It was 2 a.m. and the alarm on my iPhone was begging me to get out of bed. I went to sleep early but still had less than 5 hours of rest. I immediately began packing my car for the 9-hour drive to Lake Hope State Park near Nelsonville, Ohio.
My family had spent a week on vacation in the great state of Delaware and I had pushed our departure time until the last possible minute so that I could spend some treasured time with my buddies from college. It was pouring down rain, so trying to pack was miserable and carrying two sleeping children out to the car didn’t work so well either.
My plan was to drive through the early morning while my family slept, but two hours into the drive it was clear that I had overestimated my ability to power through my sleepiness. There was no way I could make it all the way without falling asleep at the wheel, so I reluctantly woke up my wife and asked her to drive so I could sleep.
I took the wheel back an hour or so later and once again I could barely keep my eyes open. We got some breakfast and switched drivers again. I had not figured all this stopping time into my calculations and when I looked at the arrival time on the GPS I knew that I was only one poopie diaper away from missing my starting time.
My wife drove the final three hours which allowed me to rest and eat in preparation for the day’s big event. There was no time to stop. We pulled into our parking spot at Lake Hope 15 minutes before the racing was supposed to start. I’m the kind of guy who likes to get to the event 2 or 3 hours early to make sure everything is perfect and get a good warm-up in. 15 minutes was close enough to put me into panic mode.
Everything that I needed was packed under the suitcases so I tore apart the vehicle to get my stuff. Bags were strewn everywhere. I had forgotten my Team Combo race kit. I had an overwhelming desire to poop. I hadn’t tuned my bike or checked the air pressure on my tires. There was no time to warm-up. Nothing felt like it was going right.
Maybe I had tried to squeeze too much into the final moments of my vacation. Maybe I should have sat this one out. But, I love riding at Lake Hope. I love competing in the OMBC series. How could I miss one of my favorite races of the year?
And then there was my streak… I had attended 19 straight OMBC races – the longest streak of any current OMBC racer. I believe the second longest belongs to expert vet open racer Jeff Rupnow. I could not let that S.O.B. take my title away from me. After Saturday’s race I am up to 20 straight races verses Jeff’s 16. Eat that Rupnow!
Let me know how long your OMBC racing streak is in the comment section.
It was a long, miserable rainy drive, but would it be worth it?
The Big Event
The weather at Lake Hope was gorgeous. It doesn’t get any better. The sun was out and temperatures hovered in the mid 70s to low 80s. 170 racers showed up to test themselves against the best that Ohio has to offer. This is possibly the biggest turnout of the year, but I was feeling a little too lazy to count. Can anyone let me know if this is true in the comments?
The course had dried nicely and was tacky and fast. I can only recall one area that was slick enough to slow the racers down when they were turning. There are rocks and roots throughout the course, but the defining characteristic is speed. This place is fast and furious.
One amazing stat is that 26 women took to the start line. This is probably the largest women’s field that I have ever seen at an OMBC event. Expert Lorena Brown, sport racer Vicki Munnings and novice Heather Tarlton took the top honors in their respective divisions.
In the past, the race at Lake Hope counted for points in both the Ohio and West Virginia series. This led to huge mass division starts because the age groups of the two race series did not line up precisely. This was not the case this year. Points only counted towards the OMBC series and divisions were divided up according to OMBC age groups – just like normal. That cut down the traffic on the trail significantly. In my opinion, it made one of my favorite races of the year even more fun. My speed was not cut down by passing or getting stuck behind other riders and I was able to focus on pacing myself with the competition in my age group.
Like I said in my race preview, this is one of the best courses in Ohio. If you haven’t ridden or raced here then you are missing out. This trail has an amazing flow. To quote my riding buddy, Nahum Burt, “It’s got that IMBA Epic feel without the honor of having the actual designation.” Load up the bike rack on your Honda Civic Hybrid and get down to Southeast Ohio. You won’t be disappointed. I expect to see you next year!
The top men’s times on the day:
- Drew Purcell – Expert Open – 2:09:58
- Jeff Rupnow – Expert 35+ – 2:12:35
- Theodore Rauh – Expert Open – 2:13:58
- Tom Pollock – 30-39 Veteran – 1:17:56
- Bill Mickey – 40-49 Master – 1:18:05
- James Knott – 40-49 Master – 1:18:26
- Brett Saultz – 15-18 High School – 47:45
- Jamie Sharp – 40-49 Master – 48:20
- Addison Good – 19-29 Senior – 49:19
Congratulations to all the division winners. This was a speedy course with lots of competition. Winning at Lake Hope meant that you were truly at the top of your game.
Check out full race results here on the OMBC website.
I rushed to the line just in time to find out that the start had been delayed because of the kids race. Perfect. Now I had time to check my tire pressure, drink some water and eat a little. I rode around for a few minutes to warm-up, but my legs still felt heavy.
Every two minutes waves of racers sprinted up the opening hill. I looked down the line at my competition. Chris Knapp was standing next to me ready to start the race at his usual punishing pace. Bill Mickey and Brian Gonser were both in the front row and each of them had wins in the Sport Masters division this season. On the far end, was Kunihiko Tanuma who had beaten me at Mohican State Park. Cory Knight and Mike Kline were a few rows back and high up in the standings.. With 23 riders, the sport masters division was the largest and most exciting division to be in that day. Most of the major players had shown up and this promised to be fast race with plenty of action.
I looked down the road and saw my family waving and giving me the thumbs up. They had put up with a lot to get me to this point and I knew that I had to give it my best for their sake.
GO! I was shocked. Chris Knapp had shot off the line, but it was Bill Mickey who sprinted away from the group. I fumbled to get my foot in the pedals and watched a handful of riders get away from me. My legs felt dead on the first hill. I stood on the pedals and used the weight of my body to muster some extra force. The gap between me and the leaders was getting larger and I was starting to worry.
We reached the gravel road and I was determined to catch up. The large stones in the road made the rolling hills leading to the woods seem treacherous, but I was determined not to use my brakes so that I could make up some ground on the descents. As I got closer I tried to catch the slipstream of my competitors to gain every efficiency that I could.
My breathing was out of control, but the extra effort was worth it. I not only closed the gap, but I was able to enter the woods in 2nd place, behind Bill Mickey and in front of Brian Gonser. In our previous two meetings, Bill Mickey had beaten me by 13 minutes and 9 minutes. I couldn’t hold onto his back tire at Mohican State Park even though I tried and that was my biggest goal for the day. Do not let Bill Mickey get away.
After a mile or two of sprinting through the woods I thought I was doing a good job of keeping him on my radar, but Gonser must have disagreed. On one slope where Mickey gapped me a bit, Brian asked for a pass. I quickly, yet reluctantly, let him by. It made me nervous to have him standing between me and the rabbit I was chasing. On several occasions the accordion effect made it feel like Bill was getting out of reach and about a mile or two later I asked for the number two spot back.
And that’s how it would stand for a long time. The three of us led a train of riders for a few miles and they eventually fell off of our tail. Mickey opened up small gaps on the climbs and Gonser and I would catch him on the descents and technical features.
As we started catching riders in other divisions, I worried that Mickey would use the passing as an opportunity to open up his lead, so I was very aggressive about staying with him when I knew a pass was imminent. Brian must have been thinking the same thing because he was always close behind.
Once the initial excitement (or is it anxiety?) of the race wore off and I was able to catch my breath a little, though never completely, it was a ton of fun racing through the forest. Watching Bill Mickey swerve through the trees and over the rocks and roots was like watching a ballet on wheels. He said that he wasn’t familiar with the trail, but he was great at adapting to the terrain. It was an impressive sight and I felt lucky to be hanging so closely behind.
I wondered if he was pushing himself to his limits or was he saving something for the end since he already had a lock on first. He had been so dominant at Mohican Cabins and Mohican State Park. Was he just toying with us now? I pondered, but I continued racing my ass off, hoping to find a chink in the armor.
The final climb at Lake Hope is the hardest point of the race for most people. It is long, steep, washed out and covered in roots. It is rideable, but it takes plenty of victims too. At the top of trail you breath a sigh of relief when you hit the road – then you realize the road continues the painful ascent towards the finish. It’s very hard mentally.
How was your trip up the final climb? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.
I made it all the way to the last climb with Bill in front of me and Brian behind me. I was sure that Mickey would shoot away from me on this climb and I was determined to give it everything I had to keep up with him. I was amazed. I was right on his bumper. I was surviving this. I just wanted to get into Mickey’s draft on the road, so I could pass him towards the end. Then on the final tree root of the climb, I followed Bill’s line and my rear tire slipped to the left. My bike lost traction and I had to run the final 30 feet of trail. It was just enough to let him slip away. I went from 2 seconds behind to 21 seconds behind at the finish. It’s amazing how a race can change in the blink of an eye. I finished second and Brian finished 3rd. We had pulled away from Brian on the climb and he wasn’t able to catch back up.
Even though it would have been nice to win, I was happy with my second place finish. It was absolutely the most exciting race of the year for me. The weather was perfect, the trail was fast and the competition was top-notch. Sign me up again next year!
It will be interesting to see how this season turns out. This is my last season in sport before I move up to expert next year. I’m not going to lie, I would love to win my division before moving up. Right now Mickey has three wins, I have two wins and Gonzer has one. There are 5 races left and Bill has the advantage, but anything can happen. I look forward to another face-off at West Branch State Park on Sunday, August 4th 2014. Hope to see you there and that you have as much fun as I do!
This summer has been challenging for the blog. I haven’t had as much time to write as I would like because of my stay-at-home dad gig. My kids were home for the summer and my youngest son, Oliver, stopped napping. I used to do all of my writing during his nap time, so this was a big blow to my productivity. I am currently trying to figure out new ways to adapt.
However, that being said, this was still the most successful month for the blog because of your support. The more you guys, and an increasing amount of ladies, help out, the easier it is to justify me spending time on the blog to my wife and kids. Here are some great ways to help out:
- Support COMBO, the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization, they have provided myself and my team with tons of support and they provide great opportunities to mountain bike and volunteer in the Columbus area.
- Shop at roll: Polaris (or any of their other great locations). Paul, at roll: Polaris, or Brody at roll: On Main Street have done a great job of keeping my bike tuned up and providing great advice and products to help me speed along the trail. They can help you be a successful, fast mountain biker too!
- If you shop on Amazon, then use this link, to make your purchases – any purchases. A small piece of each referral will go into the Quickdirt coffers and help make it possible for me to do more riding and writing about the trails.
P.S. Sorry there aren’t more stats for this race. In my rush to the start line I was not able to troubleshoot some issues with my GPS. Boooo…. One of these days I will get it fully captured!