I was one of the first racers to arrive on Saturday morning. The dew was still on the grass when I was setting up the Breakaway Quickdirt Team tent and it became clear really quickly that I was going to need an ample dose of sunscreen. Mohican State Park was the second race in the OMBC series and it was also the second race with near perfect weather.
If you had looked at the week’s forecast for the area, you would have assumed that the trails would be a muddy mess. But, Loudonville, Ohio had been spared by the rain gods and the trails were dry and tacky. Throughout the entire 26 mile loop, I could probably count the number of mud puddles on just one hand. This course was fast and if it wasn’t so early in the season, there would have been a lot of PRs set in the race. (Tell us about your PR in the comment section.)
Over the course of the morning, 190 racers showed up to the Mohican Adventures campground to compete – 50 novice, 90 sport and 49 expert riders. 21 of them were women, 15 chose to race singlespeed and 5 competed as clydesdales. Overall, it was an outstanding turnout. It will be interesting to see whether this will translate to large numbers at Great Seal in two weeks, where the OMBC has never held a race and no attendance precedent has been set. Let’s hope so!
Ben Ortt won the expert category for the second week in a row in 1:54:53 and is starting the season off strong while 2014 Champion Steve Twining ended the day with a DNF. Drew Purcell, Jeff Rupnow and Ross Clark all finished the full loop in under 2 hours. On the women’s side, Vicki Munnings stood atop the podium with a finishing time of 2:29:45.
Team Breakaway Quickdirt had 7 racers on the line – 3 novice, 3 sport and 1 expert. I thought that was a solid turnout for our new team. The strongest performance was laid down by Kunihiko “Max” Tanuma, who beat 26 other racers to win the sport masters division in 2:26:26. Go BQ!!! If you live in Delaware County or surrounding areas, don’t forget to go check out Breakaway Cycling sometime.
After Mountwood, I was feeling mildly defeated. I felt like I had done a good job of training throughout the winter and was hoping for a decent showing. I went out too fast and died early, which turned the second half of the race into a cramp-fearing pity party.
I was determined to do it differently this time. Even though I showed up early I didn’t really warm up at all. I wanted to save every ounce of energy I had for the course in case I came up short at the end again. I also made the conscious decision to go out in last place and run my own race. But, could I stick to the plan given all the adrenaline that would certainly surge through me when the racers sprinted off the line?
The course begins with a quarter-mile gravel-covered sprint to the woods. I let everyone speed ahead and casually jumped off my bike to walk up the first steep climb into the forest. I was in second-to-last place because Gary Hocke politely let me go in front of him. I hiked it because I wanted to save that valuable climbing energy for later in the race and there didn’t seem to be any time advantage to powering my way up the slope.
At this point, my heart rate is usually skyrocketing, but at that moment I was in total control. I briskly rode along the first stretch of singletrack and convinced myself that being in the back didn’t matter a half-mile into a 26-mile race. After so many sprint starts in sport, it was a difficult argument to make to myself, but somehow logic prevailed over emotion.
I followed Roger Sommers for at least a mile or two. We had raced many times in sport in years past and he had crushed me every time. I felt honored just to be on his tail for a little while. The two of us were in line behind Chris Knapp – my nemesis. He had just moved up to expert for the first time. My new expert number was 12 and Chris’s was 21 – my opposite. He had beaten me solidly in our last meetings in sport last year. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to be faster than him.
At a certain point, even though I was trying to hold back, I felt like I should be going a little faster. I made a sudden quick sprint through the weeds on the left side and passed them both at the same time. I think I surprised them with the move. I worried whether I had just wasted energy on such a big early move. Was I getting too excited, too early? Was I going to crash and burn like I did at Mountwood? I kicked the pace up a notch and pretty soon they both disappeared from my rearview.
Then I caught and passed Jeremy Larson and approached Scott Young. I had chosen these two as my pacers for the first two races and they ended up beating me by 10 minutes at Mountwood after I fizzled. Was it a mistake to pass Jeremy? Was he going to just pass me at the 16-mile mark? Was he setting a good pace?
I was trailing Scott and started feeling like I should pass him too. He was cruising right along, but every time we hit a rocky section he slowed way down and I nearly ran over him. I felt like I could hit the rocks much harder than he was. And then I had my chance, he stumbled on a section of rocks and had to step off his bike. I rode around his right side and I was off.
I felt free and scared at the same time. Now I could pedal freely forward and focus on attacking the trail efficiently at my own pace. However, with my pacers behind me, would I push it too hard early and struggle near the finish? My opening effort was way below what I had done at Mountwood, but doubt kept sabotaging any positive feelings that entered my brain. I felt really good, but I was only five miles in and I kept wondering how long it would last.
I starting hunting down riders. I would see my prey up ahead weaving through the forest and with laser-like focus I slowly and methodically picked them off. One mountain biker after another started to fall victim to my attacks.
Soon I had caught the singlespeeders, who had a 2 minute head start on me. Each time I saw them powering up a slope it made me appreciate having gears. I was taking the opposite approach. I was trying to be conservative on the slopes and save power so that I could slam it on the straightaways. I even chose to walk 4 or 5 slopes, not because I couldn’t make it, but because I was trying to save my quads for later in the race.
The ideal trail conditions led to high speeds everywhere on the course and I was loving it. I reached the covered bridge, which is a milestone near the halfway mark, and my doubts were starting to turn into confidence. I knew I had started out much smarter this time and I felt like I had enough gas in the tank to take me to the finish.
One thing I love about this course are the mile markers they have posted. For me it’s a great mental milestone every time one comes into sight. I watched the numbers on the sign posts continue to climb. I passed a few more riders but the time between them was getting longer. I had plenty of time alone with my thoughts flowing from root to rock and enjoying the beautiful weather.
At mile 22, there is a steep climb that gets me every time. I don’t even really try to go up it on race day. You swoop down a hill as you approach it and hope the momentum will carry you up. I jumped off my bike and hiked to the top where I found expert racer Vince Urichich from Team 614. He’s been racing expert for a while and I was surprised that I caught him. He’s been very encouraging of my move from sport to expert and has offered plenty of advice to me through the Quickdirt comment section. He pulled aside and let me by, and just like he had all winter on-line, he pumped me up with positive remarks and encouraged me to “go get ’em” or something to that effect.
This was the moment when I felt like I was part of the group. I wasn’t some noob who had no business being there. I finally felt like I was an expert racer. I might not win, but I was able to hang with the pack. Vince is a talented guy and I have no doubt that we will trade places at future races. He is a competitor, but at that moment he was also a metaphor for what I love about mountain bike racing. These guys all step up to the line with a desire to win or place high, but at the end of the day they are all really cool to each other. These are the folks you want to hang out with. If I break down on the side of the trail, I know that a half dozen racers will offer to give me their tools. If I’m thirsty, they will throw me a bottle. And when you’re having a good day, they give you a pat on the back and a smile and tell you to “go get ’em”.
I finished the remaining miles like I had started, with a quick but constant pace. I passed a couple more racers and ended up not getting passed the entire race. I went in the woods in 2nd to last place and worked my way up to 8th out of 18 racers in a time of 2:23:40 – my second fastest finish at Mohican. I was happy with that and I was immediately pumped up to race again in two weeks at Great Seal State Park.
After the race the new Breakaway Quickdirt race team was waiting in our tent at the finish. It was great exchanging war stories with them about the day. We have a bunch of new novice racers on the team and it’s fun hearing about the race from their perspective. Those first novice races were what got me addicted to mountain bike racing and I’m hoping we can instill that same passion in them. Later, we retired to Mark Hatten’s RV which was parked at the campground and had a team cookout. Good times. I hope we can can do more of that throughout the season.
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Just in case you were wondering what type of equipment I rely on during the the race… I think this list covers everything I have with me during an event. Click on links to read reviews and see prices.
- Bike: Specialized Evo Comp 29er hardball with 1×10 drivetrain. Next season, I’d like to buy a Trek Superfly 9.6, 9.7, or 9.8 from Breakaway Cycling in Delaware.
- Sram Chain and Cassette – I think Sram is a great combination of quality and price
- Specialized Format 143 saddle – makes my tushie feel nice and comfy
- Thompson Elite setback seatpost
- Rock Shox XC32 Fork – I bought this when my Reba started leaking fluid. This fork has greatly exceeded my expectations. It has a very confident and comfortable feel to it.
- Avid Elixer R SL hydraulic brakes – these brakes came with my bike and have held up really well in 3 seasons of heavy abuse
- Ergon GS1 Grips – these are the first things I add to any bike I buy
- Crank Brothers Eggbeater pedals – I have special edition pedals but I am happy with any version of the eggbeater. I have these on all of my bikes. They do require regular maintenance though. The Shimano SPD pedals are supposed to be a little more reliable.
- Kenda Honey Badger XC Pro tires – tubeless with Stan’s Notubes
- Giro Phase Helmet – the most comfortable helmet I could find. It fits to the shape of my bulbous head very nicely.
- Garmin Edge 800 GPS – I love all the stats this thing gives me. I would consider upgrading to the Garmin Edge 1000 if this one gets broken or lost.
- Garmin speed/cadence sensor – I think this helps make your distance reading on your Garmin more accurate. Plus, knowing your cadence is a useful metric.
- Garmin heart rate strap – use Spectra 360 heart monitor gel to get more accurate readings
- Cyclops Powertap MTB power meter – probably the most useful training tool that I own. I love this thing.
- Gopro Hero 3 Camera – this is my fun, exciting, new toy! I used it in time lapse mode at Mohican to capture some photos of the action. I’m still working out the kinks, but I think this will be a great tool for my journalism.
- Novara top tube bag with Velcro strap – for holding nutrition
- Camelbak Rogue Hydration Pack – bright yellow so hunters don’t think I’m a deer.
- Giro Carbide mountain bike shoes – This was the first race that I used these in. They are good for wide feet.
- Crank Brothers multi-tool 17 – I like the fact that this has a chain tool.
- Park Tool tire levers – obviously, these are the keys to my success.
- 2 CO2 cartridges
- Clif Bar – I break these up into pieces and put them in my top tube bag.
- Powerbar Powergel Tangerine 2x Caffeine
- Pearl Izumi Quest cycling shorts – these will soon be replaced by the new Breakaway Quickdirt kit, but I find these to be the most comfortable bike shorts I have ever worn.
Jimmy’s Stats (According to Garmin GPS)
- Time: 2:23:26
- Avg Speed 10.5 mph
- Max Speed 26.3 mph
- Elevation Gain: 3320 feet
- Calories: 1629
- Avg Temp: 76.7
- Avg Heart Rate: 153 bpm
- Max Heart Rate: 167 bpm
- Avg Power: 207 watts
- Max Power: 754 watts
- Normalized Power 244 watts
- Intensity Factor: .812
- TSS: 157.1
- FTP Setting 300 watts
- Work: 1778 KJ
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