Mohican 100 mile - NUE series race
I am long overdue for a recap my Mohican 100 adventure before my memory is overwritten by the next 100 mile adventure. I know I’m missing bits and pieces, but here is the gist of my experience. If you are thinking about doing this one in the future give me a shout as I may be able to dig up more out of my hazy memory if the right questions are asked.
For my first 100-mile race of the year I flew into Columbus Ohio from Seattle as a direct flight, the airport is small and thankfully, the rental car facility is attached to the airport. One of the biggest hassles of flying with my bike is the shuttle bus, which is always overcrowded and people tend to stare. Some I can tell stare out of irritation that my bike is taking up so much room and blocking their bags, others are intrigued as to what is in this mystery bag. Either way it is a lot of extra loading and unloading of my bike, so I will take rolling it an extra 100 yards any day. I picked up a truck from the “Emerald Isle” and made a stop at a Whole Foods as I headed out of the city since I wasn’t sure what kind of food would be available in small town Ohio for the weekend.
I arrived at Loudonville and assembled the bike with minor casualties, the two mini screws that hold my brake line to the Lefty protector had snapped off, nothing that a couple zip ties couldn’t remedy. Always travel with zip ties and duct tape! If you don’t need it today, you will the next time. It is feeling quite warm and humid out, but I figured I should try to acclimate even if I only have one day. I went to a random starting point and do about 3 miles in tracing back the same 3 miles. The trails had gotten a significant amount of rain a few days ago, but were in great shape now with a few puddles that were avoidable. Fun flowy Single-track with some nice roots and rocks thrown in for good measure, then I headed over to packet pickup so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning.
After a good night rest I wake at 4:30 to eat and get everything loaded in the truck so I can get to the parking area by 6am. After parking and unloading my bike, I chat with the guy next to me asking if he had done this one before. Nope, he says, this is my first MTB race. I think to myself, this guy watched one of the preview videos where some other guy did the same. Not original, but brave.
There was a short mile ride from the parking/finish area to the start and I of course am running behind and when I finally show up to the start in Downtown Loudonville there are easily already 400 people lined up (something like 600 are registered). About 70% are 100km riders and the other 30% are my best friends for the day doing the full 100 mile. The 7am start began with a neutral rollout through town and up some pretty significant hills with a few locals giving beer and whisky hand-ups at the top of the biggest start hill, darn it I picked the wrong side of the road to be on! Though probably best to skip the early morning whiskey in lieu of finishing my first big race of the year. After 2 or 3 miles of road we are still fairly bunched up and into the single-track things came to a standstill. I generally have phenomenally bad starts and for a 100 mile race it’s going to be a long day so I generally chose not to burn any of my matches this early in the day. The first 3-4 steep climbs ended up as a Congo walking line, which I had easily ridden the day before, but that is just how it is with the big mass starts, no big deal. Once in the thick of the single-track I’m having a great time keeping pace with a big group of guys that are just slightly slower than I want to go but was probably for the best. As I work my way around 15-20 guys and gals to get to a pace I want to sustain. At the 20 mile aid station I spot an outhouse and take care of that business while I have cover. It is so humid pealing my jersey off to take care of nature’s calling is mighty uncomfortable (I’m so jealous of the guys who don’t need to fully strip just to take a wee). The next section has some good steeps and rocky areas that have me hike a biking a bit and due to the lack of skills of a dozen riders in front of me walking on some potentially fun technical terrain. Then we end up at the infamous “waterbar’ section that has about 10-18 inches of slick mud with 50 or so hecklers alongside to watch us riders crash. I make it maybe 10 feet before I decide crashing at mile 35 is not a great plan nor is mucking up my drivetrain and risking a mechanical, so I shoulder the bike and tiptoe my way through the muck.
At aid station 3, 46 miles in the 100k riders split to head to the finish and I end up riding all alone into the second half of my ride. Literally alone for the next 30 miles. A short road section and back into single-track. This is a much more rugged and remote area and out in the open sun where in the heat of the day really took its toll on me. These trails were obviously not ridden much with the climbs extra steep - which meant more hike a biking for me - which I didn’t feel so bad when I caught up to another lonely rider walking the same sections. Then into some gravel roads of constant undulation and steep pitches of 10-20%; who knew there was so much climbing in Ohio? Finally, into a pathway which was nearly flat for 10 miles. For me these are the worst, being alone and knowing I have to push… this a race after all. I figured if I was going to get any kind of respectable finishing time I had some ground to make up, so I pushed a solid tempo for 40 min or so for the 10 miles of pathway where I saw a handful of beavers (it was right along a river), and one deer crossing my path and seconds later her fawn tried to cross just as I appeared and it scrambled back up the side of the hillside, such a cute little thing. Then finally to aide #4 where my last drop bag was, and my last planned fueling. Grabbed another 2 squares of Pb&J repacked my goodies and headed off. One of the volunteers said I was only the 4th or 5th lady to come by, which made me think that maybe I have a chance at top 5! 5th place is still a $200 purse so as I departed I saw another lady pulling into the aid station and my motivation was now kicked into high gear.
I pushed another 10 miles of steep up and down gravel playing tag with a couple guys that would pass me on the climb and I would fly by on the descent. (What’s with that guys?) Then into a short section of more primitive type single-track with steep sections that were mud slicked and so I am again off my bike and blisters are fully formed on my heals from my bike shoes (which are definitely not made for hike-a-bike). There are a couple signs for aid station 4.5 stating it’s the best aid station 10 years running, full bar and bacon! Then a sign for a bridge “walk to be safe ride to be fast”, then a couple little 10 foot bridges and I’m thinking huh? Then I get to “the” bridge, which normally isn’t a big deal, short ramp up and maybe 50 meters across so I proceed on riding. However, this is a cable bridge and even though it is somewhat flat every pedal stroke gets the bridge swaying back and forth and my handlebars are getting precariously close to the cable handrails, then the exit ramp which is an easy grade down but I’m a little off balance due to the back and forth swinging of the bridge and end up hitting my handlebars back and forth on the wooden handrails the whole way down. Yikes! That got my HR up again after 85 miles of riding! But I survived, laughed it off, and a couple strips of bacon and a just in case water fill up in one of my bottles and I’m rolling again. The next road section I passed a girl that was getting water from a car and noticed a red plate. The red plates were the 100k (60mile) riders and apparently, they had closed their last aid station before the poor girl got there and she was completely out of water. To be honest that is one of my biggest fears event today. I felt terrible for her, but looks like she was taken care of none the less. Then I was into the last of the single-track in the Mohican Forest where we started and I’m rejuvenated knowing that there are only a few miles left. The climbs felt easy and made me feel a little better about hiking some of the steep stuff back at mile 60 knowing that they really were that steep, and it wasn’t just me being tired and wimpy.
Then to the finish and party! Well I wasn’t 5 or 6th ( I think I was 7th or something), but I had a great time! Complimentary beer at the end was had and I forced some food into my mouth, which after a race like this I always have trouble eating for a few hours. Chatted with some of the other racers; locals to Canadians down from Toronto. Music was playing beer was flowing, I can’t say anyone had the energy to dance but all in all everyone seemed happy even after the huge effort that it took to finish whatever distance they signed up for.
I had a great time, maybe not the fastest out there but I managed to keep a smile on my face for every racer and volunteer I encountered. I am so grateful I can participate is events like this because it takes a certain type of person to race these and a certain type to put them on and all of them are positive influences in my life.
Thank you to the race director, the racers and all the amazing volunteers for making this Seatllite feel welcome and showing me a good time!