mickey finished first by a wide margin and Kunihiko Tanuma was second. I hadn’t seen my teammate, Cory Knight, the entire race, but he snuck into 4th place right behind me.
I exchanged a few fist bumps with Bill Mickey, Kunihiko Tanuma, Cory Knight, Rusty Brown and all the guys in my division that I could find. It was a hard fought battle and a ton of fun. I snapped a few photos for Quickdirt and packed up my stuff.
I now had a new race to focus on… to get home for my son’s 3rd birthday. Happy Birthday Oliver! I love you.
Jimmy’s Race Stats
Division: Sport Masters 40-49
- Finished 3rd out of 21 (Mechanical: Broken Spoke)
- Distance (According to GPS): 25.6 miles
- Time: 2:31:56
- Average Speed: 10.0 mph
- Max Speed: 24.7 mph
- Elevation Gain: 2911 feet
- Calories: 1383
- Average Heart Rate: 148 bpm
- Maximum Heart Rate: 168 bpm
- Average Power: 203 Watts
- Maximum Power: 762 Watts
- Normalized Power: 243 Watts
- Work: 1878 KJ
There are many ways that you can help support Quickdirt and most of them cost you absolutely nothing!
- Share this article with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.
- Like/Follow Quickdirt on Facebook and Twitter.
- Invite your friends to come race or ride and grow the entire mtb scene.
- Subscribe to Quickdirt in the right-hand column to get instant updates when new content is added to the site. This privilege is best for our most die-hard fans.
- Check back often for more great articles about mountain bike racing, training and adventure!