My first attempt at a 100k… that was really hard
This year, I decided that I wanted to focus on 100k mountain bike races. The only caveat to that was that I’d never done one. In fact, up until my solo adventure ride in the fall of 2020, I’d never even ridden that far on a mountain bike. Nevertheless, I looked up the NUE marathon series and signed up. The Mohican 100k was the first race of the season, and, as luck would have it, Mohican State Park was one of my “local trails” (3-ish hours from home), so I felt confident I could survive a 100k race there.
Several months before the race, before moving to Virginia, I drove the three-ish hours over to Loudonville, OH from Fort Wayne, IN, and attempted to “double up.” The Mohican State Park trail system is approximately 24 miles long. Once before, in the fall of 2020, I had attempted to complete two loops, and bailed out soon after the first lap. This time, I was determined.
By time I was halfway through (one lap down, one to go), I was feeling good about how I was riding, but already feeling depleted from a hydration and fueling standpoint–despite drinking over four liters of water in just 25 miles. I sat down in the campground, ate a PB&J, drank two more bottles of water, and started the second lap.
I made it, but it wasn’t confidence-inspiring.
If I could barely complete two laps of the park trails, how was I ever going to add 10+ miles to that?
Fortunately, the Mohican 100k allows crew at the aid stations, and I have some really incredible friends. One of them, Elizabeth, drove all the way from Fort Wayne to crew for me this year. She hung out at Aid Station #3 with a cooler full of fresh bottles, a new hydration pack, and food, all of which ended up being more of a lifesaver than I realized while planning for the event.
Even though I had ridden the trails previously on my Epic Hardtail, I was pretty nervous about the beating that riding that far would put on my body, so I opted to ride my S-Works Epic (full suspension). Due to the rain in the forecast leading up to the race, I chose Maxxis Ikon 29×2.35 tires for a balance of traction and speed.
Nutrition & Hydration
Leading up to the event, I planned out my nutrition and fueling, aiming for approximately 90-100 grams of carbohydrates / hour. What that meant is that I needed to eat A LOT of food while riding on technical singletrack.
I opted to ride with a top tube bag on my frame, stuffed with fig bars, as well as the pockets on my vest and jersey full of Clif Shot Bloks, Honey Stinger Waffles, and Clif Gels. My bottles and Osprey hydration vest were filled with Osmo, with a cold Icee can waiting in the cooler at the aid station.
I drove up from Virginia to Ohio on Friday, the day before the race. My plan was to stop at one of Ohio’s many rail-to-trail bike paths and do my shakeout ride, which I did eventually manage…but only after getting all kitted up to discover that I had left my mtb gloves back in Virginia. That meant a detour on a Friday afternoon to find an open bike shop in the area (finding a bike shop in the middle of nowhere, Ohio is not easy…much less finding one that is open!). I did eventually find a shop that had a single pair of size medium gloves for $10. They were not Handup Gloves by any stretch of the imagination–but they would work!
The irony of this was that when I discovered I didn’t have my gloves, I had just gotten off the phone with my mental performance coach. We spent the majority of the call talking about my anxiety for the next day’s race–specifically about the start. I didn’t know whether to go out hard, trying to stick with the lead women, or to “ride my race,” and stick to a pace I knew would be sustainable for the long haul. He convinced me that firstly, worrying about it wouldn’t change or help anything, and secondly, that once the race started, I needed to focus on the present moment and be willing to take risks. How ironic that I would have an opportunity to practice focusing on the present moment with the absence of my gloves just minutes after we hung up!
As a result of my very unplanned detour, I arrived at the Mohican Adventures campsite later than expected. I met Elizabeth after her ride and we ate some takeout burritos from a Mexican restaurant in nearby Millersburg and went over race plans before bed.
In the end, it all worked out.
I started hard and tried my very best to stick with the lead group of women off the start. I was somewhat successful, settling into fourth place as we came through the campground and headed towards the state park trails. There, I felt confident and was riding well until I lost my front tire on a corner and crashed, allowing two women to pass me as I picked myself up, checked my bike, and got back on course. I spent the next twenty-ish miles of the state park trails regaining my confidence and using my knowledge of the trails to pick good lines and maximize my flow through the course.
Once out of the park, I caught up to Erin, a friend and fellow racer, on one of the muddy sections of horse trail. After passing her, I slogged (some walking, some riding) through the mud before dropping out onto a gravel road. It was shortly after this that I passed the second aid station, thinking that I had just five miles to go until Aid Station #3, where Elizabeth was waiting for me with a fresh pack and bottles. I was wrong.
It was closer to 10 miles to the next aid station, and much of that was the most technical singletrack of the entire course. It was slow going, hot, and humid, and I was completely out of water by that point.
When I did reach the aid station, I was in a bad place. Fortunately, Elizabeth was there and on point. She swapped my packs and filled my bottles while I drank the entire can of Icee plus another full bottle of water. Only then did I start feeling somewhat better, so set out for the second half of the course.
Throughout the second half of the course, I rode off and on with a few different guys, often leaving them on the climbs and meeting back up with them on the flatter sections of gravel roads. By the end, it was everything I could do to just keep pedaling, but I was once again grateful for a bit of course knowledge. When we rolled back into the state park, I knew I had just over a mile left, and, even though it was mostly uphill, it was all manageable climbing.
At the finish, I was broken. Dehydrated, exhausted, hot, and pretty sure that I had gotten fifth place. It was only shortly before the podium announcement that I realized that I had somehow managed fourth place in my first 100k race ever. WHAT?!