Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lone Mountain Biker of the Apocalypse

Brian Schworm from Morehead placed second at this year's 100 mile Mohican mountain bike race.  There always seems to be a good showing of riders from Central Kentucky and Brian.  We always see a few we know.
This year's weather was pretty darn good. It sprinkled some, but it wasn't a hot day and it was late before the rain really moved in.  The trails were in the best shape I've seen them in four years.  The locals have done a lot of maintenance work.
It was all enough to make me want to sign up again next year and get a number placard.  I don't know for sure if I will or if I would only attempt the 100k, but after two years of sitting out the official event I'm getting antsy.
Don't get me wrong, I've had fun these past two years.  Last year I proofed and managed to salvage a section that had been vandalized.  But I also lost a derailer along the way which was a huge bummer.
This year I didn't race and I didn't volunteer in an official capacity.  I was on the fence about volunteering but ultimately decided to be untethered and just take photos.  That turned out to be a really good decision.
Saturday morning I took off from our room at the Mohican Lodge and rode across the dam at Pleasant Hill Lake before picking up the 24 mile mountain bike loop at its northwest corner.  I was eight miles into the loop and four miles from the lodge. 
It was early in the morning and cool.  I was running with my NiteRider 750 lumen LED but I hardly needed it.  I kept it on for comfort at first.  The corridor was right and dim.
After a few dozen pedal strokes I was on my game.  The road ride over to the trails had warmed my legs and mind to the task at hand.  My goal was to ride the loop all the way around to the vicinity of Aid Station 5 and grab lots of photos and wait for the rest of the crew to get to 5.  The race was to start at 7:00 and it was hardly 6:00 when I turned into the woods.
There was no fear of the leaders overtaking me as long as I kept moving.  I reached Aid Station 1 at 7:00.  I finally stopped, ate some chews, downed some water, and moved on.  I was truly enjoying the ride for the ride’s sake.  I absolutely love the section after Aid Station 1.  It was the only section of the race I enjoyed in 2013 after my migraine started to subside.  It was bittersweet.  As I rode through beams of sunlight and waist high ferns I knew my ride that year was over.  I just wanted to get a little closer to town before I deviated from the course.
This year I had no stress.  There was no potential disappointment if I were to bail onto the road.  But I had no reason to bail.  I was riding well.  I was enjoying the Mohican Mountain Bike Trail.  I had nothing to do with the Mohican 100 mountain bike race.  Everything was cake.
I’d not ridden so far on my mountain bike in a long time.  I was out beyond my usual threshold and still cranking.  I was climbing strong despite my 1x10 gearing and flabby legs.  Now, I wasn’t going fast, mind you, but I was riding strong and steady.
Sure, I walked a few hills.  I had to dab a foot from time to time.  But it didn’t matter, and I didn’t care.  I was having a great ride.  Finally I got to the point where I knew the next descent would put me in the back of the campground.  And it was getting on 8:00.  I wanted to find a good spot to wait for the leaders for their close-ups.
The rocky knob rolled up under my wheels.  It’s a techy section with a boulder field not too far from where the course leaves the loop.  I stashed my bike and scouted out a likely spot to catch the leaders when they reached me and settled in.
And I waited.
I guess I miscalculated how far into the race I had stationed myself.  I figured I was about 18 to 20 miles in.  If the leaders were throwing down a 13 to 15 mph pace through the toughest section of the course then they should be there right at…well, darn it!  I just can’t do math in my head.
It was nearly 9:00 before they finally rolled up to me.  I incurred a series of itchy bug bites and worried about each threatening sprinkle of rain.  Four trail runners came through and I refrained from snapping pics of them.  But finally I heard voice and off through the trees saw fast moving bodies.
I stood between two trees where the tread split around them so I was able to get some great close-ups of the leaders.  Unfortunately the first three weren’t in focus, but after that I got a whole slew of good pics.  I had to doctor them up later and boost the brightness as all of my pics for the day were dark.

I moved around from the top of the knob down through the boulders and back up shooting images and video for probably an hour.  I stood on top of boulders and shot down.  I laid on the ground and shot up.  In short, it was a great spot to be shooting photos of mountain bikers that day.

Finally I decided I needed to move on toward Aid Station 5.  I waited for a long lull in traffic and merged back onto the trail.  Of course as I rode I kept coming across great spots for more photos so I stopped a few times.  It probably took me an hour to cover the last mile of riding along the course before I split off and dropped down to the aid station.
I was fortunate to catch the 100k leaders coming through 5 around 11:00, but I didn’t get a ton of shots there and they weren’t great.  When I finally met up with Mandy I was done riding and shooting for the day.
Interestingly enough, Jeaph was done for the day when he reached Aid Station three right after us.  I had intended to shoot more as we hung out at Aid 5 waiting for him to come through, but after his DNF we rolled back to the lodge to chill and swim before coming back to the finish late in the day to eat and watch the spectacle.
It was a good trip.  If we go back next year I’m definitely racing.  Two years off is enough. I either need to get motivated or let the Mohican go.