…Some days are stones.
Or so the John Denver song I grew up hearing says. And I think the important things aren’t necessarily those highs and lows but the journey we take through the rocks and roots of life. And most importantly as it stands regarding my Mohican 100 experience the lessons to be learned and the appreciation I have for what an amazing journey I am on. Here goes.
I loved getting to know my new Blue Ridge Cyclery team mates Dave and Anne pike. They are both studs on wheels from different walks of life and bring a huge wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. It was nice to travel with a couple of go-with-the-flow pros. They are both super professional in how they approach riding and racing but also keeping the fun at the forefront. I like that; and thats a hard balance to strike for a lot of people in more than just lip-service.
The venue and scene of the Mohican 100 is top notch. The roll out to the start and the town-line start were hugely motivating!! I slotted in next to the SS crew of Trevor Rockwell and #Handsome Dan Rapp right up front. Slaps and hoots from friends new and old greeted me on the line and as much as impending hurt can feel like home, it did. A more welcoming stoke train than the NUE scene there never was! A geared Gerry Pflug rolled in and I saw the wheel I wanted to spend some time with. Gerry has been getting a lot of questions about his decision to race gears this year and some criticism on the fringes. But I get it. Im not the bearded, furry, “angry” singlespeeder some would like me to be and so I get it. Gears present their own challenge, they answer the beckoning call of speed, and they sure as heck can hurt a whole lot less!! Besides; say for a second that Gerry isnt badder than you! Say it!!
The 100k riders in the Mohican mix things went off with a bang and a cowbell. All of Loudonville came out to celebrate the race as 600 riders rolled through a shut-down main street. The pace car rang us up and over the town line sprint. Letting the lactic acid subside, just a little, we moved out of Loudonville and onto some rolling country roads. Rolling….not a singlespeeder’s favorite words. The ups are good, the downs are miserable. My legs only have so much patience for my asking 130 rpm out of them. Into some sloppy double track and finally into the singletrack I had preridden the night before. I had been relegated a little farther back than I had wanted to be, maybe 12th wheel back. Not ideal but manageable. I found myself asking: “does Ohio REALLY have this many riders who can roll 100 miles at this pace?!!”
Coming around a few fading legs I finally found the wheel I wanted. Gerry was my ideal wheel because his start is usually very strong but steady. He indicated previously to me that he really likes to increase the pace as the day moves along and his experience as a singlespeeder has given him a super smooth power band. Not jerky and punchy like a lot of geared riders but smooth and steady. In the way that a charging rhino is smooth and steady. Or a train. Or a junkyard Pit Bull…In the best ways really. I enjoyed riding with Gerry. We had a great ride together and I think the second half would have been an even better ride.
Now watch this:
And so it went. 40 miles or so of me hanging on Gerrys Wheel through singeltrack and a bit of road. he and a 100k rider gapped me on one long downhill road section where I was plain ol in the wrong place at the wrong time but I eventually caught back on. And then I came to aid station #3. I handed off a bottle requesting the HEED energy drink and looked back to see the volunteer pouring the fizz off of a coke out of my bottle. Politely but urgently I asked him to dump that trash and fill the bottle with HEED. Finally I broke out of there and charged away down the line. Up a hateful road section and then into a gorgeous Ohio valley my mind wandered and wondered if I would ever catch Gerry. Initially my concern was that I was isolated and would have less help on the road and double track that laid ahead. Mohican is famous for a long stretch or rail-trail in the second half…that would be fun. And while I Wasn’t convinced I would be able to make it back up to Gerry I knew I had to try. Except then I came into aid station 5!! In 2nd place for the the 100k I was told! thats exciting!! Except that its not… not at all exciting. I spent a minute collecting myself off of the pavement emotionally and asked what I would have to do to get back to wherever I went wrong. Now Im not saying that if I didn’t see it its not there; case in point Oxygen and Bigfoot, but I still have literally no idea where I went wrong. I’ve been told that immediately out of aid 3 there were indications of left for 100k and right for 100m. Signage that sounds misleading anyhow made worse by the complete lack of anybody directing me. That sounded like bitterness. Its not. If you’d have asked me a few minutes after I got back to the car it would have been; but Great Lakes Brewery and a phone call to Emily cured me of that. #GoTeam
I wished I could have gone back and finished that sucker but I had no way of making sense of the directions I was given and was told its be around 12 miles to get back. I started back. I met a trail of 100k riders and slowed to a near halt. No interest in doing the Mohican 125 and feeling pretty drained mentally after the shock of my error I made a few circles in the pavement and then turned around, hung my head, and pedaled home….defeated in a lot of ways.
But this is where my story moves away from race report. I promised I wouldn’t do those. So I get back to the car, pretty much alone except for Dave and Anne’s pup Lucky and sat in the shade for a few minutes. I thought more than once about charging my tail right back out there and finishing that thing!! I checked the social media and saw that a report of my strong pace was out there making it even harder to acknowledge what I saw as a failure. I called Emily. Seeing I was calling long before anticipated she was initially worried. Then as I recounted the story she was as pissed as I was! She is great at being supportive in this way. She is as tenacious as a bulldog and never backs down when she has been wronged, and on my behalf she felt wronged. I found it very easy initially to blame the guy at the aid station who filled my bottle wrong; causing me to get out of the aid station way later than Gerry and consequently not have a wheel to follow. I thought about blaming Ryan O’Dell for marking the course “so poorly.” In retrospect Ernie Marenchin’s suggestion of signage reading 62mile and 100 mile vs 100k and 100m is probably sound, but I still felt pretty hollow blasting Ryan for making an incredible race and putting together an incredible series. But all of that is pretty hollow indeed. Im not the type to place blame quickly or conveniently.
After I vented to Emily and she expressed her frustration but also reminded me this is why I put 7 NUE races on the calendar I went down to the Great Lakes brewing trailer and ordered whatever they were pouring. The liquid courage gave me a little juice and I called Em back and walked through the race with her. She listened and assured me the others would go well. My fitness felt great and while I didn’t have the nutrition I should for the first 30 I was recovering that once we got out of the singletrack.
So what do I do from here. Well I spent a couple days hammering it out there on the road. I spent some time with friends keeping it mellow. And this weekend i get to switch roles and support Emily as she runs the Cumberland Gap Ridge Trail Marathon. Im looking forward to that. Plus it means I get to ride some rad-ass ridge trail. And in the wise words of Shawn Tevendale its about having fun.
The impeccable community of racers at NUE racers will have me coming back for years to come I think. Ive been stoked to get to know some of those gentlemen and ladies and can only say good things about them.
Ill say this though, ill be going back to Mohican 100. the course is too good to not, the venue is too awesome to not. The crowd and atmosphere is really impeccable and the whole town of Loudonville seems to own the race in a way thats really rare. They love it, and want it to keep going. I had a woman and her little girl ask me how I did when I stopped for gas and a coke on the way out of town. She knew what a fast finish time was, what the rail trail was like, the whole deal. How cool is that?? Ill be back Mohican…”Ill be back.”