DVIDS – News – Reservists’ passion for mountain biking fuels competitive advantage

A 445th Airlift Wing Citizen Airman’s passion for biking started as a hobby, but grew into more than that. Staff Sgt. Zachary Thorsky, 445th Airlift Wing security office flight safety NCO and wing personnel unit fitness program manager, has been riding a dirt bike since he was a young child and is now a competitive mountain bike racer.

“I was one of those neighborhood kids who rolled around. I built ramps, got wrecked all the time, and even had to go to the hospital. Eventually I got into the dirt bike racing, but unfortunately it was just too expensive for my parents.

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he and his friends used to go to Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park, the largest mountain bike park in the world.

At age 14, Thorsky turned to BMX (Bicycle Motocross). Instead of running, he turned to freestyle (doing tricks) like front flips, back flips, tail whips, etc. He said BMX was a competitive thing between him and his friends. They continued to push themselves beyond their limits.

After high school, Thorsky joined the Air Force. He thought it was the end of his riding career until one day while riding in the MetroParks mountain bike area just outside Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he fell on a flyer for an event in Dayton, Ohio called the Fast Lap Series, a series of races once a month during the summer. He entered the race, thinking he would win. This was not the case; he finished 15th out of 25 runners.

“I called my friends after the race to let them know it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Thorsky had the bug. He started training for future races and teamed up with a group of older mountain bikers. At the time, he was in his mid-20s and riding with this group of 40s and 50s. He had the idea that they wouldn’t be a competition for him. The group showed him otherwise.

“One hundred percent of them were faster than me. I’m 25. I can run (at the time) a mile and a half in 8 minutes 40 seconds. I should be good at that! I have the skills to do it, I grew up on a bike! I think most people would have stopped at that point and decided, well, it’s not my sport. I kept doing it. I I wasn’t going to give up. I was still having fun. I was also lucky that there was a good community for mountain biking here.

Thorsky got to know the people in the band, including an ex-Navy Seal named Chris. When they were riding in the woods, Chris was constantly spinning it. With hard work and consistency he started training with Chris and now they are on a competitive level with each other.

“Ohio’s mountain bike scene has exploded a lot in the past few years. There are three main super-fast mountain bikers in Dayton, and we’re all good friends. We are on the same team. We travel the east coast doing ultra-marathon races,” Thorsky said.

Thorsky signed up for the annual Mohican Mountain Bike 100, a strenuous race that takes place in Loudonville, Ohio on May 21, 2022.

“As far as races go, these are the most coveted races I want to do. It’s tough because it’s hot, it takes about eight hours to ride, and there’s a high percentage of singletrack, which means the race is almost 95% mountain biking. with very little pavement,” Thorsky said. “There are national pros, people who do this as a full-time job who show up and do it in about six hours. I’m lucky if I’m within seven. The average person does it in 12-13 hours.

Thorsky completed the 100 kilometer (about 62 mile) version of the race last year in six hours and 47 minutes. He placed 15 out of 118 in the pro/expert class.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. There were so many mental battles in that race. Ninety degrees in temperature.

Thorsky said it was the first time he suffered from heat exhaustion and cramps. He said the cramps were fierce.

“I felt like I had the flu for an hour and a half. I thought it was, what we call in cycling, having fun, when you haven’t eaten enough calories and you have used up all your energy. So I hit an aid station and started drinking a whole jar of pickle juice. It’s gross but it’s full of sodium and I thought that was what I needed. It’s supposed to help stop the cramps. Three hours into a seven-hour run, my legs were so cramped that I was lying in the middle of a field screaming at the top of my lungs. It felt like a fist was under my skin.

After a while, he understood the real problem. He recovered and got back on track. He thought to himself, “I had completed the single track portion which was about 58 miles of the 100km race. I still have four miles to go to complete this race. Invigorated by this, Thorsky took to the track again. After a short ride on a gravel road, he made a right turn. He then fell on a hill.

“I have never seen a steeper hill in my life. It’s so big that you can’t see the top. I didn’t have enough strength to pedal on the first hill. I was so exhausted at the top of the hill that apparently I was interviewed by a camera crew and I don’t remember anything. Now I’m part of the Mohican 100 commercial video.”

In the interview, when asked how long the race was, the camera crew told him he had about 10 miles to go. Thorsky replied, “What?”

He described the rest of the 10 miles as steep, steep climbs, then steep descents followed by the same.

“I finished the race but I was in another dimension of pain…. I signed up for the race again this year, this time doing the 100 mile race, so obviously there is something wrong with me.

To prepare for his next race, Thorsky reduced the long-distance road bike from his training regiment, adjusted and added more time on real mountain bike trails.

“This last race took me six hours and 47 minutes to complete; this one is an extra 30 miles which, to be honest, keeps me awake at night.”

Thorsky said when he feels he wants to quit, he thinks of something that makes him want to keep going.

“Sometimes when I get to mile three I want to quit. I don’t want to be on the bike anymore. I’m not having fun. I want to be done. One thing I’ve learned is if you walk through that dark spot, 15 minutes later you’re feeling good again I’m just trying to remember that pushing myself to this limit is why I’m here I’m like, ‘you did it, you are there, rejoice.’ You must have such a state of mind if you want your body and mind to achieve the impossible.

Date taken: 18.03.2022
Date posted: 18.03.2022 15:14
Story ID: 416758
Location: DAYTON, OH, USA
Hometown: DAYTON, OH, USA

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