Mohican 100 Mountain Bike Race – Lessons Learned

1 06 2008

  1. Sometimes all the physical and logistical preparation in the world is not enough.
  2. Simple is better.  Forget unecessary equipment that adds complications.
  3. Don’t ignore the little signs that something isn’t right.
  4. Mud makes pedaling harder especially when you are lying in it.
  5. Always keep duct tape and a good muti-tool in your pack during an Endurance MTB race.

So let’s get to the punch line right off the bat.  I DNF’d.  For the first time in my memory, I didn’t make it to the finish line.  I always make it to the finish line.  But somehow carrying my bike 30+ miles through the muddy forest didn’t seem like the wise approach.  And that was the only way I was going to get to the finish line with my bike.  Mountain Biking is definitely different than Triathlon.

I wasn’t the only one who DNF’d.  This race was full of DNF’s.  Floyd Landis DNF’d.  I passed any number of people with broken Derailleurs, taco’d wheels, and heavy crashes.

Between mile 6 and 7 of the 25 mile loop there is a vicious left hand turn, a STEEP rocky drop off, and a wooden bridge at the base of the drop.  I have nightmares about this section.  I hear Floyd will be having those nightmares too now.  I am told he came down the drop,  hit the muddy slick bridge and fishtailed off the bridge into the rocky stream and hurt his hand in a heavy fall.  Will have to wait for the story in CyclingNews to find out what really happened.  At the finish line, certain pro riders wryly stated that Floyd will work hard to find a reason to DNF.  Perhaps it was the round of beers that Jim bought Floyd and his entourage at dinner on Friday Night.

Everything started off normal enough.  We hung out with Floyd at dinner. Prepped our gear for the morning.  Dropped off our Aid Station bags .  (They don’t call them special needs bags probably because the race is self-supported so you are expect to have  most of what you need in those bags. )  And went to bed.

Woke up to Tornado Warnings and torrential thunder storms, but we diligently packed up and left for the start line.  My wife quaintly asked: If you dislike the mud and rain so much, why don’t you just opt out if it is wet?  I would think after all these years she would know that its not an option.  You play the cards dealt to you.  You don’t leave the table.

Race started on the main streets of Loudonville OH in a mass start.  We quickly got off road in thick deep slippery mud.  But no worries, in the first three miles there was a deep stream crossing to wash down the bike.  I knew it was going to be a long day after my third slide out in the first five miles.  Once we got out of the thick mud of the meadows, we got into the thin mud that was a bit like riding on two inches of slush on the road.  Every peddle stroke spun the wheels.   During the first 10 miles, I spent more time picking myself up out of the mud than I did on the saddle.  But I was making reasonably good time anyway –  pre-riding the course was key.  I slid out in the slick mud plenty, but didn’t go down hard at all.   For the next 10 miles I was started to gain my stride.  Settled into a good pattern. Realized that big gears and momentum were better.   Grunt the hills in the middle ring then crank up the speed on the short flats and down hill sections to make up time. Suck down fluids on the flats and grab salt tablets every hour. The first aid station came and went as I had expected.  I passed a dozen people during these miles and was beginning to feel a bit more confident. . . then

Kevan had asked me why I would bother with a cadence/speed sensor on a mountain bike.  It seemed obvious to me that more data was better than less.  Around mile 22 there was an unexpected steep rocky uphill section – the kind where you just spin it and grunt up the section.  Except this time my pedals abruptly stopped with a clunk.  I came off the bike backwards, the bike came over my head as I fell backwards down the hill and I ended up in a rock garden next to the hill.  The Cadence-Speed sensor had been pried lose by all the mud and pine needles and had lodge between my crank arm and chainstay stopping all pedal motion and starting the chain of events that ended it all for me.

I should have stopped earlier and checked out the rhythmic click click click I heard when I was pedaling, but I didn’t.  Probably would have noticed that the sensor had shifted.  But I didn’t, I was too intent on making up time.

After the backwards crash, a small plastic tab  with two fingers on the underside of the nose of the seat had spun around and was sticking ominously out the front of the saddle. This had happened once before on a ride and I didn’t think too much of it.  But as I would soon find out, this was an early sign of a pending catastrophic seat failure.  The front of the seat had a slot that the rounded front section of the saddle rail fit into.  The back of the rails fit into two holes in the back of the saddle.  The little plastic piece apparently was what held the nose of the saddle in place in the slot on the rails. I swiveled it back into place and got back on the bike and rode on.  Didn’t have a screw drive to retighten the piece.

Rode for a bit and noticed that the saddle felt a bit soft in the middle. Apparently during my last fall, the front of the rail had come out of the slot which kept the saddle tensioned.   On the next steep downhill section,  I pushed back in the saddle and it slid right off the rails and tumbled into the woods.  I gingerly got off the bike before piercing my loins with the two blunt metal rails now sticking out of the top of the seat tube.

I retrieved the seat and tried to force it back on the rails, but it needs to be stretched and it wasn’t possible some  machine.  I walked the bike for a while until another rider came by.  He had some emergency duct tape around his seat post which he stopped and gave to me.  I tried to put the rear section of the rails back in and duct tape the front.  This worked for a mile or so until I hit the next technical section.  The tape wasn’t strong enough to hold and the seat fell off again.  I repeated this several times, limped through 4 or 5 more miles and finally gave in when the duct tape became so soaked in sweat that it no longer had any stick.

Custom Designed Endurance MTB Seat

Custom Designed Endurance MTB Seat

Used my GPS to find the road,  pushed and carried the bike through the mud and slop, and rode standing and seatless along the road back to the hotel.

To make matters worse, my front wheel flew off the roof rack on the way home at 80 miles an hour and bounced across the highway.  So now I am seat less and wheel less and I have racked up my first (and last) DNF.

Time for a new bike!!!


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