Being that this was my first time at Cohutta, I was unsure of what to gear to run. I came up with different scenarios all week and made what I thought was an intelligent decision. While sitting around camp on Friday I was still not 100% sure if my gearing was ideal. After getting some good advice from people who knew the course, I swapped my cog out for an easier gear.
On race morning, I found a spot at the front of the pack as we only had a 3 mile road climb before getting sucked into about 15 miles of singletrack that was not favorable for passing. I got into the singletrack with a good group but still found myself wanting to work my way further up into the field. I chose to keep my position as we were stacked tight and there was no way to move up safely.
After the initial singletrack section, we dumped out onto a fireroad. Fireroad is the only thing that I would see for the next 70 miles. Road riding is a weakness of mine that I have been spending lots of time trying to improve at. I was looking forward to putting the challenge to my legs to see how they would respond. The pace that I started out with was steady but I kept the effort fairly low. I knew that I would need to have some legs left at the end if I was going to have a chance at being competitive.
I ended up riding with several other singlespeeders early on in the race and did not have a problem letting them pass as I knew that I would see them much later on. I got a kick out of the ones that would pass me and then continuously look over their shoulder to see if I was chasing. It was much to early to play that game and I just told myself that I would put it to them later in the race when they were weak.
Somewhere around the midway point of the race, my hamstrings in both legs said enough with the seated climbing and started to cramp up. From this point forward I would have to rely on my quads and made the decision to stand on the remaining climbs. The amount of climbing on this course surprised me. The climbs kept coming and there were times when I definitely wanted to get off the bike. I was able to win that mental battle by telling myself that if I get off my bike then I was giving up. It was tough to keep grinding those climbs out when I would see multiple geared riders in front of me dismount and start walking.
The miles kept rolling by and I continued to feel good. The plan was to pick up the pace around mile 80 and hunt down the competition that had passed me early on. It is very easy for plans to change 80 miles into a 100 mile race. I pushed my limits but was not able to give the chase that I had in mind. I pushed myself to the limit but I found it difficult to chase when the only people I kept passing were geared riders. It turns out that the field was a little stronger than I expected. I never caught the guys that I was chasing and there was nothing different that I could have done about it. I finished up in 8:25 which was 11th in the SS class.
I am very happy with my performance in this race as I could not have done anything better. My gear selection was perfect, my pacing was right on and most importantly my nutrition was spot on. I had zero mechanicals, no wrecks and I even hung onto my waterbottles.