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Author Topic: Mo'freakin'hican 100... (Read 2813 times)
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sommerfliesby
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« on: June 06, 2012, 08:12:04 PM »

So I've got this problem, see?  I like to come up with difficult and painful ways to challenge myself athletically every year or so.  Ultramarathons, triathlons, Xterras, 12 hour solo mtb races, 24 hour mtb races, multi-day road bike tours, etc...they've all come and gone and been placed on the "Been there, done that" list.  As a general rule, when I set my mind to doing something stupid like this, I usually succeed.  However, a couple years ago...I tried and failed, and was unable to add to my list.  My failure was in a 100 mile mountain bike race, in that case, the Levis-Trow 100, and it bothered me this whole time.  Sometime last fall, some ramdom symantic firing popped the words "Mohican 100" into my brain...and the subconcious part of my brain that always comes up with the difficult and painful things said "That sounds like a GREAT idea!"  Now, it took the better part of the winter for the crazy brain-part to convince the rational brain-part that this was, in fact, a desireable course of action.  So, at the end of January, I signed up.

Training would be time consuming....I knew this, largely due to the lack of time I had spent training for Levis and the resultant DNF.  I told my wife I loved her, and that despite the amount of time I would be spending with my bikes, our marriage was as sound as ever.  I am lucky to have such an understanding companion, and though she does still scowl at the sight of my mountain bikes, she just recently let me sleep in the same bed with her once again.

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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2012, 08:23:47 PM »

What did I do to train, you ask?  Well...I read the race description over and over again, and when I was sufficiently frightened, I got out and RODE.  "HILLY," the description said.  "VERY VERY HILLY."  Like SUPER hilly.  Totaling approximately 11,000 feet of climbing.  Yowza.  This is OHIO we are talking about...there are no mountains in Ohio....are there?  Well, according to Mr. Race Description, the 11,000 would be achieved 300-350 feet of vertical at a time over the 100 miles.  Conclusion?  The hills will NEVER stop. 

I rode all winter.  I rode all spring.  I rode my road bike, a cross bike, my singlespeed, my fatbike and my Voodoo 29er, which would be the weapon of choice on race day.  I rode gravel roads, dirt roads, paved roads, gravel trails, dirt trails, and, thanks to an unusually dry spring, LOTS of Palos singletrack.  I planned routes from my house and from my shop, linked multitrack with singletrack in creative manners, and basically set aside my after-work hours on Friday to extended fatbike tours, some lasting in the 5-6 hour range by mid-spring.  I figured that if I could pedal that beast around, the Voodoo would be like riding on air.  Finally, a little over a month before the race, I knocked out a 102 mile day at Palos with local hero Bionic Bob Anderson...that gave me some confidence.  The only thing I couldn't do...was train for those hills.  That took away a bit of my confidence, but I'm stupid and I LOVE to climb...so I maintained a positive mental attitude.  I was as ready as I was ever gonna be.

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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2012, 08:37:45 PM »

The week before the race, I learned that erstwhile speed merchant Mitch Moen would be joining me on my travels and throwing his crazy ass into the mix.  Additionaly, I guess some random rambling about the race in the staging area after a winter ride was all it took to convince frequent Palos riders Mike Sealey and Felbert Edrada that the Mohican would be a good idea...so there would be four of us local boys down for the big ride.

After a warm, dry spring, Mother Nature HAD to throw the nasty card at us, and as we drove east, it was in a cold rain...the temp was 47 degrees.  Not good.  However, the forecast for race day seemed to get better with every hour, and thankfully, there would be no rain and temps in the upper 60s, with only a 15-20 mph wind to contend with.  Just about perfect.

Loudonville, Ohio, the town which hosts the race, was about 6 hours from my doorstep.  Truth be told, it was about 5-1/2 hours of the FLATTEST terrain I've ever seen...and I've been to NEBRASKA.  About 1/2 hour out, we noticed the hills began to roll.  Shortly after that, the roll turned into a rolick.  I was having to slow down at the crest of the hills in the truck because I couldn't see where the road was on the other side.  I was braking on the downhills.  My diesel truck was downshifting like crazy to get uphill.  Clearly, Mr. Race Description had not lied.
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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2012, 08:45:54 PM »

We checked in at the Mohican Adventures campground and got our numbers and three 1-gallon Ziplock bags that we could put supplies in and have dropped at our choice of aid stations during the race.  I had been planning on meeting a couple people from my favorite biking blog, Drunkcyclist.com, and lo and behold...they were the very first people we met.  Judi, one of the contributors to the blog, would be doing the 100k, and was looking for some redeption in the same manner as me, as she had tried and failed at the Mohican last year.  It was cool to put some faces with names, and share the goodtime mountain bike vibe that is pervasive at every offroad event.

We then made our way to our hotel, about 20 minutes out of town. How we made it, I'm not quite sure, as the Mohican National Forest seems to be some kind of cellphone and GPS black hole.  At any rate, the place we stayed was REALLY nice...the Mohican Hotel and Conference Center...and we had dinner and a couple beers on the premesis before retiring for a restless night of "sleep."

Six months of training...all on the line in the morning.  Yeah, I was a little nervous.
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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2012, 08:56:06 PM »

It was 49 degrees in the morning when we rolled up to the start, but it became immediately obvious that we'd be warming up REAL fast.  The start went through downtown Loudonville, then STRAIGHT UP for about 1/2 mile.  Yikes.  Nothing like hitting the redline early on a 100 mile quest!  I rolled out easy, spun up the hill, then had to wait in a conga line for 2 or 3 minutes while people funneled into the singletrack, which was pretty slick from the rain the previous day.  The 100 mile and 100 k participants all started at the same time, so it was something of a cluster...but I wasn't exactly in a hurry, so I just pedaled along in line, and if the person in front of me was picking bad lines, I passed them.  The singletrack was pretty technical...lots of roots and rocks, off camber turns, sharp climbs, switchbacks...the whole gamut of midwest mtb fun...and the climbs were frequent and quite steep.  I wound up behind a guy from New Jersey who was very experienced at ultra distance racing, and he just said "Spin, and your legs will thank you at mile 80."  I took his advice.

Even taking it easy, I was working hard.  It was either that or fall over backwards and go sliding downhill.  The first aid station was at mile 20, and by the time I reached it, I was thinking "My god, I hope the rest of the race isn't like this...I'll never make it."  Great.  I grabbed a Clif Bar and 1/2 of a banana, shoved them in my mouth, and took off with the reassurance that at least the next aid station was only 14 miles away.
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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2012, 09:06:27 PM »

Wait...did I just say ONLY 14 miles?  Because after about the first 8, which were absolutely beautiful winding singletrack through a dark pine forest, things got WAY difficult.  I was having a good time, and it wasn't just because there were two fast women directly in front of me for this portion, when suddenly, I was on the brakes and going down a steep downhill, and I could see people dismounting before the uphill.  Why are they stopping?  Why aren't they even trying to ride?  Then I got there. And one look told me that NOBODY was riding this one.  We are talking straight-up pushing the bike up a steep grade for 3-4 solid minutes.  It was ridiculous.  I attempted levity by mentioning to the gentleman behind me that there had better be a couch and some beer at the top of this to make it worthwhile.  There wasn't.  Instead, there was a 4 mile or so section of horse trails, complete with two more devastating climbs and one wicked descent featuring wood water bars that were so eroded that the were sticking a foot out of the ground all the way across the tread.  After getting off my bike and stepping over the first couple, I decided I could actually make a run at the rest, and bunnyhopped my way downslope and out of the equestrian section.  Oh...I forgot to mention...that section was nasty muddy as well, with some 4 inch deep peanut butter sucking precious energy with every pedal stroke.  Aid station 2 did not come soon enough.
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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2012, 09:19:06 PM »

I had a drop bag waiting at aid 2.  It was pretty cool how they worked it...as you rolled up, a person about 200 yards away with a walkie talkie would tell the aid station your number, and a volunteer would have your bag waiting for you as you arrived.  I ate my Hostess apple pie and another 1/2 banana, finished off the Gatorade in my bottle, and topped off my Camelback.  Shortly before aid 2, the singletrack FINALLY relented, giving way to some rolling gravel roads.  I say "rolling," but most of the rolling came on the downhills...the uphills were more along the lines of CRAWLING.  I stayed conservative with my gearing once again, and actually did some passing despite not pushing very hard.  It would seem the race was starting to claim its victims.

A few miles before aid 3, I had a navigational error.  I turned right on a road called (I am not making this up) Big Hill Road, and immediately caught another rider on the eponymous hill.  He was struggling, and I put at least 200 yards on him by the time I hit the summit, only to find that I could not see the next rider in front of me...and I was at a four-way intersection.  I didn't feel like waiting for the guy I'd just passed, and the only race sign at the intersection had two arrows pointing down.  So...I went straight...and bombed down the Big Hill.  I came out at a building where they ran little excursions out into the woods...and saw that the trail signs I was looking at were not facing me!  I panicked...then heard my name.  Who the heck knew me here???  It was Mike Sealey's fiance and Felbert's wife...talk about coincidence!  They said, you are the only one that has come this direction.  CRAP.  I would have to go all the way back up BigHILL. 
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« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2012, 09:27:32 PM »

Or would I?  I flagged the next rider coming through, and asked him how much trail I'd just cut off.  He was a local, familiar with the course, and he said about 1/2 mile.  So, I chose to continue along to the next aid station, whereupo-impon I would impose a penalty upon myself and wait for the guys I know were in front of me to pass before continuing.  On the way, I came upon a rider and bike that were clearly in a bad way.  There was a tough double root-drop, and this guy apparently had gone over the bars.  Before I knew it, I was dropping the same roots...my butt was practically behind the back tire and I was jamming on the rear brake, hoping not only to not end up like the other guy, but also not to hit him!  I succeeded on both counts, then put my bike into the woods and went back to the guy to help him out.  He definately had broken his arm, and was in shock.  I pulled his bike off the trail got him sat down, collected his water bottles, and then said I would go to the aid station and get help.  I did exactly that, then sat for 3 minutes or so until a guy on a Milwaukee Bicycle Co. 29er that had been immediately in front of me passed by..then I started racing again.  In my concern for the other dude and my self-imposed penalty...I pretty much forgot to take any food or drink.  Slight mistake.

The course went back to alternating between tough singletrack and tough gravel roads...the hills were just nonstop...there was almost NO flat ground...and I just kept on pedaling.
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« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2012, 09:36:38 PM »

I had heard rumors of a rail-grade in the course, and was just wondering when that might come into play...when it did.  I caught a gentleman named Rodney from Columbus, and we started cranking off the miles together.  It was boring...4 miles of 1-2% grade up, followed by 4 miles of the same grade down.  The only interesting part was when we were about to cross Ohio longest covered bridge...and it was closed.  Trail blocked.  Shut down.  For a WEDDING!  We had to back track and detour out to a highway to get around...probably an additional mile or so that earlier or later riders didn't have to contend with...lucky us! 

Aid Station 4 was at 72 miles, and I inhaled my Donut Stiks and some more Gatorade, along with a Gu, and sat with my shoes off for a couple minutes.  I didn't even want to know what time it was, for fear that reality might come knocking at my door with an unhealthy dose.  I started off on my own, and literally didn't see another racer for about the next 40 minutes, which was kinda cool.

There were some more KILLER hills (I hope I don't sound redundant...I'm being TRUTHFUL!)  Over the course of the race, I probably had to walk 5 or 6 times because I ran out of gears on the 2 X 10...something I'm not very used to!
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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2012, 09:45:56 PM »

At about mile 78, there was a cool suspension bridge crossing, and on the other side there was a makeshift aid station manned by two dudes from a local bike shop.  I was riding with a guy on a singlespeed (!!!!!) at this time, and we both stopped.  I went to grab a peanut butter and jelly sammy, and when I swung my leg over the bike, my hamstring LOCKED.  I screamed like a little girl...I'm sure it scared the bike shop dudes cuz they started running around saying "What can we get you?  What do you need?"  I scored some Ibuprofin and a glass of water, straightened my leg with considerable effort, and tried to stretch it out without pulling the muscle.  The singlespeed dude asked the bike shop guys if they had a beer.  They did.  He chugged it.  Harder man than I.  Lol.

Mile 80...and I kept thinking back to the New Jersey guy's advice about how my legs would thank me.  Well...I'm not sure they were thanking me by the time we got to the top of the mile-long climb!  I was in my lowest gear, barely turning it over, and finally just gave up and walked the final couple hundred yards.  What kind of masochist puts this hill in the course at 80 miles?!?  I laughed to myself while at the same time saying I wanted to punch that guy in the throat.

By this time, I was under 20 miles, so I knew that barring catastrophy, I was going to finish.  Then I ran out of water.  Oops...forgot to fill the Camelback at Aid 4!  I rode 4 or 5 miles on empty before hitting Aid 5, and even though there was only 5 miles of singletrack to the finish, I filled my bottle and my Camelback with the intention of getting some good hydration before all the beer I was going to drink!
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sommerfliesby
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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2012, 09:55:06 PM »

I flew through the last 5 miles...I was REALLY having fun at this point and I had done what I'd come to do. My legs still felt good, despite slight cramping, I had a lot left in the tank, which was OK, since my goal had merely been finishing, and considering the course, you just never knew when you might need those reserves.  Upon crossing the finish line, I was given a huge beer jug courtesy of race sponsor Great Lakes Brewing, and told to drink all the beer I wanted.  Awesome.  I cleaned up first, and grabbed one of my personal beers, a New Glarus Honey Bock, to celebrate.  Then I celebrated some more with Great Lake Holy Moses and Dortmonger and the Drunkcyclist crew.

Mitch ended up blazing the course in 8 hours 17 minutes...good enough for 32nd place.  I was 72nd, at just under 10 hours.  Mike and Felbert rode together and finished in just over 12 hours, so we were 100% on the finishes...not bad considering we are all flatlanders.

So...was it to be the last of my Mohicans?  As of now, 4 days hence, I'm still thinking yes.  There are new challenges and tons more stupid things for me to do in this world, but I can honestly say this was a terrific experience.  I would highly recommend giving it a try.
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« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2012, 10:00:13 PM »

You, my friend, are a freaking machine. Congrats to all of you guys.
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« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2012, 10:02:02 PM »

Thanks for sharing the blow by blow recap.  Congrats!
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« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2012, 10:02:43 PM »

Best post-race write up... ever.  I don't ever want to hear that you walked a Hill again though, you are Billy Goat and climb you must!  Well done indeed.
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2012, 10:37:16 PM »

Excellent write up my friend! It's hard to imagine what 100 miles would feel like, but then again I'm willing to live vicariously through your write up... For now. Props on the first responder role as well. It must  have been quite surreal to roll up on that. BTW,  you were either born for journalism, or you've read one too many blogs. Congrats!
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