Words and pictures cannot describe the pain given by the hands of the Mohican Wilderness.My body, mind and pride ache.My ankles are bruised, my bottom sore and it hurts to walk up stairs.From now on a hard ride is no longer referred to as a hammer or suffer fest; it is referred to as a Mohican.Mud is no longer slick as owl poop or peanut butter, it is Mohican mud.All things painful, difficult or demoralizing are Mohicans.
The usual podium seeking suspects were on hand for the neutral roll out leading to a steep paved climb out of Loudonville Ohio.Harlan Price, Loyd Flandis, Chris Eatough, Dejay Birtch, Jeff Schalk, and Tim Doughterty among other stars.I listened for my name to be called but I flew under the radar.It is best that way because signing autographs and jerseys is a laborious task before a 100 mile mountain bike race.
I spent the night before in the hotel de Pontiac vibe with my extra long Big bear sleeping bag and $3 inflatable raft.The pitter patter of rain drops on the roof through the night made for great sleeping but less than desirable trail conditions.This was made blatantly clear in the first miles of Mohican Madness.
The first 20 miles to check point one was a slippery sloppy sliding mess of wet roots, wet trail and wet shorts.I wore into my granny gear to keep the tires spinning instead of slipping and tried to keep the rubber side down.I contemplated pulling the plug at the first check pint and saving my drive train but pedaled on.I knew I could not wear the T-shirt with aDNF next to my name.
The next section of trail started to dry out and get sticky.Not tacky sticky, as in awesome high speed traction trail conditions, but the kind of sticky that sucks your momentum preventing you from accurately navigating roots and rocks.It was the kind of sticky that makes your lungs burn, your legs twinge and your pride falter.Of the many surprises the Mohican wilderness offered, the horse trails were a special treat.I would compare them to a downhill cyclocross race with horse dookie and spectators ringing cow bells.I enjoyed this stretch of coasting, sticking, stopping and lifting my mud clad 29er over barriers.I could have ridden them but I was worried enough with the horse dung on my bottles let alone a mouth full after endowing head first.
Around mile 45 riders were given the choice to take the paved road to complete the 60 mile option or press on up the foot hills of Ohio for another sixty miles of suffering.I sat down with the spectators and chewed a banana with grit in my teeth and thought about how nice it would be to wash the mud from my body and take pictures of the finishers.I would have to wait an hour or so before the food would be done but I would be put out of this misery.I thought about the pint glass on my mantle and how I would have to put a note inside it saying “1/2 finished due to trail conditions.”I thought of some clichéd slogans regarding pain and suffering like “pain is temporary, pride is forever” and went up up up for more hike a bike pedaling madness.
The miles between checkpoint 3 and the final stop before the finish was a mix of fire roads, paved climbs and rail trails.I passed a rider walking his bike and offered assistance or food.He said he needed nothing and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was broken.I am sure my face looked the same but if I stopped to walk I would not finish and grinded on.
The last checkpoint was my favorite of the day.The street leading to the aid station was lined with kids holding signs and chanting “Go Buck.”They started screaming and ringing their cow bells more as I approached.It served as extra motivation for a quick pit stop before pressing on.I found out that Buck had a similar jersey and beard but I still felt like they were cheering for me.
“Only 7 more miles” were the best words I had heard all day.Some scenic single track along the river, up the dam and a paved road to the finish were the only obstacles in my path to completion.At this point I had stopped eating due to stomach troubles, stopped pedaling up hill due to leg troubles and I was taking the switchbacks slowly due to brain troubles.I collected my incoherent thoughts and songs stuck in my head and pedaled into the woods.
The scenic single track was a mess of tangled roots, rocks and drunken fisherman.The trail was tricky to walk and I could not imagine riding it like the pros.I hiked past a family casting into the calm waters and asked what they were fishing for: “fish” a child replied.I thought of it as a smart response considering a tall bearded stranger covered in mud, wearing tight shorts that stunk to no end was asking them questions for no apparent reason.The father asked me how long I had been riding.“Since 7 am” I responded and he laughed.“What for?”I thought of a witty response and nothing that came to mind.I thought of any response and all and could not think of anything.Why am I riding my bike for 100 miles?
Everyone talks about hiking up the dam 2 miles from the finish.I pictured myself with fresh legs briskly jogging to the top and carrying some speed to the finish banner.I would have never thought I would have walked four steps, stopped to stare at the ground, and walk a few more.I groaned and felt the pain of each step as I pulled my trusty steed up the grassy bank.At the top I was ready to be done.Just two more miles of smooth pavement and the suffering will be over.
The two miles of pavement was smooth as glass with low traffic and a cool breeze.The only trouble was the granny gear grinding climb which would have been easily navigated in the middle ring if I had any strength of body or mind left.I did not.The race ended on a muddy two track note and I collected my pint glass, laid down in the grass and waited for the shuttle back to Loudonville.
I was a mud covered shell of a man broken in half at the hands of the Mohican Destroyer.