It’s now a couple days of recovery and a Founders-Alger-Racing team ride since my first mountain bike race of the season is now history. I call it a success.
I completed the Cohutta-100 in 12hours/2minutes according to my computer- official times not yet posted. Cohutta-100 is the first race in the National Ultra-Endurance race series of which I’ve committed to doing five of these 100 mile events for 2011.
The course starts from the Olympic Whitewater Center on a road climb of about 3 miles then dives into the singletrack along the Ocoee River valley and ravines for the next 15 miles. After mile 18, the course hits gravel forest roads for the next 60 miles until finally getting back into the singletrack the last 15 miles. The last mile is again a paved road finish to the chute. The course is shaped geographically like a big OMEGA sign with the tails of each end near the start and finish in Tennessee and the big loop of 60 miles rounding out in Georgia.
I pretty much have my nutrition dialed in. I start with two bottles of Heed and two bottles of Perpetuem (Hammer Nutrition products). Each bottle of Perpetuem (a carb/protein mix) has enough fuel (12 scoops) to fuel me for six hours. As I deplete one bottle during an event I will refill that with either more Heed from the aid stations or simply fill with water. During the event I think I went through about 30 Endurolytes, however. I take one or sometimes two every half hour.
The weather was great. It was 47 degrees in the morning but hit a high of mid-70s by about 200pm. I started with a base layer, arm warmers and leg warmers.
I hit the singletrack and was moving along pretty well. For some reason, during the climb up the road I put a big gap on people behind me and yet had a large gap to the riders in front. Consequently I had no traffic jams in the singletrack for most of my 15 miles there. I did catch a couple people and pass them in technical sections and was also in turn passed by others. But it was very different from 2010 where I was behind a train of riders for miles and we could not effect a pass on the lead (slower technical) rider(s).
I lost one water bottle in the first seven miles. My lower bottle cage is susceptible to the bottle bouncing out and I forgot to zip tie it. But it was a Heed bottle so I was not overly concerned since the temperatures were not hot and I had time to the heat of the day to deplete one of the two Perpetuem bottles and fill with Heed at aid stations. That said, I deliberately filled bottles at each aid station. I also don’t utilize drop bags, instead I carry everything with me.
You’d think that the two track fire roads would make for an easier course. You’d be wrong. First, during much of this portion of the event, there was significant and seemingly interminable climbing. Second, the crushed gravel was really loose this year- or at least seemed much more loose than in 2010 and I suspect much of it was recently applied by the forest service and state maintenance and not yet “ridden in” by jeeps, trucks and other ORVs.
I reached mile 30 with an average speed of 10.7mph and was feeling pretty good about my pace. But a quick glance at the attached elevation you can see that the from approximately mile 30 to mile 55 was nearly continuously climbing. During the next couple hours watched my average miles per hour steadily drop until it was hovering at about 8.8 which is what I finished the event averaging. The climbs had to be done nearly always seated. Standing to pedal in many spots simply caused the back wheel to spin on the loose terrain.
Finally reaching checkpoint #3, which is where I dropped last year due to the freezing thunderstorm, I had about 3 miles left to that last big peak after which there’s be approximately ten miles of nearly continuous downhill. But these were not easy downhills. While I did reach, at one point, 37mph as a max speed, most of the downhill was on that loose stone which meant I only felt comfortable feathering the brakes and riding usually down the hill at about 24-26mph. Then there was the corners, as the road swept around the side of the mountains. In these turns I brought my speed down to 15-17mph and could still feel the back wheel want to slip a bit. I was using Kenda Kwicker tires, low profile with some cornering tread. Likely had I used my Kenda Karma’s I’d been able to eke out a bit more speed on these turns, but not much. (At the finish I saw one young man with his face nearly so bandaged as to have on a mummy costume. I suspect he hit these sharp gravel stones face first on one of these segments- not pretty).
By 300pm I’d rolled the armwarmers down to my wrists and the legwarmers. I didn’t feel overheated, at least in my chest and back, though I was wearing a base layer, but the sun was baking my thighs especially on the long slow climbs so rolling them down below the knee allowed some air to my legs.
Within the last 16-18 miles I finally hit the last of the singletrack. I still had energy to gut out the shorter “Michigan”-like climbs, and began flowing through the woods. There was a few technical sections but mostly hard packed singletrack. I caught four other racers in this woods in this last segment. one guy was wretching and when I asked how he was feeling he said dehydrated. I ended up giving him my bottle of water. I still had a 2/3rds full bottle of heed with less than ten miles to go and so didn’t feel I’d be shorting myself into the finish.
The singletrack comes out onto pavement near the control unit for the dam and I rode across the walking bridge that spans the rocky Ocoee and turned right onto the pathway which led about a mile to the finish line and was a flat finish.