Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Last Mohican

Continued from Parts I & II

Jeff kept not coming into view from Aid Station Five.  No one suggested that he might be in trouble.  Jeff is too strong a rider not to finish.  Good lord, he killed it the year before!  We knew he was going to kill it again.  But the riders weren’t even coming in a trickle and no sign of Jeff.

Then he texted Casey.  He didn’t know if he could make it.


She tried to call but the phone cut out.  Tom was giving directions to directionally challenged (self-proclaimed) Casey while she tried to get a handle on Jeff’s mental state.  Finally we decided to head his way.  Mandy hung at Five and we took off.  Finally Casey got a better signal and we figured out where Jeff was, so with a brief course correction we were headed for the cool open rolling ridge above the Wally Road climb.  Casey told him to sit tight and not get back on the bike as we raced to find him.

I was dumbfounded.  Jeff has never cracked on all the rides we’ve done together.  I would be wrung out like a muddy rag and dragging along behind him and he’d be in great spirits and riding wheelies.  Jeff…DNFing?  At first I went along from Aid Five because I thought I might be able to help him talk it out and go on.  But once we found him I knew the best thing to do would be to let him make the call.  He was done.  Somewhere around mile 92 he bailed.

Re-enacting some part of his delirium

Maybe he went too hard. Maybe he didn’t eat and drink enough.  He had stressed about the lack of sleep, but I knew that wasn’t a deal killer.  Of course I made it about as far in the 2012 Leadville 100 and died on the side of the road with the same amount of sleep he got on Friday night.  Maybe that is really mountain bikers’ kryptonite.

I could tell though that Jeff wasn’t as wrecked as I was after finishing the Leadville 100 in 2013.  Even Sunday morning he seemed healthier.  Pansy.  He must have had something left.   No, I give him full credit for his effort and I can truly say I know where he was at mentally  as he lay in the grass on what would become known as “Jeff’s Quitting Spot.”  He is a strong rider, and I know all too well that sometimes you make a crucial key mistake that brings down the whole castle. 

It was truly a tempting spot to quit

We ate more.  Jeff crashed almost instantly back at the hotel after we debriefed a bit.  And like I said, he was hard to wake up the next morning.  The guy was beat down.  I felt good except for a growing stiffness in my legs and lower back.  My shoulders and triceps ached miserably from all the hard and rough downhills yanking on the bars and brakes.  (On Monday morning after I got moving around I actually felt great!)

Over the course of the trip home Jeff and I compared notes, and I solidified a few truths to keep in my mountain bike racers toolbag:

Leadville is harder because of the cutoffs.  And the altitude.  I think the overall elevation gain disparity is offset by the significant difference in technical difficulty.

Regular eating early in the race is key.  I’ve found that if I eat on the half hour during a hard effort until I’ve got an hour or hour and a half to go I can “coast” my way in.  And I can go pretty hard without eating for my finishing sprint that way. 
I used a hydration pack because the course is so technical that drinking from bottles is almost impossible as is eating anything but gels and simple energy chews.  Bottles get so muddy on a course like the Mohican you don’t want to drink from them even when you can spare a hand from the handlebars.

Most rules can be thrown out the window, but most can’t.  What works for one race will probably work for them all, but what works for one race may not work for any other.

I’m a lot tougher than I give myself credit for.  I’m in better shape than I give myself credit for.  Yeah, yeah, I have 20-30 pounds I could lose, but for someone with 20-30 pounds to lose I’m a pretty darn good mountain bike racer.  But no more Mohican.  I’ve got no urge to ever go back and race either the 100k or the 100 mile routes.  At most if Jeff or someone else I knew well decided to go back and race I would consider proofing.  Like Tom said, it’s the nuts: getting to ride, getting the swag, and not having to pay the entry fee.  It’s all about making the scene.

I’m not saying the Mohican 100 is not worth doing.  It’s a challenge worthy of fat tires.  It’s something I will look back on with as much pride as my Alpine Odyssey and Leadville efforts.  I had a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the whole experience, even my DNF ride last year.

It almost seems like the end of an era.  I’m not saying I’ll never do another mountain bike race or, more specifically, another 100 mile mountain bike race, but having successfully finished the Mohican 100k puts a four year journey to rest.  It feels good.  Subconciously I knew it.  That’s why going into the Mohican this year, despite my complete and total lack of training and fitness, I wasn’t freakin’ my ever lovin’ mind out.

I slept like a baby the night before…despite the most horrendously uncomfortable hotel bed ever.  I was cool as a cucumber right up to 7:00am Saturday morning…despite facing a hard 100k mountain bike race. 

I’ve proved to myself what I needed to prove.



As I was wrapping up these posts I got a text from Tom:

I will go back to Loudonville next year.

During the drive home we had talked a lot about our feelings of signing up for the race again.  I had said early on that if Jeff, or someone else, wanted to race again I would go and proof or sweep.  I couldn’t decide if I would go and volunteer for a race I had no intention of ever participating in again.  When I got Tom’s text—representing a significant enthusiasm to be certain—I remembered all of the good stuff.  We love the area.  The trails are really good.  We enjoyed Trails End Restaurant and the Whiffletree CafĂ© in Butler for breakfast on the way home.  There’s that 18 mile rail trail that begins in Butler and goes all the way up to Mansfield.  We talked about going back and paddling the river.  There are so many good reasons to go back besides the derned race.  But why not go back for race weekend and give back a little?

Monday night Jeff came by on his bike pulling his little guy on a trail-a-bike (different than a hike-a-bike) to get a bag of stuff we brought home accidentally after the trip.  He looked like he felt good and both of us agreed we were stoked about the ride having a few hours of distance between us and it.  I'd mapped the Tree Frog section and found it to be only about 3 miles long total.  Ugh.  Why did it seem to taint so much of my memory of the ride?  I guess that's when I was at my low point during the ride and it just heaped more burning coals on me.

Oddly enough our conversations evolve back to the point, even so soon after the suffering, that we used words like "maybe" and "next year."  I hope I have sense enough not to sign up again.  Unless I've lost 30 pounds...

I had not allowed myself a “Completed Mohican” provision in my book.  Leadville or Bust isn’t about the Mohican 100, but somehow I think I need to include at least a short few paragraphs about going back and seeing it finished.

Oh I know, I DNFed on the 100 mile route and returned to complete the 100k route, but in the grand scheme of things that’s irrelevant.  I completed the race.  I went back despite having little stomach for it and I persevered beyond what the Average Joe would.  I went back and strong-armed my demons out of the picture. It feels really freakin’ good.  It feels good in my bones.  The cherry on top is that I feel pretty darn good physically on Monday as I write this.  I did it, I did it well, and I didn’t wreck myself in the process.  I wasn’t at my limit, but I pushed myself hard.

The proof, my dear friends, is in the pudding.

Mmmm! Pudding!

And here, finally, is the image dump you've been waiting for:

The ride home

Friday night ride down Wally Road

Along the Mohican River on Wally Road

Can you guess which one is Johnny Appleseed?

It's what's on the menu

Riding into AS3

Feeling more ambulatory than I should

At the start line
You can't see Tinker Juarez, but he's up there somewhere

Speeder bike chase scene

The end

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