It was another one of those experiences where only a mountain bike race would take you. We rolled into Loudonville Ohio on Friday afternoon to our luxurious cabin at Mohican Adventures. Well actually... maybe more like a luxurious tree fort. Me, Robert Herriman, and my wife Michelle bunked with Greg Kuhn, Chris Goddard, and Greg's girlfriend Nicole. Upon arrival we were greeted by an angry wasps nest on the 2nd floor where our bunks were located. It was "epic" conditions already. The absence of screens on the windows of the 2nd floor had Robert and I hosing down the curtains with Deep Woods Off. It actually worked quite well.
The rain came and went, then came and went again overnight. I just wanted to scream at it to stop, but by morning, it wasn't going to matter how much more rain we got, the trails were going to be trashed. But it didn't matter to me. This race was on my calender since December and it was one I was looking forward to.
After the typical 4am bagels and Nutella breakfast, we prepped our things and headed for the start. The $200 prime definately made the start very fast. We hit the "wall" on our way out of town and my lungs were instantly on fire. Way way faster than I wanted to go. None the less I rolled with it and before we hit the singletrack, I was 2nd wheel. The trails were pretty slick, and the locals were ripping them. Again... way way faster than I wanted to go but I gritted my teeth and did my best to hang on.
After 10 miles or so, it came down to just me and Jeff Schalk. Jeff was moving pretty fast. I could tell his form had improved since Cohutta. The trails were sloppy and slick, but I was keeping the rubber side down. Last year I led a furocious attack up the trail run up utilizing my stair running skills I aquirred in the off season. This year however, I didn't posses those skills and Jeff was sure to eploit that. I hung tough but the run up really sapped my legs. We ripped down the super muddy water bar decent, crossed the road, then immediately hit the next hike-a-bike. I think Jeff rode most of it, which left me redlined and gasping for air. I gritted my teeth and dug as deep as I could, but that was the last time I would see him.
From here on out, I would ride by myself. I was feeling pretty cooked after redlining and I did my best to recover on the roads. By the time I got to the Mohican Wilderness, I was feeling better. I ripped through the aid station and pressed up the steep powerline climb, then back out onto the roads. Temps were starting to rise a bit as I rolled onto the buggy trail. The soggy false flat had me cursing. It was the low point of the race for me and probably the point where I gave up on any sort of chase. I knew 3rd wasn't too far behind so I just tried to move along as quickly and efficiently as possible to save 2nd place.
More roads interspersed with uphill trails and dirt rds. The true suffering really began as each steep climb was digging into me. Finally the last aid station. 6 miles to go! Grabbed a bottle just as the sky started to get really dark. I said to myself... "here we go again." The rain actually felt good and sort of revitalized me to the finish. The trails were beyond a complete mess. I hung tough for 2nd place!
Overall I'm very pleased with my performance. I could've had a total melt down, but this time I held it together. I'm starting to get the hang of how to suffer efficiently. Dare I say I actually had a little fun out there in the muck. It really is a great course and a well put together event. I'd do it all over again, no questions asked. Next up is Lumberjack. The course is actually better in the rain, so bring on the precip mother nature! She'll have to dig deep to make a mess of that course. Of course now that I said that, it'll probably be 90 and pure sun.