We couldn’t have asked for a better day for the 2014 Mohican MTB 100, which started in downtown Loudonville, Ohio. Before the race, director Ryan O’Dell announced that almost 600 people were lined up to compete. Temperatures throughout the race ranged in the 50s to 70s. I arrived early without any extra clothing and it was cool enough at the start line that my muscles were shivering and my toes were numb. However, things quickly heated up when the starting horn sounded.
The prologue of the race was rerouted this year. Riders were trespassing on some of the private land prior to the race and the landowners rescinded permission for the route to cross their property. I’ve only done the race one other time, but I thought that this reroute actually worked out better. I didn’t notice a back-up of riders as you entered the singletrack at the state park, but maybe that was because I had good starting position.
Let me know what you thought of the reroute in the comment section. Did you experience a traffic jam when you tried to enter the singletrack?
Ready, Set, Go! …at a Quick, But Not Too Quick, Pace
This year I got to the start line much earlier. I was in the second row and two-time Olympian Tinker Juarez lined up right in front of me. I wasn’t behind him for much longer though.
The opening road section was fast and spread the group out before the epic singletrack loop at Mohican State Park. There is a flat section through downtown and then the climbing begins.
Last year, in my first attempt at the 100k, I went out too hard and paid for it dearly at the end of the race. I was passing racers left and right on those opening climbs, thinking “You suffering fools, I am totally faster than you! In your face you slow little slugs!” I am a great smack-talker by the way.
Little did I know, those slugs would easily float right past me 40 miles later. …and 46 miles later. …and 53 miles later. …and 61 miles later. Will this freakin’ race never end? How many people can pass me in one race? How come I can’t feel my legs anymore?
This year I was determined to go out much slower and pace myself better. As we started up that initial climb, I watched as many riders I knew rode past me. It took everything that I had in me to hold back my competitive drive. I pushed myself up those first climbs at a medium effort, knowing that I had thousands of vertical feet to go – 8392 feet of elevation gain for the 100k according to my Garmin Edge 800 GPS. When we finally did reach the top I had plenty left and was really able to enjoy flying down the hills at top speeds.
Mohican’s Epic Singletrack Loop – Thank You Clous!
When we reached the entrance to the trail at Mohican State Park, there was a moment where all the racers came off of their bikes and had to walk up the short steep slope to the singletrack. For the next 22 miles we weaved and flowed on some of the best singletrack that the state of Ohio has to offer.
For the second year in a row, I ended up riding with Jon Clous through this section. He was doing the 100 mile version of the race and this was his 7th attempt at the Mohican 100. Riding near him is like listening to a podcast while you ride. There is a steady stream of commentary that takes your mind off any discomfort that you may have. I was feeling pretty gabby though and providing plenty of the conversation too.
At this point in the race though I was still trying to take it easy and felt pretty good. Having him near me was reassuring because I know that he is a solid rider with a good understanding of what it takes to survive this race. I knew that if I stuck by him, then I probably wasn’t over-cooking myself too early.
Equipment Note: I was using the Kenda 24Seven race tires – which coincidentally are part of Kenda’s “Tinker Juarez Signature Series”. I thought that they felt fast and were a good choice for the conditions of the day.
A New Approach
This year I looked at the singletrack section much differently than before. Last year I felt stuck behind riders and tried desperately to pass anytime I saw an opportunity. I burned a lot of matches, but only moved up a little in the crowd.
This year, I decided that my speed on the trail was mostly predetermined by the riders around me and decided to try and maintain that speed as efficiently as possible. If a rider in front of me stumbled in the rock gardens, I would pass, but other than that I tried not to waste energy on passing so that I would have more left for the open road sections that we would see later.
I challenged Jon to a game of “Don’t Flinch”, to see how long we could go without using our brakes. It was mostly me playing, but it was a great distraction for saving energy, maintaining speed and attacking the descents. …I lost a lot.
When you send that many people onto a mountain bike trail there are bound to be a few back-ups. There were trains that formed around us of 5 to 10 riders weaving in harmony through the roller coaster trails of the state park.
We had the occasional Type-A angry rider that passed by us, crushing himself trying to pass in the brambles on the side of the trail, throwing out curse words and yelling at riders that were getting in his way. All you had to do was ask dude! We are more than happy to let you by. Mostly this just gave Jon and I something to laugh at.
Overall, these 22 miles were probably the most fun ones I’ve logged all season. But I was still left wondering, was I going to avoid the huge bonk that hit me last year around mile 45?
Hiking Like a Horse
A large rain had hit the area earlier in the week but there had been several days of drying to offset that. All the singletrack and mountain bike-specific areas were in amazing shape – tacky and fast. The horse trails and a few other sections of double track had some fairly muddy challenges to conquer.
At one point, I tried to ride through some muddy water that ended up being about 10 inches deep and brought me to a complete stop. I waded to the other side of the muck and laughed as I headed down the next section of road, knowing that it was going to piss a lot of people off. But really, isn’t that what mountain biking is all about? If we wanted to stay clean, then we could just ride in the velodrome.
When you leave the singletrack after mile marker 22, you are hit in the face with a long, steep, gravel-covered climb. I’ve heard rumors of people riding up this slope, but it is really hard to imagine. I could barely push my bike up the hill. There were several more sections of horse trail that turned into hike-a-bikes, some because of steepness and some because they were too sloppy. After one climb, my Shimano MO88‘s were coated in a thick layer of brown goo and I had enough mud on my legs to provide SPF 60 sunblock protection.
Enjoying the View
Leaving the singletrack was a welcome relief for a little while. It was nice to sit in the saddle and use a different muscle set for a change.
Mohican Country is quiet, scenic and rural. If you took a moment to relax, there was plenty to look at – pastoral farms, rivers, forests and wildlife. However, just because it was a serene, does not mean the race got any easier.
There was still plenty of climbing left to do. Steep gravel roads seemed to climb endlessly into the sky. You had to keep the pace up on the flats or risk falling behind.
My Specialized Stumpjumper Evo has a 1×10 set-up. That means I don’t have a granny gear to slip into when the going gets rough. As a matter of strategy, I decided that whenever my speed dipped below 4mph and my cadence was below 60 that it was time to walk my bike. This allowed my quads to recover and I found that I wasn’t really losing much ground on those who insisted on pedaling. In fact, many times at the top of a steep slope, I was able to jump on my bike with renewed enthusiasm and speed by exhausted riders.
There were four aid stations for the 100k riders and five stations for the 100 milers. They were stocked with Water, Hammer Heed sports drink, Hammer gels, PB&Js, bananas, oranges, M&Ms and maybe a few other things. It was hard for me to examine the tables closely in my frenzied stops.
In my previous Mohican 100 attempt, I had overpacked and thought that I would try and do the race self-supported. I was worried about losing time at the aid stations because I thought they might get backed up. I had my biggest camelback, two big water bottles, gels, bars and whatever else I could carry. I looked like I was about to take a 3 month trek through the Amazon Basin. This was a big mistake.
This year I went much lighter with two 24 oz water bottles of Heed sports drink and some sports nutrition in my back pockets. When I reached the first aid station I still had plenty of nutrition left, so I blue through it and kept racing. (That typo was for you Jon) I ended up stopping at the second and last stations. This was not based on any big plan. It was just when I ran out of supplies for the journey.
However, this turned out to be more than enough. A few miles before Aid Station 3, I was actually starting to feel bloated. I knew I had to slow down on eating and drinking to avoid getting a stitch in my side.
When I did stop at the aid stations, I found them to be fast and efficient. The volunteers helping out were great at helping me fill my bottles and stuff my jersey with food before I sped off for more racing. Thanks to everyone who helped out. You really helped to make it a great event.
One small criticism: When I asked how much further it was from the last aid station, the person told me “less than 10 miles”. It turned out to be closer to 5. This is important information for a tired rider. The difference between pacing yourself for 5 miles and 10 miles is a big deal. I probably wouldn’t normally say anything, but this is the second year in a row that this exact same thing has happened to me.
My Favorite Race Moment
I reached the top of a long climb where I was directed to turn right onto another road. “The next three miles are almost all downhill,” said the volunteer manning the intersection. I reached speeds of over 40 miles per hour – so fast that the wind nearly blew the grin off my face. Awesome!
This is the End
I was under the impression that the reroute had added mileage to the course. My Garmin said 60.0 miles and I assumed that I still had at least 4 or 5 miles left to go based on what I was told at the aid station. Then I saw a sign that said there were 2 miles left. I was so relieved. I knew that I had the energy to do another 2 miles.
At that moment, #573 Jereme Fischer asked for a pass. I let him by immediately, but I was determined not to let him get away. He obviously had a generous amount of energy left. The two of us cut through the forest at a pace that I didn’t think was possible at this stage in the race. I was standing on the pedals and charging hard. I felt great, but it seemed like he felt better. This was a real race and I think he felt it just as much as I did.
We entered the campground and hit the final stretch of road with him a 100 feet ahead of me. Neither of us was going to give up. At the last moment, his legs started to seize up. I went through the final fence after him, but crossed the finish line one second before him.
It was a small victory, but I was happier that the two of us had pushed ourselves to find our true limits. For me it was a perfect climax to the day’s events.
In 2013, I went out too hard, bonked, and felt miserable. I vowed to never do Mohican MTB 100 again.
Luckily, I saw plenty of room for improvement and decided to sign up again.
2014 turned out much differently. I tried to find lessons in my previous mistakes. I paced myself better, finished strong and improved my time by over 17 minutes.
Sure this was a race, but for me the real competition was internal. It didn’t really matter whether I was 45th or 46th in the Men’s 100k Open. The real adventure of the day was trying to prove to myself that I could do better.
The post-race celebration was the best part. The true beauty of this event is the shared experience with hundreds of other mountain bikers. Some people are trying to be competitive, others are just trying to complete the course. Either way, you begin the day with the same anticipation and end it with a party. It’s a great time to hang out with old friends or bond with new ones over the day’s challenges. That is why hundreds of mountain bikers sign up year after year.
I can’t wait to do it again in 2015. Who is with me?
Side Note: Most of the people that I spoke to felt like the course was harder this year. What did you think? Let me know in the comment section.
Jimmy’s Race Stats
- Finished 45th out of 246 in the Men’s 100k Open (81st percentile)
- Official Time: 6:15:41
- Distance: 62.5 (according to my Garmin, what did your computer say? Let me know in the comment section)
- Average Moving Speed: 10.4 mph
- Max Speed: 43.7 mph
- Elevation Gain: 8392 ft
- Avg Heart Rate: 135 bpm (73% of calculated max)
- Avg Power: 163 Watts
- Normalized Power: 208 Watts
- Max Power: 884 Watts
- TSS: 320.2
- Work: 3527 kj
- Average Temperature: 63.6 F
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Thanks for reading. I really enjoyed talking to so many of you at the race. My next event is the OMBC race on July 12, 2014 at S&S Trails near Zanesville, Ohio. I hope to see you there!