When the winters run long and cold like this past one, it's hard for me to get up and muster the energy to get out there before or after work and get some miles in on the bike.
The Cohutta 100 was a goal set in the dead of winter, sometime in January (before registration prices jumped.) Partially because Kelly wanted to try a hundred miler, part because I wanted a goal and I have a good time at Cohutta. It's located in national forest, and starts out of the Ocoee Whitewater Center that was used in the 1996 Olympics. It's really a great venue, next to the dam controlled river it can be flooded to create awesome rapids in an otherwise benign looking sliver of water.
We arrived Friday evening for packet pick up and to fill our drop bags, which are shipped ahead to the aid stations on course. After some final bike prep, and a quick hello with Harrisonburg pro and friend Jeremiah Bishop, we rolled out our bags and went to sleep in the van.
Rolling out of bed (or van) at 6am is easier when you park 100 yards from the start. It was a chilly morning and the race starts early at 7am. As we rolled out I was definitely not feeling some of my fingers but i knew I would be sweating as the day climbed into the 85 degree range.
The pace settled in after the first bit of trail and the lead group was established with 5 riders. A few times one or two other riders would make contact but when we would start to climb again they would drop off. Jeremiah lead the group for a long time and no one was complaining. About 45 miles in or so we hit one of the larger climbs and I was starting to feel it. Knowing what happened to me in 2012 when I pushed it too hard for too long into the race I ended up limping back in very slowly, I backed off and let go of the lead group.
Getting caught by a few other riders and letting them go as well in the middle of a 100 is often a difficult thing to do but with 50 miles to go we had a long downhill to recover a bit on. At mile 58 or so I resupplied and started the biggest climb in the race, which is about 6 miles and 2100 feet of climbing. Thankfully all my long rides payed off and I started to feel better at the base of the climb and gradually ramped up my pace until I was back to the speed I had at the beginning of the day. I caught the guys who had passed me earlier and continued to push it. At the top of the final downhill, which is a ripping trail called Thunder Rocks Express. A man resembling Doc from Back To The Future wearing a 24 Hours Of Adrenaline jersey shouted some words of encouragement as I passed him at the trailhead and the final 3 miles flew by in minutes.
Unsure of my placing I rolled in to find that I was 3rd in the open mens category, 4th overall with singlespeed rider and friend Gordon Wadsworth in there, who managed 2nd overall behind Jeremiah. I was pretty elated to have held it together for 8 hours, let alone finished 3rd at an N.U.E race. For my first real race of the year it was nice to have gone well.
Kelly finished happily a bit later, 5 days after running the Boston Marathon, and the next day we hung out and rode around a bit with Jeremiah. It was pretty relaxing and nice to loosen the legs up a bit.
The old Voyager didn't fair quite as well and after a probably ill advised trip up to Clingman's Dome where the long-noisy fuel pump seemingly gave out. Thankfully, after a tow down the mountain and some time at the shop, the van started to work again for no apparent reason. An alright end to the weekend for me.