Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mohican 100

Last weekend I went up to Ohio to race the Mohican 100. Sometime in the beginning of May I started thinking I might try to fit it in to the end of the month of Mayhem. Going to Ohio to do this race seemed like a giant hassle at first. But the singletrack and short steep climbs sounded appealing, and my buddy Garth Prosser sets the course so I was pretty sure it would be good. It looked to be a fun time, plus after Yargo, DSG, and Tsali I was sick of habitrail lap races and wanted a big loop.

It was looking to be a pretty long drive just to race my bike though, and I might not have actually made it up to Ohio if my friend Bruce wasn't riding up with me to the race. Stopped in Asheville to load up Bruce, a keg of Pisgah Pale Ale, a bunch of his Pisgah Works merchandise and his ultra-sweet, newly-built-up Justice Madison singlespeed and we were off. Good company and a couple iPods make a long drive painless, so I was happy to make the trip north. It rained a bit when we got there but luckily I got to stay in a cabin (yay!) instead of out in a tent as planned.

there I am getting antsy on the starting line
(Hey, is that guy in blue staring at my ass? Yeah, busted)
photo from Cycling News and also here

Race morning I couldn’t believe how chilly it was, about 55 degrees and foggy. The fog burnt off quickly though, and it turned into a gorgeous sunny day. The start is in the middle of the little village of Loudonville, with the rollout down the main street and up a steep hill out of town into the farmland. Danielle had egged me on to move up with her into a good starting position, and I ended up near the middle-front of the pack entering the first singletrack. There was a lot of passing back and forth in these first sections, as different-speed riders sorted out. But pretty soon I fell in with a group of several guys who were keeping a fast pace I could maintain all day. Unfortunately at around mile five or six I broke my chain! I had changed a couple different things on the bike after Tsali to try to address the drivetrain problems I’d had there, but guess I had not gotten to the root of it. I watched almost the entire field roll past as I worked on my bike beside the trail.

I finally got it rolling again after taking several fucked-up links out. Now I had to pass lots of racers who were a good deal slower-paced than me in fairly tight singletrack, which is always tough. Then I got off course a bit while following some guys down a long descent, but luckily we were only off course a couple minutes before someone figured it out. Later I would find out some other folks got waaay loster before they realized they were off course. I already knew I wasn’t going to get my best time due to the earlier mechanical problems, so even though getting off course was frustrating it would be just another ten minutes on my already-crappy time. I was in a bad mood from all this, and for the next twenty miles or so I was pretty cranky about everything even though I was riding great.

At about mile 45 it was like my head did a one-eighty. I had 100 miles of new trail, great weather, and strong legs, so fuck it. I’d already spent the money and driven the miles. A few miles after that the 100 K racers separated from the 100 mile racers so there were fewer people to pass, and a long section of steeply rolling gravel roads let me get some speed and relax my focus a bit too. I tried to keep in the mindset that I was still racing, not just riding. I rode a couple minutes with Rebecca who started strong but was feeling beat after winning a 24 h race in Italy the week before. Then I found some great people to paceline with on the neverending flat miles of an old railbed, and we really got some work done. They stopped at an aid station but I rolled through and continued on alone. Danielle caught me from behind at around mile 80 after getting lost early on, and we rode together for a while, but she was more on fire to make back the time she’d lost than I was. After she dropped me I rode alone for the rest of the race, keeping a decent pace. The course ended by retracing some of the earliest sections of singletrack—I was bummed to be coming in so late but had a good ride to the end.

In the end my time was 10h16 which put me in eighth place. My cycle computer said my accumulated time in motion was 9h23. Since I never stop for more than a minute at an aid station I probably would have come in at around 9h30 if it hadn’t been for the mechanical problems. If I’d been having a good race I wouldn’t have gotten slowed down passing everyone early on... and my head would have been screwed on straight during the middle sections… and I would have ridden faster through the gravel sections near the end… so I feel ok about it.

I’d heard people say this is one of the most difficult 100-mile courses out there. Based on those reviews, I was expecting much more technical riding than I got. But even though this course might not have been extremely difficult physically, I do agree that it was pretty tough mentally. Mechanical problems are incredibly frustrating. Trying to pass hundreds of people in tight singletrack wears down your sanity. Getting lost sucks away your drive to perform. Turning a shitty race experience into a good one might have been the hardest thing I did all day.

I do wish I could have had a better race. I talked to a number of people during and after who were in the same boat—for one reason or another they hadn’t gotten a chance to ride their best race. That’s racing—you prepare, you show up, and you see what happens. Except for the fact that the posted results don’t reflect my actual abilities, it doesn’t really bother me. The singletrack was generally mellow and fast, especially the flowy first/last sections. The gravel included some ass-kicking steep climbs. The course was great also for crazy shit like routing us over a swaying cable bridge, through some sort of junkyard, down weird private-property powerline cuts, and past gun-toting Amish kids. Many thanks to Garth for setting an awesome course, and to all the race organizers for showing how Ohio rolls. I hope I will be back for another round of this race next year.

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