This was my first Mohican 100 mountain bike race and my second race in the NUE series. I was not targeting the NUE, but I am always looking for a good race and the opportunity came up for me to go out to the Mohican 100, so there I was…
Pre Mohican 100 Race
Getting to Loudonville, Ohio
I picked up my buddy Mike early Thursday morning and we were on the road toward Ohio at 5:45 am. The plan was simple. See if we could drive the 800 miles to Loudonville, Ohio and grab a campsite at Mohican Adventures for the night. We wanted to get to the race a day ahead of time to pre-ride some of the singletrack at the start and finish of the race, so we knew what to expect on race day. I think we made it to Mohican Adventures and were setting up our tents by 9:00 pm.
Thursday Night At Mohican Adventures
I’d like to say that I was exhausted after the long drive and fell right to sleep, but… I was exhausted for sure, but with a baby crying in another campsite and the guys up the hill in full drunken mantra chants of… “CAN I GET A HELL YEH?” and then of course followed by the “HELL YEH!!!” and another guy chiming in with a “THAT’S RIGHT!!!” well past midnight, I was starting to think that bucking up for a hotel might not have been a bad idea.
I eventually dozed off and on for a couple hours before the sun started coming up. I laid there as long as I could, but eventually pulled myself out of my tent and took a walk down to the gas station to grab a coffee. I was tempted to yell “CAN I GET A HELL YEH?”, but I held it back. I was back at camp and it was time to go for a pre-ride.
The pre-ride was great! The first few miles of Mohican 100 singletrack were good signs of some great riding to follow the next day. We started at Fox Trail and found some great single track. It flowed well, but was rugged and natural with tree roots and rock gardens. We rode about 5 miles out and then turned around and rode back, catching the left hander down to the finish line route. This is when we realized we could be climbing up these same hills in the campground near the start of the race, so we turned around and gave them a shot. They were steep and loose, but completely ridable. We figured that would change on race day with people jammed together.
The ride was good, but my legs were feeling heavy. I have to assume it was a mix of the 800 mile drive and lack of any real sleep the night before. I was torn on my starting strategy for the next morning as I didn’t want to be backed up in the single track, but if I took off too hard with already heavy feeling legs; then I was sure to blow up early. I had all afternoon to think about it though.
Chilling On The River
The ride was over and I had a voicemail from Mohican Adventures that our cabin was ready and we could check-in. We were sharing a cabin with my fellow co-host Mark from The Last Aid Station podcast. The cabin was across the road and right on the river. I spent the rest of the day making sure my bike was ready to go and chilling in a chair on the deck over looking the river. Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon. I was looking forward to the race!
I am not one that can sleep till the last minute. Plus, I didn’t sleep well and was awake before my alarm went off at 4:30 anyways. I was up with some coffee, eating a couple eggs and feeling way too groggy to be setting out on a 100 mile race, but there I was… Ready or not, I was getting my stuff around and starting to get excited about it. Soon, we were headed down the bike path to downtown Loudonville, Ohio to the start line of the Mohican 100 where we would find the the main street of Loudonville, closed off for the race and the start line corral filling up. I found a place off to the side about a quarter of the way back and waited for the race to start.
The Mohican 100 Race
Rollout To Mohican Adventures
There was a great atmosphere with a squad car rollout and before I knew it, we were headed up the first big climb. I held back a bit and was going to try a smarter race this time, instead of the usual blow up in the first 60 minutes. I chatted a bit with a single speeder heading up the climb. It was great to see all the spectators lined up along the street cheering us on.
There was 1 small trough or descent before hitting another hill to finish the climb out of town and into farmland. We hit a couple rollers and then were dumped into the woods on a wide path that would eventually lead us to Mohican Adventures. There was a big downhill at one point and a creek crossing. Things were backed up quite a ways at the creek crossing. I just stopped and got in line. There were a couple folks that rode on by, but I figured the fight for the spot further up the line had to happen on the climbs coming into this and I patiently waited my turn.
Things were starting to spread out as we dumped into the Mohican Adventures park roads and crossed the iron bridge to a lose gravel climb. I could have climbed a little faster, but I just dropped it into granny gear and fell in line. There were a couple folks walking it and 1 guy trying to weave through us, who did make up a few spots. It seemed like more work to try and make up a couple spots than what it was worth at this point.
We came out on a campground road and then then were off our bikes and backed up on the last campground hill at the end of Opossum Trail. I rode up this the day before, but there were already 2 lines of people walking it with the lines starting to back up down the campground road. This would get us spread out a bit at the top before entering the miles of single track ahead.
To Aid Station 1
Shortly after entering the single track, I started getting stacked up behind a couple guys in front of me. I held back a bit, but the guy in front of me would not flow up and over the short hills. He was soft pedaling the last few pedal strokes over every hill crest and I would almost run into him at the top of every hill or root crossing. I eventually had to get past him. I was feeling pretty good and my heart rate was well under control. Over the next few miles, I would work my way past several riders. I had obviously improved my single track skills and was able to flow over and through corners better and wanted open trail in front of me.
Along comes mile 10 when I suddenly hear tinging from my rear wheel. I had just ridden through some rock gardens and may of had a stick pop up. I looked down and saw nothing, so I pulled over. I found a spoke hanging off the hub with the head of the nipple broken off. I unthreaded the nipple, and pulled the spoke out of the hub and put it in the back of my hydration pack. Meanwhile, everybody that I had passed over the last few miles, plus a whole other line of riders that were behind, had come flying by me.
I found an open gap to jump back on the trail and didn’t get more than 50 ft and heard the tinging again… I knew right away it was another spoke. Same story again… I jumped off to find another spoke hanging off the hub with a broken nipple. I unthreaded the nipple, pulled the spoke out of the hub and put it in my hydration pack as more riders came passing by.
I would have some ground to make up now, but was hoping my wheel was going to hold up. Luckily the spokes were not right next to each other. My wheel was wobbling, but not bad enough to make contact with my chain or seat stays and I headed down the trail in chase, being a little careful not to lock up the brakes coming over rock gardens or roots that might started popping more spokes.
The rest of the way to aid station 1, was fairly uneventful. There were multiple short hills, but nothing to write home about, except for one long climb before arriving at aid station 1. I stuck to my plan and didn’t stop. I was wearing a 100 oz hydration pack full of CarboRocket and a large water bottle of plain water. I had more than enough fuel to get my way to aid station 2.
To Aid Station 2
The next 10 miles would be more of the same great single track. It flowed, but didn’t flow too good. It made you work, it was a little rugged with the occasional rock garden and root filled sections of trail. It was real mountain biking. You had to hit the switchbacks at just the right angle and come at them in the right gear. It was some great riding single track. I have really enjoyed getting out and finding new trails and it is especially rewarding to find them for the first time in the middle of an endurance race. I think it is the true test of your ability to ride them.
I know I said the next 10 were more of the same, but there was a hike a bike climb that was ridiculous. I mean it was tough to walk, let alone walk it with a bike. I think it was around mile 27 and they called it “Big Ass Hill” for obvious reasons. I am told that no one can ride it and my calves were burning by the time I reached the top. We would ride a bit more trail and then be dumped out on some county roads. There was little bit of pavement and a little bit of gravel. I was enjoying the single track of the Mohican 100 course, but I was ready to stretch my legs on the county roads and take the opportunity to put something solid in my belly.
I do remember at one point, getting down in a bit of time trail position and just hammering up some pavement. It was then that I looked up the road and saw a line of riders headed to the left of a gravel road with an uncalled for steep grade. I kind of sat up a bit and started thinking, I shouldn’t have burnt too many matches this past mile. I made my left hand turn and started my grind. It was steep enough that you could spin your rear tire if you lifted out of the saddle, so I stayed seated and ground it out in granny gear. I felt pretty strong on it, but I did start to notice something creeping up in my right knee. It wasn’t painful yet, but something wasn’t right…
I came into aid station 2 and decided to refuel. My plan was to ride all the way to Aid 3 before restocking my water, but my CarboRocket in my hydration pack was a little too thick for my liking and I needed to refill my water bottle with fresh water. Aid station 2 was pretty awesome. Huge thanks to the folks that let the Mohican 100 set up an aid station on their private property and also let us race through their property. I headed back to my bike to find my seat about to fall off. Not sure how I didn’t feel that, but it was shaking loose when I stood my bike up. I tightened it up and headed on my way.
To Aid Station 3
We had a little bit of hill coming out of aid station 2 and I could feel that knee thing again. Like I said, I didn’t want to call it pain yet, but something wasn’t right. This might have been the same spot that I saw a guy with a jersey that had some kind of Pale Ale written on it… I told him that a Pale Ale sounded good right now. He agreed and we chatted a bit as we worked our way up the path before getting back on our own pace.
We dumped back out on some county roads that included a long descent and then another climb, before dumping into some really rugged single track that I wasn’t ready for. It probably felt more rugged than it actually was, since I had forgot to unlock my fork suspension after the county roads. My mind had shifted a bit to road and gravel riding in the past few miles and I just couldn’t get into the single track. I actually walked quite a bit of it and was cramping really really bad.
I had a whole mess of stuff going on. I had plenty of muscle left, but the cramps were terrible and would lock me right up and I had terrible bike control. The knee was also starting to become painful. The walking sections did not help either. Walking actually made it worse, but I couldn’t control the leg cramps over the uneven and unpredictable single track and was forced to get off the bike multiple times.
I pressed on and was really happy to dump out of the single track to find myself at aid station 3. By the way, aid station 3 was a sweet set up inside of a barn that we actually rode through. I rode through and left my bike on the other side and then went back in to grab a little bit of food. I topped off my hydration pack and was ready to get back on the trail. I was off my pace at this point, but hoping I could make up time in the back section of the course.
To Aid Station 4
I was excited to ride out some gravel road as I left aid station 3, but the pleasant gravel grinding was short lived as I was dumped into a soft mowed path uphill through a field. That one sucked the energy out of my legs before we hit some of that similar rugged single track that would end up winding back to the top of the same hill that we came out of before aid station 3. I struggled with it and the humidity started to get to me a bit. My knee pain was also turning into actual pain.
I knew what it was at this point and maybe I should have stopped and tried to do something with it. I had just replaced the pedals on my bike. Same Crank Brothers Candy pedals that I used before, just a new set. The difference was, I had added shims to get rid of the gap between my shoe treads and the pedal itself. I had also flipped the cleats for a quicker release angle. My foot felt locked in place versus having some float that I was used to. I had done a couple short gravel rides and made adjustments to the cleats and thought I had everything positioned well, but apparently something wasn’t right.
I dropped out of the single track and was back out on some county roads. I had been by myself for the most part now, since leaving aid station 3. I was headed up a nice road along a river and then was directed up a wide path double track or atv type trail that started heading up hill. I made another hard right and there I was with another steep grade. I was back grinding out granny gear again with my knee pain coming back. I was starting to get worried about it now and wondering if I was causing some damage. Nothing was grinding or clicking and I figured it was stressed muscles from my foot being locked in a slightly different angle on the pedal, so I pressed on, but babied it a bit.
I reached a water station at the top of the hill where another rider was still refueling. It was good to see somebody else on course. I grabbed some snacks off the table and refilled my water bottle while another rider came in behind me. That last climb had gotten to me a bit. It was not that hot, but it was really humid and I was feeling hot. My leg strength seemed to be ok, but my legs actually felt all swelled up. I think I had too many electrolytes and I was feeling like I was holding all kinds of water. Not sure what was going on, but I just felt off and my knee really bothered me on the climb. I got off to walk a couple times, but walking hurt my knee worse. Regardless, I kept pressing on and headed off down the trail again.
I suffered a bit on this next section of trail. My knee was really the worst of it, but it was mentally defeating me. Things started getting pretty dark and I went through a little bit of the “what the heck am I doing this for…”, which doesn’t happen to me very often at all. Very few times, has this ever happened to me. Even in the darkest of times in the Maah Daah Hey 100 heat last year, I never questioned why I was out there. But for some reason it was getting to me here, 60 some miles into the Mohican 100.
I was in a bit of a battle with myself now. There was the guy on one shoulder telling me to quit and telling me that my knee was the perfect excuse. There are times when you need to call it quits to avoid some permanent injury. I didn’t think I was there though and I started positive self talking myself through it. I had to keep the pressure lite and the pain would soften up. I would ride with my right foot unclipped for a while to give it some freedom of motion, which would help a little.
This is the overcoming part of endurance racing that I am addicted to. Every time you overcome something and push yourself past some arbitrary point that you thought you couldn’t push through… You win, regardless of your finishing time or place. It is a win in the grand scheme of life and you get mentally stronger because of it. Mental strength can take you a long ways past your physical strength and is something that can get you through a lot more in life than just a mountain bike race.
Enough of the sappy stuff… Luckily that section of trail wasn’t too long and I was back out on some county roads and approaching the rail trail section of the course with 2 other riders nearby. I was ok in the flats at a high cadence, but the climbs that would force me to granny gear and a lower cadence, really increased the knee pain. One of the other riders by the name of Phil hit the rail trail first and then soft pedaled for me to catch up so we could work the trail together. We both soft pedaled a bit to let another rider latch on as well. We each took a couple pulls before the 3rd guy dropped us on his second pull. I probably could have stayed on, but he was pulling just outside of what I knew I should do with another 30 miles yet to ride.
I turned back to Phil and motioned him to come around me since I couldn’t stay on, but Phil was in the same boat as me. Phil eventually came around and took a turn pulling for me and even gave a shot at trying to bridge back up, but I didn’t have enough gas to help him. He burnt a few matches and then we knew we had been dropped. Phil dropped back in behind me after giving a great effort to bridge us back up and I took the lead pull to Aid Station 4 where the other guy was still refueling. That rail trail would have been a long ride on my own and I was real happy to have had somebody to trade pulls with. I appreciate Phil soft pedaling back at the start of the rail trail, so we could work together.
To Aid Station 5
My knee was doing ok again as I was able to keep the extreme pressures off of it during the flat rail trail. I was still refueling when the first guy took off and Phil jumped on with him. I figured our relative flat land riding was over at this point, so I didn’t worry about missing the chance to latch on. It would be self grit solo work from here on out. I grabbed my bike and headed out.
The next section of the race was a mix of township and county roads. I passed Phil a couple miles out of Aid Station 4 and he said the other guy said he had a second wind and took off. I was moving pretty good at this time, but my knee flared up as soon as we hit the next steep climb. I just sat in and even unclipped my right foot and granny geared it up with my left foot. Phil ended up passing by me on one of these hills and I never saw him again.
I believe we hit some more single track before getting to the river crossing, because I remember a guy coming up from behind on a rigid single speed. I had actually jumped off to walk a spot on the downhill and he came by me and completely cleaned it. It wasn’t as bad of a spot as I thought once I got up to it and I probably should have just rode through. I crossed the bridge and stopped again to refuel at the watering station that was there.
I only had 12 miles left to go in the race and my attitude started coming around a bit. There were a couple of climbs left and I granny geared up them, trying to keep the pressure light on the knee. I knew it was just some stress at this point from locking my feet into a new position and I did not think I was doing any damage. I just had to soft pedal through it and finish this thing up. I hadn’t had any cramps for a long time now. Probably, because I was soft pedaling so much on the climbs. I eventually arrived at the last aid station and knew I was close to finishing the Mohican 100. I was off my pace by an hour, but still able to hit the 10 hour mark if I pushed it.
To The Mohican 100 Finish Line
As I left the last aid station, I pointed toward the trail and jokingly said “I bet I gotta go up hill again…”. The volunteers laughed with me and I headed for the last section of trail. I had to get off and walk over something at the beginning of the trail. There was another guy in front of me also walking. He let me by when I was ready to ride again and then I slowly started picking up the pace. I made it to the top where we hung a right hand turn to start backtracking some of the trail that we started on in the morning and I dropped the hammer and let it rip.
I was a bit frustrated, because I seemed to have way more energy left than what I should have after nearly 100 miles. I passed quite a few people this last section of single track and then finally dumped out into the campground roads. I had forgotten about my knee and was excited to finish the Mohican 100, another epic journey in the book of life. I came across the finish line in 9 hours, 57 minutes and 57 seconds.
Mohican 100 Post Race Thoughts
The Mohican 100 is a really good mountain bike race. I am very likely to come back and give it another shot in the near future if I can work it into my schedule. There was a great atmosphere and it was really awesome to have the start/finish lines so close and be able to stay right there at Mohican Adventures. The finish line after party was great and I was impressed with how many people hung out, even though it was raining. I really enjoyed meeting and chatting with people at the finish line.
The course was marked really well. I usually did not have to ride very far before seeing another course marking to reassure me that I was on course still. The community around the Mohican 100 was also really great. The volunteers at the aid stations were awesome and I even had cars pull over on some of the county roads to watch me ride by. It was a great event. I really enjoyed it and it was nice to have a couple of hills at the beginning to break things up a little bit before hitting the single track.
As always, I would like to have gone faster and had a better race. But as I said, I am likely to come back and give the Mohican 100 race another shot. I really wanted to finish under 9 hours and I think I could have done that if it wasn’t for the knee issue and having to baby it for half of the race. I was happy to keep myself under control during the rollout and ride my ride. I could have went out faster, but this was a good step or experiment in dialing in my race starts.
I’ve got a lot of miles of racing ahead of me yet this year, so look out for the reports to come in over the summer. Hit me up if you have any questions and be sure to say hi if you see me around. I have really enjoyed meeting some of the people that read my reports. There is a really great community around this sport that I really enjoy. I’ll see you out there…