I was crushing it. …until I wasn’t.
Everything was going according to plan. I had a target speed and I was still on track at mile 48. I started the race slowly on my Trek Superfly SS singlespeed (from Breakaway Cycling in Delaware, Ohio) and paced myself perfectly. After letting my competitors ride away from me at the beginning of the race, I was now passing them with great frequency in the Mohican Wilderness singletrack. I was on target to blow out my PR by a long shot.
Suddenly the trail turned steeply uphill and I was going to make yet another pass around a geared bike spinning wildly in the granny gear. My right leg thrust down on the pedal and SNAP! My chain limply fell from the bike and I lost all momentum.
I may have said a few choice words that I wouldn’t say in front of my children.
“Quick link? Anybody have a quick link?” I asked as the people I had just passed rode by. My former Combo Race Team teammate, Gary Hocke, stopped to offer a quick link and support. I thanked him for his generous gift and encouraged him to keep racing.
I then turned around to fix my bike and immediately dropped the quick link in the weeds on the forest floor as he rode away. I couldn’t find it. It was lost forever.
More choice words were spoken.
It was probably a blessing though because I immediately realized that I needed more than a quick link to make the repair.
I knew from doing this race three previous times, that I was about 2 miles from the next aid station and I started running. I dragged my bike uphill, ran on the flats, and coasted down any small slope I could find. How much time was I losing? I was hoping that if I went fast enough and they had what I needed at the aid station that I could still break the 6-hour mark and get a PR.
As I jogged my bike into Aid Station #3 at the Mohican Wilderness campground I shouted to anyone who would listen, “Anyone got a quick link? Anyone have an extra chain?!?”
A mechanic inside the building put my bike on the rack. He didn’t have the parts I needed either. I continued to plead for parts from the racers as they entered the aid station, but no one could help. The clock kept ticking and my spirits started to sink. I had trained really hard for this race and now it was a mechanical, not my physical limit, that was holding me back.
Finally a rider gave us a quick link. We worked with the chain I had, but it was too short. We adjusted every setting on my bike, but just couldn’t make it work. I was prepared for a lot of mechanicals and bad scenarios, but not this one. I started to give up.
“Is there a bathroom around here?” They pointed to a building across a field. I started moping towards the commode and after a little bladder relief I headed back wondering whether I would even make it to the finish line.
“We did it! We got it fixed!” My savior had taken off several links from his chain whip tool. I was astonished. Would I have done the same for him? He stitched up my Frankenchain and I was on my way – happy to be moving, but angry that I had lost so much time. Between the stopping, running and figuring things out, I’m sure I lost more than 30 minutes. One of my goals was to finish under 6 hours and that was now unobtainable.
I mumbled a few more choice words as I raced along and tried to regain my composure.
There were 12 miles left and I was going to make the best of it. I rode with my Breakaway/Quickdirt/Trek teammate, Chadd Hartman, from the aid station to the crushing climb at mile 50-ish (81 kilometers for my non-American readers). Chadd had bloodied his leg and bent his wheel in the Wilderness singletrack, but he still seemed strong and in good spirits. When the climb started, I launched into my rhythmic singlespeed standing cadence and left Chadd to ponder his injury in a lower gear. I had never ridden this climb in my past attempts at this race and now I was crushing it and passing people the entire way.
That’s what made my mechanical even more frustrating, I knew this was the strongest I had ever been in the 100. My legs still felt energetic and my spirits weren’t completely broken. My previous best was 6 hours and 15 minutes and if I kept this effort up I could still get a PR despite my lost time.
This is what I actually had with me during the race. …plus a couple of items that helped me get ready for the event. Click on the links to see reviews and prices:
- Trek Superfly SS
- Camelbak Hydrobak 70oz Hydration Pack with Hammer Perpetuem Cafe Latte
- Bontrager Rally Mountain Bike Helmet
- Shimano PD-540 MTB Pedals
- Giro Carbide Bike Shoe
- Race Face BB92 Press Fit Bottom Bracket
- Crank Brothers Multi-tool (17 functions)
- Park Tool Tire Levers (2)
- Stan’s Notubes Sealant 2 oz.
- Park Tool Valve Core Remover
- CO2 Cartridges
- Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Elite Inflator
- Bontrager Race Lite Bottle Cages (Orange)
- Stan’s Notubes Tubeless Set-up Kit – to set-up my tires tubeless before hand.
- Bontrager Flash Charger Tubeless Ready Pump
- Powergel Tangerine 2X Caffeine gels
- Bontrager inForm Evoke grips
- Cliff Bar Chocolate Chip Energy Bar
The Story Continues…
The second half of the Mohican 100k is much faster than the first half with more roads and gravel. It’s a little more relaxed and I was enjoying the ride through the scenic countryside. Despite my misfortune, this was still going to be a great ride. This endurance challenge is the biggest and best mountain bike event in the Great State of Ohio. The first year I swore I would never do it again. It’s tough. Now, I’m in my 4th consecutive year and already looking forward to another. It’s also addictive.
Each year over 600 racers compete on the hardest course in Ohio. There are 7000 feet of climbing in 62.5 miles. Even more climbing in the 100 mile version. Some are trying to win or place while others are just happy to finish or survive. No matter what, that moment where you cross the finish line is one of the most satisfying moments in the sport because you know how much effort it took to get there.
I rode through the last aid station without stopping, shouting gratitude to the volunteers as I whizzed by. I was on a mission to finish strong and all that was left was 6 miles of singletrack. In my previous three races, this final section felt excruciatingly hard, but not today. My legs powered my 32:18 gear ratio up every slope. I was still passing people on a regular basis. The last 2 miles is flat then downhill. It gets fast and I still had plenty of energy to push the pace. My average speed got faster and I’m sure I was moving more quickly than I had on the opening singletrack at the beginning of the race.
I saw one of my frenemies, Jeremy Larson, up ahead of me on the singletrack. Earlier in the day, he pointed out that I had never beaten him in a 100k race but that today might be my day. He hadn’t included my mechanical in his calculations. I pedaled with all my effort and sprinted the final road section as fast as I could on my singlespeed. My head was down and I was pedaling hard. There was a lot of gas left in the tank. I finished one second behind him. I tapped him on the shoulder, congratulated him on his effort and he was surprised to see me. I’ll have to train hard and try to catch him next year.
When I checked the results, I had finished in 6 hours and 9 minutes. I still broke my PR by six minutes despite my difficulties.
Now I have a new goal for next year. I know I can finish faster. But next time, I’m going to put a new chain on before the race. …and maybe pack an extra quick link or two and some chain links. Live and learn.
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- 15th of 32 in the Men’s 100k Singlespeed division
- Official Time 6:09:03
- Moving Time 5:29:49 (including 2 miles of running)
- My moving time would have put me in 6th place in Men’s 100k Singlespeed
- Avg Speed 10.9 mph
- Moving Speed 11.1 mph
- Max Speed 41.2 mph
- Elevation Gain 7073 feet
- Avg Temp 59.7 F
- Avg Heart Rate 138 bpm
- Max Heart Rate 160 bpm
- 2785 Calories
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