My alarm went off at 5am, but my mind had been pedaling for hours as I contemplated the 100 miles of Mohican Wilderness to be pedaled. Kyle, Jeff Krohne, myself and Kilo headed towards Loudonville at 5:45am with nervous anticipation. We gathered at the start on Main St. for the 7am start with 600 other contestants. I felt good and was ready to get this thing started. This would be a new test, I was riding a fully rigid single-speed (geared 33x19 for those riders out there). I’ve completed this race two other times on a full-suspension, fully geared bike in 2006 and 2007.
7am came and the lead vehicle started down Main St., through town and up ‘heartbreak hill’ as the locals call it. The first 2 miles were on paved roads and then 2 miles of dirt road in the hopes of spreading the herd before the 24 miles of single track. My goal for the day was to stay smooth and not ‘race’ the 100-miles. I settled in behind a pack of riders as we navigated the beginnings of the single-track. A few riders stumbled in the rocky sections and I made passes accordingly, but stayed comfortable in my pedaling stroke. Having ridden this state park trail many times this spring I knew of a couple climbs that were more efficient for me to walk up rather than ride. This proved true as numerous times I would walk up and then ride away ahead of a couple riders who were still trying to catch their breath at the top.
At 9:30am I came to aid station #1 (mile mark 20), I stopped briefly for some orange slices and gatorade. 8 more miles of state park trail and then onto unknown trails for 6 miles before the next aid station. I experienced some quadriceps cramping shortly after aid #1 but was able to walk it off within 5 minutes. We left the state park trail with an abrupt left turn straight up a horse trail out of the bottom. Everyone was walking and utilizing the mountaineer rest step to the top.
Once on top we followed more horse trails (lots of walking in mud) and double-track across St. Rte. 97 and towards aid#2 at Camp Buckhaven. At aid #2 I restocked on everything; water, energy drink and gels, while grabbing more fruit and pretzels. The trail followed some rideable horse-trails before getting onto some paved and gravel roads. This was a very welcomed relief from the technical single-track, however I was more fatigued than expected and wasn’t able to climb most of these hills riding, so I walked to keep from cramping. Walking was much expected but I was planning on being able to ride more of these.
After walking up Big Hill Rd. we entered into another technical single-track section; the Mohican Wilderness mountain bike trail. I was less than enthusiastic for the concentration I knew this would require as I continued to manage my cramping legs. I was not very stable in my riding and walked down a few very rocky sections and also used the ‘just hold on’ technique in others. At this point, even the slightest incline was a walk for me. I told Kyle I hoped to be at the halfway aid station (#3) between noon-1pm, it was now 1pm and I still had some hard miles ahead. After another slow walking climb we started to descend an old logging road, which should have been simple, but I was fatigued and unstable. I think I rode with only one foot clipped in and the other out to the side to keep from falling over.
At this point, I came to realize I’d taken on more than I could currently handle. Aid #3, mile 46 was my goal and it took WAY more effort than it should have to get there. The last 200 yds downhill and seeing Kyle with friends(Taylor and Jeff) was the only good thing. We sat on the grass and watched my legs twitch uncontrollably for a few minutes before I made the final decision to find the aid station official and drop out of the race. I didn’t think I could safely reach the next aid station nor the finish.
We gave another rider who had dropped out as well a ride back to the campground. We were both disappointed with our day, but both vowed to train better and be back again next year. This year was humbling, but I learned a good bit and am already better prepared for next year. Namely, stronger heart and legs, with nicer gearing on my bike.