When I lined up for the 2016 championship race at Mohican I sized up my competition on the line. Hmmm… I might be the 2nd fastest person here, I thought.
Wow. It was amazing how far I’d come in a year. At the end of 2015 I had assumed that I’d pretty much peaked as a middle-of-the-pack expert racer and would probably not improve much. Maybe I would begin my long slow decline to mountain bike race retirement. Things were starting to feel anti-climactic.
But no. In 2016 I got faster. …much faster. …the fastest I’ve ever been on a mountain bike.
In that final race of the year, I had an epic battle with Mike Whaley and Dave Tingley, two of my Breakaway Quickdirt Trek teammates, for 2nd place. In the end, I came out on top and that 2nd place finish was enough to move me into 3rd place in the overall Expert 40+ standings – my best finish ever!
But more important than being fast, I was having more fun.
I did my fair share of intense training rides, but I also did a lot more slow, fun rides. If I wasn’t feeling fast, and there were a lot of days like that, then I just went slow. I relaxed and didn’t try to push it. I did a lot more recovery and low-intensity long rides. I took in the scenery and checked out the road less traveled from time to time.
Here are some highlights from 2016:
- 2nd place finishes in OMBC Expert 40+ at Chestnut Ridge and Mohican State Park
- 3rd place finishes in OMBC Expert 40+ at West Branch and Dillon State Parks and in the 331 Race Series at Vulture’s Knob
- PR’d at OMBC Mohican State Park by 13 minutes in the spring
- PR’d at Mohican 100 by 6 minutes, despite losing over 30 minutes trying to fix a broken chain.
- Two 2nd place finishes in the Tri-State 6-Hour Singlespeed division
- 1st place in the Chestnut Ridge Fat Bike Race Series – skinny tire division
- Hit every checkpoint at the Death March in the Hoosier National Forest with my nemesis Chris Knapp
- Circumnaivgated the Indian River Bay in Delaware
- Rode some epic trails, including Downieville, in Northern California
- Lots of long, fun adventure rides on the roads and bike paths of Columbus, Ohio
- Completed Tough Mudder Ohio with a team of great guys
- 1st Place in the Glen Oak 5k with my fastest 5k time since high school
There were so many highlights and moments that I was proud of and it already has me looking to 2017. What new adventures and events can I participate in? Next year I plan on still using the OMBC and Mohican 100 as the foundation when I set my goals for the year. But, as I try to do each year, I want to incorporate some new trails and events into my season. Trip to Park City, Utah? Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race in North Carolina? Shenandoah 100? John Bryan 6-Hour? Ride from Columbus to Cincinnati on the Ohio to Erie Trail? There are a lot of potential adventures on my list.
One thing that made 2016 so fun, was being part of the Breakaway Quickdirt Trek mountain bike race team. I’ve met and gotten to hang out with so many cool riders. We did tons of fun training rides together. From gravel grinding at Scioto Trails to pre-rides at Great Seal, I’ve enjoyed having people to push me and teach me how to be a better mountain biker. If you can find a good group of like-minded folks to ride with I highly recommend it. It will make racing and riding more fun.
You might say, “Hey 2016 isn’t over yet! You could still race! What about Iceman? What about ‘cross?”
No. It’s over. When I was riding in California, I went over the bars on a downhill and hurt myself. My handlebars stabbed me in the pelvis where my quadricep connects to my hip. It still swells a little when I push myself too hard. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to ride in the final two races of the year, but somehow, with a little bit of ibuprofen, I was able to rally. Between end-of-season-burnout and the injury I’m not feeling too fast these days. I’m taking a little time to let my body heal. I’m still riding, but I ain’t goin’ full throttle. I’m starting the long, slow build-up to 2017.
Until then, you can find me at Alum Creek daydreaming about the Mohican 100 and pondering what races to put on my calendar for next year. Because even though 2016 left me bruised, battered and burnt out, it also gave me motivation to keep moving forward.
Was 2016 my best season ever? It sure feels like it. It definitely left me with a lot of positive vibes. I can’t wait to do it again.
To 2017 and beyond… adventure awaits!
P.S. I’ll write again soon. I have a lot more to say. Until then, check out the new TR29 Lauf Fork (click here for prices and reviews) that I added to my bike. This is just one of a few upgrades and changes that I’ve been making that I hope will help take it to the next level in 2017.