Mohican 100- yes I keep calling it MUDhican- which is exactly what it was…….
Teammate Martin had sent me a great glowing description of the Mohican trails. I didn’t see THOSE trails, but I saw glimpses of what could be potential of those trails.
I got to Loudonville Ohio Friday evening and got my race packet. I’d been in Ohio all week for work and it rained every day in central Ohio. As I got to Loudonville, it was raining once again.
I had dinner then checked into my inexpensive motel which was five miles from the start of the race, which was downtown Loudonville. The finish would be at the Mohican Adventure resort which was about two miles west of downtown Loudonville.
I set the alarms for 6am but woke up at 4am and tried to get back to sleep but the residents of then next room were stirring at 430-500am anyway so sleep was difficult. I got up at about 515am and dressed and packed, departing the room and arriving in downtown Loudonville about 6am under a light drizzle of rain.
I had dressed with legwarmers, armwarmers and a base layer. Rain looked imminent at any time but the temperatures were well into the 70s so I peeled off the base layer and warmers. I was glad I did because I never got cold during the race.
The race started at 700am with 600+ riders heading out of Loudonville on the paved roads north straight up a steep climb. Once out of town there was a left turn onto a country road about a half mile, then a sharp right onto a short gravel track and …….. a standstill! The course there immediately funnelled to a singletrack which began with a sharp drop and very few riders were actually trying to ride it. As we stood there, the guy in front of me was puking four or five times and explained it as nerves and adrenaline. Kinda funny.
Once into the singletrack we began some of the most torturous racing/riding I’ve done in all my mountainbike riding life. The trail soil was a churned, pasty pancake-like paste of material which gummed up your tire tread and cause the back wheel to slip constantly. Any downhill was impossible to take at any decent speed since the greasy slipperiness of the trail would make stopping or turning completely difficult if not impossible. Steady grade uphills were almost impossible to ride due to the back wheel slipping. The technical sections were hazardous as wheels were slipped and thrown sideways on any angled root or rock.
I’ve never walked so much in a race as I did Saturday. Curiously, and I wasn’t the only one to notice this as RBS racer Art Fleming even said the same thing, there were numerous- numerous- hike-a-bike sections that would not have even been rideable in good weather. Some of these were well over 100 yards long.
I got to the first aid station (approximately mile 20) in THREE HOURS. Keep in mind, as a frame of reference, I rode the first 18 miles of Cohutta singletrack in two hours. It had rained the night before at Cohutta too. But Mohican trail did not drain and was a saturated paper-mache tread. I drank some water at Aid #1 and let more air from my tires which started at 45lbs. I was surprised to see pro-racer Danielle Musto show up. She was having much difficulty with her rear derailleur.
Back on the course, more mud, then- yes- more mud. There were a couple spots of road and gravel two track, then………….. more mud. And yet, more mud…………..
At one point we crossed a creek which was about knee deep and I dunked my bike in and washed the mud off the drive train. It was a short-lived cleaning since as soon as you got out of the creek, you had to hike the bike up a hill which again could not be ridden given the conditions. After this 100+ yard climb on foot, you could re-mount the bike for……… more mud.
Aid station #2, I arrived at 100pm. Six hours of grueling riding in slippery, tread-clogging riding I’d gone 34 miles- REALLY! This aid station had a power hose, so I hosed down the bike and cleaned the drive train. I filled both Heed bottles, which I’d emptied in the last ten miles. Danielle was working with a mechanic on her bike, still experiencing drive train issues, unfortunately. She’s quite fast and I know if it weren’t for the mechanicals she’d have contended for podium.
I rode out the continue the race. Another walking climb due to the mud, some riding in the mud, a turn and a climb. I paused a mile or mile-and-a-half into the next section and took out the laminated map and directions of the course. Description for the 100 miler’s read “enter the Mohican State Forest…….” UGH. More singletrack, MORE MUD.
I hesitated for four or five minutes, undecided as to my decision, then turned back to Aid station #2. My right leg (ITband area) was getting achy from pushing the bike through the mud, I was six hours in and only 34 miles, there were no significant sections of road or two track on the course and more singletrack at the less-than-six-miles-per-hour pace meant a long long long day of riding. Additionally, the race has cut-offs and if you don’t pass certain stations by a certain time the pull you from the course anyway.
I evaluated the fact I could ride for nearly 80 or 90 miles and get pulled to DNF anyway. I then turned the bike around and headed back to the aid station. I cleaned the bike again, told a volunteer I was dropping and road the gravel and paved roads back to the Mohican Adventure resort- all road riding which took me about a half hour.
I then rode the two miles further back into Loudonville during which a complete thunderstorm blew in again. As I was getting drenched (and inadvertently cleaned off of the mud), I knew I’d made the right decision about dropping out.
I ended up cleaning off the mud, packing my gear and going to the race headquarters to eat my post-race meal, then drove back to Michigan.
All in all, I don’t think I will try Mohican again. I am definitely going back to Cohutta, but I won’t commit to Mohican. Give the cost and time to do one of these events, I want to go to a race that is rideable even in inclement weather because once you pay for the event you gotta do it – or try it- even in bad weather. Cohutta is rideable in even a downpour- I’d found that out in April. But I don’t want to commit to another Mohican effort if the weather becomes uncooperative and then have to try an impossible course.
Interestingly, pro racer Jeff Shalk took over eight hours to finish Mohican this year. Last year the winner finished in about 6-1/2 hours.
Dennis B Murphy