To cut to the chase, this was a brutal race opener. For the last year and a half, the training has been very erratic and significantly less in volume and in intensity as I was able to do during my 2010 to 2013 seasons. The last time I raced was the 2014 Wilderness 101 and it was also the last time I rode my bike for more than 2 hours in one shot.
Of course, this year, I tried to squeeze as much training as possible but it is never more than one hour at a time. I make it count by replacing volume by intensity. This is a poor substitute but well, it will have to do…
The morning of the race, the rain was coming down pretty good and I actually had to re-park my car as a giant puddle was forming underneath my car. I was thinking that could be a really long day on the saddle with a real chance to get hurt in the process. I was in deep thought weighting the pro and cons of racing in those conditions. I came pretty close to drive home before the race even started but I got ready and it was not that bad. In any case, the course allows for an easy bailout about 1 hour after the start when the trail comes back to the start/finish area.
Despite the rain, the trail was not too muddy and more amazingly I could see fine as I did not get much projections from the tires landing on my glasses thanks to a little fender on my fork (lessons learned from the 2013 Cohutta race)
I started to enjoy myself on the trails and the rain stopped. Wow, could it be that I could get the opportunity for a good ride? I was in the lead group and feeling ok. I was bracing for the later hours in the race where each pedal stroke is accompanied by pain.
This edition of the Cohutta 100 has a very large amount of dirt road so much so that one of us in lead group joked that a cyclocross bike would be more appropriate. I must admit it went thru my head as well. I thought that the 2013 edition was much better as there was more variety.
By mile 50, Single Speeder Gordon Wadsworth asked me if I was fine; my answer was quite short: “No, I am tired”. He was obviously feeling better than any of us as at some occasions he would sing… How can this guy do that and ride a single speed???
Not much happened until mile 70, when Keck Baker accelerated. I was really hurt and the legs did not wanted to spin any faster. I was so sure I would not see any of those guys; I wished them well with a nice “Goodbye”. I was already satisfied with my effort and I my entire focus was to reach the finish line rather than coming up with a plan to move up a spot in the classification.
I kept pedaling and I must say I was very surprised to reach back to some very tired riders. As usual for me during those 100 miles race, my heart was feeling fine but my legs were just quitting. In some sense, I did not feel very tired (no cramps, no blurred vision,…) just the extremely painful legs!
When I reached the last aid station, the cheerful volunteers shouted “Just 15 miles to the finish!”. They meant well but it crushed my spirit. All I wished was to stop and cool my legs in large bucket of ice water! Like everybody else, I had to endure. I kept telling myself that the final downhill to the finish was near but when I finally reached it I was not satisfied: The trail was slick with mud and I almost crashed twice.
Somehow, I finished 3rd place behind the 1st place open men (Brian Schworm) and the 1st single speed racer (Gordon Wadsworth). It is an incredible result especially when in one race I double up on my mileage for the year. I hope the legs will hold a little longer during the Mohican 100 next month.