This is Part II in my 2013 Mohican MTB 100 ride report. Part I can be found here.
It felt good to hit 40 mph on the downhill from where I bailed off the Mohican course toward Loudonville along highway 3. As I passed the “Welcome to Loudonville” sign I mentally added Quitter! No, look! It’s really there!
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I pedaled back to the finish area at Mohican Adventures where the 100k riders were already coming in. Well, I was a 50k finisher. Where was my prize? I might even have been the first 50k finisher. Did I podium?
“I followed you for a long way. Then you stopped and I passed you, then I stopped and you passed me. I bailed at highway 3.”
Another cyclist had sat down next to me at the shady picnic table where I was staring into space near the finish line, waiting on someone in my crew to find me. I glanced over at the guy, but I didn’t recognize him. Oh, he said he had been following me, that’s why I didn’t recognize him. Maybe we bothpodiummed the 50k course.
“Me too,” I replied with no emotion. I don’t remember how our conversation ended, but I think maybe neither one of us said anything else.
I was hot. I was thirsty. I was beginning to be insanely hungry.
The problem was I had no idea where Mandy, Casey or Tom were, and they wouldn’t be expecting me at the finish for another seven hours or so. I had no money on me, no key to get in the car—even if I could have found my car—and no energy to even begin thinking through my situation. I considered riding back to the hotel and begging my way into the room. At least I’d be able to change and eat. But I was afraid I’d go to the room, go to sleep, and then Mandy would have an even harder time finding me.
It never occurred to me to let someone with the race know I had DNFed. It never occurred to me that Mandy might have found her way to aid station 3 to watch me come through. It never occurred to me that Tom might be shuttling other DNFers back to the finish area in his Jeep. None of these things occurred to me, but they all made so much sense in hindsight.
One of the major contributors to the events that unfolded on Saturday was the complete and total lack of AT&T (Ain’tTalkin’ Today) coverage in the area. It wasn’t spotty service; it was completely non-existent. I was on the dark side of the moon, baby!
Because of that my only option was to wait it out. I knew eventually someone would come along and find me. I also knew that would probably be a very long time. I kept hoping Mandy and Casey would come through, that they’d been out riding themselves or checking out town, and would find me on their way to wait at the last aid station. Or that Tom would finish proofing and swing by to make the scene at the finish…
I decided I’d pedal down to the visitor center/last aid station and see if anyone was down there. It wasn’t far, and Tom had kept telling the girls that it would be a good place to watch Ghaeff and I come through. They weren’t there. And frustratingly, my legs felt fresh and strong, even though my head still sang ashes.
I rode back to the finish and reclaimed my spot. A little while later two other riders sat down behind me, one with a huge plate of food.
“This looks so good!” he exclaimed.
It smells so good! I thought, somewhat bitterly. I knew my body needed to begin refueling, rebuilding, and recharging. I had nothing.
“OH! This pork chop is HUGE! I’ve never seen a pork chop so BIG!”
“Dude, I’m not going to be able to finish this,” he told his companion.
Where is everybody? I kept mumbling to the emptiness of my skull and belly.
I considered finding the one guy I recognized from Lexington and bumming some money off of him. I’d seen him washing his bike off earlier, and his was the only familiar face I’d seen since having the eyes burned out of my head. I also considered sharing my sob story with the caterer so I could at least eat.
But the thought of expending the energy to try and get some food and then being denied seemed too harsh.
People kept walking by with huge plates of food.
“This is sooo much food!”
“This looks sooo good!”
“Look at that poor schmuck that DNFed and doesn’t have a meal ticket!”
“You stopped using the Force, quitter.”
I looked up. Obi Wan?
No, it was just the tree waving in the wind.
“Did you finish?” The friend of the guy eating behind me spoke.
“Nah,” I turned around on the picnic table bench to see them. I gave them the Readers’ Digest version of my adventures in blindness.
Turns out Tony and Jay bailed after 12 miles because of the treacherous trail. It seems there were quite a few that didn’t make it very far. I’d seen the guy Gef pointed out that had crashed even before the field left downtown that morning. That guy had gotten clipped and went down hard enough to dislocate his shoulder, and he had some nasty road rash.
I chatted with those guys for a while. I got hungrier. I worried that my wife would be worried about me. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.
“I’m gonna go see if I can find my crew,” I told Tony and Jay.
“Good luck!” they offered, and I took off on my bike for the last aid station again.
And again, other than feeling a bit hollow from lack of food my body felt fine. I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t tired…I was just burned out like an overcooked fuse.
I didn’t see anyone familiar at the aid station or the rest area. My frustration was becoming too deep. I felt desperate to get food. I’d forgotten completely about being stuck in my muddy and sweaty kit. I just needed to get some food in my belly or I was going to go down hard.
I rode back to the finish area. Had to pass this sign again:
I sat back down next to Jay, now digging in to his free meal.
“You didn’t find them?” He asked as he shoved a bean-bag sized forkful of pork chop into his mouth.
“Nah,” I salivated.
In my desperation I dropped the biggest hint I’ve ever dropped in my life:
“If I don’t get something to eat soon I might pass out.”
“Dude, I’ll loan you some money!” Jay offered.
“I’ve got an extra meal ticket,” Tony said, holding up a small red ticket. Angels sang. A sunbeam straight from heaven blazed on it, frying my eyes further. My mouth exploded with saliva. Don’t eat the ticket! My hands clench, ready to pounce on it.
“Our buddy had to bail at the last minute, he doesn’t need it,” Tony added.
“Do you want it?”
“Please!” I said. Tony gave me the ticket, and it was everything I could do not to kiss him square on the lips.
“Thank you so much!” I exclaimed, and ran for the food line.
I was happily gorging myself on the largest pork chop in the universe between shovelfuls of cole slaw—singing the praises of my two new best friends from Traverse City, Michigan—when I saw Mandy frantically looking through the crowd.
“There she is!” I cried, and as she turned and disappeared into the throng I leapt from the table with renewed energy and chased her down.
“Are you okay?” her lips trembled.
I would have broken down sobbing at that point. I almost broke down as I descended highway 3 right after bailing from the course. I knew if I had seen her at the finish when I first rolled in hours before I would have bawled like a baby. But having had time to process, and analyze, and talk to Tony and Jay about the conditions of the course, and to see other people coming in beaten and broken where I had passed through unscathed despite my crippling blindness…I knew I had done the best I could. I rode admirably; I rode as well as I could have given the conditions.
“I had a migraine,” I replied stupidly. It felt like I was making it up. I felt much better then. The flares and the spacey feeling had finally left me when I went to check the last aid station the second time just before Tony gave me the meal ticket. The food had also helped tremendously. A migraine is such a convenient malady to have if you want to get out of doing something. Believe me, I didn't want to quit the Mohican.
I tried to explain a little better as I led her back over to the table so I could finish eating. I introduced her to Jay and Tony. She seemed a little dazed. I knew she’d been worried sick.
I finished my food, thanked those guys again, and we headed over to the last aid station. I finally got the story of how everyone else’s day had gone.
This ends Part II. Stay tuned for Part III where you will learn all about the fine art of proofing and why they’re going to change the name of the race next year.