I haven’t been riding much this summer. Aside from family rides on the local Rail Trail, Mark and I have gotten out about once a week to ride dirt roads. After crashing hard on a trail last year, I haven’t been eager to get back to the woods. I didn’t let that stop me for signing up for a mountain bike race: Ole Bull Midnight Madness.
The race takes place at Ole Bull State Park, which is located in a remote area of Potter County, PA. The park is absolutely beautiful. A few years ago, I encountered a bear while riding through the campground. After a long staring contest, the bear (thankfully) took off into the woods.
The park is named after a famous Norwegian violinist who, in the 1850’s, purchased land in the Kettle Creek area to establish colonies for his countryman. Although the colonies were abandoned within a year, the park is now a favorite spot for fisherman, campers and outdoorsmen.
Ole Bull Midnight Madness is organized by a local bike club: The Tioga County Ridge Riders. They do a wonderful job of running this race. One of their goals is to encourage mountain biking among youth. In addition to Midnight Madness, they host a kids’ ride through the campground of the park on the evening before the race.
Midnight Madness runs from 12pm to 12am. The idea is to get in as many laps as possible on a 13.5 mile course. The course is a combination of dirt road, single track and logging road. The race can be done solo or as a team. This race has something for everyone. It appeals to novice riders like myself because the terrain isn’t too technical or intimidating. It appeals to more experienced riders who like the challenge of trying to go all day and night. I imagine there are folks who enjoy riding through the woods at night too, although I’m not one of them. I signed up solo knowing that I only had one lap in me.
We started with a lap around the campground during which we were cheered on by campers. We then began a three-mile climb up a dirt road with 800 feet of elevation. There is a race to the top during the first lap and the King and Queen of the Hill win cash prizes. I paced myself slowly since I hadn’t had a chance to pre-ride the course and wasn’t sure how bad the climb was. After the hill climb we turned left into the woods and wound around the top of the mountain on single track for seven miles. Bouncing around on tree roots is not my idea of fun but I held on and managed not to fall. The trail eventually smoothed out and I started to really enjoy myself and the beautiful scenery. It was a perfect day for riding. Warm and slightly humid with a sunny sky and fluffy clouds. After leaving the woods I had a great time descending the road we had initially climbed up on. I said hello to the racers who were already starting their second lap. I caught a glimpse of Mark before turning right into the woods again. I soon found myself descending a steep trail which, thankfully, turned out to be pretty smooth. I rode my back break the whole way down while willing my tired hands not to lose their grip on the handlebars. After a few switchbacks through the woods I came back out on the rode and down into the campground. I finished the in 1:42. Overall, the course was 13.5 miles with 1200 feet of climb. I didn’t break any records but didn’t break any skin or bones either.
The best part of this race is hanging out afterwards and camping. The campground has a swimming area, fishing area and playgrounds for the kids. Alas, I had to head back home after my lap. We’re already planning to make it a family event next year complete with camping and entering our kids in the youth race.