Mohican 100k race report

Stanley rider Ian Mullins fresh off his 5th place at the 24 Hours of Spokane made the drive to Ohio for the Mohican 100K race. Here is his story:

The wifey and I had to make the pilgrimage back to the land of fat people, also known as southeast Ohio, for a much overdue visit to see both families. Taking any opportunity to squeeze a bike race in, I registered for the Mohican 100 in northern Ohio a day after I earned a solo 5th place in the 24hr race in Spokane the week previous. The Mohican race is one of the stops on the National Ultra Endurance calendar and known for it’s miles and miles of singletrack and 11,000feet of vert. The race ran a 100mi and a 100k event (covering the first and best 62 mi of the 100mi course), and due to my severely chafed butt cheeks from riding a full day and night 5 days before, I opted for the shorter 100k event.

Over 450 racers lined up for my race, which started on Main street in Loudenville, OH. The first 3k consisted of a 500 meter flat onto a devastating 2.5k road climb that averaged 8%. The first racer to reach the top in both races got a 150 cash prize, so plenty of would-be hammerheads had champagne dreams of going home with their race fees covered by an inhuman 3k effort at the start of a 4-5hr race. I saw the 30 row, 20 wide deep field line up and pulled a crafty trick of rolling past everyone and slotting myself in the front row as if I knew that was my position. Fighting for spots up that climb was not what I had in mind and after asking a Team CF/Specialized rider to scoot over I found my perfect front row center pre start position.

The gun went off and we stood on our machines, thrashing them to and fro as if it was the finale of Milan-San Remo. I quickly jumped in behind the top 5 and tried to draft as much as I could, pushing the biggest 40X11 gear I had. The climb started, I looked back and saw our lead group was about 12 guys leading the other 400 some deep hoard of dirt heads. The grade increased and I went deep into the pain cave in order to stay with the leaders. By about 50 meters to the top, I lost contact with the top 4, who started a mad dash for the cash prize at the top. I tried once more to close, but my lungs and legs screamed at me as if I had stomped their first born to death and I had to back off. I crested the top and was treated to two beautiful sites: a long road downhill before the entrance to the doubletrack and the site of the lead four sitting up paying for their efforts. I quickly bridged and sat in, sneaked a quick look behind and saw the rest of the 12 or so racers from the initial kick right in step behind me.

This group, now about 15 deep, reached the first bit of grassy 2track that undulated up and down unrelentingly for about another 3 miles. We were all breathing out of our eyeballs, but no one was ready to let up. The course doubled back on itself for the first time and we could see what groups had formed behind us. I stole a quick look. No one. This was it. I made the first selection.

All of a sudden my legs opened up and I felt like superman on speed. I was railing corners and downhills better than some of the other guys in the move, and hung in on the grinding hills by going into an anaerobic hell. The next section of course was 25 miles of flowy singletrack that had our lead group going the same speed Luke and Leia were hitting while riding land speeders on Endor. I was absolutely railing it and was having one of those once a year days on the bike where you feel like your tires have helium in them and your legs clear any latic acid in a millisecond. I heard the rider behind me let out a yell and then heard that sickening sound of carbon, metal and flesh tumbling around as if in a industrial dryer. Almost immediately, like a scared deer, the front of the group picked up the pace and I dug deep once again to maintain contact. The well marked course had mile markers that began to reach into the low 20’s (which had us doing math to see how many K’s we had covered). I knew the first aid station would be coming up soon, and I was running out of water and Perpetum. I continued to have great sensations in my legs, and was handling the new-ish Specialized S-Works HT like I was born on it.

Then it happened. On a grinding switchback climb, my steed’s rear end started to make a unnatural grinding I hadn’t heard before. I had to jump off and assess the situation…losing contact with the front group of 14 or so for the first time in 22 miles. After looking for chain suck and making sure the wheel was on tight, my blurred, starry vision landed on my rear brake caliper. One set of direct mount bolts and spacers had rattled loose and the half sideways caliper was grinding on the rotor. I tightened up the one bolt and remounted, only to have the caliper shift every time I grabbed a touch of rear brake. “Fuck.” I muttered. “I’m done. Way to check over your rig before the race, DiRtY…you fuckstick”.
The aid station was still two miles away and I had to soft pedal with only front brake to slow me on the hilly single track. When I got there, I was quickly asked by tech support what the issue was, and they got to work with a cobbled together solution: an old seat post binder bolt and a series of presta locknuts. My dad also had made his way to the first aid station and asked if I wanted to call it a day or go on with the less than desirable bike fix.

“I was going so fast, Dad. I felt so good. I gotta keep goin’.”

I set back out, now over 30 minutes down on the group I was with and probably somewhere in the mid-70’s place-wise. I kept at it, catching lots of slow traffic for the next 10 miles of trail. The constant technical ineptness of the slower riders began to irk me, as did the constant stopping every 10 minutes to realign my mexi-rigged brake solution. After I reached aid station 2 at mile 38, my negativity, bad luck and failing rear brake got the better of me and I pulled the parachute. My Mohican 100 was officially done.

I tried to think of the positives from the day on the 6 mile ride on Route 3 back to the car. I had the best legs I can remember having. I made the front selection and hung there for two and a half hours with the best mtb’ers in the region. I was handling my bike with the dominance of a early 90’s Tomac. All of this should have given me some hope for the rest of the season. But it just made me think of what might have been…a top ten placing at a NUE event…and I found myself crying like a tired two year old for most of the humbling ride back.

Although my emotional catharsis on Route 3 and previous bad luck did have me bummed, I remembered what Dave Wiens once told me in a friendly email…”You will have many more bad days racin’ bikes than good, just stay at it.”

And that’s what I plan to do. Starting this week with the Test of Endurance 50 in Oregon. Let’s just hope I tighten all my bolts first.

DiRtY ( Ian Mullins)