A divergence from the usual mowheeler race reports: No real drama (for me). Perfect weather, good hydration, good nutrition, near perfect trails, strong (if still too slow) performance, in all an uneventful, but action packed and fun filled day. A good harbinger for my Leadville Redux.
Easy it was not. This is the second stop of the National Ultra Endurance series, so the course is laid out to challenge the best endurance racers in the country. And challenge it does. Climbing galore, way more than you would expect in a race in the Midwest — an endless assortment of relatively short, steep, grunty uphills. Muddy climbs, technical, rocky climbs, gravel road climbs, paved road climbs, climbs after crossing a stream, climbs through narrow trees, grassy climbs, loose sandy climbs, name your climb and you can find it at Mohican. Roots, rock gardens, miles and miles of gnarled, narrow single track, and every trail condition you can imagine from pine needles to shoe sucking mud round out the challenge.
Six of us lined up with the 400+ other racers in Downtown Loudonville for the Leadville style mass start. For those of you who don’t know the players, we added some personalities to last year’s Leadville crew. Kevan “Maverick” Millstein and his wingman, Jim “Stuffed Goose” Snyder were back for their second shot at Mohican’s hills after barely surviving last year’s outing. Kevan brought his too fit 17 year old, Ethan “Push my Dad till he breaks” Millstein, to the party to make us all feel old and large. Marc “Look Ma! No brakes!” Harrison, who on a lark joined us for the Silver Rush 50 last year, came off 48 straight hours of on call Clinic duty for his first Mohican. Harrison is no stranger to endurance races, having completed more Ironman than the rest of us combined, but like me is a relative novice to MTB racing. Jonnie “Mr. Conservative” Kaye was coaxed out of his protective shell to try not only his first endurance race, but his first mountain bike race. Generally, Jonnie’s motto is don’t ask me to try a race that I haven’t already finished.
We began the festivities on Friday night with the official bike weigh-in. As usual, Marc, being the most fearsome competitor of us all, was burdened with the heaviest ride –more than seven pounds heavier than the lightest of our bunch. For Marc, though, this was no big deal, he had ridden an “old school” downhill bike weighing at least 45 pounds to a respectable Silver Rush finish last year. Jonnie’s was next at 28.5 pounds. Next was Ethan’s late model Epic, at 28 and Jim’s Epic at 27, then mine at 26, and lightest of all was Kevan’s super-trick S-Works uber-bike at 24 lbs. It was fitting that the three heaviest competitors rode the lightest bikes. In my case, the extra 11 pounds I am still carrying around my middle more than makes up for any weight advantage to the bike.
Marc may be the most fearsome competitor of us all, but Kevan is the fiercest. He talked Marc into bringing his bike over for a “tune-up” on Friday morning and then proceeded to rig his rear disc brake so that it would fail early in the race. Just as Kevan planned, Marc’s rear brake failed at mile 4 and Marc was forced to ride the 58 miles with only a front brake. Marc, however, being the most fearsome of us all, had the good sense to prepare for just such an eventuality. He raced the first OMBC race at Mohican Wilderness back in March with only his front brakes functioning. Although that attempt led to an ugly crash and a DNF by Marc, the front brake only practice enabled Marc to complete the Mohican 100 with nothing worse than a broken thumb.
Kevan didn’t fare quite as well. The bad karma created by his ugly attempt to even the field led Kevan to an early collision with a large rock. Kevan was fine, but the derailleur was ripped off his uber-steed. Nonetheless, Kevan MacGyverred the rear derailleur with a zip tie and some chewing gum and intercepted Jim and Ethan further up the trail. Kevan and Jim went on to pace Ethan to an astounding sub-seven hour finish at 44th overall.
My race was uneventful. I rode well over through the Mohican State Forest loop that I now know well. My technical skills have improved enough that I suffered no falls and very few pucker moments. I got through the State Forest loop at close to my best stand alone time for the loop. I then eased into a nice conservative pace for the unfamiliar central section of the race stopping at the Aid Stations to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread (a gourmet treat compared to the Uncrustables at Mt. Mitchell) and to chat with the local volunteers. At one aid station the homeowner who had volunteered his barn for our use proudly told of downing the ¾ dozen bucks on the wall with nothing but a bow and arrow. Around mile 38, I heard an ominous ticking from the drive train. Sure enough on a steep climb a few miles later, my herculean climbing power snapped the chain. Luckily, I have learned a lot from my 5 plus MTB races in the past year: I had a chain tool and quick link in my pack and quickly fixed the broken chain and got back on the course. Of course, tools and replacement parts are no substitute for mechanical knowledge – when I had the volunteer mechanic check the chain at the next aid station 15 miles later, he discovered that I had improperly threaded the chain OVER the guard on the derailleur cage. No wonder it continued to make funny noises and was hard to peddle for those miles. Another lesson learned. I continued to plod along until the final six miles of single track – a backwards short loop of the Mohican Forest trail. I felt fresh and rode like a seasoned mountain bike vet, easily cleaning even the log jumps that had caused significant puckers on the way out. I rolled to a 8:43 finish (7:50 ride time), but have no idea how I placed. I know I wasn’t DFL because Jonnie rolled in around 9:15 with a smile on his face because he had passed several others on the way to his first MTB finish.
In all, a good race and a great adventure.