10 days 1000 miles

Flash back to April 2, 2010- a month before I was to attempt the Mohican-100 mountain bike race, teammate Martin Hall was in Ohio and sent this trail description:

“First off prepare to climb!!!  The trail starts at the state park main entrance, just on the north as you pull in. You get about 400 yards of flat 2 track between the road and the hills. This flat abruptly ends with a switch back starting you up the hill. The primary climb ends at about 1 mile then you begin a series of great downs and back ups all along the ridge of the hills and valleys(big ravines) the trail flows really well but it’s a lot of up and down. Each up section is followed by a short recovery section!  Between mile 6+7 you’ll climb a ridge that offers spectacular views of the mohican river valley 300-400 ft above the valley floor, the climb goes on and on. Mile 8 brings you out onto a pine covered 2 track and the 1st road crossing, Nothing spectacular except at mile 9.5 you start downhill back to the river, lots of steep! Switch backs that by summer will be loose and sketchy. Just past mile 11 you’ll hit the covered bridge crossing, guess what’s next, climb back up the other valley side, yes you’re going back up! After that 2 mile orgy of pain you once again spend 10 miles or so of riding ridge lines up and down as you make your way back east to the start area. In total 26 miles of great riding. The trail is really well marked and clear mile markers and arrows every mile. Note to self, 36-16 single speed was really hard (walking type hard) to get up the long climbs and switch back but was great.”

Martin was describing the 26 miles of trail in the Mohican State Park. I went there in 2010 for one of the NUE (National Ultra Endurance) mountain bike race series in my first attempt a the NUE Series.  I later wrote to Martin that I didn’t see the great trails he described.  It had rained in central Ohio every day that week, sometimes twice.  By race day the ground was saturated.  Add to that 600 racers of which I was in the back 200 and by the time we hit trails, the single track was a greasy mess combined with rocks and off camber roots.  Forty miles in at aid station #3 I bailed on the race and rode back to the Mohican Adventure Resort campground to DNF.  I’d been on the course for six hours!  During my ride back to my car the sky opened up again, cleaning all the mud off as if I was in a car wash.  Dropping out was the right thing.  I would never have made the time cut-off and been pulled from the course anyway.

Four years later, I was going to attempt Mohican again and, needless to say, hoping for better weather and trail conditions.

But first- the DRAMA!   My front Lefty fork was damaged last week and on Tuesday I was frantically searching for a replacement on Ebay.  I bid on one and a few minutes from the finish bid time, I emailed the seller asking if she could expedite ship to me to arrive by Thursday and said I’d pay the addes shipping. She agreed, I won and Thursday noon a carbon Lefty (with Fox insert upgrade) arrived.  Thursday afternoon I attempted to replace the fork and could NOT get the old one out of the bike.  In a near panic I bundled the bike into the car and drove to Gap30Cycles for assistance.  Terry and John were very helpful.  John got the bike right onto a stand and we began working on it. Nearly an hour later, we had the old one off and the new one installed.  The original fork has been on the bike since I bought the frame in 2006!  There was no magic issue, simply a corroded spacer ring which would not let the handlebar headset tube come out of the headtube of the bike.  Cannondale also calls for a special tool (a K020 tool) which John did not have but he had a big cylindrical metal tool for another use which served quite well. Basically, it needed to be inserted into the headtube. It also needs a bevel on the bottom where it meets with the headset tube to center it before you give it a smack with a rubber mallet. WHEW- thanks Gap30 and John!

The next day, I swear the biking gods were testing me.  My front tire was flat.  I popped the bead and dumped some STANS into the tire and re-inflated.  It held and worked well at the race the next day.  On to the race.

The course is a mixed use of the Mohican State Park trails, gravel and paved roads with other single track and horse trails in the area added in.  Much of the single track and wooded trail sections are quite advanced riding- this is NO BEGINNER course- not even the 26 miles in the state park!  The ascents in the trails are also technical with rocks and roots to climb over.  Often the back tire would slip and there would be hike-a-bike after that for a few yards until a flat section presents itself to get back on the saddle.  The climbs are quite tough.  After the race I was discussing the course with Jon Mullen who said he thought the course was tougher than Shenendoah-100 and Wilderness-101 races.  I suspect he is right.

The race starts in downtown Loudonville (two miles from where the finish is located at Mohican Resort) and heads out of town and up an immediate steep grade paved road.  A few miles after the road flattens out, the course turns onto gravel and then enters the state park by an access trailway which is sider than single track. After some fast downhills here, the line of riders came to a stop.  I looked ahead and everyone was standing in line to one-at-a-time cross a creek.  Well, rather than wait I hopped off the bike and ran the creek a couple yards to the right of where people were riding, passing a half dozen riders and hopping back on my bike.  Shortly after the course does indeed enter the marked State Park 26 mile trail.

I clipped a tree at one point, skidding on my side and top of my head, but no damage.  Other than that no crashes occurred for me. The long road sections had miles of uphill riding for which I simply dropped into the granny gear and spun my way up each at 4-6 MPH.  Oddly, in the last half of the course one particular rider would pass me on flat sections going quite fast, but we’d hit those steep road grades and he was walking and I’d pass him on the climb.  Repeat a few miles later.  It’s always interesting to see how riders get clumped together in these long events and you see the same ones at checkpoints as you pass each other back and forth depending on each rider’s strengths.  I was able to pass people in the downhill technical sections as I bounced down rocks and roots and short drops with my full suspension bike and they would catch me on a long climb.

I had no knowledge of the course and no expectations of what my time might be.  About 50 miles in I was on a 10+ hour pace, but that dwindled rapidly as the climbs persisted and slowed my average MPH.  After the an aid station, the course dumped onto a rail trail which was mostly gravel.  I was riding fine for about half of it then began to slow down as the grade went into a false flat climb.  The racer I was passing on the steep climbs blasted by me and urged me to draft which I did. Soon we were up to 16MPH and after a bit more than a mile he edged over and I continued the pace and pulled him forward into the aid station where Coca-cola and fruit hit the spot.  I got on the bike to head to the last aid station before the finish.  I passed the same rider again on a steep climb, zoomed down some gravel roads (at one point I hit 40MPH on my computer on some downhill road during the day). I would not see him again until dinner.  The course then dumps onto a road and into a parking lot for the last aid station which was right down the road from the Mohican Resort and the finish line, but the course sends you back into a portion of the 26 mile State Park trail again, then into the campground of the resort (where I missed a turn and had to turn around to get on the correct path) and then to the finish chute.

I crossed the finish line at 12:01 as the 15th of 29 Master’s Men racers and received my finisher growler.

As I said, no expectations of time or results other than to finish.  My only disappointment was that as I came through the finish Tinker Jaurez was sitting in the bleachers near the awards area.  By the time I got to my car to drop off gear get my meal tickets and returned, he was gone and I didn’t get an opportunity to meet him. So I got my growler filled with free Great Lakes IPA

The course was extremely well marked, volunteered and staffed very well.  Kudos to Ryan O’Dell and his crew.

I was able to renew acquaintances. Jon Mullen was there. I was able to say hello to Gerry Pflug.  Heidi Schilling, whom I met in Costa Rica at La Ruta, did well on the course.  She commented (and I agree) that Mohican was GREAT training for La Ruta with some segments providing an “I’ve seen that” moment!

The resort campground is really nice. I was impressed.  Great choices of campsites or rental cabins with modern showers and facilities.  I had dinner at Trails End Pizza right next to the resort.  Good pizza and beer available.

Frankly I found the trails more fun and interesting than those at Brown County Indiana.  The drive to Loudonville is about a half hour less than to Brown County and the campground better.  I’d take a trip there over Brown County in the future.