Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cohutta 100 and Stuff

This past weekend the Mrs. and I headed down to Ducktown, TN for the Cohutta 100.  Neither of us had ever been to Tennessee, so in addition to the race, I was pretty interested to see what, exactly, part of the "real" south was all about.  Without going too far into detail, it was pretty chill.  The people were nice, things were a bit slower, and overall, the area itself was absolutely gorgeous.  However, I'm sure when the summer comes around things can get downright awful with the heat and humidity.  Still, for our purposes this past weekend, the warm temps and gentle breezes were more than welcome.

I don't have much in the way of an actual race report, but here's what I can tell you: This race is damned hard-14,000 feet of elevation is no joke!  I have to admit, I really didn't expect much from this course. Both Anne and I had been told that it was pretty much a gravel road race, as friends who'd done it before explained to us in the weeks before the race.  Yes, the course if predominantly gravel vs. single track, but in no way did that make things easier on your legs or the rest of your body.

The start of the race climbs up a paved road for about a mile or so before dropping you into single track for what I believe was about 12-15 miles.  After that, you're out on the gravel for probably about 30-40 miles before you hit the turn around loop, consisting of some more double and single track before you turn back to retrace your route back to the start of the race.  The most difficult part of the race comes immediately after that turn around loop in the form of a steep climb on a gravel road you had just descended.  It's steep and at times loose making it pretty darn difficult to hammer up.  You have to stay consistent (or at least "I" had to stay consistent-better riders might not have had to!) in your pedal stroke or else risk loosing traction on the chunky bits of rock and gravel.

After returning on the long ups and downs of gravel, you finally come to more single track about 7 miles from the finish.  This is primarily downhill, but you're so beat down at this point it might as well be up.  Any bike skills and technical ability to ride a hard tail mountain bike smoothly over rocks and roots was severely diminished by this point.  I pretty much just rammed the bike through every obstacle and limped my way home, finishing in just over 9 hours and coming into 22nd place for the Open Category.

Initially I was pretty bummed out about my result.  Had I been as fit as I was in the past, I believe I would have managed at least 45 minutes to and hour faster on this course.  But, with all the events that have happened in the past months, and not being able to amass more than about 10 hours of training a week at most, I have to say I'm actually impressed with how I did.  My hope is that in about a month's time, I can race the Mohican 100 in a much better place and improve my fitness to the next level.

As for Mrs. Pike, she killed it.  I can't give an accurate and detailed account of her race, but what I do know is that even with the limited training time that we both had, she's getting closer to me in finishing time at these 100 mile events.  The first one we did together, Hampshire 100, she finished about an hour and twenty behind me.  On this on it was just over an hour!  I better start upping my game or else the taunts from friends that my wife is faster than I am will be true!  Anyway, she kicked ass and finished 5th overall for the women, collecting a nice prize package from the race organizers.

My first and final impressions of the race could not have been different.  I'm not a big fan of racing gravel roads on my mountain bike because I'm a snob and to me it's not real mountain biking.  In a race like this though, it damn sure is.  We were in the mountains and we were riding bikes.  That's really all anyone needs to know.  Cohutta was a true test of character for me, and I'm happy to say that though I might not have finished where I wanted, I can sleep at night knowing I really did give it my best shot.

In the days since arriving home Sunday, both Anne and I have been back to work.  Physically, for me, the emphasis has been on recovery and allowing my body to absorb the ass-kicking Cohutta laid down.  Because of our limited training time and the fact that we're still settling in to new jobs and a new home, I need to make the most of every minute of training and resting that I can when I'm not at work or doing some other "real life" stuff.  Therefore, I took both Monday and Tuesday completely off from anything.  I got out for a 30 minute trail run yesterday and will get back on the bike today.

As I mentioned before, the next stop for us will be the Mohican 100 in Ohio at the end of this month.  I don't know a whole lot about the course but that it's hilly and smooth.  It will all depend on work, but after Mohican I'm thinking switching my focus for a bit to the shorter stuff and racing a little bit more true XC stuff in and around Virginia.  There is a ton of racing here and I'm excited to get my teeth into it after some longer efforts.  After that I'll probably return to racing the 100's, with Wilderness 101 at the end of July and Shenendoah 100 at the end of August.  Pretty excited for the things to come!

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