Three Thirds = One Happy Biker (West Branch, Vulture’s Knob, Dillon XC MTB)

James Knott races mountain bikes at Vulture's Knob

James Knott finishes the 331 race at Vulture’s Knob State Park to finish 3rd in the Expert 40+ category. I love this photo because it illustrates the more fun, aggressive approach I’ve taken with my riding this season. I’m having more fun when I’m riding and getting better results when I’m finished. Hell yeah! (And I make monkey faces when I jump)

In summary, I finished 3rd in the Expert 40+ division at the OMBC race at West Branch State Park on August 14th in really slippery conditions.  I finished 3rd in the Expert 40+ division at the 331 race at Vulture’s Knob on August 21st on a course I had never seen before.  I finished 3rd in the Expert 40+ division at the OMBC race at Dillon State Park on August 28th on the hardest technical course in Ohio.

Three strong third place finishes in 15 days.  For me, this is a hot streak, one that I didn’t see coming.  My first three expert podiums all came back to back to back.

I’ve been having a fun season on my singlespeed and it’s changed the way I train and race.

I’ve set a few personal records, at Mohican and Alum Creek for example, and done a few new events, such as the Death March and Tough Mudder, to mix things up a little.

Last year, I finished 7th in the OMBC Expert 40+ division for the season and this year it looks like I will probably finish 5th.  That’s a good improvement against some really tough competition.

Coming up, I have three more OMBC races at Chestnut Ridge (my home course? sort of?), Scioto Trails (where I won my first sport level race a few years back), and Mohican (where I hope to match my PR effort from earlier this year).  I also have a cool mountain biking trip to San Fransisco coming up where I will make the pilgrimage to Mount Tamalpais, which is where Gary Fisher got his start.  Plus, I have already have plans for some new adventures next year like Park City, Utah and some more bikepacking (where exactly is TBD).

James Knott races Mountain Bikes at Dillon State Park

At Dillon State Park, I had more fun riding the trail than I have ever had. I ran through the rock gardens, which always feels more efficient to me, but I “went for it” every where else. Hell yeah! (Photo by Justyna Walker)

Why am I telling you all this?

Not sure.  I’m having a hard time putting it all into a neat little story.

All I know is that I’m feeling good about mountain biking these days.  I’m having fun and I continue to see improvements in how I am riding.

I thought I had plateaued last season and that was a little frustrating.  It felt like I was working harder, but not really improving.  I was doing the exact same events.   I felt like I was in a rut.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I had reached the pinnacle of my biking at the age of 40 and had already started the slow descent into couch potato land.

I needed inspiration.

When I bought my singlespeed, I was just looking for a change.  I thought I was crazy for giving up my gears and suspension.   I actually thought I would be slower.

But somewhere in the simplicity of the bike, I think I found my biking soul.  …and that is what has helped me take it up a notch.

I just stand and pedal – stand and flow – pedal then glide.

I will catch you climbing uphill, but recently I have the confidence to say that you won’t lose me going downhill (the flats are different story).

James Knott mountain bikes at West Branch

A view from the cockpit. It’s pretty simple without gears, suspension and dropper seat posts. Just the way I like it. It started raining 5 minutes after the race started at West Branch. Conditions went from dry and tacky to greasy and slick over the course of three hours. I fell 6 times in the final 5 miles of racing, but I was still able to hold off the competition for 3rd. It was my first time on the Expert 40+ podium. Hell yeah!

It took me a few months to get used to the rigid fork.  It rattles you in the rough at first.  But now I’m seeing lines that I never saw before.  I’m flying down hills in rubble, dropping off rocks, looking for jumps.  I’m way more aggressive.  I’ve become a much more technical rider.

My training is different.  All workouts fall into four categories now – power, speed, endurance or recovery.  There are more hill repeats (since I don’t have any hilly routes near my house).  There are more fast laps at Alum with rest between (my MTB interval workouts).  I’ve added plenty of long days in the saddle (at least one endurance ride every two weeks).  If I start riding and I feel tired, I just say screw it, ride slow and enjoy the breeze.

I’ve been much less structured, than the power meter training that I had relied on for the previous three seasons.

Vince Urichich, Roger Sommers and James Knott after mountain bike race.

Friends make it more fun too. I’ve been racing against Vince Urichich and Roger Sommers for a while now and they are both great guys. They have crushed me in so many past races that I just feel honored to hang with them now – outstanding riders, but more importantly, just good blokes. Vince and I had a blast together on the first lap at Dillon.

James Knott, Mike Whaley, Chadd Hartman, Ben Michels

More good blokes! Mike Whaley, Chadd Hartman and Ben Michels. We have all trained together this year and I feel like I have learned so much from them. They have pushed me to be a faster rider.

When I got 3rd at West Branch, it was my first time on the expert podium and it came despite falling 6 times.  I was happy, but it did not instill me with confidence.

Before Vulture’s Knob, I had no goal.  I hit the trail in last place and slowly started picking off the competition mostly on the climbs.  My legs felt strong.  I loved the trail and I was focused on all the cool, fun features there were to challenge me.  (You have to ride this place.  It’s cool.)  I finished 3rd and was only about 10 seconds behind my teammate, Joe Worboy, who had finished 2nd.

At Dillon, instilled with some extra confidence,  I honed in on a racer, Brad Smith, who had beaten me every single time we raced just to see how long I could hang with him.  Brad had tire pressure issues, but we both pushed each other the whole way.  I got 3rd and he got 4th out of 12 fast guys.  There are so many rocks and challenging technical moments, that it really built my confidence.  If I could ride well here, then I could probably hold my own on most courses in Ohio.

Brad Smith and I after the race at West Branch State Park.  Brad is an awesome racer and I rarely even get a glimpse of his rear tire in most races.  He has definitely become a good rabbit for me to chase this season.  Photo by Sadie Smith

Brad Smith and I after the race at West Branch State Park. Brad is an awesome racer and I rarely even get a glimpse of his rear tire in most races. He has definitely become a good rabbit for me to chase this season. Photo by Sadie Smith

Three 3rds in a row – definitely the best streak of race finishes I have had.  Is this my new plateau?  Maybe.  It feels like a big jump to reach the next echelon, but it has definitely motivated me.  The championship race is at Mohican State Park on October 8th – 38 days away.  I’m more excited than ever to get out and ride my bike and hopefully push myself past my current limits.

Expert 40+ podium at Vulture's Knob

3rd place at Vulture’s Knob in the 331 XC MTB race. My teammate, Joe Worboy, on left, got 2nd place.  I definitely want to hit Da Knob again soon. It would be awesome place to ride on a non-race day where you can just play around on all the features. Hell Yeah!

I guess there is a takeaway that I’m hoping the readers take away from this.  I thought I had hit my own personal ceiling.  I’ve been racing for years and at some point it’s inevitable that you will reach your limits.  But, somewhere down deep I discovered a little bit more potential hiding.  Have you looked for your hidden potential?

I’m not the champion and I never will be.  I am competing against myself – looking for improvement and adventure within. Ultimately I do this to have fun.  Right now, I feel like I’ve been blessed with a little extra enjoyment.  I set goals and those help keep me motivated to train, which in turn helps me live a healthier life.  But, each year I have to reevaluate those goals.  How can I change it up to keep it fresh, interesting and fun?

Do you feel like you’ve gotten stuck?  Have you hit a plateau?  What are you doing to change it?  New bike?  Different training?  New trails and adventures?  Some combination of all of them?

If you keep doing the same thing, you will keep getting the same results.

Mix it up.  Make it fun.  You will be rewarded.

(Or if you think this weird article is too sanctimonious, then let me know in the comment section.)

James Knott, Christopher Seely and license plates

Another Perk… Cool License Plates! Christopher Seely picked up a ton of metal for my license plate collection. Thanks to him I have all 50 states hanging in my garage!

Coming up on September 11th, the OMBC race at Chestnut Ridge Metropark near Columbus, Ohio.  Check out the video I made about riding at Chestnut to help you prepare.

Quickdirt Requisite Product of the Day:

Powergel Tangerine Flavor with 2x Caffeine for a little boost at the end of a long race.