Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cohutta Wrap Up

Here's the summary with pictures.

Total race time: 11 hours 48 minutes
Total time off bike: 1 hour 19 minutes
Avg speed: 9.6 mph
Avg HR: 148
Max speed: 43 mph

Targets were:
10 hours plus breaks
Avg speed: 10 mph
Avg HR: 150

The weather straight up sucked for the start of an all day epic. It was raining and cold (about 50 degrees) for the first three hours. Course conditions were mush. There's nothing like slogging up a 10 mile climb at 6 mph knowing that ~50% of your energy is getting sucked out of each pedal stroke because of the mud. Once the rain stopped, it was actually pretty nice. On the east side of the Cohutta Wilderness the sun had been out and it was about 75 degrees. It was a bit cooler at the finish but who cared at that point, right?!

The brief:
The first bit of the race flowed very well on the Brush Creek trails. The downhill back to the Ocoee Whitewater Center was a lot of fun and I was able to push past some folks who were being overly cautious on the rock gardens -- something I'm not. I use those spots to make up time and work my way through the field, which worked very well yesterday. Once back at the Whitewater Center, we crossed the foot bridge and as I set up to make the left turn onto the Bear Paw trail, my front wheel went sliding on the wet pavement and I took my token digger (I always crash once at the Tanasi trails), messing up my left knee and left shoulder. All those folks I passed on the downhill and rock gardens caught and passed me right there ---GRRRRR! On the same mile, a bit further up trail, I had my only mechanical for the day -- a broken chain, which was quickly repaired because somehow the Lord only let one link come out so I didn't need a tool or anything. I just grabbed my SRAM quick link, slapped it in, and got back in the race.

Quick stop at Check Point 1 (CP1), then it was onto fighting fireroads for the next ~60 miles. I caught Jono at CP2, grabbed (4) chocolate chip cookies, some chain lube then we were off. Andrew was supposed to meet me at CP2 but we missed each other somehow so I was elated when he came rolling up behind me about 5 miles later on top of the ridge. I grabbed a sandwich, some BURN energy drink, e-caps, changed gloves into some dry ones, and since I was shaking from the cold, I had to get moving again. CP3 took a little longer for me so I could get some ointment on my knee and clean off the drivetrain since the weather was breaking and the course conditions weren't so bad. Grabbed an orange, some cookies, another BURN, maybe an Ensure and a Snickers Marathon bar and was off to Potato Patch. From CP3 along the south side of the Cohutta Wilderness, I know the road so it was nice to be on familiar grounds.

Potato Patch is just past halfway for the day which meant the worst of the climbing was done. Basically, from about mile 28 to 52 it's all climbing. Sure there are a couple little descents but they just tease you and feed you into yet another climb. From Potato Patch to Lake Conasauga is rolling and not bad. From the Lake, it's mostly downhill to where CP4 was (I don't have a clue where on the map it was but it was sunny, warm, and at the bottom of a long downhill)!

From CP4 (about 68 miles into the day) to 5 was about 10 miles. This piece was mostly flat and allowed me to stretch the legs of my Salsa Dos Niner and see what she could really do. Let me say, it was good to have big wheels!! I felt great rolling out of CP4 and managed to catch and pass several riders who were on traditional 26" wheeled bikes. The Dos Niner has 29" wheels which, once you get 'em rolling, it's much easier to keep pace. I caught these two guys who were teammates and using a roadie thing known as drafting -- basically just working together to conserve energy. As I passed them, they tried to catch onto my wheel and draft off me but I shifted up and was going to make them work for it. The next time I saw them was CP5. There was a nasty bit of a climb after the flats but that led to a nice descent into CP5.

At CP5, I took some time to grab some food because I was not planning to stop at CP6. So after yet another BURN, Ensure, beef jerky, gel, e-caps, etc, it was off to fight the last bit of fireroad.

CP 6 was at the start of the last bit of singletrack to the finish, 10 miles to go! The last section of trail is a 2 mile descent called the Thunder Rock Express, but in order to get there, we had to pay for it by doing a 2.5 mile climb from CP6....ARGH!! At the top of this climb, I got hungry but refused to stop and eat -- a mistake which caused me to suffer a bit and go slower on the singletrack than I should have. But I was pushing to make the top of Thunder Rock, knowing it was an easy fast downhill to the finish.

When I finally made the top of Thunder Rock, I grabbed an oatmeal creme pie (number 4 or 5 for the day) and took off for the final descent. I caught a couple other riders, including my friend Jono, which gave me a boost. We rolled out onto the pavement together and made the final push for the finish line.

All in all a good race and a good day. I am pleased with the results and how good I felt for most of the day. Riding in honor of Those Who Serve was a huge encouragement as well. When I started feeling down or wondering what I was doing, I looked at jersey and was quickly reminded that I was riding to honor those who are represented there.

A big thanks to Andrew for driving the course to meet me with food and encouragement and for the pictures which you will enjoy here. A big thanks to all who said a prayer or called or emailed with words of encouragement -- it truly helped get me though.

On a side note, Andrew is starting up his own photography business so if you are in the north Georgia / Atlanta area and need pictures for your youth sports team, family portraits, engagement, sporting activites, church event, whatever, drop me a line and I'll get you hooked up with him. He does a great job as you see below.

To Jono: it was a pleasure doing battle with you this day, my friend!

1. Starting line
2. Here we go!
3. Just an idea of how the roads looked
4. CP3, Peter (Solo Slow Guy) in the blue helmet.
5. Lubing the chain
6. Pushing through Potato Patch
7. Downhill to CP4
8. Victory!
9. Jono finishing