I spent my Saturday slogging about the muddy trails of the Mohican 100. The race did not disappoint. Whether you were looking for fantastic trails and a challenging course, or a snarky cynic looking to rail against the now mythical logistical peculiarities of this event.
Louis and Nick picked me up about 1PM on Friday and, following a quick and fateful stop at the shop to print out the Google directions and race website, we were on our way by 2. The directions estimated 5 hours of driving. Figuring on the bending of a few traffic rules, we were in good position to make it to registration with time to spare before the 7PM close. The drive was thankfully uneventful for the first 3.5 hours and we were on track to roll in early. However, about 20 miles from Loudonville, we took a turn and struggled to find the next one on the directions. After a 10 mile detour and a long consult with the map, we realized that Google had sent us east on Rt 30 instead of the west! An odd glitch in the mapping software, but a needlessly auspicious start to this race, which 2 years ago was plagued with poorly marked turns and lost riders. After the brief setback, we rolled into Loudonville at 6:45, 15 minutes to spare for the last 5 miles to registration. I switched maps to the local blow-up from the race website that directed us to Camp Nuhop and the Mohica Lodge. Oddly, the street signs suggested that our destination was 13 miles away. Looking back over the web directions, I noticed, for the first time, that Loudonville (the site of the race start) was described as 5 miles away “as the crow flies”, which is an interesting tidbit, but of absolutely no value when planning the drive, or selecting our hotel for the race (as indeed, there were many more small, cheap motels available within a short spin of the start, rather than the 13 mile drive in the morning). Despite these early directional setbacks (which were admittedly exacerbated by my failure to fully read the directions before we got going), we rolled into Camp Nuhop just about 7 and picked up our packets. Outside the registration, we found the usual suspects (Tomi, Dicky, Harlan, Timmy, Topher, oh, and Floyd Landis) lounging about and taking in some liquid carbs. After the usual handshakes, and a little bit of chest bumping, we loaded back in the car in search of a restaurant that might still be open and serving food at 8PM. Our efforts were rewarded at the Whifflestop Cafe, an utterly un-remarkable establishment in a one stop-light town. Inside (after passing TWO signs confirming that firearms were NOT allowed inside) we were treated to one of the cheapest menus I’ve seen in years. This place was pleasantly trapped in a time warp and we were served passable fare (and, yes, they did have a veggie burger) by a cheery highschool student who was amazed by the disparity between the waistlines of the 8 of us at the table and the volume of food we managed to put away. We topped the evening off with several pieces of their homemade pie and retired to the hotel well sated and anxious for the morning.
At the hotel a massive flat screen TV in the lobby reaffirmed that there was a powerful band of thunderstorms heading our way from the west. The stories were full of flooded highways, “damaging hail”, and funnel clouds. After unloading the car, I sat for an hour staring at my bike, and my tires, and watching the radar. After my incident on the short-track two weeks ago I was wary of muddy trails and my low-rolling tires, but that anxiety was fully at odds with my general rule about endurance racing: “ride what you train on”. Finally, after much deliberation, and scrutiny of the minor cuts in the side wall, I decided to switch tires and fitted the hoops with a set of lightly used Maxxis Ignitors from early in the season last year.
When the alarm went off at 5AM there was a light rain falling outside, but little overt indication of the storms that had passed during my slumber. Loading the car outside I looked at the damp ground and again wondered if I’d made the right choice with my tires. This level of gear anxiety was uncharacteristic, but the 2.5 scar on my shin has made me wary. We got the car loaded fast and drove 5 miles (as the crow flies) to Loudenville for the start. Let me stress that this was a minor hassle in the morning, but would set up the uncomfortable issue in the afternoon when my clean clothes were 13 miles and a shuttle ride away from my muddy body at the finish. Setting up I realized that I’d mounted my rear tire backwards and had to do another quick change with 30 minutes to go (always good for the nerves). The start had been moved to the streets of Loudenville, which gave the race a very official air, but, in a odd bit of planning, the morning registration and “continental breakfast” were still 5 miles (as the crow flies) away at the finish! Thankfully I’d managed to bring morning food with me, but Nick, who’d been counting on the planning of the promoter, was forced to pull into a local store 15 minutes before the start and have them make him a breakfast sandwich (which he unfortunately didn’t get to eat before the mud, and found too gritty to eat when he could finally pull it out).
The race started fast from the gun, up a steep road section and onto 28 miles of single track. Dejay, Fuzzy, and I entered the woods together near the top of the field and held close through the opening sections. Dejay and Fuzzy moved ahead, and I kept it mellow, getting my bearings on the greasy trails. About 5 miles in we came roaring into a campground in a bunch of about 10 to find another group of about the same size coming straight at us from the other direction. A bit frustrating, this was par for the course as the lead bunch had blown through a poorly marked turn and had to turn around looking to get back on course. After a bit of standing around I was rejoined by Fuzzy and now Timmy and Topher until someone who knew the course came through and put us on the right trail. Once we got started I was quickly passed by Harlan and Brandon who’d been in one of the ill fated front groups. The trails for the next 20 miles were brilliant: swooping bench cuts, up and down, roots, a few rocks. The whole time I was thankful for my tire change as the Maxxis hooked up well on the mud and bouyed my confidence in the turns. I held together with a group of geared riders but watched Fuzzy pull slowly ahead of me. As the singletrack wore on I changed groups a few times, getting passed by a few geared riders, but holding place in the one speed field. As I rode I on saw the places where I’d been lost 2 years ago and found that many of the questionable sections had been much better marked and manned with course marshals to keep us on track. I blew through aid station 1 to hold momentum and, as a result, had to make a few stops for food and water on the trail as the single track didn’t offer many opportunities to feed.
After the opening section of single track the course dumped out onto back country farm roads that were rarely flat. The hill out there are short and steep, with half mile climbs at grades of +15%. I found myself alone through most of the middle section of the course, wondering when the geared riders would catch me on the road sections. But ultimately, the course had so much up and down that gears didn’t offer much of and advantage. After Aid 3 we headed back into the woods and then dumped out onto a pancake flat road section. In the last few rollers leading up I caught onto a group of 3 geared riders and we worked together as much as I could when the course flattened out (we also all got lost together, and thankfully could rely on multiple eyes to spot out the course marking). Between 3 and 4 there was an interminable section of rail trail that we all hit together. I spun all I could for 15 minutes to hold on with them but was soon blown out and let then get away. In through Aid 4 and all the way to the finish I rode alone, uncertain of my pace and wondering when I would get caught by those behind. Out of Aid 5 I hit the singletrack again for the last section. 2 years ago this was a 12 mile section with lots of up and down, but the new course took us along the river on mostly flat single track and was only 7 miles from the finish, so I was pleasantly surprised to come up on the dam that signaled the end of the course. The climb up over the dam (on foot, up stairs) is a bit demoralizing after 95 miles, but it meant that it would all be over soon. After one more road climb the course jumped onto one last quick section of trial and dropped down to the finish.
At the finish I was handed a pint glass and greeted by Dejay and Fuzzy, who’d been the only other singlespeeders to beat me. I finished 19th (I think) overall, and 3rd in my class. Sitting at the finish I saw the next three riders in on single speed and realized that I’d only had about a 10 minute advantage over the chasing riders. After a bit of a rest, and a restorative beverage, I worked up the motivation to seek out the shuttle and get the car back in town. When I got up I saw Louis, fully dressed and clean, walking towards me. I’ll admit that my reaction was mixed: A) that meant that the car was here, but B) something must have gone wrong for him to be here and clean. He’d crashed just before Aid 2 and suffered a bad Charlie Horse in his calf that kept him from going on. But as a consolation, he dropped after Floyd Landis. Reactions to the day were mixed in the field. The mud was an issue and many folks looked pretty well beaten when they came in. But, despite the fact that nearly everyone got lost a few times, the organization of the event was greatly improved over years past and, particularly important, the aid stations were really well manned with wonderful volunteers who several people credited with keeping them from dropping out.
I finished about 8h30m, and Nick rolled in about an hour later, a damn fine finish for his first hundie. After a bit of food and beer, and rehashing the day with the other riders we opted to get back on the road before dark. So I missed my spot on the podium, but I headed home with memories of a great event. The atmosphere at the camp was great, classic festival feel, tired muddy riders sitting around drinking beer, telling stories of mud and pain. In the end I felt pretty good and managed to hold a good pace over the whole race, so I’m pretty pleased with my day.
Now I’m back to real work for a few weeks which should give me some good forced recovery ahead of the next foolishness: the Stoopid 50 on June 15th.