Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cohutta 100 Race Report

One of the great things about racing bikes is you never know what is going to happen on any given day. No matter how much time you put into preparing for a race, they very seldom play out as planned. I think that this may be the reason for my addiction to endurance racing.

My training going into Cohutta this year went very well. I had a few excellent weeks prior to the race and my head was in a good place. I knew that I was in great shape and felt that I could be a top contender. I had been running the bike rigid and figured that I would sacrifice the body a little in order to run a bit lighter. Even though the course was changed up a bit this year with an additional 2,000 ft. of climbing I was planning on running a harder gear than I had for the previous year. A week before the race, I swapped the rigid fork out for suspension and after talking over the course conditions with some locals the night before the race, I changed my gearing to match the previous year.

While packing for the race, I premixed my nutrition that I would need at the aid stations and felt like I had a solid nutrition plan.  Nutrition is something that I can’t seem to get dialed in. Some days it all works out well but most days it is just so-so. I have a feeling that most racers deal with this same issue.  I felt pretty good about my nutrition plan until I was filling my drop bags at the venue and realized that I was two bottles short. It’s a good thing that I left all of my “product” at home to save room in the car. A little scrambling took place and a new plan of “I’ll just figure it out as I go” came to be.

I was able to secure a good spot into the singletrack and felt comfortable enough in my position that I didn’t worry about looking for passes. About an hour into the race, my stomach was already turning against me. I didn’t think too much about it because this happens to me at most races. If I just remain patient the discomfort will usually pass and may come and go for the duration of the race. It just so happened that my stomach was a constant challenge for the duration of this race. Dealing with an upset stomach sure does make taking in calories a chore. I stayed strict with my nutrition and ended up doing a decent job taking in enough calories to keep me from hitting the wall.

Since I have focused quite a bit of time working my legs out with gears, I know that I now have the ability to spend much more time in the saddle while climbing on the singlespeed. This allows me to climb faster and more efficiently; or so I thought. It was around mile 30 and I was climbing in a seated position when one of my hamstrings cramped into a nice ball. I was dumbfounded. There were no twinges, soreness, none of the pre-cramp signals, just an instantaneous full on cramp. Usually if I have any cramping at all, it is in the quads. I have learned to ride through quad cramps but the hamstring cramp was quite different. It seemed to render my leg useless. I was lucky in that the cramp released rather quickly. I had no idea what brought this on but I knew that I was going to have to ride conservatively and stand on the remaining climbs if I wanted to have a shot completing the course.

Knowing that I may be in danger of a DNF, I backed off my pace for the next ~45 miles and went into survival mode. During this time Jason Pruitt finally caught up with me. I know that he usually comes on strong late in races so this was no surprise to me. We rode together for a short time before he pulled away. At this point in the race, I had no desire to try to chase down anyone in front of me. I was just hoping to keep Watts Dixon whom I had been going back and forth with since the start; behind me. As it turned out, Watts caught me as we rolled into the mile 75 aid station. I had the best help I could have asked for at the aid station and the transition was seamless. I was in and out leaving Watts behind me while gaining the knowledge that 4th and 5th place were less than a minute up the road. I still felt as if my legs would not respond well if I went into attack mode and to be honest I was running low on motivation and couldn’t talk myself into chasing.

I did increase my pace for the last 30 miles while constantly looking over my shoulder expecting to see Watts. I motored along spun out on a lengthy flat knowing that Watts was pushing a slightly harder gear. I just had a feeling that it was only a matter of time before I would have company. Lucky for me, company came in the form of a geared rider who was still riding strong and was in great spirits.  We pushed each other on the remaining fireroad and I followed him into the final bit of singletrack. The trail was fast and flowy but seemed to go on forever. As we popped out onto the last 2 miles of pavement, I took his wheel and worked as hard as I had all day through the finish. I finished with a time of 8:48 and in 6th place.

In all honesty, I was glad to just make it through this race. I was prepared and had a great plan in my head prior to the gun going off. The plan fell apart early on and I found myself drawing on lessons learned from previous races. The more experience I get, the more I realize that seeking out and executing the perfect plan is not was draws me into endurance racing. What feeds my addiction is knowing that no matter how perfect my plan may seem, come race day my success will depend on how I respond when I realize that plans will only get me so far.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. All that and still 6th in SS. One of these races everything will come together for you. Looking forward to that one (I bet you are too).