Monday, May 05, 2008

the long awaited Cohutta story

I apologize for I've been such a big slacker with writing on here the past few weeks. Lots have been going on. Mountain Bike season is in full effect!

I started writing about the 2008 Cohutta 100 here and never finished. Having let this slide for a few weeks, here's the (lonnng) rest of my observations/thoughts/confusion.

My race season started off with a shocker; trying to race 20miles in a super fast 4-lap race. I haven't done something like that since 2006 and my body definitely is not conditioned for something like that. Well, I take that back. Its just all excuses for why I did so poorly. With proper planning and a good head I'm sure I can do equally as well in those types of races.

Time to redeem: TimmyD and I travel deep into the South for the first NUE 100miler race. Left New Jersey sometime mid-day Thursday. Arrive down in Blacksburg, VA to see my brother and crash on his living room floor that evening. Not enough time to say hello to some ex-college-roomates and check out campus/town. Tim and I wanted to get down to the Ocoee River Basin with plenty of time to relax on Friday. Early to bed Thursday. Early to rise and hit the road. Quick stop at the Christiansburg Wal-Mart for some water and more food and we're en route to Tennessee.

Agh! Blacksburg VA sunset over Brush Mountain. I miss those views!

Tim's asleep. 18wheelers everywhere. I'm on the phone negotiating a new transmission for the Avant and I miss the exit off I75. Who knows when the next exit is so I yank the wheel into a center median turn-off.. You know. One of those locales where the Officers of the Peace hang out with their radar guns.

Northbound we go and we're off the highway heading east to Ocoee. Short while later we've pulled into our campground which just so happens to be less than a mile from the start/finish. Sweet! Even had almost the same site as last year to set up our tent. Tent is up bikes are functional. Time for a leisurely ride to the start/finish to pick up our numbers, submit our drop-bags and chat with friends.

Saw Barbara, the promoter, said hello. Ran into just about everyone else we know... Jessie, Elk, Garth, Topher, Harlan, Cheryl, Michelle, Dicky, Tomi etc... It was hot (85degF) and I wasn't used to these temperatures. Hmm. Gonna be an interesting race. Grabbed some free dinner and figured it was time to get back to camp and find sleep. Met our new campsite neighbors. A nice couple from the Knoxville area.

Asleep around 8 or 9pm. Awake around 6am for a 7am race start. So, apparently it rained pretty hard at times throughout the night. I was out cold and heard none of that. Hear no pounding rain drops on the tent. Stayed nice and dry despite not staking the tent down. We woke up to a fairly wet and damp campground. Hmm. Gonna be a wet day. Will it warm up? I think so. No arm warmers or leg warmers for me. Shorts, SS Jersey and undershirt. The usual "trying to wake up and get moving while its chilly out" morning. Cold oatmeal down the throat. Changed, water bottles filled (ran two), jersey pockets full of supplies (tools, food etc) and we're off to find the start.

At the starting line Tim disappeared up front on the line. I found a happy spot about 30ft behind the starting line next to Topher. Everyone is bundled up since it was a cold morning. I looked out of the ordinary but knew it would warm up to 85 so I dealt with the cold shivers. I recall hearing Bruce Dickman (whom Tim and I labeled as "the Mouth of the South") shouting for Shey Linder's presence at the start line. Guess Shey was a tad late.

And we're off! I recall from last year there's two short road climbs and then a hard right into some singletrack. Granted the majority of this course is fireroad, I wanted to get into that singletrack early so we can just flow without having to slam on our brakes. Hustle up those road climbs! I saw Elk and Topher on the first climb amongst many other singlespeeders (there were 40+ of us!) all spinning like mad. Caught up to Danielle as we crested the first hill and with a suicide roadie tuck I pulled away from her letting my momentum and low aerodynamic drag pull me forward. Saw Dicky sitting up pedaling. Hmm. Strange. Oh wow! He decided to do this race fixed. More power to him!

Up the second road climb and into the singletrack. Wet singletrack. I didn't throw it through the sweeping turns as fast as I wanted for fear of sliding out on the wet dirt. Too early to crash. Not smart riding if I did. Go easy and you'll come out on top. Lots of course remaining.. Somehow my super-fast coasting abilities on the two road downgrades got me into the singletrack before both Elk and Topher. I didn't realize this until we're on a relatively flat trail (albeit full of big rocks) coming back to the Ocoee Whitewater facility (that is when they caught up to me). Our trio road down here together with myself setting pace. Passed Matt Ferrari changing a flat. He didn't look happy. Coming closer to the WW facility. People out watching us now. There's a small creek crossing then a sharp left onto a wooden bridge. Topher makes the creek crossing look easy. Elk right on his wheel and I'm on Elk's wheel. I get halfway through it and front tire bobbles. Left foot clicks out. Momentum carries my body forward over the bars. I'm halfway over the bars and was able to pull myself back and get my foot back into the pedal. All while holding balance upright with a little endo of the front wheel. One swift movement and I'm back up and the bike is on two wheels and I'm riding out of the creek.

Across the bridge a sharp left onto a singletrack climb. Partway up chasing Topher and Elk and I hear "The Mouth of the South" screaming on a bullhorn harassing the riders. Front wheel feels funny but I muster on trying not to have to get off the bike infront of everyone (and risk ridicule). I heard Dicky and Tomi getting harassed. They must be right behind me. Matt F. comes flying by all of us. Damn! He's on a mission. Out of the view from the spectators. I look down and my front tire is compressed. Damn. Flat! I pull over. Wave hello and goodbye to both Tomi and Dicky and quickly find my CO2 to give the front tire a quick inflate. Please Stan's seal up my tire. I don't want to run a tube. I went through three tubes here last year (one including at this exact location). Not gonna do it again. 10g of CO2 and the tire appears to be holding air. On the bike and keep pedaling!

Some more climbing. I'm picking a few people off trying to get back up to Topher, Elk, Tomi and Dicky. Can't find them. Keep pedaling. Stand up and pedal. 34x20 likes you standing up! Down a quick singletrack descent. Front brake doesn't work. Damn. Did I break the front brake in that over-the-bars stunt? Somehow through the singletrack and back onto fire roads. Check the brake and realize my bell was in the way. The bell must have moved when I went over the bars. Simple tug and its back (keep it loose like my brake levers).

The early race fireroads were undulating and the climbs were short and steep. I knew they were short so I pushed it up them. Knowing most of the course was fire road I told myself to keep a relatively consistent pace. "Stay consistent and it'll all work out" was what I thought. "Dig deep for that super-low cadence to get up the steeps. Keep your back straight to avoid lower back strain. Don't swing the bars much to avoid excess waste of energy." It appeared to be working for I came up another climb and around a bend to see both Elk and Dicky. No signs of Topher and Tomi. Dicky and I pulled on Elk. I hoped Elk was okay for its unusual to see him like this. Had a few words with Dicky. He appeared to be in some zone very far away from any of this, including myself. A bit bothered by his recent dealings on the home-front and the promoter's choice of no-iPods at the event. Saw some super small rear cog (later realized it was a 17 with a 32 up front). That must have hurt. "Be consistent!" I thought. Bid my farewells and pulled on Dicky.

More climbing. More fire roads. I began to shiver some on the ridgelines. We were soaked from the muddy singletrack early on. Probably up to mile 25 by now. Things start going up. I stand up and just grind it out. Some ridiculously low cadence. standing up and just turning the cranks. I knew if I kept on pedaling I'd be consistent and would eventually get to the top. Look forward. Nothing but fire road. "When will it end?". Dragging on for what seemed like ever. "When did I last sit down? How long have I been pedaling out-of-the-saddle?". It seemed like an enternaty. Costa Rica taught me well. Down there you've got no choice but to go up. No choice but to stand up and pedal. I quickly learned how to sustain myself while standing up for very long periods of time.

Eventually I crest some pseudo ridgeline to Aid station 3. Probably around mile 35/40 right now. I'm shivering and the aid station volunteers are confused: "This guy just worked his ass off riding up this long climb and he's shivering?" Yup. 50deg temps and I was cold; even after working so hard. My chain was also loose. I tried tightening it up but realized I'm at the extent of the EBB. Need to take a link out. I'll do that [later] if the chain drops. Dicky showed up as I'm refilling my bottles. I then took off. Didn't want him in-front of me. Had enough food with me (was going 75% self-supported with just needing to stop for water).

More climbing but I knew I'm almost at the crest of the super-long climb in the center of the race. Knew I'm almost at mile 50. More undulating ridgelines but this was fun. The sun started coming out and warming things up. The trail started getting dry (its been damp and moist all day robbing us from low rolling resistance). Up down. Up down. Drop. Son-of-A! Chain drop. Chain back on. Keep pedaling. "Get to the bottom and you can shorten your chain at the next aid station". Mile down the road. drop. Back on. Mile down the road. Drop. Okay. Time to fix. I pull over and yank the rear wheel off. Pull out my chain tool and take a link out of my chain. Loosen up the EBB and readjust chain tension. Couple geared people pass but still no singlespeeders. Good. No less than 5 minutes later the chain tension is set and I'm on my merry way.

Up down. Up down. Finally down! This descent was so much fun. Throwing it all out with huge sweeping turns. "No one better be coming up the mountain otherwise.... dead." I thought. Kept on pushing the wide turns. Held more speed. So much fun and had plenty of time to stretch out a bit while descending. Good for my back and legs. In fact, I felt pretty good all day. No signs of cramping and I'm around mile 60/65 now. Might have been a bit behind on hydration knowing I was barely emptying one bottle per hour.

Bottom of the descent. Mile 75. aid station 4. Refilled my bottles and took off. Its flat for a few miles. Gotta keep the cadence high if I want to keep moving. I recall this hurting me last year. False flat pedaling super fast to keep pace. Muscles twitching. Itching for cramps. Not this year. I felt good. Must have been my nutrition. Pedal like mad. Coast. Pedal like mad. Coast. Stand up - pedal up the short incline. Cruise some more. This went on for a few miles. I'd see a few geared guys in sight but couldn't quite catch them. Kept on drinking for I knew it would turn up and I'd then be working hard and not drinking much. Sure enough. Sharp right turn onto another fire road and it went up. Stand up and keep on pedaling. Now I'm catching these geared guys! Their big rings can't save them now! Catch one guy. Pass him like he's standing still. Onto the next one. One after another. Switch-back after switch-back. Ridgeline... Descent into the next aid station. Mile 80 now? We're getting close. Everyone's fading. I'm getting stronger!

Michelle rolls into the aid station as I'm leaving with two full bottles. Next climb. I knew this was the last big climb so I gave it all. Caught up to Danielle and said she's got nothing to worry. Michelle is a bit behind but won't close (my assumption). Pulled on Danielle and some other geared folk. Standing up. One pedal stroke after another. Switch-back after switch-back. What is this? Do I see Tomi ahead? No way. I'd see Tomi around one bend and through the next one he'd disappear. Couldn't quite bridge that gap. Damn! A few more switch-backs later I come around and he's hopping on his bike from a good 'ole nature break. He's closer now. I can get him. Give it all. I know he's fixed and can't coast down the backside. Tactics despite friends. Pushed hard. My legs are twitching slightly. More water and food. Push harder. Got to the top and rocketed past Tomi. All in one split second I felt bad for passing him like that and I felt good for I achieved my short-term goal. He blurted something but I knew it was all in good fun.

Bomb the descent. Up some other short fire road. Right turn into the last singletrack. We're near the end now! 10miles to go. The singletrack was rough. Danielle caught back up and was on my wheel for a bit. I pulled away in the technical stuff but we came around another turn to some singletrack climb. Now I'm paying the price for pushing it to catch Tomi. Feeling the worst I've felt all day but kept on pedaling. More food. More water. Danielle caught back up and we're rocking the singletrack. Caught up to two geared folk and had a little party at a very nice pace that was good for them and great for me. It kept my cadence high which meant I'm moving at a good clip. Around a tight right turn and my chain drops. F! Come on. My chain couldn't have stretched that much. Or did I not make it tight enough? Chain is back on but Danielle and co. are gone. Damn it. I lost my momentum through the singletrack. Mustered on and tried to keep the same pace but solo. It was difficult.

Finally. One turn and we're out of the singletrack onto a fire road descent. I know this area. The campsite is right around the corner. 1mile to go! "Give it all despite how much it will hurt." Pedal. Pedal. Pedal. Turn over that insanely high cadence! Try holding a 100+ rpm cadence for a mile of gradual uphill road after racing/riding 99miles. Its hard but I did it. Roll into the parking lot and Topher's cheering me on. He's still in his riding garb. Hmm. Must have just finished. Pedal. Pedal. Right turn onto a bridge. Across bridge. Left turn and a mad sprint for the finish. Why sprint? What's an extra second going to get you? I don't know. Because I feel like it? Because it looks cool for the spectators? Personal preference.

9hours 14minutes (about the same time as last year, albeit no winter & spring training this year)

19th place singlespeed out of 40+

Clean up. Get some food in me (along with three Cokes). Break down camp. Car is packed. Awards ceremony (TimmyD podium'd). Chat with everyone. Bid goodbyes until Michaux. On the road. I'm absolutely exhausted. TimmyD is driving. We stop early for dinner. After dinner we're back on the road. I'm trying hard to stay awake but that doesn't last long. Think I fell asleep around Knoxville and slept through Bristol and around 90miles into Virginia. TimmyD is tired so we pull over (12:30/1am). Find a good rest stop. Pull out the thermarests and sleeping bags and go to sleep on the grass of some rest stop. 7am wake up and we're on the road heading north. I drive for a few hours. Up in West Virginia we stop for food. Pouring rain. TimmyD gets behind the wheel to get us to New Jersey. I'm back in CT later that evening.

Felt great that Sunday and Monday after the race. Legs were a little stiff but nothing a nice easy spin to and from work on the fixed gear wouldn't clear up. I was actually surprised by how well I felt. Went mountain biking on the singlespeed for almost three hours that Wednesday and felt great. Definitely was tired but had enough in the tank to get a good ride in and push it hard for almost three hours. I was beat afterwards but it was a great ride! Guess my body is liking my nutrition and recovery practices this year.

Next 100miler is the Mohican. Lets hope I will not revisit the dehydration monster this year.....


Blogger sean said...

great write up! i dunno how you do it without training.

5/14/2008 8:08 PM  

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