Monday, June 2, 2014

Going Off the Rails of a Gravy Train: Mohican 100 Trip Report Part I

by Chris and Lily-Bean Chainring

Once upon a time there was a man who liked to ride bikes.  My daughter told me to write this line.  She gets co-authoring credit for this post.

Full on preparations for the 2014 Mohican began with a text exchange:

Jeff: You missed the best Horsey ever! There were strippers at the rest stops!

Well, it was me with my bibs up my crack but it still counts.

Me: I'm disappointed I missed that.

Whoops! Wrong punctuation. Lemme try again:

I'm disappointed. I missed that.

For those of you unfamiliar with the schedule of cycling events in the Chainring realm the Horsey Hundred took place on May 24.  The Mohican was scheduled for May 31.  And yes, both events took place as planned.

We did our final coordination via text as well:

Me: You better shower.  We're gonna be packed tight in Tommy's jeep

Jeff: Are we eating breakfast together [Saturday morning] or waiting for lunch?

Me: Tommy time to eat!  You can eat when you're dead!

Our training consisted of a six hour drive north crammed in Tomahawk’s jeep hearing stories of Ole I Been Climbin’ using cigarette filters for soft ear plugs back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when he was a logger and we discussed how it was a missed opportunity that we didn’t plan on setting up a booth at registration where we could charge people $2.00 to rub the nub for luck.  Or alternately the hernia the size of a banana slug.  It’s a long story, but actually pretty family friendly.  Well, you’d have to be in our family.

Finally we made it to Loudonville Friday afternoon.  We got set up again in the Mohican River Inn (Welcome MRI Patients…er, Guests!) and once again this year Tommy took the hide-a-bed.

“Another beer and I could sleep on this bed!” 
He didn't have any trouble falling asleep on Saturday night.  He really didn't have any trouble Friday night either.

While Jeff was stressing, and I was chilling, Tom went over and over his strategy for proofing the next day.  After a few drills we all were privy to the waking strategy, the coffee strategy, and the actual proofing strategy.  Jeff kept going into the bathroom with his stack of Mountain Bike Action magazines.  When he's nervous he poops a lot.

Jeff and I knew the Mohican was going to be awesome.  Here was a few of the key ingredients: dynamite, pole vaulting, laughing gas, choppers - can you see how incredible this was going to be? - hang gliding, come on!  He was freakin' because he hadn't played roving SAG/coach to me all winter like he did last year.  I think he was nervous for me.  I wasn't nervous for either of us.
We took an easy "loosen up" ride from MRI to Aid Station Three Friday night
Loosened Jeff up for another round with the magazines

Fires and pestilence and creeping death and judgment and paying bills and apocalypse and plagues of swarming termites go whizzing through your head when you're all wound up and trying to sleep the night before a big race.  Not so for me before the race this past Saturday.  After five mountain bike races the jitters have mostly subsided.  Jeff was not so lucky Friday night.  The rest of us woke Saturday to reports of only an hour of sleep and flittering useless random thoughts.  I felt bad.  I tried to downplay my own relaxed mental state.  I tried not to belie my Zen Master Duditude.

Leadville 2012…Friday night in the campground…I was losing my mind.  We'd camped at Turquoise Lakes.  It rained most of the night.  Our neighbors at the next campsite were obnoxiously loud and drunk and I almost got in a fight with them.  It was miserable.

I slept like a baby before the Alpine Odyssey.  But then again, everything about that race went perfectly.  Still the best mountain bike race I've ever participated in.

Mohican last year was brutal.  It rained all night.  Hard.  I heard every drop hit the roof of the motel.  And for me so much was riding on that race.  I was using the Mohican as a measuring stick toward my 2013 Leadville bid.  I was a nervous insomniatic mess.

Leadville last year...honestly, off the top of my head I can't remember.  I think I slept really well.  I was distinctly less stressed across the board.

It seemed like only a year ago we were lined up on Main Street in downtown Loudonville.  And once again we were off for mountain biking glory in the (surprising) hills of north central Ohio.  This year the rain fell earlier in the week.  All seemed well from our foreign perspective, but the story would unfold throughout the day.  It was winter only a few short weeks before we arrived, and heavy rains soaked the area days before.  So while some of us slept easier because there wasn't a noahic rain event Friday night, once on the trail we discovered similar surface conditions to last year’s epic ride.
Climbing out of Loudonville
My last sight of Jeff until the end of the day
(he's in the center of the left lane in the red, white and blue)
Believe it or not, I was not the last racer in the train

I expected better conditions because of the perceived lack of rain.  Even the overall humidity was less.  In fact, the weather conditions day of were insanely amazing.  The high temperature was in the high 70s with light, dry breezes.  Reality sunk in as soon as we left the rolling farmland of the first few miles (see photos above) and entered Mohican State Forest.  Immediately we were subjected to a hog waller. 

The herd was still jammed together and the trail was a deep sludge that reeked like an industrial pig lot.  I had the unfortunate fortune to get bogged down so bad I fell over in the middle of it and thrashed around like a pig as other riders rooted to get past.

Once on the singletrack proper—and once the pack finally started to thread out—I tried to blow the crud out of all of my synapses.  The only nagging worry in the back of my mind going into the Mohican was that I had neither the miles under me nor the recently refined technique for rocky and rooty singetrack to really flow through the torturous first third of the route.  As much as I had wanted to I just couldn’t manage enough mountain biking this year.  The sum total of my preparations (the text thing at the beginning was a joke) was a modest amount of road riding and exactly three mountain bike rides totaling less than thirty miles.

I wasn’t as smooth on the singletrack as last year despite having 100% of my field of vision and feeling a million times better.  Early on I tried to pass a slower female rider.  Once I got ahead of her did a fast drop into a tight curve and rocketed off the trail into the woods and somehow managed to keep upright and not kill myself.  I got back on the trail, caught her wheel, and maintained a respectable distance and the new mantra: “Let the nice lady go first.”

I talked to Nice Lady for awhile as we rode and she suggested that the trail conditions were even worse than the previous year.  I agreed.  There was a lot of mud even though many of the rocks and roots were actually dry.  The deep sections of mud were sticky and heavy and not liquid and diarrheic like last year.  I think my bike was muddier after this year’s race.

The entire section to Aid Station One was different for me this year.  Once the tribe spread out much of the stress I felt last year evaporated quickly.  I didn’t have the constricted feeling of being right on someone else’s wheel with someone right on mine and no way to slow or make a mistake.  I’m really a sloppy rider.  Most of the time I get through techy obstacles on sheer dumb luck and brute strength.  Finesse is not part of my mountain biking vocabulary.  Having a mountain bike wheel-sucker ratchets up the stress to insane levels.

After awhile I began to suspect that I was hanging off the back of the entire field.  I began thinking that maybe I was at the tail end of the gravy train.  And by gravy train I don’t mean those who have it easy, but those who have a predilection to eat gravy.

We almost went off the rails of said gravy train on one particularly nasty steep unflowing downhill curve.  The Nice Lady tried to abort halfway through.  I would have if she hadn’t, but because she did I was also forced to lock up and jerk out of the trail.  The next two riders had nowhere to go so they loitered smack dab in the middle of the trail.  Mountain biker #5—a tough looking lady—took a dramatic tumble over her handlebars and slammed into the trail.  She ranted briefly as another cyclist held up traffic at the top of the turn.  Thankfully she wasn’t hurt, just shaken up, and I traded places with her for the rest of the day.

It was satisfying to do the FU climb and not have diminishing focal vision.  I cranked solidly past the spot where I sat on the side of the trail and realized my race was over last year.  I grinned to myself and ignored the ghost of a headache that was flitting around the inside of my skull.   I rode all of FU.  In fact, I rode a whole heck of a lot more than I expected.  I went into the Mohican on 1x9 (32-34) gearing despite Jeff and Mandy trying to talk me off that ledge.  Jeff’s main argument was that on the flats I’d not have the big ring that he and I both use very effectively to make up time and chase down the MTB jockeys that typically kill us on the climbs.  Mandy insisted she would have me forcibly restrained if I commenced with a plan of such folly.  Somehow I failed to address the issue until it was too late.

The miles fell away.  I continued to feel good except for the nagging possibility of a headache.  Then I cruised into Aid One.  I must have been hallucinating last year because this year I didn’t see a gigantic Easter Bunny or any other cartoon-like characters cheering me into the long awaited refuge.  It had been a pretty good run from the start to the first aid station, but it wasn’t as perfect as last year’s do-or-die blind ride in.  I didn’t clean everything, but I cleaned most of it.

I grabbed a handful of gels, refilled my liquid containers (one bottle and a 1.5L hydration bladder) and took off for Aid Two.  There was nothing stopping me at that point.  I felt good.  I had plenty of energy, and I had taken two migraine pills just after Aid One.

After speeder biking through the cool pine stands and hitting the stupid final descent from the initial horse trails over the water bars and onto the paved road again I was surprised to see Mandy and Casey on the side of the road.  The plan had been for them to meet us first at Aid Station Three.

It was really good to see them.  I was feeling good so I didn’t need them for moral support, but they were waiting at the bottom of the hill that broke me last year.  They didn’t know that, but it was significant to me.  I came out of the heartbreaking mudwaller of the horse trails, teed into a paved road, and decided to push on a little further only because I didn’t know where I was.  Then I climbed a long steep hill.  And another.  And some rollers.  And when I reached Route 3 I knew it would take me into town.  And so my 2013 Mohican 100 ended on that section of road when I turned left toward Loudonville. 

Saturday there was no doubt in my mind I would finish.  I was looking forward to getting to Aid Two and new ground to cover.  I’m all about novel experiences.  They told me I was only half an hour behind Jeff which was shocking.  He left me at the top of the paved road just outside of town because I didn’t have the high end gearing for the descents. 

And so I was off into the unknown feeling good and on the heels of the Mozhican.  Maybe I could catch him before the 100k course split off from the 100 mile course.

To be continued...

Part II

Part III


  1. Love the write up. Glad you were feeling good for this part of the ride and I hope it continued. Can't wait for the continuation!