I had known I was going to do the Cohutta 100 this year since this past July. After hearing about it from Chris, my mind was made up. I love the challenge of endurance events and hitting the trails. I also knew I was going to sign up for the 2014 Boston Marathon, but wasn’t sure what the date was until about September. The two races occurred in the same week; Boston on Monday, Cohutta on Saturday. “I can do that,” – a phrase I would repeat to myself many times in the weeks before the races. Completing a race and completing a race well can be completely different things. In Boston, I suffered from stomach problems and low electrolytes starting around mile 16. After heartbreak hill, I knew the event had turned into just finishing it. And I was OK with that. Running hasn’t really been my thing lately, which is kind of a disappointment to say. With a loaded Fall semester, crazy waitressing job, and an even crazier sinus infection, training for Boston, and just running in general, was a challenge. With Cohutta coming up, too, and my love for bike riding, on those tough days it was easier to hop on my bike than to pick up my running shoes. Nevertheless, I was prepared for Boston. I knew what time I could put down; stay within 8min/mile and it would be fine. It was fine, and FUN, and +ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. That is, until the cramping in my legs and back started. To have to tell yourself to forget about your goal and just finish is always disheartening. But, even in the midst of that disappointment, it was impossible to be sad. The Boston marathon is the only course I have ever run that has people (hundreds and hundreds of people) cheering for you every step of the way. Runners felt their love and support for the entirety of the race. It is definitely what helped me stay positive and always looking forward to the finish on Boylston.
The electrolyte deficiency is something new to me. I have never had such an extreme problem with it before. I don’t remember much of the finish line at Boston because I collapsed into a wheelchair and went straight to the medical tent. It took some time (over an hour) for the physicians to realize they didn’t need to push water and liquids, and that SALT was what I was craving. I drank 3 cups of super-concentrated chicken stock. The stuff literally looked like mud. But it was best tasting mud in the whole entire world.
With Cohutta 5 days away, recovery after Boston was key. I kept my salt and electrolyte intake up, ate well, got in a few spins on my bike, and took naps. Just the concept of a 100mile mountain bike race is new to me. Riding for anywhere from 9 -13 hours at race pace with hundreds of other people, fueling for that amount of riding is something I have never done. Most of my help came from Chris. I can’t thank him enough. But the best learning comes from experience; this race was going to be about finishing and learning along the way.
It was definitely a learning experience. I will never race with a camelbak/hydration pack again unless the race looks like it is absolutely necessary. With each mile back towards the finish line that camelbak felt heavier, and heavier, and heavier. I also ran into the same electrolyte problem as I did in Boston. A friendly rider gave me some Nuun tablets when I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the 3rd to last aid station without falling over from cramping everywhere. My stomach was so done with the gels and bloks and what-not, eating anything became a challenge. Thanks to those Nuun tablets I made it to the aid station. There, I took 5 Enduralytes at once. Feeling almost back to normal around mile 89 (15min later), I was able to enjoy coming down what had been a pretty long gravel climb at the beginning of the race. By the time I made it to the 2nd to last aid though, that joy had gone; the effect of taking 5 enduralytes at once was kicking in, bringing the nausea and queasiness back. I knew the 5 more miles of gravel climbing to the last 7 miles of singletrack were going to be the toughest miles of the race. I kept telling myself, “Just make it to the singletrack. You’ll be fine once you get there.”
That singletrack was awesome. After a little bit of extra climbing, I crested over a ridge and dropped down to Thunder Rocks Express. That trail was AWESOME; one of the best downhills I’ve done so far. And, knowing I was on that trail meant I was only a couple more miles from the finish. What a relief it was drop from that mountain and enter the Ocoe White Water Center parking. Crossing the finish line felt SO good!
Both events, Boston and Cohutta, were fantastic. Volunteers, race coordinators, and aid stations were spot on. Everyone was so friendly and happy. It was hard to ever be in a bad mood or stuck with negative thoughts. Being new to such endurance events has its moments of bliss – there isn’t crazy pressure to hit the podium – but being new is also tough. I had no idea that I may be struggling with nutritional deficiencies, and I’m just out there trying to get in enough calories, let alone replace stuff id didn’t know was missing. It’s a balancing act, for sure; a balancing act that takes experience to perfect. I am looking forward to more races this summer as well as tons of training so I can become the rider I want to be.