03 June, 2008

The Muddy Mohican 100

The news was delivered by a man in a golf cart.

"Tornado warning is in affect. Shelter’s are in this basement, that basement, and the basement around the corner from that."

Dejay joked that he’d surely be safe in Fuzzy's trailer, “Tornadoes don’t hit trailers.”

What is quickly becoming tradition, is at least at this point a self fulfilling prophecy. It will rain before an NUE race. Around 10 pm the fly of my tent was met with summer sized rain drops and my dreams laced with the lightning show overhead. The five a.m. rise and shine was a little damp, and even less motivating, but I was determined, if nothing else, to not miss the start of this race.

This year's running of the Mohican 100 started in downtown Loudonville. The move resulted in no more fans than the small ranks of friends and family that would watch a race start anywhere. During some smack talk banter and general well wishing amongst the likes of Jake Kirkpatrick, Dejay, Fuzzy, and Team Dicky, I think I heard Ryan O’dell mumble something about a horn, then there was a horn, and then there was a start. What we did gain from our downtown start was an immediate climb out of town, with the geared guys chasing down a city limits prime. The pack moved along well through some country roads, slowly degrading to dirt, and then a section of single track that must have contained the most heinous log yet to be introduced to mountain biking. Suddenly 4 inches of fallen timber had the pack stacked, and some aggressive line choice was the order of the day as hundreds of riders were apparently reintroduced to mountain biking. A brand new hike-a-bike section thinned the herd as we made our way through the final pasture and onto the Mohican State Forest trails.

Almost immediately I was having stomach issues, or what I thought were stomach issues, but continued to make my way through some of the more conservatively paced riders. The state forest trail wasn’t in the jetway fast condition it was earlier in the week. It had just enough tack on the top that I’d instinctually keep looking at my rear tire pressure. All good back there, its just going to be a slow day. By mile 15 I was in some serious stomach pain, every bump resonating in my gut so that I’d have to clench my core any time I was out of the saddle. Not looking good at this point, and thoughts of DNF and “what did I eat?,” were all that filled my head. Somewhere halfway up the climb after the covered bridge I decided to dismount and verify a hunch I had.

My seatpost had slipped (or was mistakenly placed?) 6 ticks low, almost 2 and a half inches! I think the whole determination of a race start, mixed with my go-to attitude of blaming nutrition had me oblivious to the fact that I was pedaling like a 35 year old BMXer. At this point, the obvious fast guys were gone, and I had seen Chip, Jake and Dickey all pull out of site. With my saddle where it belonged, I essentially had fresh legs and was able to attack the rest of the climb, passing folks in the switchbacks and regaining my position on those that passed during the saddle adjustment. Somewhere in the final singletrack descent I passed a frustrated Jake Kirkpatrick of New Belgium fame. He was muttering something about “different riding conditions,” which I can only assume meant mud. Shouldered the bike for the pipeline hike a bike, pinned the heartrate on the way up and looked forward to settling in.

The middle of the race gets a little fuzzy. I made aid 2, fixed a loose cleat, walked a lot of sloppy trails made that way by those low impact equines we are all so fond of. Climbed some more trails/roads/mud, reached and skipped aid 3, started the climb up the Mohican Wilderness, reached the top, made the left onto the road and entered the rolling section. I knew at this point that Dickey was pushing a bigger gear, maybe a much bigger gear, and although he had suffered through the first 20 miles, his sage wisdom was going to favor him out here. There’s an art to choosing a gear for a hundred mile one speed race. An art that I still feel is outside my unenlightened fingers. I gear so that I can climb stuff. Dickey, and I’m sure the other faster guys, gear to win in the flats, knowing they may not make all the steep punchy climbs.

With the aid of my spinny sissy gear, I made the hot, steep wall of a road that was expertly peppered with roadkill, a few more rollers, stopped to retighten a loose cleat, and saw Dickey cresting the previous rise just as I was making a left onto the flats. I was now in pure race mode, somewhere I haven’t been in a 100 miler yet (this being my second). I was pushing really high RPMs through this flat section, and tucking into ridiculous positions to try to maintain speed through the false flats. Rich’s bigger gear would no doubt be on me in no time. One of these brilliant tuck positions, mixed with a little fatigue, caused me to coast right past a left turn arrow, landing me a mile down the road, at a T intersection with no sign. I thought maybe it had been removed so I awaited the arrival of hot on my heels Dickey, but he never came. I circled around a bit, looking for evidence of bike travel, and decided to turn back, just in time to see a pack of riders high above on a different road. Work ahead for sure.

I passed Chip during the next pursuit and had a misunderstood exchange.

“Is Dicky up here somewhere?”

Chip, thinking I said “Dejay” gave me a kind of “of course he is, way up there, and why are you chasing him, ass” look, and I moved on. Ran into Betsy Shogrun during a muddy fresh cut logging road, and watched as she climbed away when it pitched up. Later, at the devil’s crossroads, or the “we don’t need a sign here because it must be obvious” turn at the camp gates, I rolled up on Betsy, Dickey, and Chris McGill, and the real fun began. Dickey was a little wasted, dazed and confused, so we left him at the crossroads, and road until it was just Chris and I, now approaching a lost looking Topher and Jamie, heading our way on the first few hundred yards of the mental crux of the course. We were of no use for Betsy at this point, so she left us in favor of the women’s win. We now had a band of one speeders, Jamie, Chris, Topher and myself, and it stayed like this all the way until aid 4. I can’t imagine doing this section alone. Rails to Trails are not the ally of the one speed rider. Lots of spinning. Mindless spinning. I think it was like 6 or 7 miles of this. I have to give a lot of credit to Rich for keeping it together during this section, solo, and catching us at aid 4 just as we were on our way out. But it was a race, so Chris and I left out, trying to drop some folk, Jamie caught us, I got dropped, caught back up with Topher, who fell off the back, and then later I watched as Chris and Jamie climbed out of reach.

It was a solo effort from this point out. Kept the mind together as best as I could, and kept looking over my shoulder for Dickey coming on strong. The last road climb pitched up off Wally Rd. and almost broke me. I remembered it from last year, and had Rich’s ghost not been behind me, I probably would have walked a lot more. Even the 32 x 19 wasn’t spinning all that well at this point.

Aid 5 was a quick on bike stop, just filling my empty feed bottle with a little watered down HEED. I just wanted something cold. My 70 oz of Dedicated Athlete Rapidade had served me well for the first 93 miles, but it was a little warm at this point. Hit the last mile of the State Forest backwards, into the flat spinny campground and into the mud pits. I was trying to avoid the muck, riding the squirrely lines on the side when my wheel slopped a few inches left, caught my bars on a tree and went flying towards a large puddle. I somehow dabbed, drug my bike behind me and saved it, just splashing my right foot shin deep in last night’s organic mud slurry. The river side trail eventually opened up to the Dam, the 200 ft staircase hike that greets you a mere 3 miles from the finish. At the top, I took a quick breather, and looked through my front triangle and saw Rich starting the hill. This thing was going all the way to the finish (or so I thought). I yelled a quick encouragement to Dickey, who heard none of it, and off I went. Chased some people down on the road climb, almost hearing Rich behind me with every rustling leave or chain noise. I knew that there was a new finish to the race; “a climb with a long descent after it.” So EVERY time it pitched up, I thought I was almost done, which lead to about 5 or 6 false summits of short muddy climbs. I wasn’t going to have Rich put seconds on me after the effort I had put forth thus far. After finally finding the true top, I descended through the campground and crossed the line; 6th out of a healthy field of 32 one speed riders, with a time of 8:59.33. Rich crossed the line 10 minutes later, thankful he had not heard me at the top of the dam. He wasn’t in the mood to chase down anyone.

Thanks to all my support for this event, with special mention to Shane at Dedicated Athlete for turning me onto Rapidade. I think the little caffeine kick mixed in with the electrolyte and trace mineral mix made it possible to actually race 100 miles rather than simply ride myself to the finish line.

No comments: